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The Kirk Bros. Wooden Carved Circus at the Shelburne Museum

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Posted 7 years ago


(156 items)

From my summer 2010 whirlwind east coast antiques tour. On display (in their circus building) at the very excellent Shelburne museum, not to be missed if travelling to Vermont.

From the curator's notes:

"Appreciated today as a masterpiece of American Folk Art, the Kirk Bros. circus was originally conceived as a toy for the maker's four children. Spending more than 40 years from 1910 to 1956 handcrafting the circus, Edgar Decker Kirk of Harrisburg, PA carved each of the 3500 pieces using a simple penknife and foot powered jigsaw. A brakeman for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Mr. Kirk found time to work on the circus during his breaks. After his children outgrew playing with toys, Mr. Kirk would occasionally erect the entire three ring circus complete with mesh and canvas tent and electric lighting from strands of Christmas lights in his backyard for the enjoyment of neighborhood children."

Pardon the reflection as the circus is behind glass (the Shelburne Museum seems to encourage taking photos, another plus for them in my book). It occupies a whole wall about 15 feet long or more - the circus is bigger than it looks here.


  1. lisa , 7 years ago
    Wow, cool! Have you ever seen Alexander Calder's circus? Your post made me think of it.
  2. Picking-and-Collecting Picking-and-Collecting, 7 years ago
    Amazing! There is a very similar one at a museum in Massilon Ohio. It's really awesome to look at all of the little pieces and realize the amount of time and talent that goes into creating something like this.
  3. Picking-and-Collecting Picking-and-Collecting, 7 years ago
    Meant to add this link for anyone that might have the opportunity to visit the Massilon Museum.
  4. Guy Shepard, 7 years ago
    I enjoyed the circus years ago in the horse shoe barn, but did not see it my last time there. Do they take it out of view occasionaly

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