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

1899

Publicity item for Mr. David Devant’s Season at the Masonic Hall, Birmingham, which on 3 March 1899 presented Mr. Max O’Rell with comedy lectures

Publicity item for Mr. David Devant’s Season at the Masonic Hall, Birmingham, which on 3 March 1899 presented Mr. Max O’Rell with comedy lectures

On this Friday Mr. Max O’Rell, billed as the Eminent Author and Humorist, gave two performances of his fascinating comedy lectures. Max O’Rell was the pen name of Léon Paul Blouet, a French author and journalist. In his day he became well known and his Wikipedia page explains that he was less successful towards the end of his career. He died in 1903. We know from a publicity item in The Magic Circle Archive that during Devant’s Season at the Masonic Hall, during the month of March, each Friday had a lecturer rather than a performance of Devant’s Entertainment.

Novelty give away advertisement for Devant’s Entertainment at the Masonic Hall, Birmingham. Commencing 27 February 1899

Novelty give away advertisement for Devant’s Entertainment at the Masonic Hall, Birmingham. Commencing 27 February 1899

This advertisement can be folded to show The Box Trick in action. The words explain: ‘The performer enters the box which he completely fills so that no part can collapse inwards. It is then locked, enveloped in a sack, corded and sealed thus preventing any section giving outwards. Yet in a few seconds the gentleman escapes without disturbing a single knot, leaving the box perfectly empty.’ The year is not stated, but we know from other publicity that the year is 1899. The same novelty design was used by Maskelyne and Cooke’s Mysteries when they were performing in Dublin in 1901 (item N2592).

Programme for David Devant’s Entertainment at the Town Hall, Oxford. 1899

Programme for David Devant’s Entertainment at the Town Hall, Oxford. 1899

This is a programme from Devant’s cinevariety tour 1898-1899. The programme tells us that Devant was actually performing twice nightly at the Egyptian Hall. See Devant and early cinema for similar items.

We have Ian Keable to thank for pointing out that the show differed from the one advertised in the progamme. Ian discovered from the Oxford Times and Reading Gazette of 25 February that Mr Mel. B. Spurr was ill and Animated Photographs were shown instead.

Maskelyne and Cooke’s Mysteries Provincial Tour List 1899-1900, with a separate page of financial details covering all weeks

Maskelyne and Cooke’s Mysteries Provincial Tour List 1899-1900, with a separate page of financial details covering all weeks

These two items were stored together by Maskelynes, with a brass paper fastener attaching them by the top left corner. This explains the holes in the top left corners. The information gives the tour venues and confirms that the show usually spent a week at each venue. The financial summary gives a breakdown of costs for each venue and the average receipts and expenses for the whole tour. The tour usually followed the pre-printed tour dates and venues, but there were exceptions. The images included here show both sides of the Tour List and the single-sided financial summary.

1899 partnership agreement for the Maskelyne and Cooke Provincial Company and Entertainment Bureau

1899 partnership agreement for the Maskelyne and Cooke Provincial Company and Entertainment Bureau

The two parties to this partnership agreement were J.N. and Nevil Maskelyne (the Maskelynes) and David Devant. Devant was the managing partner. The Maskelyne and Cooke Provincial Company carried out annual tours around Great Britain from 1899 to 1905. The Entertainment Bureau operated for many years supplying high class entertainments. There is much of interest in the agreement, including the agreement on profit sharing. Anne Goulden has produced a useful summary of the main points covered by the agreement in an Article on this website which can be found here.