Monday, July 12, 2010

1950s Marx Circus Sideshow Playset

Here's another carnival-themed vintage toy that is, by today's standards, generally considered egregiously offensive. But it was phenomenally popular back in its day (the 1950s), when it allowed children the opportunity to run their own freak show!

The Marx Super Circus was a huge playset of plastic figures and tin litho structures that included a big top, ticket booth, circus performers both human and animal, and visitors. It also came with a two piece sideshow, complete with lithographed banners and a variety of plastic freaks.
My sideshow has only one  left: Chang and Eng, the famous real-life Siamese twins after whom all subsequent "siamese twins" have been named. (There's a great article about Chang and Eng, with lots of historical photographs, here.

The tin lithography on these pieces is really great and worth a closer look:


  1. What an amazing piece, can't believe they made plastic version of poor Chang and Eng!

  2. Yep. In real life, they both had large families: I wonder if any of their descendants got royalties from this...

  3. I recently came upon two figures from the Marx circus set: the sword swallower, and what appears to be a scantily clad "big top assistant" of some sort. I'll hopefully be working them into one of my future photos (I take fine art shots of vintage toys, books, LPs and other interesting old references to pop culture).

    I've only recently found your wonderful web site and plan to make it a daily stop!

  4. Wow: thanks for the flattering comment! (I don't always manage daily updates though, so I hope you won't be disappointed!)

    I've looked at your work, and love it: fantastic stuff. I'm going to be posting my first-ever "vintage toy art assemblage" in a couple of days...I used an old gumball machine as a sort of display case, and made a mixed-media scene inside using vintage space toys (Archer Space Men, robots, etc.) and mid-century space illustrations. I hope you'll like it!