Oscar the Grouch puppet

Oscar the Grouch puppet

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Description (Brief)

Oscar the Grouch puppet made by Muppets, Inc. for the Children's Television Workshop for use in the production of the television series Sesame Street, ca. 1970-1980. Oscar is a green furry monster who lives in a trash can on Sesame Street and frequently argues with the other Muppet and human characters. Despite his grouchiness, Oscar is a valued friend to the other characters on Sesame Street, demonstrating the importance of understanding, tolerance, and diversity.

Oscar the Grouch was originally performed by Caroll Spinney, who said that he based the character's voice on a cranky New York taxi driver. Jim Henson’s inspiration for the character was a rude waiter at a restaurant named Oscar's Salt of the Sea. In his original concept drawings for Oscar the Grouch, Henson imagined a spiky, grumpy-looking magenta monster. Due to the limitations of early color television, however, Oscar was redesigned with orange fur for his premiere on the first season of Sesame Street in 1969, and only changed to green for the second season. Oscar explained that this change was due to his vacation at Swamp Mushy Muddy where it was so damp that he became covered in slime and mold.

Oscar the Grouch is a live-hand puppet, which means that one of the performer’s hands is in the puppet’s head while the other is in one of the puppet’s arms, which has gloves for hands. Another puppeteer is usually needed to operate the other arm, which is known as right-handing. This particular Oscar the Grouch puppet was built in the 1970s. It was also used to perform the character Grandpa Grouch at some point in the show's run.

Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
puppet
date made
1970s
user
Children's Television Workshop
designer
Henson, Jim
performer
Jacobson, Eric
maker
Muppets, Inc.
Henson, Jim
Sahlin, Don
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
fabric (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 36 in x 24 in x 12 in; 91.44 cm x 60.96 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
1989.0540.01
accession number
1989.0540
catalog number
1989.0540.01
Credit Line
Gift of Muppets, Inc.
subject
Puppetry
Radio and television broadcasting
Television broadcasts
Children's television programs
Television
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Popular Entertainment
Family & Social Life
Puppets
Highlights from the Culture and the Arts Collection
Jim Henson
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Comments

"I was watching Get Smart and there was a scene with a control agent hiding in a garbage can & he referred to himself as a "grouch " I wonder which came first this scene or the Sesame Street character. It's not that unusual for artists to derive stuff from other sources, completely unconsciously. Get Smart ran from 1965-70, Sesame Street started in 1969, It may have been a reference to Sesame Street but seems unlikely since Sesame St was just getting started, probably wasn't that big, it's statistically more likely the Get Smart episode came first. (Other possibly helpful distinguishing features of the episode: Max giving a cardigan to a news agent who turned out to be a chaos agent who abducted him, he was then drugged and made to do arithmetic, at the end the chaos agent was shot wearing the cardigan, Max was annoyed about it being damaged)."
Was privileged to see Oscar and Kermit many years ago. Was hoping to view them and all of the other donated Muppets from recent years during an upcoming visit in June 2015. What a treasure for Jane Henson and all others involved to have made possible. Thanks!
The museum's collection of Muppets is mostly not on display at this time. Selected characters have been shown in our "American Stories " exhibition - currently (as of April 2015) the Count is on view. This is subject to change. This website shows some of the Muppets we have collected as well as other puppets in the collection: https://americanhistory.si.edu/puppetry.

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