Biography: Early Life
Jim Henson—a television pioneer, an innovator in puppetry, technology and visual arts, and a performer—literally brought to life some of the most memorable characters ever—including the world's most famous frog, Kermit. Henson's impact on entertainment, education and culture continues to this day.
Born September 24, 1936 in Greenville, Mississippi, Henson spent his early years in Leland, Miss. Throughout his youth, Jim had an interest in art and, later, television. When he was in the fifth grade, the Henson family moved to Maryland. There he, often with his older brother Paul, experimented with a variety of artistic techniques—experiments which eventually led Henson to the very latest visual media, television.
In 1954, while still in high school, Henson began his television career performing puppets on a local Washington, DC Saturday morning program on WTOP-TV. The following year, as a freshman at the University of Maryland, he was given his own twice-daily, five-minute show, Sam and Friends, on the local NBC affiliate, WRC-TV. Henson along with his assistant, fellow University of Maryland student and future wife, Jane Nebel, introduced many Muppet mainstays—music, humor and innovative technical tricks (such as eliminating the puppet stage and using the television itself as the proscenium). Perhaps most memorably, the show featured an early version of Kermit the Frog.
Jim and Jane Henson on the set during the filming of a Wilkins Coffee commercial in 1960. The 9-second commercials were so successful that more than 200 were eventually produced.
Photo by Del Ankers, courtesy of The Jim Henson Company. © The Muppets Studio, LLC.
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