Johann Georg Geisselbrecht

1762 – 1826

Geisselbrecht was one of the most famous puppeteers and "mechanics" (Mechanikus) of the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is not known under what circumstances this son of a master shoemaker took up the trade. He started out as a travelling puppeteer around 1790 and soon travelled throughout the German-speaking part of Europe, from the Rhine Valley to Denmark and Russia. The success of his enterprise led him to expand his company to the point where he also performed with actors. His repertoire for puppets includes nearly 75 pieces; there are also about fifteen pieces for shadows and five "transparencies", images animated by changes in lighting behind a screen. Geisselbrecht is known for his efforts to modernize the repertoire and his exchanges with professional writers such as the satirical writers August von Kotzebue (1761-1819) and Johannes Daniel Falk (1768-1826), or the romantic Clemens Brentano (1778-1842). Goethe himself frequented his theater and his work is said to have inspired the short story Pole Poppenspäler [Paul the Puppeteer] (1874) by Theodor Storm (1817-1888).