The toy is now one of the oldest in my collection, and, I think, one of the most beautiful. Patented in 1867 and made throughout the 1870s, Crandall's Acrobats were created by Charles M. Crandall, born in 1833. His business was first located in Covington, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Waverly, New York. He became one of the preeminent American toymakers of the 19th century, specializing in wooden toys, and is now famed for his building blocks, jointed figures, and puzzles.
The Acrobats came in a wooden box with a paper label, which reads:
[Crandall's Building Blocks]
Crandall's Great Show,
Full of Fun and Frolic, and Most Brilliant in Costume.
Will exhibit at the house of the purchaser Afternoon and Evening.
NO POSTPONEMENT ON ACCOUNT OF WEATHER.
MATINEE EVERY MORNING.
Admission Free, Children Half-Price.
[Patented Feb. 5th, 1867]
Inside the box are pieces to make five acrobat figures, comprised of separate torsos, heads, legs and arms. The legs and arms feature hand painted details, while the torsos and heads have beautifully lithographed paper designs, all different, printed on each side of the figure, which doubles the number of combinations possible.
Here are close-ups of some of the heads:
|Yes, clowns are scary...this one especially so.
The Acrobats feature one of Crandall's most innovative designs: the pieces have slotted sides that allow them to be connected in a dove-tail fashion. This enabled children to assemble the figures in a variety of combinations.
The set also came with several slotted bases, into which the acrobats could be inserted. Then children could use the enclosed booklet or their own creativity to build acrobatic pyramids.
My set still retained remnants of its original booklet, now in an incredibly fragile state.
I'm off to hold my first matinee, "admission free and children half-price."