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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Everything old is new again » » History of Magic between 1930 and 1940 (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Oliver Ross
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Hi everybody,

I'm trying to do some research on magic history all over the world between 1930 and 1940. Could anybody please help me to find out the following:

Who was popular as magician and well known by the audience in this period? (I know already about Harry Blackstone Sr and Aloïs Kassner)

What where the newest tricks and illusions presented on stage at this time?

Which were the hottest places to see magicians as entertainers in this time period?

Thank you very much in advance for all your help and future inputs on those questions.

Oliver.
Bill Palmer
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Your best bet would be to purchase some of the recent historical works, such as The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher. Also, some of the major magic magazines from that time period would be of help -- for example, The Linking Ring is available on CD-ROM. The CD-ROM covers the period from the early 1920's until about 2000, if memory serves.

Back issues of die Magie might also be of some use.

There were magicians appearing all over Europe, North America and South America at this time. Okito was very active then. So was his son, David Bamberg, who performed as Fu Manchu.

This web site may give you some help http://www.magictricks.com/bios/whoswho-n.htm
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hugmagic
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You have painted very broad stroke of time. Are you mainly concerned with American magicians? If so, I recommend David Price's book.

Otherwise, Bill has given you some references for the European scene which he has much more background on than I.

Richard
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noble1
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Read Steinmeyer's 'Hiding the Elephant.'
Oliver Ross
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Thank you for your replies, links and suggestions. I'm looking only for very well known magicians by a lay audience of this period.

Richard, you're right that the stroke of time is very broad, but I do this research to help me putting together a show that plays in this period.
I'm looking more for American or European magicians that made full house in night-clubs or cabarets in this era.

I'll check the link you gave Bill and see what I can get. The problem I might have is that I know certain names, as being myself a magician, but that those insider magicians were not known to the lay audience...

If you might have any other ideas, feel free to tell me.

Thank you, again.

Oliver.
hugmagic
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As for people known to a lay person, it can vary a great deal by the location. In England, you might consider the Maskelynes or David Devant. In America, it would be Thurston, Blackstone, and Willard in the south. In Europe, you might have Dante. South America could be Raymond, Chang or Fu Manchu (this might be considered a little later than you want).

I guess I would look at exactly where you want this historical reference to take place. Then, get some general vaudeville books of the various acts that played.

Richard
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tstark
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The '30s were transitional from the big illusion shows to the theatre and nite club circuits. Thurston packed up his big illusion show in the early '30s and scaled down the show to play theatres and sadly passed away in the mid-30s. In the 1940s the Chautauqua circuit was in full swing, and performers like Jack Gwynne, Neil Foster, Dai Vernon with his Harlequin act, Blackstone Sr., Senator Crandall, Silent Mora, etc., were performing.

Many of the classics that are still performed today had their beginnings in the late '30s and '40s with Flip-Over Boxes, Manipulations (cigarette acts were big), Duck Pans, Dye Boxes, patriotic themed effects (Mismade Flag, 20th Century Flag, Patriotic Billiard Balls, flag tissue paper tears, etc.), production boxes, and the advent of the mentalist following on the heels of JB Rhine's experiments in the late '30s.

Magazines are the best resource to find out who was where and what was being performed by reading the news of the day in the Conjuror's magazine, Linking Ring, Sphinx, Genii, Jinx, etc. Older Catalogs are a good source to determine what was being sold for use by performers.
Bill Palmer
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The David Price book would be good, except that it is very difficult to find. When you can find one, it will cost $$$$$.

There is a French book on magic history by Max Dif. I don't know the name of it, though.

Bear in mind that there were many levels of fame during the 1930's. There were people in Europe who were famous over there that were completely unknown over here. For example, American audiences did not know Alois Kassner.

If you are going to do illusions, some version of Sawing a Lady in Half would be almost mandatory.

The 1930's saw the rise in popularity of Cardini and Roy Benson. On a different extreme would have been Erik Jan Hanussen, who did not claim to be a magician.
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Lawrence O
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Max Dif [Maxime Roux: 1911-1999]: "Histoire et évolution technique de la prestidigitation" (with the author ; Couzcix, 1970-1973) in several volumes (I remember that my book binder gathered all the volumes in 3 tomes, but there were initially something like six or eight volumes).

Max Dif subsequently revised and condensed the text under the title "Mythologie du merveilleux", éd. Garry, Eyrein in 1983 .

He finally published a short version "Histoire Illustrée De La Prestidigitation" Paris : Maloine, 1986. – 365 pages.

In my opinion, and without any national prejudice or disrespect for The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher, the mammoth "Histoire et évolution technique de la prestidigitation" is by far the most complete and accurate history of magic ever published.
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Bill Palmer
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Darn it, Etienne! I'm just going to have to learn to at least read French, if not to speak it! Smile
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Oliver Ross
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Thank you for all your hints, information and links. They're very helpful to me.

I can't believe that a lot of the actual magic stuff existed already ages ago.

The wheel was never re-invented; it's just the techniques that changed and the way it's presented.

Thanks again.

Oliver.
Bill Palmer
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One really helpful source is the British magazine called Magic Wand. It may be available on CD-ROM. Hugard's Magic Monthly also has a lot of material from the end of that period.

Although Thurston and Blackstone performed in theatres towards the ends of their careers, there wasn't as much scaling back as one might think. Thurston was primarily a theatrical performer from the start. Blackstone performed in theatres even in the 1950's. (I'm referring to Blackstone, Sr.)

Many of the old movie theatres also had full stage facilities. The Metropolitan in Houston, for example, was one of these. I saw Blackstone there in 1948.

Willard the Wizard performed in tents. His show is well documented in two books.

He was active until the 1960's.
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mormonyoyoman
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Quote:
On 2009-04-16 19:24, Bill Palmer wrote:
One really helpful source is the British magazine called Magic Wand. It may be available on CD-ROM. Hugard's Magic Monthly also has a lot of material from the end of that period.



Copies of the Magic Wand? http://www.lybrary.com/magic-wand-volume-p-5838.html

The same place also has the complete Hugard's Magic Monthly for download or on CD-ROM.

Sphinx also. You could go amuck with this much information.

*jeep!
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Lawrence O
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There is a small, largely overlooked book called "The Art of Caricaturing," which p 60 offers caricatures of Howard Thurston, p 16 one of Nicola, and p 36 Lafayette.

It just got fully reproduced and can be flipped through at
http://www.archive.org/stream/artofcaricaturin006061mbp
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Clay Shevlin
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Oliver, for starters, best of luck with your project! I hope it’s successful.

Although it’s a great idea to post your questions here at the Café, if the information you seek is important, it is probably best that you do the research yourself, if only because you have the best idea of what kind of information is important to you. For example, you mention that you are only interested in the popular/successful magicians of the 1930s, but it is not clear (to me, at least) why the popularity or fame of a magician would be relevant to “putting together a show that plays in this period.” It will take more time doing your own research, of course, but I think you will find it very rewarding, as it’s always a good thing for a working magician to have some knowledge of the history of magic.

Many good suggestions have already been made in this thread. Here are some additional English-language titles to consider:

Milbourne Christopher – PANORAMA OF MAGIC (basically, an earlier version of his more comprehensive ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MAGIC, but only relevant if you can’t find the latter title)

James Randi – CONJURING (has a good bit of material on 20th century magicians, and somewhat distinctive in that Randi has not organized his “history” on a strictly chronological basis; but rather on a categorical basis (e.g., “The Mentalists,” “The Manipulators,” “The Self-Liberators”) and in some cases by families of magicians (e.g., the Bambergs, the Blackstones).

You might also want to consult the fabulous monthly series written by Edwin A. Dawes and originally published in The Magic Circular, titled “A Rich Cabinet of Magical Curiosities,” the first 30 or so years of which has been collected and published on a single CD-ROM. Dr. Dawes continues to write this monthly column.

If you prefer to consult non English-language books, depending on your native language, here are a few additional suggestions:

(Italian) Silvan (Aldo Savoldello) – ARTE MAGICA ILLUSIONISTI, TRUCCHI E MAGIE DI TUTTI I TEMPI.

(German)
Alexander Adrion – DIE KUNST ZU ZAUBERN (Adrion also wrote ADRION'S ZAUBERKABINETT ZUM VERWUNDERN UND VORFÜHREN FÜR JEDERMANN (only about half of which is magic history) and ZAUBEREI ZAUBEREI)

Werner Waldmann – ZAUBERKUNST (only a portion of the book is history)

Gisela & Dietmar Winkler – DAS GROSS HOKUSPOKUS (written from a “behind the Iron Curtain” angle, before the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Carl Graf von Klinckowströem – DIE ZAUBERKUNST

Bill Palmer’s mention of DIE MAGIE made me think of Kurt Volkmann’s history of magic published in that magazine, I think, in the 1930s. We’re waiting for your English translation of that wonderful work, Bill!

(Portugese) João António Camacho Barriga – DICIONÁRIO DO ILUSIONISMO EM PORTUGAL (not a history per se, but still a good historical reference source on Portugese magicians)

(Polish) Jerzy Mecwaldowski (compiler) – VADEMECUM SZTUKI ILUZJI

(Swedish) Christer Nilsson – TROLLARE OCH ANDRA UNDERHÅLLARE (a history of Swedish magic)

No history of magic is free of errors, of course, and the titles I have suggested are no exception. And the more comprehensive the scope of the history, the more errors will be found. By far the most historically accurate writer I have encountered is Dr. Dawes, and his accuracy is achieved, among other things, by his training as a scientist (he is very good at distinguishing between provable facts and historical speculation, and strongly resists the perpetuation of historical myths) and his commitment to documenting his source material in all of his books and monographs, which enables others to review/confirm the basis for his historical and biographical claims.

Quote:
On 2009-04-10 05:51, Lawrence O wrote:
Max Dif [Maxime Roux: 1911-1999]: "Histoire et évolution technique de la prestidigitation" (with the author ; Couzcix, 1970-1973) in several volumes (I remember that my book binder gathered all the volumes in 3 tomes, but there were initially something like six or eight volumes).

... In my opinion, and without any national prejudice or disrespect for The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher, the mammoth "Histoire et évolution technique de la prestidigitation" is by far the most complete and accurate history of magic ever published.


Sadly, like Volkmann’s writings other than THE OLDEST DECEPTION, Dif’s work has not been translated into English. According to my notes, HISTOIRE ET ÉVOLUTION TECHNIQUE DE LA PRESTIDIGITATION was originally published in 16 bi-monthly parts (“fascicules,” as Dif called them), starting on September 15, 1971 and ending on March 15, 1974. I share Lawrence O’s enthusiasm for this book, and my set is also bound in 3 volumes. If memory serves, either Dif himself or Micky Hades of Canada, had many copies of this book bound in 3 leather volumes, with a slipcase. In Dif’s book I have found information that I’ve not seen in any other magic history (in any language), but like all works of such admirable breadth, there are errors in it.

Hope this helps a bit, Oliver, and good luck once again with your project.
David Charvet
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Oliver -
There is much good information (and a little misinformation - unintentional, I'm sure) in this thread.

1930-1940 was an extremely transitional decade in the art of magic. The Great Depression in America - and the rest of the world - had a huge effect on mass entertainment, as did the explosion of radio and talking motion pictures. Not just magic changed, but all entertainment.

In The U.S. as radio became a network medium and popular comedians, musicians and variety entertainers (such as Edgar Bergen) were enticed to appear, live theatrical entertainment (vaudeville and stage shows) took a dive. Coincidentally, this all happened during the early years of the Great Depression when discretionary money for entertainment was tight - yet radio brought the biggest names in show business into your home for FREE.

"Big Time" "two-a-day" vaudeville in the U.S. was dead by 1932, although it hung on in various forms until supplanted by network television in the early 1950's. "Variety" (or "music hall") the European equivalent of vaudeville lasted until the 1960s.

When Prohibition ended in the U.S. in December of 1933, there was a boom in the night club field. What were clandestine "speakeasies" in the 1920's became legitimate drinking and entertainment establishments in the 1930's. Again, this coincided with the death of big-time vaudeville, so night clubs became a new medium for magicians - at least those who could adapt. Most night clubs featured a dance band (which gave rise to the big band/swing music era) and a "floor show" of live acts. These shows followed the vaudeville format, but in a condensed form.

Speaking of "popular magicians" during the 1930-1940 decade, there were many - although, as today, few would be household names among the general public.
Of those, I would categorize them as follows:

Illusionists:
Howard Thurston (U.S. - until 1935)
Dante (world tour - 1928-1939. Broadway - U.S - 1940)
Harry Blackstone, Sr. (U.S.)
Charles Carter (world touring until 1936)
Les Levante (Australia & England)
Kassner (Germany)

Vaudeville/Night Clubs: (U.S.)
Cardini
Jack Gwynne
Ade Duval
Fred Keating
Paul LePaul
Charles "Think A Drink" Hoffmann
Tommy Martin
Glen Pope
many other "second-tier" acts.

It was an amazing decade in the magic world, bracketed by the Depression and WWII.
There was a big increase in amateurs through the various magic organizations (I.B.M., S.A.M., etc.) that were now holding conventions and local/regional gatherings. Magic shops went "public" to a degree, and the secrets became more readily available to the masses. The Camel Cigarette "It's Fun To Be Fooled" expose series in 1933 also brought attention of the art to the public.

In my own research of this era for my book and writing projects, the best source of information has been THE SPHINX magazine, which covered magic throughout the world on a monthly basis during these years. GENII will give you more west coast/U.S. news from 1936-40. Both of these titles are available through http://www.askalexander.org and are easily searchable.

It was a very rich and fascinating era of our art. I've been immersed in researching aspects of it for over 30 years now, and I'm always finding something "new" about magic from the 1930-40 decade.

Enjoy the quest!
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