The Allan Herschell Company, founded in 1915 in North Tonawanda, New York, was the fourth in a series of companies in the community which manufactured carousels and other amusement park rides. Allan Herschell had previously been a partner in the earliest of the area's carousel firms: the Armitage Herschell Company in 1873, and later with the Herschell-Spillman Company in 1901. The Spillman Engineering Company operated from the 1920's through the 1930's in competition with its founder.
The Allan Herschell Company, the most prolific maker of carousels, specialized in producing portable machines which could be used by traveling carnival operators. The Company produced over 3,000 hand carved wooden carousels and
out-produced all of its rivals in the carousel industry. Each hand-carved wooden carousel featured striking yet simple horses.
A Major Employer in the community, the Allan Herschell Company had a worldwide reputation for quality rides. Carousels from this company were shipped throughout the United States and Canada, as well as to all parts of the world, including South Africa, India, Tahiti, and Mexico.
The factory complex located at 180 Thompson Street in North Tonawanda is one of the last existing complexes in the United States which housed the production of wooden carousels. Allan Herschell purchased the building in
1915 and through the years enlarged it to fit his company's needs. The building contains a large carving shop where 50 to 75 carvers worked, a woodworking shop, a paint shop, a storage area, an upholstery shop, a machine shop and a roundhouse in which carousels were assembled and tested before shipping.
Over the years the Allan Herschell Company expanded its line of amusement park rides and pioneered such concepts as "Kiddieland," a specialized group of rides designed for small children. It also introduced adult thrill rides such as the Twister, the Hurricane, and the Sky Wheel, a double Ferris wheel nearly 90 feet tall. Much of this growth occurred under the ownership of John Wendler and his family, starting in the 1930's.
The Company maintained its North Tonawanda operation until the late 1950's, when it moved to Buffalo. It continued as a locally owned firm until it was sold in the early 1970's to Chance Manufacturing of Wichita, Kansas, a rival maker of amusement rides.
Of the 148 antique, hand-carved wooden carousels still in existence in the United States and Canada today, 71 were manufactured in North Tonawanda in one of the four Herschell companies. The Allan Herschell Company had a major influence on the development of the American amusement ride industry, where this influence continues to be felt. Many of the popular rides today can trace their origins to the company. Nearly every person who has visited an amusement park at some time in their lives has experienced the thrill of riding on one of the Herschell rides.
The National Register of Historic Sites nomination concludes: "The Allan Herschell Carrousel Factory achieves significance as one of only two surviving manufacturing complexes associated with the production of carousels during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With its architectural integrity intact, the factory is a unique link with this bygone industry, which once provided one of America's favorite forms of recreation."