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.

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.

William Morton spotted Maskelyne and Cooke in their early years when they were touring the provinces and at the same time improving their show. He stayed with them as their manager until well into their long tenure at the Egyptian Hall in London. Drawing on Morton’s autobiography, Dr Dawes is able to throw light on this period, including information on the business relationship between Morton and Maskelyne and Cooke.

William Morton continued to work in the world of entertainment and eventually had several theatres and cinemas in Hull. His story tells us much about the entertainment industry.

The poster gives details of the Maskelyne & Cooke show. The date is not known but, based on Monday 29 July, the year can only be be 1869, 1872 or 1878. However, 1869 was before Maskelyne and Cooke called themselves The Royal Illusionists (see Ref. no. N2353). Also, had it been 1878 the poster would definitely have mentioned the shows at the Egyptian Hall starting in 1873. So the year must be 1872.

St. James’s Hall, situated between Regent Street and Piccadilly, was the first central London venue for Maskelyne and Cooke, prior to their move to the Egyptian Hall. People used to reading 19th century newspaper prose will know that it can be, shall we say, over the top. This particular article on pages 145, 146 and 160 would take some beating! Caution must be exercised in believing that the drawings are an accurate representation of the hall.