ERDNASE

Discuss general aspects of Genii.
Rick Ruhl
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Rick Ruhl » July 7th, 2015, 9:32 am

And David Ben, in the new book The Experts at the card table, points to railroad worker E.S Andrews and even puts the family picture in.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 7th, 2015, 10:17 am

Jack Shalom wrote:I guess I'll ask the obvious follow-up questions:

Why Harry, and not one of the other candidates?

Is there a smoking gun?


Everything we know from the book and from Marshall D. Smith's description fits perfectly with Harry S. Thompson. This cannot be said of any of the other candidates. I haven't found a link with Louis Dalrymple but I have found a link with another political cartoonist. Martin Gardner tried to bully Mr Smith regarding the author's height and it may well have been Gardner who planted the idea that it was Dalrymple.

No smoking guns; he wasn't a murderer or a suicide :-)

For his full life story, you will have to wait.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » July 7th, 2015, 10:26 am

You have simply identified a 5'6" man of 44 years who lived in Chicago and was a magician.

Where's the evidence that this has anything to do with TEATCT or its author?

You've offered nothing to link the two together.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 7th, 2015, 10:33 am

Richard Hatch wrote:Certainly an interesting candidate! If his brother was a printer, why work with McKinney? To keep the family in the dark about it? The same argument was made by Gardner about MFA's family not knowing he was the author.
Why keep it secret from his brother magicians? Do we have other samples of his writing style to compare to Erdnase?

Looking forward to hearing more about him!


I said he was "a printer", Richard, not that he had a printing company of his own. Their father's firm had long gone and the sons had to find alternative employment with other companies. Hint, hint...

The reason why I believe that he used a pseudonym has been covered in my original post.

I suspect that he published two other books anonymously - and have good reasons for those suspicions. There may have been others. And there are a couple of contributions to The Sphinx. After his move to St. Paul, he became an Associate Editor of The Rotarian. You can find a couple of articles which he wrote for the latter online via Google.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Rick Ruhl » July 7th, 2015, 11:03 am

Are you doing an article or book on it?

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » July 7th, 2015, 11:58 am

Peter, do we know what happened to his extensive library of magic? It likely had a first edition copy of Erdnase and it would be great to examine that copy to see if there were any inscriptions, annotations, or other interesting features.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Brad Jeffers » July 7th, 2015, 3:47 pm


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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » July 7th, 2015, 4:37 pm

Without knowing more than what Peter has just shared with us today, Thompson is, to me, a surprising candidate, as would be anyone from the magic community of the time. My prejudice against the author likely being someone as embedded in the magic community as Thompson was stems from two arguments:
1. Erdnase begins the Legerdemain section by noting that magicians, whose books he has read and performances he has attended, don't use a system of blind shuffles, rather than the pass: "We are aware that all conjurers advise the shift or pass, as the first accomplishment... But so far as we can learn from the exhibition and literature of conjurers, not one of them knows of, or at least employs or writes of a satisfactory substitute; hence their entire dependence upon that artifice to produce certain results." (pp. 125-6 of the Charles & Wonder edition). This does not sound to me like someone who considers himself part of the magic community. It sounds like an interested outsider looking in and making a helpful observation. (As to whether the author was himself a card cheat, that is an entirely different subject. In the Card Table Artifice section he often refers to the "expert" and "the fraternity" and while he gives examples of where he himself was cheated, so clearly had extensive gambling experience, he never claims to have moved under fire himself, though he does not deny it either...)
2. It seems to me extremely unlikely that someone as embedded in the magic community as Thompson clearly was (friend of Houdini, friend of Vernelo, who was founding publisher of The Sphinx, Western representative of the SAM, friend of Dr. A. M. Wilson, etc.) would have kept his authorship of this book a secret from so many for so long. The author is clearly proud of his work and his improved methods, some of which (the stock shuffles, for example) he taught to others. Why would he not tell his magical intimates about his authorship of the book? Why would Vernelo not advertise it in the very first issue of the Sphinx, which came out the same month the book did (March 1902) rather than wait until the November issue, 9 months later?
I look forward to learning more about Thompson from Peter's forthcoming book. If a direct connection from Thompson to the book can be established (such as a provable relationship to McKinney or his descendants confirming his authorship), then he becomes a much more viable candidate, in my opinion.

On Marshall Smith's description: While I personally put a lot of stock in Smith's recollections, as the only really credible witness to the creation of the book, he recalled meeting someone clean shaven (both photos I have seen of Thompson show him with a mustache. Of course, he might have grown it after 1901...), who had come to Chicago from the East (i.e., not a Chicago resident) to publish his book. He also describes him as a reformed gambler, though how much of this description (like the confirmation of the name "Andrews") was prompted by Gardner's questioning is hard to evaluate at this point.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 7th, 2015, 7:48 pm

Richard Hatch wrote:Peter, do we know what happened to his extensive library of magic? It likely had a first edition copy of Erdnase and it would be great to examine that copy to see if there were any inscriptions, annotations, or other interesting features.


I asked his grand-daughter about his library. She has some books that used to belong to Harry but none of them are magic books. She does own a silver serving spoon of his which is engraved "The Wizard" and that's all she has pertaining to magic.

It seems that he disposed of his magic library later in life, when he started concentrating on his other interests - photography, genealogy, history and art. Apparently he was a good artist and that makes me wonder if he supplemented Smith's drawings with some of his own. That would explain a couple of things. :-)

Don't hold your breath about a book folks, I'll let you know if or when!

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 8th, 2015, 7:32 am

Richard Hatch wrote: Without knowing more than what Peter has just shared with us today, Thompson is, to me, a surprising candidate, as would be anyone from the magic community of the time.


Are you saying that "Erdnase" knew nothing about magic? There is absolutely no reason why he shouldn't be a member of the magic community. As Dr. Wilson said in 'The Sphinx', Harry never did public shows but he enjoyed showing off his sleight of hand skills. There are many "magicians" around today who can flick cards around but never do shows.

Richard Hatch wrote: My prejudice against the author likely being someone as embedded in the magic community as Thompson was stems from two arguments: [snip]


Magicians are supposed to be able to keep secrets. The mass marketing of books and tricks to the general public indicates that they blab all too easily. Harry had a secret and he kept it. Some of his close friends must have known but, full marks to them, they kept his secret.

Richard Hatch wrote: 1. Erdnase begins the Legerdemain section by noting that magicians, whose books he has read and performances he has attended, don't use a system of blind shuffles, rather than the pass: "We are aware that all conjurers advise the shift or pass, as the first accomplishment... But so far as we can learn from the exhibition and literature of conjurers, not one of them knows of, or at least employs or writes of a satisfactory substitute; hence their entire dependence upon that artifice to produce certain results." (pp. 125-6 of the Charles & Wonder edition). This does not sound to me like someone who considers himself part of the magic community. It sounds like an interested outsider looking in and making a helpful observation.


Just put "Harry S. Thompson" into the search facility of your Sphinx disc and do a check. He was attending performances by magicians regularly but he never did shows himself. He WAS an outsider regarding performing shows. He loved magic and he obviously loved his books. He was typical of the thousands of amateur magicians who join societies, read books, go to conventions and shows - but NEVER perform. There are many young lads in my local society who can run rings around me with their finger-flicking, but do a show in front of an audience? NEVER

Richard Hatch wrote:(As to whether the author was himself a card cheat, that is an entirely different subject. In the Card Table Artifice section he often refers to the "expert" and "the fraternity" and while he gives examples of where he himself was cheated, so clearly had extensive gambling experience, he never claims to have moved under fire himself, though he does not deny it either...)


He was an EXPERT - according to Dr. Wilson. He mixed with other members of the FRATERNITY in Chicago and on his travels. It is most probable that he witnessed card cheats and maybe was cheated by them, on his many train journeys - how else would a commercial traveller get around in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

Richard Hatch wrote: 2. It seems to me extremely unlikely that someone as embedded in the magic community as Thompson clearly was (friend of Houdini, friend of Vernelo, who was founding publisher of The Sphinx, Western representative of the SAM, friend of Dr. A. M. Wilson, etc.) would have kept his authorship of this book a secret from so many for so long. The author is clearly proud of his work and his improved methods, some of which (the stock shuffles, for example) he taught to others. Why would he not tell his magical intimates about his authorship of the book? Why would Vernelo not advertise it in the very first issue of the Sphinx, which came out the same month the book did (March 1902) rather than wait until the November issue, 9 months later?


The author wanted to make money. The book was obviously aimed primarily at the general public. It would sell in far greater numbers if advertised in the way it was. Annemann copied the technique, selling a book on "Forcing" as if it was a method of getting your way with women. Shoddy but true.

Richard Hatch wrote: I look forward to learning more about Thompson from Peter's forthcoming book. If a direct connection from Thompson to the book can be established (such as a provable relationship to McKinney or his descendants confirming his authorship), then he becomes a much more viable candidate, in my opinion.


I have suspected for a long time that Harry's brother, Frank Thompson, worked for McKinney but I have not been able to prove it. Recent events, however, indicate that some evidence of this may soon be forthcoming. The person with that evidence has so far chosen to keep it to himself, for the time being at least.

Richard Hatch wrote: On Marshall Smith's description: While I personally put a lot of stock in Smith's recollections, as the only really credible witness to the creation of the book, he recalled meeting someone clean shaven (both photos I have seen of Thompson show him with a mustache. Of course, he might have grown it after 1901...),


Of course he might. We have no photographs of Harry before December, 1905. Some people grow them, shave them off, grow them again. Ad infinitum. An artist is a trained observer and Martin Gardner must have been desperate in trying to force Smith into remembering someone shorter than him as someone much taller. I trust Smith; I don't trust Gardner!

Richard Hatch wrote: who had come to Chicago from the East (i.e., not a Chicago resident) to publish his book.


From memory, didn't he say that his accent indicated that he was from the East? Not that he had specifically come from the East to publish the book? Harry's father, Jeremiah (Jerry) Thompson, was from Goshen, New York State, and his mother, Josephine (Sampson), was from Duxbury, Massachusetts. Are those places far enough East for you? Jerry's sister, Susan Thompson, lived with the family for a long time and she was a schoolteacher. Don't you think that young Harry would grow up speaking like his parents and aunt? I do...

Richard Hatch wrote: He also describes him as a reformed gambler, though how much of this description (like the confirmation of the name "Andrews") was prompted by Gardner's questioning is hard to evaluate at this point.


That was his back story. That was the way the book was marketed. He wanted to make money. Gardner wanted Smith to verify that 'Erdnase' was Milton Franklin Andrews so that he could sell his sensational story. He wanted to make money also.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 8th, 2015, 9:35 pm

Tom Sawyer recently posted about early non-magic Erdnase advertisements, and linked to a Genii Forum post from Richard Hatch about a Mar 28 1903 Police Gazette advertisement for the book.

Here is an ad from Police Gazette from a week earlier (Mar 21 1903). It is the earliest mention of the book that I know of that is outside the "magic" press.

And here is an ad from Billboard from later in the year (Sept 5 1903).

[These last two links work fine for me in Google Chrome, but not in MS Internet Explorer. Dunno why.]

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » July 9th, 2015, 1:02 am

Peter, thanks for your detailed reply.
A couple of quick points:
It is clear from his book that the author knew quite a bit about card magic, including moves from very recently published books marketed to the magic fraternity. That does not mean that he was or considered himself a member of the magic fraternity and my point was that the voice he uses in the Legerdemain section implies that he did not consider himself a member of the magic (as opposed to the gambling) fraternity. Thompson was clearly a major player in the magic community, being among other things the Western representative of the newly formed Society of American Magicians. Whether or not he performed as a magician has no bearing on whether he considered himself a member of the magic fraternity. I'll wager that the young finger flingers in your local club who never perform consider themselves magicians and not outsiders. My argument is that the author seems to position himself outside the magic community, and in my opinion is unlikely to been as embedded in it as was Thompson.

You say:
The book was obviously aimed primarily at the general public. It would sell in far greater numbers if advertised in the way it was.

Please educate me on this point: How do we know it was aimed at the general public? It is not at all obvious to me that is was. In his famous preface (used as the basis for the November 1902 Vernelo ad), he does offer the book to the "public" and outlines those he thinks will find it of interest ("all lovers of card games"), but we don't know of any general publication ads for the book prior to 1903 and those early ads were not from the author. I think most early Erdnase researchers thought it was aimed at the gambling and (to a lesser degree) magic communities. How did the author market it? That is one of the big mysteries. To go over old ground on this forum: copies of the book were available in March 1902, but no mention of them earlier than September 1902 (in the Sphinx, without any purchase details) has been found. The first known ad (also in the Sphinx) is November 1902. I'd love to see an ad from the author (and not a middleman such as Vernelo or Atlas) in a general publication (OK, in any publication!) as I suspect it might reveal much about his intent and identity. No such ad has turned up to date (though the search continues!).

If a relationship between Thompson and McKinney can be shown (and not just suspected), such as Thompson supplying ink to McKinney or his brother working as a printer for McKinney, that would certainly strengthen the circumstantial case in his favor in my opinion. I look forward to hearing those details!

You say,
That was his back story. That was the way the book was marketed. He wanted to make money. Gardner wanted Smith to verify that 'Erdnase' was Milton Franklin Andrews so that he could sell his sensational story. He wanted to make money also.


I think this is incorrect on several levels. As mentioned previously, we don't know how the author marketed the book or to whom (other than magic dealers and gambling supply houses, assuming Vernelo got it from the author and based on the testimony of Edwin Hood's son Richard Hood, of H. C. Evans & Company). Gardner first interviewed Smith on December 13, 1946. He did not develop the Milton Franklin Andrews theory until October 1949, at which point he did correspond with Smith hoping for confirmation. But in his early encounters with Smith, although he did prompt him on the name "Andrews" (when Smith was perplexed by the name "Erdnase", which he didn't recognize), he seems to have been unbiased in his questions regarding Smith's recollection of the author. Prior to developing the MFA theory, Gardner looked for both magicians and gamblers named Andrews, hoping to link them to to book, Dalrymple, and Smith's description. I do not believe that Gardner promoted the MFA theory because its sensational aspects might make the story more marketable. In fact, Gardner was apparently dismayed by the sensational rewrite of his story by his credited co-author John Conrad that was published in TRUE MAGAZINE in January 1958, some nine years after he began researching this candidate. Gardner may have written the article for money, but I don't believe that motive was behind his promotion of the MFA candidacy. It is only thanks to Gardner's early research that we have most of the few clues we now have and I am quite sure that his motive in tackling this research topic was not pecuniary.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 9th, 2015, 6:58 am

Richard Hatch wrote: It is clear from his book that the author knew quite a bit about card magic, including moves from very recently published books marketed to the magic fraternity.


Harry S. Thompson had one of the four biggest magic libraries in America, according to Doc. Wilson. I think that the others were Houdini, Ellison and Wilson himself.

Richard Hatch wrote: That does not mean that he was or considered himself a member of the magic fraternity and my point was that the voice he uses in the Legerdemain section implies that he did not consider himself a member of the magic (as opposed to the gambling) fraternity.


He was posing as a reformed card cheat and writing a book on the methods of such people. He was posing as an outsider, not as a magician

Richard Hatch wrote: Please educate me on this point: How do we know it was aimed at the general public? It is not at all obvious to me that is was.


It was aimed at people who wanted to cheat at cards. All magicians are suspected of cheating at cards - "I wouldn't play cards with you" is a regular comment made to magicians. If a person known to be a magician actually were to join in a game, he would immediately be suspected of cheating.

Richard Hatch wrote: In his famous preface (used as the basis for the November 1902 Vernelo ad), he does offer the book to the "public" and outlines those he thinks will find it of interest ("all lovers of card games"),


Well there you go. He wanted the book to sell, so it was aimed at everybody with an interest in playing cards. How it was advertised and where it was advertised has no bearing on who wrote it. That is the mystery we have all been trying to solve.

Richard Hatch wrote: If a relationship between Thompson and McKinney can be shown (and not just suspected), such as Thompson supplying ink to McKinney or his brother working as a printer for McKinney, that would certainly strengthen the circumstantial case in his favor in my opinion. I look forward to hearing those details!


So do I. The person who indicated that he had such evidence initially offered to publish my research. He then decided to go it alone and suggested that we were now in a race to see who would be credited with finding Erdnase first. I have been researching Harry's life since April, 2013, and didn't want to be in a race. That's why I have submitted my case to the Genii Forum.

I don't want to get into an argument about Martin Gardner's motives. I am happy that he started the 'Search for Erdnase' and tracked Marshall D. Smith down. I am happy that you published the correspondence between the two of them. Without you three we would only have the book to go on.

From the book we know that Erdnase was an "Expert" at sleight of hand. [Harry was.] We know that Erdnase was capable of publishing a book. [Harry had years of experience in the printing and publishing trade.] We know that Erdnase knew about printing inks. [Harry was by then a commercial traveller, selling them and lecturing on them.] We know that Houdini showed Selbit a move which he (Selbit) then published before it appeared in the Erdnase book. [Harry was a friend of Houdini, so he had obviously shown him that move.]

The 'Card Through Handkerchief' effect was said by Roterberg to have originated in Chicago. He called it 'Penetration of Matter' and wrote --

"The following trick, which originated in this city several years ago, has since then become popular with conjurers the world over, being no doubt one the of best of latter-day card tricks. I can conscientiously advise my readers who, until to-day were unacquainted with the trick, to add it to their repertory." (New Era Card Tricks, 1897, page 57)

There have been twelve previous candidates for Erdnase so far, according to the article on MagicPedia. I have added Harry S. Thompson as the thirteenth - unlucky for some :-)

Would you, Richard, or anybody reading this, please show me any other candidate who ticks so many boxes as does Harry S. Thompson.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Richard Hatch » July 9th, 2015, 12:04 pm

Zenner wrote:Would you, Richard, or anybody reading this, please show me any other candidate who ticks so many boxes as does Harry S. Thompson.


Absent the confirmation of Thompson's connection to McKinney, I can think of a half dozen Chicago area magicians who tick of as many boxes: August Roterberg, E. S. Burns, Ed Vernelo, H. J. Burlingame, William J. Hilliar... All were in Chicago at the time, all had self-publishing experience, all could have had the knowledge contained in the book... I've researched all of them to some degree and don't think any of them were Erdnase, but let's take just one to compare him with Thompson: Bill Hilliar had extensive experience writing and editing magic, was considered an expert with cards (on one occasion filling in for Thurston on short notice with the audience none the wiser), he likely knew enough about copyright to explain the strange triple copyright, he worked for Frederick J. Drake, which sold first edition copies starting in 1903 and was first to reprint the book in 1905, he was employed by the Sphinx which was the first place we know of that the book was mentioned (by him) and the first we know of to advertise the book (by Vernelo, the publisher of the Sphinx). If one extends the search to magicians whose name was not Andrews, I'm sure one can find many who tick off many of the boxes you cite as plausibly as Thompson. That doesn't make them Erdnase, or even good candidates.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 9th, 2015, 12:08 pm

Zenner wrote: He was posing as a reformed card cheat


I don't think so -- he openly mocked reformed card cheats ("The hypocritical cant of reformed (?) gamblers, or whining, mealy-mouthed pretensions of piety, are not foisted as a justification for imparting the knowledge it contains.")

We know that Erdnase knew about printing inks.


Well, that's a claim I have never seen made before. Why do you think so?

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » July 9th, 2015, 1:55 pm

Pardon my brusqueness, despite a lifetime of effort to improve, I'm simply not as politically polite as Mr. Mullins and Mr. Hatch.

The issue with candidates like Mr. Zenner has proposed (that is - candidates for whom there is absolutely no supporting evidence beyond the nominator simply putting their name forward) ... is that they are a major distraction in a search with very little manpower behind it to begin with.

Mr. Zenner does not connect his candidate in any way with Erdnase or EATCT.
Indeed, when one reads between the lines of Mr. Zenners posts, it is quickly realized that he has offered nothing of substance in support of his statements.

Mr. Zenner has previously authored a book declaring Shakespeare not be the true author of his own works. Mr. Zenner's authorship of this work provides additional framework to his comments in this thread related to S.W. Erdnase and his authorship of EATCT.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 9th, 2015, 2:03 pm

If you want to compare Thompson's writing style to that of Expert, here is an article he wrote. Here is another. This may be another.

Here is Harry's grave.

Peter, one thing that comes up with every proposed candidate for Erdnase is "what do they know about cards?" That answer is obvious with MF Andrews, and one of the most important pieces of Marty Demarest's research into WE Sanders tied him to card tricks and owning decks of cards. I've been able to locate newspaper references to both WE Sanders and Edwin S Andrews participating in card games.

So what's the connection between Thompson and playing cards? Why do you believe that he had any expertise with the pasteboards? (I assume that you'd agree that for any candidate to be possible, he'd have to know something about card work.)

I’ve gone over every reference to “Harry S. Thompson” (and "H. S. Thompson", and "Harry Thompson", etc.) I can find in AskAlexander, and see nothing that supports the idea that he knew anything about performing card magic, executing gambling sleights, played poker or other gambling card games, inventing card tricks, or anything else having to do with the contents of Expert at the Card Table. The closest I can come is a statement that "he often mystifies his brother “knights of the grip” with his skill in sleight of hand", but that same passage emphasizes "“He is interested in magic more from the ethical and literary standpoint than from the operative side, as he does not give entertainments of any kind" (Sphinx, Dec 1905). That reference may apply to cards, but it may also apply to coins, billiard balls, silks, or any of dozens of other pieces of magic apparatus. It is a leap of faith to say it means cards.

It is quite clear that from about 1902 onwards, he was an active in corresponding with magicians and in the SAM, in contributing to and publishing The Sphinx, had an advanced collection of magic books, and even acted as a while as a magic book dealer (odd, though, that his ads for selling books in the May 1904 and Feb 1905 Sphinx did not include Expert.) Excerpts of correspondence to and from Thompson that were published in the magic journals always talk about collecting and history, never about him performing or being interested in card magic.

But I can find nothing that suggests he has any skills, experience or knowledge relating to playing cards that the author of Expert would have to have.
Last edited by Bill Mullins on July 9th, 2015, 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 9th, 2015, 2:15 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:[
We know that Erdnase knew about printing inks.


Well, that's a claim I have never seen made before. Why do you think so?


Offline, Richard Hatch pointed me to this line from Expert: "Nearly all standard cards are red or blue. Marking inks absolutely indistinguishable from the printer’s ink can be obtained from any of the dealers." So I can see why you say Erdnase "knew about printing inks."

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » July 9th, 2015, 4:58 pm

I have always read the reference to card marking in EATCT as Erdnase noting only that red cards can be marked with available red ink, and blue cards can be marked similarly with available blue ink.

Erdnase implies nothing further, and certainly nothing to do with a formal printing process.

Considering the obvious depth of his knowledge, that Erdnase knows how to mark a red or blue deck of cards isn't at all surprising.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 9th, 2015, 8:11 pm

Richard Hatch wrote: I've researched all of them to some degree and don't think any of them were Erdnase, but let's take just one to compare him with Thompson: Bill Hilliar had extensive experience writing and editing magic, was considered an expert with cards (on one occasion filling in for Thurston on short notice with the audience none the wiser), he likely knew enough about copyright to explain the strange triple copyright, he worked for Frederick J. Drake, which sold first edition copies starting in 1903 and was first to reprint the book in 1905, he was employed by the Sphinx which was the first place we know of that the book was mentioned (by him) and the first we know of to advertise the book (by Vernelo, the publisher of the Sphinx). If one extends the search to magicians whose name was not Andrews, I'm sure one can find many who tick off many of the boxes you cite as plausibly as Thompson. That doesn't make them Erdnase, or even good candidates.


According to Whaley's Who's Who in Magic, Hilliar "Moved to USA in June 1901". So, if he was Erdnase, he would have had to lose his English (Oxford!) accent pretty damn quick in order to fool Marshall D. Smith.

I can't work up the enthusiasm to go through all of the reasons why I cannot support any of the other candidates. I am convinced 100% that Harry was the man. You people can debate and obfuscate as much as you want to. Time will tell. It is now 01.10 a.m. over here and I am tired. Goodnight.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 9th, 2015, 10:06 pm

Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but Harry's nephew, Frank R. Thompson (son of Frank L. Thompson) was thought by Chicago police to have supplied the machine guns used in the St Valentine's Day massacre.

Go back to your regularly scheduled Erdnasia.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 10th, 2015, 6:04 am

Richard Hatch wrote: Absent the confirmation of Thompson's connection to McKinney, I can think of a half dozen Chicago area magicians who tick of as many boxes: August Roterberg, E. S. Burns, Ed Vernelo, H. J. Burlingame, William J. Hilliar... All were in Chicago at the time, all had self-publishing experience, all could have had the knowledge contained in the book... I've researched all of them to some degree and don't think any of them were Erdnase


OK Richard, we have both discounted the magicians you mentioned, for one reason or another. Let's stop clouding the issue and stick to our respective candidates. You have suggested several "Andrews" over the years but you have settled on one - Edwin Sumner Andrews. Was your first mention of him in print the article in the December, 1999, edition of Magic? So you have been promoting him as a possible candidate for almost 16 years (at least), compared to my promotion of Harry for 3 days. You should be able to defend your candidate better than my defence of mine.

They both appear to be a little short in stature and roughly the same age. Period. Can you tell me about Edwin's background in magic and book publishing? Erdnase certainly had knowledge in both fields and so did Harry.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 10th, 2015, 8:14 am

Bill Mullins wrote:Completely unrelated to the topic at hand, but Harry's nephew, Frank R. Thompson (son of Frank L. Thompson) was thought by Chicago police to have supplied the machine guns used in the St Valentine's Day massacre.

Go back to your regularly scheduled Erdnasia.


Dear Bill,

You are very good at using Google and the genealogy web-sites. Trouble is that you are telling me stuff, both publicly and privately, that I knew 2 years ago. I even supplied Find A Grave and MagicPedia with the relevant dates for Harry way before I let on about the Erdnase business.

If you want to do something really useful, why don't you track down the McKinney Bankruptcy File? If one person can do it then I am sure somebody else can. That would really be a feather in your cap.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 10th, 2015, 10:53 am

Zenner wrote:[You are very good at using Google and the genealogy web-sites. Trouble is that you are telling me stuff, both publicly and privately, that I knew 2 years ago.


Sorry to trouble you. Don't worry, it won't happen again.

If you want to do something really useful, why don't you track down the McKinney Bankruptcy File? If one person can do it then I am sure somebody else can. That would really be a feather in your cap.


If one person has already done it, no sense in me wasting my time doing it again. After all, I wouldn't want to trouble anyone.

And my cap has enough feathers, thank you. I do what I do for my own amusement, not to impress anyone. But doing has allowed me to become friends with a number of people whose work I greatly respect, and opened doors to rooms I never expected that I would ever be able to enter.

You've made your Thompson case, and it's not picking up too much traction. That's fine, this is all just a parlor game anyway. It's not like any of us will ever prove that anyone in particular wrote the book. This will still be a mystery after we are all long gone.

I personally don't think Thompson is any more likely to have written the book than Theodore Roosevelt. But if you ever find that he could do a shift, or a false cut, or even the 21 card trick, let us know. Then he might be interesting.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 10th, 2015, 12:26 pm

Zenner wrote: Can you tell me about Edwin's background in magic and book publishing? Erdnase certainly had knowledge in both fields and so did Harry.


Erdnase's knowledge of book publishing seemed to go no farther than hiring a printer. He screwed up the copyright statement. David Ben's recent reorganization of the text, and the numerous errors in the text, suggest that a good editor would have been helpful. Despite your claims that the book was "aimed primarily at the general public," there is little to no evidence that it was marketed to the general public -- something that a knowledgeable publisher would have done.

If someone with actual book publishing experience were intimately involved in the production of the book, I think we would have ended up with a different text, and that there wouldn't have been remaindered copies available so soon after publication because it would have been competently mass-marketed to the magic community and possibly to the general public.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby magicam » July 10th, 2015, 11:54 pm

Roger M. wrote:Pardon my brusqueness, despite a lifetime of effort to improve, I'm simply not as politically polite as Mr. Mullins and Mr. Hatch.

Those two, especially Richard Hatch, are vetting Zenner’s candidate in a generally respectful way and were focusing on the merits. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from their examples. Dick has done considerable original research over many years, and Bill, having the good fortune of access to an incredible array of online databases, has kindly put in the time to contribute (among other things) countless factual tidbits over the past several years. And whatever the merits may be of Zenner’s candidate and arguments, it seems clear enough that he has put some genuine effort into thinking about and researching his candidate.

Roger M. wrote:The issue with candidates like Mr. Zenner has proposed (that is - candidates for whom there is absolutely no supporting evidence beyond the nominator simply putting their name forward) ... is that they are a major distraction in a search with very little manpower behind it to begin with.

These remarks are truly breathtaking in their conceit, among other things. We all look forward to your cogent essay providing concrete guidance on exactly when one has enough evidence – and the type of evidence needed -- in order to safely post on this thread and thereby avoid “major distractions” to our paltry manpower. In my view, Zenner has clearly tried to make connections between his candidate and Erdnase, and has certainly gone beyond merely dropping a name.

Roger M. wrote:Mr. Zenner does not connect his candidate in any way with Erdnase or EATCT.

When arguments are boiled down to hard facts, couldn’t that criticism be laid at the feet of any person who has proposed a candidate? Please tell us a candidate -- and the facts about him -- that satisfy your criteria.

I sincerely appreciate your kind remarks about my work, Roger, and the only reason I’m singling you out is because it seems that you are the only one who has really gone off the courtesy rails, at least that seems so based on the exchanges in the last two pages of this thread. I certainly share your desire for focused discussion, but after reading your mini lecture to Scott Lane about the desired “tone” of this thread, find it sadly ironic that you seem to have lost sight thereof in some of your recent posts. For example, you slammed Zenner’s inquiries and concerns about the Seely/Crosby marriage and told him he was wrong. Your reason? “Because Bill M. has demonstrated over a period of years that his Erdnase research is, quite simply, second to none.” Not only did you possibly embarrass Bill (who to his credit quickly tried to temper your claims) but you also insulted Richard Hatch, David Alexander and Todd Karr, et al., all of whom deserve considerable credit for doing original research. We all have our moments; it’s just that in my view you have come on way too strong recently.

Speaking of facts and moving on to the merits …

Like Dick Hatch, I tend to doubt that a magician with any modicum of prominence wrote The Expert. Yes, the magicians’ stock in trade is secrecy, as Zenner points out, but as history shows magicians aren’t always good about keeping secrets, and if a magician wrote The Expert, I would think that someone would have eventually come forth with a name and some stories. It just seems very unlikely that a magician-author of such an important book could have remained unknown. Which brings up a question: when was The Expert recognized as an important book in conjuring literature? When did a critical mass of magicians start talking about and praising Erdnase’s work? Aside from ads and Hilliar’s passing mention, were any reviews done? If so, when? What did the reviews say?

On the other hand, secrecy, anonymity, and discretion would all seem crucial for card cheats, for their livelihood and personal freedom would be at risk, and in some cases their very lives as well.

It may seem like a dry and fruitless exercise to do a competent bibliographical study of the early editions and issues of The Expert, but what’s written in it and its physical existence are in my opinion, the best – and arguably the only – undisputable evidence we have to date. I’m not suggesting that solid bibliographical work on The Expert will yield the identity of Erdnase, but for reasons too lengthy to detail here, such a study could provide some very helpful clues. For example, one could look at the earliest Drake issues and see if the paper is the same as the original edition and if any Drake copies have a cancelled title page. One could also study Drake’s proclivities re copyright statements for previously published works; did Drake simply use the old copyright statements or did it update them or claim its own copyrights? Etc. One could also compare the physical structures of the first edition and the earliest Drake issues. The Expert was advertised in 1903 (by Drake I think) as a 12mo, but it seems that the early Drake issues may be 16mos. Assuming the original edition was indeed a 12mo and the early Drake issues 16mos, if Drake had the “original” plates (i.e., stereos, electros, or possibly the original linotype slugs), it would have been easy to reimpose the book as a 16mo. In fact, many publishers often did that sort of thing in the 50+ years preceding Erdnase’s book, largely so they could publish in a cheaper format.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 11th, 2015, 12:58 am

Clay -- thanks for the kind words.

While I disagree with Peter's conclusions, I welcome his interest in and contributions to the discussion. I hope my comments and questions are similarly welcomed. If this mystery is ever solved, it will be because someone decided that a particular person was worth investigating. If that solution is ever accepted by the community, it will be because advocates and critics have gone over all the relevant details until a conclusion is reached. By definition, everyone who is proposed but one will be the wrong guy, so the odds of proposing the right guy are small to start with.

As far as bibliographical inquiries go, one thing I'm curious about is how the material that is missing from the 178 page editions corresponds to signatures in the 205 page edition. Was a signature simply dropped? Or was more careful editing done?

I'd love to have clean, 100% size transparencies from a number of pages of a legitimate 1st edition. I think overlaying them on succeeding editions would be interesting. Are the later editions that we casually say are from the same "plates" really identical (allowing for age and wear)? Can wear from the printing plates be shown to accumulate on successive editions?

I'd like to see original copyright forms from other books printed by McKinney ca. 1902. The handwriting on the Erdnase copyright application is distinctive (to me); can it be shown to be similar to other documents from 1902 McKinney?

Which brings up a question: when was The Expert recognized as an important book in conjuring literature?


Two points on the timeline are worth noting:

1. Hoffmann's columns in _The Magic Wand_ starting in Sept 1910 are the first major recognition in the magic community of the book (although, per personal communications with Will Houstoun, Hoffmann was mentioning the text favorably in correspondence several years earlier).

However, this recognition could have withered on the vine were it not for:

2. Vernon's evangelism about the book starting when he was in New York in the 1920s. Vernon preached the gospel of Erdnase for most of 70 years, and if he hadn't, we likely wouldn't be having this discussion now.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 11th, 2015, 7:10 am

Bill Mullins wrote: While I disagree with Peter's conclusions, I welcome his interest in and contributions to the discussion.


Thank you Bill. Your kindest words yet. I don't understand why you are so anti-Harry and pro-Edwin though. Perhaps Richard will answer my query soon about Edwin's knowledge of magic and the book publishing trade. He seems to have so many supporters and yet so little evidence.

The handwriting on the Erdnase copyright application is distinctive (to me); can it be shown to be similar to other documents from 1902 McKinney?


I have a sample of Harry's handwriting from 1923. This is not exactly the same as that on the copyright application but there are a couple of similarities. For example, the tails on the letters 'y' and 'g' are straight lines rather than loops. I find that to be unusual but there are 22 years between the two samples and handwriting can change over the years.

My original posting of a summary of my research into Harry S Thompson was to establish him as a candidate. My reason for doing so has been explained. I did not intend to hang around and suffer the "slings and arrows" but I am still here. Hey-ho!

Messrs Hatch and Mullins at least post under their real names. I gather that Clay = Clay Shevlin. So I do at least know who a few of you are and feel comfortable in your presence. The anonymous lurkers who serve no purpose other than to barrack from the sidelines are to my mind the pits. Come out of hiding you cowards and let us all know who you are!

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Roger M. » July 11th, 2015, 11:06 am

Zenner wrote:The anonymous lurkers who serve no purpose other than to barrack from the sidelines are to my mind the pits. Come out of hiding you cowards and let us all know who you are!

Peter Zenner

I'll assume that this is a reference to those who don't provide full names to fellow posters, such that their identities are not made fully public in internet forum posts. This is the old internet nugget that claims a persons posts are somehow rated in response to the amount of personal information the poster chooses to share with the entire internet.
Ridiculous in any form, here it is here - so I'll address it.

Since I first posted to the Genii Erdnase thread in 2007, the owner of this forum has known exactly who I am (for example), has my home address (as a subscriber), my credit card number, my email address, my telephone number, and my full name.

Mr. Zenner, that you feel simply signing up on the Genii Forum a few weeks ago somehow entitles you to my (or anybody else's) personal information is a folly equal to that of your Erdnase candidate.

I await even the smallest shred of evidence in support Mr. Zenners candidate, and if I'm proven incorrect or dishonest in anything I've posted to date, I'll gladly eat my words with a public apology to Mr. Zenner, and will also humble myself before Clay Shevlin for offending his sensibilities and failing to meet the standards he's apparently set for this thread.

Beyond that, I will let stand everything I've posted to date.
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 11th, 2015, 11:18 am

Zenner wrote: I don't understand why you are so anti-Harry and pro-Edwin though.


I'm not sure that I am "pro-Edwin" -- I think I'm on record as saying that it is more likely than not that no one has yet identified Erdnase's identity. Therefore, Edwin S. Andrews is probably not Erdnase. The many coincidences between his life and the history of the book are fascinating, though.

And it's not so much that I'm "anti-Harry" as it is that I don't believe the case you've laid out for him is particularly convincing, for reasons some of which I've already gone into (and for the most part, which you haven't rebutted, although you certainly have no obligation to do so). I'm willing to change my mind if more comes out about him that strengthens the case.

We don't know much about Erdnase, but we know he knew his way around a deck of cards, and I've seen no evidence that Thompson did.

"S. W. Erdnase" is a very contrived sounding pseudonym, and for anyone proposed as being Erdnase, there should be a chain of logic that says why he would choose that as a name. That exists for anyone named "E S Andrews", and it exists for W. E. Sanders. It doesn't for Thompson, and I don't think the fact that he knew someone named "E. C. Andrews" is sufficient to sway me.

You may disagree, and that's fine.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 11th, 2015, 11:21 am

"Roger M" is Roger Moore, who used to play James Bond. Once you know that, it's easy to understand why he'd want some anonymity on the forum.

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Marty Demarest » July 11th, 2015, 2:39 pm

Lots of interesting new material here!

Bill, I question notion that The Expert might well have fallen into obscurity if it weren't for Dai Vernon. Certainly Vernon is responsible for a great deal of the book's success. But it doesn't follow that the book would be forgotten without him. In any case, the subject is regularly mentioned in discussions of Erdnase, and I think the facts deserve to be pulled out from beneath Vernon's rather formidable shadow.

The first serious correspondence I've been able to find amongst professional magicians regarding The Expert are the aforementioned letters of Professor Hoffmann. The first of these appear in 1903 and are extremely engaged in their examination of fine points of Erdnase's technique, and in their critique of his style. These make it clear that, shortly after its appearance, the book was already being taken seriously by some of the best minds in magic.

In 1905 an advertising note in The Sphinx describes the book as being highly in-demand. By 1906, Erdnase's technical language--the persistent use of "seize" in describing card handling, the Erdnasian usage of terms such as "jog" and "break"--was starting to spread throughout published conjuring. By 1911 The Expert had been praised, plagiarized, cited or annotated by T. Nelson Downs, Hatton and Plate, Ellis Stanyon, Devant and Maskelyne, and Professor Hoffmann. Multiple editions of The Expert were published before Dai Vernon even arrived in New York City in 1913. By then the book was already influential, controversial and successful.

While there is ample evidence that Vernon subsequently did more than any other single person in singing the book's praises, his influence largely ended with magicians. What Dai Vernon said or did had almost no effect on non-magicians. And yet The Expert sold (and continues to sell) very well to the general public. Vernon himself recounted that when he visited the offices of The Police Gazette just before they closed, he was told that sales of The Expert had kept them in business for several years.

Vernon might have made The Expert into a bible (and consequently turned Erdnase into the Holy Ghost). But Vernon was not single-handedly, nor even primarily, responsible for The Expert's success. The Expert is first and foremost a success due to its author and subject. (Whoever and whatever they are...)

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby magicam » July 11th, 2015, 7:53 pm

^^^ Many thanks for your input, Marty. Very interesting! I note especially the 1905 remark in The Sphinx that The Expert was in high demand. That might help explain the timing of the first Drake issue. What month was that remark made in The Sphinx? (I could not find it; the closest remark I could find was this in the Dec. 1905 issue: "The Atlas Trick and Novelty Co. sold so many of The Expert at The Card Table that their ad is continued this month.") In the correspondence you've seen, was any curiosity expressed about who Erdnase was?

Perhaps this ground has already been ploughed, but just in case … did a quick search of Sphinx issues from March 1904 to Feb. 1907.

Starting in the Nov. 1905 issue, and continuing most months thereafter until June 1906, Atlas Trick & Novelty Co., advertised The Expert for only 25 cents. This ad is typical:

$2.00 Worth for 25 Cents
THE EXPERT AT THE CARD TABLE.
By S. W. Erdnase.
Published to sell for $2.00. For a limited time we will send you this wonderful book for 35c post paid. Without a doubt the best treatise on the science and art of manipulating- cards. Embracing the whole calendar of Sleights used by the Gambler and Conjurer, describing with detail and illustrations every known expedient, maneuvre and stratagem of the expert card handler, with over one hundred copyright drawings from life. This book will prove of excellent service to the up-to-the-minute conjurer. Read this ad over again, then send your order at once. Address: ATLAS TRICK & NOVELTY CO. (Not Inc.)
154 Illinois St., Chicago.


From March 1904 through mid 1906, only W.D. LeRoy also regularly advertised Erdnase’s book (with many other books), with the following typical text: “Expert at the Card Table (a $2.00 Book), $1.00.”

To my mind, the reference to a $2 book indicates that the original edition was being sold, and that the price on the title page thereof was relied upon for the claim of a $2 value. So it appears that as late as the press deadlines for the June 1906 issue of The Sphinx, new copies of the original edition were still for sale.

But why did Atlas elect to bargain-price The Expert starting with the Nov. 1905 issue of Sphinx? Why the whopping 75% cheaper price than other dealers’ prices? Perhaps it was in response to Drake’s cheaper reprint?

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby magicam » July 12th, 2015, 5:49 am

Bill Mullins wrote:… While I disagree with Peter's conclusions, I welcome his interest in and contributions to the discussion. I hope my comments and questions are similarly welcomed. If this mystery is ever solved, it will be because someone decided that a particular person was worth investigating. If that solution is ever accepted by the community, it will be because advocates and critics have gone over all the relevant details until a conclusion is reached. [emphasis added] …

I also find Zenner’s arguments to be unpersuasive, and share the view that instead of baldly slamming them as worthless and inadequate, it’s more intellectually honest to address and scrutinize the weaknesses in his arguments. Unlike Roger M., I do not think your and Richard Hatch’s measured responses to Zenner are “disingenuous” or constitute “pandering” by any stretch of the imagination (else academia at large “disingenuously” engages in “pandering” whenever vetting a new idea or theory). Your respectful approaches will leave a record which will be read by future researchers should they come across, and wish to (re)consider, Thompson as a candidate, while the (borderline hysteric) non-substantive naysaying will be consigned to the trash bin as internet dross.

Bill Mullins wrote:… As far as bibliographical inquiries go, one thing I'm curious about is how the material that is missing from the 178 page editions corresponds to signatures in the 205 page edition. Was a signature simply dropped? Or was more careful editing done? …

Good questions, and it’d be surprising if someone hasn’t already at least figured out what text was dropped in the shorter version(s) of the book. My guess (without any evidence whatsoever) would be that the text was simply lopped off at a convenient point rather than condensed by editing – such a thing was not unheard of in that era, and one can even find examples of this in magic, examples being Laird & Lee’s abridged issues of Burlingame’s Herrmann the Great and Evans’ Sprit World Unmasked.

Without collating the relevant copies, it’s hard to say much else with any degree of concreteness. But one thing should be kept in mind when we discuss signatures in a book: it’s the number of leaves that is relevant, not the pagination of the printed pages. The last page number of an early Drake issue may be “205,” but when talking about signatures, we have to add the blank on the verso of pp. 205, for a total of 206 pages, or 103 leaves. Then, we have to bear in mind that some pages or leaves in a signature may be blank, and that, absent the publisher’s (or binder’s) excision of an odd number of leaves, a whole signature (or a book comprised of whole signatures) can never have an odd number of leaves.

With some extremely rare exceptions (pertaining to the printing of a book one side of a single leaf, like a broadsheet), books were always printed in formats to the power of 2, i.e., in 2s, 4s, 8s, 16s, 32s, 64s, etc. But (to further complicate things for bibliographers!) that doesn’t always mean that they were gathered and sewn in the printed format. For examples: many incunabula were printed as folios, but gathered and sewn in 6s, 8s, 10s, or 12s (the reason being that if folios were gathered and sewn in 2s, labor would be increased somewhat, and the spine would be extremely bulky on account of all the thread and thus more difficult to bind); and many editions of Henry Dean’s Hocus Pocus book were printed as “work and turn” 12mos (i.e., each forme consisted of two identical 6-page sections of text) and gathered and sewn in 6s. The upshot is that determining how many leaves are in a sewn gathering doesn’t necessarily indicate the format of a book, i.e., how it was printed.

Trying to tackle the signature construction of The Expert, I’d guess that all of the earlier editions of The Expert were printed as 12mos or 16mos (or possibly even 32mos gathered in 16s). I believe Tom Sawyer noted that there is a blank leaf at the start of his 205 pp. copy. I suspect this leaf would be conjugate with the last leaf of the first signature. Alas, if Tom’s copy has 104 leaves (i.e., 205 pp. plus blank p. 206 plus the blank leaf at the front of the book), neither 12 nor 16 divides evenly into 104 (nor does 8, in the unlikely event that the book was printed as an octavo). So this means that some leaves were added to the book (usually in pairs of conjugate leaves for sewing), or some were excised from one of the signatures. Or, in cases with ads in the front or rear of the book, the ads were printed as part of the book itself. That’s about all that can be said without doing a physical collation.

Bill Mullins wrote:… Are the later editions that we casually say are from the same "plates" really identical (allowing for age and wear)? Can wear from the printing plates be shown to accumulate on successive editions? …

Only careful examination of the type, leading, etc., from different editions and issues can answer the first question. On the second, it’s quite common for wear to show in cases of stereo or electro plates or (less likely) repeated use of Linotype slugs, much of which would often occur from the (mis)handling, cleaning, and storage of the plates, as opposed to the mere process of printing.

Bill Mullins wrote:… “S. W. Erdnase" is a very contrived sounding pseudonym, and for anyone proposed as being Erdnase, there should be a chain of logic that says why he would choose that as a name. That exists for anyone named "E S Andrews", and it exists for W. E. Sanders. It doesn't for Thompson, and I don't think the fact that he knew someone named "E. C. Andrews" is sufficient to sway me. …

All things considered, it does indeed seem difficult to escape such thinking. IMO, it seems very odd that the author would use three synonyms (“Artifice Ruse and Subterfuge”) for the main title of the book, but the ordering does make sense if one reads those words, and the letters in the author’s name, in reverse, arriving at “Subterfuge and Ruse [Andrews] Artifice” and E. S. Andrews. It’s as if the author decided to book-end a somewhat phonetic spelling of his real name with the clues “Subterfuge” and “Artifice.”

But of course we could be surprised if and when the author’s real name is established!

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Zenner » July 12th, 2015, 6:32 am

Bill Mullins wrote:Therefore, Edwin S. Andrews is probably not Erdnase. The many coincidences between his life and the history of the book are fascinating, though.


Apart from his name being a reversal of S.W. Erdnase, what are these fascinating coincidences? There were others with the same name as his who have been discounted. A link between his Seely and the Dalrymple Seeleys has not been established.

Here's something for you to ponder - Richard Hatch wrote in Erdnase Unmasked, “The same day that Gardner interviewed Smith, Richard W. Hood, the son of Edwin C. Hood, founder of H.C. Evans & Co. gambling supply house in Chicago, answered a letter from Gardner and told him that his father had known Erdnase well in the 1890s.” Dick Hood was born about 1882, so would have been very young in the 1890s. He would have been about 20 when the Erdnase book was published and his father had died 5 years before. If the Hoods knew Erdnase before the book came out then Dick Hood must have known who he was.

Guess what - at the time of the publication of The Expert, Harry's "aunt-in-law" Helen L. Hood was living with the Thompson family on Lunt Avenue, Chicago. Helen was Harry's mother-in-law's sister, so he was related to A Hood family. But I have not presented this as "evidence" that he was related to the people who ran the gambling supply house, because I have not been able to prove it. Is that coincidence fascinating enough for you?

Why would Richard introduce the Seely/Seeley business when he cannot prove there is a connection?

And it's not so much that I'm "anti-Harry" as it is that I don't believe the case you've laid out for him is particularly convincing, for reasons some of which I've already gone into (and for the most part, which you haven't rebutted, although you certainly have no obligation to do so). I'm willing to change my mind if more comes out about him that strengthens the case.


I have been through all of the 12 previously suggested candidates and I maintain that there is far more evidence for Harry being Erdnase than any of the others. Don't you think that Smith would have detected a trace of a foreign accent if it was Roterberg (German), Hilliar (English), Burns (Danish), Foster (Scottish), or L'Homme Masque (Spanish). That knocks out five of the twelve.

Don't forget that Smith was an artist, a trained observer. Then there is the age and height to take into consideration. We are looking for someone between 40 and 45 and smaller than Smith. Milton F. Andrews is ruled straight out (too tall and too young), William Symes Andrews was too old at 54, Roterberg was 37 (and German!), E.S. Burns was 27 (and Danish!), Foster was 48 (and Scottish!)

Harry was the right size and the right age, with the right accent and the right experience. He knew about magic and he knew about printing & printing inks and publishing. He is the ONLY candidate who fits all of the criteria.

We don't know much about Erdnase, but we know he knew his way around a deck of cards, and I've seen no evidence that Thompson did.


Have you seen any evidence that Edwin Sumner Andrews was an expert at sleight of hand and knew how to get a book published? Any evidence that he knew anything about magic? And yet he is accepted by many (including David Ben!) as being The Expert!

You may disagree, and that's fine.


Oh, I do. And the more I look at the lack of evidence for ALL of the other candidates, the more I am convinced that it was Harry :-)

All the best,

Peter Zenner

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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 12th, 2015, 2:26 pm

Zenner wrote:
Bill Mullins wrote:Therefore, Edwin S. Andrews is probably not Erdnase. The many coincidences between his life and the history of the book are fascinating, though.


Apart from his name being a reversal of S.W. Erdnase, what are these fascinating coincidences?


They have been well-documented in many places, including elsewhere in this thread.

A link between his Seely and the Dalrymple Seeleys has not been established.
Nor has it been for Thompson.


Why would Richard introduce the Seely/Seeley business when he cannot prove there is a connection?


Because it is an interesting lead which others of us may wish to investigate further (and have investigated, for that matter). If you hadn't reacted so negatively to what I found out about Thompson, I might be willing to try and strengthen the case for him. I've done it for Hatch and Demarest and Karr. But the attitude I'm getting from you is "Case closed, piss off", so I'll spend my time doing other things.


Harry was the right size and the right age, with the right accent


Right accent? Smith (a "trained observer," as you say) thought that Erdnase was not a native Chicagoan, and was from "the East" -- not consistent with the accent that a native Chicagoan like Thompson would have had.

We don't know much about Erdnase, but we know he knew his way around a deck of cards, and I've seen no evidence that Thompson did.


Have you seen any evidence that Edwin Sumner Andrews was an expert at sleight of hand


We know that he played cards socially, which is a stronger connection to cards than we can make for Thompson.

Marty Demarest
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Marty Demarest » July 12th, 2015, 2:34 pm

Magicam, yes, the reference to sales of The Expert in The Sphinx is the example you found. 12/15/1905, p. 118, "Among the Dealers."

I interpret that section of the magazine somewhat akin to Richard's notes at the beginning of Genii, where he often mentions products that catch his eye, or comments on the popularity of various items. In any case, it's certainly not a paid advertisement. And it comments on how "so many" copies of The Expert have sold, and notes that the success is linked to the purchase of additional advertising space. I find it a notable record of how The Expert was received by the 1905 magic community.

And thank you for contributing your insight into the binding of The Expert! I don't believe 100% that James McKinney & Co. bound all of what we call "first edition" copies of the book. (I think it's likely, but far from certain.) My reasoning comes from having physically examined many many early copies. But my research in that area is still in progress, so I'll be silent about that topic for now. Still, it is an interesting and possibly important line of inquiry. A business transaction concerning The Expert between McKinney & Co. or Erdnase, and any other party, could be extremely revealing with regards to the author's role and identity.

Bill Mullins
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Bill Mullins » July 12th, 2015, 2:39 pm

magicam wrote:
Bill Mullins wrote:… As far as bibliographical inquiries go, one thing I'm curious about is how the material that is missing from the 178 page editions corresponds to signatures in the 205 page edition. Was a signature simply dropped? Or was more careful editing done? …

Good questions, and it’d be surprising if someone hasn’t already at least figured out what text was dropped in the shorter version(s) of the book.


TMWWE (p 334) states that pages after 178 were simply dropped -- what I'm curious about was if a signature transition occurred here (or near here, if one accounts for following blank leaves or ad pages). My glued-up perfect bound paperback copies are difficult to examine for an answer, and I don't have any of the early cloth bound editions.
Last edited by Bill Mullins on July 12th, 2015, 4:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Tom Sawyer
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Tom Sawyer » July 12th, 2015, 4:05 pm

Hi All,

This is to address Clay's comments regarding my 205-page "1905" Drake copy. (The last numbered page is 205.) The final two signatures are 16 pages each.

There are 17 pages of advertisements, so even if the book's last page had been page 206, the mathematics still works out, as long as there is an odd number of 16-page signatures. (Whether this would be optimum for imposition purposes is another thing.)

Here is a brief quotation from a post I made on this thread in January. Even though I showed a little uncertainty, there is very little chance that the numbers stated are inaccurate:

"I think it is quite likely that the book has 6 signatures of 32 pages, and 2 signatures of 16 pages.

"The arithmetic seems to work out, unless I have made a mistake in my calculations. Six times 32 is 192. Two times 16 is 32. Add 192 and 32, and the sum is 224. That's the total number of pages in the book, including the 2 blank pages at the very front and the 17 pages of advertising in the back."


--Tom Sawyer
Check out my converted Erdnase blog, which now deals with older magic books: A blog about magic books . . .

Leonard Hevia
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Re: ERDNASE

Postby Leonard Hevia » July 12th, 2015, 4:42 pm

Zenner wrote:Oh, I do. And the more I look at the lack of evidence for ALL of the other candidates, the more I am convinced that it was Harry :-)


Peter--does that mean you have dismissed the circumstantial evidence for W.E. Sanders pointed out by Alexander and Demarest?

1. The fact that W.E. Sanders played with anagrams of his name as a schoolboy in his notebook and W.E. Sanders is an anagram for S.W. Erdnase.

2. The fact that Sanders purchased a large quantity of decks before heading out to the Rockies for some R & R.

3. The fact that Sanders was not far from Chicago during the crucial window of time when Smith met Erdnase around December 1901 at possibly the State Street Hotel for the illustrations.

4. The fact that Sanders knew at least one card trick--Mutus dedit nomen Cocis--which is published in Hoffman's Modern Magic.

5. Sanders compartmentalized certain parts of his life to keep things under the radar.

6. Sanders also fits Smith's physical and age description of Erdnase.

7. Sanders was also a published writer as was Thomson.


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