Apologies for the delayed posting of more information relevant to TMWWE and its thesis that Milton Franklin Andrews (MFA) was Erdnase. Here's another installment:
Once Gardner had deduced that Edgar Pratt had been talking about Milton Franklin Andrews, he sought independent confirmation that MFA really was Erdnase. Unfortunately, Alvin Andrews, MFAs older brother whom Gardner tracked down and interviewed in Hartford in 1949, knew nothing about the book, and had never heard of Pratt, the Taylor brothers or any possible relationship with cartoonist Louis Dalrymple. Gardner wrote Marshall Smith regarding MFA and found that virtually nothing the artist recalled about the author corresponded to what was known about MFA (wrong age, wrong height, etc etc. See earlier posts and the December 1999 MAGIC article). So Gardner returned to Philadelphia to press Pratt for more details. When Gardner showed Pratt the photostats of the newspaper accounts of MFAs dramatic demise, Pratt finally opened up to Gardner and admitted that he had been talking about MFA. Significantly, he said that he never heard MFA mention the book, and had only heard his high school chum George Taylor mention it once, in connection with a sleight Pratt had asked Taylor about, to which he responded, Thatll be in Andrews book. Pratt claimed subsequently to have recognized the move in Erdnase when the book came out, though he did not identify the move for Gardner. On this visit he told Gardner that he had heard (though he couldnt recall where) that Harto of Indianapolis supplied the magic section. Pratt thought Harto [James S. Harto a performer and magic dealer] hadnt known Andrews, but that the printer got in touch with Harto about adding this section. A few things are worth noting at this point: First, Pratt did not claim that Harto told him about his involvement with Erdnase, and second, Pratt claimed that Hartos involvement was at the publishers insistence. Since the book was originally published by the author the latter claim seems suspect at worst and schizophrenic at best. In any case, Gardner pursued the Harto claim hoping to find the independent confirmation he sought. Unfortunately, Harto had died in 1933 and had apparently spent several years prior to that in a sanitarium. But Gardner was able to track down two Harto associates, Audley Dunham and Charles Maly, both of whom confirmed that Harto and Erdnase had some kind of relationship. Dunham had been an assistent to Harto and had worked in his magic shop. In response to a letter from Gardner, Dunham wrote: Yes, I have heard Jim Harto speak of Andrews he was referred to Jim by another magician the name of which I cannot recall at the present time [sic]. I spent many hours with Jim... and Jim referred to some part he helped on Erdnase. Dunham then talks about an auction of Hartos estate that he organized at which Waldo Logan of Chicago was the major purchaser. ...if I am not mistaken there was a letter in Waldos purchases from this magician to Jim in which some mention is made of Jim helping on Erdnase. Erdnase has never interested me much as I am not primarily a card man, there was however an original Erdnase in the effects and I also believe Waldo has that or may[be] J. Elder Blackledge got it I do not remember. He later goes on to say that Roltare Eggleston said something about Harto being connected with Erdnase. The rest of Dunhams letter does not mention Erdnase.
Maly, another close friend of Harto, was first contacted at Gardners request by Francis Marshall. Marshall wrote Gardner that Maly told her that he had seen the Andrews notes and notebooks, etc. in Hartos possesssion, and that Harto and Andrews planned a 2nd volume to Expert at Cd Tble [sic]. Gardner wrote Maly care of Frances Marshall on March 28, 1951, outlining Pratts claims, though refering to MFA simply as a gambler named Andrews and asking if Maly could confirm them. Malys handwritten response was in the margins of Gardners letter: Your informer is correct - Jim Harto did have contact with Andrews (Erdnase) or vice versa regarding a magic sectin in Erdnases book, but I do not remember any of the details. In fact, Harto showed me two letters, as I recall, from Andrews. However, since that was over 25 years ago - yes, probably closer to 32 years ago, I cannot remember any part of the letters. I am quite sure though that up to the time of Hartos death these letters were in Hartos file. Maly apologized for not being able to provide more information and suggested that Gardner contact Audley Dunham...
These two confirmations of Hartos association with Erdnase bolstered Gardners confidence in Pratt as a reliable source, leading him to reject Marshall Smiths conflicting testimony as mistaken. But I think it worth noting that neither Maly nor Dunham makes any reference to Milton Franklin Andrews, nor does either state that Harto authored the legerdemain section of Erdnase. Both confirm that Harto told many folks that he had collaborated with Andrews (Erdnase) on a project of some kind, a claim worthy of serious consideration. Time and interest permitting, Ill post some background next time on Harto that may have a bearing on this question.