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Museum - Historical Articles

Posted on: December 16, 2021

Around the Archives: Jo-Joy the Jack-in-the-Box

Jo Joy IG

Object Catalog: 2011.001.202

Americans let out a collective sigh of relief on September 2, 1945, and just a few months later, still in the midst of a victory celebration, the United States rang in its first Christmas after World War II. Coming off the cusp of six bloody years filled with sacrifice and loss, the country was ready to embrace a happier time. President Truman had declared Christmas a four-day federal holiday and lucky families were becoming reunited again thanks to the U.S. Army and Navy’s “Operation Santa Claus” which aimed to discharge thousands of GIs in time for Christmas. Every nook and cranny of America was filled with holiday cheer and national pride. Department stores capitalized off of the country’s excitement and stocked their shelves with Christmas gifts 


W.T. Grant Co., better known as Grants department store, was well known in particular for their toy department where they sold one of their most popular items, the “Jo-Joy” jack-in-the-box. During the holiday season of 1945, Grants released their first comic book giveaway which marked the start of an annual Christmas tradition. For the first nine years of the giveaways (1945-1953), the comics starred Jo-Joy, the toy jack-in-the-box with a magic spring, and the many Christmastime adventures he faced.


© Ken Steinhoff - All Rights Reserved

© Ken Steinhoff - All Rights Reserved

This Jo-Joy jack-in-the-box was likely purchased at the W.T. Grant Co. in downtown Fredericksburg. In 1945 the store was located at 902 Caroline Street, which today is the location of Picker’s Supply Inc. Ten years later in 1955, W.T. Grant Co. was soon to make the move to its final location in Fredericksburg at the corner of William and Caroline streets, which today is The Fredericksburg Antique Mall & Clock Shop.

Struggling to adapt to suburban growth, W.T. Grant Co. eventually declared bankruptcy in 1976, which at the time was the second-largest bankruptcy in United States history. So if you want to gift your loved ones with a Jo-Joy jack-in-the-box this Christmas season, you’re out of luck. But on the bright side, you can visit the Spotsylvania County Museum to get your fix on scary vintage toys that in their heyday were the star of their own endearing Christmas comic.

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