File puptcrit/puptcrit.0509, message 33

To: steve abrams <>
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2005 00:09:50 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] the importance of Dwiggins marionettes (pre 1958) at

Lance Hidy (978-346-0075), 2 Summer Street, Merrimac MA 01860 or is researching William Dwiggins' history as a leading designer of printers' type and string puppet designer and contacted Paul Eide. Steve Abrams forwarded the above information to several members of Puppeteers of America

To me it is obvious we need to widen the circle of those already contacted. about Dwiggins' importance to today's puppeteers. Response will be appreciated.

1.-Do you know who Dwiggins is?

2.-Is he important to the history of American Puppetry?

3.-Is he important to you in any way?

4.-Is he in his time as big an influence as Mabel & Les Beaton (whose how-to book was very important)?

(Note: Paul McPharlin, who organized the first national puppetry conference and published Puppetry Yearbooks, my bible, "The Puppet Theatre in America, and the small treatise on Dwiggins' marionette patterns which like the Beaton book has been reprinted, had HIGH REGARD for Dwiggins' marionette construction, which is why he published the little Dwiggins book, now considered a rare book in the original edition.

Both the Beatons and Dwiggins had theatres for puppets (marionettes) in their homes. For both theatres there were fans who counted themselves lucky to be invited. As a typographer, Dwiggins took delight in PRINTING HIS TICKETS AS GRAPHIC ART, ad you could say he set the standard for ticket design.

I cannot imagine that the Beatons did not know of Dwiggins' earlier work.

The Beatons knew Frank Paris and his artistry. Frank knew about Dwiggins, so yes there are links.

When I was in college 1949-1953 in Claremont CA, I met a student who was at Scripps College, and she just happened to be related to Dwiggins. I think she was a neice, and she knew about the type designs (in wide use in the USA) and the marionettes.

Two of Dwiggins' chief admirers were Martin & Olga Stevens, among the greatest American puppeteers of all time, and thy shared patterns for the paddle marionette control. At the time of the MIT NATIONAL PUPPETRY FESTIVAL the Boston Public Library scheduled extra hours for puppeteers to see the outstanding marionette collection housed there. How many on puptcrit have made that visit??

  How many know the Dwiggins diagrams in print? How many have it and/or the Abbe coffee table book of DWIGGINS MARIONETTES (pub'd by Henry Abrams from the original edition of  3, 4, or 5 copies with tipped-in original photographic  prints, and perhaps hand-set type pages. One of those copies was placed in the San Francisco Historical Society library. I don't know where the others are, but would guess the Boston Library would be a logical placement.

Roger Hayward notable in the Pasadena CA area worked in similar fahion with similarly small-scale marionettes in the same time-frame. He was also from Massachusetts, and after graduating from MIT headed for Los Angeles/Pasadena just before the CRASH of 1929, the start f the Great Depression. His puppets appeared in the Cyril Beaumont books and through photos alone, influenced puppeteers in Europe and the USA. I don't know if he knew Dwiggins, but I am sure he knew the little book, tho he may have created his marionettes independently. But someties something is "in the air breathed in ---same air, different people". I knew Roger & Betty Hayward and have some of their puppets. For me their BEROJU puppets are icons too. (BEttyROgerJUlian-for Roger, his wife & his brother)

So far as I am concerned, Dwiggins was one of the giants in the 1930s puppet scene and some evidence is in writings of Paul McPharlin, America's most prominent scholar of puppet theatre.

And the Puppeteers of America members in the 1930s-1960s would have known and even revered the Dwigins name, and most likely knew about his fame as a type designer.

One last comment: at the 1948 National PofA Fest in Oklahoma City (my first) a Dwiggins marionette body was auctioned off for $35 and the excited, lucky bidder was Martin Stevens.---ALAN COOK
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