Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
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?
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
|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|
|The Bicycle backs from left to right are: Wheel No. 2 back, New Fan back, and Rider back.|
|The Bicycle backs from left to right are: Automobile No. 2 back, Expert back, and Rider back.|
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
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."
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
|This is one throw-out card front and back. This is one throw-out card front and back.|
|This is one throw-out card front and back. This is one throw-out card front and back.|
|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.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
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.
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.
Friday, January 19, 2018
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.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
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.
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, 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
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.|