Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wyman the Wizard...MORE

Wyman the Wizard
I wrote a blog article about Wyman the Wizard back in August of 2011. In that article I mentioned that 'the hunt was on for his grave'. Several magic books mentioned where he died, but there was no mention of where he was buried. I'm glad to report it's been found, sort of. I had narrowed down the cemetery to one in Fall River Mass, called Oak Grove Cemetery. There were several in that area and I had a hunch this was the cemetery, though I could not get definitive proof. I tried contacting some govt. officials in that area with no answers. And then I received an email from fellow magic historian, Gary Hunt. He had discovered a paragraph in an old Sphinx Magazine, which gave the exact location of the grave and sure enough it was in Oak Grove Cemetery! So now, I've got to travel up to that area later in the Spring and get a photograph of the grave so I can post it over at my deadconjurers blog. A HUGE THANK YOU to Gary Hunt for sending me the article with that information!

(from John Hopkins Unv. Library)
But I wanted to write more about Wyman and I began digging again. Milbourne Christopher mentions in the book Panorama of Magic that there were at least two songs dedicated to Wyman the Wizard. I just found one of them and it's called "Keemo Kimo Schottisch" by James Bellak and according to the cover was composed and dedicated to Wyman the Wizard. I do not play music, but if there is anyone interested, the entire sheet music is downloadable here

 Wyman seems to be a man of firsts. MAGIC-A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre says that Wyman was the first Americian born magician to do a full evening show of magic. The book, Annals of Conjuring says that Wyman was the first U.S. born magician to attain prominence. And the Illustrated History of Magic says that "he was the biggest money maker of the period.". Those are pretty decent accolades.

Peale's Baltimore Museum (photo by MKelly1990)
He apparently began his professional career performing at Peale's Baltimore Museum. From there he played a lot of small town school houses. His act consisted of marionettes, ventriloquism, memory feats and magic. The magic included the Aireal Suspension & Gun Trick he purchased from John Henry Anderson, the Inexhaustible Bottle, Egg Bag, Coin Magic, the Sphinx illusion and many other popular magic routines of the day. 

Wyman performed what were known as 'Gift Shows', which meant after the performance everyone in the audience was to receive a gift. He was known to provide nice gifts. No bait and switch for Wyman, if he promised a nice item, that is what he gave out. I'm wondering if one of the smaller gifts he gave was a 'Wyman Coin' because I have seen several images of his coins on the internet now.

Some books mention that Wyman only played 'small dates' but I'm not sure he could have become the biggest money maker of the period, only playing small towns. In fact, I know he played Richmond VA, Charleston S.C., Boston MA, NYC, and Washington D.C. among many places. So he clearly played all over. But he was around before the days of Vaudeville, so the types of venues would have been somewhat different.

Born January 19, 1816, John W. Wyman Jr. was known as Jack by his friends. He apparently wrote several books, one of which was called "Jokes & Anecdotes of Wyman, TheMagician & Ventriloquist" which was published in 1866.

His performing route consisted of areas east of the Mississippi River and also into Canada. I've seen a number of newspaper articles on Wyman that appeared in Virginia papers, so he was well known in the South as well as the North.

He died on July 31st 1881 and was buried in Fall River Massachusetts in the Oak Grove Cemetery.  I will post a photo of the grave later in the Spring.

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