The merry-go-round and organ were purchased for $40,000 for the people of Canberra at public auction in September 1973. After extensive restoration work, the merry-go-round began operating in a colourfully painted pavilion in Petrie Plaza in the centre of Civic during Canberra Day celebrations on 13 March 1974.
The merry-go-round started operating in 1914 at the St Kilda Esplanade in Melbourne. It was designed and built by Herbert Thomson of Armadale, Victoria, for German showman Anton Weniger.
The organ and the fifty two hand carved wooden horses and two elephants were specially imported from Germany. The twisted brass upright poles were made in Scotland.
The German fairground 69 key pipe organ was restored to working condition by the Carousel Organ Restoration Group following its arrival in Canberra. Because of its fragile condition, the organ is stored separately from the merry-go- round.
Volunteers from the Australian National University’s Research School of Physical Sciences restored the steam engine in the centre of the merry-go-round. Because of its age, the boiler cannot be used. The merry-go-round is operated by a modern electric motor.
Others involved in restoration work on the merry-go-round included staff of the Australian War Memorial and of the Canberra College of Advanced Education who worked on the interior panels and fascia/artwork. Mrs Wendy Coley painted the elephants, the Master Painters Association undertook other painting, and the Canberra Gem Society restored the mirrors. The Model Makers Society restored various intricate pieces and machinery and the department store, J B Youngs Pty Ltd, provided a cash donation and materials.
The horses are four abreast in 14 rows. There are also two hand carved wooden elephant carriages. One elephant is white the other is grey. Their names are listed below starting from the outside of each row. The rows are listed in a clockwise direction.
|Row||Name of Animals|
Queenie (white elephant)
unnamed white horse
unnamed chestnut horse
Unnamed grey elephant
unnamed brown horse
ACT Heritage Council,Entry to the ACT Heritage Register 10009 Civic Merry Go Round and Organ, 1996
Carousel Organ Restoration Group,The Canberra Gebruder Bruder Elite Apollo Orchestra Nr.5073, The Canberra Carousel Organ.
Carousel Organ Restoration Group Inc.,Report on restoration of book music for Canberra Carousel Organ : the 69 keyless Gebruder Bruder Elite Apollo Orchestra, Canberra : Carousel Organ Restoration Group, 2004.
ACTHL Location: H 786.66 REPO
Department of Capital Territory,Focus on Canberra Calendar, 1975
ACTHL Location: H994.71 FOCUS
Department of Territories,The Canberra Merry-Go-Round, [Canberra: Department of Territories; 1985]
Kerr, David, "The Canberra Carousel Organ, Gerbruder Bruder Elite Apollo Orchestra No. 5073" in Carousel Organ Restoration Group Inc. Newsletter April 2006 published on Organ Historical Trust of Australia website (accessed 17 May 2007).
Travers, Neil,‘Merry-Go-Rounds’, Canberra News, 6 November 1973, p. 12.
Whyte, Julia,‘What goes around, comes around’, Canberra Times, 13 March 2004, p. 5.