Soren Sorensen Adams: The King Of Professional Pranksters
Cachoo Sneezing Powder. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)
Soren Sorensen Adams, also known as Sam Adams, was a Danish-American inventor and businessman during the 20th century and is considered to be the father of the novelty prank. Nicknamed the “King of Professional Pranksters,” he invented more than six hundred joke products.
Early Life and Cachoo Sneezing Powder
He was born Soren Adam Sorensen in 1879 in Koldind, Randers County, Denmark, to Hans and Sofia Sorensen. His father was a clog maker until the family moved to the United States when Adams was two. They lived in a Scandinavian community in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and there his father managed a saloon. In 1904, Adams began working as a salesman for a dye company. After discovering that one of the dyes caused his co-workers to sneeze, he figured out how to extract the sneeze-inducing ingredient, a chemical called Dianisidine, and began selling it as Cachoo Sneezing Powder.
S.S. Adams Company
The product was an instant hit with his friends, inspiring him to launch the Cachoo Sneezing Powder Company in Plainfield, New Jersey. By 1906, the company had become so successful that he renamed it the S.S. Adams Co. and began creating other joke products. Among these were the Exploding Cigarette Box, the Snake Nut Can, the Stink Bomb, and itching powder. The sneezing powder was later banned by the FDA in 1919 due to containing potentially toxic ingredients. However, by that time, S.S. Adams Co. had plenty of novelty products to keep it going.
Marriage and Mergers
In 1915, Adams married Emily Josephine Harrigan. The couple had three children: Emily Louise in 1916, Joseph Harrigan in 1917, and Gertrude Frances in 1921. Meanwhile, his business continued to expand with the purchase of the Deland Company, which manufactured magic card trick decks, in 1918. He would later acquire Traub’s Fun Inc, in 1949, making S.S. Adams Co. the leader in novelty product manufacturing.
In 1928, Adams invented the Joy Buzzer, a device which could be concealed in the hand when offering a handshake so that it would create a loud buzz when the other person inadvertently pressed the button by accepting the handshake. The device was manufactured in Dresden, Germany, and patented in 1932. Its success allowed Adams to continue expanding his business despite the ongoing Great Depression.
In the 1940s, the owner of JEM Rubber Co. of Toronto tried to make a deal for S.S. Adams Co. to distribute their newest invention, which would eventually become known as the Whoopee Cushion. Adams declined, believing the product to be too distasteful to be popular. He discovered how wrong he was when JEM took the product to his competitor, the Johnson Smith Company. After seeing how successful the product had become, Adams brokered a deal with JEM and began selling his own version of the product which he called the “Razzberry Cushion.”
In addition to prank products, S.S. Adams Co. also sold magic trick products. Among these were many of the trick decks acquired from the Deland Company. He also sold pocket tricks including the Ball Vase, the Magic Coin Box, the Three Shell Game, Color Vision, and Crazy Cube. Many of these products are worth a small fortune if found today in their original packaging.
Later Life and Death
Adams died on October 20, 1963, in Asbury Park, New Jersey, at the age of eighty-four. He had continued to manage his company until the end. By this time, he had created over six hundred novelty items, forty of which were patented. In 2009, his company was purchased by MagicMakers, Inc. and many of the products have since been re-released in the vintage S.S. Adams Co. packaging.