George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Wed Aug 27 01:31:25 UTC 2014

             Hoboken. -- The houses of refreshment in Hoboken were jammed
at intervals with transient visitors, . . . and indeed we have never
witnessed a more lively scene than that which presented itself along the
various walks and pathways to the Sybil's Cave, and the large saloon still
further on, at which extremity was placed, in the middle of an open space,
a "roundabout," or properly termed a "Hurdy-Gurdy". . . .  At the further
end of the saloon stood a "locomotive theatre," which furnished lots of fun
for the folks who thronged that vicinity.  Entombed within its walls were
wonders never before offered to the community.
           NY Herald, July 6, 1845, p. 1, cols. 1-5   [from a summary of
the celebrations on the 4th]

The definitions of "hurdy-gurdy" in the OED start with*1 a.* A musical
instrument of rustic origin resembling the lute or guitar, and having
strings (two or more of which are tuned so as to produce a drone), which
are sounded by the revolution of a rosined wheel turned by the left hand,
the notes of the melody being obtained by the action of keys which ‘stop’
the strings and are played by the right hand; thus combining the
characteristics of instruments of the bowed and the clavier kinds.
 and include
hurdy-gurdy house   n. *N. Amer. Hist.* a disreputable type of cheap
1866   *Beadle's Monthly* Oct. 280/1   Hurdy-gurdy houses, with
dancing~girls, music, and long bars.
1874   T. B. Aldrich *Prudence Palfrey* vii. 115   At sundown the
dance-house would open,—the Hurdy-Gurdy House, as it was called.

*roundabout  4.* orig. and chiefly *Brit.*

 *a.* A revolving machine or apparatus on which people (esp. children) may
ride for amusement, *spec.* one in a fairground or playground; =
merry-go-round n. 1 <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/116869#eid37355372>.
1763   *Brit. Mag.* *4* 50   There was a round-about for children to ride
in, and all sorts of toys sold as at other fairs.
1795   C. Este *Journey through Flanders* 53   There is a round-about as in
the apparatus for second childhood at Chantilli.
1813   *Sporting Mag.* *42* 20   There were the usual swings, ups-and-downs
and roundabouts.
1874   *35th Rep. Prisons in Scotl.* 220   A recreation ground is prepared
for the warders' children, and fitted with swings, see-saws, and

            Mr. Van Buskirk, keeper of the Hotel, at Hoboken, has
constructed a double circular railway under the shade on his grounds
adjoining, for exercise, and the amusement of visiters to that pleasant
spot.  Two light pleasure cars are provided, running on iron wheels, 3 feet
in diameter, with stuffed cushions, and neatly finished, each capable of
accommodating two persons.  The motion is produced by the riders, who turn
a hand-wheel by a windlass, and the motion is rapid and pleasant.  The
circuit, which is 687 feet, is frequently made in 4 minutes.

            Caution is necessary in not standing too near.
            N-Y D Advertiser, July 29, 1831, p. 2, col. 3

            Melancholy Accident. -- We regret to learn that a young man and
a child were yesterday seriously injured by being run over by one of the
cars on the circular railway upon the lawn at Hoboken.
            N-Y Spectator, September 4, 1834, p. 1, col. 4

            The circular swing and the flying horses were put in motion;
the "Schiller band" raised their sturdy chorus; and the Gymnasts exhibited
their agility in all manly feats.
            N-Y D Tribune, May 21, 1850, p. 1, col. 3

George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998..

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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