Once again I am focusing on interesting people – the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten.
One of the pleasures of the comics of my youth was the small-ads for pocket-money priced practical jokes, from stink bombs to ‘dirty’ soap and hand-buzzers to snakes in a tin, all of which we owe to Soren Sorenson Adams, the father of the commercial practical joke.
Born near Aarhus, Denmark, in 1879, his family migrated to America when he was four years old and he grew up in New Jersey. He wasn’t to discover the profitability of the novelty prank until 1904 when he worked for a chemical dye company and noticed that one of the ingredients used caused uncontrollable sneezing which his co-workers found hilarious.
Cachoo was an instant success and sneezing-powder fever swept the US and realising that he was on to something, Adams renamed his company as S. S. Adams Co and set about expanding his range of novelty products.
He was also responsible for the Joy Buzzer which was so different and mechanically complex that it earned US patent recognition in 1932.
The one popular joke that Adams cannot take credit for is the Whoopie Cushion. He was offered the rights to the ‘Razz Cussion’ by a Toronto rubber company in 1930, but turned it down, deeming the idea too indelicate.
As well as his practical jokes, Adams also marketed a range of magic tricks in distinctive, comic-book packaging. They inspired many budding magicians and though they sold for pocket money in their day, they are highly prized today.
Adams was known as the ‘King of Professional Pranksters’ and he actively managed his company right up to his death in 1963 at the age of 84.
S.S. Adams Co was sold to MagicMakers Inc which has reintroduced the most popular tricks and novelties to the market, complete with the famous authentic packaging.
Biographical information courtesy of MagicTrick.com