Thanks to The Twilight Zone, it's not easy to succeed as a ventriloquist in this day and age. No matter how hard you and your dummy try to bring joy to the world, your audience is left silently wondering who will be next. They laugh out of fear and obligation, not mirth. It is less vaudeville, more hostage crisis.
But back in the day, ventriloquists had no compunction transforming two old bed pans, a pound of horse glue, and a potato sack into a puppet. Look at that fellow from the 1870s above. Dozens of times, he probably brought joy to packed saloons who had a collective life expectancy of 74.
And thanks to the absolutely wonderful Vintage Ventriloquism Flickr group, you and I can visit the heyday of ventriloquism from a safe distance, without worrying about being somehow teleported into that Tales From The Crypt episode wherein Don Rickles is growing a fetus from his hand.
Hat tip to Mr. Tangelo, who foisted this treasure trove upon us as revenge for that Disneyland costume revue. And for further adventures in ye olde uncanny gulch, see this collection of early automata.