Carnival Horses

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So sorry...eBay has "lost" all the beautiful photos I had in my guides.

This lovely Gladys Brown Edward horse figurine was the pattern for hundreds of carnival horse models that came into popularity in the 40's and 50's.  It was used as the most noteworthy model for many carnival type figurines over the years.

These popular metal western horses (circa 1940-70) were commonly used for over 40 years as prizes at fairs, carnivals, and boardwalks, as well as on punchboards.

Most carnival horses were mass-produced copies of expensive art models sold in fancy shops for high prices. Because America adored the western horse during those years, and everyone so admired the higher priced art statues that cost the earth, it was big business for a carnival or a fair to offer these items as prizes for midway games. They attracted more players than the usual assortment of fluffy bunnies and plush dogs and so on because they glittered their beckoning coppery highlights under the brightly lit tents, and every kid wanted Pop to win him one!

Some of the horses below were manufactured as carnival horses.  The ones to the far left were copies of the one to the far right.  Carnival copies were light, hollow, with chain reins, and usually, molded-on saddles. 

A grouping of Carnival type horses with a couple of souvenir horses...all copies of expensive art figurines.

Roy Rogers once commissioned the popular artist, Estes Tartar, to sculpt a model for a limited number of expensive, finely made western horse statues patterned after his famous horse, Trigger, that were prizes to be given to school children for various school safety accomplishments. A few months later, the mold copiers went crazy! Soon, every carnival boasted statues of Trigger! Every cowboy crazy kid dragged daddy over to try and win one.


This large Carnival type may actually have been another copy of the Union Clock Company metal horses.  (See later copy above) The original clock horses were copies of the art statues so popular in the 40's and 50's, and were generally about 10-12" in height, and made of spelter/pot metal, and either sprayed gold or silver, or plated with copper, gold, or silver.  This Clock Horse sized Carnival Horse is another 5th generation copy of a Gladys Brown Edwards Standing Western Horse.  A bit thick in the ankles and ears, but the saddle is nicely detailed and removable, and the tail is still connected to the rear leg.

The Dodge company commissioned a large number of equine creations from one of America's finest horse sculptors, Gladys Brown (later to marry Mr. Edwards), to create a line of high quality, well-received art pieces that were snapped up by collectors and horse aficionados (and I am sure some were snapped up by the mold-copiers to mass produce copies for the booming carnival business...see horse above)! 

The horse in the very top photo was one of her first and best western horse art figures.  The small horse below, standing on a copper base, was one of the accessory pieces she was commissioned to sculpt.  This one came on a base (this one is a souvenir horse) or off the base.  The smaller ones without the base were generally used as carnival prizes.

Over the years, the original high quality of these horse molds began to deteriorate, but the manufacturers kept pumping out the pretty copper colored ponies to meet the need. Molds eventually broke, or warped. New molds were made from making plaster molds of some of the old horse models, and creating new metal molds. As the generations moved further away from the old originals, the horses began to take on the shape of mere caricatures of the original models, but people still loved them. These prize horses found their way into almost every living room in America, each carrying a fond memory of good times and bright lights, and a way of life that was slowly vanishing with the times.

Today, you will occasionally find one as a carnival prize or on a souvenir stand, but the age of the Carnival Horse died out when spy movies edged out westerns as the top box office hits, and kids turned to models of hot rod cars, Barbie dolls, and fanciful spy backpacks filled with the finest plastic doo-dads money could buy! 

If you will note, three of the smaller horses below are later copies of the one above shown standing on its copper base.  The little gold one at top left is a Gladys Brown Edwards copy, too, from the walking horse Dodge used on ashtrays, pipe stands, paper weights, and trophy tops.

Today, collectors with a discerning eye usually can easily separate the cheaper imitations from the rare originals, but every horse collector needs to have a small collection of carnival horses of every size...a piece of genuine Americana and a great piece of memorabilia! It is a walk down memory lane that makes you feel just plain great!

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