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Iowa History Daily: March 18 - Bill Baird, Iowa's Puppetmaster

Iowa History Daily: On March 18, 1987, American puppeteer Bil Baird passed away. Best known for his work on “The Sound of Music,” Baird entertained young and old alike over a long career following a childhood in Mason City.

Baird grew up in Cerro Gordo County and traced his love of puppets to when his father made him a simple string puppet. In 1921, he attended a local performance of the Tony Sarg production of “Rip Van Winkle”, which further cemented his interest. Baird soon started creating his own puppets and giving performances in the attic of his parents' home.

A graduate of the University of Iowa and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Baird started to work with childhood idol Tony Sarg in New York City during 1928. Several years later Baird formed his own company, the Baird Marionettes, which first performed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. Baird went on to create a plethora of memorable characters for productions including “Life With Snarky Parker,” the Broadway production “Flahooley,” “Parlons Français,” “The Magic Onion,” and “The Sound of Music.

Opening in 1967, the Bil Baird Marionette Theater at 59 Barrow Street in Greenwich Village presented plays for more than a decade. Today, visitors hoping to learn more about Bil Baird’s creative legacy can view many of his puppets at the MacNider Art Museum in Mason City. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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