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Wizard of Oz
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There are a lot of posts and topics regarding favorite shops, first shops, out of business shops etc. But, was there a Golden Age for magic shops? If so, when and why? I'm guessing it was the early 20th century, but I may be wrong.

Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with quantity. I'm referring to the day when magic shops were indeed, magical.

Discuss...
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magicgettogether
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IMO I would say before mainstream television, 1930's and 1940's. Another golden era might be 1970's with Doug Henning and David Copperfield really renewing an interest in magic.
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Wizard of Oz
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Good thinking!

I agree, I would imagine prior to high speed communication and transportation, magic shops were more of a destination than a supply source. Yet, I guess my question goes deeper. I'm asking - out of ignorance - what would even define a golden age of magic shops... quantity of shops, location, inventory, sales, visitors, exposure, popularity... I honestly don't know.

Usually, a golden age of anything refers to a peak in experimentation, quality, growth, and dominance i.e. according to Wikeipedia, "...the Golden Age of Radio refer to a period of radio programming in the United States lasting from the proliferation of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s until television's replacement of radio as the dominant home entertainment medium in the 1950s. During this period, when radio was dominant and the airwaves were filled with a variety of radio formats and genres, people regularly tuned in to their favorite radio programs. In fact, according to a 1947 C. E. Hoover survey, 82 out of 100 Americans were found to be radio listeners."

Does this same criteria of popularity and loyalty apply to a golden age of magic shops?
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Julie
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The "Golden Age" for Magic Shops may also be based upon your own subjective experience.

Many here on the Café seem to be of the Boomer variety, hence our Golden Age of Magic Shops might very well be the 1950's to 1970's. True creativity was at its peak during this time frame and the assembly line method of releasing "new" effects did not exist.

Don't you wish we had appreciated what was going on around us at that time? (Just THINK of all the GREATS and near greats with whom we might have developed serious relationships. The give and take and shared knowledge and potential for personal growth staggers the imagination!)

The Magic Shop was a place of learning and an area where you had to prove yourself before being admitted to the inner circles which existed unique to each location.

Three cheers for the back rooms!

Julie
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I am sure the Golden Age was way before my time. But I remember in the 50s when my father took me over to Philadelphia and while there were many magic shops, there was Chanins and Kanters. Jack's shop was a small walk up cluttered with magic, most of Jack's stuff. My father said if you saw a trick at Jack's place, odds are you could not do it. ( I later worked for him). However he said if Mike did a trick, you could do it too. Kanter's was huge with magic and illusions everywhere. As I recall the store took up a block on a side street in Center City. The catalogue was like many out at that time...several hundred pages in a book like form. I truly was a kid in a candy store.
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I think it's a difficult question - we will simply remember our own particular favourite decade.

For me, it has to be the mid to late 1970's.

Living in London, you had:

i) THE ABSOLUTE MECCA - Ken Brooke's Magic Place (145 Wardour Street). Words can never explain this World Famous Magic Studio - the man is still an absolute LEGEND and is undoubtedly the greatest demonstrator and salesman that magic has ever produced.

ii) International Magic (89 Clerkenwell Road) - although I much preferred the old basement magic studio in the 70's; rather than their current tiny street level shop where, if you get more than 5 people at the counter, you are struggling for air.

iii) Davenports (51 Great Russell Street) - when Davenports was at this location, the place looked and even smelt like an old magic shop. Shame it's now in some Godforesaken dead end in a London Underground shopping mall that also has it's very own smell......stagnant urine.

iv) Alan Alan's Magic Spot (Southampton Row) - the ONLY magic dealer I've ever known that wouldn't just recommend a book - he'd actually show you effects from within it. Now closed.

v) Hamley's Magic Department (Regent Street) - used to be at the rear of the main toy store. Still going but only useful if you want to see a Svengali pitch, the Dynamic Coins or D'Lites.

vi) London Magic Centre (St. Giles Circus). Now closed.

vii) Repro 71 - (Queenstown Road Battersea). Now closed.

Apart from Geoff Maltby's Repro 71, the other shops were all within a very close vicinity.

Walking into any of the above got your heart racing - maybe it was an age thing.

However, I do know one thing for sure - internet magic 'shops'(?????) WILL NEVER generate that level of excitement and anticipation that many of us old farts used to get just walking up to these places! Smile
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Wizard of Oz
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I wonder what it was like to be around during Martinka's peak. Imagine the likes of Alexander Herrmann, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston and Houdini having patronized the same store you were coming to see. Amazing.
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Wizard of Oz
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I guess my original post could also be re-asked regarding the golden age of online magic shops...is it right now? We have no idea what the next game-changer will be for commerce. So like the rise and fall of the B&M shops, is this the golden age of online magic retailers, or will their popularity increase even more?

On a side note...I just visited the Cuckoos Nest in Pittsburgh a few weeks back on a business trip. I make it there once a year and dump a whole lot of cash. This year, I dumped the most due to their larger location and increased inventory. I hate the downfall of B&M shops, so I love seeing these guys managing to remain a vibrant force in the magic community. Drop in and see them if you're in the area. They are up on all of the latest magic, and keep a well-stocked book and DVD section of the new stuff, and classics as well. This shop is like going back in time. And that's a good thing.
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I agree that any "golden age" is a very subjective thing. However, the mid to late 70's were definitely part of an important golden age of magic shops. Why? Henning and Copperfield were seen by everyone. With network television, there were only so many interesting shows to watch. If a magic show came on, a lot of people were interested in that. They didn't have 100+ channels then. If you combine this with the fact that the internet did not exist and could not undercut dealers, then you had a great time for magic shops to flourish. Tricks had to be priced reasonably if shops wanted to show them and sell them.

The magic shop in downtown Norfolk, VA was a great place to be on Sat. afternoon. One of the weird things is that they were selling drugs (probably legal but synthetic) out of the front half of the shop.
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I was around in the late forties and early fifties when Abbott's had a least 6 stores around the country besides Colon, and Holden's as well as a cupola more dealers had chain stores. If you look at all the ads in the early Genii's (access to past issues with a subscription or membership in the Conjuring Art Research Assn.) or even a copy of Sperbers Catalog of dealers( with more than two thousand listings) you will see there was hundreds of dealers with catalogs and a lot of hometown dealers without. I would say the heyday was the 30-40s to the 1980s. Seems like the internet has killed a lot of B & Ms.
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Wizard of Oz
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Thanks spartacus. That's an informative answer. Over two thousand listings...that averages to 40 dealers per state (I'm sure they were not all B&M shops, but some wholesalers and manufactures as well). Amazing. I wonder how many stores are left now.
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Wizard-
I think it would be pretty depressing to find out how many stores are left now. I remember being a kid in the late 60s and early 70s and it seemed like just about every vacation spot that my family went to had a shop that sold magic tricks. Given that I didn't have a lot of disposable income back then (nor a car that I could legally drive) I didn't always have a chance to see all of them but they do seem to be a dying breed. Whenever I go to certain parts of the country, I always make it a point to try to visit a B & M and 'help' their bottom line. I'm really not sure if there are enough people left though to really support the stores to keep them in business. It really is too bad because there really is something magical about being in a new town and walking in to a shop you haven't seen before...kind of like Christmas as a kid all over again.


Dave
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Jim Sparx
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Quote:
On 2013-04-12 21:22, Wizard of Oz wrote:
Thanks spartacus. That's an informative answer. Over two thousand listings...that averages to 40 dealers per state (I'm sure they were not all B&M shops, but some wholesalers and manufactures as well). Amazing. I wonder how many stores are left now.


Actually there are 3800 listings in the Sperber catalog which includes dealers from England. But some dealers put out multiple catalogs and supplements, like Abbotts with 27 catalogs plus supplements listed in Sperbers, so you can only count Abbott's as one.
The demise really began when the big and little illusion shows stopped touring because of unions and the advent of TV. People stopped going out to nightclubs and theaters and stayed home to watch the TV variety shows. Dante said the unions killed his show.
The Abbott's stores closed in the early 50s because of a flash pot law suit in California, only Colon remained, and they struggled for awhile. The Abbotts history BTW, is available on their web site as a free PDF which reviews the Abbott get-to-gathers.
Dick Oslund would be a good person to get a perspective on the early magic business and how vibrant it was in the 50s on up.. He has been around since Lincoln was in the fourth grade..
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Dick Oslund
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No! Lincoln was in the first grade! I remember specifically because I was booked to play his school.

My first shop was the MYSTERY MART in Milwaukee. 737 No Jackson St. Milwaukee. WI. I was 14, HS Freshman, and my folks took me to Milwaukee to see HARRY BLACKSTONE SENIOR. The shop was owned by a Dr. Teschan and managed by Leonard Patyk. It was, I learned later, typical of magic shops of the period. The shop couldn't have been more than 25' wide. One wall was covered with framed 8x10s of magicians. A counter ran the length of the room and displayed what I later learned was "envelope" magic. (Small props and gimmicks packaged in ordinary envelopes. Some were imprinted with the name of the prop, others had hand printed information. A few small props like wands were displayed there also. The wall shelves were loaded with the 'flash' props: dove pans, phantom tubes, production boxes, feather bouquets, an arm chopper, and all the other paraphernalia and apparatus which a fourteen year old could 'covet'. Mr. Patyk, was patient and helpful. I bought a packet of spring flowers, a Clippo, and maybe a 6 card Repeat. Yesterday, the Blackstone show, and today, my first magic shop! --I thought I had 'died and gone to heaven'!

I'll add to this 'saga' in the next day or so.
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One Golden Age for me had to be the 1960s in Los Angeles. Hollywood Magic and Joe Berg's were on Hollywood Blvd. a couple of blocks from each other. The Magic Castle and the annual live "It's Magic" show generated a lot of buzz. Guys like Charlie Miller, Ron Wilson, Senator Crandall and of course Dai Vernon all lived and worked the area. Steve Martin was working at the magic shop in Disneyland. Johnny Carson loved magic and featured local magicians on his program fairly regularly. You walked into Hollywood Magic and never knew which famous magician you might see there. . . .

Owen Magic Supreme, which inherited the Thayer tradition of flawless craftsmanship, was still at their location in Alhambra, a short drive from LA. Although he had already sold the business, I saw the legendary Carl Owen working there one day. He was one of the great master craftsmen in the history of magic. I also remember visiting Owen when they were building the huge illusions for Mark Wilson's show at the New York World's Fair. Wow! Those were the days.
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Quote:
On 2013-04-07 02:50, vampiro wrote:
I agree that any "golden age" is a very subjective thing. However, the mid to late 70's were definitely part of an important golden age of magic shops. Why? Henning and Copperfield were seen by everyone. With network television, there were only so many interesting shows to watch. If a magic show came on, a lot of people were interested in that. They didn't have 100+ channels then. If you combine this with the fact that the internet did not exist and could not undercut dealers, then you had a great time for magic shops to flourish. Tricks had to be priced reasonably if shops wanted to show them and sell them.



I agree with this, especially the point about tricks being priced reasonably. A lot has changed. Shops need to have items available in the $5-10 range.
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I don't know if there was a "Golden Age of Magic Shops," but there was certainly a Golden Age of Magic Catalogs.

I remember literally going over some of these massive, well-produced catalogs for hours, dreaming about what it would be like to perform some of the effects. Now, I wish I'd held on to them. They'd be worth a small fortune!
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My "golden age" would in fact be somewhere between '75 and '80. I had just hit NYC to be the next big thing on Broadway (note, you may notice that I am not nor have I ever been "the next big thing on Broadway") and I discovered Tannen's shop on Times Square. Those (for me anyway) were golden times.
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Dick Oslund
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Oh my! In my last post, above, I said that I would be back to add to "this saga" in a day or so. Well, it's almost a year and a half!

That visit to the Mystery Mart in Milwaukee, was in November of 1945, and that B/M shop has been "history" for probably 50 years.

Since then, I've worked behind the counter of the old EdMar shop in Norfolk, VA, Magic Inc. in Chicago,and Abbott's in Colon, MI, etc.

At one time, in those "golden years", Chicago had National Magic (Jim Sherman, prop. with Vic Torsberg behind the counter, Ireland's, with Frances Ireland (later Frances Marshall)behind the counter, Sam Berland's, Joe Berg's, and perhaps one or two more that I can't remember! Oh! The Treasre Chest, with Ed Marlo behind the counter.

Speaking of "back rooms", the late Ted Carrothers' shop in Toledo had the "traditional" back room, complete with coffee pot, and chairs for "guests". Ted had a amall parking lot adjacent to the shop, and installed an electric outlet, so I could park my motor home there overnight! Ah! "them days is gone forever"!!!

I remember Arthur LeRoy writing in the old "Sphinx" magazine of Carl Brema's shop. If you were "known", you got invited upstairs. He told of HOUDINI leaving a taxi at the curb with the meter running for hours, while he was in the "back room".

Egad! I'm beginning to sound a big like "Archie Bunker" ("Those were the days!")
Wizard of Oz
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I love it Dick. Go Archie on us any time.

Here's a challenge, what city - big or small - do you think had the most magic shops active at one time? I'm not talking quality, just quantity. And, let's include non-magic stores with magic counters as well just to make it more interesting. Then, what state do you think could claim the same bragging rights?
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Hands down: Las Vegas
Mb217
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NYC also used to have quite a few nice magic shops back in the day. "Lou Tannens" was one of the best back in the 70s, an absolute Magic Mecca. Smile
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Jim Sparx
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Quote:
On Jan 5, 2015, Wizard of Oz wrote:
I love it Dick. Go Archie on us any time.

Here's a challenge, what city - big or small - do you think had the most magic shops active at one time? I'm not talking quality, just quantity. And, let's include non-magic stores with magic counters as well just to make it more interesting. Then, what state do you think could claim the same bragging rights?


Chicago, without a doubt. There is a gentleman here on Magic Café who wrote a book, or is writing same about the magic dealers of Chicago. I know I contributed to a least 25 dealers from the early 1800s to the present, all culled addresses from Sperbers catalog. And that was a tip of the iceberg.
Dick Oslund more than anyone else would know about Chicago because not only did he do stints with Jay Marshall at his shop, he was around during early 1800 days.
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Dick Oslund
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Heqq no, Jim! That was my identical twin cousin, Nick. We were the first Siamese Twins born of separate mothers. As soon as we were old enough (could change our own diapers)we did a TOBY TYLER. We ran away and joined the circus. It was a little mud show ("Markem & Gilly. They had just combined with Birnam,Dailey,& Howe. We started on a low rung of the show business ladder. We were pickled punks for Lou Dufour, He gave us separate jars but right next to each other.

It was a DING show, and everything was going OK, (We were getting 20 percent of the take.) until we played a punkin festival in Doodaville Oklahoms, a high grass town. The town had had a drought, and some hayseed marks stole the water out of our jars to water his cows. Some first 'o' May hollered a hey rube, and it got exciting for a little while. When the dust settled, we did a jack knife teardown, and hit the road.

We were now 16 and we left show biz for awhile. We would spend half a year in England, and half a year in the U.S.A. (That way we could both drive!) After a year or two of that, The sawdust in our shoes, turned our thoughts to the white tops again.

We teamed up with Johnny Eck, the half boy, who owned half the show. Nick and I each owned a quarter. It was a pit show. We had a snake den, Singalee, the fire eater, a juggler who got in a fight with gravity every day (and gravity usually won) and a magician who did a bowl of fire production. Eck was in the blow off. The top had been waterproofed in the classic manner. Paraffin was melted in hot gasoline and brushed on the canvas.. Our second week which was a red one, the magician's fire bowl lit the top and we were out of show business again, until we joined on a rag bag carnival.

Johnny Eck got a spot as tail gunner in a bucket joint, and Nick and I signed on as shills. Thousand Faces Foxy was the joint agent, and he knew flat stores. That lasted for about three spots, and we formed a partnership with Foxy, and planned to spend the rest of our lives operating a jam auction. (Unfortunately, a couple of marks beefed to the fuzz, and we were sloughed, the second week).

If you can still swing with the soft, I can use you on a ticket box next season. I just won a tap dancing alligator in a poker game with a short con grifter, He shoulda stuck with tossing the broad! I plan to truck mount it the (alligator) and just pitch a top with no sidewalls. It will be a Single-O grind operation. The marks could walk up and peek through the windows, like they usta do with the girl in the fishbowl. If interested, I'll mail you a map to quarters, with the best hitchhiking route, marked. See ya down the road!

The Itinerant Mountebanc
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Hey Jim, Ya got me off the topic there. I'll try to come back soon with a few stories about the old EdMar shop in Norfolk. I spent almost four years there, while I was in the Navy.
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Your losing it, Chicago, Oslund, Chicago. Not Norfolk, even though I did visit there when I was stationed at Ft. Eustis in the 50s.
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Jim Sparx
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Here is a list of dealers from Gordon Meyer, a member here. (he didn't mention my name)

http://g2meyer.com/chicagomagicstudio.com/map/shops.html
Et tu, Spartacus?
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