Carnival Figurines

Until the 1950's, before plush toys, carnival prizes were often garish, colorful plaster of Paris figurines. They're fragile and easily broken, so not many vintage ones survive in good condition.  Those that do are mostly found on eBay, which is where I discovered "carnieware" while trolling for dog figurines.  (Yes it's true, I collect inanimate dogs, see early blog post below.)  I've since noticed fans of these toys among artists, designers, photographers and general appreciators of the unconventional.  Below are some fun examples collected by the celebrated photo-journalist Mary Ellen Mark, plus those belonging to one of my most very favorite designers, Todd Nickey, partner in Nickey + Kehoe.  (www.nickeykehoe.com)

 

Mary Ellen Mark's dog and cowboy.  

Mary Ellen Mark's dog and cowboy.  

Cherry-cheeked friends.

Cherry-cheeked friends.

Thank you, Todd Nickey, for sending this picture. If I'm not mistaken, during our chat you said they look as if painted by drag queens, which is really a perfect description.    

Thank you, Todd Nickey, for sending this picture. If I'm not mistaken, during our chat you said they look as if painted by drag queens, which is really a perfect description.    

T Bone and friends.  A lovely aside:  I told an Italian friend about this blog post.  He said, “ah, you’re taking me back.” He remembered as a child in Trieste after World War 2, the American soldiers stationed there coming back from the Luna Park, having won these toys and giving them to the local children.  They didn’t know what else to do with them. He remembered the hand-painted colors melted in the rain.

T Bone and friends.

A lovely aside:  I told an Italian friend about this blog post.  He said, “ah, you’re taking me back.” He remembered as a child in Trieste after World War 2, the American soldiers stationed there coming back from the Luna Park, having won these toys and giving them to the local children.  They didn’t know what else to do with them. He remembered the hand-painted colors melted in the rain.