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The Humpty Dumpty Circus
of artist
Trish Kochka

The All About Old Toys Website has been invaluable to me in restoring a Humpty Dumpty Schoenhut circus from the mid-1920’s. At that time that circus was a Christmas present to my mother and her younger brother and sister. When I was 4 years old, my parents had it restrung, and my mother touched up paint and re-did some costumes. It was given to me as a Christmas present and subsequently was enjoyed by my 2 much younger sisters. I have used it for many years in special displays as a holiday decoration, and in the late ‘60’s did some minor touching up and made new costumes for the battered clowns. I also did a rather poor job of restringing those figures most needing it. Unfortunately I had no thought of preserving antique value.  This fall I decided the circus needed major restoration, and was very fortunate to find the website you and Judith Lyle have created. The result of my 2 & 1/2 months of a frustrating and fun project is pictured below. I could not have done this without studying the many images of the circus figures you have on your site. (I found the history of the circus, and descriptions of changed-over-time editions of the figures fascinating. What a job you did in pulling all of that information together!)  My figures were cleaned, restrung carefully, repaired, (in some cases sanded and gesso-ed), paint was touched up or replaced, parts that needed replacement were replaced, and most figures were costumed or made-up to fit what I regard as my “2015 special edition.” Of course the antique value is pretty much ruined, and some of the figures now appear very differently from Schoenhut’s vision of them, yet they are still recognizable for what they are and give me much delight. I thought you might enjoy seeing them since your website was so integral to their maintaining the essence of the Schoenhut identity. (And, yes the Chinese acrobat and “Negro Dude” have morphed greatly, as has the make-up of the former “Humpty Dumpty” clowns.)

photos by Trish Kochka

Full view of our "special edition 2015“ restored Schoenhut circus figures on display in our kitchen

Another view

Close-up of ringmaster and horses

Another view

2015 special edition Twistum giraffe,  and Schoenhut camel and clown # 4

Bareback riders, white horses and 2015 special edition Chinese acrobat. (‘Have had the “seal ball” since 1947, but never had the seal---- ‘Used to balance the ball on the broken nose of the elephant.)

Former Humpty dumpty clowns with 2015 costumes and make-up

Close-up of "special edition" transformed 2015 "Negro Dude" (now "Sam the Star Clown" on stilts with yoyo)
The following pictures are from my workshop showing the circus in preparation.

Dude with stilts, about to become Sam the Star Clown

New makeup for a new Dude (Chinese acrobat sharing space)

In process

In process testing of a new ladder-cart

Clowns before restoration process (faces touched up by my mother in 1947 (likely costumes also replaced then), and costumes replaced by me in about 1968

Typical condition of clown parts at start of 2015 project

Figures nearing completion

Waiting for last rhinestones

Symbolic tinker-toy-plus "tent"  for atmosphere

Chinese Acrobat before 2015 restoration (my mother probably provided his jacket and touched up paint in 1947)

Chinese acrobat after 2015 restoration

Bareback riders before 2015 restoration

Ringmaster before 2015 restoration, vest and shirt removed (his jacket had been missing since before he was given to me in 1947, and his shirt sleeves had been shortened at some point, hat replaced around 1968)

Camel awaiting restoration

Brown horses waiting for restoration, saddles removed

White horses' 2015 restoration in process

Negro Dude at start of 2015 restoration