William Shakespeare Berger
Vent Haven Museum was founded by Cincinnati native William Shakespeare Berger, known to his friends as W.S. In 1894, when he was 15, W.S. began working in the mail room of the Cambridge Tile Company in Cincinnati, and in 1947, he retired as president of the company.
The collection began when W.S. purchased his first figure Tommy Baloney in 1910 (picture below). At first, he kept the figures in his house, but the collection grew rapidly in the 1930’s and 1940’s. In 1947, he renovated his garage to house the dummies and in 1962, he built a second building.
From 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
ventriloquists abreast of current events in the vent community. Mr. Berger also maintained extensive correspondence with ventriloquists from around the world, often writing as many as 50 letters a week.
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 John R.S. Brooking, who helped him set up a charitable foundation for his assets, property and collection. Vent Haven Museum functions as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization today.