3. Ally Sloper Ventriloquist’s Dummy, c. 1890s
All but forgotten now, the bulbous-nosed Cockney scoundrel was the Spider-Man of his day, star of the world’s biggest-selling comic, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, shifting up to half a million copies a week. His multi-media crossovers included two of the earliest British live-action films in 1898 (sadly lost), masses of merchandise, much of it unauthorised, popular songs and music hall appearances by comedy impersonators. Another popular spin-off was the ventriloquist Professor Nomis, stage name of Simon Cross, who operated this three-quarter life-size dummy, a miracle that such a fragile rarity has survived.