Now this is one of the strangest things we’ve come across in all our treasure hunting.
It appears be an advertisement a traveling group of puppet masters from the turn of the last century. The show featured Genuine Indians from the Pawnee Tribe and Chief Kooda. The group under the management of one Harry D’Esta appeared to specialize in Marionettes, Ventriloquism, and Punch and Judy.
For those of you who don’t know Punch and Judy, here’s a brief synopsis from Wikipedia.
Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular puppet show featuring Mr. Punch and his wife, Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically the violent Punch and one other character. It is often associated with traditional English seaside culture.
The show is performed by a single puppeteer inside the booth, known since Victorian times as a “Professor” or “Punchman,” and assisted sometimes by a “Bottler”, who corrals the audience outside the booth, introduces the performance and collects the money (“the bottle”). The Bottler might also play accompanying music or sound effects on a drum or guitar and engage in back chat with the puppets, sometimes repeating the same or the copied lines that may have been difficult for the audience to understand. In Victorian times the drum and pan pipes were the instruments of choice. Today, the audience is also encouraged to participate, calling out to the characters on the stage to warn them of danger, or clue them into what is going on behind their backs. Also nowadays most Professors work solo since the need for a bottler became less important when busking with the show gave way to paid engagements at private parties or public events.
The only actual reference I could find to Harry D’Esta or the Royal Marionettes are here June 29, 1900 – Daily Mail and Empire Article and 1911 – Variety . If any of you know any other detail, please feel free to comment!