Mr. Tambo, Black Minstrel Puppet

Mr. Tambo, Black Minstrel Puppet

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Description (Brief)
Mr. Tambo, named after his musical instrument, starred in an unusual marionette minstrel show said to have been staged on a showboat plying the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis between 1850 and 1875. The minstrel show, considered to be the first uniquely American form of entertainment, featured whites parodying blacks. It was often the fare of showboats bringing comedy and musical entertainment, as well as negative racial stereotypes, to working class Americans in urban and rural areas. It was rare, however, that this popular amusement was involved with puppetry.
Mr. Tambo was a traditional minstrel character who appeared with Mr. Bones and the MC. The rest of the show consisted of dynamic songs, dances and other variety acts, and ended with a short skit. There are at least nine surviving marionettes from this unique show, four of which are in the National Museum of American History Collection. Besides Mr. Tambo, we have a disassembling skeleton, a horse skeleton and a policeman. They are beautifully hand-crafted from wood, leather and cloth. All four were gifts of Hazel and J.Woodson Rollins.
Object Name
Date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paint (overall material)
string (overall material)
fabric (overall material)
leather (overall material)
overall: 46 in; 116.84 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Hazelle H. and J. Woodson Rollins
African American
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Entertainment
Popular Entertainment
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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