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Foreword to Magic and Magicians

By Chas. J. Carter
I like this piece a lot, even though it is not flattering to
magicians in general. However, Carter's cinic
observations help us discover many of our failings. The
piece might be a bit dated (it is from 1903) however,
there is much of value in it.

A student of magic should first begin by becoming a grammarian; in

fact, if he studies the art of legerdemain at all, either for amusement or
business, it is absolutely essential that he be educated. Ignorance will
at once stamp him as an incompetent, more particularly so in the role
of magician, than in attempting to delineate another character or play
any other part in theatricals. Obviously a magician is supposed to
know a great deal, and the majority generally do--so much, verily, that
four-fifths of the 85,000,000 alive to-day are starving. But then this
subject can be mooted. A beginner should have courage. It is a very
difficult road to travel, and the bleached bones and empty skulls of the
"dead ones" along the way are disheartening--very. But "dead ones"
are to be met everywhere, in every business. "Dead ones disintegrate
quickest as magicians--and agents. This following requires a good,
well-informed, intelligent man. The magician of to-day is a juggler.
After learning the "front and back hand pamm," as it is inelegantly
characterized in "slickers"' lingo, the modern "Fakir of Ava" procures
a letterhead, studies a magical manufacturer's catalogue, and between,
times--when he is not shaving some one, or engaged on his milk route,
or shoeing horses or some other honest, useful trade--he stands before
a mirror, combs his hair prettily, tries to grow a moustache (and
succeeds in raising an eyebrow on his upper lip instead, and the Lord
only knows what on his lower lip), waxes that which is uncharitable
enough to grow, and, truer than he realizes, looks like the devil.
Such foolish "tricks" will get you nothing. No more so will the
precious hours and days you waste in trying to emulate some asinine, (1 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]

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tow-headed freak, who tells you that the "front and back hand pamm"
that he does is a wonderful feat and requires months to learn. It does
not and when I tell you that these things are feats which any ordinary
boy can learn, and, moreover do them better than most of the so-called
magicians, both in and out "the woods," and that by knowing them
you never will be able to get one more dollar for your performance, it
will not he difficult to see that time thus invested is vain.
Do you think that one of these abortive arrangements--self-styled
magicians--could entertain an audience with his "front and back hand
pamm" for two hours or a part thereof? In the first place, these things
cannot be seen on a big stage by people in the gallery or far back in
the theater, and if some could see them, they would leave the theater
in disgust. And, again, you must know that when a magician not only
holds but entertains, amuses and instructs his audience for two hours
or more each evening during a week with no other vehicles but his
personality, wit, vitality, energy and magic as a subterfuge, he is at
once an artist and one worthy to be called a magician. Such an one
was the late Herrman, and such an one is the present Kellar. If your
ambition is vaudeville, stay on your milk route.
Be a magician if you begin, or give it a wide berth entirely. The most
important points that have been neglected by other writers on this
subject I shall touch, and if faithfully adhered to will bring better
results than would studying the "front and back pamm." Learn
arithmetic well. This is necessary if you want to do a mind-reading
act; and cube root and rapid calculations and also it will not be bad to
know when you are counting up the hundreds of dollars each night
that you draw (on paper) into the "opree house" and the manager tells
you it was a fine show, sorry for poor business, etc., and you would do
much better if you would return when the creamery boys are paid off,
as "they are sporty and don't care nothin' for thirty-five cents."
Learn how to write correctly. This is useful in writing for dates,
signing checks or making out telegrams to mother for money to bring
Professor Butterine and party home. Then when you are old and need
a little dust to help buy some sausage for winter, you can write a
treatise on conjuring or a story of your life, and some good kind
publisher will look with compassion on your efforts and reward you
with some few $$$$ of the kind that magicians do not catch in the air.
Learn to spell properly. You will have to write your own press notices
sometimes, and those flowery adjectives describing the "learned
professor" will leave a bad taste in the mouths of the editors if spelled
incorrectly. In setting type, which you have to do occasionally in order
to get your bills printed, spelling is not unhandy.
Now, in all seriousness, learn grammar. Do not, as you value your (2 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]

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future as a magician, attempt to make your appearance unless you can

talk intelligently. Not a patter. This will not do. You must know how
to use words, and the more words you use the greater magician you
become. For, after all, that is all magic is--appearance, words. Show
me an educated man who aspires to become a magician, and I will
show you a successful one. But educated men do not aspire to become
magicians There is too much need of educated men in more useful and
more lucrative and less hazardous and precarious walks of life. But if
you start with the craft, learn how to talk. Talk glibly, with
earnestness, unction and sang-froid Attach to these attributes an ease
of manner and graceful carriage, and--more important still--be funny.
All this can be learned, even the knack of being funny.
Years ago, in one of the magician books published by Professor
Hoffman, I read that if a magician was naturally funny it was a good
thing to introduce it in his work, as it was good to make one's
programme more interesting and entertaining. Professor Hoffman
further thought that if a man was not, by nature, funny, he should not
try to be so. I differ with the learned professor. If all of us waited for
some one to come along who was born a funny man we should wait
till another Nero should burn another Rome and sing his songs and
thrum his lute atween. The funny people are sometimes more funny by
being born with a keen appreciation of the ridiculous But the really
funny magicians are made so from practice. There is no magician
living who was born with an appreciation of the ludicrous. If so he
would not have become a magician. It is only after one has been a
magician for a great many years that he at length becomes consciously
alive to the ridiculousness of many things, particularly to the absurdity
of being a magician. But if you practice being funny you will seem so
to a great many in time. Time mellows all. It looks so strange to you
after a while that you cannot keep from becoming funny even before
you try it. Put in humor at every point. It will appear natural and
fitting. You will learn the little tricks of being able to tickle people's
risibilities in a short time, and when you are able to do this you will
say to all the world--I am a magician! Though you have fine stage
settings and all that, with good advertising paper and a fine manager,
you will sink by the way if you do not make people laugh. Sacrifice
your tricks, your grace, your pretty face, your secrets even, and make
people laugh, for when they laugh, you are sure they are pleased. If
they do not laugh there is a question. Costume for a magician is a very
important adjunct. Some wear the regulation dress-suit, with the
necessary secret pockets in the coat; others a swallow-tail coat with
knee breeches and a colored garter just below the knee. I have never
been able to discover just for what purpose this garter is worn, but I
presume it is an insignia of rank. Judging from the dexterity displayed
by the majority of those who wear it, the deserve something for being (3 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]

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so rank. But a ball and chain would be more appropriate and

becoming. When a dress-suit is worn a clean shirt-front is expected to
accompany this dress by most of the audience charitable enough not
only to attend a necromancer's performance, but to pay for this
penance as well; and even great magicians who do "the front and back
hand pamm" are not exempt from thus attiring themselves, though
they may immediately tire their auditors. Again, other conjurers wear.
a yellow ribbon diagonally across their breasts ostensibly to prove that
they belong to the magicians' union, or the French Order of
Would-Bes when they really wear this ribbon (which is sometimes a
banana-peel) to hide the face of a dirty shirt. Others wear a celluloid
front, which can be dipped in the fish-bowl before using in lieu of
washing, thus saving laundry bills. But these are economies which
bring to mind all too unpleasant reminiscences. An Adonis dress and
make-up is very pretty, stylish and never-to-be-forgotten.
I have cherished a hand-bill of "The great world-renounded Professor
Penny," who, as the dodger goes on to state, "will appear in tights each
evening to prove that he has nothing concealed in his sleeves." And it
might have read nothing concealed in his tights either for I know if it
had not been a cold night when I saw him, and if the audience had not
been so large, and his underwear and tights so thick, without the aid of
an X-ray I could have seen through him as easily as the audience saw
through his "marvelous tricks."
Then there is the clown-suit adapted for magicians who do not, will
not, or cannot talk and wish to perform "hanky pank" silently. This is
the proper suit for most all whom I have had the misfortune to see
work. Put any magician in a clown-suit and he fills it properly. It
would be cruelty to animals to omit the dunce-cap. But after all, if one
can talk, a dress suit is correct. And a good talker can easily explain
why the trousers get under his heels when he walks, or show the
necessity of too small a vest and even a soiled shirt Then, a dress-suit
can be bought cheaper than any other apparel, as I shall show. When
you are settled beyond all earthly entreaties upon your future, and are
convinced that the omnipotent has cut you out to be something great,
and you feel the desire "to be and do" (not do us, you think), and your
lunacy has attained a mild form, such as is expressed in a wish to
become a magician--go to a second-hand store, ask to see a dress
suit--tell the vendor that you are a waiter--he will not doubt you--ask
for one that fits large so you can carry the tray high, that the dishes
won't get knocked off--pay $8 and begin your career of fooling the
public, or attempting to. However clever you become, however
wonderful the tricks you do, there is a certain set of the public you can
never fool--that set is known as managers. No magician has ever been
known to fool a manager; he might have thought he did, but you may (4 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]

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take my word for it, he did not. Next to magicians, the managers are
second in wisdom. They can scent a magician equally as far and well
as a magician can per-cent the manager. And all will tell you that they
made money on Professor Cinch, the great magician, by not having to
open the doors on the night he was billed, and the revival meeting and
the Ladies' Guild got all the people except those who were in Sed
Crapeel's store, "swapping yarns and drinking hard cider b'gosh."
Revere the managers and be kind to the Salvation Army. You may
want to use their band in front of the "town hall to-night." Almost as
important as securing dates for your show is a magician's wand. A
magician without a wand is as inappropriate as a massage rubber with
a full evening-dress in a turkish bath.
A wand in the hands of one who can talk and use some comic sayings
is potent beyond al traditional fame of its powers. The smart ones
witnessing a magical conjuring performance will say to one another:
"Oh, that stick is only for show. Has nothing to do with the work the
performer is doing." They are mistaken. It has all to do with the tricks.
It is used, true enough, to pretend that one must have this wand in
order to cause things to appear and disappear; but the real object of the
wand is to mislead the people who are there to be misled. While you
are explaining, by gesticulation with the wand in your right hand how
this and this is done, you are getting a baby elephant out of your back
pocket with your left hand. All these things will be explained a little
later on in the work--just why the wand is used and the many great
tricks which can be accomplished with its aid. The amount of money
one wishes to spend for one is wholly a matter of taste. The writer
generally uses a broken umbrella-stick or a lead-pencil or anything
which is hand at the time, as these things get lost very quickly and
they would cost a great deal to buy all the time, if care was not
exercised in the first place in buying them. One dollar buys a good
wand and one sure to last. In the chapter which will follow this I shall
try to write more on this subject and shall to the best of my capabilities
explain the great and diverse uses a wand may be put to by a
prestidigitateur. For the delectation of the old and the a amazement of
the young, do not forget that a wand must be had and wielded
mysteriously and often, and when doing tricks with cards, with coins,
with apparatus, a wand is indispensable. A wand will make the one
who handles it, properly, a wander(er).
Always do tricks with live articles, such as geese, rabbits, guinea-pigs,
chickens and pigeons. All audiences like to see this kind of tricks,
because they are surprising and, when well done, intensely mystifying.
This live stock is also valuable if your business is bad and continues
so, for a fire can be made near any water-tank on the railroad and a
goose can be cooked and supped on. You will be surprised to find how (5 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]

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long a cooked goose will last when business is bad. This is one
instance where it is profitable to "cook your own goose" But more on
this subject anon. (6 of 6) [4/23/2002 4:05:47 PM]