Wednesday, January 23, 2019

H. J. Burlingame – From Back in the Past

I have had the below item in my collection for close to 30 years. It is a letter that was written way back in 1889. The letterhead is for a company named C. L. Burlingame, Manufacturer of Conjuring Apparatus. It says the firm was established in 1872. So who was C. L. Burlingame?

In reality, it was a man by the name of H. J. Burlingame. The following throw-out card is a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons. His name looks like it is hand written across the face, but it is actually printed on there. The back of the card is extra special, as it is a rare blue Bicycle “Pedal” back, first issued in 1899. I have never seen another one except for in the Bicycle checklist that was written by Mrs. Joe Robinson in 1955.
Burlingame’s full name was Hardin Jasper Elroy Burlingame, and he was born on June 14, 1852, in Manitowac, Wisconsin. As a teenager, his family moved to Chicago. After graduating from Business College, he worked for many firms over the years in clerical positions. He lost one such job when the firm he worked for was destroyed in the “Great Chicago Fire” of 1871. He decided to go to Europe in 1872 to continue his education. While in Holland, he became interested in magic and studied under the great magician Okito’s father, David Tobias Bamberg. Evidently with Bamberg’s permission, Burlingame took the name Jasper Bamberg and used that as a stage name for a while.
From the cover of Mahatma for December of 1898.
On his return to America, he became involved in many aspects of magic. Besides performing, he started several magic businesses. He did not want to use his real name so the magic concerns had names like George L. Williams and Co., and Ralph E. Sylvester & Co., both of which sold spiritualistic and bogus medium effects. His main business in magic he called C. L. Burlingame.
But there was more to H. J. Burlingame besides being a magician and magic dealer. He has been considered by some as one of, if not the first magic collector in America. He compiled many scrapbooks of early magic memorabilia, and put together a large library of magic, that was the seed that grew into what is considered the largest conjuring library in private hands.
With all of this wealth of magic history, it only made sense he would put it to use. Burlingame went on to write a number of magic and especially magic history books. In 1891 he wrote Leaves from Conjurers’ Scrapbooks, and in 1897 after the death of Alexander Herrmann, he authored the book Herrmann the Great, The Famous Magician’s Tricks.
From the author's collection.
In 1907, Burlingame had a nervous breakdown and settled in Syracuse, Indiana. He passed away on August 27, 1915 at the age of 63. Many magic collectors of today will have copies of the history books that he wrote.
 
Attempting to figure out the timeline of when Burlingame owned his different businesses has been a real challenge. The letterhead above with the Chicago address says it was founded in 1872. But wasn’t he supposed to be in Europe at that time? Another thing, look at the rubber stamp with the overprinted name Edwin Neale as successor to the business. The date on the letter is 1889. Was Burlingame no longer the owner of C. L. Burlingame? Some collectors out there have Burlingame catalogs that also have the Neale overprint on the cover. So who was Edwin Neale?
There is very little information that I can find on Neale in the magic magazines. One thing I do know however is that he also called himself a “Manufacturer of Conjuring Apparatus”. I know this because I also have one of his throw-out cards. It has a red Bicycle “Old Fan” back which was first issued in 1885.
While the history of these two magicians is still somewhat of a mystery, they both had great throw-out cards to remember them by.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Henry "Hen" Fetsch

This wonderful ad card features a tuxedo-clad Henry "Hen" Fetsch (1912-1961) along with a bunny and a perforated top hat, from which he presumably produced the creature.   A prolific conjuror, inventor, writer and lecturer, Fetch released more than 50 marketed effects, five books and numerous magazine articles.  He contributed effects and routines to classic magic texts, including the Tarbell Course, Bobo's Modern Coin Magic and Annemann's Practical Magic Effects.   The best known of his marketed effects include the word "epic" in their titles, including Fetsch's Rope Epic, Silk Epic and Mental Epic.  He often collaborated with Milbourne Christopher, whom Fetsch met when he joined a Baltimore Boy Scout troupe in 1926. Fetsch's throwing card, depicted here, is an oversized throwout printed on heavy stock.   The corners are rounded and the back is blank.
From M-U-M, 1952

 A limited edition biography entitled  Fetsching Magic: The Life and Legacy of Hen Fetsch was first released in 2002.

The June 2006 issue of M-U-M featured a terrific tribute to Fetsch and his magic. That tribute ended with this fine epitaph:

"The imprint he left on the magic he loved is distinct and indelible, and his legend and legacy are worthy of rediscovery and being kept alive."
The same photo used on his throwing card
appeared on the cover of The Linking Ring in 1952

Thursday, January 10, 2019

John Siems “The Little Siems”

Johannes Siems was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on June 25, 1883. He was called “The Little Siems” because of his small stature. That did not slow him down when it came to a career in magic however. It was claimed that he performed for over forty million people during his lifetime. He said he did four performances at Buckingham Palace, as well as 78 weeks in four of the best known theatres in London.


A postcard of John Siems.


A review for John Siems in The Magical World for 1913.

As a young man, Siems had a number of throw-out cards produced. The following four cards all have the same back. Looking at the back of one of the cards, the cities and theatres that Siems performed in makes for quite an impressive resume.
 
Siems also had this card below produced which proclaims him the “King of All Mystery”. On the back of the card are four black hearts.
Siems eventually settled in the United States, and his successes continued. The Linking Ring for June, 1944 had this write up about him. Alongside it is one of Siems postcards showing some of his productions.
By the middle of the 1950’s, Siems was performing as a clown with the Shrine Circus, billing himself as “the greatest clown magician on earth”, and “who makes flowers grow right in the circus ring”.
From what I have discovered in my research, John Siems’ health began to deteriorate. In August of 1956 in Hugard’s Magic Monthly, it states that “John Siems is taking the cure at Saranac Lake”. When I looked up Saranac Lake, I discovered that it was home to a sanatorium for entertainment industry people afflicted with tuberculosis. Siems evidently never left the hospital there, as when I found his final resting place, it said that he had died on September 14, 1957. He is buried in Pine Ridge Cemetery in Saranac Lake, New York.
I will end this post with these final words from The Magician Monthly for May, 1918.
“Siems, at the Palace, Burnley, has been showing them the meaning of ‘legerdemain’, and that, in his hands, at any rate, a thing is not always what it Siems—I mean seems!”

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Larette – “A Very Fine Magical Artist”

Sometimes historical events can cause a horrible impact on a person or group.  Unfortunately this is one of those times when a dark moment in history impacted the life of a magician in a very terrible way. This is a tragic story, but the subject of this story deserves to be remembered and have it told.
 
Cornelius Hauer was born in Vienna, Austria on April 18, 1889 into a Hungarian-Jewish family. His parents however, had converted to Catholicism. During World War I, he fought in the German Army, and had been captured by the Russians, but escaped from the Siberian camp he had been interred in. During this escape, he suffered from an infection to his ear which left him with a permanent hearing loss.
Hauer had been interested in magic for some time, and in the 1920’s he moved to Amsterdam and pursued a career as a professional magician under the name of Larette. He was known as “The Man with the Mysterious Hands”.
Past President of the S.A.M Parent Assembly #1, Emil Loew, was originally from Holland and had come to the U.S. after the Germans had invaded his country during World War II. He remembered seeing Larette, and wrote a nice article about him in M-U-M for July of 1991.
Loew referred to Larette as “A very fine magical artist”. He went on to say that his act “consisted primarily of cigarette and playing card manipulations”.  “After a cigarette manipulation during which he produced veritable quantities of cigarettes, which he tossed into the audience, he went into card manipulations; and he was an expert in scaling cards into the audience as far back as the last row of the theater and the balcony”.  “He also did coin manipulations; from time to time, coins with his advertising, which he tossed into the audience.” 
Throw-Out Cards for Larette.
Loew goes on to say, “At a given time during the twenties, when Vaudeville was at its peak, Larette built up his entire routine as a promotion for Miss Blanche, an extremely popular cigarette in Holland during that time.  This company provided him with the necessary cigarettes to be tossed into the audience, as well as the playing cards with the Miss Blanche cigarette trademark.”
The Back of a Larette Throw-Out Card.
Larette also operated a Studio of Magic in Amsterdam. Emil Loew commended Larette for being a “most likeable and entertaining performer” and that he “was commercial and an excellent businessman”, and that “contributed to his success as a magical entertainer”.
Larette married in December of 1938 to a woman named Johanna Kortmulder. She was from Rotterdam and came from a Catholic family.
On May 10, 1940 Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Once the occupation was in place, the occupation forces applied the Nuremburg Laws, and began their reign of terror in rounding up and sending many thousands of Dutch Jews to concentration camps, along with so many other victims from elsewhere, in what was to become the Holocaust.
Larette did not consider himself Jewish, but according to the German laws, he was a “mixed married Jew”. The details of May 14, 1943 have several different versions. According to Hannes Höller in his book, European Jewish Magicians 1933-1945, in one scenario two men from the Gestapo arrive at Larette’s home, but in reality they were there for a neighbor of his. In the other scenario, they came for Larette.
Larette must have thought he knew what fate had in store for him, and must have felt a sense of despair. When they arrived, Larette went into an adjoining room, took a pistol and ended his own life. In the German magic magazine of the time, Die Magie, they said that “Larette died after an Allied bombing raid on Amsterdam”.
Those of us interested in the art of magic like to think about how entertaining it is to witness the performance of a skilled magician and how it can fill an audience with wonder and amusement.
From The Sphinx for April of 1936
Larette, “The Very Fine Magical Artist” did that for his audiences, but became a tragic victim of the Holocaust. He was not the only magician to die during that time, along with the millions of other innocent victims. We must never forget them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Davis “The Man Who Mystifies”

Richard Davis, “The Man Who Mystifies” left quite an impression on his fellow magicians during his magic career. He was known for his novel presentations and unique methods in the performance of his effects. According to the write-ups in the magic magazines of his day, the reason for his methods to his tricks was due to the fact that when he got his start in magic, he had never read any magic books. He did not know how many magic tricks worked, and had to figure out how to do them. Many times, his method was a whole new way of doing the trick. Richard Davis was nothing if not clever.

From The Menasha Wisconsin Record for January 9, and The Decatur Illinois Herald for October 27, 1923
Richard Davis (1875-1933) was born and lived in New Hampshire. I found many references and ads for him in newspapers around the country. He was best known as a Chautauqua and Lyceum magician. Like all of the other magicians featured on this blog, Davis had a throw-out card. He had several as a matter of fact.
All of the above cards are on heavy card stock, and do not utilize playing card backs. The card on the top left however is laid out like a playing card, as it is reversible. It advertises the Coit-Alber Lyceum Bureau. The two cards on the top right depict one of the Harlan Tarbell cards, which have been used by many other magicians as seen on this site. The two cards on the bottom left mention the Affiliated Lyceum and Chautauqua Association on the back. The card on the bottom right is blank, and is more like a business card.
Davis passed away at the age of 57 in 1933 after a long illness that had stopped his performing. In his obituary written in The Linking Ring, they paid him the utmost compliment by saying, “Davis always performed any of the old tricks a little different with some new wrinkle or entirely new manner which marked him the genius he was in figuring out new ideas in his chosen art”. From everything I read about him, and the praise he received from his peers, it seems that Richard Davis was truly, “The Man Who Mystifies”.
From the cover of The Linking Ring for October, 1926.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jeff McBride: Card Throwing Superstar

Decades ago, in a Genii review of one of Jeff McBride's early Mystery School stage performances, I observed that "McBride can do more with a single playing card than most magicians can with a ton of equipment. Of course, McBride doesn't produce a single playing card. He produces a thousand. Or so it would seem."  In crafting this observation, I unwittingly stumbled upon one of McBride's fundamental magic philosophies.  The magician, long one of magic's most creative forces, a disciple of magic giant Eugene Burger and a venerable teacher of the art, entreats his students to "do the most with the least" during magic performances, offering a stage act using equipment that fits in a satchel or even an eyeglass case.  And those diminutive items are imbued with outsized emotion and power: in this master magician's hands, a tissue paper heart becomes a moving symbol of heartbreak, and its beautiful, transformative restoration an effective remedy for hopelessness.

Card throwing has long been a central part of his compelling stage performances.  Those performances blend a variety of body movement styles -- kabuki, martial arts, dance, mime and puppetry -- with impeccable sleights.  McBride is pure magic, a kaleidoscope of color, movement and energy that imbues each effect with wonder. The result is beautiful, funny, fascinating, and frightening.  McBride doesn't simply perform, he entertains, holding the audience rapt in each new movement.

His adherence to a pack-small, play big philosophy helps explain McBride's fondness for card throwing.    Using handfuls of cards, he creates an explosive onstage display showcasing a series of flourishes and using card scaling as a dramatic finale.  Here's a sample:



As you can see, he doesn't throw cards so much as "shoot" them, using one hand to both hold the deck and propel the cards with his thumb, in rapid-fire fashion.   As featured in the title of his video on the subject, the cards "Zoom, Bounce and Fly" all around the theater.   Indeed, among his many honors, Jeff was awarded a Guinness book record for the most playing cards thrown in one minute - scaling 106 pasteboards more than 12 feet in 60 seconds.

The magic doesn't end with the onstage display: those lucky enough to catch one of these cards (in fact, your correspondent caught two of the cards pictured here) are afforded an opportunity for even more magic.


     

 "The Many Faces of Magic" card is the one currently used by Jeff in his exhibitions.   The "McBride Magic" card was used by Jeff in  2001.   Both cards use the Internet to bring the art of card throwing to a new level: the web addresses on these cards guide lucky recipients to an interactive web interface revealing their fortune.   These keepsakes are, therefore, packed with more entertainment than any other throwing card, permitting audience participation to continue long after the show ends.


In preparing this entry, however, I recalled a masked throwout card from Jeff's early days which I had seen in Kardwell International ads appearing in old magic magazines, like those seen here.


This card is extremely rare -- indeed, I had never seen an original version of the card.    Jeff recommended that I ask Tobias Beckwith, an accomplished magician, artist, director, consultant and producer,  who had created the original design.  Tobias, whom I have known for many years and has always been a supportive fellow, searched through storage boxes for me to come up with a deck of these cards.  The results of this mission can be seen in the images below, which I present with thanks to Jeff and Tobias.







McBride has also become a legendary magic teacher, operating the McBride Magic & Mystery School which provides world-class training and seminars in legerdemain.  Having recently attended the Magic & Meaning conference, I can attest to the inspiring vitality and sophistication of the school's offerings.  More to the point, he has shared many of his card throwing secrets by offering items to performers interested in pursuing the art of card scaling.   In particular, his video, "Zoom, Fly and Bounce" DVD, along with a certain secret something that can also prove of assistance, are available here.  He even offers these cautions regarding card throwing safety as a public service:


And as Jay Hunter recently recalled in this post on throwing card trivia, the great Howard Thurston could have benefitted from McBride's sage advice, having been sued for injuring an audience member struck in the eye with a flying pasteboard.

Your correspondent with Jeff McBride, IBM National Convention, Grand Rapids MI, July 2018

A few other facts about Jeff McBride that I can provide through personal observation: his enthusiasm for our art knows virtually no bounds, as he gets as exuberant about a good story line or pocket effect as for a groundbreaking stage illusion.  He also happens to be a really nice guy.   It therefore gives me great pleasure to salute this grand master of the throwing card tradition, who has proven to be a great teacher and friend.

Judge Brown



Thursday, November 22, 2018

Harry Baker

Harry Baker was born in Chicago and raised in the entertainment field. His father was a professional acrobat. Baker was once known as the “White House Magician” in the late 1930’s as well as performing for President Harry Truman. Baker received the rank of army captain and earned a Commendation for his knowledge in the U.S. Army Film Laboratory. He was the past president of the Washington Assembly No. 23, an active member of the Magicians Guild (He is the first member of the Guild to win an "Oscar" in magic), and a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the past president of the Magicians Alliance of the Eastern States. Baker was also the President of the Magic Dealers Association, Atlantic Regional Vice President of S.A.M., and a chairman of the S.A.M.’s 1946 conference in Washington DC.


He won the "Caryl Fleming Trophy" with his original "Mind Reading Rabbit" effect in which, a live rabbit in an Indian basket produces a previously chosen card instead of the snake. His style of comedy and magic was original entertaining. Performed in various states on the east coast as far south as Florida and Georgia. He was always pitching the International Brotherhood of Magicians club.
Baker owned a magic shop in Washington, D.C. at 924 17th Street N.W. that he opened in 1947. The magic shop was a popular place for fellow performers and friends to drop in see Baker and his able assistant (and “Miss Magic of 1948”) Dolly Snow. The shop was a favorite spot for master magician Harry Blackstone. During one of Blackstone’s performance in D.C., magicians were always at a loss when they attempted to visit him at the theater. They would call on him and the stage manager would have to let them know, he wasn’t there. Baker finally had to tell his disappointed friends where the elusive master performer disappeared to once the show was reset for the next performance. While performing in D.C. Blackstone would drop by Baker’s shop to not only talk magic, but also was Baker’s best magic demonstrator.


Baker was known throughout the magic community for his performances, his articles (check out the article in The Conjuror’s Magazine in the 1940’s like “Eggs – Act ­– Ly), and his involvement in magic as a whole continued to fulfill his life. In 1950, Baker had a weekly fifteen-minute kid’s show sponsored by the local dairy television show on WMAL-TV, Washington. Harry Baker passed away in 1961. Baker’s assistant and “Girl Friday” Dolly Snow kept the shop open for business after his passing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Milo Lum – “The Social Mystifier”

According to an internet dictionary that I use, a “Renaissance Man” is “an outstandingly versatile, well-rounded person”. If that term could ever be used for one of our subjects here on Propelled Pasteboards, it would be for Milo Lum.
Lum’s throw-out card is rather simple, what with the rabbit-in-hat design on the face and a common Fox Lake Blue back. Rather than get new cards made, Lum typed in that he was a “Past” President of the Hawaii Magicians Society, and typed in a new address and phone number. It also stated that he was a World War II USO Magician.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for December 16, 1949.
In an article Lum wrote in The Sphinx for June of 1933, he calls himself “The Social Mystifier”. He writes about the formation of a new magic club in Hawaii.
A Sphinx article from June 10, 1933 and a newspaper photo from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
When I went to research him in the magic magazines, I found a number of references to him, but not anything of special interest. I felt that maybe there was not enough about him to have much, other than his card to write about. Well I was wrong about that!
I thought I would next try the newspaper database I use. When I typed in Milo Lum, which is not an ordinary name, I got 3,534 matches. So I thought I would narrow it down to his home state of Hawaii. I still got 3,511 matches! That was when I discovered Milo Lum made his name well known on the island state.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for July 8, 1933 and March 1, 1947.
I could not even begin to read every reference to Milo Lum in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser as it would take days, if not weeks to do. Lum was constantly mentioned. There were articles on all of his various activities and endeavors. Besides being a magician, he owned a dance studio, managed a softball team, and was a member of many organizations. Not only did he perform USO shows for American troops during World War II, he also donated blood, and placed ads in the newspaper encouraging others to do the same.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for April 15,1944.
When Milo Lum married in 1946, naturally there was a big write-up in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Over eight hundred guests attended the wedding, and at the reception, the magician Tenkai as well as other magicians from Honolulu performed a magic show. The marriage did not last however, and that was addressed in the newspaper too.
From the Honolulu Advertiser for May 11, 1949.

 
Milo Lum was born on April 15, 1909 either in China or Honolulu depending on which newspaper article you are reading. He died on November 6, 1990. His obituary in the Honolulu Advertiser was very short.

In his later years, Milo Lum was very active in writing letters to the editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. They were usually short comments on subjects he was concerned about, whether political, social, or just current events. I will end this story with a very nice final write-up by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin after his death. We should all be so lucky to live such an active and full life as Milo Lum, “The Social Mystifier”.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for November 21, 1990.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Zennia – "Mystifying Wonder"

When composing a post for Propelled Pasteboards, I like to find out as much information as I can about the magician who had the throw-out card made. Try as I might however, sometimes there is just very little to go on as to their history. I am afraid this is one of those times, though just because little can be found, we still need to display these interesting examples of throw-out cards from long ago.
 
Zennia Throw-out Card with a Bicycle Red League Back.
Zennia the magician was in reality a man named Will H. Adams. He was from Kansas City and besides being into magic, he was also known as a very fine musician. The magic magazine The Sphinx thought enough of Zennia to feature him on the cover for their November 1904 issue, and to write this brief biography of him.
I found a reference to an Edmon Zennia in The Cherokee Sentinel in Cherokee, Kansas from November 18, 1898. While the first name is different, they referred to him as “the distinguished magician” and mentioned that “He is also a fine musician and cannot be excelled on the banjo.  The mandolin-guitar took the eyes of everyone”. It appears to me that this is our man. The Sentinel went on to say that “He expects to play in this city sometime during the coming season and it will pay all to attend”.
Zennia also tried his hand at being a magic dealer. He created some of his own effects, and advertised them in The Sphinx. Here are two of them from the April 1906 issue. At $5.00 and $2.50, they could be considered rather expensive tricks for that period of time.
In 1908 he advertised his own catalog in The Sphinx. It had his image on the cover and was the same image that he used on his throw-out card. In a Potter and Potter auction held on October 31, 2015, one of these catalogs from 1908 was sold.
There is not a lot about Will H. Adams or “Zennia” written in the magic journals after the early nineteen hundreds. I could not pin down his birth or death dates as there are many William H. Adams out there. There was another magician named William H. Adams, but he was from Connecticut and died in 1962. As he was born in 1891, that would have Zennia as being 7 years old when he was written up in The Cherokee Sentinel back in 1898. I would pretty much venture, they were not the same man.
 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Charles Howard Sheck, the Rise of the S.A.M. and the Broken Wand Tradition


This handsome pasteboard, obtained in early 2017 from Ray Goulet, showcases Charles Howard Sheck,  a seemingly obscure performer, whose obscurity seemed, at first, something of a mystery....

Turn-of-the-20th Century magical periodicals, which provide fairly comprehensive documentation of the lives of conjurers of that period, offer only a few scraps about Sheck.  He received a few brief mentions in Mahatma, an early magicians' magazine printed by New York's legendary Martinka magic shop.  Beginning in 1899, we find Sheck in New York City "playing lyceum dates," dubbed "a clever little professor [offering] the latest sleights with cards and coins" and "busy with local work in Brooklyn."  Curiously, in the grand tradition of magicians making hay out of fooling a leading performer, he is referred to as "the man who mystified Kellar," without further explanation, and commanding ten encores in Saratoga with his "flag trick."

Almost as interesting as the information I found about Sheck was what I didn't find.  Despite exhaustive searching, I discovered little about the nature of the effects he performed, any promotional material or even a single photo.   He published no books or articles.  Aside from the throwing card pictured here, I can find no graphic material relating to this magician.   The date and place of his birth remain a mystery.

While this kind of obscurity makes sense for one of our men of mystery (like Stincel), the trajectory of his career would seem to destined Sheck for substantial influence in the world of magic.   He was among the "prominent regulars" at Martinka's magic shop, where, according to John Mulholland, he found himself among renowned company, including Alexander Herrmann, Imro Fox, Carl Hertz, Harry Kellar, William Robinson, Adrian Plate, de Lion, Zancig, Nate Leipzig, Dr. Ellison,
Frank Werner, John W. Sargent, Dr. Mortimer, Elmer P. Ransom, Bob Ankle, Frank Ducrot and Henry Hatton.  Beginning in the late 1880s, this group (including Sheck) began assembling on Saturday nights, guests of the Martinka brothers in the shop's locked back room.

The so-called "Saturday Night Club" proved to be the precursor to the Society of American Magicians, which became formalized in 1902.  Sheck was among 24 magicians sworn in as the group's founding members, along with some of the most prominent magicians in history.  According to chapter reports, Sheck was an active member, frequently appearing a meetings "with his bag of tricks," and, at one meeting, playing the bagpipes.    At another 1902 meeting, he offered "an envelope test" and a "slate test."


Then, in July 1906, on an evening when Harry Houdini was elected Vice President of the fledgling SAM, "The death of Charles Howard Sheck, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was reported."   No other details are provided.  Hence, Sheck's relative obscurity arose as a result of his death early in the history of the S.A.M. (and presumably at a young age).

His passing was not officially commemorated by the organization until three years later, at an annual dinner in 1909 (at which Harry Kellar was the featured speaker) and a list of departed members was read. At the banquet, a half dozen names of departed magicians, including Sheck, was read aloud. As each name was read, a plate was turned over and a white carnation laid upon it.

The description of this improvised ceremony made me wonder: why didn't they simply perform the traditional "broken wand" ceremony?  The answer is simple: no one had yet devised the tradition.  There would be no mention of a broken wand ceremony in the magic literature -- or even use of the term broken wand in connection with a magician's passing, for several decades.  

The earliest mention I could locate of a broken wand consists of a 1919 article about Baltimore's Demon's Club, noting that a panel painting commemorating the deaths of two members included an image of a broken wand.  According to Ken Silverman's authoritative Houdini biography, a member of the SAM placed a broken wand on Houdini's coffin, an act specifically devised to commemorate Houdini's death in 1926, but the source of this information is unclear and I could not locate any contemporary accounts.  In 1933, a piece describing the funeral of Heller (another founding member of the SAM), noted that "across his breast was placed a floral design representing a broken wand, the tribute of A. W. Fronenthal, a warm personal friend."  And the first mention I could find of an actual broken wand ceremony is found in the Linking Ring in 1936, which described the commemoration of the passing of Howard Thurston, in the following article:



It would appear, then, that Thurston's was the first broken wand ceremony, which have since become standardized and commonplace in the magic community.  

By the 1940s, magazines began to run obituaries of magicians under the heading "Broken Wands," a practice that has continued ever since.