MR. JINGELING (1956 - Present) was a Christmas tradition in Cleveland, Ohio originally created to promote toys sold at HALLE’S DEPARTMENT STORE. Mr. Jingeling was an immediate success, and remained a Cleveland tradition for over half a century
Mr. Jingeling was created in 1956 by Frank Jacobi. Jacobi worked at Jacobi Advertising in Chicago and was requested by long time friend and president of Halle’s, Walter Halle, to create a holiday character. The promotion was intended to last for the 1956 holiday season, but became a tradition due to Mr. Jingeling’s success and popularity.
Jacobi not only created the character but also an origin story for Mr. Jingeling. Mr. Jingeling was a locksmith who made keys for castle doors. One day, Santa lost the key to his Toyland workshop. Santa rushed to Mr. Jingeling begging for his help. Mr. Jingeling immediately went to the North Pole, created a new key for Santa’s workshop, and helped save Christmas. From then on, Mr. Jingeling became known as “Keeper of the Keys to Toyland”.
Mr. Jingeling wore a green and gold costume with a black belt and a large keyring holding the “keys” to Santa’s workshop. He held forth on the seventh floor of Halle’s Department Store on Euclid Avenue.
Thomas Moviel, a police officer from Cleveland was the first person to play Mr. Jingeling. Mr. Jingeling was so successful that he was invited to perform short segments on the CAPTAIN PENNY television show.
Moviel was in the role for only a short time before being replaced by local Cleveland actor, Max Ellis, who was deemed a better fit for the part. When Ellis died in 1964, Karl Mackey took over for one season and was replaced by Earl Keyes in 1965. Keyes played Mr. Jingeling until his death in 2000.
When Halle’s closed in the 1980s, Mr. Jingeling relocated to HIGBEE’S 10th floor beginning 1982 holiday season. Then in 1990, Mr. Jingeling moved from Higbee’s to the TOWER CITY CENTER mall until 1995. From the late 1990s to early 2000s, Mr. Jingeling was absent from the local holiday scene . However, in 2003, Jonathan Wilhem took over the role and performed.
Since 2010, record artist and songwriter, Greg Benedetto, has played Mr. Jingeling. Benedetto has made numerous public appearances throughout the Cleveland area up to the present as Mr. Jingeling.
Sometime in the early 2000s, Traditions Alive bought the rights to Mr. Jingeling. As of 2020, they sold the copyright and trademark of Mr. Jingeling to Mr. Kringle and Company.