Collecting: Bonzo Carnival Chalkware

The first time I found one of these I thought it was Betty Boop’s dog Bimbo, but then I found out Bimbo is a cat and that her little pup’s name is Pudgy. So then I thought this guy was Pudgy. But I was still wrong!

These are in fact, incarnations of Bonzo, a character created by illustrator George Studdy – first conceived around 1911 and later published in the early 1920s. Bonzo was a household name by time Betty Boop arrived in 1930. You can read about George Studdy and his career here.

Bonzo went on to star in a series of animated films himself, the first being A Sausage Snatching Sensation. The premiere was attended by the King and Queen of England.

Vast quantities of Bonzo memorabilia was produced and continues to be produced to this day. I found myself drawn to these pups in particular as they somewhat resemble my own dog Fancy.

This is my best gal, Fancy Pants Polanski

This souvenir has something extra special…

Personalized. I love this kind of stuff!

Fairground midway games offered carnival chalkware as prizes during the early part of the 20th century. They were often produced by the carnies themselves and crudely decorated with paint and glitter.

Did Bonzo inspire Gustaf Tenggren when he illustrated The Pokey Little Puppy? Published in 1942:

Tenggren is one of my favorite illustrators


This little guy was made using a metal mould I found at an antique sale. I spray painted this one white and added glass eyes I procured from a taxidermist.

I sold these little guys as bookends at The Toronto Small Press Book Fair for a few years. This one I painted with chalkboard paint.

This is a porcelain replica of an original Bonzo dog that I made with Alexx Boisjoli at RCBoisjoli studio.

Our little collective, Chevaux de Bois launched these little porcelain dogs at The Gladstone Hotel’s Come Up To My Room event a couple of years ago.

We installed a fairground sideshow and operated a game called “Nutzo!” We gave away dozens of these guys in addition to other porcelain sculptures, all based on the “freak-show” posters I created.

There’s Bonzo influence in my illustration:

Prizes included our pup “Popcorn”– and Ontario grown peanuts also cast in porcelain

You can order a print of the Peanuts and Popcorn poster here. They were named after these two:

On the left, Peanuts and Popcorn, at the Pet’s Rest Cemetery in Colma, California

Bonzo in action:

About Ian Phillips Illustration

I am an illustrator and book designer. View all posts by Ian Phillips Illustration

6 responses to “Collecting: Bonzo Carnival Chalkware

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