Sunday, October 10, 2021

Mac King, Kentucky and the World

Our Friend Bill Mullins has submitted this fine guest post:

When I first got interested in magic, Gary Oullet’s “World’s Greatest Magic” specials were still in production, and Mac King would teach a simple trick on them. So I’ve known of him, and been a fan, for as long as I’ve enjoyed magic. In the intervening years, I’ve gotten to see him perform live a

few times, and even have dinner with him occasionally. In addition to being one of the best comedy

magicians, he’s a great guy to hang out with.

Recently, the Frazier History Museum in Louisville hosted Mac and fellow Kentuckian/magician Lance Burton for a panel discussion about growing up in Louisville as magicians, working at the Tombstone Junction amusement park during summers, and their careers since. And of course, afterward they each did some magic. My son has been asking to accompany me to a magic show recently, and it was a great opportunity for him to see two pros at the top of their craft.

Afterwards, we stopped in the gift shop of the museum. There on the display tables they had for sale a deck of playing cards titled “Kentucky to the World,” featuring drawings of prominent people

from the Bluegrass State. One of the Kentuckians pictured was Mac King. I’m not sure it’s the best

likeness, but it is a magician on a playing card (and he’s the only one it the set – somehow, Lance

Burton wasn’t chosen).

The deck is available for sale, if you are so inclined:


Thanks for that, Bill!  

Collectors might also be interested in tracking down some of Mac King's effects.  Though sold in pharmacies and toy stores, they are well made effects with novel twists on conventional magic apparatus.  The one pictured (which I owned at one time, and was a favorite), the "Mesmerizing Monkey Brain" is a ball and vase-type effect with a monkey brain substituted for the ball, and it includes a bonus card prediction!  

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Melinda, The First Lady Of Magic

Our tribute to women in magic would not be complete without a mention of Melinda Saxe, frequently billed as "The First Lady of Magic."   Make no mistake: her showgirl stage persona and synthesis of dance and magic was not to everyone's taste, but there is no arguing with success:  Melinda was the first female magician to headline in Las Vegas,  she became a regular on the now-classic World's Greatest Magicians specials (a holiday tradition for several years produced by Gary Ouellette), and starred in her own network special Disney's Melinda: First Lady of Magic.    

Most of the magic periodical coverage available about Melinda focused on her high-profile if short-lived marriage to magic superstar Lance Burton.

You can see Melinda at the peak of her career, as a featured guest on Oprah.

My job here has been facilitated by the bounty of articles and sites describing Melinda's career.  But nothing, in my estimation, matches this lovely tribute to her posted on The Little Egypt Gazette, one of the pioneer venues for online magic reporting. 

I had occasion to see Melinda perform live just one time - in 1995, at the ill-fated "World's Greatest Magicians Live OnStage" tour.  A press release photo associated with that tour appears here on the left.  I refer to the tour as "ill-fated" because, though billed as a national tour, the show, beset with difficulties,  played only a few performances before closing down.  (A bootleg video of that performance can be found on YouTube with some effort).  The gremlins that besieged that tour were certainly evident at the performance I witnessed: Melinda's motorcycle vanish had a significant performance problem, and her signature piece, the Drill of Death, malfunctioned badly that evening.  On the other hand, she did a quite charming firefly production, similar to one offered by my friend Peter Maloney.
Melinda's card, seen above, features a striking full-color image of the performer.  It is part of a promotional playing card deck -- all the backs of which are as seen here -- which is still widely available.  

Friday, May 21, 2021

Mary Milam Chaudet Brigance – A Life of Music, Song, and Magic

From the Gary Brown Collection

      Mary Ruth Milam was born on October 7, 1920 in Hartford, Arkansas and from an early age she had the gift of song. Her parents, Walter and Margarette hired a coach throughout her early school years that paid off when she won the Arkansas statewide vocal competition. When Mary was just entering high school, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois just a few years before the Great Depression in 1929. Finding jobs was tight and the whole Milam family pitched in to put money home. Mary and her brother Bob, and sister Patti did what they could to help out by selling wooden produce crates. In 1935, Mary and Bob put together a song and dance act and tried out at one of the local talent shows in town. They won the top prize and that opened the door more bookings at the local theaters and small time vaudeville shows. Mary and her brother were booked for a three-month tour with Sid Page’s “Stars of Tomorrow” revue. Included in the troupe was a young magician billed as “Tung Pin Soo”. His offstage name was Al Wheatley (1901 – 1964). 

      Mary and Bob completed their tour and Bob went back home. Mary continued to sing with popular group singers of the day and then had a big break when the trio she was working with performed on NBC network’s featured radio program. Mary’s singing career continued to flourish in the 1940’s and then she decided it was time to hone her talents as a single act. About the same time Mary’s family moved to Hollywood, California. Not long after, Mary’s brother Bob enlisted in the Army. Mary was still finding venues to sing and when she wasn’t performing, she would participate at the U.S.O.’s Hollywood Canteen. More opportunities continued for Mary as she found herself singing with Benny Goodman’s band in 1943. After leaving the Goodman booking, Mary eventually went back to working with the U.S.O. full time. If you were in almost anyone of Mary’s audiences at the time, you would have seen her ‘multitasking’. One performance she was a singer, dancer, or an emcee and then another show would have being a straight man for a comedy team. While Mary was in New York with the U.S.O. tour, she auditioned and was hired to perform with Broadway’s comedy team’s John Olsen and Harold Johnson’s musical revue “Sons o’ Fun”. The show had a good run on “The Great White Way”, but war effort needed them to support the troops in Europe. An added part to Mary’s employment was that she was going to Europe to sing and be bestowed the uniform and rank of captain in the Woman’s Army Corps (WAC). The show’s cast left New York and toured France, Belgium, and safe areas of Germany. The tour ended in Southern France where the military troops were being transported to be cared for and to be shipped out back to America. The show continued to perform for the troops, but this time they were working in one of the remaining viable theaters instead of under gunfire and one night stands. 

      As luck would have it, Mary was offered to go back to New York to work in a new Broadway musical. Just a few months before, Mary’s interest in her career took a detour in Milan, Italy with a young man who was working in Special Services as a magician and producer of the shows. His name was Louis William Chaudet II or “Bill”. As odds would have, both Mary and Bill were almost neighbors from Hollywood, California. Mary and Bill returned home to California. Mary was a featured performer on the "Hedda Hopper Show Case" in Hollywood over CBS. And when the time was right, Mary and Bill were married on June 29, 1946. Bill’s best man was none other than magician Harry Blackstone. Bill was Blackstone’s protégé and they were good friends. Before the year was up Bill and Mary became a part of Blackstone’s traveling show.

     As one of the Blackstone Show’s assistants, Mary was taught a number of illusions and tricks that involved working with everything from canaries to swords. During a hiatus of Blackstone’s full evening show, Bill and Mary took out their own two-person show. 

      “The Chaudets” presented a variety show of magic and song. Bill’s knowledge of magic worked well along the singing talents of Mary. Together, they were able to work in local nightclubs throughout the Los Angeles area presenting illusions, magic, and feature Mary’s beautiful singing. They continued to perform together and developed a persona that agents were scrambling to book for their clients. Upon their return to the Blackstone Show, the thrills never ended. One particular performance nearly ended in disaster. While Mary was “floating” it broke! Thank goodness for fast thinking of Blackstone. He caught Mary before she dropped to the stage floor. What kind of man was Harry Blackstone? While he was performing the levitation with his assistant Mary, he would tell her a funny joke knowing she couldn’t laugh, because she was in a trance. Being a part of The Great Blackstone show had its thrills and opportunities too (just ask Adele Friel Rhindress!). 

      Being able to work for someone who dedicated his life for the love of magic was the greatest privilege. The Chaudets continued to perform at magic conventions, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Hawaii, and finished off their touring by continuing to perform at upscale nightclubs and dinner clubs. The act wasn’t limited to small venues. They did perform at fairs and some trade shows too. Mary performed small magic effects like the Linking Rings, silk effects, along with being Bill’s assistant. In 1964, while performing at the S.A.M. National Convention in New York, The Chaudets closed the show with a version of the broom levitation that brought the audience to their feet. Bill enhanced the original idea of two brooms and made them microphones. As Mary was singing the Wright and Forrest song, “Stranger in Paradise”, Bill lifted Mary to the effect’s apex as she sang the words, “…I hang suspended…” 

      They appeared at the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1955 and just a few months later, they could be seen on television show the Mickey Mouse Club. They would return for the next three years to entertain the Mouseketeers and the television audience with their wonderful presentation of magic and illusion. 

      Bill and Mary also appeared on the Art Linkletter show and Lawrence Welk television shows. In 1965, co-wrote a song entitled, “Big Nobody” that was sung by Pearl Bailey. The song was included in Ms. Bailey’s record album, “For Women Only”. In August of 1967, Bill and Mary divorced. Mary concentrated on her singing career and continued with her interest in magic. She was bestowed a lifetime membership in the magic club in Honolulu, a member of the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, California, and Mary was a past president of the Hollywood Assembly of the Magigals. Along with pianist friend, Joyce Wellington Bramberg (1924 - 2014), Mary composed, published, and wrote songs for commercials and professional acts. In 1975, Leon Leon, the son of The Great Leon presented an illusion at the P.C.A.M. convention in Santa Rosa, California that stopped the show. The show was set outdoors. Leon had two members from the audience assist him. Mary was one of the two who volunteered. Leon told the audience he was going hypnotize them at one time. The two onstage volunteers were there to act as witness to Leon’s claim. Leon instructed Mary to lie down on a secured long board on the stage and hold onto it. Leon stepped off the stage and walked where the audience seated. He told the audience that since they were hypnotized, they would think they see Mary levitating. With a wave of Leon’s hands, the magic began. Instead of Mary floating, the entire stage began to rise. After it rose to a few feet in the air, it finally slowly dropped back to the ground. The audience loved the entertainment, Mary and her fellow volunteer had a good time, and the fellow behind the scenes with “secret method” went on to make other deliveries. 
S.A.M. National President 1954 - 1955

      Mary served as Vice President of Assembly 22 and became the first lady to be on the S.A.M. National Council. She won a number of performance trophies from her local S.A.M. Assembly 22, including the 1979 Best Comedy award. Mary became the first lady to be on the S.A.M. National Council. She married real estate broker Clyde Richard Brigance Jr. (1921 – 2011) in May 28,1970. Mary was the first to volunteer for the S.A.M. Hall of Fame Board. Mary passed away August 27, 1980. She was elected posthumously into the S.A.M. Hall of Fame in 1996. The little girl named Mary from Hartford, Arkansas made her mark collectively with her fellow performers as well as singularly. Mary’s bright personality, willingness to accept all sorts of challenges, and her devotion to her multiple professions was proof she was a remarkable person.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Astrid & Truk

Though damaged, this rare specimen is one of the few remnants of a showbiz career for the team of Astrid & Truk, a wife and husband team of German magicians.  Astrid, whose married name was Hilde Hufenbach, was married to Truk, the stage name of Kurt (Truk backwards) Hufenbach (1918-1989).  Having begun his magic career in Germany circa 1945, he first appeared as Truk in 1947.  Astrid & Truk began working as a team in 1951.

In 1960, the pair became the sales representatives for Schmid's Spielkarten, a storied German playing card manufacturer founded in the mid-1800s.  The cobranded card seen here prominently features the pair.  The text translates roughly to "Astrid & Truk conjure and enchant with Schmid's Playing Cards."

Hufenbach authored several magic books, including Playing Card Manipulations (1964), Keyser's Big Book of Magic (1979), and a magic set called "Card Art Made Easy" (1982).  

Several sites note that the couple regularly performed at the Cafe Annast, an historic venue in Munich.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

Juliana Chen – World Champion Magician

Magicians are famous for tossing around titles like, “World’s Greatest” and “World Champion” but in the case of Juliana Chen, she has every right to the title. Here is her resume: Chen was born and raised in the Hunan Province of the People's Republic of China. Her parents were proud when the little tiny young girl was selected for specialized training at the Hunan Academy for the Performing Arts.


At first Juliana was trained in ballet, then later she moved on to acrobatics and juggling. As a teenager, she toured internationally with the famous Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe. After a couple of accidents which injured the same leg, Juliana was advised by doctors to give up foot juggling. While she was recovering, she saw the famous Japanese magician Shimada on television. She was fascinated by the way he had integrated magic into his Asian culture. He was both unique and outstanding in his performance.


The Guangzhou troupe's manager encouraged Juliana to develop as a magician. She also took a closer interest in the skills of the troupe's magician. Secretly, she began practicing her skill with cards and ping-pong balls--the easiest props for her to find at the time.


The ambidextrous Juliana had the ability, ambition and determination to succeed. Some four years later in 1986, she was recognized as the best magician in China when she won the All-China Best Magician competition.

Her desire to take her magic to the international level led Juliana to apply for permission to study English in Canada. She arrived in Vancouver in 1988 but there was not much work for magicians so she worked in a furniture store to support her studies. Later, she started he own graphics business.

In 1990, Juliana met a friend who introduced her to the Vancouver Magic Circle the largest magical society in Canada. Two years later, after winning the "Stage Magician of the Year" award at the annual convention of The International Brotherhood of Magicians in Salt Lake City, Juliana sold her graphics business to focus on her career as a magician.


Over the next four years, Juliana won numerous magic competitions in Europe. Then, in 1997, she won the World Championship at the World Congress of Magicians (FISM) in Dresden, Germany. Known as the "Olympics" of Magic, this event has been held every three years since 1948. Winning Gold at the World Championship of Magic is the highest distinction for any magician.


Juliana became the first woman, and first magician of Chinese heritage, to win gold with a solo act in the 50-year history of the World Congress of Magic. She was now The First Lady of Magic. On her return to North America, Juliana was featured on the cover of Magic magazines around the world and invited to appear on The World's Greatest Magic IV, an NBC-TV special. A year later, Canada's leading TV current affairs program, The Fifth Estate, broadcast a profile of Juliana calling her "The hottest new magician around." That same year, Juliana appeared on the ABC-TV special Champions of Magic hosted by Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

In the fall of 2002, Juliana moved to Las Vegas to take her career to the next level. That October, she was awarded the Chavez Memorial Cup. She was recognized for her professional excellence by the Chavez Committee of the Society of American Magicians' Hall of Fame and Museum in Hollywood.

In the spring of 2003, Juliana was nominated for Stage Magician of the Year by the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood. That summer Juliana was the subject of a four-page cover story in Saturday Night, Canada's oldest-established magazine. She became the first Canadian magician to be featured on the cover of a national magazine since the late Doug Henning in the mid-seventies.


Since winning the world championship, Juliana's career has blossomed around the world and particularly in Europe, Asia and the USA. She has played traditional Variety theatres like the London Palladium and the Princess Grace Theatre in Monte Carlo, Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Tiger Palast in Frankfurt, NHK Theatre in Tokyo, and the Berlin Wintergarten.

In the course of her international travels, Juliana meets leading magicians from almost every country she visits. She is also in demand as a lecturer for many international magic conventions. Her special brand of manipulation cards are sold by leading magic dealers around the world and aspiring young magicians can buy a Juliana Chen Magic Set which includes an instructional DVD produced by Juliana.

Here are two examples of her playing cards. One in conventional poker size features a striking black and white close-up of her face with her name in red and the World Champion Magician appellation. Decks of these cards are sold and advertised as Chen’s “Shooting Cards” and are extremely thin and made of very flexible plastic. The second features four different colors on the corners of the card with her photo in the middle. Presumably it can be used to perform color-changing fans. Both cards show a two of clubs on their faces.


Perhaps it's not surprising that Juliana has also become a respected producer of magic shows. In 1999, she became the artistic director of the Shanghai International Magic Festival which is held every two years. This is the largest magic festival in China and sponsored by the Shanghai Circus, Shanghai TV, and the Shanghai Media Group. Juliana was also the artistic director for the Athens Festival of Illusion at the Gialino Music Theatre, 2005-2007.

One of Juliana's most important backstage successes has been opening the doors in China and the West for the exchange of magicians. In 1993, a year after winning "Stage Magician of the Year" in Salt Lake City, she persuaded executives of the Chinese Acrobatic and Magic Association to attend the Quebec City convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and to establish their first Ring in China (There are 300 Rings worldwide). Juliana's initiative eventually led to a substantial growth in China's involvement in international magic events culminating with Beijing hosting the World Championships of Magic in 2009.


During this month of featuring women in magic, it is Propelled Pasteboard’s pleasure to feature this talented magicienne.

Tom Ewing 



Thursday, May 6, 2021

Ru Xian: the Mysterious Card Thrower

Bill  Mullins provided me with this magnificent throwing card, along with a mystery.  Exactly who is this woman - a mysterious propeller of pasteboards?  The card presents an unusual problem: other than the tiny words "Happy Kingdom" on the reverse,  it contains information written solely in Chinese.  Without the help of some friends, this would have been a dead end.  And yet, I have a story for you.

We begin with Mr. Mullins, who advised that the magician featured is named Ruxian - sometimes transliterated as Ru Xian or Ru Xian Guli.   Bill saw her perform just once, in 2010, at the "Gathering for Gardner" in Atlanta.  At that event, she performed a silent card scaling act, where Bill collected this rare specimen.  Bill advised that Ru Xian performed illusions at the Happy Valley Amusement Park in ShenZhen.  He notes that although Ru Xian lives in China, she is ethnically Uyghur, a group whose sad plight has been featured in news reports in recent years.

Though a relentless magic researcher, Bill was not able to give any further information about her, noting that Google and AskAlexander produced little.  One website discusses Ruxian's involvement  in the 2018 Shenzhen International Magic Festival, and lists her as "vice director of China Magic Committee and part-time vice-president of the Shenzhen Federation of Literary and Art Circles."  But Bill was able to give me another lead: he advised that magic inventor Mark Setteducati might be able to help.  And indeed, Mark did!

A quick email to Mark -- who has been quite generous with his help with other research projects -- once again produced a rapid and thorough response.  He wrote:  

I first met Ruxian in Shenzhen China at an amusement park at which she was performing, probably about 15 years ago. I was with Eddy Au, who owned a magic shop there and also own Eddy's Magic Company.  Eddy is from Hong Kong. 
Ruxian does not speak any English and I don't speak Mandarin, so although we both know each other and have been together several times, communication has been limited. She attended and performed at a "Gathering For Gardner" along with another Chinese female magician.  They were a smash hit as both acts are very beautiful.

 I last saw her about 3 years ago in Shenzhen, but hadn't heard anything since.

Mark provided this photograph in which he appears with Ru Xian and magicians Mark Mitton, Lennart Green and John Horton Conway, among others:  

A rare photo of Ru Xian (on left) at the Happy Valley Amusement Park.
Back row: Mitton, Conroy, Green & Setteducati (courtesy Mark Setteducati)

The throwing card, featured above, is a a beautiful full color piece, printed on hard plastic. Like many of my favorite throwouts, Bill advises, this one was scaled before being collected.  Tiny corner pieces are broken, which may have shattered after being forcefully scaled by this talented performer. 

And that brings us to one last interesting fact.  Sterling Lee, vice president of the SAM's Parent Assembly in New York City, took a copy of Ru Xian's throwout card and had someone translate the text on the card.  Turns out that, not surprisingly, the side with her picture bills her as  "leading magician of the Happy Valley Amusement Park in South China."  The reverse, though, the side with the large characters and the Eiffel Tower, is an ad for a travel agency.  It turns out, then, like so many of the items we've featured on this site, Ru Xian's card has a cosponsor.   

I have not had the pleasure of seeing Ru Xian in action, and a search of the Internet yielded no videos, but based on the descriptions by Bill and Mark, hers is an act not to be missed. Many thanks to Messrs. Mullins, Setteducati and Lee for their kind assistance, without which this post would not have been possible.  

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Dell O'Dell: Queen of Magic and Empress of Ephemera

While working on The Coney Island Fakir: The Magical Life of Al Flosso, I came across scads of photos of magicians' conventions and banquets in which Flosso appeared along with dozens of other tuxedo-clad tricksters.  In many of them, though, appeared a tall, spectacularly dressed woman, who invariably 
caught the viewer's eye: Dell O'Dell, born Odella Newton (1897-1962).  I also acquired lots of material - show bills, puzzles, giveaways and even a Dancing Dell Doll (with cutout holes that allowed you to use your fingers as her dancing legs) - featuring this stylish performer.  And I even had the pleasure of interviewing a number of magicians who had seen O’Dell (who once worked as a circus strongwoman and was among the first magicians to have a regular television show) weave her magic spell, regaling her audiences with clever banter, strong nightclub-style magic and rhyming patter.   I had long thought that someone should write a biography about her and was pleased when my friend, magic historian Michael Claxton, did just that.  Don't Fool Yourself: The Magical Life of Dell O'Dell, which consistently receives five-star ratings, is a beautiful hardcover that's becoming increasingly hard to find.  (Michael advises that you can still get copies from Gabe Fajuri, the publisher, at

O’Dell should appeal to readers of this blog, as she is of particular interest to magic collectors.  Claxton has a scholarly paper online entitled "Collecting Dell O'Dell," which you can find online here.   In it, he discusses the vast array of ephemera commissioned by "The Queen of Magic":

It would be pretty cheeky to rank Dell O’Dell alongside John Henry Anderson, Houdini, Thurston, Blackstone, and Sorcar—that is, unless we’re listing the great masters of publicity among magicians. I’ve always known that the Queen of Magic could sell herself with style, but while writing her biography, Don’t Fool Yourself, I came to appreciate just how savvy Dell was at promotion, and just how well that talent paid off. She worked virtually non-stop for nearly three decades, even during the 1950s, when opportunities for magicians tapered off. In one week alone she once did 47 shows. Dell’s success rested on a potent combination: her ability to deliver lively entertainment to just about any conceivable audience, her love of socializing with patrons to build rapport, and her tireless marketing machine. She was a driven, determined woman who thrived on applause, and her career in magic was nothing short of a whirlwind.

Fortunately for collectors, that whirlwind left behind quite a bit of tangible debris. Knowing full well that her quirky giveaways would be saved and remembered long after the show was over, Dell handed out pitch-books, loop pencils, paper dolls, puzzles, and other novelties by the tens of thousands. Her circle of creative magician friends included printers, writers, and artists, who all kept the advertising ideas coming. Together, their output was impressive. Even after twenty years of seeking mementoes of Dell’s career, I still come across swag I’ve never seen before. For instance, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “Dell O’Dell’s Solitare Peg Game” in the 1950s until I discovered one last year. And at the last LA Magic History Conference, my publisher gave me a small matchbox that rattles when shaken. Its label reads, “Presented with the compliments of Dell O’Dell, World’s Leading Lady Magician.” But the sliding box has a hole in the bottom, so when an unsuspecting person slides it open, dried beans spill everywhere. There may still be some beans in the carpet at the Beverly Garland Hotel, where I fell for this gag myself.

Martin Gardner, famed for his monumental contributions to both magic and recreational mathematics, made similar observations, noting that "Dell O'Dell found . . . small, inexpensive items of a trick nature which can be given away as souvenirs . .  .  a novel and profitable form of advertising."  


I’ve yet to find a throwing card featuring O’Dell, nor has Mr. Claxton seen one, but would not be surprised if one exists somewhere out there among the vast quantum of material she employed. But what I’ve featured here is a piece that is quite nifty, a membership card for “Dell O’Dell’s Friends of Magic Club,” which was, at one time, the largest fan club for any magician in the world. It sports a lovely image of the performer clutching a pair of rabbits on the reverse, while the face contains the membership data. Based on Claxton’s work, it seems that the signature is likely hers, making the piece an autographed keepsake. A notable memento of a notable career in magic.

 Lastly, when I asked him to help with this post, Michael was kind enough to share this unusual piece.  It's a rare card featuring O'Dell, one of several variants that were affixed to tiny bottles of Coca-Cola, given away during a meet and greet sponsored by the soft drink giant.   Dell O'Dell had quite the knack for promotion!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Women in Magic Month at Propelled Pasteboards!

A recent post celebrating Aree, the self-proclaimed "Femanipulator" led to a reader question: just how many women magicians are commemorated on throw-out cards?  It was an intriguing question.  While we have, in the past, commented on the relative scarcity of successful female magicians, it prompted us to take a quick inventory.  After more than two hundred posts here, only a very few were devoted to women who performed magic.  

So we've decided to change that.   Your correspondents made inquiries of other collectors and historians and scoured their collections in a global search for throwout cards and related ephemera featuring prominent female conjurers.  And we'll be featuring them during the month of May.  So, stay tuned!   

We'll be updating this list as the month goes on:

Meet Jane Thurston

Aree, the Queen of Hearts 

Mysterious Smith and Madam Olga

Mildred and Rouclere 

Dell O’Dell: Queen of Magic & Empress of Ephemera

Ru Xian: The Mysterious Card Thrower

Juliana Chen - World Champion Magician

And because we never miss the chance to highlight yet another bit of magic history, the poster above features Ionia, whose real name was Clementine de Vere (1888–1973), a British magician and illusionist also known as Clementine Weedon and Princess Clementine Eristavi Tchitcherine.  Though we are unlikely to turn up a throwing card from her relatively short, though remarkable career, Ionia has left behind some beautiful lithographic magic posters. Her magic act, built by her father, illusionist Charles de Vere, debuted in September 1910 in Marseilles.  She prominently featured trained animals in her act, deployed skills learned traveling with a circus animal trainer, whom she married.  After remarkable success in Europe, a planned tour of the U.S. failed after a prominent theater with which she had contracted declared bankruptcy before her tour could begin.  Her brief career ended after a second marriage to a Russian prince, and her magic equipment may have been destroyed in the Russian Revolution.   

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Magical Gold from the Green River


You might have seen a collectible like this sold to magic collectors as a “magic token.”  Yet examination of this coin reveals nothing about any particular magician, unlike tokens for many of the performers seen on this site, like T. Nelson Downs and Howard Thurston.  What makes this token a magic collectible is an audacious advertising scheme by the purveyors of Green River Whiskey, which parallels the cobranding efforts of playing card manufacturers in producing some of the best throwing cards.  In fact, our discussion of the promotional efforts by Bicycle Playing cards foreshadows the marketing bonanza which yielded magical gold from the Green River.  

In November 1935, the makers of the subject spirits took out a full page ad in the The Linking Ring offering the following:

From the November 1935 Linking Ring

The ad tries to reassure skeptical magicians (a group bombarded by more false claims than perhaps any other), noting "No catch. No gimmick. A genuine offer to introduce GREEN RIVER."  The editors amplified the offer in the magazine’s pages, noting "you will note an advertisement of the Oldetyme Distillers, Inc., of New York City, and no magician should fail to get a stack of these coins. This is purely an advertising medium for GreenRiver whiskey.We feel this is very kind in this company and they will advertise themselves with the magicians of this country in a way that will get them much mention in the performances of the thousands of magicians to whom the Linking Ring goes.”

By February 1936, Linking Ring continued to trumpet the offer, saving the distillers the cost of taking another ad,“From GREEN RIVER comes 50 bright new gold pieces to do trickswith. Better send and get yours, it is a mighty nice thing of them to offer these."  Well, sort of.  It was clearly calculated to generate publicity.  But in depression era America, it was quite generous.    

And their advertising efforts were not limited to just giving away free coins.  “In 1935 and 1936, Annemann devised a night club routine during which he produced a Bottle of Green River Whisky and presented other tricks plugging the product,” Jean Hugard wrote in Magic Magazine for March 1960. “Under the liquor company's sponsorship he toured for six months in the middle west, then came east with ‘The Green River Revue.’” 

Indeed, The Sphinx reported in March 1936 that  “Theodore Annemann, S.A.M. (Syracuse Assembly), of Waverly, N. Y., billed as"The Deceptionist Supreme," and Jean Irving, S.A.M. (Parent Assembly), of Jersey City, N. J. ‘presenting prestidigitational peculiarities’ have been playing in the Green River Revue which has been on tour as an advertising proposition for Green River Whiskey.”

At this writing I've completed nine weeks with the Green River Revue and the end hasn't popped, into view as yet,” Annemann wrote in the Jinx for March 1936. “From Pittsburgh to New York for the annual Liquor Show we have covered 117 night clubs and dinner spots.”

That’s a lot of advertising, in the hands of master like Ted Annemann.  Not bad for the cost of some fake gold coins . . . Those coins do seem lucky.  Maybe I should pick one up some day.