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Vent Haven Museum

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William S. Berger Biography

Vent Haven Museum was founded by Cincinnati native William Shakespeare Berger, known to his friends as "W.S."  In 1894, when he was 16, W.S. began working in the mailroom of the Cambridge Tile Company in Cincinnati and in 1947, he retired as President of the company.  

While on a business trip to New York in 1910, W.S. purchased his first ventriloquist figure, Tommy Baloney, and his fabulous collection was begun.  Although originally contained in his home, the collection quickly outgrew its quarters and W.S. renovated his garage and even built a second building to house the figures.

From the late 1940's until 1960, W.S. was the President of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists.  His leadership helped the organization grow from about 300 members to over 1000.  He also published a monthly magazine called The Oracle which kept the ventriloquists abreast of current events in the vent community.  Mr. Berger also maintained extensive personal correspondence with ventriloquists around the world.

W.S. outlived his wife, son and grandson and had no other heirs.  Fearing his collection would be divided and dispersed, he sought advice from his attorney who helped him set up a charitable foundation for his assets, property and collection. 

Vent Haven is the only museum of its kind in the world.  It houses over 700 figures, thousands of photographs and playbills, and a library of books, some of which date back to the 1700's.  In 1973, a public opening and dedication of a third building was held.  Edgar Bergen and Jimmy Nelson were among the performers.

Today, between 900 and 1200 people visit Vent Haven each year.  The Museum also hosts an annual international ConVENTion for over 400 ventriloquists and as a result of the foresightedness of W.S. Berger, Vent Haven is a permanent institution, open to the public and devoted to the art of ventriloquism.

 

 

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