At the turn of the century, traveling big-top circuses, such as those operated by the Ringling Brothers and P. T. Barnum, drew immense and enthusiastic audiences all over the United States. In 1903, Albert Schoenhut decided to capitalize on the public’s interest in circuses by selling a jointed clown, along with a chair and a ladder, as part of a three-piece set called the Humpty Dumpty Circus. Schoenhut’s circus sold well and additional pieces – a donkey, an elephant, a white horse, etc. – were quickly added to the set.
In 1911, the company published a newspaper advertisement that featured this illustration of various figures from the circus. The accompanying text boasted: “Your children will never tire of playing with these wonderful, unbreakable toys. The animals do tricks; the clowns, in their fancy costumes, are as funny as any Barnum ever had. The figures are made of solid wood, jointed like the French dolls, painted in oil colors. Will stand the roughest kind of treatment. Mothers say it beats any toy they ever knew. There is no end to the fun.” From the New-York tribune (New York), November 26, 1911, page 12. Source: New-York tribune (New York), November 26, 1911.