Friday, May 5, 2017
Asking Alexander about Alexander - Part I: The Challenge
Who is this all-knowing powerhouse? The image here, inspired by an iconic stone lithograph from the vaudeville-era mentalist Claude "Alexander" Conlin, is taken from the Ask Alexander site one of several fascinating services offered by the Conjuring Arts Research Center. Ask Alexander is an elegant, proprietary search engine for a vast, and ever-growing collection of digitized magic periodicals, books and other publications. And, in this post, we're going to put Ask Alexander to the test ,,,
From time to time, I have written about "men of mystery" - throwing cards featuring obscure performers who are difficult, if not impossible, to identify. As I've also noted in other posts (such as this one on Wildor, or the initial post on Moore), the task of finding information about once-unidentifiable conjurers has been greatly facilitated in recent years. Indeed, in the decade between the demise of throwingcard.com and the advent of Propelled Pasteboards, our collective ability to get information about magicians, effects and performers has improved exponentially. And Ask Alexander has become one of the critical tools in the magic historian's toolbox.
So for this experiment, I selected these throwing cards, poetically enough advertising the services of another magician named Alexander, which had appeared, a decade ago, on throwingcard.com. The description posted with them was as follows:
"No, these throwout cards were not used to promote Alexander Herrmann, Claude Alexander Conlin, a/k/a "Alexander, The Man Who Knows" or an assistant to Fred Keating who appeared as 'Alexander the Great.' Rather, these attractive souvenir cards, printed on generic playing card stock, were used by a children's show magician, probably circa 1960."
(The "generic playing card stock" is actually Aviator backed bridge-sized card stock, presumably printed by Haines House of Cards.)
And so "Alexander the Great" remained, unidentified, despite being posted on throwingcard.com for several years. So, I thought, what a perfectly poetic challenge for Ask Alexander -- help us identify Alexander the Great.
How did Ask Alexander fare? We'll find out in the next post ....
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