Omaha Magical Society

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Omaha Magical Society is assembly No. 7 of the Society of American Magicians in Omaha, Nebraska.[1]

They held their first organizational meeting on January 27, 1921 at the Omaha YMCA. The following August the SAM Charter was issued with 17 names listed as charter members.[2]

Early meetings were held in members' homes until the early 1970's when an expanded membership required larger facilities. The club then starting meeting at a local church.

John Keenan became secretary of the society in August of 1935 which he held for the next 20 years. In 1956 the club held a testimonial dinner for Keenan to honor him for his service. Keenan willed $500 to the society to establish a magic club library. Then in 1993 the library of John Ilson was added to the collection of books to bring their library to nearly 1,000 books.

The first Omaha Magical Society Conclave was held in September 1941 at the Paxton Hotel. More than 100 attended, with Joe Berg as a dealer and Dorny as the MC for the Headliner Show.

In May 1958, Omaha hosted the National SAM Convention at the Fontenelle Hotel while Milbourne Christopher was national president. An appearance was made by John Shirley with his balloon act which brought him national attention, and he later appeared on several occasions on the Ed Sullivan show.[3]

Prominent members of Assembly #7 have included:

  • Rev. John W. Kelly, who served as national chaplain for several terms in the 1960's.
  • Pete Petrashek, who served many years as the National Society film librarian.
  • Floyd E. Brown (1902 - ), the first Secretary of the Omaha Magical Society and an active as a performer under the stage name of "Mirza".
  • Herbert W. Fischer (1904-1948), a prominent Omaha Attorney who held the #7 presidency for 12 consecutive years from 1932- 1944. The magic rev room in his home was decorated in Egyptian decor, and a frequent meeting place for the society.
  • Howard Westgate (1921 - ), as a teenager constructed magical effects in his basement workshop. His tricks appeared in the Sphinx. In 1939 while a high school student, invented the Westgate Bowl Production.
  • Howard Huntington (1905-1991), son of active magician Will ( who worked for an auto dealership), became a professional magician performing for school assemblies, county fairs and farm implement dealer entertainments in the Midwest. His presentation of the Hydrostatic Glass was mentioned by John Booth in Forging Ahead in Magic (1939). Huntington 's photos have appeared on the covers of Sphinx and MUM.
  • Rev. Charles K. Hayden, S.J. (1894-1954), a Jesuit Priest who taught physics at Omaha's Creighton University, was a craftsman of a variety of magic equipment. He is credited in the Albo books as the inventor of the Fu-Manchu Hand Chopper.
  • Roy Tatroe (1902-1965), build many mechanical Christmas window displays for local department stores and made a variety of magical devices and tables. In 1956, he won the Bromfield trophy at the SAM Convention in Havana, Cuba for his Shooting through a Woman. He won this trophy again in 1958 in Omaha for his levitation of a small auto with boy sitting in the driver's seat.
  • Walter B. Graham (b. 1923), became an SAM member in 1942. He won the Brunswick Trophy for the best stage effect (acrobatic cane) at the 1947 Chicago SAM/IBM combined convention. In 1949 he won a two prizes at the SAM Convention in Denver.
  • Johnny Carson, (1925-2005), attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He then became a radio personality at radio station WOW in Omaha where he hosted an early morning program called "Happy Ranch", as well as appearing on the new medium of television. He was a semi-professional magician, ventriloquist and MC for various club dates and county fairs in and around Omaha. He was a member of No. 7 for several years prior to his departure to California in 1951 to begin his career leading to host of the Tonight Show on national television.
  • Pat Hazel (b. 1961), billed himself as "Magic, Comedy, Wisecracks", at his farewell Omaha appearance in 1985. He went on to become a well known as a comedy show writer (one of the original writers for the Seinfeld show), actor, and as a warm-up act for comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He frequently appears as a guest on the late-night talk shows.

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