West Brighton Beach. The “Merry-go-around.” This is Chas. I.D. Looff’s 1st merry-go-around. He stands at the center.

Charles Looff was born as Carl Jürgen Detlev Looff on May 24, 1852 in Bad Bramstedt, Duchy of Holstein, German Confederation (temporary occupied by Denmark in second Schleswig War). His father Jürgen Detlef Christian Looff was a master blacksmith and wagon builder. Watching his father, Carl learned how to work with metal and wood. To avoid the coming war, Carl emigrated to the United States. Arriving in Castle Garden, New York City, on August 14, 1870, he changed his first name to Charles. In low German, the letters I and J look very much alike, and confusion set in as to his initials. Somehow, his name became Charles I. D. Looff instead of J. D. Looff.

Settling on Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, he found work as a carver at a furniture factory. Working part-time as a ballroom dance instructor, Looff met and married Anna Dolle, also from Germany, in 1874. After working in the furniture factory all day, he took scraps of wood home to his apartment and began carving them into carousel animals. Young Looff assembled his wooden horses and animals onto a circular platform and created his first merry-go-round. In 1876, he installed his ride at Lucy Vandeveer’s Bathing Pavilion at West Sixth Street and Surf Avenue. This was Coney Island’s first carousel and first amusement ride.

Looff opened a factory at 30 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and continued building more carousels.