Thursday, May 25, 2017


O.K., so here I go again, straying outside of the domain of scaling cards. This card is not so much a scaling card as it is an advertising piece because there is no playing card back on it. I guess then by rights it shouldn't be on this post. If the masses rise up and say, "This shall not pass!!" I will take it down. I still think it's a fun post though so here goes.

This involves an Indianapolis magician named Bert Servaas, an amateur who billed himself (politically incorrectly) as “Spoo-Kee-Ching” and who joined the unending ranks of Anglo magicians trying to portray Asian characters. He also performed straight magic. I first wrote about him in my book “Cornfields and Conjurors: Magic on the Indianapolis Stage.” Here is the card in discussion,

His full name was Baastean Hanus Servaas, and he was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1889. His family moved to Indianapolis in the early 1900's and sometime around 1913 he helped found the city’s first magic organization, the Indiana Magic Fraternity. 

Servaas in 1922 from the Indiana Magic Fraternity (IMF)

His business card featured a photograph of him in costume and on the reverse, this unusual listing of effects he performed as part of his, “Program La Fun:” 

Hong-Kong Kee
Pekin Fire
Merkan Fla

It’s clear that in his effort to appear Asian, he assigned nonsense titles to tricks involving fire, vanishing glasses of water, dice and money tricks, billiard ball effects, rope, dominoes, cigarettes and cards. At the age of 49 Servaas joined the Indiana Society of Magicians. According to his application, he received his early exposure to magic from Professor Ogden and Dr. E.S. Pierce, a medium. Apparently he was also a member of the Yogi Club of Michigan. 

Servaas in 1932 with magic apparatus 
Seen on his table are a Sliding Die Box, pack of playing cards, a set of Multiplying Bottles in sore need of paint, a Rapping Hand, a skull, and of course his Linking Rings.

He gave his first “boy wonder” show in 1902 at the Academy of Music in Kalamazoo before 1,000 people. His early schooling came at the Monnock Private School and he eventually attended the University of Michigan. His parents were from Holland. Although he did not provide any details, he noted on his application that he worked all the Houdini shows and knew Thurston for 22 years. When he wasn’t performing magic he worked in the engineering and sales department of the Sinclair Refining Company. He died October 1, 1957. I close this posting with an early image of Servaas and his family. 
Servaas with his two sons, Buert and William, wife Lela, and perhaps his older daughter Lela Jo Wiliams.

Tom Ewing

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