Coney Island’s historic B&B Carousell is among several vintage attractions still thrilling visitors at the famous amusement park today.
What parkgoers may not know is that William Mangels designed and built it.
Mangels was a mechanical and creative genius who enthralled the masses with his carousels, shooting ranges and rides like the Whip and Tickler, during the early part of the 20th century. He’s the subject of an exhibition at Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery where he’s buried — just miles from Coney Island where he lived and worked.
“William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” runs through Oct. 26 at the cemetery.
The show’s quaint vintage artifacts and carousel music easily transport visitors to a bygone era when rides were simpler but no less thrilling.
From 1890 until his death in 1958, Mangels patented over 50 inventions, including the mechanism that’s still used today to get carousel horses jumping up and down. He also wrote a book about the amusement park industry and founded the American Museum of Public Recreation near his W.F. Mangels Company.
Some of his rides still operate at amusement parks across the country, like the B&B Carousell whose wooden horses were hand-carved.
Mangels came to the United States from Germany in 1883 when he was 16. He opened his factory seven years later because he believed “human beings have a natural craving for fun.” His first invention was the Razzle Dazzle, a large hand-powered swing. Other rides soon followed, including the Whip. The 3-seater cars operate on a turn-table platform that force the rider to one side as the car whips around the corner.
“It became his most popular and sensational ride,” said Jeff Richman, Green-Wood’s historian who owns the two Whip cars in the show. “He sold 500 as franchises throughout the world. He was the biggest manufacturer of amusement park rides, carousels and shooting galleries in America in the first quarter of the 20th century,” he added.