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Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks

Also known as Tussaud and Son’s Exhibition and Promenade/Madame Tussauds


It began in 1794 as a travelling exhibition of wax models of famous and notorious people run by Anna Maria Grosholtz

Grosholtz, more famously known as Madame Tussaud after her marriage in 1795 to François Tussaud, had learned to model in wax from doctor Philippe Curtius, whose collection of figures she had inherited when he died in 1794

It became known as Madame Tussaud’s exhibition in 1795, following her marriage

By 1834 her tours of Europe had brought her to London, where the show was advertised as “Tussaud and Son’s Exhibition and Promenade, unequalled in Europe, consisting of public characters, instructive to youth and interesting to all” (The Times, 17 January 1834)

It was quickly satirised by Punch as being entirely in tune with the trends of its time:

“Know all Men, That MADAME TUSSAUD has come out as a great public teacher. She has converted her Exhibition in Baker Street into an Educational Institution, and has resolved herself and Sons into a Society for the Diffusion of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge...The middle classes owe MADAME TUSSAUD a large debt of gratitude, which, it is to be hoped, they will liquidate by many shilling-instalments; and sixpenny ditto in the case of children under eight years of age. Her Court dresses will, at any rate, amuse them; Court fashions being singularly absurd....If we were in the place of MADAME TUSSAUD, we would superadd to our collection some twice twenty-five, or more, shabby old working dresses, of surpassing uncouthness, intended to amuse and instruct the superior classes, by giving them an idea of laborious indigence”
(Punch, vol. X, 1846)

Its arrival was announced in The Times of 10 January 1834, and subsequent advertisements in The Times gave its opening hours as from 11 until 4, and from 7 until 10

Admission was a shilling for the first room and a further sixpence for the second; the new figures of grave robbers Burke and Hare were the main attraction, but there were also figures of royalty, Shakespeare, and Swedenborg

Having moved into the premises around 1833, it did not remain long: The Times commented in July 1834 that “this very entertaining exhibition, which originally was opened at the Bazaar in Gray’s-Inn-lane, the ‘ultima Thule’ of civilized London, is now removed to the Lowther Rooms in King-William-street, a situation more accessible to visitors”

However, the company was still advertising some exhibits at the London Bazaar location in The Times at the end of December 1834

By May 1835 it had completely removed to the Bazaar in Baker Street, which is often described as its first permanent home

It is one of London’s most phenomenally successful tourist attractions

What was reforming about it?

It was an opportunistic tourist attraction founded by necessity out of its founder’s poverty and her talents for was modelling, honed during the French Revolution on death masks of the executed

Where in Bloomsbury

The first permanent London home of the touring waxworks show was the Assembly Room of the former Royal London Bazaar, between Derby Street and Gray’s Inn Road

It moved to Baker Street in 1835 and has remained there ever since, also opening more locations across Europe, the USA, and Asia

Website of current institution

www.madame-tussauds.com (opens in new window)

Books about it

Richard D. Altick, The Shows of London (1978)

Pauline Chapman, Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors: Two Hundred Years of Crime (1984)

Pamela Pilbeam, Madame Tussaud and the History of Waxworks (2003)


None found

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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