Green River Star -

By Amanda Benson
Sweetwater County Historical Museum 

Dummy returns to museum


Back by popular demand, the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is featuring the ventriloquist dummy used by Thomas C. Smith for May’s Artifact of the Month.

This dummy wears a cowboy outfit, which is fitting for Wyoming. The dummy was made in London and the head and upper part of the body are constructed out of papier-mâché.

Thomas C. Smith was an amateur ventriloquist in Rock Springs who took up ventriloquism after his cousin, Port Jackson Ward.

Ward was a popular ventriloquist in England and performed for the royal family in 1909.

Smith and Ward were immigrants from England, but Smith’s career as a ventriloquist did not begin until after he moved to Rock Springs in 1908. His cousin came to Rock Springs a year later.

While ventriloquism dates back to the ancient Greeks as a religious practice, its apex as a form of entertainment in the United States came during the vaudeville era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ventriloquism became a dying art form, but has since been revived by contemporary artists like Willie Tyler, Shari Lewis, Terry Fator and Jeff Dunham. Many people ask us why we took the dummy off display and our answer is simple: he needed a rest. Artifacts on display for long periods of time can start showing signs of light deterioration.

Using preventative conservation methods, we want to make sure the dummy stays around for as long as possible, so we have to limit his exhibition time.

Come see the dummy at the Sweetwater County Museum while you can. Who knows when he will be back on display.

We are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until May 15.

After May 15, we switch back to our summer hours and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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