Talks on magic history and entertainment
This section of the website is dedicated to Dr Edwin A Dawes. Eddie has inspired so many collectors and historians by his own example. The importance he attaches to the three Cs of collecting – Collect, Collate, Communicate – is the approach to which this website aspires.
Magicians and historians put a great deal of effort into preparing illustrated talks which may only be delivered on one occasion. For some years we have felt it would be good to do what we can to capture some of this research and make it available to a wider audience.
To achieve this, the words and images of the presentations have been converted to PDF documents. Click here to access the Talks index.
We are grateful to fellow collectors and historians who have made their own talks available in PDF form and allowed us to include them here.
Please contact the curator if you would like to propose your own talk for inclusion.
Wyn Davenport’s autograph albums
Anne Goulden gave this talk at the IBM British Ring Convention, Bournemouth on 25 September 2014.
While Wyn toured with her parents in the 1920s, she collected autographs from many magicians and variety acts. Anne Goulden brings these characters to life in a well illustrated talk. Click here to download the PDF.
Intermittently on the halls
On 9 February 2012 Anne Goulden gave this talk at the British Music Hall study group in London. It follows Lewis Davenport’s performing career from around 1900 to around 1930 and explains how he juggled his time between his magic business, music hall work, and other performances. On the way it provides an overview of the different types of variety entertainment during the period. Click here to download the PDF.
Noms de Theatre – stage names for magicians
We are grateful to Paul Freeman who has given us permission to include this PDF version of his talk, which he has given in England and Austria between 2008 and 2011. Paul relates the interesting and often surprising ways in which magicians have ended up with a well-known stage name. Click here to download the PDF.
Peter’s talk traces the development of magicians’ programmes from the 19th century into the 20th century. He illustrates this with a wide range of Maskelyne programmes, as well as those of numerous other performers, from Signor Blitz to Carmo – around 50 programmes in all. On the way Peter highlights intriguing facts that can be discovered about the performers by careful study of the programmes. Click here to download the PDF.
Booksellers, collectors and rogues
David Price is well placed to offer insight into the joys and pitfalls of collecting magic books. He has stories to share about major UK collectors and booksellers of the 20th century: Andrew Block, Harry Bosworth, Leslie Cole, Jimmy Findlay and George Jenness. David’s personal recollections of Sotheby’s and the world of magic book collecting are both informative and entertaining. Click here for the PDF of David’s talk. [Photograph courtesy of David Hibberd and The Magic Circle Archive.]
Will Goldston – the man and the legend
This talk covers new insights into the private and business lives of Goldston. It is based on a study of the Goldston archives within the Davenport Collection as well as new research undertaken by Fergus. The story is a fascinating one, brought to life with many illustrations. The talk starts by solving the mystery of where Goldston was born. Click here for the PDF.
The first of 80 British Ring conventions, Cheltenham 1931
Roy presented this talk in the History of Mystery session at the British Ring of the International Brotherhood of Magicians convention in Buxton, 9 September 2016. Click on this PDF to join the conventioneers of 1931, and to understand what happened and why it was so enjoyed by the participants.
An editor’s lot can be a happy one!
Nobody is better placed than Donald to tell the story of Goodliffe the Magician and the magazine Abracadabra which Goodliffe founded in 1946 – the World’s Only Magical Weekly. Donald was involved with Abra from 1965 for over 40 years, many of those as Managing Editor, so you will also learn about Donald’s life in magic. The talk is full of insight and humour and the story is brought to life with over forty illustrations. Where else will you see Goodliffe with His Holiness Pope Paul V1, or Michael Bailey riding a bicycle? Click here to download the PDF.
The Fays: Tragedy and Trials
Alexander and Annie Fay (not Anna Eva Fay), who were performing in the late 1800s, might be all but forgotten today had it not been for their involvement in the Sunderland Victoria Hall Disaster of 1883. Dean explains the events leading up to this tragedy. However, the talk is about much more than this. Through original research, Dean traces the lives of the Fays and on the way we learn much about the performances of the day and the characters whose paths they cross. Click here to download the PDF.
Maskelyne & Cooke: the early years
Anne has unearthed new information on the eight year journey that took Maskelyne and Cooke from Cheltenham to the Egyptian Hall in London. On the way she explains how Maskelyne and Cooke could call themselves Royal Illusionists, despite not having performed before royalty. Click here to download the PDF.
“Lights and sleights from Ayr”
A celebration of the life of John Ramsay
Edwin A Dawes
In 1994 Eddie delivered this talk in Ayr, Scotland, on the occasion of the unveiling of a plaque dedicating the Ramsay Gardens to John Ramsay. Eddie manages to convey the charm of the man whose close-up skills made him internationally famous. The roles of Victor Farelli and Andrew Galloway in bringing Ramsay’s magic to a wider audience are also covered, as are Ramsay’s less well-known successes with stage magic. Click here to download the PDF.
Herr Adalbert Frikell
His life and times in England
1862 to 1889
The magical career of Herr Adalbert Frikell, the son of Wiljalba Frikell, saw both high spots and low spots. Paul Freeman charts his life from the time he arrived in England, through to the high point of his royal performances, to the lean years and his ultimate death in poverty. Did he commit suicide or was it death by natural causes? Paul’s illustrated talk answers this question and sheds much light on the rise and fall of this talented magician. Click here to download the PDF.
Lost Empires revisited
J.B. Priestley’s book Lost Empires, published in 1965, looks back on the life of the fictitious magician Ganga Dun before the First World War. In his talk given at the British Ring Convention in Eastbourne on 24 September 2015, Brian Lead revisits the book to review the magic in it and how closely it matches the reality of a magician working at the time. Read on to learn why Brian believes that Priestley had a good working knowledge of stage magic and instinctively understood the subtleties and problems of its presentation.
Click here to download the PDF.
Gems from the John Salisse Archive
John Salisse’s archive was the result of over 40 years of collecting and research. His interests were the Maskelyne family and their theatres. In this talk Anne dips into the archive, which is now part of The Davenport Collection. Anne focuses on the early days of the Egyptian Hall, where JN Maskelyne’s entertainments first made him a household name in Victorian Britain.
Click here to download the PDF.
Chevalier Ernest Thorn – “King of Illusionists”
Many know the name Chevalier Thorn, but few of us know his story. Paul Freeman’s research has pulled together a revealing picture of the man and his magic. From his birth in 1853 to his death in 1928 there were huge changes in the world of magic. Thorn’s accomplishments contributed to these changes and deserve wider recognition. Paul Freeman’s talk will do much to rectify this. Click here to download the PDF based on his talk.
The life and times of George Mozart
George Mozart (1864-1947) was a musician and burlesque comedian. He wasn’t one of the top music hall stars, but he had a long, successful career as an entertainer. In the 1920s he worked for the Maskelynes at St George’s Hall. His road to success is a fascinating story which tells us much about life as an entertainer in late 19th and early 20th century Britain. Click here to enter his world.
‘A Raging Social Success’
Magic as Home Entertainment
In this insightful and entertaining talk Roy leads us through the numerous ways in which generations of children and adults have aspired to be a ‘Raging Social Success’ through mastering magic. How did amateurs learn their first tricks and where did they get them from? How has this changed over the years? Was the advice always good? Click here to have Roy answer these questions.
The poster – the printer – the performer.
The story of an iconic poster
In 1944 Paul Freeman had the incredible experience of being sold a magic prop by Will Goldston, wrapped up in a Servais Le Roy poster. Click here to join Paul for his account of this transaction and what Paul subsequently discovered about the poster, Adolph Friedländer the lithographic printer, and the performer Servais Le Roy.
“Letters from the Front”
Michael takes us back to the First World War and The Magic Circle members who fought for King and Country.
Through letters from the Front and other information in The Magic Circular he lets us share the life of members at home and abroad. Click here to read the story.
The Davenports: lightning magicians & illusionists
Lewis Davenport and his first wife, Julia, had some success with this act in 1904-09. It was a fast-paced act and, unusually for the first decade of the 20th century, both Lewis and Julia performed the magic. Anne’s talk follows their progress and focuses on the tricks that made up the act. Click here to read how the act developed and what was in it.
Roberta Byron 1917-2002
Roberta visited Britain as an American teenager in 1931with her parents and sister. Her charm and quality of magic made quite an impact, not least at the first convention of the I.B.M. British Ring in Cheltenham. In Britain she is largely unknown today, and Brian tells the story of how a photograph resulted in a journey of discovery to find out more about this talented young lady. Join Brian on his quest for more information here.
Lewis Davenport’s travels in Europe
In the 1920s and 1930s most of Lewis Davenport’s bookings were at theatres in Great Britain. However, he did tour South Africa in 1926 and South America in 1927, as well as accepting bookings in Germany and Belgium. In this talk Anne follows Lewis around Europe, pointing out the differences between UK and continental variety, as well as introducing some of the speciality acts with whom Lewis worked. Click here to join Lewis on his travels.
Magic at the Seaside
Over the centuries British seaside towns have continually adapted to meet the requirements of visitors. So too have the entertainment opportunities for magicians, the tricks they are able to do, and the places in which they do them. It might be at fairs, on the beach, and increasingly in indoor venues ranging from lowly to grand. Roy traces these developments in words and pictures and on the way meets many well-known, and not so well-known, magicians. Click here for the PDF.
Gems from the Magic Circle Collection:
Mr Maskelyne’s famous play
The Magic Circle owns the original script for JN Maskelyne’s famous magical play Will, the Witch and the Watch. This is the play that brought Maskelyne’s Box Trick to the attention of the public. Anne traces the history of the play and paints a vivid picture of the story and how the magic fits into the plot. Click here for the PDF.