Posts Tagged ‘chefalo’

houdini_post0002The title of this blog is The Ephemeral Collector, and in my “About” page I set out that I collect ephemeral material related to the art of magic. If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that my recent posts were on apparatus, on posters and on more substantial items – not really on “ephemeral” objects. Sometimes, to really appreciate a small piece of paper, what I consider an “ephemeral magic object,” one has to study and investigate its story: sometimes, the discoveries will bring amazement and the ephemeral object will be seen in a different light, a small part of a larger puzzle.

Sit comfortable, dear reader, and let me tell you the story of an unused invitation to meet the master of the masters in his prime, the one and only Harry Houdini.

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Conchito_PosterWorld War II had, as it is well known, a huge impact on Europe, on its geography, on its political ideas, on the relations between different countries. And it also had a large impact on magic. When the war ended, in 1945, diffidence and mistrust was rife in all European countries. One of the few exceptions was in the world of magic: magicians are a friendly group, looking for contacts, friendship, novelties from other lovers of the art, anywhere in the world. While Europe was busy rebuilding trades, houses and families, a group of magicians from different countries made a significant step towards the reunion of magic lovers: the first international (actually, pan-European) magic convention. In 1946, three-hundred magicians from all around Europe descended to Amsterdam, Holland, for the first magic meeting after the war.

The following year, the event was repeated in Paris, France, with the attendance of more than five-hundred conjurers from Europe and abroad, and the base was set for the creation of FISM, the International Federation of Magic Societies that, since then, has been organizing regular conventions and, especially, the most prestigious magic competition in the World, which every three years crowns the best magician in the world. While in recent years the number of competitors has swelled, in 1947 only 70 magicians competed for a handful of prizes in only three categories: some competitors were also performing in the gala shows for the attendees! One of the categories was “Presentation” which was to recognize the most original performers of classic magic tricks. The first prize winner was Englishman Willane (William H. Lane), a popular author of magic books for the fraternity. The winner of the third prize was an obscure Dutch magician, a popular illusionist in Holland in the years after the war, and the subject of this story: Conchito.

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Ephemeral Programme - 1906 Sharpsburg PA

Programme for Magic Performance on New Year

At the end of November 2008, while idly browsing eBay, my eye was caught by a programme of an Italian magician, one Prof. Prete, offered for sale. I managed to buy it and it’s quite interesting. The programme is quite big, 27 x 35 cm (10.63 x 13.78 inches) and it’s full of adverts, some in Italian, some in English.

The programme was for a show at St. Joseph’s Hall in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, under the auspices of the “Madonna of Jerusalem” Church. The show was held on the evening of Monday, Jan. 1. The year is not specified in the program, but it can be dated to 1906. (more…)