The Davenport Collection
- a growing resource on magic and entertainment history

Letters

Letter from Henry Bate to Devant concerning Box Trick

Letter from Henry Bate to Devant concerning Box Trick

Bate wrote this letter to Devant on old notepaper from the 1890s when he was known as Harry Bate, MYSTIFICATEUR. It confirms that Bate supplied conjuring apparatus to the wholesale and retail trade as well as providing entertainments and lessons in sleight of hand.

Letter from Henry Bate to Devant concerning Box Trick

Letter from Henry Bate to Devant concerning Box Trick

Henry Bate, Devant’s illusion builder, is writing to Devant in Aberdeen about a box trick. Devant had to return it to Bate because of a problem, which Bate says he has now resolved. A transcript of the first page is: Dear Mr Devant, Box duly arrived, you were quite right, the awful jerking on Rail had simply misplaced a part of the mechanism, nothing was either broken or out of order. I have placed with other papers, in Box, a full explanation of what occurred and the means taken to prevent it in future. I hope you will understand exactly what I mean. I feel certain everything is quite safe now. I want you to examine . . .

Welcome to the 1936 Munich Magic Convention

Welcome to the 1936 Munich Magic Convention

Luckily, the Davenport family is not prone to throwing things away. This allows John Davenport to share something of their attendance at the 19-21 September 1936 Munich Convention. Lewis, Wynne and Gus Davenport travelled to Munich for their first German Magic Circle Convention (Magischer Zirkel Deutschland). It was a good opportunity to meet many continental magic dealers and magicians. John Davenport’s article reproduces letters, photographs and other ephemera from the occasion. In addition to downloading a PDF of the article, you might also wish to view the film taken by the family, which may be found here.

Tee-To-Tum Club letter concerning a Lewis Davenport medal, 1903

Tee-To-Tum Club letter concerning a Lewis Davenport medal, 1903

The letter reads: Dear Sir, I have pleasure in sending your medal herewith. I also enclose contract for booking. If you wish can let you have posters (with your name on) similar to attached when printed. Best wishes, A.R. MacKay. The letter gives no clue as to what the medal relates to, but we know from The Encore of 29 January 1903 that Lewis entered an Amateur Variety Competition at the Tee-To-Tum Club on 22 January. We learn that ‘Lewis Davenport, a neat conjuror with a budget of clean tricks, scored a third’ which won him the medal. The letter also mentions a contract. We know from item N2923 that this contract was for a booking on 30 May 1903. We are lucky that the Davenport Collection has a copy of the poster for this booking, item N690.

Davenport Duo and Wynne notepaper

Davenport Duo and Wynne notepaper

When Lewis Davenport’s first wife Julia died in 1909, Lewis was left with no performing partner. Lewis created a new act billed as Les Davenports. This consisted of Lewis and Julia’s brother Dave who provided the comedy in the act. When Lewis remarried in 1910 his new wife, Wynne, joined the act, so creating the Davenport Duo and Wynne. Years later Wynne would explain that she disliked the notepaper because, although the design was meant to show her sitting on the two red lines, people just thought that she was standing up, but was not very tall. View Details to see how this came about. You will see the photograph of her, while she was sitting down, that was used for the notepaper. This photograph, with her feet off the floor, makes it clear that she is sitting. However, when the background is removed as on the notepaper, she just looks short. Wynne found this annoying because she was in fact tall and elegant, as in the second illustrated photograph.

Forde and Forde notepaper, 1910s

Forde and Forde notepaper, 1910s

Forde and Forde – Refined Musical Speciality Artistes – was a brother and sister act of Sid and Wynne Ford. Presumably they felt that Ford with an ‘e’ looked more refined than Ford. It was Wynne Ford who married Lewis Davenport in 1910. The photograph included here is of Sid and Wynne around the time of this act. Item N2911 includes additional information on the Ford family.

1909 letter to The Davenports concerning possible bookings at L’Etoile Palace, Paris

1909 letter to The Davenports concerning possible bookings at L’Etoile Palace, Paris

As far as we know, The Davenports never worked in Paris, or indeed anywhere in France. Nevertheless, this letter makes it clear that the opportunity was explored. This letter from Georges Pasquier, Impresario and Administrateur at the Etoile Palace in Paris, says that the Berthos had recommended The Davenports act. Les Berthos were acrobatic dancers who had become friendly with The Davenports. It is a well written letter, in that Pasquier lists all the benefits of working at the theatre before using a very typical comment from a booker: ‘Please make me also a reduction on your price, as I cannot afford to pay so high a salary’. It may well be that Pasquier and The Davenports failed to agree on a price, but Julia Davenport’s failing health could have been the key factor: she sadly died from tuberculosis on 30 December 1909.

Notepaper used by The Davenports in 1906

Notepaper used by The Davenports in 1906

This unfinished letter is dated 3 March 1906. The letterhead is of interest, not least because at this time The Davenports used the names Lewis and Marie, instead of Lewis and Julia. Presumably they thought the name Marie added something.

Letter to Lewis Davenport from the Norwood Palace and People’s Palace, dated 17 May 1905

Letter to Lewis Davenport from the Norwood Palace and People’s Palace, dated 17 May 1905

The letter reads: “At inconvenience we have, at your request, taken you out July 3rd. The dates you suggested are not suitable for transfer. Send others. Faithfully yours, Cissie Louie Lawson.” No doubt Ms Lawson was a busy lady, she certainly wasted no time on niceties in replying to Lewis Davenport. Lewis and Julia’s first child, George, was born on 22 April 1905. However, this had nothing to do with the reason for Lewis trying to alter booking dates. Lewis and Julia had landed bookings on the MacNaghten Theatre circuit. This circuit was a so-called Number 2 circuit, one below the Moss and Stoll Theatre circuits which were the Number 1s. These bookings were an important step in the advancement of The Davenports performing career.

Davenport Collection website e-news #13, March 2022

Davenport Collection website e-news #13, March 2022

Click on Details if you would like to download a PDF of this e-news.
E-newsletters like this one are sent out four times a year, highlighting recent additions to the website. If you’d like to be added to the mailing list, please contact the curator.
The March 2022 issue included:
– the launch of the Films Category and the Davenport Film Collection YouTube Channel.
– Ali Bongo version of the Gozinta Box with a double load.
– “Humpty Dumpty” children’s paper tearing trick.
– Devant’s early performing career.
– the staying power of traditional toys and novelties.
– “Shanroy” Scenery from The Servais Le Roy Company.
– an 1889 letter from J.N. Maskelyne and an unresolved issue

To see all the other e-news, click on Website e-news.