The History of Mr. Bingle
Since 1948, a little white snow fairy named Mr. Bingle has been a magical part of the Holiday Season for children and adults in New Orleans and throughout the South.
Created by Mr. Emile Alline, a window decorator at the former Maison Blanche Department Store on Canal Street in New Orleans, Mr. Bingle came to life as a miniature snowman with an upside-down ice cream cone for a hat, holly-leaf wings on his back, a red ribbon and bells around his neck, red-striped mittens on his little hands, cherries for eyes and a licorice smile.
Mr. Alline also dreamed of presenting elaborate puppet shows with the doll, and for the task, he recruited Mr. Edwin H. “Oscar” Isentrout, an eccentric puppeteer who had been performing with his puppets at (of all places) a Bourbon Street burlesque club. With Isentrout providing movement and a squeaky voice for the character, legend has it that Mr. Bingle truly came to life, if only in the imaginations of the thousands of children who adored him.
Each year at Christmas time, Maison Blanche would erect a giant paper mache mannequin in front of the store, and Isentrout would perform four shows a day on the s tore’s third-floor stage. With the advent of television, Mr. Bingle began a daily 15- minute show that aired each weekday just before the evening news. He made frequent visits to Children’s Hospital to bring cheer to many sick or terminally ill children. For many, Mr. Bingle was their first TV friend, and he even had his own theme song:
Jingle jangle jingle,
Here comes Mr. Bingle,
With a message from Kris Kringle…
As the Maison Blanche chain spread, so, too, did Mr. Bingle’s popularity, at one time reaching as far as Tennessee and Florida. Mr. Bingle has even made an appearance at the White House as well as at the 1989 Citrus Bowl in Florida. Aside from the popular stuffed dolls, Mr. Bingle’s image could be found on everything from Christmas ornaments to coffee cups to clothing.
The Dillard’s Department Store chain bought Maison Blanche in 1998 and closed the Canal Street store shortly thereafter, but Mr. Bingle still lives on at the Dillard’s in Lakeside Shopping Center. Although his reach is limited to the Greater New Orleans area, he still makes the rounds to Dillard’s stores on the Westbank and across Lake Pontchartrain in Slidell and Covington.
Mr. Bingle’s creators, however, are no longer with us. Oscar Isentrout passed away in 1985 at the age of 61, and Emile Alline left us in 1998 at the age of 81. But these men, together, have left a gift that will endure forever in the hearts of all the children who have come to know Mr. Bingle.