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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Periods & styles of Magic » » American Civil War (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Intrepid
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With reenacting the American Civil War as one hobby and magic as another, it's only natural that I should spend some time researching magic during this period. With that in mind I thought I'd start this thread to share resources and ideas with anyone else that has an interest in this period. As I stumble across new resource I plan to periodically update this thread and encourage others to do the same.

First off, there are four theme that come to mind that a period style act could be based on, and links to valuable reference materiel for any of these is welcomed. The four are:
A period magician
A medicine show
A spirit show/seance
A gambler/con man
Bob
Intrepid
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For the Magician:
The autobiography of Signor Blitz and John Henry Anderson provide first person accounts of magic in the early years of America.
A copy of "The Life and Adventures of Signor Blitz" is available free online.
http://books.google.com/books?id=yfqBAAA......&f=false

There were also several books on magic published in the 1800's. "The Magicians Own Book, or, the Whole Art of Conjuring - Being a Complete Book of Parlor Magic" was published just prior to, and during, the civil war. A free online copy is available here:
http://books.googleusercontent.com/books......8zO6WcsQ
Bob
gomerel
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Thanks. I don't do Civil War but I do reenact California gold rush in Old Sacramento, California. My character is a retired, reformed gambler/con man. I'm warning miners about the thimble riggers, etc. they will find up in the gold fields. However (since that bores kids) I also do some regular magic. I hope to learn more period tricks, but what I do now is tricks that look like the could be period.

One popular trick is magic slates. I explain that con men used things like that to profit from the Spiritualist fad. I also do a period version of fast and loose - On the Barrel Head. Since there were lots of Chinese in the gold rush, I do the Chinese sticks. Kids love that.

I don't reveal any of the tricks, of course, except that I may teach kids some of the classic tricks found in every beginner book. Sometimes I will get someone who convinces me that they are a magician, usually a pre-teen boy. Then, if no one else is around, we will show each other tricks.
Intrepid
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Speaking of spirit slates, William E. Robert's (Chung Ling So) 1918 book "Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena" provides valuable insight on the early methods of slate writing.
http://books.google.com/books?id=CuUNAAA......&f=false
Bob
Intrepid
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A few other early magic books:
Pinchbeck, "The Expositor" 1803
"Breslaw's Last Legacy, or, Magical Companion"
Dean, "Hocus Pocus, or the Whole Art of Legerdemain" 1817
Day, "The New Hocus Pocus" 1818

The writings of Robert-Houdin are also a valuable resource on magic of the mid-1800s
Bob
Intrepid
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Here a handy list of common items from the period. And best of all, Tarbell is brimming with possible magical uses for each one.

Playing Cards, Dice, Marbles, Chess, Checkers, Three shells, Coins, Wallet, Paper money, Matches, Candles, Pipe, Cigar, Tobacco, Tobacco pouch/tin, Pill box, Needles, Thread, String, Rope, Leather shoe lace, Buttons, Handkerchief, Pencil, Ink, Pen, Envelopes, Stationary/paper, Stamps, Newspapers, Bible/book, Photo, Tooth brush, Mirror, Comb, Straight edged razor, Knife, Spoon and fork, Cup & plate, poke bag, Eggs, Salt, Rice, Water, Canteen, Bottle (ale/wine/ginger), Cap/hat/night cap, Coat, Gloves, Scarf, Socks, Skeleton Key
Bob
Intrepid
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Some great research on Civil War era magicians on The Magic Detective Blog (first of seven articles on Magicians)
http://www.themagicdetective.com/2011/08......t-1.html
Plus this one on their magic
http://www.themagicdetective.com/2011/09......ans.html
Quote:
"Other Staples
It will come as no surprise that the following effects could be found within the repertiore of Civil War magicians: The Cups and Balls, The Sucker Die Box, The Devils Hank/Napkin, Passe Passe Bottles, Flower Productions/Botania, The Genii Tube/Cornucopia, Early Versions of the Misers Dream in various forms, Rising Cards, Handkerchief productions/vanishes, Flag productions and more."
Bob
Motley Mage
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Intrepid, this is great stuff. Thanks. I am getting an error on the link to The Magician's Own Book, though. Anyone else having issues?
Motley Mage
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I found another link to The Magician's Own Book here: http://books.google.com/books?id=pPj4iU7......&f=false and the Table of Contents is indexed and clickable.
Intrepid
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Motley, thanks for the working link to Magician's Own.
Bob
LeoH
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Max Howard does a performance as Gus Rich. Rich was from here, Winston-Salem (or just Salem, as it was known during his time). Rich was in a band in the Confederate Army, then toured the South with the "Great Southern Sleight of Hand Show" after the war.
radamwarner
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If you were interested in a medicine show, you could mention Perry Davis, the man behind Davis Vegetable Pain Killer (which I think is mentioned somewhere in the works of Mark Twain), a very well known patent medicine of the time. I do not know if it was featured in actual medicine shows, but you cake some historical license. I read once that when there was a shortage of legitimate medicines, patent medicines-such as Perry David-- took on the role as pain killers for those injured in the war. Naturally, they worked because the "vegetable" on the label was probably morphine. An audience might enjoy a little historical trivia.
Intrepid
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LeoH, thanks for the tip on Gus Rich. The Magic Detective blog has a little bit in Gus Rich too. I'd love to catch Max's performance sometime.

Radamwarner, good point on adding historical trivia to a performance. And lots of info on Perry Davis Pain Killer on the web ("Good for Man or Beast"). Below us just one of the links that turned up.
http://ptatlarge.typepad.com/ptatlarge/2......vis.html

And it looks like original Perry Davis bottle are readily available on eBay too.
Bob
radamwarner
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On a side note, if you have an interest in the patent medicines that flourished during the 19th century, look up and read the contemporary articles published about them by Collier's magazine. The outrageous claims that seem humorous to us today were deadly serious, as many of these medicines contained poisons.
Intrepid
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Bob
Dick Oslund
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"MAGIC" magazine (May 2010) had a six page article on my friend, MAX HOWARD, and, "THE GREAT SOUTHERN SLEIGHT OF HAND SHOW", --author, Alan Howard (no relation).

You might find some interesting information.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Dick Oslund
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There is a book, titled either "Six White Horses And A Brass Band" OR, "Four White Horses And A Brass Band". It's about a travelling medicine show of the time that you are interested in.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
thomhaha
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Tom Jorgenson, The Medicine Show Manual - some theory, some history, a script, effects, and special props
Dick Oslund
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Early in my "career", I found in a used book store, a copy of "Step Right Up" by Dan Mannix. It was a "biographical" of a young college student, who was interested in magic, and joined a carnival side show in the '30s. I had spent some time on two different side shows, as I was starting out. Mannix's story grabbed me, as I read the first sentence! (Incidentally, Jay Marshall said the same thing, as we reminisced one night in the kitchen upstairs of Magic Inc. in Chicago.

I hadn't known that there were many fictional stories of magicians, or stories in which magic was a major factor in the plot. I started searching, and located a few in used book stores. Once I got on the road, as a full time performer, I checked out every used book store, in every town, that I could. Soon, I had a foot locker full! That search continued for 50 years. The collection soon expanded to include carnival, and circus stories.

Now, retired, I am still collecting. The addiction expanded to "allied arts".

Recently, I found a novel about a med. show pitchman, in the 1800s who didn't have a big show. He was a single pitchman. In the story, he pitches "Miracle Hair Grower", a "wonder soap" that removes axle grease from horse drawn wagons, he uses a bit of magic to hold his tip, ETC. I bought it. read it and shelved it.

Intrepid (the OP) mentioned med. shows. My old friend, the late Russ Charles who was a magician, had worked in a med show in the early part of the 20th Century. Another old friend, Max Howard (aka Gus Rich) got mentioned, too. I went to a book shelf and retrieved, "Hassle And The Medicine Man". I think that anyone thinking of producing an act, such as the OP has suggested, would benefit from "Hassle And..."

If anyone has such an interest, PM me. I'm willing to "sell the medicine" to that person. The price will be reasonable!!!
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
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