Ahh...the memories...

I don't know if my interest in magic as a kid would have continued without Johnson Smith Company, as they were my primary supplier during the '40s and early '50s.  Growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, there was no local source for magic supplies.  The town library had books which contained some instructions I used to make many of my own tricks, but for anything ready made, Johnson Smith Co was my constant potential source and the mailbox alongside the highway was our connection.  I would peruse each issue of their catalogs until I practically had them memorized. 

So when I went through the pages of this book, The Art of Ventriloquism, How To Throw Your Voice, and read the name, Johnson Smith Company on the Cover, it stirs many fond memories.  Yes, I even at one point ordered one of their "Ventrilos", but had little success and soon tossed in my "junk drawer".  While the small mouth piece came with some simple ventriloquist instructions, they were nothing as complete as this book from the 1960s.  It appears to be authored by George W. Callahan and is amazingly thorough in it's teaching about ventriloquism, explaining what ventriloquism is, where it came from, how and why it works, how to do it, and more.  While there is a chapter on ventriloquist figures and dummies, I suspect this is more for the benefit of the publisher who's ad for  ventriloquist dummies makes up the back cover.  Callahan's writing places more emphasis on the distant voice and its usage.  He never describes how to speak without moving one's lips while performing with a dummy.  A very brief chapter seven does explain how the ventriloquist should use the "Ventrilo".  (I read now that it should be stored in a glass of water when not in us...maybe that was my error! :-)

While Edgar Bergen and Charlie's picture is on the front cover, and Charlie McCarthy dolls are offered for sale on the back cover (for $14.95) there is no mention of this famous pair on the book's inside pages.  I'm not sure how effective this book was in producing performing ventriloquists but it is another piece of the art's history and a fascinating read.  For sale now on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290640886646


  1. Clinton I loved Johnson Smith Company. I miss getting the magazines like I used to back in the 60's and early 70's. Kids of today will never know of the novelty of seeing a magic trick described in a book and ordering it just from the description. Sometimes it's a home run other times a major flop!

  2. Anonymous12/05/2011

    Sounds like, just as i did, you ordered the "x-ray specs" too Mr. Robison! LOL!

  3. Yes, indeed - I DID order those x-ray specs!