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Series I: Photographs, 1894-2001, undated
Series II: Architectural and Design Drawings, 1847-1974, undated
At a Glance
This collection is organized into three series.
The Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection consists of material created and collected by Frederick Fried in the course of documenting and writing about the history of the amusements industry and the public culture of Coney Island (Brooklyn, New York). It includes, photographic materials, drawings, blueprints, newspaper and magazine clippings, research notes, published and unpublished writings, brochures, printed advertisements, correspondence, trade literature, sheet music, and ephemera. Of particular interest for researchers will be the materials that Fried collected from William F. Mangels (1867-1958) in 1955. Mangels was a German immigrant entrepreneur, designer, and inventor who was a major figure in the development of the American amusement park. Located at Coney Island, the W.F. Mangels Company was a prominent manufacturer of carousels and other amusement rides, including the Whip and the Tickler. Also a historian of the amusements industry and collector, Mangels founded the American Museum of Public Recreation (1929-1955) at West Eighth Street and Neptune Avenue at Coney Island and authored the book The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to the Present (1952). Both Fried and Mangels organized their materials by subject or genre, and, therefore, there is some overlap in the method of arrangement. Researchers are advised to be mindful of this and may need to consult multiple subject categories and locations.
Some materials in this collection have been digitized and available: https://dlc.library.columbia.edu/coney_island
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located on-site.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Frederick Fried Coney Island Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material
Frederick and Mary Hill Fried Folk Art Archives, 1895-1991, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
No additional material expected
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2011.2012.M009: Source of acquisition--Schroeder Romero & Shredder Gallery. Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--07/20/2012.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed Thai Jones, GSAS 2013; Matthew Spooner, GSAS 2013; Matthew Kuhnert, GSAAP 2012 2011-2012.
Finding aid written Matthew Kuhnert, GSAAP 2012 05/--/2012.
The original finding aid included the term "Freakshow" in Series I as an archivist-applied topical heading. In February 2020 this was changed to "Sideshow performers." The original finding aid, and the rationale for the change, are found in the collection file. The term "freak" in the title of the exhibition catalog was maintained, as it is included the actual title of the object. kws
2012-09-21 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
2020-02-19 Description language updated. kws
History / Biographical Note
Frederick P. Fried (1908-1994) was a recognized authority and avid collector of American folk art, specializing in American carousels and carousel art, circus art, mechanical amusements, shop figures, ship figureheads, and architectural ornament.
Fried was a frequent writer and lecturer and served as a consultant for several museums and institutions, including the Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, Vermont), the South Street Seaport Museum, the American Folk Art Museum (both in New York, New York), and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History (Washington, D.C.). Fried was an historian for the Musical Box Society International, and, along with his wife Mary Hill Fried (1913-1988), also a folk art specialist, helped to found the National Carousel Association in 1973.
Frederick Fried is primarily known for his research on American folk sculpture and the design and manufacture of carousels in the United States. His book A Pictorial History of the Carousel (1964) is one of the definitive works on the subject. Research on the New York City shipcarver Thomas V. Brooks (1828-1895) and his apprentice Samuel Anderson Robb (1851-1928) led to the publication of Artists in Wood: American Carvers of Cigar-Store Indians, Show Figures, and Circus Wagons (1970), which is considered to be Fried's "greatest contribution to folk art scholarship."
In addition, Fried was an active participant in the nascent historic preservation movement in New York City and an early member of the Anonymous Arts Recovery Society, an organization founded in 1962 and devoted to the preservation and salvage of architectural ornament. The group rescued over 1,500 artifacts from threatened buildings and sites all over greater New York, including material from Coney Island's Steeplechase Park during its demolition, and donated them to the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. In 1966, the museum established the Frieda Schiff Warburg Memorial Sculpture Garden, which placed a curated selection of these architectural fragments on long-term exhibition. Frederick Fried authored the essay "Fragmentary Landmarks" for the installation's inaugural catalog. Fried's interest in the sculptors and manufacturers of architectural ornament led to his collaboration with the photographer Edmund V. Gillon, Jr., on the publication of New York Civic Sculpture, A Pictorial Guide (1976). Throughout the 1960s, Fried was also an early advocate for the creation of an historic preservation district along Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan and the establishment of a maritime museum at the site. He led the national effort to facilitate the transfer of the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse from the headquarters of the Seamen's Church Institute to the newly founded South Street Seaport Museum in 1967.
A native of New York City, Frederick Fried was raised in Brooklyn, where his father owned a clock business on Ocean Parkway near the workshop and studio of Charles Carmel, a noted carousel carver. Fried earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture. He married Mary McKenzie Hill, the Baltimorean artist and illustrator, in 1949, and the couple had two children. Fried served in the United States Air Force during the Second World War, and, after his military service, worked as an art director for several fashion agencies and the Bonwit Teller department store. After 1962, Fried devoted his professional life to research on American folk art and sculpture.
Over the course of many decades, Frederick Fried assembled an extensive folk art collection that he housed in a barn on his rural estate near Lincoln, Vermont. According to his obituary in The Carousel News and Trade, his most treasured objects were those items that he was able to salvage from the historic amusement parks at Coney Island. Regretfully, many of these larger, three-dimensional artifacts were destroyed when an arsonist set fire to the barn in 1993, but a complete and detailed inventory of the collection survives. In 1987, Fried published a short history, "Greetings from Coney Island," based on his research and illustrated with material from his archival collection. Fried was working on a book-length history of Coney Island when he died in 1994, one year after the tragic fire ravaged his Vermont estate.
William Frederick Mangels (1867-1958) was a German immigrant, entrepreneur, and inventor, best known for his designs for mechanical amusements and carousels, and an important authority on the history of the amusements industry. During the course of his professional career, he was active in local and national organizations devoted to the amusements industry, such as the American Recreational Equipment Association, the New England Association of Amusement Parks, and the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools, and Beaches, for which he served as historian. A prominent and successful businessman, Mangels served on the board of directors of many local Brooklyn concerns, such as the Bank of Coney Island, the Brooklyn Trust Company, the Coney Island Board of Trade, the Coney Island Carnival Company, Incorporated, the Coney Island Hotel Corporation, and the West Tenth Street Realty Group.
Records indicate that William F. Mangels was born in Cuxhaven, Germany, near Hamburg, in 1867. According to later interviews, Mangels worked as an apprentice in his father's machine shop where he helped manufacture parts for carousels. He immigrated to New York City in 1884 and become a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1890. In 1894, Mangels married Emma Kammerer, a New Yorker, and together they would have three children: William, Jr., Frederick, and Marguerite Mangels. His two sons, as well as one grandson, would continue the family amusement business after Mangels' death in 1958.
By 1886, William F. Mangels had established a bicycle and machine shop on West Fifth Street in Coney Island, which also provided repair services to the amusement rides and parks then in operation. It was also here that Mangels developed his first inventions, including his first patented amusement ride, a "roundabout" or "Razzle-Dazzle" improved mechanical swing in 1891. Patents for a "bicycle railway" soon followed in 1896 and 1898. Coney Island was then the center of the American amusements industry, and Mangels joined a growing enclave of entrepreneurs and inventors, many of them fellow German and Eastern European immigrants, who designed, manufactured, and repaired carousels, rides, and mechanical amusements.
Although he had enjoyed modest success thus far, the year 1907 proved to be especially momentous for Mangels. The summer season also marked the debut of his most popular amusement ride to date, the Tickler, which consisted of round cars in which riders were jostled as they slid down an inclined plane. When the inventor showed a drawing of the attraction to Frederick W. Thompson, the owner of Luna Park, the latter is reported to have exclaimed, "Mangels, you will need barrels to take your money away in!" Demand for the manufacture of the new mechanical device was indeed robust and allowed Mangels to raise enough capital to finance the construction of a new factory on West Eighth Street in Coney Island where the rides would be produced. A reporter for The Billboard, the amusement industry organ, listed the cost of the plant to be $32,000 and described it as "the most thoroughly-equipped factory for the manufacture of mechanical amusement devices in the country," containing drafting rooms, machine shops, a metal foundry, a wood-carving plant, and facilities for carpentry and painted finishes.
Mangels eventually made a small fortune by selling limited territorial rights to clients for between $35,000 and $45,000 per device in addition to the cost of the ride itself.
Incorporated in 1908, the W.F. Mangels Company operated until 1959 and became a leading international manufacturer of carousels, mechanical devices, and amusement rides. At various times, the firm employed many of Coney Island's most celebrated carvers to produce carousel horses, rounding boards, and embellishments, including Marcus Charles Illions, Samuel Stein, and Harry Goldstein. Mangels famously collaborated with Illions to produce the lavish, new Feltman carousel at Coney Island, which replaced an earlier ride that was damaged by fire in 1899.
In addition to carousels, the W.F. Mangels Company also designed and manufactured a diverse range of mechanical devices and rides for adults and children. In fact, Mangels claimed to have registered over seventy patents for inventions and amusement devices in his lifetime. The company designed and manufactured such noted rides as the Rocky Road to Dublin, in addition to various pleasure railroads, mechanical swings, and other amusements, both permanent and portable, for Coney Island-based establishments and amusement parks across the globe. For example, in 1912, Mangels was commissioned by the Joseph and Nicholas Schenck to design one of the earliest artificial wave-generating machines in the United States for Palisades Amusement Park (Fort Lee, New Jersey).
The veteran amusement-maker is perhaps most famous for inventing the Whip, which débuted at Coney Island's Luna Park in 1914 and soon became one of the park's most popular attractions. The ride was composed of cars that ran on a flat, elliptical course, and which were given an extra jolt by the centrifugal force of rounding a curved track at constant speed. Brisk sales of the Whip to other amusement parks, licensing agreements, and royalties from the sale of foreign manufacturing rights earned Mangels hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits. "We have sold the rights in Great Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Cuba, South Africa—every place where there are civilized people who like to play," explained Mangels, "And remember we make the apparatus too. … It cost the showman over $14,000 before he set it up, but it paid for itself in six weeks." Despite the Whip's great success, however, Mangels himself never rode on one.
In 1934, while on a five-month journey with his family to Europe, Mangels visited the operator who had purchased the German rights to the Whip, a gentleman named Sieboldt who ran a children's amusement park and zoo near Bremerhaven. In an interview many decades later, Mangels credited the success of Sieboldt's concern with inspiring a specialization in the design and manufacture of "kiddie rides" and other miniature amusements for youth that reproduced adult attractions on a smaller scale, such as child-sized Whips, pleasure railroads, and carousels. Also in its later years, Mangels' business also profited by producing replacement parts and mechanisms for the firm's historic rides, which were then in operation at countless amusement parks all over the world.
A recognized authority on the amusements industry, an amateur historian, and collector, Mangels founded the American Museum of Public Recreation (1929-1955) and authored the book The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to the Present (1952), two initiatives that defined the last decades of his life.
The museum was granted an education charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York in 1929. Mangels was director and treasurer of the institution, which was sponsored by the National Association of Amusement Parks. Little financial support was forthcoming from the Association, however, and Mangels housed and maintained the collection himself in a structure adjacent to his factory at West Eighth Street and Neptune Avenue. According to the promotional pamphlet authored in the museum's inaugural year, it was hoped that the City of New York would eventually grant a plot of land for the erection of a permanent building.
The endeavor was unable to secure long-term financial stability, however, and the trustees of the museum closed the institution in 1955 and dispersed its collection. According to an obituary of William F. Mangels, the museum's collection of musical instruments was sold to an as yet unidentified museum then located in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The other three-dimensional items were purchased by the Circus Hall of Fame [and Horn's Cars of Yesterday (Fried, 104)], now the Ringling Circus Museum (Sarasota, Florida). It was also at this time that Frederick Fried arranged to acquire the bulk of William F. Mangels' personal papers and design drawings, which were subsequently used as source material, in part, for several of Fried's publications, such as A Pictorial History of the Carousel (1964) and others.