|Eddie “E.J.” McLaughlin – Magician and Gentleman
Among the hidden gems of the Swedish Magic ArchiveÂ was this unusual and unexpected piece. Â The adjective “unexpected” applies here because, thoughÂ Christer Nilsson’s collection focused largely on European performers, this card features a distinctly American performer with a Bicycle promotional back.Â Â 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. Â Â According to Frances Ireland, McLaughlin was
McLaughlin became, somewhat famously, a close friend and frequent traveling companion ofÂ T. Nelson Downs. Â As a result of this friendship, McLaughlin assembled a collection of Downs’s correspondence that would later prove important to magic historians. Â 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. Â 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. Â 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. Â His name was never in lights, and it would be unlikely to find a poster trumpeting his performances. Â All of which makes it so very nice to have this throwing card to memorialize his magic career.