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Tilman
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On old engravings of the cups and balls you often see balls of much smaller size than currently used. This difference seems to reflect in the methodology as well: Very often, the balls seem to have been concealed in a clip position between fingers rather palmed by bent fingers or in the palm itself. Is the history of the change in ball size and methodology known? And if it is, could anyone direct me to a source...
Michael Baker
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I'm nowhere close to expert, but the Hoffmann books, Sach's Sleight of Hand and probably others still have illustrations with the clip method and smaller balls. Some of them also refer to black balls, which would be a nightmare for the audience to follow in all but the most brightly lit venues, and on the most light colored working surfaces.

My guess is that you wouldn't have to look any further back than those publication dates to start finding changes in print. A bibliography of conjuring books of the 20th century should put you dead on track. Gather information from who may have been the best known expositors of magic and you may have a decent lead. Might want to check the work of Tarbell, Gibson and Hilliard up front.
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Bill Palmer
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I'm working on some material for that right now.

In the old texts, such as Hocus Pocus Jr., the balls are described as being the size of a nutmeg, made of cork, blackened. Some recommend holding the cork in a candle flame.

It was around the beginning of the 20th century that the balls started getting larger. White cork was sometimes furnished with some of the better cups. Some performers, notably Laurie Ireland and Johnny Paul, used sponge balls.

Crocheted balls started becoming popular around 1950 or so. Mike Rogers introduced the mini baseball about 1970 or so. Recently, more ornated leather covered balls, as well as Monkey's Fist balls have become more common.
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Tom Frank
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Thought you might get a kick out of this TV commercial I shot for a mortgage company. Let's see which cup collector can identify the cup I'm using. By the way, this is a quicktime video clip (a free download from apple.com).

Let me know what you think. It was shot using 35mm movie film.

http://homepage.mac.com/tfrank8176/iMovieTheater2.html
sethb
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I agree that the balls seem to have gotten larger over the years. I started with a vintage Cups & Balls set that came with five small blackened cork balls. Very easy to handle, but they occasionally "talked."

I also had a small plastic S.S. Adams set, which came with four white cotton rag balls about twice the size of the black cork balls. Much more visible, easy to work with, totally silent, and much more convincing than sponge balls.

Recently I acquired a Bazar De Magica set with crocheted balls (similar to a Chop Cup ball); these are attractive, but can also talk if not handled carefully. My choice is still the old cotton S.S. Adams balls, which I still use even though the cups have long since gone to that great close-up pad in the sky. SETH
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Michael Baker
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Hey Tom,

Nice work on the commercial. I've done several commercials and bumpers over the years, and I know what it's like to cram the action to fit... and in a 15 second spot, too!
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ursusminor
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I may be wrong here, (not having my books handy) but I seem to remember that in the old days the balls were called "muscades" in french, which means nutmeg in english.

Maybe the old boys used nutmegs? (Opinions anyone?)

Sachs also says the balls should be "the size of an ordinary bullet"... Well, 130 years ago an "ordinary bullet" was somwhere in the range of cal.45-50, that's 11.5mm to 12.7mm to those of us that are on the metric scale.
So there's no doubt the size has increased!

Bjørn
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Jonathan Townsend
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While they may have been called nutmegs, it seems unlikely they were actual nutmegs.

There is something about this in The Magic of Rezvani (sp) about using tomatoes.
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Eric Evans
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Merry Christmas to all.

The evidence would indicate that Bartelomeo Bosco was responsible for the popularisation of our present usage of both the palm and ball size that we enjoy today. His name adorns the palm we presently use afterall. I suppose the other one (suitable for the smaller "muscade" size) could be referred to as the "Roman Palm" instead of the plain "small ball palm".

If you go by your local Hobby Lobby, they usually have some 1/2" cork balls that are perfect to blacken as Mr. Palmer has previously mentioned. Interesting horizons are opened when using this size ball. Scarne's routine with this size ball becomes a close-up wonder. If you'll simply adopt the palm he might have actually used, instead of what is shown in Stars of Magic.

Best regards.

Posted: Dec 25, 2004 6:42pm
I forgot to mention a couple of things. The first addresses the terms "escamot" as opposed to "muscade". I've always assumed that they might have referred to the same thing but I believe that "escamot" is the older of the two and might have been referring to the smaller size as a result. I look forward to the article that Mr. Palmer is preparing and do hope that it clarifies this perhaps minor point, in particular, as his knowledge exceeds my own.

Another thing is the use of small (or "Roman" if you will?) ball palm. I mentioned Scarne's routine as an example, but other grips and palms become available to those who employ the smaller "close-up" sized ball. Ramsay had some work here that I'm still not conversant with, but a number of displays become possible depending upon how hard one wishes to work.
Bill Palmer
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Quote:
On 2004-12-22 03:15, Tom Frank wrote:
Thought you might get a kick out of this TV commercial I shot for a mortgage company. Let's see which cup collector can identify the cup I'm using. By the way, this is a quicktime video clip (a free download from apple.com).

Let me know what you think. It was shot using 35mm movie film.

http://homepage.mac.com/tfrank8176/iMovieTheater2.html

This link does not appear to be working. Could you e-mail the video to me?
Quote:
On 2004-12-24 20:24, ursusminor wrote:
I may be wrong here, (not having my books handy) but I seem to remember that in the old days the balls were called "muscades" in french, which means nutmeg in english.

Maybe the old boys used nutmegs? (Opinions anyone?)

Sachs also says the balls should be "the size of an ordinary bullet"... Well, 130 years ago an "ordinary bullet" was somwhere in the range of cal.45-50, that's 11.5mm to 12.7mm to those of us that are on the metric scale.
So there's no doubt the size has increased!

Bjørn

I believe that I addressed the issue of the "muscade" in my first post. Regarding the size of an ordinary bullet -- at the time Sleight of Hand was written, a bullet could range from .32 inches to .75 inches -- roughly 8 mm to 19 mm. -- depending on whether the shooter had a squirrel gun or a Brown Bess.
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Tom Frank
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Bill, try this one

http://homepage.mac.com/tfrank8176/iMovieTheater14.html

I re-edited the clip to include all 4 of the 15 second commercials we shot.

sorry for the hassle

Tom
Bill Palmer
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Thanks for posting the new URL for the clip. That's an interesting cup. Is it a brass Sisti Professional or, perhaps a Rings and Things Monti cup?
"The Swatter"

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Tilman
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Thanks a lot for all your answers. I am very much looking forward to reading Bill's article.
Bill Palmer
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I have been working on a book that Tilman may be familiar with, called Kleines Becherspiel Kompendium by Joro (Bruno Hennig). This is one of the most incredible small books on the cups and balls that I know of. Joro has done some excellent work on the history of the cups and balls, and there are items in this book that I have not seen anywhere else.

Particularly interesting is one passage which states, "The cups and balls were performed in the 17th and 18th century with actual nutmegs...." He goes on to state that Bosco introduced the use of blackened cork balls.

However, he also refers to the Natürlichen Zauberbuch von 1745, which he cites as his earliest reference on the cups and balls. I actually have a copy of this book in my library. This book refers to the worker using nutmegs or balls made of "Pantoffel-Holz." This is a rather obscure reference, but when I finally traced it down, via the Goethe Institute, it seems that Pantoffelholz is cuercus suber, which is cork! Since Bosco wasn't born until 1793, he really can't be credited with the introduction of the use of the cork ball.

Posted: Jan 19, 2005 2:11am
I should add this. Hocus Pocus Junior (1634) also mentions the use of cork balls.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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Tilman
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Bill,

Thank you very much. This is very interesting information. I know the Joro book, but have only run over its pages during a conference once. Thanks for reminding me that this may be a valuable purchase.
By the way, your posts led me to conjecture the following, completely implausible, tongue-in-cheek history which accounts for all pieces of information given in your two above posts, plus one extra piece:
While cork balls were used long before Bosco (cf. Hocus Pocus Junior and Natürliches Zauberbuch), Bosco was the first to blacken them over a candle. He did so in order to facilitate his shrewd strategy for simulating the presence of a ball in his hand after a fake transfer: according to Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, Bosco was able to create a small animated shadow in his hand so that you were actually able to see the ball before it dissolved into 'nothingness' - a lot easier, of course, when the balls are of the same colour as the shadow, black. If I could only remember where this Hofzinser quote is to be found...

Cheers, Tilman
Bill Palmer
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That may be what Joro meant in his quote. The idea of blackening the cork balls over a candle flame also has the added advantage of making the balls all look exactly alike. If you have ever handled cork, you know that it can absorb grime and dirt very quickly. But cork does have a "grain" to it, and four different balls may eventually end up looking quite different from one another.

This would make them look identical.

The Joro book is a treasure. I hope to make it available to the English-only crowd pretty soon. I discovered it in Vienna at Jimmy Bix's shop. That little shop has picked up where Klingl left off. What a pity to see two really great shops (Klingl and Vienna Magic) go downhill like they have.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

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MinnesotaChef
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While Performing improptu Cups and Balls in the kitchen I often use whole Nutmeg. They work surprisingly well. The rough texture allows for some very odd handling. They handle similar to aluminium foil balls, but heavier. Another possibility for Bosco to blacken the balls could have something to do with his performance attire. If I remember right, didn't Bosco wear black velvet clothes? These garments would accomodate hook coin style holding out or hiding the ball in the crook of the elbow only if the balls were flat black with a very slight sheen. Just an idea.
Chef
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Bill Palmer
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That does make sense. I have also run across a couple of other references to the use of nutmegs. These actually work fairly well. They look like a small walnut. I think if some enterprising fellow made a few of these out of silicone RTV, they would be great for cups and balls work.
"The Swatter"

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My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."

www.cupsandballsmuseum.com
rickmagic1
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A friend of mine is using the Vernon's walnuts, glass and can routine as taught by ****** (can't think of the guy's name, sells the set with a video).
The walnut that comes with the set is silicone and looks great. BTW, that very routine from Vernon is a fantastic routine if you've never seen it. It's in one of the Vernon Chronicles books.

Rick
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Richard Hatch
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Quote:
On 2005-02-08 15:49, rickmagic1 wrote:
A friend of mine is using the Vernon's walnuts, glass and can routine as taught by ****** (can't think of the guy's name, sells the set with a video).
The walnut that comes with the set is silicone and looks great.

You are probably thinking of Brian O'Neill of Dallas, who sells the walnuts, a glass and a video showing the routine. I've also seen Howie Schwarzman perform the routine to great effect.
Richard Hatch
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