Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ben Franklin IV – An Extraordinary Card Thrower! by Jay Hunter

[Jay Hunter, whose generosity knows no bounds, has drafted this wonderful post for us, along with some additional specimens from his collection.  Thanks, Jay! -Judge Brown]

Benjamin  Franklin IV was a high school principal in Point Pleasant,  West Virginia.  He was born on December 27, 1913 in Point Pleasant.  Besides his day job, for many years he was active as a semi-professional  magician. I found many references to him on the “Ask Alexander” search engine.  Many of these references alluded to the claim the he indeed was a descendant of “THE” Ben Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.

Franklin was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and was even the President of Ring # 197 in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1977. The “Linking Ring” through the years had many glowing things to say about him. The one thing they said he really excelled at was his card throwing.
In the March 1958 issue, they had an article on the 27th Columbus Magi-Fest held in February of 1958. C. L. Schmitt wrote, “Ben Franklin IV not only thrilled all by duplicating Thurston’s great card tossing feat, but graciously glided a card into my waiting fingers.  You could sense the thrill of excitement of the magicians as he sent many cards to the audience, including top seats exactly to where he pointed, a la Thurston.  He also tossed cards through five stretched sheets of newspaper spaced one foot apart.  The ovation he received for his nostalgic performance was well deserved”. The clipping here showing Franklin in action is from that performance and is courtesy of the “Linking Ring”.

In the April 1965 issue of M-U-M, in discussing the 37th annual S.A.M. convention this was written, “One of the acts at the S.A.M. convention will be Ben Franklin IV and, for most of us attending, we will see card throwing for the first time.  THURSTON taught BEN and taught him properly since the guarantee is that cards can be scaled over a six-story building and, certainly, from the stage to the most distant point in the auditorium.”

In July of 1971, John Braun wrote an article entitled “On Throwing A Card” in the “Linking Ring”.  Braun wrote, “This inquiry into the art of throwing a card was inspired by seeing the unbelievable exhibition of Card Throwing by Ben Franklin IV at the 40th annual Magi-Fest, Columbus, Ohio, last February.  Ben not only shot cards with great accuracy to any part of the large ballroom, but topped his exhibition by throwing cards through an opened sheet of newspaper held like a target by two assistants.  The cards burst through the paper like darts, cutting it to shreds”.

I have included several examples of Franklin’s cards that he used. I found it fascinating to be able to read about Franklin’s skill at actually scaling his throw-out cards, as opposed to just handing them out, as so many magicians did as advertisements.

Benjamin Franklin IV died on January 21, 1986 in Gallipolis, Ohio and was buried in his hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

About our Pinterest Page

Because Blogger does not offer a gallery function -- a feature which would display all of the wonderful images on these pages in one spot -- I have been maintaining a parallel Pinterest page which captures many of the cards we feature in various posts, along with a few other throwing card featured around the web.  It looks like this:

As you can see from this excerpt, the Pinterest page displays scores of the cards you'll find on Propelled Pasteboards in one location.  Clicking on the images will generally bring the viewer to the associated post on this site.   There are currently 180 "pins" on the page, and more are added regularly.  So if you're interested in seeing the best magicians' throwing card collection anywhere on the web, please visit the Magicians' Throwing Cards Pinterest Page, sponsored by your friends at Propelled Pasteboards.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Holding Even More Good Bicycle Cards

Elsewhere, we have written about the United States Playing Card Company's promotional campaign for Bicycle cards, often employing the catch phrase "When You Play with Bicycle, You Hold Good Cards."  The campaign proved a boon for vaudeville-era magicians seeking free or subsidized promotion for their acts, and more indirectly, to modern-day collectors of these pasteboards.  Well, our good friend Jay Hunter, inspired by this historical effort, assembled this stunning array of such cards, representing a broad assembly of Bicycle card backs.

And, another buddy, Lee Asher, offered his considerable knowledge to identify the backs designs. According to Lee, they are as follows:

ROW 1 (Left to Right) - Lotus Back, Racer Back, Cyclist No. 2 Back

ROW 2 (Left to Right) - All Wheel Back, Acorn Back, Cupid Back

ROW 3 (Left to Right) - Sprocket No. 2 Back, Wheel No. 2 Back, New Fan Back.

Additionally, Lee advises, several of the backs are uncommon specimens, in particular the Cyclist No. 2 and the Sprocket No. 2.

Of course, the fronts are equally engaging, if not as colorful, depicting advertisements from nine different magicians, none of which have yet been covered here at Propelled Pasteboards.  You can see the faces below.  While the individual performers may be worthy of further comment (by way of example, I have assembled several other pieces and some information about De Jeu, Max Terhune and Professor Lindhorst), several of these are little-known performers about whom no information may exist other than that depicted on these fine collectibles.

However, these images are worthy of further examination.   The assemblage tells us a little more about the Bicycle promotional campaign, not only by the backs depicted, but also the ad copy on the faces.  Most of them bear some variation of the "hold good cards" theme.  Yet take a look at the detailed description on the Harry Kane card, which is very different than that usually encountered on these pieces.  Moreover, the Bicycle promotional text runs vertically along the side of the Hiestand card, while the normal positioning of this text is usually horizontally along the top of the card.  Finally, the Max Terhune card features a more specific endorsement relating to his use of Steamboat and Bicycle cards, along with the standard text.  Each of these differences are likely clues to the date the cards were printed, and may provide further insights.

Many thanks to Jay for sharing this wonderful assortment with us.

And before leaving the world of Bicycle throwing cards, here's an image of the 1905 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents in which USPCC first registered the "hold good cards" slogan, along with some others:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sid Hamed and Mac Urga "Always Use Öberg's Playing Cards"

"Sid Hamed always uses Öberg's
 Playing Cards at his performances."
Today's post is the tale of  two semi-professional magicians from Sweden, Sid Hamed and Mac Urga, and the nation's largest playing card company, Öberg's Spelkort, which translates to Öberg's Playing Cards.   First a word about the playing cards: Joseph Oscar Öberg, who is credited with developing the standard Swedish playing card deck (which differs from that found in other countries) founded a printing company in 1845.  He travelled to the U.S. to study printing techniques, and the company eventually ventured into lithography and still continues operations today (though now owned by Cartamundi).

Poster for Sid Hamed
Our first performer is Sid Hamed (Pehr Logander 1921-2003), This fine-looking fellow was a very active semi-professional magician who performed 50 shows each summer in Sweden's public parks. He had another calling, however: Hamed was an executive who introduced the game of Bingo to Sweden.  This endeavor proved quite profitable, such that he spent many years wintering in Las Vegas frequenting all of the illusion shows that "The Strip" has to offer. His fine throwing card, seen here, features a handsome, evocative portrait and charming period typography.  It also has an interesting back, featuring advertising by Öberg's Playing Cards.  It roughly translates to "Sid Hamed always uses Öberg's Playing Cards at his performances."  Clearly, like the co-branding deal offered by Bicycle Playing Cards, and other companies, Öberg's saw the marketing potential of subsidizing the production of throwout cards for magicians.
Which brings us to our second performer, Mac Urga.  His throwing card, moody and brooding, has always numbered among my favorites:

Mac Urga (Björn Barck-Holst 1897-1949) was dentist in Stockholm.  He was a frequent performer but never accepted any payment for his performances, donating all proceeds of his shows to The Red Cross.  Magic magazines in the 1940s document several appearances by Urga, and a feature in The Perennial Mystics describes him as "an estimable amateur magician in Sweden and the neighboring countries [and] a great collector of magical literature, apparatus, posters, programmes, etc."  Like Hamed's card, the backs of Urga's monochromatic cards also feature an ad for Oberg's: 

And while continuing to examine the trove of cards obtained from the Swedish Magic Archives, I have come across a number of beautiful card backs that, I am advised, were manufactured by Öberg's Playing Cards.  Check these out:

And what wonder workers grace the faces of these cards?  More to follow . . .

Sunday, July 9, 2017

FISM - Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques

Exactly one year from today, the 2018 FISM World Championships of Magic will begin in Busan, South Korea on July 9. 2018.  And while FISM's 50,000 members can look forward to that event, this seems a fine time to look back at the history of this important magic organization, including a fine early keepsake of its beginnings.

After years of false starts, in early 1939, a group of magicians in France announced plans for the first International Congress of Magic, to commence on October 7, 1939.  However, darkness descended over Europe as the clouds of war rolled in, forcing the nascent organization to cancel its plans.  

Yet the vision of an international magic organization, suspended during the years of the Second World War, did not perish.  In 1947, nearly 500 magicians from 18 countries attended the Congrès Magique International in Paris.  At a series of meetings held during the convention, representatives from a group of magic societies hammered out a plan to form the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques or FISM, a true international magic group. 

The marvelous card pictured above is from a deck issued as part of the 1947 event.  It has a playing card face and charming two-color graphics featuring a wand, rabbit and top hat superimposed against the Eiffel Tower.  

For those interested in getting a sense of this event, below is a brief video from Dutch TV which features John Ramsay (who won second place at the 1947 Congres), among others. I suspect that this film documents scenes from the 1946 Congres, which was a much smaller event.

Vernon E. Lux

Vernon E. Lux was born on June 28, 1906 in Rochelle, Illinois. After graduating high school, he got a job in Mt. Morris working for the Kable Printing Company. Vernon stayed with that job for sixteen years. He took the knowledge he learned from his father as editor of a local newspaper (and his personal experience) and created pamphlet The Dragon which from 1932 through 1946. It was the official organ of the International Society of Junior Magicians of which he was the first president and founder. The purpose and directive of the organization is a youth-focused program to promote, educate and enhance the activities of young magicians around the world. Some of the ISJM members include Neil Foster, Jimmy Grippo, and Harry Riser. 

Lux also wrote for The New Tops under the title of Dragon Reincarnate. Vernon was an honorary member of the Society of Indian Magicians, whose headquarters were in Bombay, India. In the 1930’s, Lux created a fun-filled magical performance titled, “In Wonderland”. The show was well taken and loaded with audience participation for all ages.

This is an advertisement for Vernon's performance in 1959.

Besides performing, Lux had a mail order magic business called The L & L Magic Company. Shortly after opening the business, he changed the name to The Lux Magic Studio. He supplied close up magic tricks and larger effects as needed by his customers. In the mid-1940’s, he opened the Dee Lux Shop selling electrical appliances. He also kept his fingers busy by continuing something he learned from his father and that was working a linotype machine (I worked on a linotype machine for one summer for a small town newspaper and I will tell you, it wasn’t the easiest of machines to conquer). Lux kept his printing experience honed by putting out instruction sheets, advertisements, and assisting others with their advertisements. On August 28, 1962, Vernon E. Lux passed away after suffering a heart attack.

A. Coke Cecil

Interesting illusion back design. Leave it to Coke to select something different.

Alphius and Chloina Cecil had a son named Coke Amos Cecil and he was born in 1897. Throughout Coke’s life was filled with magic. He moved to High Point, North Carolina shortly after his father passed away in 1917. He and his wife, Louise were settling down in the house on Rockford Road enjoying their first few years of marriage. Coke opened Cecil’s Drug Store in 1925 and at the same time, he was performing his show at schools, churches, clubs, and fraternity clubs. In 1930, when the census was being taken and Coke changed his name on the census to A. Coke Cecil and that was what he used the rest of his life.

Coke Cecil constructed a theater in his home basement, complete with curtain and stage, with a seating capacity of fifty. In 1946 began the Cecil's Office Equipment Company as owner-manager. He served in sev­eral offices in magic affairs and was well known throughout the area for his performances for charity. It was said he had a great Medicine show vent routine that was a showstopper. He also was interested in the MAES conven­tions, and attended a number of the International Brotherhood of Magicians' conventions. He was on the advisory and show com­mittee of the Southeastern Magicians Convention. Also, he was IBM Territorial Vice President for North Carolina and was well known throughout the area for his performances for charity. He was IBM Member 4879 and a member of Ring 144 Greensboro, NC. At the Davenport, Iowa Convention in 1940, there was a new trophy A. Cecil Coke Trophy being presented for performers (excluding dealers and professionals) who earned most of their living from magic. The first winner of the trophy for best presentation was Robert Parrish.
On his was way home, Coke was returning from Helfin, Alabama with his assistant Barbara Belesky when a car hit Coke’s panel van on June 1, 1958. The other driver and Belesky survived. Unfortunately, Coke did not. He was gen­tleman, magician and friend.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Treasures from the Swedish Magic Archives

Throwout Cards from the
Swedish Magic archive

In honor of the National Day of Sweden, which was celebrated on June 6,  I am going to discuss an unbelievably fortunate acquisition from last winter, that involves the Swedish Magic Archives run by collector/historian Christer Nilsson.

According to Magicpedia,

Christer Nilsson
"Christer Nilsson (born 1931), living in Nyköping, Sweden, has performed as a magician semi-professionally from 1949 until 1975. He started performing again 1995 and is still active.  He started collecting magic memorabilia 1946 and is the caretaker of Sveriges Magi-Arkiv (The Swedish Magic Archives).  Nilsson was editor of Trollkarlen from 1966 to 1989." 
"Since 2000, he has operated a blog  with the latest news from the Scandinavian magic scene. He has got the badge of merit, is honorary member and have been presented the highest award of The Swedish Magic Circle. He was territorial Vice-President of The International Brotherhood of Magicians in Sweden 1969-1972, International Vice-President 1973-1986 in Sweden and has 2002 got The Order of Merlin – Excalibur.
Christer Nilsson have been responsible for 5 magic conventions in Sweden.

He has written two books about magicians. Trollare och andra underhållare (Magicians and other entertainers) 1990 and Sveriges trollkarlar (Magicians in Sweden) 2007."

A quick look at his site shows the remarkable breadth and depth of his curating activities, as he maintains reams of information, files of collectibles and one the the largest museums of magicana found in Europe.

Over the years, I have traded a few items with Christer, and always found him to be a generous soul and passionate about magic.   Recently, I contacted him, advising him about Propelled Pasteboards and my continued interest in throwout cards.  After some discussion, he made me the proverbial offer that couldn't be refused: he kindly agreed to send me his entire collection of scaling cards, acquired over many years of diligent collecting.  

So, on a windy winter day, a package arrived containing the collection, parts of which you can see in the pictures in this post.  Forty-one items in all, and some beautiful and fascinating pieces.  

I am honored to be entrusted with this fabulous collection, which will be enriching the posts on Propelled Pasteboards for many months to come.   Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Kardells

The back design of the card is Blue Andrew Dougherty Tally Ho Fan Back.

Edward S. Jones and John Louis Domitz billed themselves as “The Kardells” in the early 1900’s. The information on this duo was limited to a few brief mentions in the magic magazines in the early 1900’s. They performed around the state of New York and were active in sending in magic ideas and effects to both The Sphinx and Houdini’s Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine.

         In January of 1905, both Edward and Lew were eighteen years old. They appeared at the Lion Palace in New York City on Thanksgiving eve. They performed a twenty-minute colorful act that included card manipulations, multiplying billiard balls, handkerchiefs, production of flowers, and their finale was a production of an American Flag. This was their first performance on a professional stage and it was a success. They booked two performances at Jerseyland Park in Westfield, New Jersey in August presenting a twenty minute act with handkerchiefs, billiard balls, card effects, and the production of flag staffs.

They appeared at the Miner’s Eighth Avenue Theater on February 12th and received a good reception from the audience and the management. They titled their finale the “Mystic Hat” and it brought applause from the audience. The effect ended with both of them producing large American Flags on staffs. On March 25, 1906, Lew Kardell returned to the Miner’s Eighth Avenue Theater and added a specialty effect that featured over two hundred and twenty-five colorful silks in a manipulation act. 

Perform your act right at Miner's Theaters, or "Get the Hook"!

Here's a interesting note about the Miner’s Theaters. It was there that the term ''the hook'' first appeared. In the 1890's an amateur night was held every other Friday. If the act wasn’t up to standards or to the audiences (or managements) favor, “Give ‘em the hook” was heard throughout the audience and the act would be grabbed from offstage by a stage manager with a long crook. The act would be dragged off knowing they might find it difficult to appear on that stage again (at least without either a different act or lots of make up).
In September 1906, they performed in Kansas City, Missouri. Following that there was a mention in a magic magazine that they were going to separate for two years. Checking through all search engines, there wasn’t a mention of The Kardells until 1907, when a magic magazine reissued the comment that The Kardells were taking a two-year separation from each other. Check through a few magazines and you will find a few effects they sent into the magic magazines such as their ideas for their “New Flying Coin” effect or their "New Method of Finding a Selected Card with a Knife."
We will leave you a poem The Kardells published in a few magic magazines:

A feat of prestidigitation.
And a little mystification,
Will please the imagination,
And satisfy all creation.
—The "Kardells."

Monday, July 3, 2017

De Weird –The Great Mystifying Wizard

James Thomas Riley Weir was born on October 19,1885, in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio. His father, James and mother Elizabeth, and the family moved to a home on Carey Alley in Pittsburgh. Three years later, James’ father passed away. A year later, young James’ twin brother Sylvester passed away. By the age of fourteen, James, along with his older brother and sister, took on the chores around the house. When James was fourteen, he got a job as an elevator boy in town. He had been performing small magic for the school he went to as well as other small shows.

The back of this card is Bicycle's Chainless #18 design.

            In 1906, he played a week in Altoona at a local venue featuring his skills as a magician and escape artist under the name of Professor James De Weird. He married Elizabeth Miller in 1907. James worked in a pet shop as a salesman while practicing his magic for customers. By 1914, he was a member of the Pittsburgh Association of Magicians where he was elected to the office of Vice President. His fellow performers enjoyed his skill and James was always trying ideas out on the members to hone his abilities. His forte and expertise was in escapes from handcuffs.

The back of this card is Bicycle's Mobile #2 design.

This is James Weir's WWI draft card.

The back of this card is Bicycle's Latern #2 design.

Some of the other members included George Wanner, Silent Mora, Copenhagen Paul, Charles "Baffles" Brush, Jack Gwynne, and Harry Rouclere. By 1918, James was nearly thirty-three when he registered for the draft. He was working as a salesman for a local pet shop on Smithsfield Street in Pittsburgh. James continued to perform at ladies clubs and local fraternity organizations for many years. In 1940, James claimed to be employed as a salesman at a Bird Seed Store. One of the last reports found was in 1942, where James was employed to entertain at a senior woman’s club in Pittsburgh. 

The back of this card is Bicycle's League #35 design.

This is James Weir's WWII draft card.

His last non-magic-related employment was as a night watchman. I received an email from a relative of James, or as she remembered him as "Uncle Jim." Evelyn mentioned, "...that he entertained all of us kids at family gatherings; he was the delight of our lives." James Weir passed away on August 17, 1951, and is buried Saint Michael's Cemetery in Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.