Tony Sarg’s Sea Serpent (all images courtesy the Nantucket Historical Association)
In the summer of 1937, strange things were happening on the beach of Nantucket. First, ominously large footprints were found in the sand, as if left by some unseen lumbering beast. The photographs of people measuring the footprints were printed in the local newspapers and curiosity spread through the town as quick as an ocean current. Then on a July day, the mysterious creature itself arrived: a massive sea serpent with pointed horns and a toothy, gaping jaw.
The sea serpent was the work of Tony Sarg, an innovative and playful creator who is often cited as the father of modern puppetry, but also has a legacy in creating the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. (Here he is with one of his typically buoyant and whimsical balloons, such as this delightful elephant.) As Nantucket by James Everett Grieder and Georgen Charnes explains:
Tony Sarg and friends floated a giant sea serpent balloon designed by Sarg for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from Coatue to land at South Beach on Washington Street. They were aiming for the Jetties, but apparently, the trajectory of floating giant semi-inflated balloons is difficult to control. The sea serpent was visited by tourists and natives alike.
It was the highlight of the Nantucket summer before it made its debut in the streets of New York City that fall. Here are some photographs courtesy the Nantucket Historical Association of the gentle giant that washed up on the Massachusetts shores that 1937 summer:
Footprints discovered on the beach
The Sea Serpent floating down the shore
The Sea Serpent arrives at the beach
Tony Sarg (center) and the Sea Serpent
Video from the beach:
And a bonus photograph from the American Museum of Natural History of the Sea Serpent in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
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