Charles W. Parker

 

Parker self-proclaimed “Amusement King” and “Colonel,” was founder and owner of companies producing carousel and carnival equipment, variously known as C.W. Parker Company, Parker Carnival Supply Co., and C.W.Parker Amusement Co. He is credited with hiring and training artisans who responded to his vision by carving, painting, and decorating carousel animals known for their forms, lines, fluidity, and adornments.In 1882 Parker’s carnival career was born when he invested in shooting gallery equipment. Ten years later, he purchased a secondhand portable carousel and, withtwo partners, began touring the carousel in towns in the Midwest. He soon bought out his partners, however, and began producing his own carousels and carnivalequipment as Parker Carnival Supply Co. By 1902 Parker had his first traveling carnival on the road, and in 1903 he added another that traveled by rail.By 1906, under the name C.W.Parker Amusement Co., there were four Parker traveling shows. From a factory near his home in Abilene, Kansas, he was supplyingthe market with shooting galleries, carved wagon show fronts, concession banners, band organs, and railroad cars. The carnivals traveled from the Dakotas to Texasand from Chicago to the Rocky Mountains. Parker hired the young Dwight D.Eisenhower as a sander of carousel animals in his Abilene factory, which was just acrossthe tracks from the Eisenhower home.By 1911 the Parker family and the business moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, to a two-story factory building disguised to appear as having six stories. Productionincluded dragon chariots and cabs, often depicting battles between dragons and pythons. Parker is best known for his carousel horses with their fancy trappings, suchas large faceted and cabochon jewels, as well as their naturally flowing manes and their aggressive, stretched-out galloping positions. The four fully extended legs of thehorses, drawn close to the body, expressed speed and flight, while also permitting easier stacking and transportation.The entrepreneur insisted upon the title “Colonel” Parker, just one example of his flair for promotion, which was generally flamboyant and exaggerated. Hisadvertisements pictured the Colonel and his family and stressed the wholesomeness of the carnival visit. When Parker died, his son assumed leadership of the family business.