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Tiger IV Marionette

Tiger IV Marionette

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Description (Brief)
The childhood story of Little Black Sambo was originally written by Helen Bannerman, a Scot living in India, and published in London in 1899. In the tale, an Indian boy attempts to save himself from four hungry tigers by offering items of his brand-new clothing just purchased for him by his father. The prideful tigers strut circling one another, arguing over who looks the finest, and in a mad chase of each other's tails, turn themselves into ghee (Indian butter). Sambo's father happens upon the butter in the woods and brings it home for his family to have with mountains of pancakes for breakfast.
Illustrations for later American versions of the story depicted a stereotypical African American boy. Modeled on the iconography of Florence Kate Upton's late 19th century rag doll-like children's character, "Gollywogg," the American Sambo had black skin, wildly curly hair, wide googly eyes, and bright red lips.
The tiger body is made of stuffed orange felt fabric and painted with black stripes. The head is hand carved from wood , and the faces painted in great detail; each one with distinct characteristics. The bodies are attached to the head with paper adhered to a wooden support. The jaws and all of the appendages , including the tail are operative. The marionette moves using a two piece wooden T shaped control with a coat hanger and eleven strings. The placement of the strings greatly extends and enhances the tiger's range of movement and persona..
In the 1930s puppet play version produced by husband-and-wife puppet makers, Elizabeth L. and Frank D. Haines, there was a substantial difference displayed between the sophisticated craftsmanship of the animal marionette figures with finely carved heads and the rag-doll-like floppy human marionette figures in Black Sambo's family. The play was presented to area schoolchildren in the Philadelphia area until the 1950s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
Haines, Elizabeth L.
Haines, Frank D.
Haines, Elizabeth L.
Haines, Frank D.
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
felt (overall material)
velvet (overall material)
paper (overall material)
paint (overall material)
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
adhesive (overall material)
overall: 12 in x 14 1/2 in x 5 in; 30.48 cm x 36.83 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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