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University of Texas at Austin

Magic Collection:

A Preliminary Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Title: Magic Collection
Dates: 1787-2005, undated
Extent: 31 document boxes (13.02 linear feet), 3 oversize boxes (osb), 20 flat file drawers
Abstract: The Magic Collection contains clippings, correspondence, handbills, photographs, playbills, posters, printed material, and other items related to magicians and entertainers who performed tricks and illusions, including ventriloquism, sleight-of-hand, mind-reading, levitation, and other acts. Also included are subject files, publications, and magic trick descriptions.
Call Number: Performing Arts Collection PA-00054
Language: English
Access: Open for research. One box contains clippings and excerpts from newspapers that are too fragile to handle and therefore is restricted. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Documents containing personal information are restricted due to privacy concerns during the lifetime of individuals mentioned in the documents; in many instances, these documents have been replaced with redacted photocopies.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.


Administrative Information


Provenance The collection was originally created by Ransom Center staff using materials largely from the Messmore Kendall Collection, as well as the Albert Davis, Robert Downing, McManus-Young, George Schulte, and Anthony Wells collections, and the Harry Houdini Papers. The Ransom Center acquired the Houdini Papers in 1958 and because of the volume and breadth of Houdini's collected material, the Center's staff created artificial collections based on subject or format. Consequently, items and documents were removed from the Houdini Papers and formed the bulk of the Center's Magic Collection, Playbills Collection, Theater Biography Collection, Circus Collection, Scrapbook Collection, and Theater Arts Manuscripts Collection, among others. While processing the Houdini Papers in 2018, the attempt was made to return material owned by Houdini from the Magic Collection to the Houdini Papers. Items were removed from the Magic Collection and placed back with the Houdini papers based on the presence of Houdini's signature or writing, inscriptions to Houdini, the initials of Robert Evans, the initials of Houdini's librarian Alfred Becks, and the signature or initials of Henry Evans Evanion. Despite lacking signs of ownership, it is highly likely that the bulk of the remaining Magic Collection was originally part of the Houdini Papers.
Preferred Citation Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Magic Collection (Performing Arts Collection PA-00054).
Processing Note The collection is minimally processed; specific dates, series descriptions, and indexes are not included in this inventory. This collection was previously called the Magicians Collection, but when the magic trick descriptions were added in 2018, the name was changed to reflect the broader content.
Processed by: Jennifer Hecker and Erin Lawrimore, 2002; Amy E. Armstrong, 2018
Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin,

Scope and Contents


The Magic Collection, 1787-2005, undated, contains clippings, correspondence, handbills, photographs, playbills, posters, printed material, and other items related to magicians and entertainers who performed tricks and illusions, including ventriloquism, sleight-of-hand, mind-reading, levitation, and other acts. Also included are subject files, publications, and magic trick descriptions. It is divided into five series: I. Magicians and Performers, II. Organizations, III. Subjects, IV. Publications, and V. Magic Tricks and Illusions.
Series I. Magicians and Performers contains clippings, correspondence, handbills, photographs, playbills, posters, printed material, and other items related to magicians and entertainers who performed tricks and illusions, including ventriloquism, sleight-of-hand, mind-reading, levitation, and other acts. This series is arranged alphabetically by the name most often used; which may be either a given name or a stage name. Because magicians often use both, researchers should look in the container list under all names used by a performer.
Series II. Organizations includes brochures, catalogs, clippings, correspondence, photographs, printed material, and programs regarding magic associations and clubs, magic manufacturers and suppliers, magic publishers, and other businesses associated with magic and performance.
Series III. Subjects includes catalogs, clippings, ephemera, a matchbook, photographs, and printed material associated with magic, performance venues, spiritualism and the occult, tricks and illusions, and related topics.
Series IV. Publications contains article excerpts, magazines, newspapers, and similar material related to magic, performance venues, spiritualism and the occult, tricks and illusions, and related topics. It is arranged alphabetically either by title or author.
Series V. Magic Tricks and Illusions includes descriptions of magic tricks and illusions from various printed sources including from catalogs, magazines, mail order sources, newsletters, newspapers, and other magic vendors. This series was previously arranged alphabetically by the name of magician who invented the trick or who made it famous, by the publisher, or the magic vendor. The origin of this arrangement is unclear, so it was maintained during processing.
The Houdini Papers (some of his collected material is undoubtedly included within the Magic Collection) were housed in the University of Texas Main Building tower when it caught on fire on August 10, 1965. Some items were indirectly affected by the heat, smoke, and water used to distinguish the fire. As a result, a small portion of this material has water damage. The ink on letters is smeared and has migrated to other pages making some letters difficult to read. Other items, such as photographs were ruined or have adhered to other photographs or papers. Because of this associated damage, some photographs and other documents are restricted from use, but they are still listed in the container list.

Related Material


For additional materials related to magic and spiritualism at the Ransom Center, see the Harry Houdini Papers, the Harry Houdini Collection, the Carl L. Moore and Bennett Averyt Collection of Magic, the Scrapbook Collection, the Poster Collection, the Prints Collection, the Playbills and Programs Collection, the Albert Davis Collection, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary File Photography Collection, the Sarah Bernhardt Collection, the McManus-Young Collection, the Vertical File, the Literary Files Photography Collection, and the Ransom Center's library holdings.

Index Terms


Subjects

Entertainers.
Escape artists.
Jugglers.
Magic tricks.
Magicians.
Spiritualism.
Vaudeville.
Ventriloquist.

Document Types

Broadsides.
Clippings.
Correspondence.
Handbills.
Photographs.
Posters.
Scrapbooks.

Container List