Horn's Punch & Judy Show History

So you can truly appreciate the legacy of Horn's Punch & Judy Show, we've provided this brief overview tracing the history of this famous puppet play in the state of Maryland up to the present-day Professor Horn.

According to Constance Lippincott's 1902 publication, Maryland as a Palatinate, the first Punch & Judy show in Maryland took place in Annapolis before the American Revolution. In 1783, a conjuror offered sleight-of-hand skills and a whimsical play starring Punchinello in Fell's Point.

However, James Edward Ross was one of the first local residents to make a living with this attraction. Using the stage name of Professor Rosella, Ross premiered his famous puppet show in April 1897 at Pat Harris' Dime Museum on Baltimore Street.

Rosella and Friends
Rosella and Friends

Soon, Rosella presented Punch & Judy puppet shows throughout the mid-Atlantic region. During the summers of 1913 and 1914, Rosella gave several shows a day in Atlantic City at Young's Million Dollar Pier. Theodore Roosevelt was his most distinguished patron and letters from the president claimed that Rosella's performance was the "best Punch & Judy show he had ever seen."

His Punch act was also a favorite attraction at Riverview, a now-defunct Baltimore amusement park. Rosella lived on Hull Street in South Baltimore and retired in 1948 after spending 50 years in show business. He died in May 1950 at the age of 73.

Through the years Rosella taught the art of Punch & Judy to other entertainers. Steve Brenner, a Baltimore clown who claimed to be the first Bozo the Clown character, apprenticed with Rosella. So did veteran Baltimore entertainer George Horn.

George Horn and Mr. Punch
George Horn and Mr. Punch

George Horn, the youngest member of the Demons' Club of Baltimore Magicians, not only became a noted Punch & Judy operator, circa 1932, but an excellent ventriloquist. He was also the first Maryland entertainer to introduce balloon animals into his show.

After World War II, George Horn brought his novelty act to the famous Club Charles. Hiding behind the looking glass was George Horn, and seven nights a week his Punch & Judy puppets exchanged banter with patrons in addition to providing other clever amusements.

There were, of course, other Punch & Judy entertainers in Maryland during the last century. Back in 1921, Professor Will H. Smith, from England, presented a Punch show at a Chautauqua event in Easton. Even Baltimore's very own Johnny Eck, the amazing half-man, presented Punch & Judy while touring with carnivals and sideshows.

As for the current Professor Horn, George Horn presented his Punch & Judy show at Patterson Park during the summer of 1963. This was intended as a school treat for students attending St. Elizabeth's in East Baltimore. One of the students was a novice magician named Mark Walker. Sitting near the old music conservatory and watching George Horn's Punch act made a lifelong impression on the youthful wizard.

Mark Walker as Professor Horn
Mark Walker as Professor Horn

Mark called Mr. Horn and promised to visit. He did — some 20 odd years later. At that time George Horn was in his eighties and with talk of retirement on the horizon, Mark asked if he could continue this unbroken Maryland tradition. Mr. Horn gladly consented, taught Mark the act, and the two entertainers remained best friends until George Horn's death in January 2004.

In honor of his mentor, Mark Walker adopted the stage name Professor Horn and continues with the very same show he saw as a child.

 


Horn's Punch & Judy

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