Gustav Dentzel (born around 1844 in Kreuznach, Germany) was one of the earliest carousel makers, famous for his wood carvings0. His father Michael Dentzel had a carousel ride and he traveled around southwest Germany during summer months with it and with his whole family. During the off-season, they would make wagons, carousel animals and mechanisms out of wood. Gustav learned the art of woodworking from his father. When Gustav was 20, Father sent him and his brothers to the United States along with one carousel to try their luck there. This carousel was probably the first carousel on a western hemisphere. By 1867 Gustav found his footings – he found the Dentzel Factory (or the Dentzel Carousel Company) in Germantown, Pennsylvania and was in the business of building carousels.
In 1874 he married his first wife Alma and with her he had five children: Augusta, William H. I., Margaret, Helen and Charles. 6 years later Alma died and a year later he married for the second time with Mary with whom he had a son: Edward P. Gustav Dentzel died in 1909 and his sons, William and Edward, continued his work. The Factory lasted until the death of William in 1928. Edward continued to work in California but gave up when a Great Depression started in 1929. He continued to do woodwork and he built homes in Beverly Hills, CA.
The Dentzel Factory manufactured two or three carousels per year and sold them to the amusement parks across the United States. They carved carousel seats in the shape of different animals by hand. Seats were made of poplar or basswood and in the shapes of horses, bears, greyhounds, pigs, dears, frogs, giraffes, rabbits, cats, ostriches, mules, tigers and lions. Although the Factory worked for some 60 years their detailed style varied very little and remained consistent. The rest of the parts of the carousel, which were also made by Dentzel Factory, had oil paintings on them.
Since they started making carousels name of Dentzel became a synonym for excellence in the pioneering and development of the hand carved carousel. Some of Dentzel carousels are still in working order even today. Oldest one is made n 1883 and it still works at Watch Hill, Rhode Island. "The Duchess" - Dentzel menagerie carousel was made in 1905 and was then placed at the east end of Ontario Beach Park. It is still there with its fifty-two animals and two chariots. It was granted a landmark status in 1980 by Preservation Board and reconstructed to its former glory. The Highland Park Dentzel Carousel and Shelter Building is a closed carousel in a building made in 1896 and placed in Highland Park in Meridian, Mississippi for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. It has twenty-two animals and two chariots.
Edward's son, William H. Dentzel II, started building children carousels in 1971 that had finish made in traditional Dentzel style. He continued making them until he died in 1991. His son, William H. Dentzel III continues to make carousels with help of his three children.