This section of the Hyattsville Wire is dedicated to Hyattsville native Jim Henson, puppeteer and creator of “The Muppets.” Henson lived in University Park with his family, went to high school in Hyattsville and attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he created “Sam and Friends.”
James Maury “Jim” Henson was born in Leland, Miss., in 1936. His father, Paul, an agronomist with the Department of Agriculture, was transferred from Mississippi to the Washington, D.C., area in the late 1940s and Henson’s family relocated to University Park when he was in the fifth grade.
Henson attended Northwestern High School at 7000 Adelphi Road in Hyattsville, graduating in 1954. During his senior year, he started working at WTOP-TV where he created a puppet show for children called “The Junior Morning Show,” which only ran for a brief time.
The below is taken from an excerpt in Jim Henson’s Designs and Doodles:
One afternoon in his senior year of high school, two production assistants from local station WTOP visited [Henson’s] high school puppetry club. The station manager had sent them to find puppeteers for a Saturday morning children’s program, called The Junior Morning Show. Jim jumped at the opportunity… [The show] only aired for three weeks, but out of the experience Jim got a favorable mention in a local newspaper and a chance to work in front of a television camera.
After high school, Henson enrolled at the University of Maryland and continued to live at home with his parents in University Park. In 1955, during his freshman year, “Sam and Friends” first aired on WRC‑TV in Washington, D.C. That same year he met his assistant and future wife Jane Nebel.
Henson’s original puppet workshop and headquarters for the Muppets, Inc., formed in 1958, was located in his parent’s home in University Park.
In 2002, the Northwestern High School in Hyattsville dedicated The Jim Henson School of Arts, Media & Communications as an “art themed school that aims to nurture artistic development while encouraging rigor and relevance in all subjects.”
There are two photos we found online that give a glimpse into the life of Henson in the Hyattsville area: a photo of him with his family on the stoops of their home and a photo of him and “Sam” in his white Thunderbird, a car he bought from the initial money he earned from “Sam and Friends.”
This section of the site is an ongoing project devoted to capturing the life of Henson while he lived in the Hyattsville area, so be sure to check back for more information. If you have any tips about his time here, please email email@example.com.