Thursday, April 20, 2023

Penny Marshall --- Rug Hooker & Hooked Rug Collector

Penny Marshall


 Over the years, while researching the Rug Hooking Traditions - Book Series, I’ve come across many celebrities & famous people who have collected & owned hooked rugs. But it’s much less often that I find a collector who has actually hooked a rug. It’s wonderful to see that people in different walks of life appreciate our wonderful fiber art! This is a tribute to Penny Marshall --- Rug Hooker & Hooked Rug Collector.

While I’m sure you are familiar with Penny Marshall, I thought I would share her story from the beginning & then divvy out a few tidbits that you might not know - before we get to her hooked rugs.

Carole Penny Marshall was born in the Bronx, New York to Tony & Marjorie Marshall (Tony changed his last name from Masciarelli to Marshall, sometime between 1930-34).

 How her names were chosen…. Carole was for her mother’s favorite actress – Carole Lombard. Penny was for all the pennies her siblings saved all summer to get a pony & they were disappointed when her mother brought home a baby sister instead of a pony.

This was Penny’s Birth Announcement --- a New Yorker–style cartoon of a man sitting on a couch in the hospital waiting room looking shocked as a nurse peeks around the door at a newborn baby. The baby is saying, “What did’ya expect – Hedy Lamarr?” Drawn by Penny’s Dad. 

The couple had 3 children Garry, Ronny & Penny, who grew up on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx – on the same block that spawned Neil Simon, Calvin Klein, & Ralph Lauren.

1951 – Garry, Mother Marjorie, Ronny & Penny, in front of their Bronx apartment building – 3235 Grand Concourse, a 6-story building (seen above). They lived on the 1st floor because Marjorie was scared of fires.

Father Tony was a Director of manufacturing films/commercials – one of his clients was the American Medical Association.

Mother Marjorie was the owner, teacher, & chief choreographer of the Marjorie Marshall Dance School. She had 360 students, who she taught tap, ballet, jazz, & acrobatics. Her dance school was in the basement of their apartment building & she called it the ballroom. Penny was one of her students.

The Marjorie Marshall Dancers put on many performances around the Bronx & New York. In 1952, Marjorie met June Taylor, choreographer for the June Taylor Dancers on The Jackie Gleason Show. She pitched a “Junior Rockettes” performance for the show & it was a hit - they even got asked back the next year. This led to other TV appearances like the Connie Frances & Pat Boone shows.

Brother Garry Marshall left the Bronx, went off to college & then to Hollywood. He became a big Filmmaker with TV shows like: The Lucy Show, Dick Van Dyke Show, The Odd Couple & Happy Days, plus movies like: Overboard, Beaches & Pretty Woman. Ultimately, he would lure his whole family out to Hollywood & into his successful TV shows & movies.

Sister Ronny (Marshall) Hallin would become an actress & TV Producer too, most known for work like Happy Days and Mork & Mindy.

Penny - Actress

Penny got her 1st acting break with a recurring role on The Odd Couple as Oscar Madison’s whiny secretary, Myrna Turner.

But we know her best in another role. Can you hear that catchy theme song that starts every episode of.…. Laverne & Shirley?

In 1976, Laverne & Shirley debuted in the top slot of the Nielsen ratings, pulling in some of the biggest numbers TV had seen in a decade. The Happy Days spin-off was an immediate smash, spawning merchandise, cartoons & music albums. For 8 seasons, the roommates & Shotz Brewery coworkers got into uproarious, I Love Lucy–like high jinks in Wisconsin (&, eventually, in California).

The show's success was due to Penny Marshall & Cindy Williams, who brought personal touches to their title characters. As zany as the show could get, these felt like real people. They were believable. Penny starring roll lasted 8 years.

Trivia:  Schlemiel! Schlimazel! --- comes from the Marshall's childhood.

The duo's hopscotch mantra was from Penny’s youth. Garry's the one who told Penny, “Teach Cindy that little ditty you used to do on the way to school. We'll shoot that.'" Penny taught Cindy 'Schlemiel! Schlimazel!' Cindy had no idea what it meant…. When Penny & her school chums would walk to school, they'd link arms & count off their steps, '1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated!' Then they'd run & stop & start counting again. Garry remembered that."

Penny - Director

It wasn’t long before Penny started directing episodes of Laverne & Shirley.

After Laverne & Shirley, she focused on directing & producing. Penny was the 1st woman to become an A-list director -- to make a film that grossed over $100,000,000 – with the movie BIG starring Tom Hanks.

Penny was a Director & Producer of films, TV shows & a documentary. Here’s a  sampling of her films: Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Awakening, Riding in Cars with Boys, The Preacher’s Wife, Cinderella Man, Renaissance Man, & A League of Their Own, - which included her friends Tom Hanks & Rosie O’Donnell, as well as her daughter Tracy Reiner who played Betty "Spaghetti" Horn. Tom’s iconic line in the movie is… “there’s no crying in baseball” Penny was the 1st female director with 2 movies that grossed over $100,000,000, with A League of Their Own.

Penny - Collector

Besides her career, Penny had a passion for collecting & she spent decades doing it!

Tracy Reiner & Penny Marshall

Recently, I had the lovely pleasure of chatting with Tracy Reiner, Penny’s daughter. Tracy is gifted & talented in her own right – she has appeared in about 30 films and worked in film production. She is handling her mother’s collections. Tracy told me that Penny’s best friend Carrie Fisher taught her mother to be a collector. Together Penny & Carrie spent 30 years shopping & collecting early Americana.


 Penny Marshall & Carrie Fisher

Tracy had this to say… “My mom was often attracted to people & things that went unacknowledged. She wanted others to remember each artist’s era & work, & championed each collection into some recognition.”

Penny had more than 63 categories of art, memorabilia & collectibles - reflecting her unique interests, tastes & lifestyle. Vintage signage, rare American ceramics, outsider art, Stickley & other Arts & Crafts furniture, ships/boats, quilts, Beacon blankets, ribbon ladies, memorial art, dishes, Bakelite, lighting, Tramp Art, military memorabilia, music, jewelry, folk art, advertising, coin, Converse tennis shoes, snow globes, paintings, & much more. Here are a couple examples of pieces from Penny’s collections.

 Limbert Studios hammered copper & slag glass shade with hammered copper base, the shade with sailing ships & windmills.

Large frontier map of the United States, circa 1950-75

Penny loved sports! At one time, Penny had the largest private sports memorabilia collection. Penny dedicated more than 2,000 square feet of her home to just this collection. A passionate sports fan, dating back to her Bronx childhood, she loved collecting baseball, basketball, boxing, & football memorabilia. 

After her death, the Penny Marshall Trust donated hundreds of artifacts to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, MA, including game jerseys & sneakers, autographed basketballs, rare photos, unique & personal souvenirs. She also donated much of her baseball collection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Click here to watch a 2011 video of Penny giving Ron Artest a tour of her sports collection in her home.  

Hooked Rugs – Collected by Penny

So, now, let’s talk about the hooked rugs Penny collected.

In a book titled Is that a Gun in Your Pocket?: Women’s Experience of Power in Hollywood, there is a section on Penny Marshall & it says: “Her home is a cornucopia of American kitsch, a hymn to abundance. It is the lair of an obsessive collector. There’s not one hooked rug hanging on the wall but MORE THAN A DOZEN.”        

In another book by actress Angela Huston titled Watch Me: A Memoir Angela says this about Penny… ”Penny’s collection of lamps, hooked rugs, sports memorabilia, & antiques were extensive. The parties were always brimming with interest; everyone went – artists, musicians, directors, writers, actors, moguls.” 

Which means that every one of those celebrities & famous people had a chance to see Penny’s hooked rugs. And since Penny was passionate about her collections, I bet she talked about them too. So, there are a lot of people in Hollywood that know about hooked rugs – because of Penny Marshall.

In a 1976 Good Housekeeping Magazine article there are more clues to Penny’s rug hooking proclivities… “Their home is a small, one-story, yellow clapboard house with only two bedrooms…. There is a formal dining room – formal in the sense that it boasts a lovely Early American table & four chairs – but since the Reiner’s rarely eat there, preferring to eat off trays in an equally small study, the space it occupies is useless. The living room, with an oversized brick fireplace, is cock-full of colonial furniture, nine exquisite needlepoint pillows made by Penny, & a hooked rug, also by Penny. “She made that rug during one of her rare periods of domesticity,” said Rob. The rug in question rests on a bare floor &, explained Penny, “anyone unfortunate enough to step on it either slides around or falls down. It’s really a hazard, but it’s my rug & it’s gonna stay there.” While Rob says the making of the rug was a rare moment of domesticity, actually Penny enjoyed & created quite a bit of fiber art, especially needlepoint. (Unfortunately, there were no photos of Penny’s needlepoint pillows or hooked rug with that article. Very disappointing!)

Here Rob is host & Penny appeared in the sketch of one of the earlies Saturday Night Live (SNL) shows in October 1975.

Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca.

Penny grew up across the street from Rob Reiner & his family in the Bronx, but they never met there, because the Grand Concourse was a busy street & they were too young to cross it. However, Penny saw his father, Carl Reiner, in a tiny grocery store in their building & got his autograph. At that time, Carl was one of the stars on Your Show of Shows – staring Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca. Carl was one of the most famous people in the neighborhood.  

My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir – a wonderful book for more info about Penny’s life.

Penny – Rug Hooker

Yes, Penny enjoyed making fiber art & mentions it in her own book: My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir. In the early 1970s, Penny was going to husband Rob Reiner’s dress rehearsals & tapings for his hit TV show All in The Family, During that time she did needle point & she even hooked a rug!   

All in the Family Cast - Sally Struthers, Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton & Rob Reiner.

According to Tracy Reiner, she’s not sure how many hooked rugs Penny hooked, but probably only 1 or a few. Tracy remembers a square rug with light green & light rose flowers – unfortunately there are no photos of this rug or any other rugs Penny hooked.

 Tracy said that she herself did some fiber art years ago, both needlepoint & knitting. So a 2nd generation carrying on the legacy & love of fiber art.

Hooked Rugs – Formerly in Penny Marshall’s Personal Collection

 Tracy has said that “by having all of these collections of art & antiques in their home, Penny created a place for discussion.” --- Isn’t that what art is all about?

 In our conversation, Tracy said that Penny had HUNDREDS of hooked rugs in her collection, most of which were collected in the 1980s & 1990s. Here are just a few of the hooked rugs that were once in Penny Marshall’s personal collection.


Boy Scouts Hooked Rug - Depicting a troop leader waving off two sailboats. Provenance: gallery label Susan Parrish, New York. 20 x 36 inches. Penny liked Americana, and was a self-proclaimed tomboy. So, the Boy Scouts check both boxes.

 Susan Parrish - specialized in antique quilts & textiles, 19th century American country furniture, folk art, including paintings, trade signs, carvings, weathervanes, pottery & other items. She had a shop in the West Village of NYC for 20 years.

Carriage House Scene Hooked Rug - Primitive American Hooked Rug on burlap Carriage House Scene, 17” by 27”

Clown with Drum & Toys - Mid-20th century, composed of wool & cotton jersey segments, mounted on a wood frame, 18” x 32”. 

I’m just guessing here, but since Penny was a comedic actress, I’m thinking the clown aspect is what drew her to purchase this rug.

Country Estate - American primitive folk art hooked rug, 23" x 38". The edging of this rug has a braided edge in black. Tracy mentioned in our chat that her Mom had a number of pictorial hooked rugs - as you can see in the next few that follow.

Country House - There is little info on this piece. The size is ranging from 8 1/2 x 12 inches to 12 x 15 inches.

Grenfell Reindeer & Komatik Hooked Rug - Circa 1920 hooked rug, 26 x 40 inches. Komatik is a sled which is typically drawn by dogs, used by people of Labrador.

House with Flowers - This photo is of the back of the rug, looking through the wood frame.

House with X - Draw your attention to the rug with the tan house, we only have a partial view of that rug, as there is a colorful runner rug of houses laying on top of it. So, look to the left & right of the colorful runner.

Lamb Hooked Rug - 1930's Lamb folk art hooked rug, 23 1/2" x 36 1/2". It appears there are 4 leaves in the corners of the border.


MAGIC & "BIRD" HOOKED MATS - Late 20th century, depicting dogs, 22 x 30 inches. With Penny’s love of Basketball, I’m thinking she picked this rug because it reminded her of Magic Johnson & Larry Birdrivals on the court, friends in life.


Narrow Rug with Houses - Provenance: with label: Gallery of Graphic Arts, LTD. Size unclear - ranging from 27 x 12 1/2 to 19 1/2 x 29 inches.

Pair of American Hooked Rugs - These 2 panels are framed, each 31 1/2 x 21 inches, The top panel has silhouettes of Brooke & Faith, as well as the name Kim & 1938. The bottom one has a reference to Paul Paray a French conductor/organist/composer who came to Detroit in 1951 to work with the Detroit Symphony. At the bottom of that panel is a church with the initials EGM & HDH & the year 1936. 

Pastoral Hooked Rug - Circa 20th Century depicting a farm house with a horse pasture & various animals grazing. A lovely & serene scene. This is a very large rug: 8ft 9in x 11ft 8in.

Scottie Dogs Hooked Rug -1930s Scottish Terrier folk art hooked rug, professionally mounted on a board for display. The rug measures 31" x 20".

Stag Hooked Rug - American Stag hooked rug, 44” x 26”.


Swiss Houses - These 2 pieces are actually sewn works, not hooked rugs. But I thought they were charming, so I included them, so you could see the diversity of Penny's collection. There was little description & they were included with other pieces, so the sizes were something ranging from 8 1/2 x 12 inches to 12 x 15 inches.

Terrier Hooked Rug - Another Scottish Terrier, circa 20th Century, mounted on board 25 inches diameter.

Penny & Tracy

Hooked Rugs – in the Family Collection

 Here are some of the hooked rugs that Tracy has kept from her Mom’s collection, and was kind enough to send me photos.

Shore Rug – I love this row boat at the shore of a lake or pond. The colors are soft and serene. It looks like a place you would like to visit. A braided chenile chairpaid is in the foreground.

House Rug – Charming hooked rug of a small cabin or cottage with a gate, located in a pine forest.

Musical Rug – Can you read musical notes? Name that tune.

Floral Rug – The floral motifs create an overall geometric look to this rug.

Ross or Frost Style Cats - Tracy says that her Mom liked cats & had a number of hooked rugs with cat motifs. This one is more in the style of an Ebenezer Ross (OH) or Edward Sands Frost (ME) pattern.

Primitive Chickens – These chickens are indeed primitive and the way that the background is hooked is also wonderfully primitive. Look at how the maker got the look of a Fall tree. Quite creative!

Cat Walking the Keyboard – Tracy says that her Mom liked cats & had a number of hooked rugs with cat motifs, here is another.

Runner – More than likely, this rug was designed for a staircase, with motifs (church, dog & old car) that were important to the rug hooker.

Floral Rug – This rug has more of an art deco flare.

Penny Rug – It only seems appropriate that Penny would have a Penny rug. And this is a beautiful example, quite large, and the colors are wonderful, along with the hexagon shape. The circles of wool are quite nicely layered, sewn & color coordinated. A final touch of an internal red hexagon to match the overall shape.


Collectors – Their Essential Role

While everyone is familiar with museums & the important role they play in collecting & preserving art, antiques & objects that are important in our culture. We sometimes overlook the essential role that COLLECTORS play. People like Doris Duke, Peggy Guggenheim, Electra Havemeyer Webb, Isabella Steward Gardner, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney & so many others – started out as collectors. Their “collecting” swayed how we viewed European & American art, antiques, furniture, etc. That intern swayed how we decorated & furnished our homes - trends & the market.

Collectors are temporary custodians of these objects, caretakers if you will. They then pass on these objects to the next collector or to a museum. As there are not enough museums to hold all these wonderful items, we rely on collectors to take careful care of them. We owe collectors a debt of gratitude.


 In 2009, Penny was diagnosed with lung cancer & a brain tumor. After brain surgery & radiation, she started radiation & chemotherapy for her lung cancer. She went on to live 9 more years. She passed away in 2018.

 According to her daughter, much of Penny’s collections were discussed & sorted before her passing. Many items were donated to museums & institutions, some were sent to auction, & others were donated & gifted.

 Thank you, Penny Marshall, for ALL your contributions!


 Penny had an excellent sense of humor, so I think she would have appreciated this humorous excerpt & hope you do too….

Excerpt from By Hook Or Crook, by Stella Hay Rex, published in 1951

What a wonderful sense of humor Stella had!

Some wives drink, some have affinities, & some are addicted to cards. But my wife will have none of these. Hers is a vice far greater than all three.

She hooks rugs!

Not that rug hooking in itself is bad. It’s the side alleys & pitfalls it leads one into; it’s the cumulative effect of all these on family life.

Once a woman embarks on this precarious craft, home, husband & children are neglected. There is no such thing as regularity & routine anymore. Hooking transcends all else.

The hooker constantly violates the 10th commandment by coveting her neighbor’s coat, her neighbor’s dress, & even the washing on her neighbor’s line; then breaks the 8th by stealing – her husband’s pants.

Hookworm is indeed a strange malady, & my wife suffers from it in its most virulent form. I suppose I should pity, rather than censure, for such a condition is really a disease, somewhat understandable now in the light of psychosomatic medicine.

After the period of incubation has passed, the patient gathers about her all the material she has begged, salvaged & stolen, sits down to stenciled burlap stretched on a wooden frame, & with small steel hook in hand, prepares to enjoy an acute attach of hookworm.

There is no preventive vaccine or curative specific. The disease follows a definite pattern & must run its course.

Hookworm is such an insidious thing that an apparently mild attack can become chronic without the realization of the person infected, or her more affected family.

Experience has taught me that the best attitude for those who must live with the patient, is one of amused tolerance.


 I hope you enjoyed this Tribute.

Take time to create Fiber Art today!