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Research into the identity of Erdnase
Martin Gardner's research, now largely discredited, proposes that the real Erdnase was Milton Franklin Andrews, and that the book was ghost-written by William John Hilliar. (S. W. Erdnase spelled backwards is E.S. Andrews, lending support to the theory that Andrews was the author's last name)
There are numerous possible candidates discovered by David Alexander, Richard Hatch, and Todd Karr (among others), any of whom might be the pseudonymous author. The candidates by Alexander and Hatch have been profiled in (respectively) Genii and MAGIC, while Karr's candidate is identified as a Midwestern-based con artist named E. S. Andrews who was active around the turn of the century and whose biography seems to fit Erdnase's.
Milton Franklin Andrews
In 1946, Martin Gardner located the Chicago-based Marshall D. Smith, the artist who had done the drawings that illustrated the book. Smith gave his account of is single meeting with the author (44 years earlier). Based on Smith’s information and another lead provided by Edgar Pratt, Gardner claimed he tracked Erdnase to a cardsharp from Hartford, Connecticut, named Milton Franklin Andrews. Andrews died during a murder-suicide in 1905 in San Francisco just as the police were closing in to question him about the killing in Colorado. Smith was also certain that Erdnase told him he was related to the political artist, Louis Dalrymple. 1
Edwin Summer Andrews
Richard Hatch proposed a longtime traveling agent for Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, whose job would have given him plenty of opportunity to ply the cardsharp’s trade named Milton Franklin Andrews. The railroad man signed his name “E. S. Andrews” on his 1898 license to marry Dollie Seely in Illinois.
Also, Louis Dalrymple’s mother is Adelia Seeley (but notice different spelling) who was from upstate New York, which was the home turf of Dollie’s father, Solomon Seely.2
Wilbur Edgerton Sanders
David Alexander's research (with Richard Kyle) led him to propose Wilbur Edgerton Sanders, a wealthy and well-educated mining engineer and the author of a standard text on mining. His family was a politically powerful family in Montana.3
E. S. Andrews
Todd Karr's research focused on a con man named E. S. Andrews from Chicago that swindle businessmen and doctors and appeared to have had over $900 just before the publication of The Expert at the Card Table. Karr tracked E. S. Andrews life through newspaper accounts of his arrests throughout the country.4
Erdnase, The Musical
Peregrine Arts is in the process of developing, for Spring 2008, "Who Killed Erdnase?", a new music-theater work by the Ridge Theater and Gavin Bryars team in conjunction with author Glen David Gold.  
External Resources and References
- 1 The Man Who Was Erdnase by Bart Whaley and Martin Gardner and Jeff Busby ISBN 9781563010002
- 2January 2000 Genii - New Light on Erdnase by David Alexander
- 3Searching for Erdnase by Richard Hatch, Magic Magazine February 1999
- 4Is This Erdnase? by Todd Karr from Magical Past-Times: The On-Line Journal of Magic History
- Genii Forum Topic on Erdnase
- THE MAGICIAN AND THE CARDSHARP by Karl Johnson for American Heritage Magazine, which includes the sidebar WHO WAS ERDNASE? CARD CONJURING’S MOST ENDURING MYSTERY
- Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter Vol. 5 No. 35 – August 26, 2000 - Whatever Happened to S.W. Erdnase?
- The Expert at the Card Table: Artifice, Ruse, and Subterfuge DVD from Geno Munari (Houdini.com) contains a film characterization of S.W. Erdnase, interviews with Richard Hatch and Bart Whaley on the Mystery of Erdnase, an interview with Martin Gardner, "The Gardner-Smith Correspondence", "The Murderous Card Shark" by Martin Gardner and John Conrad, "Was Erdnase Abdul Aziz Khan" By Martin Gardner, and newspaper articles.