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Grand Dame of Historic Wooden Carousels, Marianne Stevens, Passes at 83 Print E-mail
Written by Roland Hopkins   
Sunday, 16 September 2012

ROSWELL, NM – A pillar in, if not grande dame of, the close-knit world of antique wooden carousel lovers and aficionados, Marianne Stevens, passed away peacefully Tuesday morning. She was 83. Marianne helped to raise awareness of the beautiful American treasures that are our antique hand-carved wooden carousels from the late 1800s-early 1900s. She was instrumental in the founding of the NCA and the ACS and she was also co-author of "Painted Ponies", likely the most noted book on antique wooden carousels ever written.

The following remembrance of Marianne is from long-time, dear friends, and fellow historic wooden carousel lovers, Rol and Jo Summit.

In Fond Remembrance:

Marianne Stevens

January 7, 1929 – September 11, 2012

Marianne Stevens at her home workshop in Roswell, NM. Bill Manns photo

Something remarkable was occurring in the mid-sixties of the last century, some fifty years ago.  A few people, unknown to one another and scattered throughout the United States, had immersed themselves in the history and culture of the carousel.  Among the most determined and dedicated of these agents of the renaissance was a housewife and mother of three in New Mexico, Marianne Stevens.

We first met Marianne in the summer of 1969 while searching for examples of horses carved by M.C. Illions, an artist extolled by Fred Fried in his epic 1964 A Pictorial History of the Carousel. She was already offering Illions horses for sale. And she was in active communication with Gray Tuttle, gathering his photographs of most of the merry-go-rounds on the Eastern Seaboard.  During her subsequent visits to Southern California Marianne and Jo would stay up nights poring over those collections, establishing an innate vision of the subtle, distinguishing landmarks of each factory style.  Marianne was incredibly intense and blessed with a seemingly photographic memory that seized and hung on to each new observation.

Marianne with a beautiful Military Muller carousel horse.

Fred and Mary Fried were the wellspring of formal research in those early years and they extended congenial welcome as the far-flung fans began to gather into a community.  In 1972, when the Frieds and Barbara Fahs Charles proposed to organize the fledglings, Marianne became a co-founder, along with Bill and Marion Dentzel, the Summits and Gray and Judy Tuttle. The National Carousel Roundtable (later Association) was born. Ironically, Marianne also founded The American Carousel Society (ACS) with Charlotte Dinger five years later, representing collectors and dealers in a break from the whole-machine conservation emphasis of the NCA.

Marianne Stevens was a pioneering historian, collector, restoration specialist, dealer, lecturer and writer.  She contributed articles to the NCA Merry-go-Roundup, Marge Swenson’s Carousel Art, the ACS Newsletter and The Carousel News & Trader.  She is the co-author, with William Manns and Peggy Shank, of the encyclopedic Painted Ponies: American Carousel Art. She dealt in several operating carousels, including Greenfield Village, (Dearborn, MI), Shoreline Village in Long Beach, CA and Peppermint Park In her home city of Roswell. Far beyond the part-time involvement of the rest of us in the field, for Marianne carousels were the central passion in her life.

Marianne’s erstwhile peripatetic mobility was slowed and eventually severely restricted by neuropathic foot pain over the past five years, and macular degeneration dimmed her ultra-sharp eyes.  She could no longer scope out a snapshot or maneuver a computer screen but the steel-trap memory and sharp, edgy authority never faltered.  Nor did her intense involvement with selected friends and colleagues.

The carousel community, born and revitalized in the past half-century, has lost one of its most vital, wise and cherished founders.  We will sorely miss our dear friend.

– Rol and Jo Summit, Flying Horses

Marianne aboard her beautiful Looff menagerie carousel while it ran at Shoreline Village in Long Beach, CA. The carousel is now at the center of the Children's Creativity Museum in San Francisco, CA.

A memorial service is planned for October 13th at Waymaker Church in Roswell, NM.

"Amazing how some people can become an intimate part of your life so quickly… I will always wish we had one more long, long carousel chat."

– Roland Hopkins

The Carousel News & Trader will do a full tribute to Marianne in the December issue.


Roland Hopkins
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