Italian Puppetry

The origin of puppets is a mystery.  Some authorities believe that the first puppets were made in Egypt and Greece thousands of years ago. Others believe that puppets originated in China or Jana. They all agree, however, that string marionettes (a kind of puppet) were invented in Italy in the 16th century, and that puppet performances were part of the religious rites of the early Romans.

Glove puppets, such as the English Punch and Judy, the most famous of all hand puppets, were inspired by the Italian puppet Pulcinella. Another famous puppet, Pinocchio, was also of Italian origin. Although the Italians did a great deal to inspire puppetry in other countries, Punch and Judy were the first European puppets to perform in America. They gave a comedy performance in Philadelphia on December 30, 1742. But even at this early date, puppets were not new to America. Long before the arrival of the first settlers, Indian medicine men used stringed figures in their religious ceremonies.

Page 64 — Crafts and Toys from Around the World

Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society