Saturday, June 24, 2017


Tip toeing through the “T’s” in my collection, I came upon an interesting card that was both visually arresting as well as somewhat unique in size. With such a wonderful smile and jaunty pose, I just had to find out more about Talamas, the phenomenal manipulator. 

Thanks to a one-page June 1941 article The Sphinx, by Keith Clark, we know that this native French magician was born in Saint Etienne in 1889. His natal name (with a nod to Dr. Eddie Dawes) was Charles Leger. He left school early to work for a leading manufacturer of firearms and bicycles. Hopefully they were not used in conjunction with each other. What really captured this young man’s attention were the many conjurors who appeared in his town, a great steel center in the country and dubbed “The Pittsburgh of France.”

When very young, Talamas ran away from home to follow Chevalier Ernest Thorn with whom he traveled for some time until his father had the police bring him home. This didn’t last long before he left home again and took up the life of a mountebank conjuror traveling from town to town with his box of tricks. He traveled the width and breadth of France as well as through Belgium and into Italy. These were the days of T. Nelson Downs, Welsh Miller, Clement de Lion, L’Homme Masque, Houdini and other magicians which fueled Talamas’ growing interest.

Cards were always his favorite and according to Clark, after Camille Gaultier witnessed Talamas’ first performance at the Alhambra Theater on September 15, 1922, he rushed back stage to congratulate him. He later called Talamas, “the most perfect exponent” of card manipulation and flourishes that he had ever seen.
Camille Gaultier

Talamas’ idols were Alan Shaw, Chung Ling Soo and Horace Goldin. Between World Wars, he played movie houses, theaters, circuses, music halls, and other venues. He never appeared in England, confining his performances to the continent. He disdained promoting himself and preferred to let his artistry in magic speak for itself.

The first mention we have of Talamas is in the January 1911 issue of “L’Illusionniste” where it notes that he is performing in his home town. Entertainment trades like Billboard and World’s Fair followed his career throughout the 1930s. And, magic trades like the Linking Ring and The Sphinx also noted his appearances. 

 In June 1929, he appeared at the annual conjurors Spring Fair in Paris. In September 1934 he was at the Casino des Fleurs in Vichy. In May 1935 he appeared at the Casino Municipal in Nice. By that December he was at the Eden Music Hall in his home town. August 1936 found him back at the Casino des Fleurs again. December of that year he was at the Petit Casino in France. In 1937, Talamas appeared doing sleight-of-hand at Amar’s Nouveau Cirque in Paris.
Casino des Fleurs

He was an expert at a manipulative move called the “Dart Forward” or the spreading of a pack of cards along the arm, tossing them up in the air and catching them without dropping any. His skill at this was noted in Victor Farelli’s “Card Magic.” Apparently he could perform this with cards spread on both arms and tossed up simultaneously. Keith Clark also included some of his manipulations in his cigarette booklets.

So, is the Talamas card a true scaling card? I don’t know. It’s certainly printed on heavy cardboard stock, has playing card pips on it, features his picture early in his career, but it does not feature a playing card back. The reverse side features only type which proclaims him, “The World-Famous Card Manipulator.” It notes him "Performing Before The World's King Monarchs and Potentates." His manipulations were modern and pure dexterity and he could be reached at 23, Rue Ste-Appoline, Paris (2e). 
The card is larger than most such cards measuring 3.5” x 3”, a half-inch shy of square. I have not been able to determine when he passed away. If anyone can provide additional information it would be appreciated. 


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

McEvoy “The Society Necromancer” by Jay Hunter

Regular readers have already gotten to know our friend Jay Hunter, who is one of our "go-to" sources on obscure throwing cards.  Well, right after the release of "Karl or Carl," his first guest post, Jay kindly sent me this fascinating contribution, featuring a beautiful and unusual throwing card. - Judge Brown  

I acquired this throw-out card several years ago at a magic collectors’ convention. I saw the back of the card in an album of memorabilia and got very excited.  I thought it was a throw-out card for Howard Thurston who used the same Miller Tires back and similar front design, early in his career on one of his throw-out cards.  Imagine my surprise when I flipped it over and saw a magician named McEvoy!

Harry K. McEvoy was born in Chicago on Aug. 29, 1869. During the first couple of decades of the twentieth century the “Sphinx” had many complimentary things to say about him. In Sept. 1902 it said, “His deftness and charming personality has won for him the above title of Society Necromancer.”

The “Sphinx” quoted “The Chicago Evening Post’” in 1906 saying, “He is a prestidigitator of more than ordinary cleverness”.

According to the “Sphinx”, magic was not McEvoy’s full time profession.  His day job was working for the Chicago and Alton Railroad as an executive in the passenger department.  However, it seems that he was very good at magic, as Francis J. Werner of the Society of American Magicians had this to say about him in March, 1916, “I have seen many an amateur magician who was the equal of any professional, but for downright superiority, Harry K. McEvoy, of Chicago, stands at the top”.
Harry K. McEvoy passed away on Nov. 1, 1962 in Chicago at the age of 93.

An extremely  interesting bit of trivia: When I researched him I found another Harry K. McEvoy, (1910-1993) who is considered the father of modern day knife throwing, (as opposed to card throwing) and was the founder of The American Knife Throwers Alliance which is still an organization today. I wonder if he learned his throwing skills from his father, who was none other than McEvoy “The Society Necromancer”.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Millo the Mystic

Meandering into the “M’s” of my accumulation, I came upon two cards for Millo the Mystic that were very charming. So who was Millo and why was he mystical? I turned, as always, to Ask Alexander and wasn’t disappointed.

Millo the Mystic was Charles Mills who operated the Alladin Studio in Canton, Ohio. It was apparently a magic shop and the first reference we have of Mills was in 1919 when it is noted that he helped form a club called the Magic Crafters which apparently was interested in sorcery and black magic. The club had 75 members and was associated with other clubs with a similar interest.

He had two scaling cards and they were substantial, thick-ply cards. Each featured a Roterberg back in black. In the one with the subhead “Mysteries of the Temples,” Millo is dressed in Middle Eastern garb and conjuring playing cards from a smoking brazier. On the one with the subhead “Egyptian and Hindoo Magic,” Millo is presented in a more traditional tuxedoed garb.

In 1934, Mills was involved in coordinating the Central States Magicians Convention and Picnic, a two-day affair with the usual magic lectures, stage shows and lots of parties and drinking. In fact, it seemed like there was more drinking and partying than magic. In May of 1950 The Billboard announced that Mills was assisting Jean Shepherd who headed a unit called the “Rhymettes” in putting out a 12-girl spook show. He was both designing the show and performing magic apparently.

In 1939, Mills was touring with the Buckeye State Shows and was down in Mississippi. After that tour closed he hopped over to Florida to do school shows. The only other reference to him was found in a catalog from Mario Carrandi in 1997 that lists the two cards above for $15 and $20 respectively. Mills is just one more example of a local magic fanatic who gave his all for the art.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Val Evans

Val Evans, born Valentine Bagley Evans in 1896, was known at one time as the “Creator of Super-Subtleties” in the magic world. He was born in Lynn, Massachusetts. Evans was a veteran of World War I, was decorated with combat medals in offensives on the Somme, Aisne and the Meuse-Argonne, as well as the Marne. He served overseas for some 22 months.

In the 1930’s, Evans performed a ventriloquist show as well as a Punch and Judy show. In the 1940’s, he had a unique throw out card with his billing name as “Valcarte”. He spent most of his life as a professional entertainer creating a number of magic effects including “An Invitation to Lunch”, the "Stop Trick", Card Rising Tray. Some of the lesser-known effects include The Self Solvent Wand, Pasteboard Perplexities, Five Little Bafflers, The Nutric Changing Card, O.K. Spirits Pictures, Mechanical Memory, The E.Z. Cigarette Apparatus, and the Instantric Card Frame.

A number of these effects still find their way in performer’s presentations and on the auction block. Evans was stricken with agoraphobia and would not leave home to go outside, which ended his performing career. He passed away February 3, 1981.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Frederic Elmore

The card used was Bicycle series Wheel No. 2 back made by USPC

Being known as Frederic Elmore  – “The Krazy Knut with the Chicken” must start your day off with a slight set back, but apparently for Frederic, he took it in stride. Frederic started performing at an early age and traveled from his home base in Massachusetts to work in clubs, schools, churches, and other small venues. He worked in the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits, as well as on the vaudeville stages. 

In the mid-1920’s, he joined Thomas Elmore Lucey. Thomas was known as "Poet-Entertainer of the Ozarks." They created a partnership that complimented each other’s profession. Lucey was an actor who could perform nearly everything from comedy to drama. He was also an author. 

Together, they were able to balance out each other’s forte. The partnership was short-lived, and they went their separate ways before the end of the decade. At the latter portion of Elmore’s life, he traveled between New England and Florida working as what was known back then as a “society entertainer”.
          Frederic was a member in good standing in the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He held membership number 2530. He was a likable fellow to meet by all accounts and he would be at your side to help you get through a problem with an idea or support you when you needed a friend in magic. He passed away in Tampa, Florida, in 1936.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The “E’s” of Writing About Throwing Cards

Sometimes it’s not so easy. I took a stroll into the “E” section of my collection looking for something interesting to write about and came upon two cards. One is for Everetto the Magician and the second is for The Great Ellar. Their cards are pictured below. 

Of course I went immediately to the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s “Ask Alexander” and searched for Ellar. I came up with nothing. So, I searched for Everetto and what did I discover…nothing again. So, undaunted I went out and asked the Internet. Still nothing on Everetto except a reference to a Civil War soldier whom I’m sure wasn’t doing card tricks while dodging Yankee or Rebel bullets.

On Ellar, however, I got a hit – several in fact and one that just appeared this past weekend! One of the lots from the recent Potter & Potter auction of items from the John Henry Grossman and Nelson Nicholson collections was an 8” x 10” photo of “The Great Ellar” in a full-body photograph of him chained and handcuffed. A little further clicking and he came up again during a past Martinka auction where his business card was offered, once again featuring him in chains.

Nowhere on his scaling card does it mention escapes. In fact, this self-proclaimed “Master Magician” touted as one of his attributes, “Advertising.” Advertising? Well, there’s “Entertaining” too, and of course, he was a “European and Oriental illusionist.” Who wasn’t? Readers will probably not be surprised to learn that I appeared before Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral Castle back in the 1890s and so, from now on, shall henceforth be referred to as, “Blogger to the Queen.”

The front of Ellar’s card features Poseidon (I suppose from the trident) with little devils cavorting amidst magic tricks. The back is a typical bridge card design of a lovely young woman in hat and short skirt. Everetto’s on the other hand, features a front that squeezes every possible magical image on to the card while an angel waves her magic wand. It does not feature a playing card back but rather a puzzle in which the holder can determine the opposite of what he or she would expect their wife of husband to be. It didn’t work for me but readers may try it themselves and if you solve it, post it on the site. And, the riddle clearly places this card prior to 1914.

If anyone has more information on either of these folks, jump on in, the water’s fine.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Haywood's Back, An Exquisite Enigma

After preparing the post about Harry Haywood, automotive pioneer, I took a fancy to the beautiful and intricate back design of the card (which I'll call, for these purposes, "The Haywood Back.")   Searching through my collection for another exemplar of this back and finding none, and able to locate no other clues about its manufacture or origin, I opted to contact our friend, Lee Asher, head of the 52 Plus Joker American Playing Card Collectors Club for some scholarly guidance.

Answering the question, Lee advised, required him to crack open a "cold case file" in the 52 Plus archives.  It seems that the good folks at U.S. Playing Card Company asked him about the Haywood Back just a few years ago.  Apparently, after deciding to publish a "historic" deck, USPCC offered card aficionados the opportunity to select the back from several designs, including the Haywood Back.    The votes were tallied and the Haywood Back won.   

Here comes the mystery: after the voting, the people at USPCC
"got to work tracking down the story of this deck back. And we came up short. No one knew where it came from; the printing plate may have fallen from the sky and into the glass protective case, for all we know."
Displaying Herman TO card.jpgAlthough they had the printing plate for the deck back, the people at USPCC could not locate a single example of its use. So, they did what I did: they consulted with Lee Asher.  Despite Lee's considerable knowledge and access to a national network of card collectors, he, too, could not locate a complete deck of these cards. Thus, when I sent Lee the Haywood Back, he was delighted, particularly after years of unsuccessful sleuthing.  The Haywood card was among the first exemplars of this back design to surface.

But we at Propelled Pasteboards did not quit there.  I asked my co-contributors Gary Frank and Tom Ewing, and our friend Jay Hunter, to search their collections for this rare back design. Gary Frank found a different piece that also used the Haywood Back -- this one for a performer named Namreh (backwards for Herman), whose story we'll feature in a separate installment.  Jay, too, located additional examples of the Haywood card and the Namreh piece.

Tom managed to turn up something entirely different: a card for a performer named Issac Twamley who billed himself as Valentine (and also happened to be born on St. Valentine's Day). It's scrapbook damaged-back clearly features the Haywood Back, but this time in red.

So, even though a diligent search by USPCC and the members of 52 Plus Joker failed to fully expose the mysteries of the Haywood Back, we here at Propelled Pasteboard turned up five examples in three different varieties and two colors, all in the space of a day.  "Clearly," my wife quipped when I advised her of this accomplishment, "you guys have the power."

Back of Valentine card
Our work rekindled interest in this particular project, so the members of 52 Plus Joker snapped back into action.  Lee sent out a request for further help, and his folks delivered.  Barb Lunaberg, the head of the Chicago Playing Card Collectors Club, advised that she located a blank card with a Haywood Back. This makes a great deal of sense: as we've learned from on other posts, including those about Roterberg Stock Cards and the Bamberg Cards: Blank faced playing cards were often sold or given to magicians expressly for the purpose of printing giveaway cards.  Following this, Lee made the final scholarly link: he found the Haywood Back in a vintage playing card catalog given to him by long time 52 Plus Joker member, Toby Edwards.

So what is the Haywood Back?  Lee advises that the design appears in the No. 9 Tally Ho Collection made by Andrew Dougherty, a leading card manufacturer with strong distribution in the New York area.  The design is called
the "Vase Back, No. 930" (note the vases drawn into the pattern).  I guess we can't call it the Haywood Back any further...

USPCC apparently did not forge ahead with its plans to put the Vase Back into production in 2014, perhaps because of the uncertainty surrounding the origin of the Vase Back artwork.

You can read USPCC's full account of its adventure here, which includes some interesting insights about the artistic style of this formerly-mysterious card design.

Mystery solved!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Harry Haywood, Automotive Pioneer

"Can I make it any plainer?  Be original." Harry Haywood, M-U-M, 1916.  

Meet Harry Haywood, sometimes known, as reflected on his fine throwout card, as the "American Magician," also known as Hiram Haywood, William H. Haywood, The Illustrious Jarrell, William H. Jarrell, Harry H. Jarrell and, possibly, an exposer called Jarrell the Strong Boy.

Haywood was probably born William Jarrell, and became a well-known magician and ventriloquist, beginning his career in the 1890s.  He began his career performing in circuses, wagon shows and vaudeville theaters.   Reports suggest he had "sufficient mechanical genius" to build all of his own magic apparatus.  Haywood's skill with Cups and Balls was legendary.   Louis "Pops" Krieger, an undisputed Cups and Balls master, admired Haywood's talent, while Dr. Wilson called him "peer of all Cup and Ball performers."   Curiously, in or around 1900, Haywood had a son whom he named "Harry Kellar Haywood."

After the turn ot the century, Haywood settled in New York City.  He became a member of the Society of American Magicians shortly after its founding, eventually serving on its committee on admissions for many years.   An amateur astronomer, Haywood always travelled with a 3-inch Bordeaux telescope.

Haywood's claim to fame began in early 1919, when he loaded his magic act, usually carried by wagon, into an automobile for a two-year, cross-country tour.  According to Oscar Teale, Haywood's was the first magic show to tour by automobile.  Haywood drove a Ford adorned with the emblem of the SAM on both doors.

Though nearly a decade after Houdini flew an airplane in Australia, the magic trade press treated Haywood's motor vehicle magic tour as an adventure equal to the Lewis and Clark expedition. His own account of these experiences were featured in a dramatic M-U-M cover story tantalizingly entitled "Hell Gate to Golden Gate."


In the piece, Haywood details his experiences, which included several automobile accidents (including a crash with a street car that cost him $87 in repairs) and getting stranded in the desert.  He described performances in low-rent venues before brawling crowds.   Haywood describes being surrounded by a group of "gypsies . . . on a lone mountain road in Wyoming."  Brandishing a Winchester rifle, the magician faced down the group, while his wife Adeline  "stayed in the car with a Colt .38 automatic in her hand, ready to get .the first one that came too close to me."  The intervention of two highway patrolmen averted the couple's decision "to meet our defeat Davy Crockett style."

In the end, despite the hardships, the magician raved about the wonders of a tour which extended  "from the battlefields of Gettysburg to the Pikes Peak region; Salt Lake, the Temple, the big cities of the East, and over the beautiful Allegheny Mountains, through the many towns of the Mississippi Valley; across the plains, with its long,straight roads that reach the sky; the prairie dog villages; the mighty Rockies, with its range after range of towering, snow-capped peaks, the wild deer; the lone sheep herder; the desert, with its deathlike stillness; the sand, sage brush, coyotes, and wild horses, and the high Sierra Mountains,, the land of the sky and the camper's paradise; the Sacramento Valley, with its fruits and flowers—into old 'Frisco, with my car in good shape and still ahead of the game."  

The end of Haywood's story is a bit of a mystery, though it may involve yet another name change.  
In 1923, John Mulholland published a list of compeers he was trying to locate: Haywood was prominently featured on a list of SAM members, some of whom were presumed dead.   It is his last appearance in the trade press in the U.S.  However, that same year, the Magic Circular makes mention of an "H.W.F. Haywood, M.M.C." changing his name to "Hazel-Le-Roy," and references to that performer continue through 1928.    And there the trail goes cold....

From M-U-M, December 1918

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Washday Magic . . . Wait .... What?

So, this card presented something of a mystery.  What exactly is being promoted here?  And what does it  have to do with the world of scaling cards and magic?

The face of the card advertises "Washday Magic with Gas and Electricity," and sings the praises of owning an "Automatic Washer" and "Automatic Dryer." The whole magilla is presented wrapped in a gigantic magic hat, accompanied by a stylized magician.  Yet, no brand name is mentioned, nor is any specific performer identified. And the back design is immediately recognizable to magicians as the ubiquitous Fox Lake pattern made by Haines House of Cards.  So what's going on here?

Poking around  Ask Alexander, the magic history database, provides a satisfying answer to this unusual puzzle.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


O.K., so here I go again, straying outside of the domain of scaling cards. This card is not so much a scaling card as it is an advertising piece because there is no playing card back on it. I guess then by rights it shouldn't be on this post. If the masses rise up and say, "This shall not pass!!" I will take it down. I still think it's a fun post though so here goes.

This involves an Indianapolis magician named Bert Servaas, an amateur who billed himself (politically incorrectly) as “Spoo-Kee-Ching” and who joined the unending ranks of Anglo magicians trying to portray Asian characters. He also performed straight magic. I first wrote about him in my book “Cornfields and Conjurors: Magic on the Indianapolis Stage.” Here is the card in discussion,

His full name was Baastean Hanus Servaas, and he was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1889. His family moved to Indianapolis in the early 1900's and sometime around 1913 he helped found the city’s first magic organization, the Indiana Magic Fraternity. 

Servaas in 1922 from the Indiana Magic Fraternity (IMF)

His business card featured a photograph of him in costume and on the reverse, this unusual listing of effects he performed as part of his, “Program La Fun:” 

Hong-Kong Kee
Pekin Fire
Merkan Fla

It’s clear that in his effort to appear Asian, he assigned nonsense titles to tricks involving fire, vanishing glasses of water, dice and money tricks, billiard ball effects, rope, dominoes, cigarettes and cards. At the age of 49 Servaas joined the Indiana Society of Magicians. According to his application, he received his early exposure to magic from Professor Ogden and Dr. E.S. Pierce, a medium. Apparently he was also a member of the Yogi Club of Michigan. 

Servaas in 1932 with magic apparatus 
Seen on his table are a Sliding Die Box, pack of playing cards, a set of Multiplying Bottles in sore need of paint, a Rapping Hand, a skull, and of course his Linking Rings.

He gave his first “boy wonder” show in 1902 at the Academy of Music in Kalamazoo before 1,000 people. His early schooling came at the Monnock Private School and he eventually attended the University of Michigan. His parents were from Holland. Although he did not provide any details, he noted on his application that he worked all the Houdini shows and knew Thurston for 22 years. When he wasn’t performing magic he worked in the engineering and sales department of the Sinclair Refining Company. He died October 1, 1957. I close this posting with an early image of Servaas and his family. 
Servaas with his two sons, Buert and William, wife Lela, and perhaps his older daughter Lela Jo Wiliams.

Tom Ewing