William S. Berger Biography
Vent Haven Museum was founded by
Cincinnati native William Shakespeare Berger, known to his friends as
"W.S." In 1894,
when he was 16, W.S. began working in the mailroom of the Cambridge Tile
Company in Cincinnati and in 1947, he retired as President of the company.
While on a business trip to New York
in 1910, W.S. purchased his first ventriloquist figure, Tommy Baloney, and
his fabulous collection was begun. Although
originally contained in his home, the collection quickly outgrew its
quarters and W.S. renovated his garage and even built a second building to
house the figures.
the late 1940's until 1960, W.S. was the President of the International
Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. His leadership helped the organization grow from about 300
members to over 1000. He also
published a monthly magazine called The Oracle which kept the
ventriloquists abreast of current events in the vent community. Mr. Berger also maintained extensive personal correspondence
with ventriloquists around the world.
W.S. outlived his wife, son and
grandson and had no other heirs. Fearing
his collection would be divided and dispersed, he sought advice from his
attorney who helped him set up a charitable foundation for his assets,
property and collection.
Haven is the only museum of its kind in the world.
It houses over 700 figures, thousands of photographs and
playbills, and a library of books, some of which date back to the 1700's.
In 1973, a public opening and dedication of a third building was
held. Edgar Bergen and Jimmy Nelson were among the performers.