In the days before toys were based on cartoons, sci-fi movies, and breakfast cereals…….toy makers had to actually be creative.
In 1903, Albert Schoenhut debuted his Humpty Dumpty clown toy. He modeled the toy after the popular play and clown at the time, Humpty Dumpty. Until that time, Schoenhut made toy pianos, dolls and wooden blocks. His toy clown was so successful that within a year he had snowballed into a complete line of circus toys. The Humpty Dumpty Toy Circus. Over the next 30 years, Schoenhut continued to build his circus line to include a ringmaster, lion tamers, carnival wagons, tents, a complete orchestra, minstrels and acrobats, way too many clowns and a full menagerie of exotic animals. Almost all of the figures were fully poseable with slots in their feet so they could climb ladders, swing on trapeze, or ride on the back of a mount.
(There were hundreds of traveling circuses crisscrossing the country then; reaching their peak in popularity in about 1910.
At the turn of the century, in rural areas of the United States, there were no movie theaters, zoos, or television. Long distance travel was much more expensive and dangerous than it is today, and people weren’t exposed to the exotic very often. That is, until the circus came to town. Early circus were much like museums are today. They exposed rural people to the unusual, the fanciful and the amazing. The arrival of a circus to town meant that the entire town would shut down, school and work postponed, and everyone flocked to the street for the expected parade.)
Unfortunately, the Schoenhut company wasn’t strong enough to last through the depression, and closed forever in 1935.
I’ve been fascinated by these toys since I first saw a few figures in an antique store cabinet.
When I stumbled on some images from this fantastic toy line, I just new I had to share them with y’all.
Although circuses are no longer humanely correct I still get excited over the colors of the vintage advertisements and toys that I sporadically come upon while browsing antique stores. Owning a collection of this size would be any “big” kids dream come true.
PERFECT.THANKS FOR SHARING WITH US.
Most of the past was so beautiful.
I found you images by random. I have my grandmothers collection of Shoenhut animals. I am torn between displaying them “as is” or restoring them. They were heavily played with by my dad and his siblings. Is it a crime to restore? The colors are so vivid in your pictures. Thank you!
Hi Elizabeth, A decade ago my dog, a rescued Doberman named Harley Davidson, chewed a few holes in my favorite sweater; an oversized Navajo cardigan. My tailor told me that she could mend them with patches (inexpensive) or reweave the holes so no one would ever be able to tell they had been there (Very expensively). I opted for the patches, and I’m so glad I did. Harley’s been gone for a while now but every time I wear that sweater I think of her sweet face, and those first few weeks of us learning to understand each other. I say leave them exactly as well-loved and well-played with as your father left them.