French family of travelling performers and puppeteers. The history of the Delemarre family spans over two generations covering turbulent times that lasted from the July Monarchy to the Third Republic. Crippled at birth in one arm, Pierre Louis Joseph, called Prosper Delemarre (Valenciennes, 1810 – Givors, 1881), had to learn to do everything with his feet. He started performing at a very young age at the Comte D’Angers theatre where his father – a retired sergeant major from the Revolution – played the cornet plunger. As an adult he travelled through central France in a cart presenting his “solo” entitled Pied-d’Oeuvre (Foot-Work), adding puppet sketches to his performances. Starting from 1858, he became exclusively a puppeteer and in spite of his infirmity worked alone writing plays, creating rod marionettes and painting cloth backdrops. Crisscrossing the centre of France in a covered wagon, he usually played in inn-yards, and little by little developed a repertoire mostly focused on cloak and dagger stories.

A few years before his death the family business was taken over by his sons Jules (1854-1930) and Henri (1858-1938) who, in 1878, founded the Théâtre Delemarre Frères. The two successors added a new form to their practice by the use of a detachable theatre, invented by Jules Delemarre, facilitating road shows. They also abandoned rod marionettes for extremely complex string puppets – some able to produce realistic effects. From 1883 onward, the Delemarre Brothers performed pre-show live acts, thus gradually reducing the part reserved for puppets. A few years later, in 1890, they abandoned puppets altogether and created a troupe of travelling actors.

(See France, Itinerant Troupes, Travelling Puppeteers.)