Origins of the Through the Fist Flourish?

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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 01/02/07 08:53 PM

This may seem like an odd bit of minutiae to worry about, but can anyone point me to the earliest known reference to the Through the Fist Flourish, generally associated with Vernon? The earliest I've been able to find is an Ed Marlo entry in The New Tops (May 1966), where he refers to it as the "Push Thru Flourish", but I'm certain there's something before that.

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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/02/07 10:36 PM

Since Jon R. generally refers to it as Vernon's, I'm sure there must be an item in the printed record that pre-dates the Marlo citation.
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Postby Max Maven » 01/03/07 01:11 AM

A precursor can be found in the March 1918 Thayer's Magical Bulletin as "A Neat Card Move," credited to a Los Angeles magician named Konnor.

That said, the action is akin to a standard element of cigarette manipulation. The latter goes back to the 19th century, so the odds of someone having applied it to playing cards prior to 1918 are pretty good.
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Postby Guest » 01/03/07 11:21 AM


There are a couple of aspects to consider regarding this move: (1) Its basic mechanics; (2) Its application or how it is used.

The first time I ran across this move was in Edward Marlos The Cardician (1953) in a trick titled Quick Sands (pp. 112-113), which uses a four-card packet. The purpose was to turn over the packet as it is pushed through the hand to apparently change the color of the backs from blue to red.

During the packet trick craze in the 70s, the same mechanics were extensively used as a flourish preceding transformations or reversals. It can be used to change or retain the disposition of the card, packet, or deck. In other words, it can be used to turn it over or not turn over.

As Max Maven points out, the same mechanics of using the thumb to push an object through a hand where the fingers are curled or closed and the hand turns from palm up to palm down has been used in cigarette manipulation, primarily to reproduce a thumb-palmed cigarette. It has also been applied to knives, paddles, and business cards as mentioned in At the Table (1984), pp. 157. In the aforementioned book I also said that the move was often credited to Dai Vernon. (See In Lieu of the Thru-the-Fist Flourish.). I published a short citation in Good Turns (1977) that made the analogy to the color-changing knife turnover and mentioned the Cardician reference.

The credit to Vernon is something I continually heard voiced by others, but I never found such a credit in print. The closest citation is in Dai Vernons Ultimate Secrets of Card Magic where Larry Jennings applied the move to a trick titled The Changing of the Guard (pp. 75-81). Karl Fulves credited Vernon when he wrote up and published Sam Schwartzs Back Flip but its exact provenance is not clear. (Karl Fulves called it Vernons Twisting Move, which creates a bit of confusion since many magicians associate the twisting move with the flat, horizontal, circular end-to-end movement used in the classic Twisting the Aces. The first time I saw the Through-the-Fist maneuver applied to a packet was in Bob Walkers Fisting the Aces, a routine I explained in my first set of lecture notes in 1975.

Much later I ran across the same maneuver in Thayers Magical Bulletin (March-1918) by Konnor; however, whereas Konnor uses the left thumb and the palm-up-to-palm-down mechanics, he applies it differently. He used a deck and uses the mechanics to make a single card (selection) rise from the top of the turned hand. He does not push the entire deck through the hand. If you look at the three illustrations, however, you get the impression of the Through-the-Fist mechanics. Close, but no cigar.

So, for some the matter of provenance is still an open question.

The basic mechanics precedes anything done with cards. The inventor? Beats me. It may be easier to credit Dai Vernon than to recite the capsulized history just given.

How you apply the mechanics is more important and that history is another matter.



Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 01/03/07 03:10 PM

Thanks Richard, Max, and Jon. I have to admit now that I lied a bit in my original post. I came across a reference of the move applied to cards that is earlier than everything mentioned so far. Since the move had been generally attributed to Vernon, however, and my reference comes before the time Vernon started getting around, I wanted to get a sense of what was already known before presenting what I had to offer.

In The Art of Magic, by Downs/Hilliard, there are two methods for the Cards up the Sleeve. The second method is where I stumbled across this concept. Towards the end of the initial phase, when there are three cards left, a short series of manipulations are executed with the three cards. Hidden among these is the idea of using the actions of the Through the Fist Flourish to cause the appearance of the cards rising out of the left hand. In this sense, it is similar to the Konnor idea. However, note that here it is the full packet of three cards that are rising, not just a single card. A full page is given to a description of the mechanics.

The routine is not Downs' method (his is the first method given for Cards up the Sleeve), and no mention is given of who it might belong to. It does seem, though, that we can push the application of the idea to cards back another nine years.

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