|G, Z, A, H, S, F, H, Sh, D|
Here's one for those of you who really know the players in early magic history.
In David Copperfield's phenomenal International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts there is a file of early correspondence between Houdini and his first manager, Martin Beck. These letters are packed with information and insight into Houdini's early rise to fame. One letter dated November 9, 1899 includes this intriguing postscript.
P. S. We are surely going east, and I just set my mind on it that I will work three times as hard to make a star out of you since the "knockers" have been at work. What others can be the knockers than our magical friends, G, Z, A, H, S, F, H, Sh, D, and other loafers? I have it as a positive fact.
Does anyone want to try and guess the nine magicians behind these initials? Remember, this is 1899, so the magician would have to have been active at this time. The only guess I have is Goldin for "G" as in a later letter Beck clearly appears to consider him as competition. But the others have me stumped. Feel free to share your guesses in the Comments below.
Want more? I threw this one out early to my patrons and they have a few ideas that you can read as a member below. You can also view the original paragraph.
G- GOLDIN, Z-ZANCIG, A-ALBINI, H- ADELAIDE HERRMANN, S-????, I-IMRO FOX, H-LEON HERRMANN, SH- ALAN SHAW, D- TOMMY DOWNSReplyDelete
That was remarkable, Dean!Delete
Nice list Dean. It's pretty star studded. But maybe too much so. Hard to believe Martin Beck would consider someone like Adelaide Herrmann a "loafer." (Leon maybe. :)) I'm betting if we saw the real list there would quite a few names we've never heard of.Delete
I don't disagree with the Herrmann's being a stretch. I have a feeling that some of these names may be British or international performers and are harder to locate. They're most certainly vaudeville or music hall performers. I chose Downs because he was one of the first 'specialty acts', which Houdini would become as well. Same with Alan Shaw. Fox hits at the exact right time. I'm pretty confident of the first three names. I considered Devant, as the D, but he wasn't really a loafer, nor was Tommy Downs really. But this is coming from a managers point of view, not a fellow artist, that is a different perspective. Just as a director will see things differently than a performer, so will a manager. It doesn't say 'how they are loafers'. Perhaps all of their acts are GREAT, but they drop the ball in the publicity department. In that case, HOUDINI is top among all, as he was the exact opposite of a loafer, he was the go-getter of go getters.Delete
While the answer to this seems unknowable, it has always been my understanding that it was Downs who encouraged both Thurston and Houdini to come to Europe to jumpstart their careers. Both did and both benefited from his advice. So I don't see Downs as a detractor. Here are some alternates, though I'm not fingering anyone. Golden; Mille Zora, Zanzig, Zanzic, Ziska; Albini; Hornmann, Horman, Hertz, Hartz, any Herrmann, Harrington, Hurst, Hunter, Helmo; Annie Stockton, Si Stebbins; Fox, Fay; Shaw; DeBiere, Dante (the early one), Ducrot, DeKolta; and many more.ReplyDelete
Good names! Thanks.Delete
While it might be unlikely, these don't necessarily have to be magicians. They could be theater owners or managers who are reluctant to book magicians, specifically Houdini. Or reviewers in the trade papers.ReplyDelete
Good point. If Beck hadn't used the phrase "magical friends", I would have assumed these were managers or critics.Delete