Icky Gunk. Moldy Hay. Kermit. You might recognize one of these names. Before Kermit joined Miss Piggy and Big Bird, he was kicking it with Sam and Friends—a local TV show in Washington, D.C., that launched Jim Henson's career. We journey back to 1955 to figure out how this eccentric cast of puppets built the foundation for everything Jim Henson would do afterwards, from Sesame Street to The Muppet Show and even Labyrinth (we see you, David Bowie fans). And we venture into the conservation labs to learn what it took to revive these crumbling hunks of foam and fabric when they landed at the Smithsonian.
- Ryan Lintelman, curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
- Sunae Park Evans, senior costume conservator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
- Bonnie Erickson, a director of The Jim Henson Legacy; creator of Miss Piggy
- Craig Shemin, author of Sam and Friends: The Story of Jim Henson's First Television Show
- Sam, Harry the Hipster, the original Kermit muppet, and characters from Sesame Street are currently on view in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s exhibition, Entertainment Nation.
- Get an introduction to Sam and Friends with video of the Visual Thinking sketch featuring Kermit and Harry the Hipster from the Jim Henson Company.
- Jim Henson’s early muppet projects also included a series of commercials for Wilkins Coffee, in which an often-sadistic character named Wilkins encourages his friend Wontkins to try the advertised coffee...or else. Watch dozens of shorts from 1957-1961 courtesy of The Hall of Advertising.
- Learn more about the restoration work that took place when more than 20 Muppets and related props first arrived at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
- What is it about Sesame Street that has made the show a success with children and parents alike for more than half a century? Learn how the show helped shaped the future of television in an article from Newsweek.
- Read about Bonnie Erickson’s work with the Muppets—and the inspiration behind Miss Piggy—in a 2008 interview with Smithsonian Magazine.