Pelham Puppets Classifications
While the quintessential aesthetics of Pelham Puppets remained the same, the company had many different variation of design. Here is a short guide to identifying which classification a puppet would fall under.
- SS Type
Standard Stringed Puppet, manufactured throughout the whole life time of the company. Many of these were generic stock characters like clowns, sailors and pirates and defined by their simple round heads. However there were occasional exceptions to this rule, for example Pinocchio and Alice from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. They were usually produced 12 inches tall and used the standard cross box control. In Cabinet 54 you can see an SS Gypsy Girl.
- SL Type
Stringed Luxury Puppet, manufactured throughout the whole life time of the company. SL puppets are defined by their molded heads which had greater detail and visual appeal. Many of the first SL puppets were licensed characters however during the later years many characters which originally appeared in the SS line were also manufactured. In Cabinet 54 you can see an SL Rupert the Bear and an SL Wolf and Red Riding Hood (both among a group of fairytale characters which were commonly produced).
- SL 63 Type
Stringed Luxury Puppet, range first introduced in 1963. These puppets are defined by their specific designs by Peter Carter-Cage, an ex-Disney employee. The puppets were discontinued around 1966, despite their humorous designs, because of their lack of functionality making some of them collectable due to the small amount produced. You can see an example of an SL 63 Mother Dragon in Cabinet 54
- SM Type
Stringed Mouth or Moving Mouth, manufactured throughout the whole life time of the company. These puppets are defined by their moving mouth, a feature added to make them appear more realistic. They were also top sellers and very popular amongst customers. Bob Pelham's favourite puppet MacBoozle was an SM puppet. SM puppets were a mixture of stock and licensed characters and in Cabinet 56 you can see an SM Pirate and Witch, amongst others.
- LS Range
LS puppets were produced in the earlier days of the company, from 1946 to 1956, and resembled SS puppets but had a few differences, the two main ones being that LS puppets had 'half ball' feet rather than the fuller feet of the SS puppets and that the LS puppets had a flat control bar as opposed to the thicker square ones of SS puppets. LS puppets can be considered the precursors to SS puppets due to their similarities. These puppets are usually found in brown boxes as was standard at that time.
- JC Range
Junior Control Range, a range of smaller puppets with simpler controls for children. These puppets are defined by their size, simple cross-bow control and round feet. You can see an example of a JC Andy Pandy puppet next to Rupert the Bear in the picture on the right.
- Jumpette Range
The Jumpette range were stringed puppets which were even more simple to operate than the JC range and usually had only two or three strings with a simple control bar. The name 'Jumpette' derives from the fact that these puppets jump when the controls are moved due to the three string design. It was this feature that made them easier for children to work. These puppets came in a range of human and animal designs and an example of a Jumpette Muffin the Mule can be seen in Cabinet 54.
- Wooden Head Range
Wooden Head puppets were first produced in the very early days of the company and were of simple construction aimed at children. These puppets can be distinguished by their simple face designs, as specialist painters were not used for these, and their wooden, flat disc hands. Fruit and Vegetable Range Fruit and Vegetable puppets were of simple design (using three strings). Production of these started in the 1980's and continued until the closure of the original company. Earlier puppets in this range can be defined by additional felt sections in the arms and legs.
- Fruit and Vegetable Range
Fruit and Vegetable puppets were of simple design (using three strings). Production of these started in the 1980's and continued until the closure of the original company. Earlier puppets in this range can be defined by additional felt sections in the arms and legs.
Minipups were stringed puppets of very simple construction and control. They were produced from 1954 to 1961 and differed from the usual puppets due to their two-string design and packaging being a simple plastic wallet. Characters produced in this range were limited to animals such as dogs and horses however both Mickey and Minnie mouse were available.
- Glove Type (GS, GL and GM)
Glove Standard, Glove Luxury and Glove Mouth (or moving mouth). These glove puppets were produced sporadically throughout the history of the company and included a diverse range of characters ranging from licensed ones such as Mickey Mouse to Punch and Judy and from animals to the Pelham staple MacBoozle.
- Ventriloquist Type
Ventriloquist (or vent) type puppets, produced from 1968 onward. These were more advanced hand controlled puppets with movable features for the purpose of ventriloquism. A variety of designs were available both in human and animal form. The vent dolls carried the distinctive Pelham look and were produced to order in the final years of the company.
- Collectors Type
In 1983 Pelham announced a limited run of collectors puppets which would come with a stand and distinctive box. The first range in this series was Henry VIII and his six wives of which 1000 were to be made. Each specific set was numbered and each puppet within that set would have the number sewed inside the costume for identification. However not all 1000 were produced and it was reported that roughly 400 were made only. In addition to this, retailers did not always sell the puppets as a set and therefore finding a complete set with puppets of the same number is rare.
- Display and Professional Types
Due to the well known nature of the company during the 20th Century, it received various orders and commissions for specific puppets for uses such as theater productions and adverts. There were also some one-off larger puppets made that were used in shop displays and as demonstration pieces. Because of the individualistic nature of these puppets most of them are now highly collectible and rare.
- Other Types
There are some puppets that, due to their construction or design, have to be classed separate from the other categories. This does not mean that these puppets are rare or were only produced in small batches, only that they are unique in their style. For example some rod puppets were produced for licensed series, such as Dougal and Zebadee from The Magic Roundabout, however there were not enough designs to warrant their own category. Additionally they were already in a series and therefore not given additional classifications. Other puppets that are not sorted into the existing categories are the Lanky Man (LM) and Lullabelle (LL) designs due to their tall nature and also the early 'Disjointing Skeleton'. This puppet had a detachable skull and was originally made from 1952 to 1972. An example of the skeleton can be seen in Cabinet 53
Although the general types of puppets remained consistent throughout the history of the company, there were small changes in the design and manufacturing of the puppets which make it possible to approximately determine during what period a specific puppet was made.
The construction of hands at Pelham changed in distinct periods which makes them a reasonably reliable method for establishing the age of a puppet. However this is only true for those puppets which would have required hands, in the case of some SL, licensed and animal characters usual hands were not required. Hands came in a variety of styles and materials.
- Early Carved Hands these hands were very small and simple in design, clearly identifiable through their lack of distinguishable fingers.
- Early Flat Lead Hands resembled the early carved hands however were made with lead.
- Lead Closed Hands were made from the late 1940's to the early 1950's. They were a vast improvement on the initial carved hands with and more realistic design and were joined to the wrist with a screw eye that was part of the hand. The word 'closed' in the description refers to them having no gaos between the fingers; the fingers are not spread.
- Wooden and Composite Closed Hands were made from the early 1950's onward, starting with the wooden hands and the moving onto the molded composite ones. They resembled the lead ones in design and earlier one's can be identified by their large size and downwards bending shape of the fingers when viewed from the side. Later composite hands used from the 1950's had straight fingers when viewed from the side. These hands were joined to the wrist via an eye which was screwed into the hand and not part of the hand construction, unlike the lead ones.
- Open Hands were also used from the early days of the company and can be separated into time periods. From the late 1940's open hands came in two varieties, ones with straight fingers and ones with more bulbous fingers. Both of the earlier versions were attached to the wrist via a screw eye in the hand and then wax string and were also both made from composite materials. From the early 1970's open hands were constructed in plastic and came only in the straight finger variety. These were joined to the wrist via a screw eye or waxed string which attached to a molded hole in the hand.
- Other Hands in some cases there were specific hands made for certain ranges of puppets, for example Disney puppets had hands which resembled the Disney design and this shape can also be seen in other puppets such as Bimbo.