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Sandy Paton Dancing Dolly - I want one !! (18) RE: Dancing Dolly - I want one !! 12 Jan 06

Using hardwoods gives a sprightlier dance and MUCH better acoustics. Might be a bit harder to construct, but the result is worth the extra effort. "LimberJack" is the name I knew for the dancing man, and that's what we have always called the ones we sell through Folk-Legacy. Over the forty years we have been offering them to the public, we have heard them called "paddle puppets", "Dancing Dans", "Dancing Sams" etc. A man in Maine told us he knew it as a "Yankee Doodle Dancer" in his childhood. The oldest one I have is a handcrafted (rather crudely) model found in an antique store in northeastern New Hampshire USA). I have a lovely photograph, possibly taken by Peter Kennedy, of old Harry Cox, the East Anglian farmworker and great ballad singer, dancing one in front of his cottage in Norfolk. Looks as though his puppet is wearing a pair of Dutch-type wooden shoes. A model I was shown from western Connecticut boasted a neatly carved top hat and boots. Inspired by our "LimberJacks," a fellow in Burlington, Vermont, carved a few splendid models clad in lumberjack-type boots.
    Amusingly, when we showed our model to the curator of the Brooklyn (NY) Children's Museum, he said had never seen one before. However, in the Museum collection was a puppet that was clearly a LimberJack, whose paddle had long-since been lost and the curator thought the hole in his back was merely a convenient way to hang him up on a wall when not in use. So much for toy specialists who fail to study folklore!

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