Bowness Carousel featured in new Canada Post stamp collection

·3 min read
The Bowness Carousel is the sole Alberta carousel featured in the Canada Post collection. It was built by the Herschell-Spillman Company in the state of New York. (Dominic Terry/Heritage Park - image credit)
The Bowness Carousel is the sole Alberta carousel featured in the Canada Post collection. It was built by the Herschell-Spillman Company in the state of New York. (Dominic Terry/Heritage Park - image credit)

A beloved attraction at Heritage Park Historical Village in southwest Calgary has received the stamp of approval from Canada Post.

The Bowness Carousel is one of five vintage carousels being featured in a new stamp collection.

The corporation says it's releasing the stamps to celebrate the wonder and playfulness of vintage carousels across Canada.

"These five vintage carousels demonstrate both high artisan craftsmanship and impressive technological advances for their era," said Hayley Magermans, manager of stamp services with Canada Post, in an email.

"We're proud to be Canada's storyteller through our iconic stamp program. Our stamps make Canadians aware of the milestones and achievements of Canadians and the richness of our history, culture and innovations."

Canada Post
Canada Post

The Bowness Carousel — the sole Alberta carousel featured in the collection — dates back to 1904. It was built by the Herschell-Spillman Company in New York and is believed to have first appeared in Louisville, Ky., before moving to Winnipeg Beach, Man., according to the Heritage Park website.

The carousel was sold to the Calgary Railway Corporation in 1919 and spent the next 50 years in Bowness Park. It was then acquired in 1969 by Heritage Park, home to dozens of historical attractions and exhibits.

It has gone through many restorations since then, including a major refit in 1990, said Dominic Terry, strategic communications manager with Heritage Park.

"I think it's just a piece of nostalgia.… It's one of our major attractions at the park, for sure," he said in an interview on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Canada Post
Canada Post

The Bowness Carousel stamp features a black horse with a checkered saddle — one of 24 horses seen on the carousel.

The other four stamps celebrate carousels in St. Catharines, Ont., Roseneath, Ont., Burnaby, B.C., and Montreal, Que.

Unique carousel

According to Canada Post, carousels date back to the 12th century and were originally used as a military training game. By the mid-19th century, they became more well-known as a fairground ride.

The agency worked closely with Patrick Wentzel, who is the president of the National Carousel Association.

"Each of these carousels are unique in their own way," Magermans said.

The Bowness Carousel has a rare three-row track machine, where the horses' rocking motion comes from eccentric drive wheels under the platform.

"Instead of having that overhead pole in the middle of the horses, the horses are on the drive train and the middle horses rock in opposing rhythm to the inside and the outside horses," Terry said.

The carousel is taken apart every winter to ensure it stays in good working order. A twelve-sided pavilion was built around the carousel when it arrived at the park to ensure it was protected from the elements.

Dominic Terry/Heritage Park
Dominic Terry/Heritage Park

The efforts to preserve the carousel were recognized last year when the Bowness Carousel received the National Carousel Association's historic carousel award.

It celebrates carousels with historic significance, innate character, a proven program of restoration, a regular schedule of operation and an owner that ensures it remains accessible to the public.

"Anybody can ride it at any time," Terry said.

"Children just want to experience the ride, and parents get such a great kick out of watching them have so much fun on a ride that really stands the test of time."

Each stamp collection takes about two years to come together, after passing through an advisory committee made up of historians, designers and other experts.

The carousel stamps are now available, along with a souvenir sheet, a set of postcards and the official first day cover.

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