• Identification00064733
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Burr Tillstrom papers, 1926-1986, bulk 1947-1985
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationBurr Tillstrom
  • Date
    • 1926-1986
    • 1947-1985
  • Physical Description60 linear feet (53 HB, 5 flat boxes, 1 tube, 18 volumes, 3 audio boxes (6 5-inch reels, 10 7-inch reels, 2 45-RPM record albums, 1 8-track cassette, 18 cassette tapes), 1 oversize folder)
  • Location
    • MSS Lot T
    • MSS Oversize T
    • OMM 112

For listening purposes, it is necessary to use a copy, not the original (and to have a listening copy made if one is not available).

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Most of the collection was a gift of Burr Tillstrom ((accession #:1985.0386). Letter 1947 Sept. 9 was a gift of Mrs. Amos B. Brown (accession #:1990.0304). Photcopy of letter 1947 Sept. 9 was a gift of Mrs. Amos B. Brown (accession #:1989.0286). Autographed Kuklapolitan Courier year Book, 1951, was a gift of Wendy Mancini (accession #:2003.0255).

Burr Tillstrom papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.

Scrapbooks, musical scores, audio recordings, correspondence, and other papers related to Burr Tillstrom’s children’s television program, “Kukla, Fran and Ollie,” based on his puppet characters. Includes letter by Burr Tillstrom to “September Bride DoDo,” 1947 Sept. 9, describing how Kukla and Ollie reacted to news of her wedding, 3p; September Bride was Theodora W. Brown (Mrs. Amos B. Brown). Also included is Burr Tillstrom’s Kuklapolitan Courier Year Book, published by Burr Tillstrom, 1951 (signed: “To Pete/All our best/wishes!/Burr” on first page), which referred to Pete Mancini, who worked on the “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” show for five years in the 1950s.

Franklin Burr Tillstrom was a puppeteer and the creator of the "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" television show. In 1917, Tillstrom was born in Chicago, Illinois. As a child he entertained the neighborhood children by performing puppet shows through a window in his home and later participated in high school theater. In 1935, Tillstrom attended the University of Chicago, but left after one semester to join the Works Progress Administration's Chicago Parks' Theater. Kukla was created in 1936, and in 1939, Tillstrom was invited to present all of his Kuklapolitan Players at the New York World's Fair. The "Kukla, Fran, and Ollie" show debuted on WBKB in Chicago in 1947. In 1949, NBC began broadcasting the show, and five years later the show moved to ABC, where it ran until 1957. Tillstrom continued to work with the Kuklapolitans after the show ended; two seasons of the "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" show appeared on National Education Television in 1970, and in 1975, thirteen new episodes were aired on television. Tillstrom earned five Emmy and two Peabody awards; he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1985 he died at his home in Palm Springs, California.

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include photographs and recordings of programs. Includes the Burr Tillstrom collection of "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" visual materials (1985.0549); the Burr Tillstrom photograph collection (G.1982.0183); and the "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" collection of visual materials from Fran Allison (1989.0791). Puppets are among the artifacts held by Chicago History Museum.

  • Subject
    • Tillstrom, Burr -- Archives
    • Dragon, Oliver J. (Fictitious character)
    • Kukla (Fictitious character)
    • Children’s television programs -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
    • Children’s television programs -- United States -- 20th century
    • Puppeteers -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
    • Puppeteers -- United States -- 20th century
    • Television broadcasting –Illinois -- Chicago --20th century
    • Television broadcasting -- United States -- 20th century
    • Television programs – Illinois – Chicago -- 20th century
    • Television programs -- United States -- 20th century
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Chicago (Ill.) -- Commerce -- 20th century
    • Chicago (Ill.) -- Intellectual life --20th century
    • Chicago (Ill.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century
    • United States -- Social life and customs -- 20th century

The collection is arranged in seven series.

Series 1. Burr Tillstrom and Puppets, 1926-1985 (Box 1-5, 23, 47-49, 73, 75-77, 82)

Series 1 consists of television show materials, advertisements, and public appearance memorabilia. Also includes publications and reference materials from Burr Tillstrom’s personal library. Present are “Reluctant Dragon” stage plans and an autographed Kuklapolitan Courier yearbook as well as awards and certificates.

Series 2. “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” (Television program), 1940s–1986 (box 6-12, 73)

Series 2 consists of television show materials, advertisements, and public appearance memorabilia relating to the television program “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.” Also includes an oversize folder with “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” stage plans.

Series 3. Publicity, 1937-1986 (box 12-17, 19-20, 74, 79-81)

Series 3 consists of newspaper clippings, fan letters and drawings, and books from Tillstrom’s personal library on puppetry. Also includes “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” musical synopses and musical scores.

Series 4. Musical scores, 1948-1970 (box 21, 22, 24-46)

Series 4 consists of musical scores used on the “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” show, as well as “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” arrangements seldom used or discarded. Also includes songs from the Polly Bergen Show, the Bart Howard Song Collection, and Old Show Music.

Series 5. “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” programs, script and record book, 1948-1980 (box 18, 50-51, 65-67, 78)

Series 5 consists of programs, one script and one music record book from the “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” show.

Series 6. Scrapbooks, 1947–1986, (box 52-64, 68-69)

Series 6 consists of “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” photographs, fan mail, and news clippings.

Series 7. Audio recordings, 1952-1985 (box 70-72)

Series 7 consists of Burr Tillstrom and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” audio recordings of music, shows, and interviews.