Schoenhut Toy Company

Schoenhut Toy Company

Albert Schoenhut immigrated to the United States near the end of the American Civil War and began operations as a toy manufacturer in Philadelphia in 1872. Frequently linked to early composition Rolly Dollys and wooden toy pianos, the name Schoenhut is most synonymous with the wooden articulated Humpty Dumpty Circus figures made from 1903 to 1935.

Schoenhut’s first circus set was a simple ladder, chair and clown combination. Many different figures including animals, performers and accessories were added to the line as popularity grew during the 32 years of manufacture. Both traditional African circus animals and North American wild and domesticated animals found a home in the Schoenhut circus. A variety of accessories such as metal cages, cloth tents, wheel barrows and feeding troughs were also made to round out the set. Schoenhut began producing reduced size circus figures in 1923.

Different manufacturing techniques were used throughout the period providing collectors several guidelines for dating their items. Most animals made before 1918 had glass eyes and later they were painted. The early ringmasters, lady acrobat and circus riders were made with bisque heads before changing to carved and then pressed wood.

Schoenhut also produced a series of jointed wood Teddy Roosevelt safari figures from 1909 to 1911 following the same construction techniques as the circus figures. These are perhaps the most difficult to find in today’s market. Popular during the 1920s were period cartoon character figures like Felix, Maggie and Jiggs, Barnie Google and Sparkplug. Like many others, Schoenhut found it very difficult to remain profitable during the depression era despite the success of their figural toys and ceased operations in 1935.


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