Daniel Müller

 

Müller was a carousel carver, trained to carve by his father, Johann Müller, who made the long journey from Hamburg, Germany, to Brooklyn with his family in 1881. As acabinetmaker and carver, Johann Müller soon found a job working for the Charles Looff Company, manufacturers of carousels. As was the tradition of the day,Johann’s two sons, Daniel and his younger brother, Alfred, went to school in the mornings and studied their father’s craft in the afternoons. As apprentices, they wereslowly given small carving jobs, but as their confidence and abilities grew, so did the complexity of their work.A few years after the Müllers’ arrival in America, the family moved to Philadelphia, where Johann went to work for an old acquaintance from Germany, GustavDentzel. At Dentzel’s shop, the Müller boys continued to train, but in 1887, when both of their parents died within a few months of each other, Dentzel assumedresponsibility for the family.Daniel Müller learned his craft very well, but his interests in art extended beyond carving carousel figures. He always carried a sketchbook, drawing people on thestreet, animals at the zoo, or even creatures from his imagination. This was a habit that would stay with him for most of his life. Müller signed up for classes at a local public art school, and later enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he became an outstanding sculpture student. Müller’s drive for self-improvementwas constant, and despite the demands of his working life, he continued taking art classes at night for twenty years.In 1904 Daniel and Alfred opened their own carousel shop, and were soon setting new standards of excellence in the creation of carousel figures. They producedcarousels for a variety of clients while owning and operating several of their own machines. Over the next ten years, the most intricate and realistic carousel figures ever made were produced in the carving shop of D.C.Müller & Bro. Extraordinary attention was paid to details, especially in the creation of the outside row of carouselfigures. The carvings from this period show a great deal of restrained elegance—never wild, but always intense.Despite the quality of his work, Müller’s shop never matched the success of the Charles Looff Co. or the Philadelphia Toboggan Co., and in 1917 the shop was closed. Daniel Müller went back to work at the Dentzel company, where he stayed until it closed in 1928. He continued to receive occasional commissions until hisdeath in 1952. The legacy of Daniel Müller, the sculptor, is embodied in the wooden figures that once were considered no more than seats on a ride.