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James C. Wobensmith

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James C. Wobensmith (February 9, 1879 - Dec. 28, 1973), born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was an author, an attorney who patented many of Thurston’s illusions and President of the S.A.M.

James C. Wobensmith
BornFebruary 09, 1879
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedDecember 28, 1973 (age 94)


Wobensmith fought in the Spanish American War and later became a patent attorney. He also performed magic and was a lecturer on silly patents.

Thurston employed Wobensmith for decades to patent and present new illusions for his "Wonder Show of the Universe." Among the illusions patented (or attempted to patent) were:

  • The Levitation of Princess Karnack
  • Edward Massey’s Vivisection
  • Vanishing Whippet
  • Mystic Follies
  • The Million-Dollar Mystery
  • Iasia
  • Buried Alive or Submerged Casket
  • Edward Massey’s Piercing

Correspondence confirmed that Thurston was somewhat of a cheapskate when it came to paying for patent work, always asking Wobensmith to give him a discount.

He was very active in the magic community. A member of the Yogi Club, one of the early magic organizations in Philadelphia (founded in 1906). He was a founding member of both I.B.M. Ring #6 and S.A.M. Assembly #4 in Philadelphia. He succeeded Theo Hardeen as President of the S.A.M. in 1930.

Wobensmith wrote a series of articles in The Sphinx on patenting and protecting magical ideas and wrote a limited publication of magical patents.

He created a number of magic effects. Most famous was an improvement to the Afghan Bands by using muslin, which could be torn instead of the normal cutting. He also added additional twists that allowed for even more effects. Other effects he marketed were "Ultimate Rope and Ring Trick" and "Three Balls on a Ring."

His wife Josephine died in 1970, after 71 years of marriage and he eventually moved to a retirement home. He sold his collection to a scoundrel who agreed to pay him $2,000, but never did. The collection was later severely damaged in floods.[1][2]

Honors and Awards

  • Cover of The Sphinx magazine, July 1930.
  • A bronze bust was created in his honor and installed in the S.A.M. Hall of Fame


  1. Obit. Genii 1973 October