John Coates Till

John Coates Till (April 30, 1843 - May 31, 1910) was an English American marionettist and entertainer born in London, England and died in Malden, Massachusetts. He was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


According to John McCormick in The Victorian Marionette Theatre, Till traveled to America with W.J. Bullock's company around 1874 and subsequently worked with Middleton's royal marionette company before establishing himself as an independent performer and maker of marionettes for sale.[1]

Advertisements, articles, and reviews from the late 19th through early 20th centuries describe Till and his wife, Louisa Till, as acclaimed marionettists and entertainers who traveled widely throughout the United States and Canada performing original shows with their marionettes and automatons.[2][3][4] The Tills often traveled with variety shows, such as Hyde & Behman's Specialty Company, working in conjunction with other notable performers of the period.[5][6]

In more recent scholarship, the Tills' minstrel marionette show has been examined for its racially charged depictions of African Americans in the Reconstruction Era.[7][8]


  1. McCormick, John. The Victorian Marionette Theatre. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004. pp. 86
  2. "The Scranton Truth from Scranton, Pennsylvania · Page 4".
  3. "Cambridge Chronicle 11 July 1903 — Cambridge Public Library".
  4. "THIS WEEK'S AMUSEMENT - Article -". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  5. "The New York Clipper : Hyde & Behman" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  6. "Harrisburg Telegraph from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania · Page 4".
  7. Fisler, Benjamin. "The Phenomenology of Racialism: Blackface Puppetry in American Theatre (1872-1939)." (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  8. West, Amber (2011). "Blackface Minstrelsy in American Puppetry.". Puppetry and Race (30). Retrieved 2015-07-24.

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