Puppet Parade

By , June 14, 2013

This month the Main library will host the International Puppet Festival, June 21-23rd.  As most library patrons know, the Nashville Public Library has a rich history in puppetry and continues to be recognized for it’s innovative puppet performances.  In this post, I thought I’d highlight a few interesting articles I unearthed from our Periodicals collection about puppets in American popular culture:

“Behind the Scenes in a Puppet Show” from Popular Mechanics (June 1925 p. 899)

Describes the marionettes of Tony Sarg, who was credited with the revival of puppetry in America.  Sarg designed a “controller” to manipulate his complicated 22-string or 26-string marionettes.  The focus of the article is on how the sets are built and proportioned and how the puppets are operated (including a puppet enjoying a pipe that puffs real smoke) – amazing technical feats for the time period.  The article includes advice from Sarg on how to create marionette plays at home.



“Puppets in Politics”  from Colliers
(July 1, 1944 p. 14-15)

Features the groundbreaking work of Bil Baird and his wife Cora as they use puppets to make a movie – not just any movie, but a short film called Snarky’s Cow, to be distributed by the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs in 3 languages to persuade South Americans to drink more milk with the aim of making “South Americans healthier and happier, better customers and better friends.”



“Witches and Wonders: The Salzburg Marionettes Act Out Classic Fairy Tales”  from Life (December 29, 1952 p. 68-73)

Photos of the Salzburg Marionettes, on their second tour of America at the time, with summaries of the classic fairy tales they re-enacted:

      • Rumpelstiltskin,
      • Hansel and Gretel,
      • Rapunzel,
      • Snow White and Rose Red, and more.



“Puppets Parody Flyweight Feud, Paar vs. Sullivan” from Life
March 24, 1961 p. 33-36)

Puppets created by Bil and Cora Baird illustrate what might have happened if the planned debate between Jack Paar and Ed Sullivan, spawned by a highly publicized feud between the talk show hosts, hadn’t been cancelled.





For more on puppet history, how to make puppets, and even the Nashville Public Library’s puppet heritage, check out these items from our Non-Fiction collection:

American Puppetry: Collections, History, and Performance by Phyllis T. Dircks
Puppet Mania
by John E. Kennedy
Puppetry: A World History by Eileen Blumenthal
The World on a String: The Puppet History of the Nashville Public Library by F. Lynne Bachleda



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