Propelled Pasteboards

Eddie “E.J.” McLaughlin – Magician and Gentleman

Among the hidden gems of the Swedish Magic Archive was this unusual and unexpected piece.  The adjective “unexpected” applies here because, though Christer Nilsson’s collection focused largely on European performers, this card features a distinctly American performer with a Bicycle promotional back.   And the back has a particularly distinctive feature: unlike many of the Bicycle-backed throwing cards, this one identifies the back pattern, a Lotus 808, with an indication that the back is available in red or blue, making the card more akin to a salesman’s sample.

Turning to the performer featured, Eddie “E.J.” McLaughlin was born in Clinton, Iowa in 1897.    According to Frances Ireland, McLaughlin was

“a life-long follower of the art. Although never a full time performer, he was a good semi-pro, and developed into an ardent collector of books and memorabilia. People like Eddie keep magic alive. He thought about magic or did something about it every day of his life. His wide circle of friends included an inner group with which he corresponded or visited at frequent intervals, always with magic as the basis of the friendship. These men were all brilliant followers of magic themselves, men like Charles Maly, Fawcett Ross, the late Tom Bowyer, and Sid Lorraine, and they, together with Eddie, tossed the magic ball back and forth, improving, suggesting, defining, furthering, all of them very sincere in their interest, and none more sincere than Eddie.”

McLaughlin became, somewhat famously, a close friend and frequent traveling companion of T. Nelson Downs.  As a result of this friendship, McLaughlin assembled a collection of Downs’s correspondence that would later prove important to magic historians.   He was also a friend of Dai Vernon and Max Holden, the latter of whom referred to McLaughlin as “a keen magician and a gentleman of the finest brand.”

Eddie McGuire, manager of the famed Max Malini, raved about genuine gold coin routine developed by McLaughlin.  McGuire was so inspired by McLaughlin’s routine that he developed a gold coin routine of his own (undescribed in the literature but used the fact that a shell penny fit over a $2 1/2 dollar gold piece), which later became a part of Malini’s performances.

McLaughlin held various jobs in business, industry and Government, most notably as an auditor for the Federal Housing Administration.  Magic periodicals document his involvement in the art over a half century, beginning with references in the early part of the 20th Century until his death in 1965.

McLaughlin was a quiet enthusiast who had an oversized role in the progress of the art of magic.  His name was never in lights, and it would be unlikely to find a poster trumpeting his performances.   All of which makes it so very nice to have this throwing card to memorialize his magic career.

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