At the suggestion of toy merchant, Alexander Calder began to make toys with articulation in the 1920s. Calder created his Cirque Calder, a miniature circus fashioned from wire, string, rubber, cloth, and other found objects. The entire circus could be placed and shipped in suitcases. It eventually grew to fill five suitcases. Calder would travel with his circus and hold performances on both sides of the Atlantic. He would manipulate the figures to perform certain acts of the show. The figures include jugglers, clowns and animals, recreating a real circus.
This book covers the Cirque Calder in detail: Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933 (Whitney Museum of American Art)