Push Puppets are simple inexpensive toys made from wood, plastics, and various other
materials. They have been around in one form or another since the 1930's. The basic
design is made by taking various body parts of the character and running a piece of string
through the middle of the individual parts to act as a frame. Because of the physical
properties of the string, when it is taught it makes a very sturdy frame for the individual parts
moves. These push puppets stand on a base that contains a spring under tension pushing
against a wooden disc that acts as a button. All the string acting as a frame for the puppet
are attached under tension to the disc. When the button is pushed in, the string is relaxed
allowing the user to control the movement of the character depending on what part of the
disk is pressed.
KOHNER BROS. PUSH PUPPETS
In 1947 Kohner Bros. of East Patterson, New Jersey,
obtained a patent for their version of the push puppet. The
earlier versions of their puppets were made entirely of wood
held together with string and a metal spring for the button.
These would include the more generic characters such as
Barking Dog, Donkey, Elephant, etc.
These push button puppets are also called,
press action toys, collapsing puppets, thumb
puppets, 3-D Animators, etc. These toys are
still made today in their simplest form as well as
being made in extreme detail such as the 3-D
Animator line under various popular character
licenses from the Simpsons to KISS the Rock
Band. The ones that I enjoy collecting are the
vintage puppets from the past from
manufacturers such as Kohner and Marx.
In the 1950's they started producing these with a hard
plastic base and wood button. The actual figure was made
of a combination of wood, plastic, leather, and other
materials as needed for detail.
Also, a few of these 1950's version push puppets even had a squeaker baffle placed
under the base to create noise when the button was pressed. The 1950's version of
Donal Duck is an example of a squeaking puppet but the baffle under the base is
normally in poor condition and rarely works.
By the 1960's they had evolved into an all plastic toy but the metal spring and string
always remained a constant. In the 1970's, they produced a line of 10 Disney Mini Push
Puppets and 5 Disney Maxi Push Puppets and that was the end of the Kohner era. A
company called Gabriel made a brief attempt at continuing the tradition of the Kohner
style push puppet with a few Disney characters but it didn't last long.
The good thing from a collecting standpoint about Kohner no longer making push
puppets is that there is an end to the goal of obtaining all the Kohner Push Puppets. It is
a difficult task but it is an attainable goal if you have the time and money to track them all
down. Good Luck with your Hunt!
I hope this site is enjoyed by those individuals who call themselves push puppet collectors.
It will be contantly evolving with new photographs and information provided as time
permits. The development of this site has become a new hobby of mine so I will try not to
let the information become stale. I am going to include photos in the Photo Gallery section
of this site of a featured collection from other collectors. If you have any good stories,
photos of your collection, or information that you would like to share on this site then
please send me an email by using the contact form on this site or just sending me an email
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.