Posted 6 months ago
Blackstone: World's Super Magician
By Chris Berry
By the time that the Globe Poster Corp of Chicago produced this offset window card (and identical companion one sheet) in 1948, the days of magic shows being promoted through detailed and rich lithography associated with Strobridge, Otis and Erie were gone - even if great magicians like Blackstone were still criss-crossing the nation, practicing their craft and mystifying thousands of theatre-goers each year.
This poster did exactly what was intended in the spring of 1948 -- promoting an appearance of Blackstone, a magician who had become a household name by the mid to late 1940s through not only his full-evening illusion show, but also a radio program and comic book.
It is interesting to note that the color scheme on this poster is nearly identical to that used to advertise Blackstone Cigars (figure 2). According to Harry Blackstone's first wife, Inez Blackstone Kitchen, the great magician (born Henri Boughton) had chosen the name during the dark days of World War I when the stage name that he was using, Frederik the Great, had become unpopular due to growing anti-German sentiment. According to Mrs. Kitchen, one evening while leaving the theatre they caught a glimpse of a billboard for Blackstone Cigars. The magician liked the name so much that he immediately appropriated it for his new stage name, and classic lithographs such as his "Oriental Nights" and "Burned at the Cross" use the black and yellow treatment of his name - a name which caught the imagination of the magic enthusiasts in the 1920s and which continued to live on after his death in 1965 - due in part to the success of his son, Harry Blackstone, Jr - another accomplished magician who performed with his own show until his death in 1997.
Recently a one-sheet of this same image promoting the "World's Super Magician" was restored by the artisans at Posterfix in Brooklyn, New York. A video of that restoration process can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RX97GxCe8Oc
Many of the Blackstone posters of this era survive, in part, because of the efforts of Richard L. Berry (figure 3) who, along with his wife Phyllis, was an assistant to Blackstone during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Berry, an early collector of magical ephemera and props, would gather posters, programs and other material associated with the Blackstone Show at the conclusion of performances and at the end of the "season". Through his foresight and generosity much of that material is now preserved in the archives of magic collectors around the world.
As for the Hartman Theatre.... At the time that this poster was put up in a store window in Columbus, Ohio it was a showplace (figure 4). Built in 1911 it was one of the pre-eminent legitimate theatres in Ohio. By 1971 its owners found it to no longer be a viable venue, and like so many other great theatres of the early 20th Century it was demolished that year as part of an urban renewal plan for downtown Columbus.