About this project
Our project—at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York-- aims to build an exhibition to celebrate the life of William F. Mangels (one of our most fascinating permanent residents), the man who, from his Coney Island factory a century ago, designed and built more amusement park rides, carousels, and shooting galleries than any one else. A German immigrant who came to New York City as a teenager, Mangels was immediately drawn to the magnetic energy and adventure of Coney Island. He was an insatiable tinkerer and idea man, and his energetic and imaginative mind quickly absorbed the frenetic buzz of the entertainment mecca. In no time, Mangels began churning out designs for rides and games the likes of which the world had never seen before. From his turn-of-the-century workshop in the middle of the Coney Island madness, Mangels designed and built some of the most innovative and exciting amusement rides in existence. His mechanics were top-notch, his designs were state-of-the-art, and his workshop was known for being able to build and repair absolutely any ride or game on Coney Island.
His original rides are legendary – The Whip, The Tickler, The Wave Pool. Even a ride called, amazingly, The Human Roulette Wheel? Mangels’ imagination was unmatched, and he had the mechanical prowess to not only dream these amusements up, but make them a reality, too. And his tweaks of existing rides – like the carousel horse – which he transformed from a static carving into a galloping horse--were marked by genius. He soon became the king of Coney Island, “The Wizard of Eighth Street, and the amusement park industry today owes a great deal to the legend that is William Mangels. In recognition of his great accomplishments, he has been elected a member of the Coney Island History Project Hall of Fame and the Hall of Fame of the International Association of Amusement Park and Attractions.
In the beautiful Historic Chapel at Green-Wood, we plan to put on an exhibition befitting the sensational William F. Mangels and historic Coney Island. “William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” will be a celebration of Mangels groundbreaking life and work – featuring real pieces of Mangels rides and games – a carousel horse, a 22nd-foot-long shooting gallery, actual Whip cars and original sketches, in Mangels’s hand, of The Tickler. Also on display will be historic photographs, videos on Mangels rides in action, personal correspondence and documents of Mangels', even an original signs from Mangels’ Coney Island workshop. In short, we want to transform our 1911 Historic Chapel, where the exhibition will be held, into a Coney Island carnival.
But we need your help to do it! We have been collecting Mangels material for years now, and have reached out Mangels collectors all over the country to convince them to loan their pieces, many one-of-a-kind, for this exhibition. But we need the funds to ship those items. We also need to pay for installing, lighting and displaying the pieces in our chapel for this unique exhibition. If we are able to raise more money, we hope to borrow even more pieces of Mangels memorabilia, including framed and matted illustrations and blueprints drawn by Mangels himself – from Columbia University’s archives. We want to tell the story of this remarkable mechanic who changed the face of Coney Island and brought delight (and a bit of chaos) to Americans (and Canadians and Parisians and the English) for decades. Mangels made it his life’s work to amuse and surprise. Help us amuse even more masses with our exhibition this fall!
Risks and challenges
Mounting a full-scale exhibition can be hard work. But the biggest challenge to this exhibition will be working with independent collectors of Mangels materials from all over the country, and getting their original material to Green-Wood in a timely and safe manner. If funded successfully, we can compensate and fund the transfer of these original materials with ease. Should some collectors back out of the exhibition and decide not to lend materials, we will have to pursue other sources of material. Some pieces, such as cars from The Whip, and a large shooting gallery, have already been acquired by Green-Wood.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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