By Michael D. Mark
Museum Moment: Schoenhut's Indoor Golf Highlights USGA's Toys And Games Collection
Jan 12, 2012
The USGA Museum maintains an extensive collection of golf-themed toys and games. The collection includes all of the most important examples of movable golf figures (including Schoenhut’s Indoor Golf, Twistum Par Boy, Golfer Ike, Marx Pro Shot Golf and Arnold Palmer Indoor Golf). The focus of this article is on Schoenhut and its popular “parlor” game, Indoor Golf.
During the early 19th century, the Schoenhut family had success in making quality wood toys in Germany, but one of their sons, Albert, wanted to go to the U.S. and build his own business. In 1866, Albert emigrated to Philadelphia and obtained employment in a toy factory that made toys similar to those made by his father in Germany. By 1872, Albert was able to establish the A. Schoenhut Co.
Albert began by inventing the toy piano. The success of this item along with other musical instruments solidified the viability of the company. To this day, these items are desired by collectors. Of greater success, and also highly desired by today’s collectors, were the company’s circus animals and wood-jointed dolls produced from the 1890s through the mid-1930s.
Celebration of Schoenhut’s year in business in 1922, along with the popularity of golf, led to the introduction of Indoor Golf, which brought together some of the best qualities of their musical instruments and circus animals. Indoor Golf had been test-marketed for three weeks in December 1921 in Philadelphia and New York City and was a phenomenal success: leading sporting goods stores sold over $12,000; department stores over $10,000 (keep in mind that the basic set cost $5 to $10).
Consumers were able to purchase a variety of combinations, but the basic game of Indoor Golf consisted of a golf figure, three little insertable clubs, a ball and layout of a hole. They were encouraged to buy additional golfers, holes and obstacles so that an interesting layout could be set up in the home and a number of people could compete. There were two golf figures available, a male and a female, named Tommy Green and Sissy Lofter. The game was very successful and was followed in 1923 by a children’s version, Kiddie Golf. The game was essentially the same but smaller. The figures, a boy and a girl, were named Bill Caddie and Mary Hit-It.
If you are fortunate to own one of Schoenhut’s Indoor Golf products (or have access to a friend’s), I am sure you will marvel at the craftsmanship (the figures are wonderfully carved and, with your control, they can swing like a golfer and propel the toy ball toward the game’s golf hole) and the fun of playing it (but given its historic importance, please play carefully).
Michael Mark is a member of the USGA Museum Committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoenhut's Indoor Golf was very popular in the early 1920s. Though a basic set cost only between $5 and $10, stores sold over $22,000 worth of games during a three-week market test in Philadelphia and New York City in 1921. (USGA Museum)
In 1968, nearly half a century after Shoenhut's Indoor Golf was released, Louis Marx and Co., made a game called Arnold Palmer’s Pro Shot Golf. In addition to the mechanical golfer, this toy included interchangeable clubs, small plastic balls, a foam green, plastic tee and various plastic hazards that could be set up in any indoor space. (USGA Museum)
Consumers of the Schoenhut game were able to purchase a variety of combinations, but the basic game of Indoor Golf consisted of a golf figure, three little insertable clubs, a ball and layout of a hole. Above, the metal plate on the club's shaft reads "The A. Schoenhut Co." (USGA Museum)