Harry’s Toy Circus, ‘Overland’

Harry, from Co Wicklow, was given the toy circus in the 1990s as a secondhand toy handed down from his uncle, who had been given it secondhand by a neighbour when he was a child.

Pull-toy with draft horses hitched to caged wagon holding a tiger. Driver sitting on rooftop bench. ‘OVERLAND CIRCUS’ embossed on each side of the wagon. 14″ long, 7.25″ H., 3.75″ W. Maker: Kenton Hardware Company, Kenton.Ohio.

Kenton first used the Overland Circus for a series of automotive toys from the mid 1920’s, offering its first horse drawn vehicles in the 40’s, when the company offered a polar bear in a cage wagon and a calliope.

“Cast iron toys are among the most sought after toy collectibles today. Some of the best known of these were made by Kenton, an Ohio firm that operated from the 1890s to the 1950s. Their famous Kenton toys include children’s savings banks, toy stoves, trains, circus caravans, cars, fire trucks, nostalgic horse-and-buggy lines, and nodders, all identified and shown here in colour photographs and original catalog illustrations. Most famous of all was the authentic Gene Autry toy pistol, which was unveiled in 1937. Two million of these were sold in the first year and a half, and the company prospered from the Sing along Cowboy’s popularity until 1951. This well-illustrated and researched book traces the history of Kenton from its days as a boomtown hardware manufacturer in the nineteenth century through the struggles of the two world wars. The growth of the American toy industry is reflected in the chronicle of this important company told with details from the company archives and with the engaging testimony of company employees. The story of Gene Autry’s festive visit to Kenton is delightful.” Charles M. Jacobs.

Charles M. Jacobs has lived in Kenton since 1985. He is the curator-director of four historical museums in Ohio, including the archives in Kenton.

McAllister collection.