Today is the birthday of magician and ventriloquist Colonel Stodare (1831-1866). There are several versions of what his real name might have been: Joseph Stopddart, Jack Inglis and Alfred English, with origins stretching from Liverpool to Scotland.
Little is known of his earlier years, but by 1865 he had published some books and pamphlets, and was sufficiently successful that he was booked in London’s Egyptian Hall, where he gave hundreds of performances. His most famous trick was The Sphinx Illusion, invented by Thomas Tobin, wherein the Colonel brought a small box to a table, opened a door at the front, and revealed a disembodied head which would roll its eyes and speak with absolute realism. (An effect parodied by the character “Jambi” on Peewee’s Playhouse). Other signature illusions included “The Stodare Egg” (which was hollow, allowing for the production of silks), and “The Indian Basket”. Unfortunately, just as he was becoming famous in 1866 he died of TB. His widow, brother, and others carried on with his act.
To find out more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc