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Fred Keller's 
Miniature Schoenhut Circus

The Miniature Humpty Dumpty Circus
We are pleased to present a most amazing artistic expression of the Schoenhut Humpty Dumpty Circus - Fred Keller's Miniature Circus! The photos below, taken by Fred of his miniature circus, show how wonderful his artistry is. The pieces are between three and four inches high and are incredibly detailed and faithful to Schoenhut's original toy circus. As you enjoy these photos, keep reminding yourself that these are hand-made miniatures. Fred's story accompanies the photos.

It all began with my collecting the toy animals and figures of the Humpty Dumpty Circus. These were manufactured by the A. Schoenhut Company of Philadelphia between 1903 and 1936. I became intrigued with the design of these toys and made some dolls for my children using the same structure. This eventually led to my making miniature versions of the circus toys.

I began with the Alligator because all of its parts could be lathe turned. At first I made the legs by clamping my electric drill in a vise, inserting a dowel in the chuck, and shaping it by pressing a file against the rotating wood. Later I purchased a wood lathe. This was good for making legs, but the heads and bodies had to be shaped in another way. I made them by blocking out the shape with a coping saw, "carving" with a motor tool, and finishing with files and sand paper.

(need photo of alligator)

I made the clown heads just like the early Schoenhut clown heads were made, by gluing a molded face onto a lathe turned base. The molds were accomplished by first modeling a face with "Sculpy" (a modeling plastic), baking that, and then pressing the face into more "Sculpy" to achieve a mold. Casting was done with a paste of "Elmer's Glue" and sawdust. This results in a nice hard face piece. Painting was easy because I'm an experienced artist and I've been mixing and matching colors for years.

 A most difficult challenge were the clown costumes. I tried relief printing, but that didn't work for the "sunburst" pattern. I then made stencils out of scraps of plastic from commercial packaging. This was a very slow and tedious way to do it, but the results were worth it. I also tried using iron-on transfer paper with a computer image, but that made the costumes so stiff they wouldn't withstand the necessary "turning inside out" required to tie the cuffs and sleeves to the legs and arms.


Computer printing did work for the "Greatest Show on Earth", etc., on the cage wagon. I thoroughly enjoyed making these miniature versions of the Schoenhut Circus toys; they were a labor of love!

This photo shows the relative sizes of the miniature figures and a regular sized donkey.

The miniature personnel are between 3 1/2 and 4 inches high. Regular clowns are about 9 inches high.