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Elton C. Fax

John W(alcott) Cooper was a native of Brooklyn, New York. Little is known of his parents except that his father, John Cooper, came from Beaufort, South Carolina, and his mother, Annie, from Georgia. Both died while their son was still a small boy. The child received his formal schooling at Professor Dorsey's Institute in downtown Brooklyn. Because of his small stature, young Cooper became an exercise boy at the nearby Sheepshead Bay racetrack. There his attention was drawn to ventriloquism by a white practitioner who liked to visit the stables. The ventriloquist, hoping to frighten the exercise boy into believing the horses “talked,” would slyly practice his craft around the animals' stalls. But young Cooper, wise to the pranks of track regulars, listened with no fear and with more than casual amusement.

With his keen intelligence good singing voice and a flair for showmanship Cooper soon joined a ...

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Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, to John W. Cooper Sr. and Annie Morris. Cooper's parents died when he was still a child, and at the age of thirteen he began to care for himself by working as an exercise boy at the stables of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in New York City. At the age of fifteen Cooper began singing tenor with a troupe called the Southern Jubilee Singers. After seeing performances by two white vaudeville ventriloquists, Harry Bryant and Al O. Duncan, Cooper became interested in the art of ventriloquism. While continuing to perform with the Southern Jubilee Singers, he began to focus his attention on becoming a professional ventriloquist. His first documented ventriloquist performance was with the Southern Jubilee Singers in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1894 He was twenty three years old As he toured with the singers his ventriloquist act was incorporated ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

singer, dancer, ventriloquist, and junk merchant, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, on the eve of the Civil War. To date, questions remain about Harmon's real name, parents, siblings, if any, and childhood. In addition, there appears to be no documentation about his years as a performer. The available information indicates that he worked in show business as a singer, dancer, and ventriloquist. Essentially, he was a well-rounded entertainer who had many talents and a knack for the stage. Harmon was married and had two children; however, the names of his wife and children are not readily available. When Harmon was around 38 and 39, his wife and children died from influenza in 1898–1899, during the Spanish American War. Harmon then moved to Harlem and lived in a two-room apartment.

Around 1910 Harmon having left the stage began a new career with a small cart and a ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist and magician, was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the son of Dinah Swain (often called Black Dinah), a slave. Potter's mother was kidnapped by Dutch slave traders during her childhood, sold at an auction, and taken to Boston as a slave by Sir Charles Henry Frankland, a tax collector for the Port of Boston. She had five children while serving in Frankland's household. The identity of Potter's biological father remains a mystery. According to speculation, Potter's father was Frankland. Early church records indicate that Potter's father was a white man by the name of George Simpson. The origin of Potter's name is another mystery.

Potter spent his early years on the Frankland estate in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. At the age of ten, in 1793 he took work on a ship as a cabin boy His travels took him to England where he came across a Scottish ...

Article

magician, ventriloquist, and entrepreneur, was born in Amherst, Virginia, one of eight children of Peticus Rucker, a farm laborer, and Louise A. Rucker, a cook. In his teens Rucker worked as a cook and then as a contractor building houses. When Harry Kellar (“Kellar the Great”), one of the foremost magicians of his time, came through the area on tour, Rucker performed some handyman tasks for him and became his assistant.

Rucker studied stage magic under Kellar and eventually began performing on his own, taking the stage name “Black Herman.” This pseudonym linked him with earlier black magicians, such as Prince Herman, a traveling medicine show magician, whom Rucker also claimed as a mentor, and James A. Willis and Alonzo Moore whose stage names included Herman in some combination or else billed themselves as the black Hermann or the black Herman implying that ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the only child of Alonzo Williams and Laura Powell, a live-in maid. As a small boy, Williams moved to Dayton, Ohio, with his grandmother, whom he thought of as his mother. Williams's mother eventually joined her family in Dayton.

Williams's mother died when he was eight, and he went to live with his Aunt Ola Mae and his Uncle James Jackson in Dayton. He attended Dunbar High School, where he was a high jumper and ran the half mile as a member of Dunbar's 1948 Ohio state track championship team. After he graduated in 1951 he worked at a local bowling alley, as he had done throughout his high school years. Later he took a job at Chevrolet parking cars. In 1952, at the age of twenty, Williams met Ernestine Hatcher The couple married the same year they had two ...