I have been acquainted with "Bunny Bill" for many years. Bunny Bill was devised by Bob Neale (the Revd. Robert Neale, a minister of a Reformed Church of New York), who at that time worked in the Belle Vue Hospital in New York. This is one bill fold that I overlooked when I compiled my article on Money folding. A dollar bill (or any other currency note) is folded so that it presents the semblance of a top hat. This is held in the hand of the folder, facing the audience, when suddenly, a rabbit pops up from the hat as if by magic.
The model was first issued in 1964 by Magic Inc. of Chicago at a price of one dollar. Magic Inc. is a company founded by Jay Marshall, who, while he has never obtained a reputation as a great paperfolder, has always been a very good friend of paperfolders. Chicago has always been a great centre for magic and to a lesser extent for paperfolding. Sam Randlett lives near Chicago and Philip Shen was a student there before returning to Hong Kong.
My enquirer was under the impression that Bunny Bill was included in one of Robert Harbin's books, but so far as I can see, this is not true. I have searched through Robert Harbin's books to make sure. I, myself, was under the impression that there was a short reference to Bunny Bill in one of the copies of "The Origamian", the magazine of the Origami Center, but I have searched all the issues around 1964 and all I can find is the inclusion of Bunny Bill in a list of books which were available from the Origami Center at the end of 1964. I myself bought my copy from the Origami Center about that time. It is printed with pages of text and diagrams on American letter-sized paper, accompanied by ten mock dollar bills and sold in an envelope printed with the name and an illustration of the completed Bunny Bill. The instructions are stated to be edited by Samuel Randlett and illustrated by his first wife, Jean Randlett, who also illustrated Sam's own books, "The Art of Origami" and the Best of Origami". Sadly Jean died from cancer not long afterwards and Sam has written very little since then.
Like so many of the early folders, Bob Neale was a magician before he became a paperfolder. His interest was first aroused when he came across a folded paper barge by Gershon Legman in the magician's magazine "Phoenix", which had appeared under the heading. "Lingam and Yoni" 1952. When Bob read the article is not known, but it could have been some time after publication. Seeing the interest the article aroused in Bob inspired his wife to buy him a copy of "Paper Magic" by Robert Harbin. This book was first published in 1956 and it is likely that Bob received his copy soon after this. At the time he was working at Belle Vue Hospital in New York. One of the people employed in the occupational therapy department of the hospital was Frieda Lourie who had formed a close friendship with Lillian Oppenheimer, through a mutual interest in paperfolding. Bob's acquaintance with Frieda helped to encourage his own interest in paperfolding. and he quickly began to link magic and paperfolding together.
Bob's Profile in the Origamian, vol. 8, issue 3 suggests that Bob's interest in paperfolding started in 1959 but this is clearly incorrect. The Profile was written by Alice Gray who did not become acquainted with Lillian until some years after the Origami Center was founded and she did not write it until 1968, without any personal knowledge of the events. Bob was already involved in paperfolding before the formation of the Origami Center in October, 1958 and he is named as an Honorary Member in the first issue of the Origamian dated November, 1958.
I have met Robert (Bob) Neale twice. He came to a very early meeting of the British Origami Society in about 1968 and then about ten years ago, he came again to a convention held at Colchester in Essex. He is a charming man, but he admits he is incapable of setting anything down on paper, whether letters or books, so his publications have been very few in number. Bob's origami creations have always been very ingenious and have often involved an element of magic. He has made great use of colour changes and he was one of the first people to experiment with modular folding, long before it became fashionable in the 1970s after the invention of the Sonobe Module. Only a few of Bob's origami creations have been published, but some of them can be found scattered among origami books. I remember two models he showed us at his first visit to London in the 1960s, which he named "The Sheep and the Goats" and the "Harlequin Mask". Both impressed my by their ingenuity but I am still waiting for them to be published.
Tom Hull later came to Bob's aid and helped him to produce a book of his folds with the title of "Origami Plain and Simple". It was a start, but there remain many other folds by Bob Neale waiting to be published, including those I remember from that early meeting of members of the British Origami Society. Let's hope that other books of folds by him will follow. I have a later edition of Bunny Bill, although I don't know when or where I got it. It still comes with ten mock dollar bills, but, curiously, Robert Neale's name doesn't appear anywhere, either on the instructions or on the cover; nor do the names of Sam and Jean Randlett. Bunny Bill is still available from Magic Inc. but is now priced at five dollars. Write to Magic Inc., 5082, N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625 USA . Or you can visit their web site at Bunny Bill is still listed at five dollars plus postage.
Robert Neale also published another paper trick named "Bunny One Cut". Although they are not named, the instructions are in the style of Sam and Jean Randlett. They consist of only three pages. Again, a Bunny emerging from a top hat is produced, but it involves a single cut with scissors and is not an action model. I regret that I do not know the date of this model. At the time it cost two dollars.
Robert Neale was one of the group of folders who made up the Golden Age of American folding following the formation of the Origami Center. It is very much to be hoped that his creations will be published and preserved for future generations of folders.
7th February, 2004Back to the index