Magic Organizations, Fraternities and Societies.
Prior to 1900
There were not many formally organized fraternities of magic in the world in prior to the 1900s outside of local social clubs.
L'Academie was the first French Society and possibly the first in the world, although there were very early German and Indian clubs and The Conjurers' Club in Florence, Italy was in existence in 1887.
By the late 1800s, there were small groups in the United States gathering, like those that assembled in the "Martinka's Little Back Shop." Known among themselves as "SATURDAY KNIGHTS," for the fact that it was mostly a Saturday night event. These gatherings resulted in a series of social entertainments. Quite possibly the first for magicians by magicians, which were initially held in a little private theater of Martinka & Co. in New York.
The first real impetus of creating a club for magicians most likely came as a direct result of the first periodical published in United State devoted to the interests of magic, Mahatma, which began publishing in 1895. This periodical introduced magicians to each other and fostered a fraternal feeling as can be seen in a letter published in Vol 3, No. 10 of Mahatma: "If all readers of MAHATMA will send their address to E. L. Kiley, 32 Franlilin St., Cleveland, Ohio, steps will be taken to organize a "Mahatma Club," for the self improvement of the followers of the art."
That same year, W. D. LeRoy of Boston, Massachusetts was one of the first to attempt bringing those interested in the art together in an organized body when he proposed the "Grand Lodge of The Magic Mystic Fraternity". On January 14, 1896, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of the State of Massachusetts issued a charter for a corporation to be known as "The Magic Mystic Fraternity." Its objective was to "unite fraternally, acceptable men who are recognized performers of ability in the art of magic or sleight-of-hand, or who possess some skill in legerdemain, and the establishment and maintenance of a place for social meetings". However, the Magic Mystic Fraternity did not seem to have gotten any further than to "incorporate," and nothing more was heard of it. LeRoy, however, later organized and became the first President of The Conjurers' Club in Boston. The slogan for the club was "Work-Eat-Play", which was still going strong in 1918.
In March, 1902, the Sphinx magazine began publishing. In its May issue that year the editorial stated: "Last November I devised a scheme for creating a friendship among all magicians and lovers of magic. I called my society "The Order of The Sphinx." W. D. LeRoy, the Boston agent for the Sphinx at the time, was one of the first to send in his application for membership.
However, a few weeks later after learning about the existence of the newly formed Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) in New York at Martinka's magic shop (made up of those "Saturday Knights"), "The Order of The Sphinx" was disbanded. They decided to put their efforts into the helping the SAM. LeRoy became member 33 when he was admitted at the first regular monthly meeting of the S.A.M. on June 7, 1902. At the end of 1902, they already had over 100 members.
By early 1905, word was spreading around the world about the S.A.M. and magicians from London, England even made inquiries for information regarding organization of a Society of Magicians overseas. However, later that year the British Magical Society and independent Magic Circle of Great Britain was formed in England.
On May 27, 1905, the first "Annual Dinner" Banquet of the S. A. M. was held at Hotel Vendome in New York.
Also in 1905, George E. Closson of Troy, New York began sending out a "Prospectus of the Brotherhood of Magicians". By the following year, Closson official formed and became the president of the Brotherhood of Magicians. This organization was most likely used to promote his magic business.
By September, 1907, Australian magicians had asked the S.A.M for information that might prove of service to them in organizing a society. The Society of Australian Magicians, as they were going to be called, change their name to the "Australian Society of Magicians" (A.S.M.) to avoid confusion.
It was not until 1908 that the first formal move was made by the S.A.M. toward including magicians outside of the United States. Letters were mailed by the president to the Australian Society, London and Germany. David Devant wrote back with sympathy in the movement, but when nothing was heard from Australia or Germany the movement went no further.
Also in 1908, The Magic Club of Vienna (MAGISCHER KLUB WIEN) in Austria was founded.
Cambridge University's "The Mystics" founded in 1909 lasted to the outbreak of war in 1914.
Some of the other local independent clubs, after the S.A.M. was created, were the Knights of Magic in New York, Demons Club of Baltimore, the Los Angeles Society of Magicians, Spokane Magic Club, Nashville Cercle Magique, The Magic Masters of Chicago (1910). Later came the Chicago Magicians Club and the Chicago Conjurers Club which took over the charter for the Chicago Assembly #3, Society of American Magicians.
The National Conjurers' Association was formed in 1911 by Charles J. Hagen. It became the first competitor to the S.A.M. and after it started to grow in number, efforts were made by the S.A.M. to combine but nothing ever developed.
In 1917, the Pacific Coast Society of Magicians based in San Francisco, merged with SAM as the Golden Gate Assembly.
In 1918, George E. Closson handed the Brotherhood of Magicians over to "Mystic," G. E. Heath of Carroll, Iowa and soon that organization fizzled out.
The Pentacle Club was founded in 1919, consisting of members of Cambridge University who were interested in magic as the successor to "The Mystics".
In 1922, The International Brotherhood of Magicians (I.B.M.) was founded by Len Vintus of Canada, and Gene Gordon of the United States, mostly as a group of magicians that wanted to correspond with each other via their Linking Ring magazine.
The Society of Osiris Magicians was founded by Thomas Worthington in March, 1923 and became incorporated in Maryland.
The Scottish Conjurers' Association was the fourth magical society to be founded in the city of Glasgow founded by Duncan Johnstone, Jimmy Findlay, De Vega (Alex M. Stewart) and Richard Armour in 1924.
The Mystic Thirteen was organized in 1932 in a novelty and magic store owned by Ed Schutz. Charter members were Robert Gunther and Carl Stenquist. That same year the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians (PCAM) was established in the western USA and the Wizard's Club was organized in the Midwest.
In 1938, the Magician Alliance of Eastern States (MAES) became into existance as an outgrowth of the Keystone State Federation of IBM Rings, which held conventions during the 1930s.
Around 1942, the Magician's Guild of America started in New York City to support professional magicians with the slogan: "For good entertainment, demand a Magician".
The Magic Dealers' Association was formed in 1946 and incorporated in Maryland in 1947 offering networking and services to magic supply retailers.
In 1948, The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (FISM) (International Federation of Magic Societies) was founded as international body coordinating dozens of national and international clubs and federations around the world.
The Magic Collectors’ Association was founded in 1949 in New York City by several prominent collectors of that era.
In 1951, the first attempt incarnation of the Academy of Magical Arts was started in April 1951 by William W. Larsen, Sr., whom subscribers to his magazine Genii became instant members. But the organization faded away when Bill Larsen Sr. died in 1955.
In 1953, the Invisible Lodge was founded as a club for Masonic Magicians by Sir Felix Korim of England.
Also in 1959, Ring 116 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. broke away from the International Brotherhood of Magicians and use the local membership fees to create and fully support their own new local independent club called the Windsor Magic Circle.
In 1961, when William W. Larsen, Sr.'s younger son, Milt Larsen, started to create the Magic Castle, he convinced his brother Bill Larsen Jr. that it would be a good time to resurrect the Academy of Magical Arts. The first members were again current Genii subscribers.
In 1968, Tony Hassini founded the International Magicians Society in July with the fundamental purpose of promoting and preserving the art of magic.
In the early seventies, President Johnny Ould of the Windsor Magic Circle encouraged the club to get reinstated as Ring 116 of the IBM.
In 1978, the Psychic Entertainers Association was formed as an international organization of members with a serious interest in the ethical performance of psychic entertainment.
The New England Magic Collectors Association (NEMCA) was founded in 1980 as a non-profit organization devoted to collecting books, memorabilia, and apparatus related to magic and the allied arts.
That same year, a concerned group of professional magicians met at The Magic Castle to discuss how best the magic community could combat the exposure being televised on the FOX-TV series "Breaking the Magicians Code...Magician's Secrets Finally Revealed" and formed the World Alliance of Magicians. It disbanded a few years later after shifting its focus to trying to stop the rip-off of magic builders and dealers in the magic world.
- THE ADVENT AND BRIEF HISTORY OF MAGIC FRATERNAL SOCIETIES IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA By Oscar S. Teale, Sphinx, January, 1928 thru June, 1928.
- Magical Socieities and the Amateur by Russ Walsh, Sphinx, March 1951.
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