Jim Henson creations you may not know: Wilkins and Wontkins
Does this puppet look familiar? Remind you of anyone you know? Does he bear a striking resemblance to a famous frog? This is one of Jim Henson's earliest creations, before Muppets fame. Part of the large Henson donation to the National Museum of American History in 2012, this adorable, funny looking puppet is known as Wilkins. Made of soft brown wool flannel, with dangling limbs, button eyes, and a painted upturned mouth, Wilkins was the creation of Jim Henson and his wife and partner, Jane Newbel. Part of a duo known as Wilkins and Wontkins, this lively pair premiered on channel four television, the Washington, D.C., NBC local affiliate, in 1957.
The use of puppets to sell a product was not a new concept, but Henson took it to a whole new level. His ability to write quick and witty shorts that lasted just 10 seconds was the genius that went on to create and bring to the world some of the most endearing and lovable characters for children and adults alike.
Melodie Sweeney is an associate curator in the Departments of Art & Culture. She has also blogged about the Marx Brothers. To learn more about the social debates about early commercial television and its influence on kids, visit the Consumer Era section of the American Enterprise exhibition or learn more about "spokes characters" such as Mr. Peanut, Tony the Tiger, and Nipper the dog.