Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rehco – Magician Extra Ordinary

This throw-out card for a magician named Rehco has always fascinated me. The reason being, it has “Good Luck” written on the face of the card three times. On the back of the card is an advertisement for a funeral home! Is that not an interesting contrast?

 
When I went to research Rehco, I could find nothing on the massive magic database Ask Alexander. So I thought I would do a Google search for the funeral home as I know most funeral homes are around for years if not decades. Sure enough, this business in North Tonawanda, New York is still around and has been since 1947 and is still in the same location, and even the last four digits of the phone number are the same! Wow!
I could not find Rehco however. Then I remembered a free newspaper database that a friend told me about. It is Fultonhistory.com and has a search engine for New York state newspapers. Putting in “Rehco magician” got me two hits, and a door was opened.
North Tonawanda New York Evening News for April 3, 1953
 
Not only did this newspaper story tell us about a Rehco performance, but “Everyone attending will be presented a 'good luck' Rehco card”. It is not every day that a throw-out card makes the papers!
Another Tonawanda Evening News story from October 5, 1985 had an interesting article about a North Tonawanda Public Library exhibit of magic memorabilia that had belonged at one time to a deceased man whose “name was Roland Hauck and worked professionally under the name of Rehco”.
Looking up Roland Hauck gave me a number of items from several New York State newspapers. In March of 1962, this story ran which had a photo that included Roland.
From the Tonawanda Evening News for March 26, 1962.
It is amazing what was considered to be newsworthy back then. In a different story under the topic of “Fire Calls”, Mr. Hauck fainted while at church in August of 1962, and the fire department had to be summoned and Hauck was given oxygen. The story gave his age, address and lots of personal details that might be considered an invasion of privacy today.
Going back to Ask Alexander and searching for the name Hauck gave me a couple of references for a Ron Hauck being a guest of the Rochester, New York assembly of the S.A.M. This clipping for M-U-M for May of 1972 had this to say:
 
From what I have been able to find online, it would appear Roland E. Hauck was born on October 21, 1898 and lived most, if not all of his life in North Tonawanda, New York. He passed away in May, 1976, at the age of 77.
I did find an obituary for Roland Hauck’s wife who was named Irene. She died at the age of 64 in 1973. Her funeral services were held at a funeral home in North Tonawanda…. the same funeral home as on the back of Rehco’s throw-out card from years before.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Graupner – Gone But Not Forgotten

An interesting aspect about throw-out cards of magicians of the past is that the card may be the only surviving memento of the performer. When I decided to do some research on this particular magician named Graupner, it became quickly apparent that there wasn’t much to go on except for this simple, yet stylish throw-out card. 


Theodore Graupner was born on March 11, 1870 in Saint Louis, Missouri. From what I have been able to find, it looks like he may have had his ups and downs in his pursuit of being a magician.

In the magic magazine Mahatma for July of 1900, we find the below ad where he wants to sell some of his “Magical Goods”.


However in August of the next year, he has an even bigger ad offering a large amount of goods, and states, “Am going to quit the business”. It does not look good for Graupner.
Moving forward to September, 1904 a small blurb in The Sphinx shows he is back at it in St. Louis. It is hard to give magic up once the bug has bitten.

I found an interesting reference to Graupner from a book entitled Punch and Judy in 19th Century America: A History and Biographical Dictionary by Ryan Howard. Apparently Theodore Graupner was working as the “side show manager, orator, magic, ventriloquism, and fire act” for George W. Hall’s Two Ring Circus, Museum, and Menagerie. There is a quote: “We are in our sixth week of success. Everything is lovely around the show, and we have lost but one night on account of rain”. It looks like this quote was from The New York Clipper from June 14, 1902.

I found several more appearances in The New York Clipper of Graupner working in circus shows, even as far back as 1893. How long Graupner did side show work is anybody’s guess. However, in April, 1917 he ran another ad in The Billboard advertising “Six Side-Show Banners – Used three days: Fire King, Magician, Punch, Ventriloquist, Mind Reader, Snake, and Annex Door: complete with guy ropes, etc. They pack in a large trunk that is used for ticket stand. Price, $30, $10 cash, balance C. O. D. THEO. GRAUPNER, Valley Park, Missouri.”

Outside of these occasional advertisements in which Graupner was selling off his apparatus and effects and a few reports of his circus days, I have been able to find little else concerning his involvement with magic.


Theodore Graupner died on December 27, 1945 at the age of 75. He was buried in St. Charles, Missouri. If it had not been for Graupner’s throw-out card in my collection, it is possible that he might have been completely lost to magic’s history. I for one am glad that he was not.
 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Harry A. Weitzel – “America’s Leading Thimbleist”

This throw-out card is about a magician who was known for a particular specialty. I have always found it interesting because as a playing card, it is slightly smaller than average, but it has a great look to it with the image of the performer and the sewing thimbles on each side of it. The manipulation of sewing thimbles was what this magician was remembered for more than anything else.
Throw-Out Card of Harry A. Weitzel
When I started to look into the magic career of Harry A. Weitzel, I found many references to him in magic periodicals on the Ask Alexander database. He was mentioned frequently as a member of the Pittsburgh Association of Magicians during the late teens of the last century, and into the nineteen-twenties, acting for many years as their secretary.
From the Billboard for September 25, 1920
Two things about Weitzel really came through about his involvement with magic. He was very good when it came to the manipulation of thimbles, and he was incredibly shy when it came to showing it. In The Sphinx for June of 1918, the Pittsburgh Association held an annual show and they had this to say: “Next on the bill was without a question the biggest surprise that the association has ever had.  Our esteemed most bashful brother, Harry A. Weitzel, made his appearance and did several mechanical tricks, one of which was the production of a cake a la Hoover, then Harry made the hit of his life by some very clever thimble manipulation that was well worth the gracement (sic) of the Palace, New York.  Harry had them all guessing and made an appearance that would be hard to equal.”
From the Billboard for December 31, 1921
Weitzel was variously known as “Harry Thimbles”, “Baron Thimble”, and Weitzel of “Nimble Thimble” fame. Charles J. Colta referred to him as “America’s Leading Thimbleist”. The Sphinx even said about him that he “does thimbles so much that his head is getting shaped like one”. It also said that he used “the regular Woolworth Red Celluloid Thimbles”. Perhaps the oddest comment in The Sphinx stated: “Incidentally, Weitzel is still single and it looks as if he will be for some time as he spends more time practicing thimble manipulations than he does making love”. I thought that was an odd and maybe inappropriate comment for a magic magazine in 1922!
While Weitzel’s prowess with the thimbles was well documented, trying to find out anything about his personal life outside of magic has come up empty. The Harry A. Weitzels I have found in my available resources, I could not confirm for sure which one was really him. I guess Weitzel, as a magician, left us with one last mystery to ponder.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Richards the Wizard – He Truly Deceived

The art of magic is all about mystery and deception. The life of Ralph Richards is somewhat of a mystery, and he took the deception part a little too far. He did have a great looking throw-out card however, as can be seen in the two variant examples below. The cards were glued into a scrapbook and as such, I do not know if they are identical on the back of each card, or if one might have been blank. I am going to assume they were the same.
Richard’s life and career has fascinated more than a couple of magic historians, probably due to the fact that so little can be found on him. His real name was either Ralph Alanson Ennes/Ennis or Ralph Bruce Ennes/Ennis. I have found references to both names. I don’t know when he was born, but it looks like maybe he was from Detroit, Michigan from the following clippings from M-U-M for membership in the S.A.M.
From M-U-M magazine for June 1919

From M-U-M for May 1921
In The Sphinx for October, 1914, T. J. Crawford states: “Recently I had the pleasure of meeting and witnessing the performance of “Richards the Wizard”. He has the largest exclusive magic show that has been through the South since Thurston’s tour two years ago.” J. P. Ornson of Buffalo N. Y.  writing in The Sphinx for June, 1922 had this to say: “Richards the Wizard was here and is gone, but he left a wonderful impression. His advance agents plastered the entire East side with devils, ghosts, question marks, and flashy paper announcing the coming of Richards”. “When he made his first bow to a Buffalo audience at 8:15 that evening every seat and available standing room was occupied.” Ornson also stated: “His Crystal Gazing completely mystified his audience”.
Window Cards and a "Pitch" Book for Richards
Richards enjoyed a period of success with his two hour show composed of Magic and Crystal Gazing. The late Tommy Windsor from Marietta, Ohio wrote an article on Richards in the Linking Ring for March of 1969. Tommy stated: “I thought then (and still do) that he was one of the great magicians of the world”. According to Tommy, when Richards appeared in Marietta in 1929, Richards was having health issues, and his show was attached for back salaries for his assistants. “Richards bid them a fond adieu and walked out leaving his show on stage”.
From the Linking Ring for March 1969
Richards evidently retired from touring his show, but he was not done. This is where he decided to take the art of deception to a new level. Marquis the Magician writing in the Linking Ring in December of 1934 mentions that “Richards retired from the road to broadcast his mental act over the Mexican Station XER”. The book Border Radio written by Gene Fowler and Bill Crawford states that it was actually XEPN out of Piedras Negras, Mexico. Richards did what a lot of other fortune tellers did in those days. By broadcasting from Mexico, out of reach from U.S. law, he could have a mail-order business and listeners would send in money to have him answer their questions. He added a Dr. to the front of his name, and Ms.D., Ps.D. after it, and persuaded people to invest in numerous money-making schemes.  George Marquis added another story in the Linking Ring for August of 1936.

By now Ralph Richards was doing nothing more than running various confidence games, the promoting of the oil land above being one of them.  He tried to stay one step ahead of the law in the U.S., but of course in this case justice won out in the end. After the feds caught up with him, he did two stretches in federal prison. After Richards was released, he did one last trick worthy of his status as a great magician. He just vanished. No one seems to know what happened to him, where he ended up, or when he died.
I am going to leave you with these final words written by Tommy Windsor in that article from the Linking Ring way back in March of 1969: “Of course, Richards flourished before magic clubs really got started, but still, it seems to me that there should be more literature… or more information available on this man who had such a big show.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Uncle Ed Reno – “It’s all in the Stick”

I recently acquired this throw-out card for magician Ed Reno. It has as its back, one of the ads for the Tarbell Magic Course that is seen on a number of throw-out cards here on this site. Because it was glued into a scrapbook at one time, it has a fair amount of paper loss, and looks a little shabby. As you will learn in this post, the look of this card fits Reno rather well.
 
Reno was born Edward Munn Burdick on August 23, 1861 in Baldwinsville, New York. Like so many others, he got his start in magic while young by apprenticing to a magician. Reno was paid about a dime a day, and learned the ropes of being a magician. By the time he was fifteen, he was on his own as a performer, and even did tours of Australia and England, with a prestigious stop at London’s famed “Egyptian Hall” magic theatre.
Chautauqua brochures for Ed Reno
 
In time Reno decided to go into the Chautauqua and Lyceum field. Chautauqua was known as “Culture under Canvas”. It was a form of entertainment that traveled from town to town, setting up under a tent, presenting a week’s worth of lectures, concerts, plays, and vaudeville type entertainers. There was a different presentation each night. Lyceum was essentially the same thing, but was done in theatres in the winter. Reno went into this field and remained in it for many years.
A Chautauqua poster for Ed Reno (Author's collection)
Life on the Chautauqua circuit was not easy, as you were constantly travelling to the next town, setting up and tearing down your show, and always on the move. While many magicians excelled at this life, it would seem that it was a little tougher for Reno. While everything I have read says Reno’s magic shows were excellent, they were not without their issues. It was said that Ed Reno’s personal appearance and his apparatus were somewhat shabby. His clothes were often unclean and unkempt, and his props were beat up and looked like he made them himself. Instead of a magic wand, Reno used a rung from a chair and called it his stick. When asked how he did his wonders, he replied, “It’s all in the stick”. One report said that at the end of his performance, he would set his suitcase under his table and sweep his props into it with his arm!
All indications though, seem to reflect highly on his ability to give a good show, and he was well respected by his peers in magic. Magicians liked him so much, that he was fondly referred to as “Uncle Ed Reno”. One of his featured tricks was the “Egg Bag” trick in which an egg mysteriously appears and disappears in a cloth bag. Reno’s egg bag exists to this day, as I was able to purchase it at a magic auction several years ago.
Ed Reno's Egg Bag
Ed Reno died on April 2, 1949 in Kankakee, Illinois where he had lived for many years. He was 87. I am indebted to magic author David Meyer who wrote a fine article on Ed Reno in July 2013 in the pages of Magic magazine. I learned a great deal about Reno from his story.
I feel that the beaten and worn throw-out card above is a fitting remembrance of the rough and tumble career of the man who had such a long and strenuous journey as a professional magician…. “Uncle Ed Reno”.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Grover George – What Might Have Been

This story is about a magician who was on the cusp of greatness, but was thwarted by the man behind the “Wonder Show of the Universe”. Because of that, original stone lithograph posters of George are some of the easiest to find today. I will not go into great detail on the life of Grover George, as many others have done an excellent job on the internet and elsewhere, but here are a few pieces of trivia.

A brochure used by Grover George
Like so many other magicians before and after him, Grover George had a throw-out card. On heavy card stock, it has a blank back. While not overly elaborate, I’m sure the card served its purpose well. It wished everyone “Good Luck” too!
Grover George Throw-Out Card
Grover G. George was born on August 18, 1877 in Zanesville, Ohio. I have a particular interest in George, as I live between Zanesville and Columbus, Ohio, which was the birthplace of Thurston the magician. More about Thurston in a moment.

It looks like George developed an interest in magic at an early age. Unlike most, however, he parlayed that interest into a professional career as a magician. He met with success as can be attributed to this remembrance by M.S. Mahendra in The Linking Ring of April of 1939: “George sells his magic with a capital S. Here is one of the best magic acts on the road today. The marvelous thing to me about George is the way he works big magic and illusions, with only his wife to assist. Twenty years ago I saw Grover George at the National Theatre, Chicago, with a full evening show. This was before he toured South America. He has the most beautiful equipment ever.”
George doing thimble magic and a broadside for his show
Somewhere along the way, George decided to attempt the big time. He contracted with the Otis Lithograph Company to have a series of beautiful posters made proclaiming himself, “The Supreme Master of Magic” The posters stated it was his “Triumphant American Tour” with “18 People” and a “Car load of Scenic Effects” He attempted to contract with the leading theatres to showcase his illusion show, and that’s when Thurston stepped in.
Otis Lithograph posters for Grover George
Thurston was the biggest name in magic in America at the time and he proceeded to threaten the theatre managers who booked George. He told them that if they took on George, then he would not perform in their theatres. George attempted, with the help of his father (who was an attorney) to fight Thurston legally, but he was no match for the “World’s Greatest Magician”. So instead of continuing the fight, George decided to switch continents. He traveled to South America. Grover George went on to become fairly successful in South America, so much so in fact, that he moved there for the rest of his life.

Due to his move to Latin America, he was not able to use those beautiful Otis posters, announcing that American tour. They languished in a barn in Berlin, Wisconsin for many years until being bought up and dispersed to dealers and collectors around the world.
Grover George, the “Supreme Master of Magic” from Zanesville, Ohio, died in Sao Paulo, Brazil on September 14, 1958. He was 71.

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From Billboard, 1930:


Friday, May 11, 2018

Willard the Magician

In my forthcoming book on Herman Weber (Namreh), I discuss some of his major influences and fellow magicians in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area. Willard Warmkessel was certainly one, if not the, most important contact for Weber. And, of course, he had scaling cards with his own unique designs. 

 Besides Weber, Warmkessel is the second most well-known magician coming from Allentown. Using his first name, he toured professionally under the name “Willard the Magician.” This title was already taken, of course, by various members of the actual Willard family of conjurors in Texas. And, while the Texas Willard’s performed entirely under canvas, Allentown’s Willard mostly appeared on the stages of county fairs in Pennsylvania, New York, California and throughout the south.
This scaling card back came from an era when the swastika
was still a sign of good luck, not evil. 

Willard offered spook show effects as well
as illusions. 
Warmkessel was born June 2, 1900 and became interested in magic as a 14-year-old usher at the Lyric Theater in Allentown and gave his first magic performance at 16. The show was a benefit for the other ushers at the theater. After touring with his full-evening illusion show, Warmkessel operated the American Letterhead & Envelope Company for 38 years. In 1948, he retired from that business and devoted all of his time to magic. He passed away January 9, 1936.

It is interesting to note that Willard’s equipment and major illusions were especially well-built, most likely in cooperation with, or entirely by, Weber. Many years after Warmkessel’s death, George Goebel, Baltimore magician and owner of the A.T. Jones & Sons Costumers, heard that his widow might have blueprints of her late husband’s illusions. She owned and operated a printing shop and Goebel travelled to Allentown to meet her. 


Entering the shop he introduced himself and inquired about the blueprints. She confirmed she had them but suggested he might be more interested in the actual illusions. Taking him to a rear storage area Goebel found it packed with illusions. There was Warmkessel’s Water Tank Escape, Modern Cabinet, a Throne Chair, a Giant Cone for producing an assistant, a small production chariot, and a remarkably inconspicuous set of stairs that could be used to introduce a hidden assistant or take her away, as the case warranted. Goebel bought all of the illusions and incorporated many of them into his large illusion show.

Warmkessel was instrumental in helping form the first local magic club in the city, the Allentown Magicians’ Association. It was organized in 1917 with William Whitenight being the driver behind its creation. Willard Warmkessel was its first president. 

A card from one of Willard's frequent appearances
at the Lyric Theater
 


On January 31, 1947, Warmkessel appeared at the Lyric Theater in Allentown presenting his full-evening illusion show. It was the same one he’d performed across the United States for the previous 16 years and which he transported in a large trailer. 

Warmkessel died in January 1966 at the age of 65. He is not often remembered by the public today but he lives on in his promotional material including the cards featured here on Propelled Pasteboards.

Tom Ewing



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Goldin - “The Humorous Wizard” aka “The Royal Illusionist”

Sawing a woman in half is one of, if not the most famous illusion in magic. This post is about the early days of the magician who became world famous for his version of the trick.

A flier for Horace Goldin's "Sawing a Woman in Half"

Horace Goldin was born some sources say on December 17, 1873 in Vilnius, Lithuania as Hyman Elias Goldstein. He was of Polish descent. His family came to America and settled in Nashville, Tennessee when Goldin was around 16. An interest in magic started while he was young, and Goldin began performing around 1894 and called himself “The Humorous Wizard”. He ran an ad in the “Artist Era” in February 1896.
"Artist Era" Advertisement for February, 1896
Probably around this same time, Goldin had a throw-out card produced using the same image and title. I have two throw-out cards of Goldin and I was fortunate to be able to acquire this example of his card as the “Humorous Wizard” some years ago. It had originally been preserved in a scrapbook of early magicians.
Horace Goldin's early throw-out card.
The “Mahatma” during this time had this to say about Goldin: “Horace Goldin, the humorous wizard, has made an enviable reputation on the variety stage. The egg bag is one of Goldin’s hits. That he appears in the best houses speaks well for his skill.”
Due to difficulties with his speech, he decided to do a silent act at a very rapid pace, something he had seen Imro Fox do. This became Goldin’s “The Whirlwind Illusionist” period. He became one of magic’s most successful illusionists both in America and in Europe. Goldin gave performances before European Royalty. Never one to not capitalize on an opportunity, Goldin then started billing himself,  “The Royal Illusionist”.
Postcards of Horace Goldin.
While P. T. Selbit invented the “Sawing a Woman in Half” illusion, it was Goldin’s different version that most everyone remembers to this day. In Goldin’s version, the lady in the box had her head and feet exposed to the audience during the sawing in half. He had many forms of advertising produced in conjunction with the Sawing including the throw-out card below. Goldin later came up with a more incredible version in which the box was done away with, and the lady assistant was in full view of the audience. Goldin then proceeded to cut her in two with a Buzz Saw!
A later throw-out card of Goldin advertising his greatest creation.
Horace Goldin's Buzz Saw Illusion.  (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There is no doubt that Horace Goldin was one of the greatest illusionists of the twentieth century. The impact of the illusions he devised are still being felt to this day. Horace Goldin died on August 22, 1939 at the age of 65. He made his home in his final years in Great Britain.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Harry Kellar - The Real Wizard of Oz?



 Students of magic history are probably familiar with Harry Keller (b. Heinrich "Henry" Keller 1849-1922), one of the great American illusionists.  While his fame has since been eclipsed by that of Harry Houdini (with whom he was close), and his chosen successor, Howard Thurston, in his day, Kellar was the best known illusionist in the world.  His fame was such that his advertising media, like the poster seen below, bore only his name "Kellar" -- there was no need to note that he was a magician or illusionist, as everyone knew.   Kellar's lithographic posters, produced by Strobridge litho, are among the most beautiful and highly sought after magic collectibles.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Imro Fox – “The Comic Conjurer” & "Deceptionist"

On May 21, 1862 in Bromberg, Germany, a man by the name of Isidore Fuchs was born. He came to America, and worked it is said as a chef in various eateries around New York and Washington D.C. Fuchs had an early interest in magic and he was known for his humorous personality. When he decided to make a go of being a professional magician, he adopted the name Imro Fox, and left a mark on the history of magic.

Imro Fox Throw-Out Card