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Schoenhut Company History

Albert Schoenhut, a German immigrant,  began producing piano toys in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1872. Thereafter, Schoenhut's toy production expanded to include dolls, dollhouses, blocks, and other wooden toys. In 1903, Schoenhut applied for a patent for a clown toy that would become

The Humpy Dumpty Circus was a great hit. The circus personal grew over the years to include a Lady Circus Rider, Lady Acrobat, Ringmaster, Gent Acrobat, Negro Dude (a minstrel), Chinese Acrobat, and a Lion Tamer. Animals included an Alligator, Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Buffalo, Bulldog, Burro, Arabian Camel, Bactrian Camel, Cat, Cow, Deer, Donkey, Elephant, Giraffe, Gazelle, Goat, Goose, Gorilla, Hippopotamus, Brown Horse, White horse, hyena, Kangaroo, Leopard, Lion, Monkey, Ostrich, Pig, Poodle, Rabbit, Rhinoceros, Sea Lion, Sheep, Tiger, Wolf, Zebra, and a Zebu. The 1906 "Everybody's Magazine" ad shown above illustrates some of the performers available at that time. Most early animals had glass eyes which were all changed to hand painted eyes by the 1920s. Even the painted eyes were later changed to a decaled eye in many animals as another cost savings measure.

The 1928 catalog cover, shown at left, shows a

To help bolster slumping sales, the company, in 1923, introduced their reduced size circus. Many, but not all personnel and animals were produced in a reduced size. In spite of the success of this new line of circus toys, the company failed to survive the depression and was out of business by 1935.

 

 

A very good comprehensive book of the Schoenhut Circus is Evelyn Ackerman's "Under the Bigtop with Schoenhut's Humpty Dumpty Circus". This great toy book has many beautiful photographs of Schoenhut's circus toys. To check availability of this book go here.

Over the years, the Schoenhut company made many other wooden toys including wooden doll houses and doll furniture, musical instruments such as xylophones and banjos, push and pull toys, and many others.

 

 

The Centerfold Illustration from Schoenhut's 1928 Catalog