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Fraley, Tobin 1951-

FRALEY, Tobin 1951-


Born August 9, 1951; married Rachel Perkal.


Home—Illinois. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Chronicle Books, 85 Second St., Sixth Fl., San Francisco, CA 94105.


Writer and woodcarver. Restorer and collector of wooden carousel animals.


The Carousel Animal, Zephyr Press (Berkeley, CA), 1983.

(With Carol Bialkowski) Carousels: The Myth, the Magic, and the Memories, Willitts Designs (Petaluma, CA), 1991.

The Great American Carousel: A Century of Master Craftsmanship, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1994.

A Humbug Christmas (children's book), Humbug Publishing (Kansas City, MO), 1998.

Carousel Animals: Artistry in Motion, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2002.


Tobin Fraley is the author of several books on old-fashioned carousels. He is trained in wood-carving and the restoration of carousel animals and comes from a family of amusement park owners. Aside from authoring several books pertaining to carousels, he has also written a children's book, A Humbug Christmas, about a little creature called Humbug that runs around causing trouble at Christmas time.

Fraley's first book, The Carousel Animal, published in 1983, informs readers about the origins of the word "carousel" and contains a large number of photographs of carousel animals made by various craftsmen. Mark Stevens, reviewing the book in Newsweek, called it "a lovely, concise and reasonably priced collection."

The Great American Carousel: A Century of Master Craftsmanship focuses on the history of carousels in America. The popularity of wooden carousels was at its high point around the turn of the twentieth century. The onset of World War I started the slow decline of the once-flourishing carousel industry, which in the 1940s came to an end. In the 1960s a new generation started to restore vintage carousel animals, leading to a renewed interest in old wooden carousels. A reviewer writing in American Craft called The Great American Carousel an "informative and nostalgic account of the rise and decline and revival of the amusement park merry-go-round."

Fraley's 2002 publication, Carousel Animals: Artistry in Motion, is about the craftsmen who built wooden carousel animals. The heyday of the carousel coincided with a surge of immigrants from Europe, many of whom were highly skilled woodworkers. Fraley provides selected biographical sketches and maintains that these woodcarvers were, in fact, artists, as they trained professionally for many years. Reviewer Margaret Todd Maitland commented in an article for Ruminator Review that "Fraley is not completely convincing as he struggles with the fine points of aesthetic theory in his attempt to differentiate between a craftsperson and an artist. But his rather pedestrian prose brightens in the chapters on the creators themselves."



American Craft, Volume 54, issue 6, 1994, review of The Great American Carousel: A Century of Master Craftsmanship, p. 22.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 4, 1983, review of The Carousel Animal, pp. 8-9.

Newsweek, December 12, 1983, Mark Stevens, review of The Carousel Animal, p. 100.

Rocky Mountain News, December 7, 2002, review of Carousel Animals: Artistry in Motion, section D, p. 1.

Ruminator Review, winter, 2002-2003, Margaret Todd Maitland, review of Carousel Animals, p. 14.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 13, 1999, Mikal Harris, "Toys for Tots Puts Good 'Humbug' Back into the Christmas Season," p. 1.

Time, December 12, 1983, review of The Carousel Animal, p. 104.

Tribune Books, December 4, 1994, review of The Great American Carousel, p. 8.

Washington Post Book World, November 6, 1994, review of The Great American Carousel, p. 12; November 10-16, 2002, Dennis Drabelle, review of Carousel Animals, p. 9.*

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