The Great Coram: Innovative Ventriloquist

Pictured above are The Great Coram (1883-1937) and his partner Jerry Fisher. Born Thomas Whitaker, he debuted in music hall with his ventriloquism act in 1905, (he also appeared in  American vaudeville). Coram was an innovator in the field; inventing several techniques that have since been widely emulated. He employed pneumatic machines on occasion and was the first to use electromagnetic devices to animate his figures. “Jerry” could cry, wink, spit, smoke, blink, and even walk. With these techniques, Coram became the biggest vent star of his time. Circa 1920, he wrote the popular book How to Become a Ventriloquist. A bit of forgotten history: his ventriloquial figure was the in the very experimental television broadcast by British inventor John Logie Baird in 1925. In 1928, he toured the US with an act employing a full stage set depicting the gates to St. James Palace. His sons Bill and Ralph were also performers; check them out in this 1935 British Pathe short:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, 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 don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.


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