This might sound that it was out of the blue, but someone on muppet central might have shed some light to these 2 characters!
"My grandfather, Joseph Campbell, had a television show called "Cowboy Joe" on WMAL in DC in the 50's. After several years the show became "Joe's Ranch". He then transitioned to NBC's Channel-4 for "Circle 4 Roundup", which ultimately became "Circle 4 Ranch" -- which is where director Bob Porter introduced my grandfather to Jim Henson, who was a UMD freshman at the time.
It was my grandfather Joe who designed both Longhorn and Shorthorn, and a third puppet -- Penelope -- to appear on his show. Jim Henson built the puppets. All three; Longhorn, Shorthorn, and Penelope were regulars on my grandfather's show. He even did all of their voices.
The reason my family feels these original Muppets are essentially never mentioned is that it opens up a very big can of worms. At the time these Muppets were created, Jim Henson signed a contract with my grandfather, granting Joe Campbell 51% ownership of the "Muppets known as 'Longhorn' and 'Shorthorn'" -- dated December 15, 1954. As my grandfather's show aired before Jim Henson's, I believe his would make Longhorn and Shorthorn the first official Muppets ever televised.
Jim Henson was not 18 at the time he signed the contract. It was deemed void on this technicality. We've never seen Joe mentioned by name in any Henson history, save for the spare "Jim Henson and some guy." None of this is to take away from Jim -- he was brilliant. My grandfather, however, did not see the recognition he deserved for his role in developing these first Muppets."
Henson's participation in Circle 4 is noted in several places, including Imagination Illustrated (even if we don't have a page for it yet). Here's a site with tons of info, here. It tells the same story. Now that itself wouldn't be proof, but it also has a picture of the character designs, with a notice below noting Campbell and Henson's roles. Now, it's not clear how old that "Muppet Theater" image is (there's a date for when they received it from Campbell's estate but nothing else).
But there's also a scan of the contract mentioned. So that is corroboration. The site also suggests that Campbell coined the "Muppets" word in verbal conversation, but there's definitely nothing to confirm that. As we know, there are so many stories and memories about things like that or Kermit's name, often by people who sincerely think they were the ones to do so, that it's best not to get into it, I think. A Google search shows that the new Brian Jay Jones biography will include at least some details on Circle 4 Ranch (but it's not fully searchable so I can't tell if Campbell is mentioned). I know Joe Hennes and others have advance copies and might be able to check.
Oh, and evidence that Joe Campbell did the voices, audio only, including mentions of the character names (and it's obviously not Jim Henson; I think there are other Joe Campbell sound samples somewhere, although not as puppets, if we needed to confirm). There's even some bloopers (he says Longhorn when he means Shorthorn, and other slight stumbles).
That's what we're doing right now, seeking corroboration. We're finding confirmation piece by piece, and I suspect we might be able to confirm all of it except the claim (not made by Campbell's grandson, but on the DC kidshow site) that he was the one who suggested the word Muppets. But we're still working on it, and since we even have a new source (Jim Henson: The Biography) coming out this week, it may take a couple of days.
Pretty much the only thing Henson has left from the Junior Morning Show is the Pierre puppet which has been on display in various exhibits. I'm not sure anyone there even knows what Longhorn and Shorthorn looked like. Not even Jane, since they didn't meet until the Fall of 1954, and it's not clear if those puppets stuck around. I'm still looking to verify the authenticity of that sketch. The claim about suggesting the term Muppet is almost impossible to prove or disprove. That's the kind of conversation that involved parties remember differently almost 60 years later. Whatever the case, I doubt either Henson or Disney (the current owner of the trademark) care to start digging in to that.
Scarecroe wrote: Pretty much the only thing Henson has left from the Junior Morning Show is the Pierre puppet which has been on display in various exhibits. I'm not sure anyone there even knows what Longhorn and Shorthorn looked like. Not even Jane, since they didn't meet until the Fall of 1954, and it's not clear if those puppets stuck around. I'm still looking to verify the authenticity of that sketch. The claim about suggesting the term Muppet is almost impossible to prove or disprove. That's the kind of conversation that involved parties remember differently almost 60 years later. Whatever the case, I doubt either Henson or Disney (the current owner of the trademark) care to start digging in to that.
Yay, it's so exciting to get more information on the super early days. I've got a pre-order for the Kindle version of the biography, so I should be reading it tomorrow morning. :)
Also -- Campbell's grandson sounds a bit too convinced of his family's importance in Henson's artistic career, given that all his grandfather did was ask a high school kid to make some puppets for his TV show. I think Campbell's real impact on Henson's life was to teach him to read a contract more carefully before he signs it.
Yes, I suppose you could look at it that way....that all Joe Campbell did was "ask some high school kid to make some puppets for his TV show." But you aren't his kid or grandchild.
But I am. His daughter, that is. And the "grandson" you refer to? That would be my daughter. The Muppet story is part of our family legacy. That may not be important to you. But if you're truly looking for the facts behind the mystery of Longhorn and Shorthorn, we have much of that information. My brothers and I played the acetate recordings of Longhorn, Shorthorn and Penelope over and over (I still have them). We knew who Jim Henson was before the world knew who Kermit was. He was dad's friend.
Aleal....as for the language "one dollar" in the contract? That would have been standard contractual language at the time. And while it's true JIm would have been under 21 at the time he signed it, he never disavowed the contract after he turned 21. While certainly not the most sophisticated of contracts, it is valid. The signature is authentic.
Dad might have been a tiny player in the grand Muppet picture, but what is very important is that Muppets did not exist before Jim Henson met my dad. Jim had puppets. Dad designed (and yes, named) the Muppets known as Longhorn, Shorthorn and Penelope. Jim built them from dad's design. They were the first Muppets as evidenced by the Contract and the labels on the acetate recordings. The dates on the labels show that (1954/1955) they predate the "official" Muppet timeline. So whether or not you deem it important, if nothing else....he certainly was a catalyst in the life of one young Jim Henson. And acknowledgment of this takes nothing away from the creative genius of Jim Henson.
Hi Sharen, thanks for stopping by! Sorry about the gender confusion, the information seems to have made its way to us in the style of an old game of "telephone".
I've been in touch with the curator of The Jim Henson Company Archives to verify, as a lot of this information is new to us. We try to be as accurate as possible, citing sources when we can, when presenting historical data here on the wiki.
The Archives doesn't appear to have much more about this exchange (the way in which your father and Jim used the term) than what your father wrote in his autobiography (which is the source cited for Brian Jay Jones' biography of Henson, out today). Jones even goes on to suggest an influence beyond the popular explanation for how the term was dreamed up.
The December 1954 contract is fantastic -- it's great to see stuff like that! I would also love to lay eyes on the acetate discs from November 10, 1954 that are labelled with stickers that say "Circle 4 Muppets" on them.
Jim's puppet Pierre the French Rat certainly pre-dates Longhorn and Shorthorn, but it's unclear if he was using the word Muppet before working with your father.
I'm kind of afraid to ask, but here goes nothing: Is there any surviving footage of the Circle 4 Ranch show with Joe Campbell, Longhorn, Shorthorn, & Penelope? I'd love to see what the show was like, just as people have been discovering what Jim Henson's "Sam & Friends" was like through the suviving footage that has been posted on YouTube so far.