A Rare Early 20thC Ventriloquist’s Dummy Attributed to Arthur Quisto; ‘Sammy’ c.1920-30

Origin: English
Period: Early 20thC
Provenance: The Clegg Family
Date: c.1920-30
Height: 38”
Depth: 5”
Width (Shoulder to Shoulder): 12”

The early twentieth century period male vent figure, probably by Arthur Quisto, of good proportions and in very original condition, complete with a note of his original given name and owner, with five operating mechanisms (some needing attention) to animate the lips, mouth, eyebrow and hair piece lifter, with a defunct smoker/squirter, the head stick travelling to the bottom board of the body, in the original tweed formal suit with red tie, checked shirt and black brown part leather laced shoes, the head having medium length scruffy blonde felted hair, typically uber blushed cheeks and thick eyebrows, the glass eyes blue and the body constructed of a combination of paper maché, and wooden composition parts with the carved wooden hands painted in a light skin colour and the whole surviving from the first quarter of the twentieth century.

In sound and stable overall original condition, there has been no bodged restoration or over-painting to the face. Some of the mechanisms are in working order aside from the water/smoker squirter to the ear which is detached and the hair lifter mechanism is exterior rather than interior. Two of them need proper attention. The costume for the dummy is all original. Overall he could do with some TLC but has not been meddled with much at all and as such remains pleasingly original. The placard that comes with him states his name and how he was used by the Clegg family, (see photos), which is always a rare and nice touch.

Arthur Quisto lived from 1882 to 1960. His real name was Edwin Simms. He was known primarily for his Punch & Judy Shows, but he also built figures for Tom Coram and Arthur Prince. He used pneumatic devices, as we see here, and was the first to use electromagnetic devices to animate his figures.

The uncanny nature of ventriloquist’s dummies has enthralled and spooked people for decades, and they continue to feature in horror films to this day. The idea of the ghost in the inanimate object is not a new one, Freud has written at length on the subject in his discussions on the uncanny, and ghost stories have featured dolls and portraits coming to life for centuries.

A beautifully un-meddled with example, with some honest provenance, and an ever more difficult figure to come by in this day and age.