Erdnase

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S. W. Erdnase is a pseudonym of the author of The Expert at the Card Table, a book detailing sleight of hand and cheating techniques using playing cards which has been in continual publication since 1902. Erdnase's true identity is one of the enduring mysteries of the magic community.

Contents

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. See more info at philadelphia music project and peregrine arts

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.

Candidates

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


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