Old Sam Berland Trick

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Postby Guest » 02/13/07 01:23 PM

I was looking for swindles in old magazines and found this ad in a 1942 Sphinx:

Magician explains that modern methods used by radio programs in offering premiums to increase the sale of soap is really an old story.
He now proceeds to demonstrate a "Soap Sale" as conducted by "Soapy Sam" confidence man.
He requests the loan of a bill of any denomination and has it marked. Six bars of soap are introduced.
The outer and inner wrapper of one is removed and the borrowed bill is openly placed on the soap, around this is placed the inner wrapper, and finally around this is placed the outer wrapper. Its appearance again is identical to the other bars.
The bar containing- the money is mixed in with the other bars and both hands are shown to be perfectly empty.
Performer explains as the "main" prize has been "donated" by a member of the audience, he will give the second prize . . .
introducing a sealed package of Ivory Flakes, which is handed to someone in the audience.
The audience is now requested to select the bar of soap containing- the money. All are finally chosen and upon unwrapping them, it is discovered that none contain the borrowed bill.
The person holding the Ivory Flake box is requested to cut it open, and upon spilling out the contents the borrowed marked bill is found therein . . . spectator removes it himself.
No fake bars of soap . . . no switching of bars at any time. . . no switching of bill . . . no assistant required. , .

Has anyone ever seen or done this? Just curious about Berland's method.



Postby Pete Biro » 02/13/07 03:19 PM

Looks like you'll have to do a search and buy it.
Stay tooned.
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Postby Mitch Dutton » 02/13/07 08:16 PM

Bill Severn published a version of this trick in one of his books - maybe his "Best of" or Comedy Magic book. --Mitch Dutton
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Postby Guest » 02/14/07 12:36 PM


Thankyou for your help.

The only routine I could find, No Soap in Severn's Magic in 4 Acts is the vanish of a bar of soap with a sucker backstage explanation. Is there another routine that is the Soap Swindle vanish of a borrowed bill wrapped in a soap bar?



Postby Guest » 02/19/07 08:00 PM

Soap Pitchman Routine - Tarbell, Volume 4,attributed to both Tarbell and William Larsen Sr.

Postby Guest » 02/20/07 05:51 AM

Man this takes me back to my youth! An old circus magician (who said he never performed it) gave me this trick back in 1957 or 58. I actually put together a sideshow presentation based loosely on Tommy Winsors Suitcase Side Show. I did the soap pitch routine as the closer. It is basically a signed bill to box of soap powder/flakes.

The Sam Berland version of the Soap Pitch involves a method of stealing a folded (and signed if you want to) bill as you wrap it in the soap wrapper. It took advantage of the then common two layer wrapping that some soap bars came in at the time. I havent found any common brand today that is wrapped that way. Still the steal can be done.

The second part was a simple loader in the bottom of a Soap Flake box again exploiting the construction of the soapbox of the day. Boxes are no longer constructed in that manner.

Most of the dirty work was completed as the various items were put into and taken out of a small box sitting on the table.

Like much of Sams work, it was/is direct, well thought out, and fairly easy to perform. It could probably be used today as a humorous interlude showing how old Carney or medicine show pitchmen worked.

Somewhere in my files I have a set of the original instructions but I have long ago lost the slide loader, colored cards, and stick pin cardholders that came with the trick. I doubt if I have thought about this nice little trick/routine in 30 years! Thanks for bringing back some very fond memories.

Postby Guest » 02/28/07 09:49 AM

Murphy and all
Thank you so much for your response to my question about the Berland Routine. I was hoping that someone in the Forum had direct experience with it and I did.
That is what makes this Forum so great.
I will PM you with some additonal questions about the routine.

Postby Guest » 03/19/07 03:57 PM

The soap swindle is also in Tarbell book 4.


Postby Guest » 03/27/07 10:40 PM

The original Soap Swindle was the specialty of an old-time grifter named Soapy Smith. He traveled around the West but i believe he ended up in Alaska. There is a lot of information about him on the web, just google "Soapy Smith" and you can learn all about Soapy and his swindle.

When I was a kid, there used to be an "auction" booth at our county fair, with guys peddling cheap wallets and junk jewelry, and using the same come-on and techniques as the Soap Swindle.

Postby Guest » 03/27/07 10:58 PM

Soapy's great grandson, Jeff Smith will be reenacting the "Soap Swindle" at Melody Ranch in California on April 28-29th

You can read more here:

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