Saturday, May 27, 2017

Washday Magic . . . Wait .... What?

So, this card presented something of a mystery.  What exactly is being promoted here?  And what does it  have to do with the world of scaling cards and magic?

The face of the card advertises "Washday Magic with Gas and Electricity," and sings the praises of owning an "Automatic Washer" and "Automatic Dryer." The whole magilla is presented wrapped in a gigantic magic hat, accompanied by a stylized magician.  Yet, no brand name is mentioned, nor is any specific performer identified. And the back design is immediately recognizable to magicians as the ubiquitous Fox Lake pattern made by Haines House of Cards.  So what's going on here?

Poking around  Ask Alexander, the magic history database, provides a satisfying answer to this unusual puzzle.
Reports appearing in M*U*M from an SAM Assembly in Cincinnati, Ohio suggest that the October 1959 meeting  of that group "was held at the Haines House of Cards, the usual gathering place for all area magicians."  According to the report, the meeting was attended by two representatives of:

"the Cincinnati Gas And Electric Company, who presented the idea to the Club of joint sponsorship of the theme, 'Washday Magic.'  The Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company would financially sponsor the venture and the two magic clubs in our city would have the professional help to make this four week promotion a big success."   

Some months later, an article in M*U*M reported:

"The members of the Queen City Mystics, Assembly No. 11, recently took part in an interesting and highly profitable club promotion.The Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company ran a promotion on washers and druyers, calling it Washday Magic, with a motif of magicians, top hats and rabbits throughout. Shows were presented daily over the lunch hour by members of Assembly No.11 and drew such fine comments that the run was extended for an extra week." 
A collage of photos of the event was provided:

Attendance was estimated at 15,000, and other assemblies were urged to try similar promotions in their cities.

So that explains the Washday Magic throwing card.  It's a fascinating artifact of an unusual magic event, as well as a time when you had to advise consumers that "automatic washing machines" make dirt disappear, and that owning a dryer could make you stop worrying about the weather.  It was, perhaps, a simpler time.

In acquiring this card, I managed to scare up a second, which I'd be willing to trade for something of similar vintage or something equally odd.  Not sure, though, that there is anything quite this unusual . . .

One quick postscript: May is National Home Improvement month.  How fitting.  Enjoy!

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