Showing posts with label Germain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germain. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2019

Germain's Water Jars

In my quest to finish my podcast on Germain the Wizard, I failed to include one rather significant routine. That routine is Germain's Egyptian Water Jars. It's a very unusual routine, and a very difficult routine. It's been said that only Germain was able to 'pull the magic' out of it*.  What was this mystery?

Stuart Cramer in his book, Germain the Wizard & His Legerdermain, says that this was the trick Germain was best known for, but also the one effect that Germain disliked the most. Where the inspiration for the trick came from is not recorded. If I might speculate however, in 1906, Germain was in England and was known to spend many off hours sight seeing and visiting museums. Of special interest to him were the Egyptian collections. Perhaps seeing items from one of these collections led him to the idea.  He also had another Egyptian effect in the show, Rhadama, The Bride of the Nile, which involved a mummy and a sarcophagus. The mummy comes to life and dances around and then returns to the sarcophagus where it is seen to almost instantly turn back into the wrapped mummy.  In 1918, Germain put this illusion up for sale and I do not know it's whereabouts today.

As for the Egyptian Water Jars. Here is the effect: Six Large Nickel plated Jars are shown to be empty and placed upside down on a thin table made of glass. Then one at a time, each jar fills with water, which is poured into an aquarium or tub. In the case of the tub, it would later be picked up and turned over to show the water had changed to confetti.

In 1909, an unauthorized version of the trick hit the market. In 1910, Germain loaned his set of Jars to Martinka so that they could produce them and sell them officially. This was a rarity to Germain, as he was usually very guarded with this methods and secrets. In truth, he was guarded here too because he didn't  give Martinka the full 'work' on the Egyptian Water Jars. As with much magic, there is more  here than the audience knows and together an incredible illusion was created.

I mentioned earlier that 'no magician had been able to pull any magic' out of the Water Jars, other than Germain. That is not exactly true. Many years after Germain died, David Ben was creating a show called simply, The Conjurer. Among the mysteries to be presented was the Germain Water Jars. As it turns out, David Ben, borrowed a set of Water Jars from Jay Marshall and had them reproduced. The Jars that Marshall had were one of the rare Martinka sets. But I have no doubt that David Ben was able to pull the magic from this wonderful prop and present a truly fantastic mystery.

If you'd like to learn more about Karl Germain and his incredible magic, please check out my podcast #25 on the life of Germain the Wizard.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Highlights of Germain's Magic


In my previous blog about Karl Germain I mentioned that the poster of him with the spirit figure/witch and black cat was one of the most striking posters in all of magic history. (Part of that poster can be seen to the right) Though I had seen the poster image in my youth, it would be a number of years before I actually encountered his magic. This happened through two books The Secrets of Karl Germain & Germain the Wizard and His Legerdemain by Stuart Cramer that I happened to eventually track down. I found Germain the Wizard and his Legerdemain at Barry's Magic Shop and some time later I found Secrets of Karl Germain at Denny & Lee's Magic Shop. I was so thrilled because I'd always heard of the books, but they were long out of print. Yet, when I found copies I made sure to buy them and devour the contents.

One of the book contains a most unusual magic effect called The Block.  The routine begins with Germain passing out a long block of wood to an audience member to examine. He also has a wooden board that he passes out for examination. After they are returned he brings them on stage and holds the end of the block against the board and it passes right through. Quickly, Germain removes it and places that block against a different area on the board and it again passes right through. Finally, he picks a third spot and again does the seemingly impossible. If this thing looks as good as the photographs it must look like a miracle. One of the great benefits of much of Germain's magic is the naturalness and simplicity of the props. At least as far as how they appear to the audience. What could be simpler than a block of wood and a wooden board?

There is a photograph of Germain and a butterfly that I always found quite magical. Well that routine, called simply The Butterfly and here is another effect that sounds like a dream. Germain plucks silk scarves out of thin air, one at a time. He bunches the scarves together to form a sort of cocoon and suddenly the thing bursts open to reveal a very large silken butterfly spreading it's wings! I wish I could see this in action. The photos of the butterfly are amazing and I've only seen them in black and white. I can only imagine what they look like in color or in real life. A popular magic effect today is taking several colored scarves and turning them into a giant silk with a butterfly printed on it. But Germain's effect is so beyond that.

Germain's actual props for the Water Jar Illusion (Klosterman Collection)
Germain's Water Jars is an effect that I've heard about but never really knew all the details. It's been said about this effect that Germain was the only performer to ever really make it work. By that I imagine others had tried but never gained the notoriety from the effect like Germain did. Here is a description of The Germain Water Jars...Six Large Metal Jars are shown to be empty one at a time. Then mysteriously, each jar fills to the brim with water which is then poured out into a large tub. It sounds amazing. I've never seen it performed. I do know that David Ben had performed a version of it in his show The Conjurer, ten years or so ago. But I can tell from the description that most modern performers would avoid this effect for the simple reason that it's liquid and thus messy. But if other magicians from Germain's time tried to perform it and met with little success, then I'd have to say it belongs only in the hands of a master conjurer.

Ken Klosterman Collection
The idea of growing flowers was not a new thing in magic. Robert-Houdin was doing it long before Germain and then his flowers turned into Oranges! But most magicians were using some sort of covering or tube during the course of their flower routines. Harry Kellar used covers and had an incredible sequence of misdirection to bring about the conclusion of his trick. Karl Germain's father had seen a magician in Europe in the 1860s present some sort of Blooming Flower routine and it left such an impression, it's no surprise that a version of it found it's way into Karl's act.

Together, father and son created a number of different versions of the Growing Flower trick, but the final version was pure magic. It was called The Enchanting Rose Wonder. No coverings in this version. It began with a flower pot sitting on a three legged table. The pot was filled with soil and slowly little sprouts appeared, then more foliage and eventually the roses. And in Germain's version, the roses were clipped off and given to members of the audience thus proving they were real! To the left is a photo of the actual Germain Flower Growth now in the collection of Ken Klosterman. You can actually see a video of the Flower Growth in action on the DVD set for the 2011 Essential Magic Conference. During the tour of David Copperfield's collection, he actually stops and demonstrates the trick.

Many of my magician friends ask me "what's the big deal about magic history?". There are so many ways to answer that, but the above piece on Germain's magic just shows how inspirational a look back can be. Who today is turning silks scarves into a butterfly? And with the technology today imagine how much more incredible we could make it look. Jim Steinmeyer, one of magic's most prolific writers and inventors was inspired by Germain's Block trick when he created The Perforated Brick effect which can be found in his book Conjuring Anthology. If Mr. Steinmeyer get's inspiration from Germain, I think we all could!

These are just a few of the wonders from Karl Germain's show. I may put together a second article featuring more of Germain's effects. I'm also working on another biographical article. In the mean time, if you're interest in Germain is peaked in the same way mine was, you might want to track down the book Germain the Wizard by Stuart Cramer and published by The Miracle Factory. The book has been sold out for some time, but you might be able to find a copy at Denny's or on eBay. Until next time!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mattmuellar the Wizard

As far as posters go, the above image is one of the most striking magic posters ever created. I still recall the first time I saw this poster in real life. It was at the American Museum of Magic many years ago and I was dumbstruck by it's beauty. It was at this point that my fascination with Charles Mattmuellar began.

He was born Feb 12, 1878 in Cleveland Ohio. His first magic show was a bit of an impromptu thing where he presented a 'spirit cabinet' like effect for some friends. He was eight years old at the time. His mother forbid him to pursue the magical arts, but he did anyway. Eventually, his father recognized the talent that the young boy had and Mattmuellar the Magician was born!

In grade school Charles became known as Karl because of the number of other students in his class named Charles. The name stuck and he kept it for the rest of his life. As a magician, he would first use his last name Mattmeullar and then for a very short period use the name Alexander, after his idol Alexander Herrmann. However, when Karl had the opportunity to move into the Lyceum circuit, he was encouraged to alter the name again because there were already a multitude of 'Alexanders' in the show business world. Karl chose the name Germain, after the Marquis of St. Germain, a mystery man and mountebank. At first a mistake in spelling in an advertisement caused the name to be  spelled  'Germaine' with an 'e' on the end but eventually he dropped the 'e' and used Germain. He would also eventually drop the term 'magician' in favor of 'the Wizard' to round out the name.

Though in the early days his mother was against her son doing magic, she eventually got involved. It
(Ken Klosterman collection)
was his mother who apparently handled his money, at least in the beginning and did so well investing it that Germain was able to live off it throughout his life. His sister Ida became part of his act, becoming an assistant when he presented his mind reading routines.

Finally, and probably most importantly,  it was his father Charles Mattmuellar Senior who deserves a great deal of credit in the success of his son. His father helped build the famous Germain Flower Growth Illusion, using both carpentry skills and wood carving skills. They would build many versions and adaptations of growing flower tricks over the years. One of their creations was the forerunner of the Square Circle effect and a clever improvement to the Kellar Flower Growth routine which was then adopted by other performers.

I would imagine his father also built the first Wooden Block Thru Board Illusion and many of the other signature effects, possibly even the Germain Spirit Lock. I do know for a fact his father built the Germain Spirit Dial, which was a popular effect with magicians of the time, but Germain's prop was built by his Dad. The Flower Growth and the Spirit Dial can both be seen in the photograph to the right. Ken Klosterman owns a great deal of the Germain props and has a very extensive collection of Germain posters. I believe a second Germain Flower Growth is in the David Copperfield Collection, given to him as a gift from Mr. Klosterman. And recently, I learned the Germain Spirit Lock resides in Tim Moore's Magic Collection.

There is much to share about the life of Karl Germain as he truly was an amazing Wizard. At another time, I'll delve deeper into his effects and in a future article I'll share some stories of his life and the tragic turn near the end of his life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Influenced by Magic History

It is no secret that I love magic history. I've noticed a lot of folks who enjoy magic history are not performers or are former performers. My friend Denny Haney once told me that you could tell a performer who read magic history books from those who did not simply by the way they perform. In my case it's more than that. I take quite a bit of inspiration from many parts of magic history and I'd like to share one of them with you today.

One of my all time favorite magicians is Charles Mattmueller, better known as Karl Germain. I've never written about him before on this blog, but I think it's time to start including him. One of the things that fascinates me about Germain are his posters. He often used a black/red color scheme in his posters. Though it's very striking visually, I would image part of the reason was because it was cheaper to do than full color.

The poster at the top of the page lists him as 'The Master of Magic' but most often he was known simply as 'Germain the Wizard'. In this day of magician, illusionist, mentalist, mind reader and so forth, I kind of love the simplicity of WIZARD. There are only two wizards people know of today and they would be Harry Potter and Merlin, so it's not bad company to be in.

A few years back I needed a new poster and I decided to look through the many posters that other magicians had done in the past. This is not a new thing. Countless magicians have copied the Kellar/Imps poster. Escape artists and magicians who do escapes love to copy what Houdini has done. IF they don't copy his posters they very often copy the poses he struck in photographs.

I thought, the color scheme of the Germain posters was still appealing and so was the simplicity of the images. But I wanted something to make them more contemporary as well. My solution was to add the various names used by magicians, words like illusionist, conjurer, manipulator and so forth. I put all the names I could think of and used them in the background of the poster.

Then I decided to use the same font that Germain used in his name for my name, and just for fun I used the word 'WIZARD' rather than my usual moniker 'Artist of Mystery'. One other thing I did was add a quote about me by a well known source, The Washington Post. The end result, I think, is a very cool looking poster that gets it's inspiration from the past and yet looks quite modern at the same time. I hope you like it.

NEXT: Coming next will be an article about Two South American Magic Families.