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Displaying the
Humpty Dumpty Circus

The Humpty Dumpty circus can be a dynamic work of toy Americana folk art but many new Humpty Dumpty circus collectors are uncertain about how to display their circus. 

This article explores ideas for the display of your collection in interesting and creative ways.

Tents  

This is my Humpty Dumpty Circus display in our 
family room. I have old circus lithographs and 
posters on the room walls to add to the 
circus ambiance. The circus is on an old gaming table on which I placed a 1/4 inch plywood board covered in a nice heavy cloth.

 

What is a circus without a tent? Schoenhut made several fine tents that display its pieces exceptionally well. My favorite is the standard canvas tent. It presents the performers very well. But while the lithographed tent is very colorful, it tends to overpower the performers and is a bit low. The lithographed side panels are terrific and can be added to either the lithographed or canvas tents.

You don't have to have a tent to create nice displays. Use your imagination. You can set up a parade like the circuses performed when they came to a town. Some collectors simply like to pose their pieces in a cabinet or shelf.

   
Making Acts  
Circuses are about showing performing acts. To add excitement to your circus, set your animals and performers up in acts with other performers or in combination with animals. Go to a real circus for ideas or look through a good book on the performing circus. Remember that circus means circle and refers to the 42 foot ring in the center every equestrian circus. The ring is set at 42 feet diameter to suit the horse and rider or acrobat acts. 

 

 

The gent acrobat can be used alone or with other gent or lady acrobats.

The gent acrobat is also described as a strongman by Schoenhut and serves this role well.

 
   
 

 

The lady acrobat with her hoop used as a lion tamer. Be creative!

The hobo is a circus clown and should be posed in comic situations.

 
   
   

Our ringmaster persuades the leopard and the polar bear to perform. 

 

The pig is comical in the circus and was often used as the animal subject in a clown act.

Mixing Regular and Reduced Sized Pieces

 
I have been asked if it is OK to mix reduced sized pieces with a regular sized circus or visa versa. Well, of course it is! After all, it's your circus! Many of Schoenhut's circus pieces are out of scale with other circus pieces. The regular poodle, for example, is about the size of the lion. Dogs are a part of circuses and the reduced poodle looks better to me with the regular pieces.  

   

I usually put a reduced clown on an elephant as a rider. A regular clown is almost as big as the elephant!

The reduced hatless ringmaster looks better on the regular size horse than any regular size rider.

 
     


The reduced elephant serves as a juvenile for the regular elephant. Baby elephants have always been a major attraction for the circus. 
 
  The regular glass eyed giraffe with the smaller reduced giraffe. Looks like adult and juvenile doesn't it?
Making the Pieces Hold Together
To get the best poses out of your pieces, they must first of all, be tightly restrung as the original Schoenhut rubber string will have long ago lost its ability to hold the piece together properly. Schoenhut itself writes about having to restring its circus pieces. Restringing is not, if done properly, considered restoration by Schoenhut collectors.

Also, you can use modeler's putty, available from hobby shops and craft stores. This is a somewhat sticky putty that does not harm the pieces but will help they stay in place. It comes in blue and beige and perhaps other colors. It can leave a residue on some pieces so test before you use it.

I sometimes use rubber bands between the feet of a performer to help him stay on an animal as a rider.