Monday, July 9, 2012

Tin Toys and Pulley Animals: My First Month as a VCP Intern

Roly Poly Bunny based on Schoenhut's 1900 patent

Toys inspire me. They always have, even back when I thought all their creators were probably dead. I like things that move and things that you can interact with as a viewer, whether they are in the fine art world or in a toy store.
Roly Poly Cat based on Schoenhut's 1900 patent

When I first came to the Library Company with my class in the spring, I was shown the Schoenhut circus toy catalog from 1917. I had an inspiration to create works based on it and the other toy-related materials in the library’s collection representing each decade of the period 1850-1950. My professor told me to apply for an internship, and I sent off my resume and cover letter that day. I was so excited when I was offered the Visual Culture Program internship.

Sketches for toy sculptures in progress
Aluminum Elephant based on tin toys produced by the Philadelphia Tin Toy Manufactory

So far I have spent much of my time drawing and reading. Besides the actual materials in the collection, I have also found that the Internet has been a great tool for researching what toys best represent each decade of my period. As part of this research, I have had to make decisions about which ones to use as models for my sculptures, and have been particularly interested in the differences among toys according to the social class of their intended consumers. For instance, steam-powered tin toys versus hand-made corn cob dolls. At this point in the summer I have one decade completely finished, and three others almost done. In the end, each of ten decades will be represented by one or more sculpted toys, including pulley animals.

I feel so welcome at the Library Company and have learned so much even in the short time that I have spent here. It is exciting to be at a place that holds so much knowledge and so many resources. 

Jesse Lentz
Moore College of Art ‘13
VCP Artist-in-Residence intern


  1. This is so awesome!
    I can't wait to see the culmination of your experience & efforts at the Library Company.