Organ grinder with monkey on London street - Circa 1904
A brief look at the cymbal banging monkey toy Charley Chimp's history:
The Charley Chimp cymbal banging monkey has a long list of siblings dating back to 19th century street musicians known as "organ grinders". The organ grinders would move from street to street with hand cranked musical organs quite often with a white headed cymbal banging Capuchin monkey performing for passing change. Organ grinders were prevalent in the immigrant and working class neighborhoods of New York City and Europe during the early 1900s. The battery operated cymbal banging Charley Chimp toy is based upon these early street performers. The current incarnation of Charley Chimp replicates the cymbal banging monkey toys of the 1950s. Today's battery operated Charley Chimp possesses the same functionality and general persona that has kept this toy so popular for over fifty years.
The battery operated cymbal banging monkey toy has certainly become one of the world's most recognizable toys. Perhaps this is because it can be perceived as both playful or scary depending on the viewer and into what context the toy is placed. This dichotomy has captured the world’s creative imagination and has placed the battery operated Charlie Chimp toy regularly in film, television, advertising and literature.
Through the years the Charley Chimp toy has been manufactured in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and currently in China by several different factories. As the various factories closed their doors, new ones had to be found in different manufacturing markets. The cymbal playing monkey toys have been powered by batteries, wound springs or a handheld air pump. Daishin C.K., a Japanese company manufactured a cymbal banging monkey from the 1950s through the 1970s named Musical Jolly Chimp. The Jolly Chimp would screech, pop his eyes out and flash his teeth when bopped on the head as is true with today's Charley Chimp. The toy was wildly popular and soon other companies were producing their own versions of the cymbal banging monkey toy each carrying a unique name. They would typically posses similar facial expressions, the cymbal banging functionality, and black or brown fur. Their fashion attire however, could vary considerably.
The battery operated cymbal playing monkey toy has been manufactured wearing red and white striped pants and a yellow vest with red buttons, red overalls and a stocking cap or most recently black pants with a white stripe, plaid vest and red cap. Other outfits include green striped pants, blue striped pants, a red shirt with either green or blue pants, and plaid blue overalls or no pants at all (we're talking about a chimp after all). He might be wearing a fez, stocking cap, French cap or no hat at all. Other brand names include: Happy Monkey, Wind-up Monkey Playing Cymbals, Pepi Tumbling Monkey with Cymbal, Clockwork Musical Monkey with Clashing Cymbals, Musical Monkey, Magic Monkey, Jolly Chimp, Cymbal Plain' Turn over Monkey (that's how they spelled it) and Skipping Monkey
From Charley's birth date through the early 1970s the Japanese built Charley Chimps were sold on the streets of lower Manhattan in New York City. Enter Toys-R-Us, exit the independent toy retailers and Charley Chimp ultimately fell into obscurity. In 2004 online retailer Streetpeddler.com teamed up with one of the original manufacturers and through a labor of love made the battery operated Charley Chimp toys available to the world once again. Charley Chimp lives on!