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Created: 09/12/2019
Updated: 01/23/2022

Edward Gallaway is S. W. Erdnase

by Chris Wasshuber

The Hunt For Erdnase: and the Path to Edward Gallaway by Chris Wasshuber To read the full story, the full case why Edward Gallaway is Erdnase, get my ebook The Hunt for Erdnase: and the path to Edward Gallaway.

I know this will come as a shock to some, particularly those who hold on to the old rumor that it was an Andrews. However, this rumor cannot be substantiated. We have to trace this back from Vernon to Sprong to a Drake son who would have to get it from his father who we don't even know had any direct contact with Erdnase. Yet some believe this like it is an irrefutable fact. Let me give you the news, it isn't. It simply is one theory and a not particularly good one, because Erdnase comes across as a much more sophisticated kind of fellow who would not simply reverse his name to make up a pseudonym.

For those who are not familiar with the hunt for Erdnase a bit of the background story. In 1902 the book "Artifice Ruse and Subterfuge at the Card Table" was self-published under the pseudonym S. W. Erdnase. The book is today mostly known under the title given on the cover: Expert at the Card Table (EATCT). It was printed by James McKinney & Co. which went bankrupt shortly after the book was published in 1903, but the book didn't cause the demise. Actually McKinney was a fairly sizable print shop with 32 employees, 9 printing presses, and typical print runs in the thousands of copies. We know this because I found the bankruptcy records in summer of 2015 where we can find these details. The book was by many measures a success and was kept in print by various publishers until today. Today it is in the public domain and you can find literally dozens of reprints including an ebook version here on Even though the book was pretty successful and well-known the author was never identified.

In the 1940s Martin Gardner tried to find the author. In his search he located the illustrator of the book, M. D. Smith, and interviewed him. Unfortunately Gardner fell already victim to the Andrews rumor and pretty much tried to convince Smith that it was a certain Milton Franklin Andrews (MFA), but there were glaring problems with the MFA theory which Gardner simply ignored. For one MFA was too tall and too young according to Smith's recollections, we also know that from the one letter we have of MFA's writings it is almost impossible to conceive that he wrote EATCT. And further we can't place him in Chicago at the right time. The only thing going for MFA is that he was a crooked gambler. But with all the other points excluding him being Erdnase it was certainly not him.

Since the 1940s researchers, magicians and amateur historians have come up with various candidates. The two favorite candidates before I found Gallaway were E. S. Andrews and W. E. Sanders. E. S. Andrews lived in Chicago, worked at the railroad and was known to play cards. That is as much as we can say about him. Knowing that half the country played cards back then, it is not a whole lot in favor for him. Perhaps his strongest point is that he lived in Chicago where the book was printed, but so did about 2 million other folks at that time. W. E. Sanders makes for an equally weak case, because we can't even place him in Chicago, and his writing doesn't sound anything like Erdnase. The points mentioned in his favor are that he also played cards and that he wrote down the description of a little common card trick in his notebooks. But in my opinion this card trick in his notebook is actually a strong point against Sanders, because Erdnase would have had a lot more on magic and gambling in his notes than just this one simple trick. Additionally Sanders was also too tall, and had dark hair and dark eyes, three things where he does not match the illustrator's recollections. It can hardly be E. S. Andrews or W. E. Sanders.

With Edward Gallaway we have several strong facts in his favor. So far the best we could do for any candidate was to place them in Chicago at the right time. That is not bad, but Chicago is a big city. With Edward Gallaway we can place him right at James McKinney & Co at the right time, because he worked there. We know this from the bankruptcy files. So Gallaway is at the 'crime' scene at the time when it counts. Of course, that does not mean he must be Erdnase, but contact with the printer James McKinney is a necessary condition. If you can't put your candidate in contact with the printer who printed the book then that leaves a huge gap to fill with other overwhelming evidence. In the case of Gallaway we do not need to do that. As employee at McKinney he was in perfect position to order the book to be printed, or even to run it on the side through the print shop, because Gallaway held a senior position in the company and was friends with the owner James McKinney. Both would go into partnership, with Gallaway providing the largest share of startup capital, after James McKinney & Co. goes bankrupt.

Gallaway's linguistic voice sounds just like Erdnase. Gallaway wrote two books on the Monotype System in the 1910s, and a number of books on print estimating in the 1920s. One of his books was "Estimating for Printers" published in 1927. This book has remarkable parallels to EATCT besides sounding like Erdnase. Dr. John Olsson furnished a forensic linguistic report on a comparison of EATCT and "Estimating for Printers" where he concludes it is a "strong possibility" that Gallaway is Erdnase. In addition to the match of the linguistic fingerprint "Estimating for Printers" was also self-published and copyright applied for as was EATCT. And remarkably it also has the price of the book printed on the title page. This is very surprising because very few books have their price printed on the title page. But not just the voice and how it was published are mirror images, also the approach of the author to deliver a very detailed and practical book is an almost identical mirror image to EATCT.

On top of all of this overwhelming evidence Jay Marshall found in the 1950s a first edition of EATCT with Edward Gallaway's bookplate pasted in. We know that Erdnase himself was a book guy and exhaustively read the gambling and magic literature of his time. Based on his vocabulary and eloquence he must have read a lot more than gambling and magic books. Gallaway is the same kind of book guy and equally good with words. He initiated two lending libraries in 1907 to give orphans and seniors access to plenty of reading material. He himself must have had a large personal library. Two books we know he had in his library besides EATCT were two volumes of "The History of the Works of the Learned" from 1700 and 1705, which are collections of book reviews of the best works written back then. We also know Gallaway had several other gambling books in his possession. Erdnase and Gallaway are both voracious readers with an appetite for gambling books. What more do we need to know?

Finding two people so close together that look that similar would be an extraordinary coincidence. We therefore have to conclude Edward Gallaway is S. W. Erdnase.

I personally do not consider the M. D. Smith recollections as that important and reliable. For one, they happened 45 years after the event which means Smith can easily be wrong in some of his recollections, and two, Gardner was already completely set on his MFA theory and was primarily out to confirm his theory rather than to objectively interview Smith. Having said that, Edward Gallaway fits the Smith recollections very well:

Edward Gallaway was born 7/1/1868 in Delphos OH to an Irish mother Sarah Brown and a Scottish father William Gallaway. He was baptized at St. John's Church as Peter Edward but dropped Peter later on and went exclusively by Edward Gallaway. He attended school until middle school and then found a full time employment at the Delphos Herald where he learned the printers art. For a while he works as traveling compositor criss-crossing the US by train. He started his own short lived newspaper in Fort Payne, Alabama, entitled "Payne Weekly People". After that he had a most surprising three years at the circus where he was the orator attracting the attention of people in front of the tent. He later finds back to his printing profession, moved to Chicago where he works at various companies, and is involved in various unsuccessful startups. He eventually works for James McKinney where he decides to write and print EATCT. He continues to work at various companies in the print industry in Chicago. He specializes in composing, particularly using the Monotype for which he writes two books, and print estimating. He becomes an instructor of print estimating at the Lakeside Press owned by R. R. Donnelley. In the mid 1920s he founds his own school for print estimating and writes books and course material for it. He dies May 10th 1930 in Chicago.

Obviously there is a lot more I could say about Gallaway and about the many parallels and similarities we can draw with Erdnase. I continue to discover new information about him. Every new piece we find cements him more firmly as being Erdnase. To this date I have not found one piece of evidence which would exclude Gallaway from being Erdnase. Study the details and the evidence in my ebook The Hunt for Erdnase: and the path to Edward Gallaway.