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Archive for the ‘Artifacts’ Category

Monkey Speedway Banner

Monkey Speedway Banner “The Race” by Sigler Studios, circa 1950s. 248″ x 96″. Mosby & Co Auctions, November 29, 2014.

Vintage monkey speedway banners by Sigler Studios, sideshow banners by Fred Johnson, and shrunken head and mummy gaffs by Homer Tate are among the midway artifacts up for auction at Mosby & Co. Auctions’ November 29th live and online sale. A selection of carnival games that have disappeared from the midway will also be in the sale. The catalogue is online and one can bid now or in real time during the auction.

“The Monkey Speedway ‘The Start’ and ‘The Race’ are the two best Sigler banners we have ever handled,” said Mosby’s owner Keith Spurgeon, who noted that it was probably painted by Jack Sigler Sr. The banners drew people over to a midway attraction that was popular on carnivals through the 1950s and 60s. Trained monkeys in little metal cars raced around a wooden track while customers (more…)

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This weekend is your last chance to dance with the life-size dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and enjoy the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” before they close for the year. These independently owned amusements cost only 25 cents each and are located on West 12th Street off the Boardwalk, beneath Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

When ATZ “interviewed” Miss Coney after she moved from Jones Walk in 2012, it was revealed that in a past life she was an Indian princess automaton at Connecticut’s Great Danbury Fair. Though you’d never guess it after her glam makeover, this doll dates back to the 1930s. The shimmying mannequin is a magnet for visiting divas. Catch her at 2:20 in Beyonce’s music vid XO and with Rita Ora in a fashion shoot for Vibe Magazine. Miss Coney Island’s taglines on twitter are “Don’t Postpone Joy” and “25 cents to fall in LOVE.” (more…)

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Grandma's Predictions

Grandma’s Predictions, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park. May 12, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita via flickr

Happy Mother’s Day to Coney Island’s Grandma’s Predictions! The rare circa 1923 fortune teller returned to her home under the 1920 Wonder Wheel on Mother’s Day 2013 after several months in arcade restorer Bob Yorburg’s workshop. Her inner workings had been destroyed by floodwater from Sandy. Grandma got eye surgery as well as a new wig, dress and wax hands cast from the original mold, and a fine new cabinet. Visit Grandma and get your prediction — only 50 cents.

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 28, 2014: Up for Auction: Bimbo Baby Automaton Arcade Machine

December 6, 2013: Rare $25K “Punchy the Clown” Game Makes a Comeback

January 28, 2013: Rare & Vintage: 1906 “La Boule Mysterieuse” Circus Toy

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

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See-saw circus clown bicycle

See-saw circus clown bicycle from the David Metz Museum. Copake Antique & Classic Bicycle Auction. April 12, 2014

This homemade see-saw bicycle for a pair of circus clowns will be on the auction block at Saturday’s 23rd Annual Antique & Classic Bicycle Auction in Copake, New York. Here’s hoping unicyclist Keith Nelson, whose alter ego is the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus‘s Mr Pennygaff, buys it, so we can one day see it in action. The sale begins at 9:00 am with online bidding available via live auctioneers.

Among the 900 lots from museums and private collections are boneshakers, high wheels, adult tricycles, and early pneumatic safeties from the Metz Bicycle Museum of Freehold, New Jersey, which closed after the 97-year-old collector’s death last year. In addition to the see-saw bike, unusual bicycles from the museum include children’s bicycles, an ice bicycle and a pontoon bike from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

On the day after the auction, Sunday, April 13th, a bicycle ride around Manhattan will celebrate the life of David Metz. According to the website of The Wheelmen, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping alive the heritage of American cycling: “This ride is open to all wheelmen and wheelwomen, all who are friends of the Metz Bicycle Museum or the Copake Bicycle Auction, and anyone else who was a friend to David. The ride will start from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in the Battery, NYC, at 10:00 AM.”

Related posts on ATZ…

March 14, 2014: Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Celebrates 20th Anniversary

November 11, 2013: After 80 Years in Popcorn Biz, Family’s Heirloom Wagons Up for Sale

December 10, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

August 20, 2009: Q & A with Coney Island Boom A Ring Circus Star Justin Case

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Antique Coney Island Ride Tickets

Collection of antique tickets for Coney Island rides and amusements, early 1900s. Eclectibles at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair

Roller coasters have evolved since the days when the Switchback Railway and Loop the Loop occupied the block where the Cyclone is now, but as far as ride tickets, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. When the New York Antiquarian Book Fair opens today at the Park Avenue Armory, among the treasures for sale will be a collection of elaborately illustrated tickets from Coney Island rides and amusements of a century ago. The collection is being offered by Eclectibles (Booth A44) as part of a selection of New York ephemera. The tickets came equipped with strings for securing to a shirt or coat button and are wonderful souvenirs of old Coney Island.

The rides and attractions represented in Eclectibles collection include such long-vanished Surf Avenue thrillers as The Ben Hur Chariot Race (1908-1923) and the Rocky Road to Dublin (1907-1912) built by William F. Mangels, Jackman’s Shooting the Rapids (1898-1901) and Loop the Loop (1901-1910). The Star Double Toboggan Races (1904-1906), the world’s first two-track racing coaster, and the Red Devil Rider (1907-1923) are among the Bowery attractions. A number of L.A. Thompson’s Scenic Railway and Steeplechase Face tickets round out the collection of 14 tickets, which is priced at $3,500.

Die Cut Tag from Coney Island’s Bostock Arena in Dreamland circa 1904. Courtesy of eBay Seller monsonantiques

Considering that an especially rare ticket and advertising tag for Coney’s early attractions can sell for several hundred dollars on eBay, the price is fair. The last time ATZ wrote about one of these hard-to-find tickets was in 2011, when a die cut tag from Dreamland’s Bostock Arena was snapped up for nearly $400 in the last few seconds of an auction.

Currently on eBay, seller childhoodthings is offering a collection of Coney Island tickets, including Loop the Loop (“Heels up, Heads down”), the County Fair Musical Railway, L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway (“Ain’t It Lovely!”) and Steeplechase Park for $1,000.

Lopp the Loop Ticket

Loop the Loop Ticket, early 1900s. Via eBay seller childhoodthings

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February 21, 2014: Rare & Vintage: See Them Spinning Glass in the Sideshow

November 1, 2013: After 80 Years in Popcorn Biz, Family’s Heirloom Wagons Up for Sale

March 22, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Souvenir of Frank Bostock’s Coney Island

March 9, 2011: Inexhaustible Cows & Bottomless Cups of Chocolate Milk

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Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap

Muffler Man Restoration Project in Mortons Gap, Kentucky. Photo by Joel Baker/US Giants

Thanks to girlie motorcycle blogger and Roadside Americana fan Fuzzy Galore, ATZ learned about the website “American Giants: A journal of my muffler men travels and findings.” Videographer Joel Baker and his crew have been traveling the country documenting the roadside giants known as “Muffler Men.” In Episode #4, our favorite, they visit Peoria’s UniRoyal Girl, the female version of the Muffler Man, and the Launching Pad Restaurant’s Gemini Giant, a twin to the long lost Astroman of Coney Island’s Astroland.

Now Baker is asking for help via Kickstarter to restore a headless, armless Paul Bunyan in rural Kentucky. We have a soft spot in our hearts for the fiberglass figures which date back to the 1960s and ’70s and were a common sight during our travels with the carnival but currently number less than 200. There’s something poignant about a collective effort to make this roadside character whole again.

In addition to cowboys, Indians, pirates, astronauts, and other variations, International Fiberglass also produced a 14 foot tall Paul Bunyan statue. It is not known how many of these were made but there are only about 15 of them known to still exist. This statue in Mortons Gap is an example of this model. However, it is in very poor condition.

You can help preserve this unique piece of Americana by supporting this Kickstarter campaign. Your contributions will raise the money needed to reproduce the statue’s original head, arms and axe. The statue will also be refurbished and repainted. This restoration project will be documented in an American Giants’ video episode.

The campaign has raised $976 of a $4,500 goal, but Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing funding model. The project must be fully funded by April 20th for the Muffler Man to be restored. Why not contribute in memory of Astroland’s Astroman? Thank you gifts include a time capsule message ($10 or more), American Giants T-shirt ($35 or more), and a reproduction of a 1970 International Fiberglass Catalogue featuring all the Muffler Men and other statues ($100 or more).

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October 31, 2013: Missing in Storm: Have You Seen Coney’s Mama Burger?

July 22, 2013: The World’s Largest Traveling Bonanza Shooting Gallery

July 17, 2012: 50 Years on Coney Island Boardwalk for Paul & His Daughter

July 4, 2012: Photo of the Day: Mangels Pony Cart Ride

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Monkey Speedway Car

Antique Circus Monkey Racing Car. Photo by Architectural Anarchy, Chicago via 1st dibs

Coming across this photo of an “Antique Circus Monkey Racing Car” recently sold by Chicago dealer Architectural Anarchy rekindled the curiosity that I felt as a carny kid. My father’s story about how he had a real, live monkey on a trapeze in his popcorn trailer to attract customers in the 1940s began with mention of where he got the idea: a Monkey Speedway! It was at the Patriots’ Day Celebration in Boston. The term was one I’d never heard before because this long popular carnival attraction had by then disappeared from the midways of New England.

Monkey Speedway

Vintage Photo of Monkey Speedway. Photo © Tricia Vita Collection

Right through the 1950s and 60s, carnivals placed ads in the Billboard and then Amusement Business for Monkey Circuses and Speedways as well as managers to run them. “We are interested only in a show man that can and will work hard for a seasons bank roll,” said an ad for King Reid, New England’s largest carnival, in 1946. Carnival supply house H.C. Evans called its Monkey Speedway “The unbeatable carnival attraction! Equal to a free act!” A trio of trained monkeys in little metal cars raced around a wooden track while people placed bets on the laydown of numbers. The prizes were boxes of candy, my father said.

It was the crowd-stopping appeal of the Monkey Speedway that gave Dad the idea to put a monkey act in his popcorn trailer one spring when the show owner changed the location of the merry-go-round, leaving him up in front with no customers. After trying unsuccessfully to buy one of the Speedway monkeys, my father went to Benson’s Wild Animal Farm in New Hampshire, where they had monkeys for sale.

“So they sold me a little rhesus monkey for $15 and they put him in a small wooden cage. I put the cage on the front seat of my truck, and while I was driving back to the carnival, the monkey would look at me and I would look at the monkey, and I don’t know if I was more afraid of him than he was of me.”

Monkey Speedway

Vintage Photo of Monkey Speedway. Photo © Tricia Vita Collection

“After we got back to the lot, the monkey ate a few meals and got to like me. I’d built a small trapeze and fastened it to one of the rafters on the popcorn stand. I tried to train Roebuck to sit on it and swing. It was against the law to keep an animal in a food stand, but I had to take a chance because it was either that or go out of business.”

It took my father three weeks to get Roebuck to sit on the trapeze and swing. And when he did he was surrounded by a crowd of people who bought peanuts and popcorn and candy apples to eat while they watched the free show. “Some kids would do anything to to be near the monkey: They’d bring bananas. They’d throw pennies. And Roebuck would catch quite a few of them.”

When the kids would ask what’s the monkey’s name?” he’d say, “I’m Sears, he’s Roebuck,” and the kids would laugh.

Monkey Speedway, Cetlin & Wilson Shows

Monkey Speedway, Cetlin & Wilson Shows. Photo © International Independent Showmen’s Museum

Though my father bought and sold Roebuck years before I was born, I felt as though the monkey was my long-lost brother. I just knew that he missed the peanuts, popcorn and pennies as much as I did when we stayed from October through April in my grandmother’s house, away from the free-wheeling life of the road.

The Monkey Speedway is one of the long-vanished shows documented in the collection of the International Independent Showmen’s Museum in Gibsonton, Florida. And the tiny race cars, if you’re lucky enough to find one, have entered the realm of folk art.

Monkey Go Round, a German film released in the 1960s by Castle Films, is the fairytale-like story of a troupe of monkeys and their caretaker’s show biz comeback and will give you a glimpse of a Monkey Speedway.

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March 16, 2014: Coney Island Bunny Makes Broadway Debut at Union Square Petco

January 27, 2014: AC Boardwalk, Disneyland Have Model Programs for Feral Cats–Why Not Coney Island?

December 31, 2012: Memoirs of a Carny Kid: The Land of Prizes

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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