About the 1915 World's Fair Carousel
The Legacy carousel was first announced in 1913. It was built in the
Long Beach Amusement Factory of Charles I.D. Looff with figures
carved by highly noted master sculptor John Zalar,
Touted in the Long Beach and San Francisco papers as one of the
largest and most elaborate merry go rounds ever created, this 20 ton
machine was built to carry 20 tons of riders. NO, this was not built for
The fanciest carousels of the period sold for $9,800. This creation was
valued at $25,000 and coupled with a $5,000 Ruth band organ from
Germany. The average house cost about $5,000.
This ride was specifically requested and created for the 1915 Panama
Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco,
One of the Great World’s Fairs of that Age.
The city created 630 acres of landfill in the bay to accommodate it...now
known as the Marina District.
The Fair hosted 18,870,000 visitors in just Nine Months…Right in the
middle of the First World War! And the weather was lousy most of the
time: Cold, foggy and rainy.
The Looff carousel was placed in the amusement zone, nearly half a
mile away from the main, "high class", events and venues.
Even so, it brought in $58,000...in dimes...meaning that over half a
million people rode in just nine months.
~ A Heart for History ~
The Looff Carousels of Long Beach
For 78 of its 117 year history there has been a Charles Looff carousel operating
in the city. Looff himself was a civic leader and one of the largest employers
during his years in residence. He 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 to finally leave, decades 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.
Bryant Morris, famous for revitalizing downtown San Diego with Seaport
Village (featuring a Looff carousel at the entrance), built a similar venue in
Long Beach - Shoreline Village. A 1906 showcase Looff carousel operated
at the entrance to the village from it opening in 1984 until it was moved to
San Francisco in 1998, a loss for Long Beach and a nowliving icon for the
City by the Bay (who has two other antique carousels).
There have been other carousels, but none of the grandeur of a Looff ride.
This is the Last Great Carousel. With the right restoration, location,
operations and PR, this ride will be a World Class Icon and will generate
more income and more publicity than the next ten antique carousels
After the fair, the carousel was sold to two brothers who took the ride to
Omaha, Nebraska, where it spent nearly Twenty Five years delighting
the populace there.
In 1940, its owners removed it to Houston, Texas where it operated
another 23 years regaling a generation there.
In 1963 it was scheduled to be the centerpiece of a major display at the
vaunted 1964 New York World's Fair. However, political squabbles
caused cancellation of the proposed exhibit and the ride was sold to
It spent 40 years operating in Barcelona, Spain before going into
It now awaits a new life in its birthplace of Long Beach.