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male hand puppet by Bil Baird apprentice of Tony Sarg, for puppeteer Miquel V. Varell

male hand puppet by Bil Baird apprentice of Tony Sarg, for puppeteer Miquel V. Varell

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Description (Brief)
This puppet is one of a group of characters created by Bil Baird circa 1927-1928 for Miquel Varell.
Male figure with strong chin and protruding lower lip; is wearing a grey cap, blue jacket, brown vest, black bow tie, gray pants and brown shoes His roughly painted and exagerrated features emphasize his gruff demeanor. A beige skirt hangs down at the back for your hand and a metal hanging hook is attached to bottom
Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Miquel Varell immigrated to the United States after World War I in search of a better life. Despite a lack of any formal training in the theater, Varell's life long love of puppetry inspired him to establish a puppet company based on a European style Grand Guignol (Punch and Judy) traveling show. But Varell needed someone to create the puppets based on his own specifications. He approached Tony Sarg, his friend and well known puppeteer, to find someone who could create the puppets according to his specifications. Sarg recommended his young apprentice, Bill; Baird. to create the puppets for Varell's theater
(For information on Baird see 1980.0315; Slugger Ryan)

Using the puppets provided by Baird , Varell constructed his own portable theater including stage sets and backcgrounds , and performed at schools, clubs and children's parties. Sadly, his career was short lived. The European style of puppetry, based on expression and moment, was replaced with talking puppets and Varell spoke only broken English.

Varell kept only eight of the original puppets and sold the rest along with his portable theater. This group of eight puppets passed on to his daughter who kindly donated them to the Smithsonian in 1993.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Varell, Miquel V.
Baird, Bil
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Associated Place
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 34 cm x 26 cm; 13 3/8 in x 10 1/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Lia V. Dingfelder
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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