Farmgirl Roadtrip: A Visit to the Barker Character, Comic, & Cartoon Museum

Photo courtesy Renee Guaino, Barker Museum

Photo courtesy Renee Guarino, Barker Media Relations

Here we are in October once again! I am often nostalgic, and October is a month full of nostalgia, especially when Halloween comes ‘round again. I still love Halloween, as much as I did as a kid!  I believe there’s a child tucked away in everyone, no matter how old we get, and we sometimes see glimpses of our childhood selves when we’re reminded of special times and happy childhood memories.

One special place where there are decades of childhood memories tucked under one AMAZING roof, is the Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum, located right here in New England, in Cheshire, Connecticut.

My family and I have always loved museums, and we are HUGE comic fans. Loving all things vintage, I also have a fondness for antique toys. We could not wait to visit the Barker Museum, and were not disappointed! The museum houses a personal collection first started by Herb and Gloria Barker, who were quite an amazing couple! The collection started around 1948 and was amassed over a 60+ year period. While establishing their company, Barker Specialty Company, a promotional product supplier, the Barkers started collecting toys, lunch boxes, and other special childhood memorabilia from tag sales, at a time when toy collecting was not commonplace. They believed there was an inherent value to the items steeped so deeply in childhood memories. Eventually, their personal collection morphed into the museum, opened to the public in 1997.

Photo courtesy Renee Guaino, Gallery Director

Photo courtesy Renee Guarino, Barker Media Relations

The Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum is on a character-decorated property where there are two separate sites to see in one: one area is a museum, while the other, seperate business is a retail art gallery of pop culture and collectibles, Barker Animation. It’s hard to believe that the museum was once a barn, and the gallery was once a house! Upon arrival, we purchased our tickets to the museum in the building where the gallery is housed, so we first browsed around there. The Barker Animation Gallery is amazing! We saw art pieces featuring well-known superheroes and favorite childhood characters. Many cool pieces are on display for sale, while the online store offers 16,000 options of comic and pop culture art and collectibles – known for being one of the most trusted sources for pop culture art, as well as the “largest retail animation entertainment art gallery in the world.” The gallery and museum are the result of Herb and Gloria Barker’s lifetime of collecting and their wish for preservation of the history of beloved childhood characters. A Mickey Mouse original production, drawn in the 1960’s, first sparked their love for animation, and created their adoration for keeping America’s cartoon history alive. 

Audrey poses next to a favorite character from her childhood.

Audrey poses next to a favorite character from her childhood.

Across the walkway, entering the door of the museum,  the first glance inside is exciting and impressive! Aisles of glass cases – packed to the gills with toys, games and other memorabilia, along with character toys and dolls in all sizes, greet visitors like long-ago friends. Every inch of space, floor to ceiling is virtually covered, with toys ranging from the 1870’s to even present day. 

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Nearly every visitor has the same reaction of “Oh my! I had that when I was younger!” For me, my heart skipped when I glimpsed a 1970’s Wonder Woman doll. Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman from the weekly series was every little girl’s heroine back then, and I was no exception. That Christmas when I was almost five, the ONLY toy I wanted was a Mego Wonder Woman doll. That holiday season was one of the best I had as a kid, and seeing that doll at the museum reminded me of the special time, so long ago. 

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The oldest pieces housed in the museum are two tin elephant gravity ramp walkers, from the 1870’s, made by the Bridgeport Ives Toy Company. If the elephants were placed on a declining surface, gravity would take hold and they would still walk! 

Photo courtesy Renee Gauino, Gallery Director

Photo Courtesy Renee Guarino, Barker Media Relations

The first piece acquired for the museum is a beautiful tin peacock statue. 

Photo Courtesy Renee Guaino

Photo Courtesy Renee Guarino, Barker Media Relations

Opened once again since the Pandemic for donations, the latest piece acquired by the museum is a recent gift of a ventriloquist “Dopey” doll, from a woman who saw the museum on the Today show. Dopey had been given to the woman’s mother in the early 1960’s. Her own grown children had no interest in the heirloom, so she decided he needed a new home and drove 2000 miles from New Mexico to donate Dopey to the Barker Museum.  Another couple recently drove from Pennsylvania to donate a beloved Fisher-Price piece. 

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The Halloween masks are a vintage Halloween collector’s dream. I was thrilled to point out to my daughter costumes I had worn as a child. I can still remember picking out a boxed costume at the five-and-dime, and trying to pull those vinyl outfits over my clothes on Halloween night for tricks-or-treating. Later, my friends and I wore the masks for dress-up play, long after Halloween was over, until the rubber band of the mask wore out with a final snap

There’s so much to see in one space!

There’s so much to see in one space!

The vintage lunch boxes and the hall of collectible cereal boxes are more must-sees, as are the many cases of toys and games housing all sorts of things featuring characters such as Annie, Disney, and more. 

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Mighty Mouse!!

Mighty Mouse!!

Remember this couple?

Remember this couple?

The life-sized Hulk statue was quite a surprise, and upstairs, we were greeted by an old pal, Elsie the Cow. I loved every minute, and can’t wait to go back.

Imagine comin’ round the corner and seeing this! Lifesize! (See the chair for scale). It was magnificent.

Imagine comin’ round the corner and seeing this! (Lifesize – see the chair for scale). It was magnificent.

Elsie was adorable!

“Lifesize” Elsie was adorable!

At a ticket price of only $5.00 for adults, the museum offers an inexpensive, entertaining trip down memory lane for all ages.

True and close partners in every way, Herb and Gloria Barker left quite a legacy in the area. Married sixty-nine years, their epitaph is inscribed with a John Keats poem: “Two souls but with single thoughts; Two hearts that beat as one”. In addition to creating their amazing collection, in their lifetime together, they created their successful business, raised four children, and were always very active in the community. Their son, Gerry, is now president of their company, and the amazing museum that they started, housing a mind-blowing, vast collection of childhood magic, continues to draw visitors from all over the world. 

I hope you enjoyed this peek at an amazing museum and walk down Memory Lane! If you are in the Connecticut area, the Barker Character Comic and Cartoon Museum is worth a visit! Tell me…what was YOUR favorite toy or character as a child? Leave me a comment so I know that you stopped by!

 

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

 

Leave a comment 16 Comments

  1. Debbie Fischer says:

    My favorite toy believe it or not was a little nun doll I got for Christmas one year, I just love that doll!
    Thank you for your trip down memory lane and the wonderful Barker collection and museum.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Debbie, awww! I love that you still have that doll! We still have my daughter’s favorite “lovey”, safely tucked away. It was a stuffed bunny that was so loved, it is threadbare. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Julie says:

    Thank you for this opportunity to “step back”
    In time. Love seeing toys from the past. I had a Chatty Kathy…Remember the game
    Mystery Date? (Wish I still had them)
    Would be a treat to be able to visit this special museum…

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Julie, I am pretty sure I saw a “Mystery Date” game there. You would love the museum…it is a bit of a time machine! What I love, too, is that my own daughter also glimpsed toys she loved. It truly has something for all ages. Happy Fall! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum says:

    Wow, Nicole! Your visit to the Barker Museum was detailed so beautifully. We are thrilled that you took the time to enjoy everything the museum has to offer. Providing our visitors with the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane was so important to Herb & Gloria and our staff here at the museum. Thank you for sharing your special time and encouraging others to experience the wonder that is the Barker Museum! :)

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hello! Thank YOU for creating and maintaining such a special place for all ages to visit. I can’t wait to visit again. We really enjoyed every moment, and there is so much to see! ~ Nicole

  4. Colleen says:

    Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys, along with Pickup Sticks

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Colleen, I remember the Lincoln Logs I had, too! I used to love the way the wood smelled, and they came in a cylinder with a metal bottom. I always loved pickup sticks, and used to play with my daughter, as well. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Jamie Hickok says:

    My favorite toy was my 1962 blond Chatty Cathy. I still have her but with age her leg is cracked and voice box does not work. Her face and hair are just like new. I have her outfit except shoes. My moms best friend made her lots of wonderful clothes. I have the original patterns. One of these I will have her restored.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Jamie, I love that you still have your beloved Chatty Cathy! I know the clothes your mom’s friend made you were special; my neighbor across the street when I was growing up made me doll clothes for my Barbies. I wish I still had them! Have you thought of framing the patterns? Thanks for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Tracey says:

    Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Also the Little People. I had an entire Little People city.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Tracey, I remember Weebles! I loved playing with them at school, but did not have them. However, I played for HOURS with my Little People. I had the house and the farm. I would have loved the whole city! My friends had the other pieces, like the garage, the schoolhouse and the carnival. The house was given to me from my grandparents for my first birthday, but I played with it until I was much older. When my daughter turned a year, my father gave MY daughter the play farm. Much different, but she played many hours with hers, as well as the little house. Thanks for jogging some great memories! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  7. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Love the pictures! Elsie the Cow and dolls, but your Wonder Woman Doll was a later version.
    Love,
    Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Mom, thanks, but you are incorrect! That was the doll. I think maybe it looks different because I think the bracelets on mine were a silver color. Love, Nicole

  8. Marilyn says:

    Thank you for sharing your visit to the museum. Would love to browse in there.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marilyn, Joan, and Marion, It was so much fun to see, and they get new things donated frequently, so I plan on going again! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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