Madame Tussauds is a wax museum in London with branches in a number of major cities. It was founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud and was formerly known as "Madame Tussaud's", but the apostrophe is no longer used. Madame Tussauds is a major tourist attraction in London, displaying waxworks of historical and royal figures, film stars, sports stars and infamous murderers.
Marie Tussaud, was born as Anna Maria Grosholtz (1761–1850) in Strasbourg, France. Her mother worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius in Bern, Switzerland, who was a physician skilled in wax modelling. Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling.
Tussaud created her first wax figure, of Voltaire, in 1777. Other famous people she modelled at that time include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. During the French Revolution she modelled many prominent victims. In her memoirs she claims that she would search through corpses to find the decapitated heads of executed citizens, from which she would make death masks. Her death masks were held up as revolutionary flags and paraded through the streets of Paris. Following the doctor's death in 1794, she inherited his vast collection of wax models and spent the next 33 years travelling around Europe. Her marriage to François Tussaud in 1795 lent a new name to the show: Madame Tussaud's. In 1802, she went to London having accepted an invitation from Paul Philidor, a magic lantern and phantasmagoria pioneer, to exhibit her work alongside his show at the Lyceum Theatre, London. She did not fare particularly well financially, with Philidor taking half of her profits. As a result of the Franco-British war, she was unable to return to France, so she travelled throughout Great Britain and Ireland exhibiting her collection. From 1831 she took a series of short leases on the upper floor of "Baker Street Bazaar" (on the west side of Baker Street between Dorset Street and King Street), which later featured in the Druce-Portland case sequence of trials of 1898-1907. This became Tussaud's first permanent home in 1836.