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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 June 2022 issue included:
– more on David Devant’s early career.
– Uri Geller and mind power.
– Sakkaku Scale by Tenyo – a magical optical illusion.
– create wooden Japanese furniture by taking a block of wood to pieces. It’s a puzzle putting it together again.
– the link between World War II gas masks and Davenports conjurers’ wax.
– the Old and the New Magic: a look at Davenports 1956 catalogue.

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

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.

These four letters relate to a show that Devant put on at Balham Hall, south London, on the nights of 5 and 6 December 1892. Powell lent Devant some money to help finance the shows, but the venture made a loss and Powell lost some of his money. Whilst financially disappointing, the shows proved to be of great importance to Devant because it allowed his own illusion Vice Versa to be seen. This resulted in further work at the Crystal Palace and soon resulted in Devant’s first appearance in Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments at the Egyptian Hall. The story is told in the Davenport Collection website article David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa by Anne Goulden. The article includes transcriptions of all four of these letters.

The letter is difficult to read, but appears to be:
33 Arthur Road
Holloway. N
6 May 1892

Dear Sir
I duly received yours of the 3rd inst. and regret to hear of your ill health and that you have been so unfortunate in business.
I do not like the idea of your hurry to dispose of your furniture for the purpose of paying your Accounts & the more particularly if the amount you owe me should have any weight in inducing you to adopt this course.
Can you not make me an offer and pay me a sum down in settlement of the whole thing.
I am sure that you no more than myself would care to have the matter dragging along but would prefer to have it settled once for all.
I hope you may be more fortunate in the future than you have apparently been lately.
Yours faithfully
?Ernest Walker

David Devant Esqre

Devant’s My Magic Life tells us that he suffered from rheumatic fever around this time. A bad bout of it stopped him performing at Christmas 1889, so losing the income from many shows and causing financial hardship. This could be the ill health that is mentioned in the letter.

In these early days of his career, Devant’s finances were not on a firm footing. Letters such as this one may have been all too familiar to him. Letters from his friend G. Gordon Powell (see N2639) are another example of his financial difficulties, this time from the failure of a show he was promoting.

The letter reads:
Reynolds’s Exhibition and Musical Promenade
St. George’s Place, Lime Street, Liverpool June 26th 1887
Mr. Devant
Dear Sir
You can open here Monday week (July 9th). Is Mr Flynn in London?
Hoping you are well,
I remain, Yours truly, Charles Reynolds

This letter is short but full of interest. It suggests that David Devant had an engagement at Reynolds’s Exhibition and Musical Promenade, Liverpool starting on 9 July 1887. He was then 19 years old, embarking on what proved to be a successful career as an entertainer. The establishment opened in 1858 with its main focus on waxworks but, as the decades went by, it moved increasingly towards live entertainment.

In the late 1880s the Royal American Midgets appeared there. They were General Mite (F.J. Flynn) and his wife, née Millie Edwards. Their lecturer was the young David Devant who also performed magic.

Devant’s autobiography, My Magic Life, describes his time at Reynold’s Waxworks with the Royal American Midgets. Unfortunately My Magic Life does not give the date of the Midgets’ engagement in Liverpool.

Charles Reynolds’ letter mentions a Mr Flynn, who could be either General Mite or his father, E.F. Flynn. It’s appropriate, therefore, to illustrate a poster for the Royal American Midgets. This poster, from the Piccadilly Hall in London, belongs to the Wellcome Collection (Credit: General Mite and Millie Edwards, two midgets on exhibition. Colour lithograph. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark.)

Many entertainers have financial difficulties in their early careers. David Devant wrote about his early struggles in My Magic Life.

In December 1892 he put on a show at Balham Hall. The show made a loss, but it turned out to be an important step in securing a place for him in Maskelyne & Cooke’s theatre at the Egyptian Hall. He used the show to showcase his new stage illusion, Vice Versa. The illusion caught the eye of the Crystal Palace management, and before long Devant had secured a booking at the Egyptian Hall. However, Vice Versa was too large for the Egyptian Hall stage. J.N. Maskelyne asked Devant to come up with something more suitable. The result was The Artist’s Dream, based on the same principle as Vice Versa.

Anne draws on previously unpublished material which allows the fascinating details of the story to be told.

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 December 2021 issue included:
– a very effective penetration trick from 1933.
– a box from the German magic dealer Carl Willmann, full of apparatus for a shadowgraphy performance.
– rare items from the Maskelyne and Cooke Provincial Company from the 1900 period.
– a 1904 illuminated address to Mr. and Mrs. Devant, concerning their daughter Vida.
– examples of novelties and jokes spanning 100 years.
– new plans for the website in 2022.

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

To our knowledge the contents of this partnership agreement have remained confidential until now. The parties to the agreement were J.N. and Nevil Maskelyne (the Maskelynes) and David Devant. Devant was managing partner. The Maskelyne and Cooke Provincial Company made annual tours of Great Britain from 1899 to 1905. The Entertainment Bureau supplied high class entertainments for many years. There is much of interest in the partnership agreement and Anne’s article is a useful summary.

The layout of this programme is unusual. It lists sixty-six performers or acts, which is far too many to be the programme for the evening. This is more likely to be a list of performers who have entertained at one or more of the previous concerts. The programme also includes illustrations for around twenty acts, so perhaps the evening’s entertainment was made up by some or all of these. The names include Mr. Frederic Russell, Mr. James Stuart, Mr. David Devant and Mr. Sidney Gandy and Miss Inglefield. The list of acts to be found in the details for this item is based on all those acts illustrated in the programme.