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Baird, Bil (15 August 1904–18 March 1987), master puppeteer, the eldest son of William Hull Baird and Louise Hetzel Baird, was born William Britton Baird in Grand Island, Nebraska. His father, a chemical engineer, was manager of the American Crystal Sugar plant, the first beet sugar plant in the United States. His job required the family to move several times, but in 1915 they settled permanently in Mason City, Iowa. Baird's artistic talents were products of both heredity and environment. When Baird was seven, his father made a puppet for him and he was hooked. As a youth, his father had traveled with ...

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Henson, Jim (24 September 1936–16 May 1990), puppeteer and entertainment industry entrepreneur, was born James Maury Henson in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of Paul Henson, an agronomist, and Elizabeth Brown. Henson studied art and stage design part time at the University of Maryland. At college, he met his future wife, Jane Nebel, an art student. The two worked together in creating puppet segments on local Baltimore and Washington, D.C., childrens’ shows. They married in 1959 and were to have five children. Henson graduated from college in 1960. Soon afterward, Jane Henson essentially withdrew from her involvement in Henson’s puppetry work....

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Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Lewis, Shari (17 January 1934–02 August 1998), entertainer, was born Shari Hurwitz in New York City, the daughter of Abraham Hurwitz, college professor, and Ann Ritz Hurwitz, a public school music supervisor. She grew up in a household that encouraged artistic expression; after beginning piano lessons at the age of two, she also studied singing, acting, and dancing. Her father was also a professional magician, and Hurwitz accompanied him on USO tours during World War II. While convalescing from an injury, she also learned ventriloquism, which would later serve her well. After graduating from New York's Music and Art High School in 1950, she is said to have briefly attended nearby Columbia University, where she studied drama, although this cannot be confirmed. Her professional “break” came in 1951, when she appeared on the “Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts” television program and won a prize for a puppetry act....

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Tillstrom, Burr (13 October 1917–06 December 1985), puppeteer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Bert F. Tillstrom and Alice Burr. As a child Tillstrom enjoyed classic fairy tales and became a lifelong devotee of The Wizard of Oz. He became interested in his future career at an early age; when he was five years old he suffered from a long illness and passed the time by creating puppet shows for himself with his toys. As he recovered, he entertained neighborhood children by operating the puppets on his windowsill, inventing dialogue for them in different voices....