I have not come across any information confirming that ventriloquism legend Fred Maher (1896-1952) performed in vaudeville. He definitely performed on radio, though, and at county fairs, and (as is common) social clubs and organizations, with his partner “Skinny Dugan”.
What is known is that Maher was the spiritual godfather of many a vent who came after him. This he accomplished by founding the Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism, a.k.a. Maher Studios, in 1934. Based in Detroit, the Studio’s primary product was the Maher Course of Ventriloquism, presented as booklets and advertised in popular national magazines. They also made ventriloquist dummies to order. Willie Tyler’s first “Lester” was a Maher creation. After Maher’s death in 1952, his widow maintained the business through 1970s, and a series of different operators ran in thereafter.
After a period of dormancy, some Maryland folks revived it in online form and it proves to be a cornucopia of information for the aspiring and working ventriloquist. Check it out here. As for Skinny Dugan? He, too, is still around. He’s in the possession of none other than Jeff Dunham. A bit more about Fred Maher can be found here.
Interested in vaudeville? I hoped you might be. Learn all about the history of variety arts, including ventriloquism in No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,
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