We begin 2017 with this beautiful card featuring Stincel, the ultimate man of mystery. Despite years of searching, researching, asking, cajoling and so forth, I have been unable to track down any definitive information about this elusive performer. So here's my New Year's resolution: find Stincel in 2017. And you can help!
First some background: of the many joys attendant to operating the throwingcard.com website more than a decade ago, unearthing the mystery of Stincel was the greatest.
Pat Curtis, a collector of fine, vintage items (though not a magic collector) was searching for treasures at an estate sale in Yucca Valley, a reputed "Rat Pack" hangout outside of Los Angeles that was once home to several screen cowboys. At the bottom of a box of household items, Pat spied two dozen of these magnificent cards. Pat contacted me in an effort to figure out the mystery behind this item, and dutifully examined other items found with the cards for clues about Stincel. Unfortunately, the search did not provide any useful information. Pat kindly supplied a card to me for examination and so that it could be added to the site.
Admittedly, I have a weakness for color cards, but this one is simply sublime. The charming period graphics depict the tuxedo-clad, wand-wielding Stincel executing a card flourish, while his equipment and livestock stand at the ready. Note the terrific duck production, the traditional rabbit from top hat, a rising card houlette and a orange tree/flower growth-type effect. The information on and style of the card suggest that it probably dates from the 40s or early 50s. Printed on heavy stock, with a blank back, the piece is slightly larger than a playing card, falling into the category of a souvenir or "palm" card. Even the printing technique on this card is interesting -- under a magnifying glass, the orange and black areas have the characteristic "blots" associated with lithography, while the flesh tone areas exhibit the even rows of dots consistent with half-tone printing.
I have never seen another example of this card, nor have I ever come across any other memorabilia featuring Stincel. A review of Burt Sperber's list of hundreds of throwing cards (more about that to follow in another post) also came up negative. Propelled Pasteboard's own Tom Ewing searched his database of digitized magic periodicals for Stincel, again without results. Tom has suggested that Stincel might be featured in a West Coast periodical, such as Thayer's. I've even asked my friend Dean Carnegie, the magic detective to apply his investigative skills to this mystery. Dean has acknowledged that it's a difficult case, but he may have a trick or two up his sleeves.
Recently, I tried another angle, which was to research Stincel as a human, rather than a magician. This leads me to believe that he may be Sylvester A Stincel, who was born in Illinois in 1898 and lived until 1996 - a healthy 97 years. He may have had a son of the same name. Records suggest he
was a cabinetmaker with a grade school education. The 1940 census found him as a lodger in a California rooming house, which kind of fits the profile. (Collectors may recall that De La Mano's trove of magical artifacts were recovered from an upstate NY rooming house. But De La Mano is a mystery for another forum....)
The most intriguing information was his military record. Stincel enlisted in the armed forces in 1942 as either a private or a warrant officer with the unusual designation of "branch immaterial." While I'm speculating a bit here, it may well be that such a designation would be consistent with someone who entered the military as an entertainer -- perhaps with the USO or similar assignment. (Or it could be that they needed cabinetmakers.)
Despite these advances, I still cannot find a trace of Stincel performing as a magician anywhere.
So, dear reader, I turn the mystery over to you. If you have or can find anything about Stincel, please post it below or contact me via the contact form on the site. Efforts will be rewarded with a bit of fame -- as you will be making history -- and will surely be rewarded with the "Good Luck" prominently promised on most throwing cards!
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