Hazelle's Talking Marionettes Male & Female Made In Kansas City 1950s.

  • $150.00 CAD

Hazelle's Talking Marionettes, The Set, Male and Female, Dressed In 1950s Style Clothing, Ready To Perform, Easy Airplane Control, Hand-Painted Faces On Durable Plastic Heads, Moulded Plastic Shoes, Lifelike Ankle Movement, Patented Body Construction, Patented Airplane Control, Made In Kansas City, Missouri, 1950s.

Hazelle Hedges Rollins, for some 40 years, was the largest exclusive manufacturer of marionettes and puppets in the world. 

Hazelle began making marionettes as a hobby when an 11-year-old boy next door brought her a marionette manufactured in Italy and asked her to make a companion so he could perform a play. 

Thus began a lifelong passion for making puppets for the world market.

She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Kansas, where she added an “e” to her first name.

In 1933, she took time to teach unemployed women arts and crafts classes at the YWCA.

In 1934, Hazelle worked at the Nelson-Atkins Museum as a telephone operator. The museum staff quickly recognized her talent and asked her to teach puppet-making.

Her business started in 1935 in the Hedges family basement. Anxious to start her own business, she went to the 1935 New York Toy Fair looking for retailers who would sell her marionettes.

Inspired by the workshop taught by Tony Sarg in Greenwich Village famous for his puppets and giant Macy’s parade balloons, she establish her own small factory where she employed Kansas City Art Institute students to make simple, lightweight, short-stringed marionettes.

Hazelle’s puppets entered the international market in 1936 and sold a fourth of its annual puppet production overseas.

The growing business moved into three other locations over the next two decades. 

In the late 1940s and 1950s, TV shows like the wildly popular Howdy Doody Show spurred the puppet business. Annual sales climbed to over 250,000 puppets, at that time, Hazelle employed as many as 50 workers, selling to some 1,800 department and toy stores.

By 1972, even Princess Grace the former Grace Kelly had placed a Hazelle order to establish a puppet theatre in Monaco.

In addition to marionettes, customers requested puppet stages and playlets. Hazelle’s friend Bernice Rose, was in charge of playlet scripts. The first marionette sets included a play, three or four marionettes, and a ten-pound folding stage.

Hazelle kept her puppets in the public eye by participating in community events. Attracting attention from young and old. 

In 1941 she married John Woodson “Woody” Rollins, an industrial engineer who became her business partner and helped her improve production methods. 

Hazelle combined her business career with motherhood. Her son John recalls that many holidays and summers were spent working at the factory.  

One of John’s first tasks was using screw eyes to attach plastic shoes to the wooden dowel legs of the marionettes. Other tasks while a high school student included working in the packing department and typing shipping labels, invoices, and bills of lading.

In 1949, the Conservatory of Music and the Women’s Committee began a three-year joint venture with Hazelle to present operas such as Pagliacci and La Serva Padrona. 

In 1956, Hazelle developed a line of hand puppets for her college sorority, to use in a community outreach program at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

Instead of the rigid Tenite plastic used for marionette heads, the hand puppets had washable, soft vinyl plastic heads and simple cloth bodies, so they could be given as gifts to hospitalized kids.

Puppets are more than toys, they are widely used in teaching. Puppets inspire children, educators say, inspire them to create with action.”

Schools used puppets as therapy tools. Hazelle developed simple finger puppets in the 1960s, schools ordered more than 10,000 to help children act out conflicts they faced in racially troubled school situations.

Hazelle, Inc. was sold in 1975 when the Rollins retired and continued to operate under different ownership through 1983.

When the Kansas City puppet factory closed in 1983, the remaining inventory of Hezelle puppets was given to Goodwill Industries. 

Hazelle donated her private collection of over 1,000 ethnic and folk puppets, acquired over 40 years, to several institutions.

The Smithsonian holds some 60 Hazelle puppets.

Some 300 Hazelle puppet designs are exhibited at the Puppetry Arts Institute museum in the Englewood Arts District in Independence.

The group worked tirelessly to ensure that Hazelle puppets and puppet parts could be professionally curated and preserved.

Hazelle died on March 25, 1984.

Item Code - TOY1D163CAC

Male - Width: 6"  Height: 15"  Depth: 3 1/2"  

Female - Width: 6"  Height: 14 1/2"  Depth: 3 1/4"  Total Weight For Both: 450 g

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