CARNIVAL KNOCK-DOWNS, OR “PUNKS,” AS THEY ARE OFTEN CALLED, were originally made by the carnival workers themselves. Made of wood, cotton duck canvas and other materials, these dolls were painted and very often named. Unfortunately, by the late 1950s, these “punks” were being manufactured by carnival supply houses and silk screened—not handmade with the unique hand painted features of the early ones.

In all my years of looking at photographs, often those of carnival workers and sideshow acts, I have never seen a photo of a person I could say was an actual “maker” of these highly collected folk art objects. In this photograph, we see a proud man with two carnival punks, sitting for his picture against a painted backdrop. To me, there is no question this is the artist, which makes this photograph a special and unique piece of the American story.


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