Anthony Frederick (Tony) Sarg (1880 - 1942)

Epic. The length and breadth of Anthony Frederick Sarg’s legacy, as told by marionettes whose creation was conceived by his regard for his Grandmother’s collection. Marionettes whom he morphed from traditional, wooden, stringed figures all the way to human; and then to never before imaginable, silky skinned balloons that floated down New York’s Madison Avenue; the marionettes’ strings upside down. Tony Sarg’s legacy is today measured by his wit, his innate empathy for human frailty, dignity, childishness and yes, comedy. Epic.

Mind boggling, Tony Sarg.  Genius. Opportunist. Inventor. Puppeteer. Showman. Illustrator.  Graphic artist….   He’d decided – after being rewarded as a young boy for having invented a mechanized application that would relieve him from the daily duty of feeding his father’s chickens – that a “gimmick” just might be his “ticket.”  If  Tony Sarg was consistent in one thing, it was that he ALWAYS connected the dots. And wonderful dots they were!  ~ Carolyn Walsh

“Anthony Frederick Sarg was born in Guatemala in 1880. The family moved to Germany in 1887. He met Bertha McGowan, an American tourist, and in 1909 they were married in her home town of Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years later they moved to England and had a daughter, Mary.

With the advent of World War I, Tony moved his family to New York, where he  became an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, which bolstered his reputation in the New York art community. He had a studio in Times Square and his reputation soon soared! He started to bring his family to Nantucket, along  with some of his New York friends and in 1921 he bought a house at #1 North Liberty Street.

While Tony Sarg was well known as a childrens’ book illustrator, he was also, in fact the man who revived the marionette theater in America. Sarg specialized in devising animal characters to educate as well as to entertain young readers. Some of his story books were created with movable parts, others explored history with a comic twist, giving illustrations for making toys or how to save money.

Sarg’s creative output was limitless. Sometimes compared to the artist Red Grooms, nothing was out of the question when it came to creativity. He designed jigsaw puzzles, musical blocks, and designed boxes in the style of pantry boxes.

In 1935 Tony Sarg designed the first mechanically animated window display for Macy’s Department Store. Until his death in 1942 he created new designs for Macy’s holiday windows. This was not Tony’s only connection with Macy’s, (which started on Nantucket where Murray’s Toggery is now located) as he created the first hot air balloons for their Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Shortly after his move to Nantucket, he opened the Tony Sarg shop at 38 Centre Street  featuring many of his designs and toys. In 1929, the shop was relocated at the corner of Easy Street and Steamboat Wharf where it became Tony Sarg’s Curiosity Shop.

So many of Sarg’s designs reflect on Nantucket. His boxes show scenes of Sankaty Light, Miacomet Pond, the old fairgrounds and the steamship. He created fabric designs with Nantucket images such as a map, the Macy House at 99 Main Street, the Pequot, whales and so much more. He also designed a wallpaper with similar images. Sarg’s map of Nantucket is a classic, but he also drew maps of Main Street and the Harbor.

Sarg was the creator of the design for the Wharf Rat Club. With his experience of the Macy’s hot air balloons, he fabricated a “monster” which was inflated on Coatue and sailed across the harbor, delighting so many children. Tony designed several posters for Nantucket, including the Hospital Fete and the Hospital Thrift Shop.

Sarg’s daughter Mary donated a wealth of Tony’s material to the Hospital Thrift shop and thanks to Martha Groetzinger and Phil and Elizabeth Murray, the body of work is now in the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association where it was the subject of an exhibition at the Fair Street Museum in 1983.”  ~ Nantucket Historical Association

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