Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Push Button Puppets 'Brief History'!

Brief history of push button puppets...
... where did they come from ? When were they first made?

All Puppets in photos are from my own collection.

Push puppets were first made in Switzerland by a wooden toy maker, Walter Kourt Walss in 1932. These articulated,wobbling toys were known as WAKOUWAS; taken from the first few letters of each of Walter's names! The dancing, wiggling toys are now known by many different names around the world (as listed in my profile).

Photo Left: Wakouwa Champs early wooden base puppet.
The term 'Push Button Puppets' was first adopted by an American toy making company in America, Kohner Brothers in 1947, buying the patent from the Swiss inventor Marty Meinard.

The chap on the left is a Kohner Howdy Doody character puppet, wooden body and plastic base (1950s).


Kohner moved into producing plastic puppets in the 1960s.

Photo Left: 1960s Kohner's The Lone Ranger

In the 1970s Kohner starting produced Disney characters with Gabrielle.

Photo Left: 1970s Pluto Push-up Puppet

Many companies followed the Wakouwa invention and the Kohner push puppets, making similar puppets around the world, including England where the company Tri-ang started producing tin bases and wooden tops!

Photo Above: The Tri-ang Dog on Tin base (1940s)

Right : Tri-ang Dog advert in The Maccano Magazine 1947 (with thanks to  french wakouwa collector Sylvia Dehais)
Many smaller push ups were also made in Germany (mainly in the Erzgebirge region) , the Czech Republic, France and  Italy.
Although initially Wakouwas were all wood, gradually celluloid and plastic became common. Now there are many companies producing push puppets all over the world!
 Photo Left: (1960s?) Italian lion
Photo Right: German Erzebirge region push puppet (2009)

Modern Puppets are now being produced everywhere. It appears anything can be made to  wobble ! Photo Left : just a few modern push ups !

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