Early-century cartoon characters live on in this shop

June 30, 1994

Who remembers Barney Google and Sparkplug?

Boob Mc Nutt?

Happy Hooligan?

Maggie and Jiggs?

Bonzo the Pup?

Jeep?

Felix the Cat?

How about Betty Boop?

Jim Fogle, who owns and operates Come Saturday Morning Antiques, 8 Frederick St. in Taneytown, collects them all.

All these characters are taken from cartoons shown between 1910 and 1930. Each was manufactured under contract for promotional purposes for the cartoon companies by the Albert Schoenhut toy company in Philadelphia.

Albert Schoenhut was a German immigrant toy maker who began his business in America in 1872 making toy pianos. Mr. Schoenhut had descended from a long line of toy makers. By the time he died in 1912, his six sons were each skilled in a different aspect of operating the business, which had grown from one room to more than 5 acres of workshops.

The goal of the A. Schoenhut Co. was to compete with European markets. Mr. Schoenhut took pride in the fine craftsmanship and detail of his toys. He even set out to make the indestructible toy.

One such toy is a riding horse he made for one of his grandsons. One and a half feet tall, the jointed, fully movable, flaxen-haired horse rests on a vertical metal pipe.

The pipe is very strong, so the horse conceivably could hold a larger child. The child could pretend to ride the horse if playing alone, or could be pulled, as the entire assembly rested on a wheeled platform. The horse could also be taken off the platform so the child could play with it on the floor.

From 1903 until the mid-1930s, the A. Schoenhut Co. was most widely known for its production of the Humpty Dumpty Circus. At that time, circuses were a popular form of entertainment.

Mr. Schoenhut capitalized on the idea to make movable, poseable animals and circus people. He made elephants, donkeys and clown pieces, then yearly expanded the collection to include cages, parade wagons, and eventually some 60 animals and performers.

The animals and performers were made from wood, which was jointed by using elastics and ball joints. The hand-painted figures could be posed in any position necessary to make a believable circus scene.

Acrobats, clowns, ringmasters and various other performers were also designed with notches in their hands and feet that enabled them to swing from a trapeze or hold a whip.

The Schoenhut circus was one of the few American toys of the day to be exported to Europe in vast quantities.

Other toy sets were introduced by the Schoenhut Co. as well. Teddy's (Roosevelt's) Adventures in Africa, and Mary Had a Little Lamb were popular games of the time.

The company created lettered blocks called "Alphies," in which a girl was pictured holding a letter on one side, and an animal would hold the same letter on the reverse. Using rubber balls, children could play ten-pins with them.

The Rolly-Dolly Toys were dolls with rounded bottoms that were promoted as "The first toy for the baby."

When the company showed signs of slowing down in the late 1920s, a smaller version of the Humpty Dumpty Circus was produced, this time with molded faces instead of hand-painted wooden ones. The idea behind the smaller version was to make it more affordable for all to love.

But, although the love of the circus was there, the money was not; the A. Schoenhut Co. went bankrupt in 1935.

Mr. Fogle has been able to collect nearly one of every toy produced by the A. Schoenhut Co. He proudly displays his collection in the antique shop. Other pieces are kept in his own living quarters. But Mr. Fogle loves to show them off anyway.

One entire room has been converted into a "big top" room. Red and white fabric resembling a circus tent has been hung to give the effect that one is entering the circus arena. Humpty Dumpty Circus figures are set up as if they are in mid-show.

Mr. Fogle has been collecting for more than 12 years. He has operated his business at the Frederick Street location for the past nine. Born and raised in Taneytown, he decided to return after being away for a while.

Mr. Fogle's store, which also houses a variety of antiques, Victorian furnishings and one-of-a-kind items, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or evenings by appointment after 7:30 p.m.

Call first: 756-2805.

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