Ventriloquism History – The Ventriloquist Figure

fred russel coster joe
Fred Russell & Coster Joe

We get all kinds of emails here at Ventriloquist Central asking all kinds of interesting questions. Some are about ventriloquist figure builders, who built this or that, historical information and many other questions.

I had a young fellow contact me and was asking me about the origins of the ventriloquist figure as we all know it today and I thought this was a great question and decided that instead of answering him privately I would write up a blog about this particular subject.

Back in the late 19th century and into the 20th century a ventriloquist named Fred Russell decided to make the art of ventriloquism a bit easier and eliminated the stage covered with a family of ventriloquist figures by entering the stage and sitting center stage with just one figure which he placed on his knee, therefore becoming the first knee sitting ventriloquist figure.

This figure’s name was Coster Joe and was a cheeky boy figure. Fred Russell was a huge success and from this he became known at the father of modern ventriloquism.

If you follow this link to the Ventriloquist Central Tribute to Ventriloquism section, you can see some pictures of Fred Russell and his side kick Coster Joe and also read all the information on this great ventriloquist.

Click here for Fred Russell & Coster Joe

I have to say questions like this are great and I love to help young and new folks coming into this art and will always try to answer questions for you either publicly or in private.




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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