Bernard H. Paul

Bernard Paul

Bernard Paul in 1939
Born Bernard H. Paul
(1907-04-22)April 22, 1907
Baltimore, Maryland
Died September 18, 2005(2005-09-18) (aged 98)
Linthicum, Maryland
Occupation Puppeteer, educator
Spouse(s) Edith "Edee" Rogers (m. 1930)
Children Peter Darr Paul
Larry Ramon Paul

Bernard H. Paul (April 22, 1907 – September 18, 2005) was a puppeteer best known for his traveling show and television broadcasts of "Paul's Puppets". His marionette show ran for 10 years on WBAL-TV in Baltimore. In 1931 he performed the first known children's television show.

Paul also did the first professional puppet show for a United States president when he performed at the White House for Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife in 1934.

Early life

Bernard Paul, c.1912

Bernard Paul was born on April 22, 1907, in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of Henry James Paul and Mary Paul. He was born in a private hospital called Bidler and Sellman. He went by the nickname "Bernie". The family lived in Baltimore on Lanvale Street for a while and later moved to a house on Gilmore Street.

They moved to a neighborhood called Linthicum Heights in 1919 when Paul was 12 years old. Paul's father designed and built the house that was located on Hawthorne Road. That homesite had many flower and vegetable gardens.[1][2]

Paul attended Linthicum Elementary School, where he first met his future wife, Edith "Edee" Rogers.[2]

Education and marriage

After Paul's graduation from the eighth grade his family had moved out of the area where Edith lived and he lost contact with her at this time. Paul had then attended Baltimore City College for a year. For the next three years he then went to Severn Preparatory School in Severna Park, Maryland, from which he graduated in 1925. Paul then enrolled at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) where he was reunited with Edee. He studied stagecraft and she was a student of costume design and became a professional seamstress. They graduated from MICA in 1929.[3]

Paul and Edee were married on April 17, 1930, in his parents' home on Hawthorne Road in Linthicum. They lived there for their entire lives. They had two sons who were raised there as the third generation in the same house. Peter Darr was their first son, born on January 21, 1933. Larry Ramon was their second child, born on July 10, 1935.[2]


Paul had changed his mind of becoming a college-trained professional in stagecraft sometime in the late 1920s. This happened after seeing a puppet performance of Tony Sarg at Goucher College. He then decided on a career in puppetry.[2] Paul associated himself with Sarg and obtained marionette puppet ideas and skills. In a short time they became friends. From Sarg's unique training he and his wife learned to stage puppet shows at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The faculty was so impressed with their performances that they began teaching puppetry,[1] and a teaching stint spanning almost two decades followed.[4]

Paul's Puppets

The Pauls manipulating their puppets in December 1949

Paul, along with his wife Edee, started a traveling puppet show in 1930 called Paul's Puppets. With their combined puppetry talents they managed every step of the process for each performance. Paul, with his skills, designed and built the puppet sets and marionettes. Edee created the puppets' scripts and their costumes. Paul had a separate 45' by 16' workshop studio that was part of their personal residence he added in 1952.[5] In the studio he created the marionettes that were made from pine, which included the flexible wooden joints for the puppets. The marionette heads were from plaster wood. The rough block heads were individually crafted, specifically shaped, finished, painted up, and decorated with hair. His wife would add her custom-designed costumes just before being attached to an overhead controller by strings.[1]

Paul's Puppets consisted of a company of some 500 marionettes, including animals, fairies, giants, princes, princesses and soldiers.[6] The performances were adaptations of the Arabian Nights, Aesop's fables, Daniel Defoe, Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin, Mark Twain and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. Other plays were of Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Butterfly that Stamped, Undersen and Taps, and The Wizard Prince.[7] The performances represented countries from around the world.[8]

The marionette puppets were carefully stored when not performing. A son had noted that the family could never play with the hand-crafted marionettes because they were stage props and not children's toys. The performances in the first years had musical accompaniment from 78-rpm records. The sound effect techniques improved later and included music tapes. Paul and his wife were the voices for their marionette characters.[3]

Paul worked as an assistant Post Master at a U.S. Post Office in 1940 giving puppet shows with his marionettes on his off times. The Pauls did performances at Army posts and aboard Navy ships during World War II. They also did puppet acts on college campuses, in retail store windows, at country clubs, local schools and churches. Notable performances they did later consisted of one in an opera at the Peabody Conservatory and another in a Shakespeare play.[9] In their performances they mocked things like candy, politicians, and Social Security.[1]

The Pauls started television for WMAR in late 1947 when they did a commercial with their marionettes.[2] Paul's Puppets then made a 15-minute debut on WBAL-TV on January 8, 1948, in preparation for a twice-weekly show that ran for ten years.[10] It was sponsored by Hutzler's department store. Other sponsors were Nestle's Ever Ready Sweet Milk Cocoa and Planters Peanuts. The first shows came with theme music of "March of the Little Fawns". The later ones came with music from The Nutcracker. Paul once told a friend that though the television show was considered a success, he missed having a live audience. One noted marionette character that many remember was JoJo. It was a red, white, and blue clown puppet that had interviews with audience children as the master of ceremonies before going "live" with the show.[11]

WBAL began showing the performances in color in 1955. In 1957 the station changed its programming to a news-weather program in Paul's Puppets evening time period. The puppet performances were moved to a morning time slot and the show floundered because the targeted audience of children were in school. Their television career ended in 1958, but they still did live performances at the Hutzler's stores.[2]

The Pauls made display windows in later years for department stores like Hochschild's and Hutzler's. The display windows consisted of still doll-like figures that did not move as their marionette puppets did. One display was of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Another store display showed shoppers on Howard Street in Baltimore at the turn of the twentieth century.[11]


Paul had several hobbies. Among them were carving, collecting, photography, making jewelry and woodworking. He was a collector with wide-ranging interests, including bells and gongs, butterflies, buttons, masks, old music boxes, swords, Oriental objects, toy soldiers and ancient puppets. He had a photography darkroom in his house and developed his own pictures.[2]

Retirement and death

The Pauls performed puppet shows in schools, hospitals and department stores until retiring in 1981. Paul's wife died on November 2, 1993. Paul remained at the Hawthorne Road home in Linthicum until he was 96. He then moved to an assisted living facility. Paul died on September 18, 2005, at the age of 98.[1][2]


Paul and his wife had a television career in the Baltimore area for ten years on TV stations WBAL and WMAR. Their puppet show was the first Baltimore color television show. It was also chosen to be in the first edition of TV Guide for Baltimore as the featured program. Paul was a guest on the American television panel game show To Tell the Truth on March 19, 1965. Since he misspelled the name of a well-known puppet, none of the panelists guessed he was Bernard H. Paul of Paul's Puppets.[2]

Paul performed the first known children's television show.[12][13][14][15] It aired November 6, 1931, over television station W3XK in Wheaton, Maryland.[16][17] Paul and his wife did the first professional puppet show at the White House.[18] It was done with their marionettes for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife in 1934.[2] The Roosevelt's grandchildren were present. It was during traditional Easter egg roll children's festival on the White House lawn.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Rasmussen, Frederick N. (September 20, 2005). "Operated puppet troupe for 22 years on WBAL-TV". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, MD. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Perfetti, Sharon (2015). "Bernard & Edith Paul". The Stories Between. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  3. 1 2 ProQuest (909635346), The Baltimore Sun, "Couple keeps friends in drawers, in strings" by Donna Weaver (27 April 1986)
  4. "Bernard H. PAUL (1907–?)". Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  5. ProQuest (1637460113), The Baltimore Sun (15 Jan 1989) "Puppeteers spread good cheer" by Jill L Zarend
  6. ProQuest (542342634), The Baltimore Sun, 14 Feb 1960, "The Biggest family in Maryland" by Gerald H. Borstel
  7. ProQuest (540624352), The Baltimore Sun (April 6, 1930) "Marionettes play at Guild Theater".
  8. ProQuest (539569700), The Baltimore Sun, "Marionettes on Display at Institute – represents many countries" (16 Nov 1930).
  9. ProQuest (543298422), The Baltimore Sun, "Vagabonds to Produce Play by Shakespeare" (16 October 1932)
  10. Turner, Phil (July 1, 2015). "Linthicum: Local woman creates a way to crowdsource memories". Capital Gazette. Baltimore Sun Media Group. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  11. 1 2 Kelly, Jacques (December 6, 1990). "TV puppeteers taught a generation". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 28, 2015.
  12. McPharlin 1969, p. 453.
  13. Davis 1995, p. 1.
  14. Robertson 2011, p. 795.
  15. "Charles Francis Jenkins". Al McGilvray. Waynet, Inc. 2015. Retrieved November 28, 2015. His station W3XK, also produced the first children's show on 11/6/1931, hosted by Bernard H. Paul and his puppets.
  16. NATAS 1987, p. 29, V 23–24.
  17. Grossman 1988, p. 50.
  18. ProQuest, The Baltimore Sun (April 1, 1934) – "Paul's Puppets playing at the White House"


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