History Museum: Philly's Own Santa Claus - 6abc Loves the Arts

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Philadelphia's Own Santa Claus is open through May 31st. (WPVI)

The Philadelphia History Museum turns 75, this year, and the birthday celebration includes a host of new exhibitions, including one that highlights some of the city's most legendary toys and games.

The exhibit is called Philadelphia's Own Santa Claus, and it's a showcase of about 80 toys created by Albert Schoenhut in the late 1800s.

"He was really an innovator in his time to create toys that kids could both play with and learn from," says the museum's Executive Director, Charles Croce.

Schoenhut was born in Germany to a toy-making family and started making toy pianos at a very young age. A buyer from Wanamaker's heard of the boy's talents and brought him to Philadelphia when he was just 17 years old.

"He was known as the Santa Claus of Kensington because of all the toys he produced," says Croce.

By the time he died in 1912, Schoenhut's toy company was the largest in America and the first in the US to export toys to Germany.

"Some of the toys came to us from his family. Some of the toys came to us from a collector's club," says Croce, "most of the things, though, come to us as gifts."

Pieces include his famed toy pianos, one of which Croce says visitors can play, "So, if you want to do your Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano, you can do it here," says Croce, "You'll also see Felix the Cat. Before Mickey Mouse, there was Felix the Cat."

Schoenhut also created games. "One is called pick up sticks," says Croce, who explains that, "It's based on the nursery rhyme 'one, two, buckle my shoe, three four open the door, and five, six pick up sticks.'"

No matter how old you are, he says the exhibit is meant for everyone to enjoy and learn from, "The whole point is to come in and see what your city created, invented, and made over the course of its history."

Philadelphia's Own Santa Claus is open through May 31st. For tickets and museum hours go to www.The ArtsInPhilly.org.

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