Bil Baird

William Britton Baird (August 15, 1904 – March 18, 1987), professional name Bil Baird, but often referred to as Bill Baird, was an American puppeteer of the mid- and late 20th century.

One of his better known creations was Charlemane the lion. He wrote "The Art of the Puppet" (1965) and also provided the puppets for "Dark Shadows". Baird also created the expandable nose Peter Noone wore as Pinocchio in the 1968 musical adaptation of the Carlo Collodi story that aired on NBC as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. Baird's choice of his professional name inspired Termite Terrace cartoon writer Edward Stacey Pierce III to add a second "D" to his own professional name, calling himself Tedd Pierce.

Life History

Born in Grand Island, Nebraska, Baird grew up in Mason City, Iowa. Baird traced his love of puppets to the moment when his father made him a simple string puppet when he was eight. In 1921, he attended a local performance of the Tony Sarg production of “Rip Van Winkle”, which cemented his interest. By the time he was fourteen, Baird was creating his own puppets and giving performances in the attic of his parent's home.

A graduate of the University of Iowa and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, he began work with childhood idol Tony Sarg in New York City in 1928.

In 1934, Baird formed his own company, the Baird Marionettes. Their first performance was at the Chicago’s World’s Fair.

In 1951, Baird's Marionettes performed some of the roles in the Broadway musical "Flahooley", a fantasy about a mass-produced laughing doll who unintentionally threatens the American industrial system.

In a career that spanned over 60 years, Baird and his puppets performed for millions. They toured Russia, appeared in "The Sound of Music" (in "The Lonely Goatherd" sequence), graced many World Fairs, and were part of five Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades. During the 1964/65 World's Fair in New York City, Baird's Marionettes hosted "The Show-Go-Round", an elaborate musical exhibit in the Chrysler Pavilion.

Baird was a recipient of a multitude of awards and honors, including the Medal of Achievement -- LOTOS Club of New York City, Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa, and was honored in 1980 by the Union International de la Marionette and Puppeteers of America at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

Bil Baird's children Laura and Peter contracted to sell nearly all of the Bil Baird Marionettes at auction. This 800 lot auction sale was held at The Greenwich Auction Room over 2 days. Jesse Bien was the auctioneer. Peter Baird, Paddy Blackwood and other puppeteers exhibited the marionettes with each pull of a puppet string eliciting another bid from the audience. Marionettes depicting Elsie the Cow and her family were desired by many but sold to a Pennsylvania toy dealer. Prize lot, Olly Oilcan from the 1939 Chicago World's Fair sold for an astonishing $11,000.00.

External links

* [http://www.masoncitytourism.com/html/baird.html Bil Baird, Master Puppeteer]

*The [http://www.macniderart.org MacNider Art Museum] in Mason City, Iowa owns and displays a large selection of Bil Baird marionettes, hand puppets, and ephemera including marionettes used in "The Sound of Music".


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