Wednesday, January 23, 2019

H. J. Burlingame – From Back in the Past

I have had the below item in my collection for close to 30 years. It is a letter that was written way back in 1889. The letterhead is for a company named C. L. Burlingame, Manufacturer of Conjuring Apparatus. It says the firm was established in 1872. So who was C. L. Burlingame?

In reality, it was a man by the name of H. J. Burlingame. The following throw-out card is a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons. His name looks like it is hand written across the face, but it is actually printed on there. The back of the card is extra special, as it is a rare blue Bicycle “Pedal” back, first issued in 1899. I have never seen another one except for in the Bicycle checklist that was written by Mrs. Joe Robinson in 1955.
Burlingame’s full name was Hardin Jasper Elroy Burlingame, and he was born on June 14, 1852, in Manitowac, Wisconsin. As a teenager, his family moved to Chicago. After graduating from Business College, he worked for many firms over the years in clerical positions. He lost one such job when the firm he worked for was destroyed in the “Great Chicago Fire” of 1871. He decided to go to Europe in 1872 to continue his education. While in Holland, he became interested in magic and studied under the great magician Okito’s father, David Tobias Bamberg. Evidently with Bamberg’s permission, Burlingame took the name Jasper Bamberg and used that as a stage name for a while.
From the cover of Mahatma for December of 1898.
On his return to America, he became involved in many aspects of magic. Besides performing, he started several magic businesses. He did not want to use his real name so the magic concerns had names like George L. Williams and Co., and Ralph E. Sylvester & Co., both of which sold spiritualistic and bogus medium effects. His main business in magic he called C. L. Burlingame.
But there was more to H. J. Burlingame besides being a magician and magic dealer. He has been considered by some as one of, if not the first magic collector in America. He compiled many scrapbooks of early magic memorabilia, and put together a large library of magic, that was the seed that grew into what is considered the largest conjuring library in private hands.
With all of this wealth of magic history, it only made sense he would put it to use. Burlingame went on to write a number of magic and especially magic history books. In 1891 he wrote Leaves from Conjurers’ Scrapbooks, and in 1897 after the death of Alexander Herrmann, he authored the book Herrmann the Great, The Famous Magician’s Tricks.
From the author's collection.
In 1907, Burlingame had a nervous breakdown and settled in Syracuse, Indiana. He passed away on August 27, 1915 at the age of 63. Many magic collectors of today will have copies of the history books that he wrote.
Attempting to figure out the timeline of when Burlingame owned his different businesses has been a real challenge. The letterhead above with the Chicago address says it was founded in 1872. But wasn’t he supposed to be in Europe at that time? Another thing, look at the rubber stamp with the overprinted name Edwin Neale as successor to the business. The date on the letter is 1889. Was Burlingame no longer the owner of C. L. Burlingame? Some collectors out there have Burlingame catalogs that also have the Neale overprint on the cover. So who was Edwin Neale?
There is very little information that I can find on Neale in the magic magazines. One thing I do know however is that he also called himself a “Manufacturer of Conjuring Apparatus”. I know this because I also have one of his throw-out cards. It has a red Bicycle “Old Fan” back which was first issued in 1885.
While the history of these two magicians is still somewhat of a mystery, they both had great throw-out cards to remember them by.

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