Remembering the SS Adams Company

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 11th, 2016, 2:20 pm

For more than 100 years, the SS Adams Company provided a huge assortment of magic and pranks. Many are now considered to be classics and are still popular. Although many kids bought their items, it appears that they originally were popular among adults who wanted a devilish prank to pull on some unsuspecting friends and colleagues.

I am hoping that we can have a discussion here concerning your favorite Adams products and any memories you have about them through the years.

Which tricks and pranks of theirs did you buy, which ones do you still have and perhaps use, and feel free to add anything else about the SS Adams Company who were such an important part of Americana. Do you have a top 5 or top 10 list of their products? Any interesting stories concerning any of their products?

It would be interesting to discuss their changes in packaging over the years. From white display cards and boxes to rack type hanging packages with yellow and green header cards and a variety of stretch paks with changing designs and colors. Which are your favorites?

Let's not forget the wonderful artwork! Those line drawings of responses to pranks and the drawings on the envelopes of the card tricks. Great stuff!

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 11th, 2016, 3:03 pm

if anyone had an Addams squirting swan I would love to acquire one. please let me know!!!!

Brad

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 11th, 2016, 3:41 pm

Still looking for that swan huh? Must be a tough one to find. I don't think I have ever seen one in person.

Maybe we can make this thread a want list request place as well! If you want an Adams product, let us know here.

User avatar
Steve Bryant
Posts: 1881
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Ballantine
Location: Bloomington IN
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Steve Bryant » September 11th, 2016, 4:18 pm

Check the book LIFE OF THE PARTY/A Visual History of SS Adams by Kirk Demarais. Also check MAIL-ORDER MYSTERIES, also by Demarais and reviewed here: littleegyptmagic.com/magic_october2011.html.

Perhaps the best memoir along these lines is the chapter "The Whole Fun Catalog of 1929" in Jean Shepherd's book A FISTFUL OF FIG NEWTONS (about Johnson Smith & Co.).

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 11th, 2016, 5:29 pm

Ah, Johnson Smith. The first catalog I ever had and still have it but without the cover and it's folded in half.

I remember that they had lots of ads for "mammoth" items. I was too young to know what that meant but figured it out soon enough. I must have gone through that catalog hundreds of times!

Concerning the swan, those resources may have it listed but Brad wants to own one.

Tom Gilbert
Posts: 789
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: NH
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Tom Gilbert » September 11th, 2016, 10:03 pm

I remember having a Swan many years ago.

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 12th, 2016, 1:27 pm

If the swan was made of glass which I believe it was, the number of them still in existance in good condition may be low. Of course, there are plenty of dribble glasses made of glass which still exist but the swan was probably much more delicate and most likely produced in a much lesser amount.

I think it's safe to say that Adams had many more pranks than tricks offered over their long history. Sam Adams began with pranks in mind. I believe it was Cachoo, a sneezing powder that started it all.

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 12th, 2016, 2:59 pm

the swan is/was glass.

Bob Coyne
Posts: 560
Joined: January 26th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Charlies
Location: New York, NY

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Bob Coyne » September 13th, 2016, 5:05 pm

I loved those tricks as a kid. One of my favorites was the color vision cube...I LOVED the method for that. The finger chopper was another good and fun one. I fooled many with that too. Nickels to dime was a really good one too.

I liked that little ventriloquism thing you put on the roof of your mouth that could make bird type sounds. That was good for practical jokes. I also liked the idea of that "anti-gravity" clear bottle cap with the hole in it, though I don't remember if I ever actually used it.

I could never get mystic smoke to do anything. Big disappointment...it had such potential if it worked! :D

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 14th, 2016, 12:05 am

The Color Vision from the sixties had a wooden block with metal discs glued onto each side. Great quality! Their Finger Chopper was terrific too!

I never got Mystic Smoke to work properly either. I was told that you had to rub the heck out of it to get it to the proper temperature for it to create the appearance of smoke risng from your fingers. I have a tube of it nearby and should probably give it one more try. Patience may be a virtue with that stuff.

Adams sold lots of classics such as Anti-Gravity and Nickels to Dimes. I used to perform both of them all the time when I was a kid. The quality of the Nickels to Dimes varied greatly over the years. They actually sold a plastic one which was terrible and didn't work! Adams was known for selling some things that were useless but as a kid, you were still happy to get them a lot of the time.

Their worst thing may have been Fantastic Coin. You got a white metal disc with a bad print of a Kennedy Half Dollar on it and a magnet. The idea was to vanish a coin. It's actually laughable!

I think that as the years passed, the quality diminished for many of their items.

Adams had some terrific classics such as the two mentioned above, Magic Coin Box, Hindu Cones, Chinese Sticks and many more. The joy so many of us derived from Adams is incalculable. Their products allowed us to enter into a unique world of imagination.

Jack Shalom
Posts: 807
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Jack Shalom » September 14th, 2016, 4:43 am

I loved the Disappearing Ink. Anyone have a recipe for that?

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 14th, 2016, 9:11 am

I don't have a recipe but do know that with age, the entire tube of ink loses its color.

The drawing on the tube of the lady's reaction after being squirted is fantastic!

Adams also sold an envelope containing a power that you mixed with water and loaded into a fountain pen. The writing would disappear.

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 14th, 2016, 11:05 am

I actually had some luck with the mystic smoke but only after an accident. I was under the impression the smoke would be created by rubbing the fingers, kind of like making a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

this is not what's going on

the material is sticky and stringy. The idea is to push the fingers together and pull them apart allowing the 'putty' to string between the two fingers. By lowering the hand these tendrils of gunk will float up into the air creating the illusion of smoke.

it's not a jaw dropping illusion, mind you. but I remember being pleasantly surprised with it once I stumbled upon the proper handling.

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 14th, 2016, 11:26 am

I agree that the way you pull your fingers apart determines the amount of success one has with it but I am also assuming that the substance needs to be prepared by rubbing it a certain number of times.

Geoff Weber
Posts: 40
Joined: July 2nd, 2008, 3:29 pm

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Geoff Weber » September 15th, 2016, 10:27 am

As I mentioned in another thread, I am developing a whole show based on the novelty products of SS Adams, Johnson Smith, etc.. The premise of my show is: "what if the products actually worked as promised (or imagined)"

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 15th, 2016, 11:44 am

I.M. Magician wrote:I agree that the way you pull your fingers apart determines the amount of success one has with it but I am also assuming that the substance needs to be prepared by rubbing it a certain number of times.


I don't recall having to do that with the tube I had. it worked pretty well. Now it's true you had to rub your fingers together in order to spread the gunk into a thin layer covering the finger tips. but I don't recall having to 'work it in' or 'heat it up' like clay or putty.

now, bear in mind, this was over 30 years ago and who knows how consistent the company, through its various management teams and owners, has been with their manufacturing processes. maybe I got lucky and got the one tube that actually worked!!!!

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 15th, 2016, 12:11 pm

Perhaps I should open my vintage tube and experiment. The tube I have is from the sixties but should still be good because I don't think the substance ages or spoils.

Mystic Smoke is still sold and is probably the same stuff it always was. It appears to be a petroleum product and may be readily available for another use. Please notice that I didn't say copied because I don't think it was ever manufactured solely for use as Mystic Smoke. I am thinking that Sam Adams or someone realized that it could be used to simulate that smoke from fingers illusion. Similar to when Sam Adams discovered a substance that could be used as sneeze powder. The problem with that stuff was that it was found to be hazardous!

Anyway, I can't imagine anyone actually using Mystic Smoke in any kind of performance but you never know.

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 15th, 2016, 2:00 pm

I don't think it was ever intended for real world performance work.

for a kid sitting alone in his room, however, it is ideal.

I'm sure the fumes help the illusion over time.

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25088
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 15th, 2016, 3:16 pm

Michael Weber taught me how to use Mystic Smoke so that it actually works and looks like smoke. Great stuff.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

Chris Aguilar
Posts: 1826
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Sacramento
Contact:

Re: RE: Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Chris Aguilar » September 15th, 2016, 7:25 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:Michael Weber taught me how to use Mystic Smoke so that it actually works and looks like smoke. Great stuff.

Did he also have a solution to the godawful smell?

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25088
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Richard Kaufman » September 15th, 2016, 8:32 pm

I like the smell!
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

observer
Posts: 342
Joined: August 31st, 2014, 5:32 am
Favorite Magician: Harry Kellar - Charlie Miller - Paul Rosini - Jay Marshall
Location: Chicago

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby observer » September 15th, 2016, 10:15 pm

Geoff Weber wrote:As I mentioned in another thread, I am developing a whole show based on the novelty products of SS Adams, Johnson Smith, etc.. The premise of my show is: "what if the products actually worked as promised (or imagined)"


including x-ray spex I presume?

And was it Adams that had the giant cardboard submarine?

................

The mystic smoke stuff, I thought it had been discontinued because of being toxic? (May be way off base re that one.)

Chris Aguilar
Posts: 1826
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Sacramento
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Chris Aguilar » September 16th, 2016, 2:41 am

Mystic smoke promo video from Houdini magic. :D



I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 16th, 2016, 7:55 am

I am now going to listen to Peggy Lee sing "Is that all there is"...

Jack Shalom
Posts: 807
Joined: February 7th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Brooklyn NY

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Jack Shalom » September 16th, 2016, 8:43 am

A disappearing ink recipe. Thanks you, Internet.

http://chemistry.about.com/od/demonstra ... .htm#step3

Brad Henderson
Posts: 4078
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: austin, tx

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Brad Henderson » September 16th, 2016, 8:50 am

I.M. Magician wrote:I am now going to listen to Peggy Lee sing "Is that all there is"...


it can look much better than that

Bill Mullins
Posts: 5191
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Bill Mullins » September 16th, 2016, 9:19 am

Richard Kaufman wrote:I like the smell!



Image

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 16th, 2016, 12:58 pm

I doubt that the fumes are toxic. If they were, many of us would show the effects. On second thought...

Tom Gilbert
Posts: 789
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: NH
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Tom Gilbert » September 16th, 2016, 1:10 pm

As a kid, between magic and mail order scientific companies selling various concoctions, most of us who hit our 50's and 60's are lucky to be here. I remember the trauma of my first bottle of disappearing ink. My mother had just bought a new light colored dress or skirt. I hit it with the ink, which brought her to really angry in a few seconds. It was an excruciatingly long time before it faded. Never touched it again.

I.M. Magician
Posts: 1015
Joined: August 19th, 2013, 10:49 pm
Favorite Magician: All of the very best!
Location: Magicville

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby I.M. Magician » September 16th, 2016, 1:32 pm

I have a similar story. My sister's date arrived to pick her up wearing a brand new white sweater and I came running down the steps with a bottle in hand. SQUIRT...alll over his sweater! He began rubbing it and it apparently left a yellow stain. Oops!

Geoff Weber
Posts: 40
Joined: July 2nd, 2008, 3:29 pm

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Geoff Weber » September 20th, 2016, 1:28 pm

observer wrote:
Geoff Weber wrote:As I mentioned in another thread, I am developing a whole show based on the novelty products of SS Adams, Johnson Smith, etc.. The premise of my show is: "what if the products actually worked as promised (or imagined)"


including x-ray spex I presume?

And was it Adams that had the giant cardboard submarine?



Yes x-ray spex is my first routine. (I am currently planning to do a kurotsuke type trick with it)

The Polaris Nuclear Sub (over 7 ft long!) (Fires rockets and torpedos!) was sold by the Honor House Production company

observer
Posts: 342
Joined: August 31st, 2014, 5:32 am
Favorite Magician: Harry Kellar - Charlie Miller - Paul Rosini - Jay Marshall
Location: Chicago

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby observer » September 20th, 2016, 6:34 pm

Geoff Weber wrote:
observer wrote:
Geoff Weber wrote:
The Polaris Nuclear Sub (over 7 ft long!) (Fires rockets and torpedos!) was sold by the Honor House Production company



I still want one!

User avatar
Doug Thornton
Posts: 523
Joined: January 18th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, Harry Anderson, Derren Brown, Mac King
Location: Gorgeous New Jersey USA
Contact:

Re: Remembering the SS Adams Company

Postby Doug Thornton » September 21st, 2016, 1:10 am

As with the Smoke From Fingertips, I liked the smell of Testor's glue, but I was putting together models like the Apollo Lunar Module.

I remember - in the 60's - when you needed a permission note from your parents to purchase Testor's glue (because kids were sniffing it).

Fortunately, Vinny, who owned the candy store (on Springfield Avenue in Irvington, NJ), knew I was a "good kid" and sold it to me without the note.
Smiles all around
https://www.facebook.com/groups/SAM161CALENDAR/
SAM 161 - The David Copperfield Assembly
https://www.sam161.com/


Return to “Magic History and Anecdotes”