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Topic: "El Barto" ?
Message: Posted by: Cranial Fermentator (Feb 27, 2007 12:46PM)
I was wondering if anyone has heard of an oldtime magician by the name of James "Uncle Jim" Barton who performed under the stagename of "El Barto" and was a resident of Philadelphia, PA in 1931. My source of curiosity comes from an old copy of the February 1931 issue of "The Linking Ring" in which a previous owner had studiously underlined in red pencil every reference to the gentleman and scrawled over a photograph of the charter members of the Keystone State Federation of the I.B.M. in Harrisburg, PA, an arrow pointing to an elderly white haired man and "EL BARTO" in big block letters. At least two articles mention, his act "Magic of Thirty Years Ago" performed with his old time apparatus and costume, which leads me to believe his heyday probably was at the turn of the 20th century. He seemed to have been very active in the local I.B.M. and well-respected by the magic community (at least in Pennsylvania).

I'd appreciate if anyone could offer any more information on this magician from the past: My curiosity has been piqued!

Thank you very much,

Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (Feb 28, 2007 10:43PM)
Personally, what I'd love to see is some sort of database of obscure magicians of the past. It would be a great way to remember those who helped keep the old traditions alive but never became megastars.

I knew one man who's father was a travelling magician. He gave me his father's stage name, but I was never able to find it on a Google search.
Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (Feb 28, 2007 10:46PM)
Actually, after reading your post, I was wondering if you ever tried to contact either the local IBM or the main headquarters? If he was ever a member, they should have that information.
Message: Posted by: Cranial Fermentator (Mar 1, 2007 05:56PM)
Thanks, clynim for the suggestion. My research hasn't gotten that far, but I think I just might do that. I also love your idea of the database on obscure magicians.

Actually, I have uncovered a bit more information since my last post, and found that "El Barto" wasn't the obscure figure in Magic that I originally thought. I repeated my Google search, this time including "El Barto", "Magician" & "James Barton" in the same search. After wading through countless references to "Bart Simpson", I discovered that El Barto was actually a mentor and teacher to the legendary Silent Mora, credited as teaching him both the cone & ball & 4 ball routine routine. And both El Barto & James Barton was on a list of Vaudeville performers who were featured in articles in "The Vaudeville Times". Most interestingly, James Barton is referred to as the "dean of Philadelphia magicians" in the book "Linking Rings: William W. Durbin and the Magic and Mystery of America" by James D. Robenalt, a biography of a magician & politician from Ohio (your neck of the woods, Clynim).
Message: Posted by: Damon (Mar 1, 2007 07:40PM)

I have a few things on El Barto I can send you if you would like. PM your email address and I will pass on to you.

Regards, Mark Damon
Message: Posted by: Damon (Mar 1, 2007 09:07PM)
Here are a few interesting facts about James "El Barto" Barton, also affectionately known as “Uncle Jim.”

He was born in 1858 and died in 1935. In 1868 he was an assistant to the famed magician Signor Blitz. He stayed with Blitz for a few seasons, and then in the early to mid 1870's went out on his own professionally. Besides being a wonderful magician, Barton was accomplished at chapeaugraphy, shadowgraphy and juggling as well. Two of his pet effects were “Wine and Water” and the “Billiard Ball Box” which was invented by Carl Brema.

I wish I could travel back in time and witness one of his shows, and ask about his years with Antonio Blitz. From what I’ve read, Barton sounds like he was a true master of his craft, and a beloved figure in his day.

Mark Damon