July 14 – 17 was the Annual Vent Haven Convention held in Ft. Mitchell, KY, just south of Cincinnati,OH. Ventriloquists all over the world converge to this city annually to learn, socialize and view one of the largest, if not the largest, collection of Ventriloquist figures in the world.
I was not able to attend this year, although it was planned. Maybe next year. If I am to pursue a dream of revitalizing my comedy career this is a must-attend event. It will give me a chance to make some new contacts and meet some people face-to-face that I have only talked to online.
Following is an article, posted at the Vent Haven website.
In the early 1900’s, while on a business trip to New York, Northern Kentucky businessman W.S.Berger saw his first ventriloquist in a vaudeville show. It was Harry “The Great” Lester, and so taken was Mr. Berger with Lester’s performance, that the two struck up a friendship; thus W.S.Berger began a lifelong interest in the art of ventriloquism.
Eventually, W.S. befriended most of the professional vents working around the world, and for more than 60 years he corresponded with great enthusiasm.
By the 1930’s, he was actively collecting figures and memorabilia relating to the art, with his growing collection gaining a reputation in ventriloquist circles…so much so, that by the 1930’s many retiring vaudeville era vents began to give or will their figures to the place that came to be called The Vent Haven.
By the time he passed away in 1972 at the age of 93, Mr. Berger had amassed the largest and finest collection of ventriloquism-related ephemera anywhere. Ten years before he died, Mr. Berger set up a trust fund to ensure that future generations would be able to see his unique collection. An advisory board made up of prominent ventriloquist performers, figuremakers and researchers offers suggestions and input to the administrators of the trust.
Today, Vent Haven Museum houses what is still the largest known collection of ventriloquial material in the world. Besides the approximately 500 ventriloquist figures in the Museum, there are hundreds of volumes on ventriloquism in the Vent Haven library including books in 8 languages dating back to the eighteenth century. The library also contains ventriloquism courses, sheet music, scripts, pamphlets, vintage playbills and broadsides, records, tape recordings and even films – certainly the largest collection of printed material devoted to ventriloquism.
The Museum also contains countless novelty items and memorabilia: talking canes, hand-carved miniature figures, drinking glasses and other props used by ventriloquial performers…even a grandfather’s clock that turns into a dummy and a talking painting! There are cabinets of costumes, and a “rogues” gallery of over a thousand autographed pictures of vents from around the world.
Since 1975, Vent Haven Museum annually played host to the INTERNATIONAL VENTRILOQUIST CONVENTION, the largest and longest continuously running gathering of this type. In 2001, Vent Haven celebrated its 25th Annual Convention!
Under the direction of new curator Lisa Sweasy, there are some exciting new things afoot at Vent Haven. An extensive cataloguing project is underway, as well as future plans for an expanded display area and a new library. Like a visit to Mecca, every vent should see this fantastic collection at least once…there is none like it anywhere!!
Most importantly…Vent Haven is still going strong and still growing, with new donations and acquisitions continuing to come in every year!
VENT HAVEN MUSEUM INC.
33 West Maple Avenue
Fort Mitchell, KY 41011