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Online Collections

Humpty Dumpty Circus

play set

ca. 1920

At the turn of the century, Philadelphia toy maker A. Schoenhut seized upon the circus mania that had spread across the nation, producing miniature versions of the beloved circus performers and animals. Called the Humpty Dumpty Circus, a name inspired by a popular play of the time, the toy line became an immediate success. It featured ten core performers, over thirty different animals, and a wide variety of accessories, ranging from simple props like chairs and ladders to elaborate, three-dimensional canvas tents. Schoenhut produced a great variety of animals to accompany its circus, as both performers and members of the menagerie, essentially an exhibition of wild animals, not unlike a traveling zoo. All Schoenhut animals share certain characteristics. They have hand-painted and jointed wooden bodies, often with leather or felt details. The earliest animals had glass eyes, but in the 1920s, in an effort to scale back on expenses, Schoenhut switched to painted eyes, and later used decals. Some, such as the lion and the elephant, represent quintessential circus animals, while others, such as the buffalo and wolf, do not conjure images of the big top. Regardless, all of the animals contribute to the magic of the Schoenhut circus. This photograph shows what an assembly of later Humpty Dumpty Circus figures and accessories might have looked like. It is not intended to represent an original set just out of its box.

ManufacturerThe A. Schoenhut Co.
Materialcanvas | lithographed | wood | elastic cord | paint | bisque | cloth
OriginPhiladelphia, PA
Object ID111.7123

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