State Museum Exhibits Papa Burger Statue, Hoffman's Playland Ticket Booth on Fourth Floor
The New York State Museum today announced the opening of a new long-term exhibition on the Museum’s 4th floor featuring a newly restored 1960s A&W Restaurant “Papa Burger” statue, an original Hoffman’s Playland ticket booth, and models of Coney Island attractions. On exhibition near the Museum’s historic Carousel, these new artifacts create a nostalgic area for visitors of all ages to enjoy and learn from while visiting the State Museum.
“We’re proud to add these new objects to the Museum’s fourth floor where families and children already gather to enjoy the historic Carousel,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “A new generation of visitors can now enjoy these iconic objects that represent family-friendly attractions from New York’s past.”
“Papa Burger, the Hoffman’s Playland ticket booth, and the Coney Island models are great additions to the Museum’s fourth floor,” said Beth Berlin, Acting Commissioner of the State Education Department. “We’re confident these new additions will become a favorite among the hundreds of thousands of people of all ages who visit the State Museum every year.”
The 9-foot-tall Papa Burger statue entered the State Museum’s collection in 1998 as an “unknown fiberglass figure of a man holding a mug and a hamburger” from the Syracuse or Rochester area. Research soon revealed that he is “Papa Burger,” an iconic mascot figure for the A&W root beer chain of restaurants dating back to the 1960s. In the 1960s, Papa Burger joined other members of his family – including Mama Burger, Teen Burger and Baby Burger – outside A&W restaurant buildings. In 1974, a bear replaced the Burger family and the figures became obsolete. Original iconic roadside sculptures are rare, as most have disappeared due to their large size or have been repurposed and are often unrecognizable.
Over the past few years, Museum staff restored Papa Burger to his original colors and details. The restoration project included removing layers of paint to reach the statue’s original coat and researching paints to match Papa Burger’s original colors. Many repairs were made as well, including reconstruction of an internal support system to allow him to stand up. Photos are available on the Museum website showing Papa Burger through his various phases of restoration, from how he originally appeared when he entered the Museum’s collections to how he looks today.
In addition to Papa Burger, an original ticket booth from Hoffman’s Playland located in Latham, New York, is on exhibit. Hoffman’s Playland was a family-owned business that opened in 1953 when Bill Hoffman purchased a carousel and this ticket booth and placed them on his father’s property in Latham. He soon added more rides, and through his hard work Hoffman’s attracted legions of visitors. When Bill’s son, Dave, took ownership of the park, he added even more rides and made Hoffman’s Playland one of the Capital Region’s favorite fun family-friendly places. When Hoffman’s Playland closed in 2014, Dave and his wife, Ruth, donated this vintage portable ticket booth to the State Museum.
Models of two attractions from Coney Island – the Parachute Jump and the Ferris Wheel – are also on display. Originally built for the1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, New York, the Parachute Jump was moved to Coney Island’s Steeplechase Park in 1941. The park closed in 1964 and the Parachute Jump is the only original structure that remains from Steeplechase Park. Steeplechase Park also boasted the first Ferris Wheel on Coney Island, erected in 1894. The original ride had twelve cars that held eighteen passenger each; the model on exhibit was abbreviated by the artists to feature eight cars.
The New York State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.