Sunday, April 23, 2017

Elmer Eckam

Elmer G. Eckam was born in May of 1892 in Rochester, New York. Eckam’s first stage work was working as the assistant as a teenager with fellow Rochester magician Ray Hogan (1886 – 1945). Eckam performed for over forty years. He gained experience after leaving the auspices of Hogan by working the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits as well as many of the theatres and clubs. By the Twenties, Eckam had his own unique act that included escapes. The full evening show was performed at national and state conventions in the East and Midwest. He was well liked by magicians and was a friend to fellow performers like Harry Houdini and Harry Blackstone. At the 1927 I.B.M. Convention in Kenton, Ohio, Eckam thrilled the over one thousand participants by escaping from a straight jacket while being suspended fifty feet in the air. Eckam published a magic newspaper titled, Eckam’s Echo from 1937 to 1940. He also had a mail order magic business from his home in Rochester that he called “Art in Magic”.

He traveled Europe and the United Kingdom, participating at the British conventions after the war. While visiting, he was introduced to Florence Kingston and they were married in 1954. Eckam had not only gained a marriage partner, but also a whole new act with assistants. Florence (or, as she preferred ‘Dot’) had three children and with a drop of the hat Eckam created the act “The Imperial Eckam Family”. The timing was perfect because, on the sailing home to New York, the Eckam family presented their Chinese act on board.
In one of the articles in the Magic Circle’s magazines in the 1950’s, it was mentioned of the feelings for Eckam, “…he has always dealt in secondhand items and old, scarce and rare pieces. Elmer is, in fact one of the last of the old time dealers, but is still very up to date in his sense of humour and his love of the latest exclusive magic. In fact he might well be called one of the most enterprising of the American Dealers…”
The Eckam family continued to entertain at local shows as well as magic conventions. Dot, and daughters Joan and Barbara, along with their son Billy assisted in the Eckam act with well-rehearsed magic. They presented unique magic effects like the “Elmer’s Jig Saw Puzzle Machine”. Eckam would show a landscape picture about the size of a window card and feed it into his contraption. On one side of this miraculous creation, there was a crank. Eckam would slowly turn the crank that would make a noise that filled the venue and as he did what appeared to be jig saw puzzle pieces shot out of the other side of prop. Without a moment’s pause, Eckam gathered the scattered pieces from the stage and instantaneously restored the picture.
Eckam was reportedly the oldest Rochester member of the Society of American Magicians. He was also a charter member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 4 in Rochester. Loyal Order of Moose, Orpheus Lodge of Masons, Rochester Turners, member of the American Legion, and was in the 310 Infantry, 78th Division and a veteran of the Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne battles of World War I. The latter lasted forty-seven days.
After performing a Christmas party at the Franklin House Restaurant in Sodus, New York, Elmer Eckam passed away from a heart attack on December 5, 1963. He is buried at the Rochester Cemetery.

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