The Reason Ventriloquism is Still Going Strong

fred maher school of ventriloquism
Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism

My partner and webmaster, Steve Hurst wrote this “essay” on some of his thoughts about ventriloquism and I thought we should share it with everyone, so here it is:

The Reason Ventriloquism is Still Going Strong

Like a lot of ventriloquists I know, I started doing ventriloquism as a kid. When I was 14 my brother who was younger, found an ad in a comic book about throwing your voice and sent off for the book.

After he received it, I was fascinated by it so I started practicing. The directions weren’t very good so I decided to go to the library and see what books I could find on ventriloquism. The first book I found was Paul Winchell’s “The Key to Ventriloquism, for Fun and Profit.”

I devoured that book and started practicing. By now I wanted to find more information about ventriloquism, about ventriloquist figures and anything else I could find. I was hooked.

My Dad used to read Popular Mechanics and I remember seeing an ad for the “Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism”. I looked in other magazines and the only ad I would find for ventriloquism was for the “Fred Maher School of Ventriloquism. At the time I knew nothing of Fred Maher, but sent off for the catalog.

When I received the catalog and all the other material that came with it, I was very excited. I read and re-read everything. Of course I looked at the ventriloquist figure catalog over and over and over again.

At the time, my first dummy was a Juro Danny O’ Day with a headstick. But after getting the Fred Maher Studios catalog I wanted a “real” ventriloquist figure. In fact, I fell in love with the “Hal” figure and wanted one so bad (of course being much older now and knowing the full story, as a kid I loved Jerry Mahoney and now I know that “Hal” was an over sculpted Juro Jerry).

If my memory is correct, seems like the base price for the “Hal” figure at that time (this was in 1970) was around $350. Even though today it doesn’t sound like much, back then it might as well have been three thousand or three million, because I didn’t have either.

Now at the time, I didn’t know the story behind Fred Maher Studios. Fred and Madeleine Maher started the Fred Maher Studios. When Fred passed away, Madeleine ran the business. On August 1, 1969, Clinton and Adelia Detweiler purchased it from Madeleine and kept it going throughout the years. So all those years I was dealing with Clinton and Adelia. And by those numbers, Clinton and Adelia ran Maher Studios longer than Fred and Madeleine.

Over the years, I’ve purchased dialogue books, joke books, videos, cassette tape courses, etc.., even bought the ventriloquist course. There have been times I actually talked to Clinton or Adelia on the phone about one or more products.

maher studios
Maher Studios Catalog Cover

Through all those years I remember getting mail from “Maher Studios” with information and pictures of the latest figures and puppets. Not to mention getting the “Newsy Vents” and “The Maher Messenger” that I would read cover to cover when I got it in the mail.

Every ventriloquist that I’ve known, talk to or meet, at some point in the conversation, Clinton and Adelia Detweiler comes up or Maher Studios.

clinton detweiler
Clinton Detweiler

adelia detweiler
Adelia Detweiler

I started looking back over the years when ventriloquism “supposedly” died which really means it wasn’t being shown in mainstream media (such as television) and realized the one constant all those years was the Detweilers and Maher Studios. Through the ups and downs of the wonderful art of ventriloquism, Clinton and Adelia have always been there.

Now you hear that ventriloquism is popular again. This is true mainly because of the talented ventriloquists of today such as, Jeff Dunham, Terry Fator, Jay Johnson and many others.

But to me, the MAIN reason ventriloquism is popular today goes much deeper. The REAL reason is because of the dedication to keep the art of ventriloquism alive by Clinton and Adelia of Maher Studios.

So, in my mind, the reason ventriloquism is still here and going strong was the foresight of Fred and Madeleine Maher for starting Maher Studios and Clinton and Adelia Detweiler for keeping it going. Because of them, the art of ventriloquism that we all love so well is alive and going strong today.

We owe them a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. I know I do.

Think about it!

Steve Hurst
Webmaster/Ventriloquist/Figure Builder

Steve, I think you are absolutely right. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.



Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to:

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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9 Responses to The Reason Ventriloquism is Still Going Strong

  1. bob isaacson says:

    Very good article about ventriloquism Steve. Also an excellent observation regarding Clinton & Adelia Detwiler, they are truly genuine people with principles. It’s been my good fortune to know them for many years.

  2. bob abdou says:

    I have always been in contact with Clinton since I purchased my first dummy from Maher Studios back in 1991. When I decided to go full time back in 1996, Clinton was always just a phone call away. When my vent business was slow and I found myself in a funk, I questioned the why, how, when, what and was just about to quit the business. Clinton gave me encouraging words to stay with it, I told him I could not find any work, he told me “this too shall pass” and wa-la, he was right. During that year of my progress into full time, Clinton kept in touch with me to make sure I focused on what my real goal was. His guidance and open communication was the kick in the pants I needed so I could be the success I am today. Just think,… if it weren’t for Clinton’s advise and mentoring me, I would not be here today. Now that’s no joke. Our close friendship continues today.

  3. Philip Grecian says:

    I read this about the Mahers’ and, especially, the Detweilers’ responsibility for keeping the craft alive in even the worst of times and thought, “Well, of course!” But, you know, the depth of their responsibility, and what we owe them, is only obvious now because you’ve pointed it out to all of us. Thanks, Steve. Thanks, Dan.

  4. Bob Conrad says:

    Steve, you hit the nail on the head. Clinton has been there for all of us through thick and thin, and always ready to help anyway he could. Not to mention what a great craftsman he is , his work is beautiful. If anyone is responsible for keeping ventriloquism alive it is Clinton.

  5. Keith Suranna says:

    Great article, Steve.

    It was 1978 when I first became acquainted with Maher Studios and Mr. & Mrs. Detweiler. I was about 10 years old. I waited with baited breath to get the newest catalog or the latest issue of “Newsy Vents” in the mail. I then had the pleasure to meet the Detweilers in person, along with two of their lovely daughters, at the 1982 and ’83 ConVENTions. Over the years, as I’ve gone in and out of vent, I’ve always gone back to them for assistance and they have always been there to offer advice. I will always be grateful not only for what they have done for me, but what they have done for the entire vent community. We owe the Detweilers so much!

  6. Ron Scherer says:

    WOW !! Thanks Steve for such a wonderful article. Clinton and Adelia are such great people.
    I remember the early years I would send in my completed quiz and wait for Clinton’s reply. I still get a laugh out of addressing Fred Maher (long passed) in my letters until Clinton mentioned in a letter he was the director of Maher Studios. The encouragement I received from Maher was so welcomed. Even when I left the vent world for several years, I was welcomed back by Clinton and Adelia. Enjoying several visits to the Old Big House in Littleton was a dream come true in the mid 80’s. Thanks for bring up such warm memories of a lasting friendship that goes back many of years.

  7. Joe "Capt. Joe" Radle says:

    Just adding my voice to the praises of the Detweiler’s. My first two head stick puppets came from Clinton’s workshop, and that was over 20 years ago. I began my search for ventriloquist information at my local library in Huddleston, Virginia, having just moved there from Long Island, New York. I did not start my ventriloquist journey as a youngster. In fact, I was retired from the N.Y.P.D. and the New York State Army National Guard.

    My search led me to Maher studios and upon receiving their catalog I couldn’t decide between Grandpa and Grandma Wobbles, so I bought them both. They have been my Aunt Tillie and Uncle Clyde Quackenbush for all these years and I have entertained many folks with these two, who are twins, brother and sister. Since then, I have bought two more figures from Clinton, they are a boy, Tyrone, and a girl, Tammy who are also sister and brother, and I consider them my grand niece and nephew. They work very well when I give shows at schools and for youngsters and oldsters as well.

    This might sound like it is more about me than the Detweiler’s, who I have never met in person, but I have communicated with Clinton over the years and still do via- e-mail. The point I am trying to make is that, these two folks, helped to launch me into this fantastic, fun hobby, pass time. I don’t make my living at it, but have been paid for some of my work. So, all the places I have entertained, all the people, the disabled vets, the children, the adults, the Boy Scouts, etc. were indirectly entertained by the, Detweiler’s. Clinton’s puppets have been seen by too many to number, perhaps some of those people have gone into ventriloquism, or at least become familiar with it and speak about it to other folks. It is a veritable SNOW BALL in effect. Now, think of all the other folks these two folks have started, mentored, helped, and launched into the world! It is just incredible to think of their decision, way back when, and what it has done for all manner and sort of entertainment, not only here in the U.S.A. but around the world! I declare, I don’t think their contributions can ever be measured and the joy they have triggered so many times over has just mushroomed around the planet. What a couple! What great fun! Thank you Both for all the wonder you have given, not only to me, but to the world!
    Definitely a Big Fan! Joe “Capt. Joe” Radle Huddleston, VA U.S.A.

  8. Dave Boiano says:

    Although interested in vent since a kid, I didn’t get to do anything about it until I was an adult. In the early 80s, this internet thing wasn’t available to go searching for a figure, but I did remember seeing a little ad in the classifieds section of Popular Mechanics before. So I went and bought an issue hoping the ads were still there, which they were, and I sent for info.
    As we all know, that ad was for a catalog from Maher Studios. I know there’s a lot of people who were glad that little ad was always there, for so many, it was the only link to finding a source for vent info and products. But those catalogs came with a bonus not advertised – the ever helpful Detweilers. They had the Studios with vent products, they had the Newsy Vents newsletter, and again, being pre-internet, that was the only source of vent news for many, and of course, the quick and helpful responses for anyone contacting them with a question.
    Personally, I know I will always be thankful Clinton and Adelia and Maher Studios was there, without them, my interest in vent may have not stood a chance to get off the ground or at least, not until a very long time after.

  9. Rick Kohlschmidt says:

    Thanks Steve & Dan for the great article! I also as a youngster obsessed with ALL things VENTRILIQUAL…. sent away for all the catalogs……and the MAHERS were at the top of my stack! I am shocked….because I always KEEP everything…..however….my vent catalogs have long disappeared. I can’t stop thinking….about how nice it would be if someone would sell copies of them…..AND “NEWSY VENTS”, through ALL the years!!! I thank you for your many posts, pix and catalogs! It REALLY makes my day…..all the wonderful articles! Thank you!

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