This inventive — and expressive — one-of-a-kind marionette is the work, not of a professional puppeteer, but of a Pennsylvania college professor. In the 1920s Harold Tarpley, Sr. designed and made a series of puppets that his wife painted and the couple then used to stage puppet shows at churches and schools. When the Depression hit, Mr. Tarpley lost his teaching job. To support themselves, the couple became puppeteers in earnest.
The giraffe, which measures 17-1/4” t X 13-1/2” l X 3” w, is constructed of painted fabric, carved, painted wood and wire. As the photos show, the animal is designed to be manipulated, with movable legs that are jointed at the hips and with tiny metal rings at the shoulders for attaching string or wire. Today the puppet sits on a custom metal stand designed to hold the long, undulating neck (fabric over coiled wire) in place. This is a spectacular creation in excellent condition. And who could resist that long furry mane or the wide-eyed look of wonder!