Sunday, February 18, 2018

Jansen, Thurston, and Tansan Sparkling Water

Contributor Gary Frank has written an excellent post on Harry August Jansen and his throw-out card that he used after joining forces with Howard Thurston and becoming “Dante the Magician”.  Mr. Frank has told us how in his early years Dante was known as “The Great Jansen – America’s Greatest Transformist” and toured the world.














While on tour, Jansen had this wonderful throw-out card made. The face of the card has an image of a young Jansen with the words “Your friend Jansen”. Below this it says “The World’s Greatest  Transformist”. On the back is an advertisement for Tansan Mineral Water.
The Tansan Mineral Water Company was founded by Englishman John Clifford Wilkinson. Tansan Sparkling Water came from the mineral springs of Takarazuka, Japan. Clifford-Wilkinson trademarked his product in the U.S. in 1896. Tansan produced their water in a plant near Kobe, Japan.

It would appear that at least two famous magicians had throw-out cards produced advertising Tansan Sparkling Water. One of course would be Jansen. The other would be Howard Thurston. Both men used these cards very early in their careers when they embarked on world tours with appearances in Japan. The time frame for these cards would have been the early part of the 1900’s. I have seen several variants of Thurston/Tansan cards. When they have been offered for sale, usually in an auction setting, they sometimes sell for extremely high amounts. I was fortunate to be able to add a Thurston/Tansan card to my collection, without taking out a loan for it!
For many years, I thought the throw-out card for Dante was the only one he ever issued. But, it just goes to show, you should never assume anything. I was pleasantly surprised and extremely thrilled, when I happened to find and acquire both of these cards.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Eng Sung Enigma: Resolving a Riddle for the Chinese New Year!




 Last year, in celebration of the Chinese New Year, we were proud and pleased to bring you a post about Chen Ting Soo, showcasing a vintage throwing card and featuring a genuine Chinese-American magician.  This year, with the same holiday approaching, I turned to a card recently added to my collection featuring "Eng Sung - Chinese Magician."  The piece is a keepsake, featuring a handsome portrait of the performer and an absolutely wonderful graphic of a levitation illusion.  I started to wonder -- Who was Eng Sung?  Little did I know that my curiosity would ignite a fast and furious debate among significant members of the throwing card blogosphere, that quickly and conclusively resolved a mystery.

Deploying the powerful "Ask Alexander" tool, I could only find three articles containing a reference  to Eng Sung, all three of which described the very same performance at a 1934 convention of the Keystone State Federation of IBM Rings. So, whomever Eng Sung was, he didn't perform for very long.  Or, I posited, at least it was an assumed name that some magician only used for a short time.   The reporting contained little detail about his performance, other than to place him on a bill with a number of better-known performers, including Burling Hull, Max Holden and LuBrent.  And then there was the emcee....more on him in a moment.

Could this be the same fellow pictured
on the Eng Sung card?
In studying the card, I noticed was that "Eng Sung" did not appear to be Asian, but, more likely, was part of the then-popular, insensitive tradition of a Western magician playing the role of a Chinese magician.  (On these pages, you'll find references to several such performers, including Chung Ling Soo, Chang,and  Okito.)  This led to the suspicion that he likely performed under one or more other names.

Because the card provides no other information about him -- other than the photograph -- there wasn't much to work with.  But that picture, it seemed to me, was familiar.  It reminded me of a photo of another performer on a card for Namreh the magician, seen here.  Namreh was one stage name for Herman Weber (1900-1953).  "Namreh" is Herman spelled backwards.  And then I looked back at the performance reports .... Herman Weber was the emcee for the only show at which Eng Sung had been recorded as appearing.
"Rice, Rice, Rice" -just one of many Asian-themed
effects that Herman Weber published.  

Could the two be one and the same?  I was quickly able to convince myself of the viability of this theory.  Weber had written quite a bit about performing "Oriental" magic, and included some in certain of his programs.

He had assumed other characters -- like Namreh -- who performed in devils robes.   And the more I looked at the pictures of Namreh and Eng Sung, the more I grew convinced that they looked the same.

So I did what I often do when I need more material for magic research: I turned to our friend Jay Hunter.  I was hoping, most of all, that Jay could come up with another throw-out card featuring the same "Levitation" back, which, if it was for Herman Weber, could close the deal.


Jay dug into his extensive collection, producing a remarkable quantity of material in a very short period of time.   The materials he gathered about Herman included the wizard offering "Oriental Mysteries" and performing in different characters and costumes.



The levitation graphic in a book
authored by Herman Weber.

And then Jay found what I thought would be the silver bullet: he found the "Levitation" graphic, not on a throwout card, but in a booklet published by Weber!  And, Jay added, he had seen this graphic nowhere else.  While he expressed interest in my theory, he had his doubts as to whether the two men appeared to be one and the same, and raised some concerns about the ages of the performers pictured compared to certain biographical facts.

So we called in the rest of the Propelled Pasteboards team.  Tom Ewing -- our resident expert on Pennsylvania-based magicians -- advised that, unbeknownst to us,  he's currently working on a book about Herman Weber, having come across a trove of materials on the Allentown native.   While he had not come across anything about Eng Sung, Tom confirmed that Weber was an exponent of Chinese-themed magic, devoting half of his stage show to that style of performance.  Tom liked the theory, but thought we needed to do more work on the question.  He supplied a vintage ad for the sale of Namreh's show, reproduced here, which makes it clear that a large portion of the show was devoted to  "Oriental" magic.

Enter Gary Frank.  Using nothing but his keen powers of observation (which could perhaps characterized as superpowers) Gary provided a point by point facial analysis of the Namreh and Eng Sung cards -- too long to reproduce here -- that included details such as the "flow of contour" of facial characteristics, "cupids bows," hairline shape, etc.   Suffice it to say that Mr. Frank concluded they were different fellows.  An Internet based facial recognition program into which I fed the two photos reached the same conclusion.  Everyone was sold that my theory was wrong ... even though I continued to hope.

Based on the evidence we had assembled, Mr. Frank theorized that they were pals and knew each other, and he focused on a critical clue: the initial reports of Eng Sung's performance noted that one of his assistants was someone named "Miss Snyder."   Using this clue, I was able to formulate more Ask Alexander searches.  And this time, I hit pay dirt.  Herman Weber did indeed have a pal named Edgar Snyder, who had acted as Weber's assistant at one time.   Reports also noted that Edgar Snyder's wife was an accomplished magician's assistant.

Armed with this new fact, I found our man: Eng Sung was Edgar Snyder (d. 1970), who also hailed from Allentown.  He was specifically identified as such in several magic magazines, but never spelled correctly: writers listed him as "En Sing," "En Sung" and even "Yen Sen."  These misspellings explain why initial searches didn't turn up his identity.   Having completed the record, it turns out that Snyder has a fairly long career in magic, performing a s "Eng Sung" during the 1930s, and later moving to Florida and becoming an officer and important organizing force in the S.A.M.

Here's one description of his performance as "Eng Sung" from the Linking Ring in 1933:

"Then came Edgar Snyder (En Sing) of Allentown, doing Oriental Magic, using large Chinese Blocks, and a production silk act from large tube, finish- ing with a 30 foot silk banner. He also used a new idea in Chinese rice bowl. Mr. Snyder's apparatus has been decorated by a real expert in Chinese art."

Oh, and just as "Namreh" is Herman spelled backwards, Snyder left us a similar clue: Eng Sung and Ed Snyder both have the initials "E.S." 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Lindhorst - Two Magicians, One Name

This is about two magicians, Will Lindhorst and his cousin Charles Lindhorst.  Both men were from Saint Louis, Missouri and both left their mark on magic.

The Bicycle backs from left to right are:  Cupid back, Cyclist No. 2 back, and New Fan back.

William L. Lindhorst was born on April 22, 1890 and became interested in magic by the age of eight. During 1911-1912, Will worked as an assistant to Howard Thurston who taught him much about stagecraft and showmanship. Thurston evidently thought so highly of Will that there was talk at one time of Lindhorst heading one of Thurston’s road companies. He entertained the troops during World War I, and was a charter member of the St. Louis S.A.M. Assembly in 1921. He was also a long time member of the I.B.M. ring in that city.

From "The Linking Ring" for April 1929
Lindhorst was known as a magician, illusionist, author, inventor, and manufacturer. For many years he operated a magic shop at various locations around St. Louis. He also was known as “Chandu the Magician” when it was popular as an early radio program. Another title for Lindhorst was as “The Magic Piano Salesman” selling pianos for the Baldwin Piano Company and utilizing magic as part of his selling of the pianos.
The Bicycle backs from left to right are:  Wheel No. 2 back, New Fan back, and Rider back.


Will Lindhorst incorporated his various endeavors such as Chandu, piano salesman, box office man, and his magic shop into producing many throw-out cards with the different vintage backs that Bicycle had to offer.
Will Lindhorst was well known and a well-respected member of the magic community for decades. Will passed away on March 7, 1954 at the age of 63 in his native St. Louis.

Will Lindhorst’s cousin Charles W. Lindhorst also had a long involvement in magic though maybe not quite as well-known as Will.  While I found several references to him over the years in the magic journals, there is very little about him of a personal nature. I could only find one Charles W. Lindhorst on “Find-A-Grave”. As it was for a man in St. Louis, it may be him. It said that he was born on June 23, 1893 and died on April 12, 1971 in St. Louis. This does differ however from his brief “Magicpedia” entry. It was this entry by the way that says the two Lindhorsts were cousins.
Charles was a long time member of the S.A.M and is best remembered as a manufacturer and craftsman of magic apparatus.  To those in magic who are familiar with the late Danny Dew and his abilities as a producer of fine magic apparatus, it should be noted that Charles Lindhorst not only tutored Dew in the performance of magic, but taught him the skills needed to become the renowned manufacturer that he became.

The Bicycle backs from left to right are:  Automobile No. 2 back, Expert back, and Rider back.
 
I have three throw-out cards for Charles Lindhorst and as with Will they have some early Bicycle backs. After acquiring all of these different Lindhorst cards, it took me a little while to figure out who was who, and to separate these two men.
One thing I know for sure. They both had some fantastic throw-out cards!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Professor Stockley's Hundred Year Time Capsules

Albert A. Stockley, Jr. (1868-1946) was the son of a civil war veteran who operated a wholesale liquor store in Baltimore, Maryland.  Somewhere in the middle of life's journey, Stockley became interested in magic.  Magic magazines from around 1900 through 1907 contain a variety of notes about "Professor Stockley." None of these, however, were quite as historic as his inclusion on the very first published list of potential applicants for the Society of American Magicians in the February 1903 Mahatma.  That list included 14 hopefuls, mainly from the East Coast, but most notably Harry Houdini from New York City and Harry A. Jansen (later known as Dante) from Chicago.

Later that year, Francis J. Werner, founding Secretary of the S.A.M., travelled to Baltimore and had the opportunity to watch Stockley perform at Henshaw's Episcopal Church.  After witnessing Stockley entertain with a program that included "Flower production, hat load, cards, billiard ball and handkerchief manipulations, and rising cards, a la De Kolta," Werner reported to readers of Mahatma that Stockley was "a credit to The Society of American Magicians."

Given his historic early membership in the S.A.M.,  perhaps it is unsurprising that Stockley commissioned a throw-out card prominently featuring the Society's logo, and identifying him as a "Fellow" of that organization.  The card, seen here, has a blank back.  Stockley approached his hobby in a business like manner, packaging these cards together with a handsome brochure in a beautifully printed envelope to be sent to prospective clients.

Fast forward a century.  Around 2016, a "picker" working in the Baltimore area organized an estate sale for one of Stockley's descendants.  Amidst the accumulated treasures, he unearthed a handful of sealed envelopes containing Stockley's ephemera, each packet sealed a century earlier, ready to be addressed to a potential customer.  The discoverer turned them over to an eBay seller.   Our friend Bill Mullins, who has posted on this site elsewhere, bought one, and alerted your correspondent to their existence.  I contacted the seller and bought the few that remained.

When they arrived, I gingerly opened one of the envelopes, which yielded a card and a brochure.  It was like opening a century-old magic time capsule.  For anyone interested in magic history, this was an exciting moment.

While, of course, the throw-out card was the prize, Stockley's brochure also proved a treat.  The cover features the handsome portrait featured here, as well as a Shakespearean quote about magic.   Inside, the good professor attempts to attract business using Victorian language and testimonials that were the fashion of the time.  He boasts of "my large number of mystic revelations" featuring "some of the newest and most delusive that have been presented."   He promises to "continue to add the latest effects and discoveries in the mystic art, thereby keeping my repertoire replete with up-to-date attractions."   Buttressing his respectful announcement are a series of testimonials from lodges, social organizations and one military regiment, expressing gratitude for his "first-class entertainment," including one particular shout-out for his "mysterious cabinet."  People really could write in those days.






Thursday, January 25, 2018

Stuart Cramer – The Man of Many Names

Kamain, Remarc, Chan Wing, Professor Nemo, Mr. Meriweather, J. Jefferson Palmer, Leo Starrman, and Germer C. Wrist. Who are these people? These are all pseudonyms for Cleveland magician Stuart Cramer.

This is one throw-out card front and back.                                                   This is one throw-out card front and back.

I have been able to acquire 4 different throw-out cards of Cramer over the years, all of them from fairly early in his life. In researching Stuart’s life it became quickly apparent that I could probably write about his experiences for days as there is so much written about him in the magic journals of his time. But as this is a blog about his throw-out cards, I will just cover the basics.

This is one throw-out card front and back.                                                      This is one throw-out card front and back.
Stuart P. Cramer was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 16, 1911. He became interested in magic in 1918 when an uncle showed him a few pocket tricks. He falsified his age as a young man so that he could join the International Brotherhood of Magicians.
A great influence on Cramer was fellow Clevelander and one of magic’s greatest magicians, Karl Germain. Germain’s career was cut short when he began to lose his eyesight. Over the years Cramer visited Germain often. Cramer learned so much about Germain and his magic, that Stuart authored two books about his friend and his magical effects in later years.
Cramer was one to take advantage of performance opportunities. Besides doing regular magic shows, he appeared on early television as different characters on various TV shows in the Cleveland area. “Professor Nemo” was created for a Saturday morning show that featured westerns. As “Mr. Meriweather”, he was on television station KYW for around three years doing the weather reports accompanied by chalk talks and later with magic. When he was done with the weather gig, he was somewhat relieved, as coming up with a different trick every day during the weather report became stressful.

Stuart Cramer as Professor Nemo and Chan Wing

All of Cramer’s many characterizations gave him a different magic act to perform and I am sure made it easier for him to find continuing work as a magician. While he primarily spent his life as a professional magician, like his mentor Karl Germain, he too graduated from college with a degree in law and was admitted to the Ohio Bar. Stuart once said that he was the only attorney/magician who never lost a case. This is due to the fact that after winning his first ever case, he switched to magic full time and stopped the practice of law.

Stuart Cramer had a long and productive life as a magician and author. He was well known in the magic community and was very well respected by his peers. He passed away on April 15, 2003 in Ithaca, New York at the age of 91.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Orville Meyer – A Magicians’ Magician

“What does: an ESP expert listed in Who’s Who in Colorado, an author “Dr. Vergo,” “Nebraska’s Boy Wonder” a noted parapsychologist, the “Wizard of Ah’s,” a Shriner, past president of the Denver Society of Magicians, a 32 degree Mason, an inventor of magic effects, and the “Incredible Dr. M.,” have in common? They are all the same man, Orville Meyer.”

So reads the beginning of a feature in the August 1984 Linking Ring, which devoted its cover to this Denver phenom. Orville Wayne Meyer was born in Harvard, Nebraska August 25, 1911. At 15 years of age he became interested in magic after a traveling magician came to his town to perform for the community. Right on the spot, Meyer decided he wanted to become a magician. This was around 1926 and there wasn’t a lot of magic books and tricks to be found in that area. Soon he was inventing his own tricks and a scant five years later was well known as, “The Nebraska Boy Wonder.”

Here is the scaling card in my collection. It features Meyer’s name and identifies him as a “card expert.” He holds a fan of cards, a magic wand and is surround by stars, all inside of a large spade. 
 

At the age of 22 he started touring in Vaudeville under the billing “The Wizard of Ah’s.” He worked night clubs, theaters, and other venues and along the way started making friends in magic. During World War II he performed for the USO and appeared at military bases across the country. It was during these tours that he met Marjorie Keys who he later married. She recalled that his proposal came when he produced a top hat, pulled a satin pillow from the hat to kneel upon, then produced a ring and popped the question. They were married in April, 1944. 

Meyer wrote "Magic in the Modern Manner" in 1946 with 75 illustrations drawn by Marjorie. Together they performed demonstrations of “The Photographic Mind.” The couple moved around a lot as Meyer’s civilian jobs changed, but he was prolific in his magic writing, creating, and performing. Among the tricks he invented himself or with others are: “Think Ink,” “Think Coke,” “Incredo Book Test,” “Vanishing Knot,” and many more. He submitted dozens and dozens of tricks and articles to The Linking Ring, Jinx, M-U-M, The Phoenix, Magick, Genii and many others. 
The Meyer home was a mecca for local area magicians and many top professionals were the recipients of his vast knowledge of magic and presentation. He was a particular fan of Dariel Fitzkee and Ted Annemann. In fact, Annemann’s most famous effect, The Bullet Catch, would not have been possible without Meyer’s creation of the method. In fact, he created or documented many methods of accomplish this thrilling and deadly stunt. Rather than sell these methods he published them openly in magic magazines. Some of his favorite effects to perform were: “Lit Cigarette Catching,” “Silk to Egg,” “Clay Pipes,” “Linking Rings,” “Spirit Bell,” Story of Cokey Joe,” and “Dollar Bill in Cigarette.” 
In August 1984 Meyer was featured on the cover of The Linking Ring

In 1992, Meyer began to have heart troubles and eventually underwent bypass surgery. On June 22, Meyer passed away at the age of 81. He was a member of the Order of Merlin (60 continuous years in the I.B.M.) and was very active in Ring 131. With his death magic lost a master craftsman, expert, and all around good guy.

Tom Ewing

Friday, January 19, 2018

Devo – “The Magician from Dixieland”

While going through my throw-out cards looking for something interesting, I ran across a card for DEVO “The Magician from Dixieland”.  This card has always caught my eye as it reminds me of Devo, an alternative rock band from the seventies and eighties.  I thought I would try to find out what this earlier Devo was about.

 What I discovered was that Devo was in reality a much better known magician by the name of Benjamin R. Badley.  Badley was born on December 26, in either 1895, 1897, or 1898 (depending on various sources) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

As a young boy, his aunt took him to a performance of Leon Herrmann.  Other magicians followed, such as Karl Germain, and Eugene Laurant.  A local magician, Felix Guidry gave him a copy of Hoffmann’s “Modern Magic” and his future was set.  Bart Whaley’s “Who’s Who in Magic”, states that he moved to Saint Louis in 1916 and performed as Devo “The Magician from Dixieland” in roadshows of the southern states until around 1918.  He served in the Army during World War I. During this time he added hypnotism to his act.

 
Badley was a charter member and the first president of S.A.M Assembly No. 8, and also was one of the founders of Ring No. 1 of the I.B.M, both in St. Louis. His day job was working for the St. Louis Engraving Company as an estimator.
Badley had a long involvement with magic and wrote for various magic magazines and liked to collect books and photographs. Ben Badley passed away on October 2, 1950 in Saint Louis.

I found four throw-out cards of Badley in my collection. The Devo card has a blue Bicycle Tangent No. 2 back which was first used in 1907.  The card depicting Badley pulling a rabbit out of a hat has a Jack of Diamonds on the other side and is signed by Badley.
 
The two remaining cards offer up red and black variants of the “6 or 7” cubes illusion which were used in a different form on the backs of other throw-out cards. Judge Brown wrote about this illusion in another post concerning a Deland “Watch the Dice, 6 or 7” card back. These two cards for Badley have blank backs.

I should also mention that there was another Devo in magic. Carl Devo was a British Music Hall magician who got his start in the late 1800’s. While he did not last long as Carl Devo, under his real name of Will Goldston, he went on to fame as a magician, magic dealer, author and publisher of many magic books.
The rock band Devo released an album in 2010 entitled “Something for Everybody”. When looking at the total variety of throw-out cards that have been produced over the years by all of these magicians, including Devo, “The Magician from Dixieland”, the same can be said…something for everybody!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Newmann’s European Novelties and Sensational Features!



C.A. Newmann (1880-1952), was one of America’s greatest hypnotists and mentalists. He humbly appeared as “Newmann the Great.” Here for the first, and probably last time, we feature a throwing card bearing his advertising.
 

Newmann first started performing hypnotism and mind-reading at age 13 billing himself as a “Boy Wonder.” He confined his work primarily to the mid- and upper-Midwest. Although he presented primarily mind-reading and related arts, he was not above offering magic illusions in his show. To publicize his show he frequently performed blindfold drives through the town where he was appearing. These were the days of horse and carriage, of course, and it must have been an amazing sight to see him racing through town while blindfolded.

As magic historians know, Newmann amassed a wonderful collection of magic and an extensive library. He boasted that it was the largest in America but the problem was that because of his touring and itinerant lifestyle, Newmann did not have anywhere to permanently display his entire library.

However he did once secure an empty store and for one brief period, had shelves built, and then filled them with books and rare manuscripts and adorned the walls and columns of the room with posters and broadsides. I have seen photographs of that temporary library and they are impressive.

His friend Howard Thurston acclaimed him one of the greatest of all mentalists. Magician, author, and magic columnist John Northern Hilliard was also amazed at Newmann's incredible feats, declaring him a true artist.

He even eventually ended up teaching classes in psychology at colleges in Minnesota and North Dakota. According to Magicpedia, as late as 1950, Newmann was still appearing in the major auditoriums in Montana and adjacent states. By that time he had been performing continuously before the public for over a half century.

Prior to his death, as well as afterward, Newmann’s library was scattered about. Some 1,000 volumes were given to the library at the University of Minnesota. Collector David Price acquired Newmann’s posters for his Egyptian Hall museum and several of Newmann's scrapbooks are in the Carl W. Jones collection at Princeton University. 

My friend, the late Frank Dailey and I spent considerable time looking over the two scrapbooks at Princeton’s Firestone Library and I was able to photograph a great number of pages. In fact, I lectured on the scrapbooks at a Magic Collectors’ Association weekend back in the 1980s. Newmann died in Minneapolis and his funeral services were conducted by Carl Waring Jones.

And so, why is this Newmann scaling card so rare? Is it one-of-a-kind? Well, yes – sort of. The card was acquired in a larger collection of scaling cards and the previous owner occasionally created scaling cards by pasting some image or advertising on a regular playing card. Such is the case with this card. Running a fingernail across the face of the card, it is clear that he glued on a piece of Newmann promotional material.

Still, it’s a fun card and image and I’ll not be tossing it out. So, fellow enthusiasts, did Newmann have a real throwing card? If so, post it on our site. Here are a sample of some images from Newmann’s scrapbooks at Princeton. You will see that for most performers Newmann wrote up a short item of interest. Every description was flattering to the performer. One scrapbook was devoted to magicians, the other to mentalists. Enjoy!

Tom Ewing 




 

 



--  Postscript by Judge Brown --


Tom, I too have a "sort of" Newmann throwing card.  Like you, I got this from an avid throwing card collector.  It's an odd piece -- about the size of a playing card, with two rounded corners and two square corners.  And it does seem to have been cut from something else-- and not too carefully.    But the typescript "With Compliments...." and address have clearly been added with a typewriter, to turn it into an effective business card.  So my presumption is that this piece was created by Newmann himself.




I had always assumed that the improvised nature of this piece showed Newmann -- who was once a major star -- having hit hard times.  He was, after all, hand typing his cards!  But at the last NEMCA conference in 2016, I met a collector-historian who specializes in studying Newmann.  He assured me, with a laugh, that I was wrong.   The card I own, he advised, does not show economic desperation.  Rather, he told me that the piece was typical for Newmann, whom he described as extraordinarily eccentric and parsimonious.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Puzzling Pierson, the Wisdom of Petronius and the Yale Divinity School

Having long ago acquired one of Puzzling Pierson's throwout cards, pictured here, I featured it on ThrowingCard.com, without much information of value.  However, access to increasingly more powerful research tools, as well as some old-fashioned shoe leather, permits me to tell you a great deal more about this charming piece, an unglazed card with square corners and an optical illusion Deland back.  The back bears a copyright date of 1907, making this a century old piece of magicana.  The face bears a Latin phrase, attributed to Petronius, "Mundus Vult Decipi Decipiatur," meaning "The world wants to be deceived, so le\t it be deceived" and also graces Martinka magic tokens of this era.   The face design really packs it in: the unique imp-devil character, hand with wand, linking rings, appearing bird cage and fabulous font make for an exquisite example of throwing card art.  (Another variant of this card -- which I've seen but do not own -- features a steamboat back.)

Well before his first appearance in magical literature,  George Pierson, a/k/a Guy H. "Puzzling" Pierson (b. circa 1879) is mentioned in the quarterly journal of the Yale University Divinity School, which describes him as a prestidigitator who entertained students on St. Patrick's Day, 1911.  It is in the same publication that we learn of his day job -- for the previous ten years, he had served as assistant superintendent of the Divinity School's buildings.  Less than a week later, the Yale Divinity News reports, a Professor Macintosh offered a sleight of hand demonstration “in imitation of Pierson” as part of a “Faculty Stunt Night.”  By 1917, Pierson began reporting New Haven's magical happenings in the Sphinx with an occasional feature called "Pierson's Paragraph."  In 1923, he helped organize this effort by forming a magic society headquartered at the famed Petrie Lewis company.

In 1947, The Sphinx ran a wonderful autobiographical piece about this performer.   In it, Pierson describes his early influences in magic, including a seminal trip to Martinka's, a friendship with its proprietor, and his acquisition of a copy of Professor Hoffmann's Modern Magic. "In my day we could not buy or hear anything about magic, especially in small towns," he reflected.   "We started with a chair round with a brass tack stuck in the end for a wand and a deck of cards,a few tin cups made by the local plumber and a home-made table with music rack legs. But suddenly the Great Mysto Company sprang up in New Haven and we began to get some good magic."  In 1949, he wrote a reminiscence about traveling medicine shows and the opportunities they offered magicians for The Sphinx, which elicited published comments by Augustus Rapp a few months later, and in 1950, he did a similar reflection on early travelling magic shows.   The last reference I can find about him was a performance mentioned in M*U*M in 1958.



Not satisfied that I had unearthed everything I could about Puzzling Pierson, I packed one of his cards with me on an early 2017 trip to Ray Goulet's Magic Art Studio, figuring that, on a well-attended Saturday, one of the assembled experts on New England's magic history could tell me something more about him. Well, I didn't find a subject matter expert, but among the many treasures there, I found something equally interesting,  Perched near a Spirit Clock, I spotted a cabinet-style card with a photo of Pierson.   In the photo, he's posing next to a small tripod magic table covered with vintage magic equipment, including a large ghostly chronometer. The Clock in the picture appears to be a different one than the one in the shop, unless, as one of the wags present noted, Pierson made the number change to Roman numerals from beyond the grave!


A second Pierson variant from Gary Frank's collection.
For anyone who might be interested, I have a duplicate Puzzling Pierson card in my collection which I'd be happy to trade for something of similar vintage.