Allan Herschell Companies

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Allan Herschell Companies


An 1894 Armitage-Herschell advertisement shows a not-at-all-dangerous-to-children-looking steam boiler and pulleys providing motive power to the company's signature device.
On gilded signs posted at its southern and northern entrances, North Tonawanda introduces itself to visitors as "The Home of the Carrousel." The still-ubiquitous fairground staple was not invented in North Tonawanda (some version of it had been around since at least the 12th Century), but thousands were produced here and the highest levels of craftsmanship were attained here under the guidance of Scottish-born Allan Herschell.

In 1872 (Landmarks says 1873), the Armitage-Herschell Co. begins as a small brass and iron foundry on Manhattan Street, comprised of Englishman James Armitage, and Scottish brothers George and Allan Herschell. The firm survives devastating fires in 1874 and 1875, and expands to a location off Oliver Street (whence comes the name, "Mechanic Street"), adding engines and boilers to their specialties. Youngest partner Allan sees a carousel while traveling, and recognizes ways it can be improved. By 1887, his "Improved Steam Riding Gallery" captivates the world, and people from India and France demand the modern amusement. The merry-go-round-makers at first import the accompanying band organs from the old European master-builders of Germany and France, but high tariffs decide them to instead import German organ maker Eugene de Kleist from England (de Kleist begins making organs at his North Tonawanda Barrel Organ Factory in 1893). They organize in 1890.

James Armitage and George Herschell die in early 1900. The Armitage-Herschell Company is succeeded by Herschell, Spillman & Company, and the Allan Herschell Company. Allan Herschell dies in 1927. The latter company continues making amusements, including miniature trains, boats and airplanes (some of which can be played upon at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in North Tonawanda) as late as the 1960s.

There is a large Herschell family plot in Sweeney Cemetery.



Herschell, Allan (1851-1927).jpg

Allan Herschell, colorized.jpg

From 1897 Landmarks of Niagara County:

"Herschell, Allan, vice-president of the house of Armitage-Herschell Co., was born in Scotland, Apr 27,…

Herschell, George C..jpg

George C Herschell, photo portrait (Landmarks of Niagara County, 1897 PD).jpg

Treasurer to Armitage-Herschell. Republican, trustee of the North Presbyterian Church, and a member of Sutherland Lodge.

From 1897 Landmarks of…

Armitage, James.jpg

James Armitage, photo portrait (Landmarks of Niagara County, 1897 PD).jpg

From Landmarks of Niagara County (1897): James Armitage was born in England, March 9, 1843, and came to America in 1864. He learned his trade of…

2nd Annual Outing of Herschell-Spillman, photo (Olver Family of Gratwick and Ward R. Bray, 1902-07-03).jpg

2nd Annual Outing of Herschell-Spillman, photo (Olver Family of Gratwick and Ward R. Bray, 1902-07-03).jpg

Email us if you can identify anyone! Ward Olver – back row, fourth from the right Fred Brandt – 2nd row from top, 6th from right Wallace Olver –…