Charles I.D. Looff 1852 -1918
German born Looff immigrated alone to America in
1870 at age 18. Over a period of four years, using
ingenuity, scraps from his Brooklyn furniture carving
job and leftovers from local iron works, Looff carved
and constructed a simple and endearing little merry
go round of 27 hand carved figures. His genius was
to be the first to place his contraption at a popular
beach front; the very first amusement to grace the
sands of a place called Coney Island in 1876.
The explosive popularity of his ride led to the
manufacture of many more and he quickly created
new industry. By the end of a 42 year career,
Charles along with his wife and children had built an
Amusement Empire spanning the nation. They
operated concessions in every state of the union,
and in some places like Rhode Island, had a
presence in every major park in the state.
Looff came to Long Beach in 1910 and determined
the ideal combination of good weather, seaside
location, access to rail and shipping lines, a new
port, the availability of factory space, the
experienced labor, and the bustling Pike amusement
zone made a perfect match for him. Looff made this
town the place to set up shop. He moved his
entire factory clear across the country from Rhode
Island to the city as well as established a showcase
carousel on the Pike. He and his wife Anne famously
lived in apartments above their beloved merry go
His last project was a beach front sewage line that
ran out past the shore currents. Looff transformed it
into a grand amusement facility; immensely,
immediately and permanently popular. Even during
the dark days of World War I the pier drew over
100,000 regularly. It was eventually chosen as the
terminus to the “Mother Road” - Route 66. It is now
a National Landmark and still hugely popular a
century later – The Santa Monica Pier.
Charles I.D. Looff passed away in his Pike
hippodrome apartment, above his circle of steeds on
July 1st, 1918 at age 66.
Of his empire of over 100 major carousels and a
dozen amusement parks, only seven rides still
survive. All are on the National Historic Registry. Until
now…Now there is an eighth Looff carousel.
During the Golden Age of the Carousel 1880 – 1925,
over 6,000 carousels of all sizes were built by a
dozen different manufacturers. From small, traveling
carnival rides to Monumental Queens of the Midway,
they eventually fell to any number of causes. Today
only 214 antique carousels still exist. Only 75 are the
large and elaborate park installations like this one.
There are only four Looff carousels of this size in
A Heart for Heritage
The Looff Carousels of Long Beach
For 78 of its 119 year history there has been a Charles Looff carousel operating
in our city. Looff was so impressed with Long Beach he moved his family and
factory here, soon building the largest amusement factory in the nation at 6th and
Shanock near the port and rail lines.
Looff arrived in the city in October, 1910 and by December had already begun
building his hippodrome opposite the roller coaster. Ironically, the distinctive roof
would be the last vestige of the Pike long after the famous venue was long gone.
Charles and his wife Anne famously lived in apartments built above their
showcase carousel. He died there in 1918. She continued on, running the ride
and living there until her passing in 1930.
The famous Balboa silent movie studios often filmed on Looff's carousel or
conducted publicity there. Harold Lloyd, Ruth Roland and Buster Keaton made
notable movie scenes there.
The carousel burned to the ground in July, 1943. It was replaced with a smaller
ride, made of left over factory parts. That ride was the last to go when the Pike
was torn down in 1979. The Looff Roof was the last vestige of the Pike. It was
destroyed and quietly carted off in 2010.
Left - The 1906 Shoreline carousel
that operated here from 1984 -
1998. Now operates in San
Above -- Buster Keaton in "The
High Sign" from 1921.
Left -- Popular Balboa Studio
Starlett Ruth Roland aboard the
original Pike carousel in 1917.
Below -- Legendary Silent Movie
Vamp, Theda Bara rides the Pike
ride in 1917.
Bottom -- Looff's showcase
machine in Long Beach, 1911.