Monday, March 20, 2017

In Honor of Burt Sperber

A digital throwing card created for Burt's throwing card project
In this post, we honor the magic collector whose vision and drive led to the creation of Propelled Pasteboards.  Burton Sperber was a generous and enthusiastic magic collector who, in or around 2011, set out to create a published checklist of throwing cards, which he intended to distribute for free to interested collectors.  He acquired a remarkably large collection of cards and contacted a group of historians and collectors -- including the three contributors to this site -- to help create his ambitious project. The selfless nature of this effort is reflected in his proposed copyright notice:

"No Copyright © 2011. 
All information in this checklist may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means whether electronic, mechanical, or photocopied hand typed or
written without permission from anyone.
No Rights Reserved"

Sadly, Burt's untimely death ended the effort -- but his vision and inspiration drove the creation of this site.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Topper Martyn – Citizen of the World

When Victor “Topper” Martyn died May 24, 2004, the magic and juggling world lost one of its more charming clowns. He left much in his legacy including many wonderful and antic performances captured on video as well as several scaling cards. Given his act, it’s not likely he scaled them into the audience but rather they probably dropped out of his tuxedo by the hundreds.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's T. Nelson Downs's Birthday!

 While working as a railroad telegrapher in Marshalltown, Iowa, T. Nelson Downs (1869-1938) passed the long, lonely hours teaching himself sleight of hand using coins. The time was well spent -- Downs mastered the art, becoming one of the greatest manipulators of all time. He developed an act in which dozens of coins seemingly materialized at the performer's fingertips. Down's act, dubbed "The Miser's Dream," was the first major advance in coin magic in nearly a century, and is still used by many magicians.

Monday, March 6, 2017

"Tricky" Ricky Jay

An early throwout card for the wizard
better known as Ricky Jay

Inspired by my recent post about Ricky Jay et al., Tom Ewing took a deep dive into his collection, emerging with this gem from early in the magician's career.   The "Tricky Ricky" scaling card sports the name "Richard Jay Potash", the legal and original name of the master of card scaling who would eventually become world famous under his stage name Ricky Jay.  Based on my knowledge of his career, buttressed by some recent research I conducted on the use of letters and area codes for telephone numbers (more on that in an upcoming series of posts), I would posit that the card dates to the late 1960s.  The image appears to bear some edge tearing -- whether this is simply from age and handling, or evidence of propulsion by the world record-holding Mr. Jay may have to be left to our imagination.   This piece is likely extremely rare and valuable, as similar ephemera (such as early business cards for the performer known as David Copperfield) often attract the interest of collectors.

Zovello the Magic Clown

What wonderfully euphonic names magicians seem to create for themselves. The name “Zovello” conjures up magic, perhaps ventriloquism, certainly clowning…who knows? Well, for the topic of this present post, Zovello was all of these and more. And, of course, he had scaling cards.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini (Erik Weisz and later Ehrich Weis) born March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-American illusionist, stunt performer, and noted for his sensational escape acts. So much has been written about Houdini’s life from articles to books. The life he lived and the secrets he took with him over ninety years ago are still being researched and found today. There still seems to be an endless source of material around the world.

Over the past handful of years alone, anything from scrapbooks, posters, and letters seem to appear, and it doesn’t seem there will be any end in sight. The name Houdini will continue to live on as a goal setter. Whether it was his method of publicity, his public recognition, or just good timing; the name Harry Houdini has been the bar to reach for in magic.

Harry scaled playing cards with accuracy and he could cut a card in mid-air with a pair of scissors. Thanks to Jay Hunter for solving one part of the Houdini throw out card mystery. Jay found the following in "The Sphinx" for June, 1936. Included in John Mulholland's "Editor's Page", he included the following from Harry's brother, Theo Hardeen.  "...Hardeen wrote the following interesting letter to me: 'The very beautiful story about the card throwing of Herrmann and Thurston in the May issue interested me very much. However I think that it is a little incomplete in not mentioning the name of Houdini. In 1894, when Houdini and I were performing as the Houdini Brothers, Houdini threw out steamboat cards with his picture on the front. These were the regular cards, no thicker. Then when Houdini joined the Welsh Brothers tent show, after his marriage, and worked the act under the name of Harry and Bessie Houdini, Jim Bard of the famous Bard Brothers (Jim and Eddy) taught him how to do a back somersault. After that Houdini would scale out the cards and the last card, he would throw out, turn a back somersault and catch as it returned to the ring." 
        If it wasn't for one particular publication by someone who has surpassed Houdini in his prowess of handling cards, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the image below what appears to be the Houdini throw out card. Here is an image of the front of the card published in the 1977 book by Ricky Jay titled, Cards as Weapons. I want to make an open request, please. If you own this throw out card, it would really be nice to know what is on the back. What is the actual size and would you be so kind as to allow us to post a perfect image? One wonders, what happened to all of these cards? 

             To honor the man whose name continues to be brought up almost daily around the world, here is another image in the form of advertisement that nearly coincides with our site.

This 7.62cm x 11.43cm card was used to promote soap.

            It should be mentioned, the facts on the back of the card are not all correct (well, they got his name right). Possibly those were the facts they received at the time of the publication. This is one cards advertising Orocrema Almond Soap that was created in the early 1920’s. Each card measured three inches by four and a half inches (7.62cm x 11.43cm).

Loosely translated the card reads:
“A single film has been enough to make this fantastic artist universally known. Son of a wealthy merchant was born in Chicago, in 1887, where he studied the career of an engineer. Since childhood, he has always shown an engaging and decadent character that led him to the realization of his daring plans. He built an armored armor that was the main reason for his only film titled "Houdini and the human tank" that gave him popularity. He is of a nervous temperament, and his numerous prowess has made the stairway of the facade of a "skyscraper" with the sun helping his feet and hands. He is currently retired from cinematography.”
              Houdini's skills were somewhat legendary, as discussed on the sites Wild About Harry and The Great Harry Houdini. According to many sources, he would scale steamboat cards with his autograph on the face. Images of such cards can been seen on Pinterest and here on this site Propelled Pasteboards.

This three sheet poster is currently on display at the famed Winchester House in San Jose, California.

              As seen above, there was always one item that really would have made a perfect throw out card, but alas, it was only created as a poster.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras with Harry Anderson!

It's Mardi Gras!   Who better to celebrate with than Harry Anderson (b. 1952), who, for many years was a prominent citizen of New Orleans?   Anderson, a/k/a "Harry the Hat" has performed magic in numerous venues, including as a guest star on Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show and Cheers.  Perhaps most widely known as Judge Harry Stone from his television series Night Court,  his Damon Runyon-like style has become his trademark.   His book credits include Games You Can't Win, and Anderson has invented and marketed several magic effects.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cardini's Birthday: His Fanning Card and Mystic Craig

Today marks the birthday of the legendary Cardini (b. Richard Pitchford, 1895-1973), who was known for his superlative manipulation act, which showcased his unparalleled skills with cigarettes, billiard balls and card fanning and production. Though he progressed through several varieties of cards, he ultimately settled on the type pictured here.  This card bears Cardini's trademark back, which has a fascinating history, as related in John Fisher's terrific biography Cardini: The Suave Deceiver:

"For his fanning sequences, Cardini originally used a brand called "Park Avenue," which was obtainable from Woolworth's, until he was introduced to a card with an even more attractive back design on general sale in Walgreen.s drug stores.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

John Sardo and The Celebrity Trick

This post involves John Sardo of Elmira, NY, who was born in 1896. He was a longtime supporter of magic clubs, published a number of effects in The Sphinx, and was instrumental in initiating one of the great minds of conjuring into the magic business. He also created “The Celebrity Trick” and had a nice scaling card.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Frank Ducrot

Frank Ducrot was born Theodore Francis Fritz on May 7, 1872 in Brooklyn, New York. His interest in magic started as a lad growing up just a ferry ride away from Manhattan where the famed Palace of Magic where Francis J. Martinka’s magic shop was just waiting to entice him. As a performer, he toured the Chautauqua and Vaudeville circuits. His billing as “The Boy Magician” lasted into his 50’s.