Madame Tussauds

"Tussauds" redirects here. For the company, see The Tussauds Group.
Madame Tussauds and the London Planetarium

Madame Tussauds (UK /tuˈsɔːdz/, US /tˈsz/; the family themselves pronounce it /ˈts/[1]) is a wax museum in London with branches in a number of major cities. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud. It used to be known as "Madame Tussaud's"; the apostrophe is no longer used.[2][3] Madame Tussauds is a major tourist attraction in London, displaying waxworks of famous people.



Marie Tussaud was born as Marie Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling.

Tussaud created her first wax sculpture in 1777 of Voltaire.[4] Other famous people whom she modelled at that time include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During the French Revolution, she modelled many prominent victims. She claims that she would search through corpses to find the severed heads of executed citizens, from which she would make death masks. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris.

She inherited the doctor's vast collection of wax models following his death in 1794, and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. She married Francois Tussaud in 1795, and the show acquired a new name: Madame Tussaud's. In 1802, she accepted an invitation from Paul Philidor, a magic lantern and phantasmagoria pioneer, to exhibit her work alongside his show at the Lyceum Theatre, London. She did not fare particularly well financially, with Philidor taking half of her profits.

She was unable to return to France because of the Napoleonic Wars, so she traveled throughout Great Britain and Ireland exhibiting her collection. From 1831, she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of "Baker Street Bazaar" (on the west side of Baker Street, Dorset Street, and King Street),[5] which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898–1907. This became Tussaud's first permanent home in 1836.[6]


Poster for the Tussaud wax figure's exhibition, Baker Street, London 1835.

By 1835, Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London and opened a museum.[7] One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors. The name is often credited to a contributor to Punch in 1845, but Marie appears to have originated it herself, using it in advertising as early as 1843.[8]

This part of the exhibition included victims of the French Revolution and newly created figures of murderers and other criminals. Other famous people were added, including Lord Nelson and Sir Walter Scott.

Some sculptures still exist that were done by Marie Tussaud herself. The gallery originally contained some 400 different figures, but fire damage in 1925 coupled with German bombs in 1941 has rendered most of these older models defunct. The casts themselves have survived, allowing the historical waxworks to be remade, and these can be seen in the museum's history exhibit. The oldest figure on display is that of Madame du Barry. Other faces from the time of Tussaud include Robespierre and George III. In 1842, she made a self-portrait which is now on display at the entrance of her museum. She died in her sleep on 15 April 1850.

Bernard Tussaud finishes the wax figure of Lady Alice Scott and the Duke of Gloucester - 1935.10.16

By 1883, the restricted space and rising cost of the Baker Street site prompted her grandson Joseph Randall to commission the building at its current location on Marylebone Road. The new exhibition galleries were opened on 14 July 1884 and were a great success.[9] However, Randall had bought out his cousin Louisa's half share in the business in 1881, and that plus the building costs meant that the business was under-funded. A limited company was formed in 1888 to attract fresh capital but had to be dissolved after disagreements between the family shareholders, and Tussaud's was sold to a group of businessmen in February 1889 led by Edwin Josiah Poyser.[10]

Edward White was an artist who was dismissed by the new owners to save money; he allegedly sent a parcel bomb to John Theodore Tussaud in June 1889 in revenge.[11]

The first sculpture of a young Winston Churchill was made in 1908, with a total of ten made since.[12] The first overseas branch of Madame Tussauds was opened in Amsterdam in 1970.[13]

Current status

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Madame Tussaud's wax museum has now become a major tourist attraction in London, incorporating (until 2010) the London Planetarium in its west wing. Today's wax figures at Tussauds include historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars, and famous murderers. It is known as "Madame Tussauds" museums (no apostrophe) and is owned by a leisure company called Merlin Entertainments, following the acquisition of The Tussauds Group in May 2007.

In July 2008, Madame Tussauds' Berlin branch became embroiled in controversy when a 41-year-old German man brushed past two guards and decapitated a wax figure depicting Adolf Hitler. This was believed to be an act of protest against showing the ruthless dictator alongside sports heroes, movie stars, and other historical figures. However, the statue has since been repaired and the perpetrator has admitted that he attacked the statue to win a bet.[14] The original model of Hitler was unveiled in Madame Tussauds London in April 1933; it was frequently vandalised and a 1936 replacement had to be carefully guarded.[15][16][17]

In November 2015, Madame Tussauds announced that it would open a museum in New Delhi in 2017.[13]

American singer Nicki Minaj's statue at the Las Vegas museum was provided extra security following an act of vandalism by one of her fans who took some "inappropriate" photos in June 2015.

In January 2016, the statue of Adolf Hitler was removed from the London museum in response to an open letter sent by a staff writer of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, followed by significant support for its removal from social media.[18]

Museums locations

Entry of Madame Tussauds in Berlin
Madame Tussauds in New York City opened in 2000.
Madame Tussauds opened in Washington, D.C. in 2007.




North America


Celebrity poses with their wax figures

Many times celebrities pose like their wax figures as pranks and publicity stunts.





The amateur tenor, whose vocal villainies
All desire to shirk,
Shall, during off-hours
Exhibit his powers
To Madame Tussaud's waxwork.

Stage productions



See also



  1. Wells, John C. (2009). "Tussaud's". Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. London: Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  2. Rothstein, Edward (24 August 2007). "Ripley's Believe It or Not – Madame Tussauds". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 May 2010.: "Madame Tussaud (who gave the attraction its now-jettisoned apostrophe) ..."
  3. Times Online Style Guide – M: "Madame Tussauds (no longer an apostrophe)."
  4. Du Plessis, Amelia. "England – Madame Tussauds". Informational site about England. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
  5. Pilbeam (2006) pp. 102–106
  6. Pilbeam (2006) pp. 100–104
  7. "The History of Madame Tussauds". Madame
  8. Berridge, Kate...But now British actress Emma Watson is already to set and appear here... (2006). Madame Tussaud: A life in wax. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-052847-8.
  9. Pilbeam, ibid. pp. 166, 168–9.
  10. Pilbeam, ibid. p. 170.
  11. "POLICE (20 July 1889 page 6, column 6)". The Times. 20 July 1888. p. 6. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  12. Pamela Pilbeam Madame Tussaud: And the History of Waxworks. P.199.
  13. 1 2
  14. "Adolf Hitler returns to Berlin museum after beheading". 14 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  15. Pilbeam, ibid. p. 199.
  16. "Madame Tussauds to repair beheaded Hitler". Associated Press. 7 July 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.
  17. Carrel, Paul (5 July 2008). "Man rips head from Hitler wax figure". Reuters.
  18. Gur-Arieh, Noga (January 6, 2015). "Madame Tussauds Museum in London Removed Hitler Figure". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  20. Al makes people jump out of their skin
  21. Ozzy Osbourne scares people at Madame Tussauds. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
  22. It's really them! One Direction prank four delighted fans by pretending to be wax work models for Surprise Surprise, Daily Mail
  24. Jeremy Lin pranks at Madame Tussauds, pretends to be wax likeness
  25. Arnold Schwarzenegger scares the bejeezus out of tourists at Madame Tussauds
  26. "Meltdown (At Madame Tussaud's) – Meltdown – Steve Taylor Discography". Sock Heaven. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  27. Beatles waxworks sell for £81,500
  28. Knight, Kathryn (October 18, 2008). "Oh, mummy you were naughty - Dame Barbara Cartland's son reveals all about her racy life". Daily Mail.


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