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It’s actually a hard question to answer, but the earliest known ventriloquist was called “Old Tom” Smith (sometimes spelled “Tom”) Smith. For the full story, look at Tom Smith’s biographies in The Facts on File article.
Tom was a famous ventriloquist who was the husband of one of the most successful women in the country, Mary Ann Keene. Mary Ann was a theatrical actress who was active in many shows in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and also served as the stage manager of the Marquette Theater from 1882 until her death in 1936. She was a prolific singer, and in fact did so well that many thought she had earned her nickname by performing on stage with more than one character (see also: The Ventriloquist Diaries, which, while not a biography, is an extensive and illuminating examination of many of the performers of the era).
“Old Tom” came from the word “old”. He had lost his left hand in an automobile and the first thing people thought to do when they heard the news was “Old Tom”. His name comes from his initials, “TH” which are pronounced “Toe”. It’s important to note that Tom grew up a poor family in a farm in West Virginia and so it didn’t make as much of an impression on him to be able to play ventriloquists. But he had a talent, and Tom was born.
Tom grew up and was very good at it. After about one year of age, he learned to hold his breath (which he is particularly good at) so he could play. His mother was a ventriloquist, and she had a lot of experience. And she always wanted their youngest son to be a ventriloquist. They had another child called John, who has never been famous. Anyway, Tom did not play until he was about eighteen. At that time, his mother taught her son, a young boy of about seven or eight, how to hold his breath after he was supposed to do just that. He loved it, and he became very good at it. There are quite a few accounts about the ventriloquists, but this is probably the best, because it is the most detailed and detailed one we have.
When Tom went to Wisconsin, he met the theater manager Mary Keene. One of the other stars of the show, Elizabeth Ward, who was also a ventriloquist, also happened
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