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Sarg, Tony

(1880-1942)

Painter, magazine cover artist, cartoonist, toymaker, puppetteer, Tony Sarg began coming to Nantucket in 1921.

His first shop was on Petticoat Row and he later moved to the corner of Steamboat Wharf and Easy Street. He was beloved on island for his sense of humor, especially in regard to his infamous sea-monster hoax of 1937.

He lived on North Liberty Street and exhibited at the Easy Street Gallery. His daughter Mary became an accomplished Nantucket artists and AAN member.

Bio by George Korn:

"Anthony Frederick Sarg was born in Guatemala in 1880. Known as Tony, 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. In England he created broadsides for the London Underground, books, illustrations and post cards

With the advent of World War I, Tony moved his family to New York, where he did illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, Parents Magazine, Boy’s Life, Good Housekeeping , Vanity Fair and others which bolstered his reputation in the New York art community. He had a studio in Times Square and his reputation soon soared.

While Tony Sarg was well known as a children’s book illustrator, he was 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 moveable 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 mechanically animated window displays 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) he orchestrated the first Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as the  hot air balloons of fictional characters now a staple for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sarg's oeuvre of animated movies was before Disney got involved, producing over 20 animated classics. He had marionette theatres at the Chicago and New York World Fairs in the 1930’s and his troupe performed all over the United States and was a major inspiration for Bill Baird and other 20th century American puppet masters.

He was a busy man, from his many activities in New York, his shop in New Hope, Pa and his activities in Nantucket where he and his family spent many happy summers

Tony Sarg at one time was estimated to be worth well over a million dollars, but died bankrupt in 1942 of appendicitis."