Original vials of Adam’s Cachoo sneezing powder.

If you were the practical joker or aspiring magician of your family, chances are when you were young and your folks made a Stuckey’s stop, you headed right for that spinner rack that had all sorts of magic tricks and practical jokes for kids and adults alike hanging all over it. There were Razzberry Cushions, bugs in ice cubes, smoking dogs, joy buzzers, itching powders and snakes in a can for you to play a few funny practical jokes on your family and friends. Or you could amaze them with sleights of hand like the magic box, the magic stick, the magic money maker, or if you didn’t get car sick while reading, you could buy a book of easy magic tricks containing over 50 illustrated magic tricks. And who, besides mom and dad, of course, do you have to thank for all of those years of mirth and magic? Well, you can thank one man, Mr. Soren Sorensen “Sam” Adams.

The Prince of Practical Jokes,the Merry Maker of Magic and Mirth, the man who took his tomfoolery seriously, Mr. S.S. Adams

Soren Adam Sorenson was born in Demark to a shoemaker and his wife in 1878. Two years later, the family decided to move to America, settling in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. While working as a dye salesman, 25-year-old Sam Adams noticed that one of the dyes made people sneeze whenever they came near it. Ever the practical joker, Sam found a way to extract the derivative that caused people to sneeze, put the powder residue in small vials and named his invention Cachoo.  His sneezing powder prank became so popular that he started the Cachoo Sneezing Powder Company not far from his childhood home in Plainfield, New Jersey with money he got from selling his share of a hotel in York, Pennsylvania.

A few years went by and the sneezing powder market was starting to fade, so Sam changed the name of his business to S.S. Adams – after all, he wouldn’t settle on his company being thought of as just a one product business – and set out to find the next big thing in the prank pulling business. Within 10 years, the S.S. Adams Company was making gags like the exploding cigarette box, the snake nut can, itching powder, the stink bomb, and the dribble glass, classics in the world of practical jokes.

In 1928, Adams would create the prototype for yet another novelty beloved by pranksters worldwide, the joy buzzer prank featuring a little round device that fits in the palm of the hand and delivers a loud vibrating noise when the unsuspecting victim shakes hand with the user. After taking the prototype to Dresden, Germany to have the tools made that could produce the small parts for the joy buzzer, Sam finally patented it in 1932. Once again finding himself with a successful product, Adams was able to by a new building, what used to be the old Symphonion music box factory, in Neptune, New Jersey, and hire more staff. Pretty amazing since this all happened during the Great Depression.

The Joy Buzzer – perhaps S.S. Adams’ most iconic invention.

During World War II, just like the rest of the country, the S.S. Adams Company started taking potshots at Hitler, too, with the release of Hitler’s Horse Cards. The cards had a drawing of a horse’s – shall we say “tail end” – and when you struck a match on the tail end of the horse, thanks to the heat of the match,  it revealed “Heil Hitler” on the horses “patootie” written in invisible ink. According to the S.S. Adams advertisement, everybody got a big laugh out of these Hitler Horse Cards…except Hitler, of course.

It was also during the 1940s that Sam Adams would be approach by the JEM Rubber Company with a product made of rubber that when filled with air and sat upon, simulated a flatulent noise; Adams passed on this “whoopee” cushion, however, as he felt it was one of many inappropriate gag gifts he had seen and deemed it “too vulgar”.  JEM would go on to sell it to one of S.S. Adams competitors, though Adams would later go on to create one of his own he called the “Razzberry Cushion”.

Throughout the next few decades, Sam and his company would became the premiere novelty toy producer making both gags and magic tricks like fake vomit and fake dog mess, exploding pens and cigars, smoke from your fingertips, disappearing ink, and though they didn’t make the ever-popular X-ray Specs, they did have an x-ray tube that produced the same effect. There were also the rubber pencil and the Shiner, where you look through a tube and get a black eye. And who could forget the squirting nickel?

Who didn’t fall for this one at least once in their life?

Another Adams staple was this illustrated book of Easy Magic Tricks

Soren Sorensen “Sam” Adams died in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in 1963 at the age of 84 claiming to have invented over 600 different novelty-based gags, magic tricks and puzzles. After his death, his son Bud Adams took over the company, still trying to perfect his dad’s joy buzzer until he retired and his son Chris Adams took over the helm of the mirth and merry making company in the mid-1980s. Wanting to focus on his career as a church musician, Chris sold the S.S. Adams name in 2015 to South Dakota’s Magic Makers in South Dakota, where you can still buy the S.S. Adams products.

Do you have a favorite memory of finding highway happiness by buying S.S. Adams novelty toys and magic tricks when you made your Stuckey’s stop with your family? What were your favorites? What would you like to see come back? Please let us know in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you and maybe soon you’ll see your favorite gag item or magic trick among our Stuckey’s merchandise.

In the meantime, if you’re reminiscing about the good old days sitting in the back of your parents’ station wagon munching on a pecan log roll while on the way to visit your Uncle Charlie in Florida, we’ve got good news for you.  You can bring those memories back today by purchasing a Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll or any of our other melt-in-your-mouth pecan candy from any of our Stuckey’s locations or by visiting us on the internet at stuckeys.com.