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

J.N. Maskelyne

Martin Chapender brochure

Martin Chapender brochure

Chapender (1879-1905) was, by all accounts, a very accomplished magician. This brochure directs bookers to the Maskelyne and Cooke’s Entertainment Bureau. J.N. Maskelyne thought sufficiently highly of him to put him in charge of the last Egyptian Hall season, at the time when J.N. was absorbed with the move of Maskelynes to St. George’s Hall. The seven images around the central image on page 3 all have the same background. Item N3292 confirms that the photographer was Richard Brown of 35 Bold Street, Liverpool.

Devant, Maskelyne and the Crispin Family

Devant, Maskelyne and the Crispin Family

In the Davenport Collection there are photographs of members of the Crispin family. These have been brought together in a brief article that explains how the family contributed to the Devant and Maskelyne shows. Perhaps the most widely known member of the family is Adela Crispin, who is credited as the levitated lady in a photograph in My Magic Life of Devant performing the Sylph Illusion. But was she? It turns out not everyone agrees. This too is discussed in the PDF.

Davenport Collection website e-news #20, December 2023

Davenport Collection website e-news #20, December 2023

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 2023 issue included:
– A pen with a surprise.
– Gone but not forgotten: tricks with cigarettes and pre-decimal coins.
– Besoni: a versatile Victorian entertainer.
– Ever more impossible joints.
– J.N. Maskelyne reminisces.
– And have you seen . . . this electric window figure, now also on video.
To see all the other e-news, click on Website e-news.

My Reminiscences

My Reminiscences

All those interested in J.N. Maskelyne’s life and his views on the world will find much of interest in his reminiscences. They were published in the January 1910 issue of the popular Strand Magazine. The article has been reproduced here with comments by Anne Goulden at the end.

Davenport Collection website e-news #17, March 2023

Davenport Collection website e-news #17, March 2023

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 2023 issue included:
– De Biere, The Sculptor’s Vision postcard.
– George Cooke of Maskelyne and Cooke.
– The Pea House Plot.
– A new theatre of magic for London?
– The Ju-Ju Stick by Frank Monaghan.
– Demon Wonder Wands.

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

George Cooke of Maskelyne and Cooke

George Cooke of Maskelyne and Cooke

Maskelyne and Cooke’s entertainments at the Egyptian Hall on Piccadilly were a feature of the London scene for over thirty years. During that time a great deal was written about them in newspapers and magazines. The publicity invariably focused on J.N. Maskelyne, who was sole proprietor of Maskelyne and Cooke’s. Virtually nothing was written about his stage partner, George Cooke. This was an injustice because Maskelyne’s success would have been impossible without Cooke’s talent, loyalty and hard work. Peter Brunning’s article brings George Cooke into the spotlight by telling the story of his life.

Over the years Maskelyne went to great lengths to protect his magic secrets. Cooke also went out of his way to protect secrets but, in his case, they were family secrets. Peter has unravelled Cooke’s unconventional private life as well as identifying his important contribution to the popularity of the Maskelyne and Cooke entertainments.

It is 120 years since Cooke’s final appearances at the Egyptian Hall, but at last his story is being told.

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.

9 May 1896 letter from J.N. Maskelyne to H. Evanion

9 May 1896 letter from J.N. Maskelyne to H. Evanion

The transcript of this letter is:
May 9 1896
Dear Sir
I have considered the question of purchasing your collection of Playing Cards and have decided not to do so. I may however hear of someone who would like such a collection, and if I do I will put the matter before him.
Yours very truly
J.N. Maskelyne
H. Evanion Esqr.

It would appear that this letter was once in the Jimmy Findlay Collection. Jim Hagy mentions in his book on Evanion that: ‘Findlay possessed in his collection a letter from Maskelyne to Evanion dated May 9, 1896 declining to purchase the latter’s playing card collection’. (Early English Conjuring Collectors: James Savren and Henry Evanion by James Hagy, Second Edition published in 2020 by Reginald Scot Books, Glenview, USA, page 72.) Jim’s excellent book is the place to go to for information on Evanion.

19 June 1889 letter from J.N. Maskelyne to H. Evanion

19 June 1889 letter from J.N. Maskelyne to H. Evanion

The transcript of this letter is:
June 19. 1889
Dear Sir
I shall be glad to inspect your collection a little later on. Just now I am exceedingly busy with machines for the Paris Exhibition.
I have much matter concerning androids.
Yours very truly
J.N. Maskelyne
H. Evanion Esq.

Maskelyne’s letter is to Henry Evanion, a major collector of paper ephemera, including much relating to magicians. For information on Evanion see Early English Conjuring Collectors: James Savren and Henry Evanion by James Hagy, Second Edition published in 2020 by Reginald Scot Books, Glenview, USA.

Some of the 1890-1891 Egyptian Hall programmes for the Maskelyne and Cooke shows include an advertisement for Maskelyne’s Mechanical Cashier & Book-Keeper on the back page. The example illustrated here is from Ref. no. N2012. According to the advertisement it ‘Beat all competitors at the Paris Exhibition, receiving the highest award given for cash registering apparatus’. The illustration includes the words ‘Silver Medal, Paris 1889’. It is likely that Maskelyne’s letter to Evanion refers to the work needed to prepare these machines for the Exhibition.

The curator of this website is currently trying to confirm that Maskelyne really did win the Silver Medal. This is necessary because J.N. Maskelyne’s claims cannot always be taken at face value. A search by the National Library of France confirmed that M. Maskelyne of Manchester did submit a cash register (details here) but was unable to find information relating to the medals awarded.

David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa

David Devant’s first big illusion: Vice Versa

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.