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Monday, January 12, 2009


John Leonard Insull was one of the greatest maker of vent figures from England, born on the 5th August 1883. He developed a taste for magic in his earlier years and often was assisted by his wife Gertie Rees. They toured the world together. He entertained using the name Hinsle, the comedy Illusionist.

During the 1930's The movies helped speed up the decline of Vaudeville. So he began his building of Vent figures, he was offered a challenge that if he could build a figure better then the one he already uses he would buy it, thus began the career that would bring him world fame beyond his expectations, in the ventriloquist history books.

Lewis Davenport asked him to supply a few heads for his magic business. So Leonard built 2 heads for him that knocked his socks off, the first was with 3 moving parts, bottom and top lip and turning eyes. The second one with the same moving parts plus winkers, moving eyebrows and moving ears. He also made Archie Andrews for Peter Brough and the first Lord Charles for Ray Alan.

Leonard Insull working with his son, Leonard until his death in 1957 at the age of 43, building some of the nicest figures in the world like Vampire Magic for Max Andrews. Leonard Insull died in 1974. He was still making heads until his final days, and had orders for more. Between 1952 and 1974 he produced no less than 2017 items of which: 317 were no. 1 heads and 528 were no.2 heads plus 338 usual bodies, 100 half sized heads, 39 half sized bodies, 80 specials, 32 special bodies, 316 skulls, 50 toby jugs, 16 vest pocket figures, 4 canes and 197 other items. Considering his advanced age this was a remarkable achievement.
In the 1990's Leonard Insull was honoured with a permanent exhibition at Bantock House in Wolverhampton. A fitting tribute to a great craftsman.

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