This Coney Island carousel horse is the work of carvers Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein, Yiddish speakers who immigrated from Russia at the turn of the twentieth century. These two carvers were responsible for "the largest carousels ever made: sixty feet across, with up to six rows of horses, and able to accommodate more than a hundred people." But they were not alone. Many other Jewish artisans of the time contributed to the style of the American carousel as well. According to a fascinating online exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum, called Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel, their work is based on traditional imagery of sacred Jewish art:
Some of the same Jewish artisans who arrived in America at the turn of the twentieth century and carved for their local synagogues also found work carving horses and other animals for the flourishing carousel industry. Inspired by the majestic Torah arks, gravestone carvings, and papercuts from their homelands in Eastern and Central Europe, they helped transform carousel art into a powerful sculptural expression of dynamic and animated forms. Although fanciful carousel animals have long been exhibited in museums, the religious carvings by these artisans have primarily been appreciated within the setting of the synagogue. Until now, the important historical and aesthetic link between the synagogue and the carousel has never been documented.
The exhibit traces the connections between the public work of Jewish carvers and the tradition of carving in the synagogue, such as these lions of Judah, attributed to Isaac Sternberg (Itzok the Schnitzer), Philadelphia, c. 1918:
Here is a Coney Island lion, by Marcus Charles Illions, for comparison: