What's a Galloper?

What is a galloper? Why an early carousel, of course! In checking our that bit of research for Time-Crossed Christmas, I happened upon the brilliant mechanical inventor John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803.) Yup, that's really his name! By 1803 Merlin had a carousel he called a "galloper" in his Mechanical Museum in London, where gentry and nobility liked to gather on winter evenings. "The horses 'floated free over a pole.' It was connected to a 'big musical instrument that played a fully orchestrated concerto' and from the first note, the carousel would start turning while each horse would make a galloping movement with a visitor riding on its back. Merlin did not patent his inventions and engineers were allowed to come to create their own models of his creations." From Wikipedia.


I lost a day to just researching this man caught up and entranced by the many and varied things he invented. Originally a clockmaker from Belgium, Merlin invented hundreds of things from musical instruments to automata (mechanically animated items) to roller skates. He was a performer and social climber who loved to show off his inventions. At a huge London party he was trying hard to impress people by roller skating while playing the violin and smashed into a mirror, shattering it. That's when he realized he needed a breaking mechanism on the skates!


It is said that Charles Babbage, often credited with creating the first computer, gained his inspiration from Merlin's many inventions, having seen the museum as a child and collected some of the automatons after Merlin's death. In my story, Lady Caro is about the same age as Babbage, so I have her visiting Merlin's Mechanical Museum as a child and remembering the galloper.


Here's a look at one of his creations:


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