Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bamberg, the Elusive Mr. Heir and the Triple-Promotion Throwout Card


Some time ago, when Tom published this terrific post about Theo Bamberg a/k/a "Okito", I wondered about the odd layout and language on the card reproduced here.  Why the empty space between the Bicycle Playing Cards banner and the "Free Trick" text below that?  At first I thought perhaps it was part of a trick that the card would be used for, but that didn't feel right.   And when it says "I can recommend The Bamberg Magic & Novelty Company," who is this mysterious "I"?

We have, of course, written elsewhere about the Bicycle Playing Card promotion offering free throwout cards to magicians,  In years of research, though, I have never found a specific reference to the arrangement, other than a mention by John Mulholland.   And, certainly, we've covered a throwing card hawking the Tarbell Course, as yet another form of cross-promotion.   But the layout of this Bamberg card proved curious.


Then, fortuitously, I came across an eBay auction for another card, advertising what is presumably a magic show called "Wonderland" starring someone named George (using the quaint, largely obsolete abbreviation "Geo.")  Heir.  The card, which sports a US Playing Card Company 808 back, answers certain questions about Tom's Okito card.   Heir's card features largely similar text about Bamberg Magic and the Bicycle Playing Card marquee, but also has the photo and text for Mr. Heir overprinted within that mysterious space.  So Bamberg must have sold or given cards like the one seen above as "blanks" to performers seeking to pitch their shows, who would overprint the cards with an image or additional text in the empty space.   So this card, from an advertising perspective, is a triple-threat: it simultaneously promotes Heir's show, Bamberg's shop and Bicycle cards.

In fact, this card also provides some evidence of something I've suspected for a while: it may be that US Playing Card distributed the cards printed with their backs and the "Hold Good Cards" banner, and performers were required get the fronts printed elsewhere.  If this theory is correct, it would account for the vast differences in the quality of printing between the beautiful backs of these cards and the often abysmal imaging on their faces.

Even assuming that this card provides a clue to this production mystery, it raises a new question. Who in the world was George Heir?  So far, my research has turned up an absolute blank on him.  So like Stincel, he may remain a man of mystery. . . .

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