Few entertainers are more universally recognized than The Three Stooges. And few acts have had a more a significant cultural impact than the comic trio. The Stoogeum, the Three Stooges Museum, preserves their legacy while educating on their influence.
The Three Stooges
The original two Stooges were brothers Moe Howard and Shemp Howard (who’s original last name was Hortwiz before being changed to sound less “ethnic”). The brothers were a vaudeville duo. Larry Fine joined the group in March 1928. The Howard-Fine-Howard trio of Moe, Larry, and Shemp existed for about a year and half.
In 1930, Shemp moved on and Moe’s younger brother Jerry Howard (known as Curly Howard) joined the group. And the rest is history: Larry, Curly and Moe are forever etched into American history. Larry and Moe would continue to form the backbone of the group for decades, with several others playing the third Stooge (in addition to Shemp, Joe and Curly Joe each played role at various points).
In fact, after Curly suffered a stroke in 1946, Shemp returned to the trio to carry on the comedic tradition.
Many people associate the Three Stooges with New York City. The brothers Moe Howard, Jerry “Curly” Howard, and Shemp Howard were all from Brooklyn. It might make sense for The Stoogeum to be in New York City.
But the Stooges have a Philadelphia connection: Larry Fine, the curly haired, violin playing anchor of the famous trio. The Stooge Larry Fine (who’s real name was Louis Feinberg) was born and raised in Philly. His original house was on the corner of 3rd and South Street. Today, a bar can be found on the corner, but you can still see how this lively neighborhood inspired one of America’s greatest comedians.
It’s hard to describe the Stoogeum to the uninitiated. This is part Three Stooges Museum, part headquarters for The Three Stooges Fan Club, and part cultural curiosity. It’s certainly one of the most unique museums in Philadelphia.
On our first visit, an employee explained to us that they do serious scholarship on a light-hearted subject. It would be easy to dismiss the museum based on the slapstick nature of the Stooge’s comedy, but you’d be missing out.
Before visiting the Stoogeum, we were not fans of the comic trio. We found it was easy to dismiss their brand of slapstick humor. However, the museum changed our minds and opened our hearts. And maybe that’s the point: this museum can appeal to everyone, even those who aren’t die-hard Stooge fans.
The museum’s collection contains over 100,000 objects of rare Three Stooges memorabilia, original movie posters, magazines, costumes, movie props, toys, and even a pinball machine you can play. One of the more popular sections of the museum is an assortment of Three Stooges collectibles from dolls to school lunch containers. About 4,000 objects are on display at any time.
But the museum does more than just preserve kitsch. There are original copies of over dozen contracts with their agent, the William Morris Agency. The trio made $1,500 a week in 1935, which is more than $25,000 a week today. There are also personal objects belonging to the Stooges, including driver’s licenses, passports, and other personal objects.
Most visitors eventually find their way to the museum’s 85-seat theater which screens classic Three Stooges movie clips. The slapstick, vaudeville humor will eventually crack through even the hardest skin and everyone leaves the theater with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
History of The Three Stooges Museum
Larry Fine’s brother Morris Feinberg kept the legacy of the Stooges alive for two decades, including operating the fan club for many years. In 1981, Philadelphia native Gary Lassin, himself a life-long fan of the trio, married Morris’ daughter Robin.
Lassin was able to open The Stoogeum, the official Three Stooges Museum, in 2004 in a 10,000 square foot, three floor office building that once belonged to an architecture firm. The museum hosts between 5,000-10,000 visitors a year.
The Stoogeum can be found in a quiet suburban office park located at 904 Sheble Lane in Ambler. It’s located immediately behind the Wawa off Bethlehem Pike. The Stoogeum hours are irregular, so call or check the website for the latest information. The museum is generally open every Thursday from 10am-3pm and by appointment on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays (between 10am-4pm). There are select open-house weekend hours throughout the year. Allow about an hour for the visit.
The cash-only admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and children under 12 are free. Photography is not allowed inside the museum.
The museum is best reached by car and there is ample parking. Ride share services are also available locally, however, the area is not served by SEPTA buses. The closest train station is the Penllyn stop on the Lansdale/Doylestown line (formerly called the R5 line). It is a 2 mile walk from the Penllyn station to the Stoogeum along roads without sidewalks.