[Regular readers of Propelled Pasteboard may recall that the inaugural post of this blog was one devoted to E.J. Moore, for whom we posted two throwing cards that bookended his unusual career. Well, something truly magical happened. Pamela Kellogg, his great granddaughter, who had spent many months researching his life and career, and gathering documents, articles and illustrations, contacted us through the comments section of this blog. Pam has kindly put together this biography, which I am proud and pleased to present to the readers of Propelled Pasteboards. -Judge Brown]
A Biography Of E.J. Moore The Magician
By: Pamela Kellogg
The great granddaughter of E. J. Moore
©2017, Pamela Kellogg
I’ve always been fascinated with the stories I’ve heard throughout my life about my great grandfather, E. J. Moore. My mom has always talked about him with such love and respect and amazement. “He was a famous magician!” Mom said. She told me of his trips to Europe to perform his magic acts. She told me of how her grandfather knew Harry Houdini personally. Mom spoke of how he invented his own tricks and that he worked for many years in vaudeville. She told me the story of how her grandfather met her grandmother. Tears would fill mom’s eyes when she shared her memories with me of her grandfather visiting and doing his magic tricks for her and my aunt. She has always wished that he could have visited more often. But the world loved him.
And he loved to entertain the world.
And he loved to entertain the world.
According to his birth certificate, E. J. Moore was born Ernest Joseph Limburger on October 12, 1880 in Manhatten, New York. His father, Ernest Josef Limburger Sr. was born in Badan, Germany and came to America with his parents and five siblings in 1854. The 1855 New York Census has them living in Brooklyn. At some point, the family owned a Cap and Hat store.
From the 1870 New York Merchants Directory
|Newark Ohio Advocate April 5, 1882|
Ernest’s mother was Louise Mirium Kuster. Her father Joseph was the owner of the famous Kuster’s restaurant in Newark Ohio.
I have yet to discover how Ernest’s parents met but their marriage certificate is dated April 19, 1877. They were married in Ohio. According to Ernest’s passport dated September, 1919, his father died around 1886, when Ernest was about six years old. In 1888, Ernest’s mother Louise married Jonathan H. Moore. Ernest unofficially took his step-father’s last name -- a common practice in those days.
|E. J. Moore in 1896|
Apparently his calling came early in his life. According to Ernest’s obituary from April 25, 1957, his career started at age 13 when his uncle, Frank Kuster, brought him a magic kit from the Chicago World’s Columbia Exhibition in 1893. Still in High School at the time, Ernest began performing for his friends in his backyard and at school events.
Newark Daily Advocate, December 18, 1897
Ernest’s first professional appearance was when he was 18 years old at Idlewilde Park in Newark, Ohio. An act of fate occurred when he was asked to fill in for another entertainer.
From The Newark Daily Advocate June 18, 1898
By 1899, Ernest was already being compared to Magician Harry Kellar!
Newark Daily Advocate June 22, 1899
Ernest’s first professional tour engagement around 1901 was with the Sullivan Stock Company of Canada. By 1902, Ernest was touring with Chas. H. Rosskam’s The Chicago Stock Company. It was at this point that Ernest’s stage name was to become Moore The Magician.
E. J. Moore Magician
From The Hancock Democrat August 14, 1902
While working with the Chicago Stock Company, Ernest met a young girl who was also working with that company. Adria Letty Smith was already an established singer and performer.
Adria was about 13 years old when she started in vaudeville. Her stage name was Ada Melrose and I believe The Chicago Stock Company was her first professional engagement.
9 years his junior, Adria and Ernest must have noticed an attraction early on. This signed photograph that my mother has of her grandmother on stage was a gift to Ernest. For the record, my mother was named Adria after her grandmother.
Adria Letty Smith born 1889. In this photo she is about age 12. The small photo in the bottom left-hand corner was taken in the Summer of 1918.
The above photo was taken about 1902.
Adria was living in Chicago Illinois when this ad was posted in The Chicago Tribune:
From the Chicago Tribune April 18, 1901
Although I have no way of knowing for sure, I’m going to assume that this how Adria found her way into Vaudeville. Ernest Joseph Moore and Adria Letty Smith (a/k/a Ada Melrose) were married on November 24, 1904 in Jamestown New York.
From The Newark Daily Advocate November 28, 1904
After they were married, Ernest and Adria continued to travel and perform together for The Chicago Stock Company. Ernest’s career was growing in popularity. He wowed his audiences with handcuff escapes, trunk escapes and straight-jacket escapes as well as other masterful illusions.
Moore The Magician
From The Newark Advocate March 23, 1903
On January 7, 1907 Adria gave birth to a son in Chicago, John Ellsworth Moore, my grandfather.
From The Newark Advocate January 9, 1907
Ernest and Adria continued to travel and work together in vaudeville. Baby John traveled with them. One of the stories my mom remembers hearing is that Adria used to put little John in a dresser drawer to sleep backstage.
John Ellsworth Moore age 12 - Son of Ernest Joseph Moore and Adria Letty (Smith) Moore
My mother told me that her father John had “Blue Baby Syndrome”.
From the Newark Advocate May 8, 1908
Eventually the Moores found themselves with the Himmelien Stock Company.
From the Altoona Tribune March 7, 1908
On October 15, 1910, Ernest’s Step-Father John H. Moore passed away.
It was somewhere around this time that Ernest’s career started to branch out. He was traveling frequently, working with one vaudeville circuit after another. This is when he became known as “The Gabby Trickster”. According to my mother, he was quite the comedian. On February 11, 1913, the Moores were blessed with another child, a girl whom they named Phoebe Jane.
Now every family has it’s skeletons and here lies the skeleton in the Moore family. Ernest was not Phoebe’s biological father. Apparently, Ernest knew something didn’t add up. He figured out that he was traveling when Phoebe was conceived. Adria was not with him on that trip.
Phoebe’s biological father’s last name was Wyman. The story in the family is that he was a pharmacist. I haven’t been able to document that, however my mother said he eventually moved to California. Phoebe eventually moved to California as well. Mom said it was to be closer to him.
Adria Moore’s daughter Phoebe Jane (Moore) Alspach
Now, Ernest was a good man! He and Adria remained married. I believe it was around this time that Adria dropped out of vaudeville all together. She and the children traveled with Ernest from time to time but for the most part, Adria and the children lived in Chicago where Adria’s mother lived.
Tragedy struck in 1918 when Adria contracted the Spanish Flu. She died of complications from pneumonia on December 26, 1918 just one month shy of her 30th birthday.
From The Newark Advocate December 27, 1918
From the Newark Advocate December 28, 1918
From The Billboard January 4, 1919
After his wife passed away, Ernest brought the children from Chicago to his mother’s home in Newark, Ohio.
From The Newark Advocate January 4, 1919
After a few months of grieving, Ernest left for a performance tour in Europe on November 24, 1919.
From The Newark Advocate November 29, 1919
It was during this trip to Europe that my great grandfather met with the one and only Harry Houdini!
From The Newark Advocate March 2, 1920
He arrived back in the United States on July 4, 1920. According the 1920 census records, my grandfather John was living with Adria’s mother in Chicago and Adria’s daughter Phoebe was living with Ernest at his mother’s home in Newark Ohio. As Phoebe got older, she became Ernest’s assistant.
A story that I was recently told by my grandfather’s cousin Barbara, was that Ernest was practicing knife throwing -- a common magician’s trick. But Phoebe got injured and scarred during this practice. I don’t know for how long or if he ever used that in his act!
By the mid-1920’s, Ernest was performing a trick called “The Tears Of Buddha” which was a bean trick in which he swallowed a bean and it appeared out of his eye. Okay, it sounds strange to me but I’ve never seen it done. From what I’ve read, audiences were amazed by it!
From the Ironwood Daily Globe November 20, 1924
From The Statesman Journal January 18, 1925
From the Circleville Herald November 16, 1929
From The Chillicothe Gazette December 2, 1931
In this early article on E. J. Moore performing the Tears Of Buddha, it mentions that he wore an Asian-inspired costume.
From The Salt Lake Telegram March 28, 1923
Several years ago, while looking for photos and articles about my great grandfather, I came across a photo of his Asian-styled costume. This was at a magician auction site. Unfortunately, I don’t have the documentation from the website.
In the 1930’s, Ernest was performing with his own company. His show was called “A Night Of Wonderment”.
From The Sandusky Register November 28, 1930
A Night Of Wonderment was performed in many schools across the
United States. His performances helped to benefit sports teams and other school related projects. In the summer months, Ernest performed at amusement parks. As vaudeville gradually died out, Ernest continued to perform at schools and social events.
In 1933, Ernest’s step-daughter Phoebe Jane was married.
From The Newark Advocate August 12, 1933
Several years later, Ernest’s son John (my grandfather) married Magdalene Niebergall.
My mother Adria Beatrice Moore was born in 1940 and my aunt Helen Elizabeth Moore in 1942.
From The Coshocton Tribune November 25, 1941
On May 3, 1942 Ernest’s mother Louise Kuster Limburger Moore passed away.
In 1945, Ernest was offered the opportunity to join the U. F. Grant Magic Company in Columbus Ohio.
From The Newark Advocate March 27, 1945
Ernest left his home in Newark, Ohio and moved to Columbus.
From The Circleville Herald June 7, 1946
Ernest continued to perform on a smaller scale and worked as a demonstrator of magic tricks at the U. F. Grant Magic Company.
On June 7, 1951 Ernest’s son John (my grandfather) passed away. He died of Colon Cancer.
Ernest’s son John Ellsworth Moore
I confess, I never met my grandfather or my great grandfather. I was born in 1961. But every time I tell the story and get to the end, I start to cry. I know I should leave my emotions out of this but after spending so much time researching my great grandfather, I can’t help but feel attached to him and my mother’s father.
Great grandpa E. J. had a wonderful life. Like all of us, he had his crosses to bare but he gave so much to the world. He loved performing, he loved illusions and magic and he loved to travel.
E. J. Moore passed away on April 25, 1957. My mother told me he died of prostate cancer. This photo was taken at his funeral:
The lady with the hat and glasses is Ernest’s step-daughter Phoebe. The man to left of her is her husband Frederick Alspach. The lady in green is his sister. The lady in the back with the white hat is my grandmother and one of the two ladies in the front is the lady that took care of Ernest when he was sick. The remaining participant is unidentified.
From The Newark Advocate April 29, 1957
As I mentioned in the beginning of my article, Ernest was actually born in 1880. I have a copy of his birth certificate.
[Ed. Note: Many thanks to Pam for this interesting and detailed reflection on the career of this great magician. Pam would be eager to hear from anyone with additional information or materials about the career of E.J. Moore -- you can leave comments below or contact her at her website: http://www.kittyandmedesigns.blogspot.com/ where you can also learn something about her hobby - quilting!]