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Gobble the Turkey helium balloon made for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, on cover of 'Tony Sarg: Genius at Play', by Abbeville Press.

Tony Sarg: Genius at Play

Adventures in Illustration, Puppetry, and Popular Culture

By (author) Lenore D. Miller
By (author) Stephanie Haboush Plunkett


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  • The first book on the father of American puppetry and inventor of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons
  • Sarg was also an influential illustrator and children’s book creator
  • And he was a well-known figure on Nantucket, where he pulled the famous Nantucket Sea Serpent hoax of 1937 (subject of an American Experience segment on PBS)
  • Catalogue of major exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (June through November 2023), and travelling to the Nantucket Historical Association (Summer 2024)
  • Marks the rediscovery of a major cultural figure of the 1920s and '30s
Full Description

Tony Sarg (1880–1942), an American artist born in Guatemala to a diplomatic family, first achieved professional success as an illustrator in London and New York. But in the 1920s, he gained even greater renown for his touring puppet shows based on classic tales like Alice in Wonderland and Robinson Crusoe. Fusing the time-honoured craft of traditional marionette shows with a playful modern sensibility, Sarg’s productions were foundational to American puppetry: Jim Henson can be considered a direct artistic descendant. Yet this was only one facet of Sarg’s varied accomplishments: he was also a pioneer in animated films and children’s books, and, as a longtime designer for Macy’s, he invented the gigantic balloons used in the firm’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (He also employed one of his parade balloons in the famous Nantucket Sea Serpent hoax of 1937.)

This abundantly illustrated volume, published to coincide with a major exhibition organised by the Norman Rockwell Museum, is the first to survey Tony Sarg’s protean career. It brings together imagery and artifacts from numerous public and private collections, and includes special sections on Sarg’s long association with the island of Nantucket and his influence on American puppetry. Tony Sarg: Genius at Play will be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of popular culture.

About the Author

Lenore D. Miller is Curator Emerita of the George Washington University Museum. Stephanie Haboush Plunkett is Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Abbeville Press
14th Sep 2023
World excluding USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Australia
280 mm x 254 mm
232 Pages
150 color
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