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A Mystery (among many!) at the Haven

Thanks today to Dave Dixon for adopting (and 'readopting') this little dummy named, "Marshall boy". This figure has an unclear history and acquisition story. It was definitely made by iconic figuremaker Frank Marshall of Chicago, Illinois, but it's been repainted by someone else. The wig was placed at some point after the dummy joined the collection.

Typically, Mr. Berger had substantial correspondence with donors and sellers prior to acquiring a dummy. For this piece, though, there is no correspondence at all. Just these two identification cards that Mr. Berger wrote.

If you read the cards, you'll see that he wrote, "from Marshall...maker of flowers; he bought it from an estate". This reference is to Horace Marshall of Akron, Ohio. According to Magicpedia:

Horace Marshall (1902-1976), began his career in magic working the Chautauqua Circuit in 1923 with partner John Frye, using many of his own creations. In 1926, Marshall decided to devote full-time to the creation, manufacture and sales of magical apparatus and started H. Marshall and Company, making all items by hand. Marshall was a prop builder known for his Feather Flower bouquets built for Harry Blackstone. Horace purchased the business of Rudolph S. Schlosser who built Blackstone's "Light Bulbs Thru a Girl" and Houdini's "Flight of Time". He was an avid collector of old and rare books on the magic and in 1940 the Akron Magic Club was designated, "The Horace Marshall Ring No. 161", of the I.B.M.

The lack of documentation about the acquisition of the dummy led to some interpretation errors in subsequent identification cards. Note the jump in assertion in the next two cards produced.

Since Dave adopted this dummy, I needed to research him for this post. That's how I found this error. When I read the 'maker of flowers' reference, I knew I needed help and asked ventriloquism historian and collector Tom Ladshaw for his expertise. He told me about Horace Marshall.

Although I still can't say a date or price, the more likely story here is that Horace bought the dummy from an estate sale and gave/sold it to Mr. Berger at (due to the high figure number) some point in the 1960's. This may still be in error, but it seems more reasonable. Perhaps another curator years from now will find evidence that will produce a more reliable narrative.

My sincere thanks today to Tom for his unending willingness to help with the historical accuracy of the records here at Vent Haven. For 47 years, Tom has read, learned, researched, and documented the history of ventriloquism. More importantly, he has been willing to share his vast knowledge and expertise with anyone who asked. He's an historian's historian, insistent on multiple independent sources of information. He shuns hand-me-down tales and dismisses assertions if they have no evidence. If he doesn't know an answer, he says so. Vent Haven is so fortunate to have his support as a member of the Board of Directors. If you want the history of your dummies to be accurate, ask Tom Ladshaw for help.

Thanks again, Dave, for adopting this little guy.

You've helped move the museum forward!

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