The term "Grabbing for the Brass Ring" originated in the United States in amusement parks that had Merry go Rounds or Carousels that dispensed rings as a prize. Although the dispenser was filled with iron rings, there was usually a Brass Ring loaded in the machine for some lucky rider. All that rider had to do was be in the right place at the right time when the Brass Ring presented itself.
As the carousel turned around, the riders on the outside part of the ride could reach up to grasp the rings as they came by the dispenser. If you got the iron ring, there was usually a target that you could try to hit with it as the ride spun around. But if you were one of the lucky ones, the Brass Ring would earn you a free ride. This was a challenge like all booths and stands in an amusement park. Winning a prize made it all the more fun.
Now there are only twenty or so carousels that still have a dispenser for the rings, with most of them only using iron rings. So you can see that getting a Brass Ring is even more rare than ever before. But the Brass Ring has come to symbolize much more to our society. The Brass Ring has become the prize over the years, valued more than the original game, more than the money offered when it is turned in to the operator. One of the last carousels that offered all Brass Rings, never got one Brass Ring back from those who grabbed it.
Thus the term, "Grabbing for the Brass Ring" has become synonymous with reaching for success. Not as an award but a mark of achievement. It means to reach for a goal, with the understanding that the goal may be hard to achieve. But when the term is used, it usually means that the person tried and succeeded in this quest. Grabbing the Brass Ring is not a team award, but a personal achievement, a success on a personal level. If you set a goal, you are striving for a Brass Ring.
Where trophies symbolize team success, the Brass Ring symbolizes the player's success. Brass Rings can symbolize all manner of achievements: a new baby, Graduation from Kinder garden to College, a new job, a new spouse, entry into an organization, a new friend, and so much more. Our lives are full of personal successes, Brass Rings if you will, that are sometimes unnoticed. Brass Rings are Achievements that are recognized by ourselves as well as others, there is no reason to think less of an achievement when the person giving the credit for success is the same person as the one receiving the credit.
It is an American term, that is used in business, around the home, and is known by nearly everyone in our country. We are always trying for the Brass Ring, it is part of the American way.
If you want to find out more, google has a wealth of information on the Carousels. But there is some information that is a little harder to find. The size of the Brass Ring is 1 1/4" interior
1 5/8" exterior Diameter. The same size as what is offered here. The original Brass and Iron Rings were not closed, they were just a bit of wire bent in a circle, where ours are completely enclosed. They became welded shut many years after they first appeared because there was not the technology to allow for an inexpensive way for them to be welded. As soon as it was available the Carousels replaced the older rings.
1. The Brass Ring was originally a game reward or prize related to riding a carousel. Most carousels did not have "jumpers" (the animals which move up and downwhile the carousel spins around. The outer row animals were usually fixed in place, until later in 19th century. In order to encourage more riders to sit on the outer rows, someone devised the ring game and it became a common fixture of the carousel.
A rider sits on the outer row and when the carousel spins around, the rider reaches out and grabs one of the metal rings from the dispenser. Since not all the rings were brass getting the brass ring was special. The brass ring entitled the holder to a free ride when they returned the brass ring to the attendant.
Most carousels were pay-to-ride amusements. Back when a couple pennies, or a nickel was significant change, a free ride on the carousel seems much more relevant. To get the elusive brass ring was to win a notable prize equated with fun, gratification, fulfillment, etc.
2. "Grabbing the brass ring" or getting a "shot at the brass ring" also means striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest. It is has been found in dictionaries as far back as the late 19th century.
3. Brass ring devices were developed in the U.S.—about 1880 to 1921. At one time, the riders on the outside row of horses were often given a little challenge, perhaps as a way to draw interest or build excitement, more often as an enticement to sit on the outside row of horses which frequently did not move up and down, therefore less enticing by themselves. Most rings were iron, but one or two per ride were made of brass; if a rider managed to grab a brass ring, it could be redeemed for a free ride. References to a literal brass ring go back into the 1890s.
Rings were fed to one end of a wooden or metal arm suspended above the riders on the outside of the carousel. Riders hoped that the timing of the carousel rotation would place them within reach of the dispenser when a ring,preferably a brass ring, was available.
Another system had mostly steel rings of no value and one brass ring, and a target into which the rings were to be thrown, discouraging retention of the rings as souvenirs (which fails, almost no one will give up the rings, especially if they are Brass).