The Puppeteers of America, 1946, Historical Sketch
In 1928-1929 Paul McPharlin made a canvas of puppeteers then active in the United States in order to record their work in his Repertory of Marionette Plays. In 1930 he published a further listing of their work in Puppetry, A Yearbook. This record is still published in the Yearbook.
To the list of puppeteers, built up through correspondence, inquiries and subscriptions to clipping bureaux, invitations were sent out inviting them to a national conference. Over two hundred puppeteers from all parts of the United States and Canada met in Detroit on 8-11 July 1936. An exhibition of puppets, as well as a series of performances and demonstrations made up the program. To quote from puppetry 1936, "This was the first step toward the formation of an American society of puppeteers, an organization long hopod for by many. So friendly and eager wore all who met, that a long life of usefulness seems assured this society when it gets under weigh." A complete report of this meeting, with the names of those who attonded it, was published in Puppots in America, 1759 to Today.
In 1937 Martin and Olga Stevens organized a festival of shows and a conference in Cincinnati, which was again attended by a large group from the whole country. During the year a committee hod been studying the form an organization might take. At this Festival final plans wore shaped, and THE PUPPETEERS OF AMERICA was founded 1 July 1937, on which date the plan was adopted by all present.
THE PUPPETEERS OF AMERICA was to be a society open to everyone working with, or interested in, any form of puppetry. It was to advance in every possible way the cause of puppetry through (1) national exhibitions and on annual festival, and (2) publicizing achievements in puppetry and disseminating information about it. To administer the business of the society a Council was elected.
In succeeding years the Festival was held in Chicago (organized by Don Vestal), in New York (with Catherine Reighard as program chairman), in St. Paul (Dell wheeler, chairman), and in St. Louis (with Romain Proctor as chairman). Local groups in each of these cities aided the chairmen and acted as host to the visitors. A projected Philadelphia Festival for 1942 was abandoned because of wartime difficulties. However, the regional groups continued to hold local Festivals, many of them drawing enthusiasts from almost as far as the national ones had done.
A bi-monthly news-sheet The Grapevine Telegraph, technical and historical monographs, and ploys have been published. In 1943 the Yearbook, adopted from the first as the official yearbook of the society, become its own publication, with Paul McPharlin still its editor.
1. "THE PUPPETEERS OF AMERICA: A BRIEF HISTORY," 1946, single page attached to 1946-47 Membership List.
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