ebooks and download videos
Home / Magic & Conjuring / Biographies & History

The Cardsharp and his Book
by Chris Wasshuber

#3 Gambling author

(3 reviews, 8 customer ratings) ★★★★★

The Cardsharp and his Book by Chris Wasshuber

#3 in Biographies & History top-reviews

The hunt to find the true identity of S. W. Erdnase, the author of The Expert at the Card Table, published in 1902 in Chicago, has been raging for more than a century. The book is as revered by gamblers and magicians as the Bible is by Christians.

One of the first and most active Erdnase hunters was well-known science writer, puzzle expert, and magician Martin Gardner, who erroneously thought he identified cardsharp and murderer Milton Franklin Andrews as being Erdnase. After Andrews, many other candidates were proposed, but none had a case strong enough to withstand scrutiny. None wrote like Erdnase, nor had sufficient opportunity, nor even a good motive, to write the book. Their cases were largely based on wild theories built on little evidence and held together by flawed assumptions.

DI Dr. Chris Wasshuber, a trained scientist, engineer and hobby magician with an interest in puzzles and hard problems, took on the challenge of trying to find Erdnase. Rather than continue to massage the same old evidence, he decided to look for new documents that would aid in the search. In a breakthrough discovery, he found the James McKinney and Jamieson-Higgins bankruptcy files from 1903. James McKinney & Co. was the printer for the self-published The Expert at the Card Table.

In this book Dr. Wasshuber tells the story of how the bankruptcy records were found, and how they allowed him to zero in on Edward Gallaway. Rather than focus on aspects we had no good evidence for he centered his investigation around the book itself and the linguistic 'fingerprint' of the author. Over the course of six years, Dr. Wasshuber inspected and searched in countless newspapers, archives, and genealogical records to piece together the remarkable life story of Edward Gallaway, a learned printer and entrepreneur, who was fluent in German, who had an insatiable appetite for reading and knowledge, and who most surprisingly also had a circus career performing magic and Punch & Judy. Every new piece of evidence found about Gallaway further confirmed that he was S. W. Erdnase.

Dr. Wasshuber hired renowned forensic linguist Dr. John Olsson to conduct a detailed study of the writings of Erdnase, Gallaway, Roterberg, Hilliar, Sanders, and Wilson, which resulted in Gallaway most likely being the elusive Erdnase due to their very similar linguistic profiles. Dr. Olsson's entire report is included in this book.

The book includes all the primary evidence, and analysis on which Dr. Wasshuber bases his conclusions, except the bankruptcy records, which are available separately. A century-old mystery has been solved. Erdnase has been found. Read the fascinating story and learn everything we know about a man who made quite a name for himself in the print industry, but whose alter ego would become revered by gamblers and magicians the world over.

[The printed edition is a print-on-demand hardback with a dust jacket. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery after placing the order.]


  1. The Mystery
    • Why do we care?
    • Failed Attempts
    • A New Approach
  2. My Interest in Erdnase
  3. The Prosecutor Takes on Gallaway
    • Opportunity
    • Motive
    • Means
  4. Physical Appearance
    • Height
    • Thumb
    • Wrist and Sleeves
    • Handedness
    • Age
    • Voice
    • Complexion
    • Appearance
    • Soft Hands
    • Origin
    • Wife
    • Summary
  5. Linguistic Analysis
    • Dr. John Olsson's Report: The Linguistic Magic of Erdnase
      • Introduction
      • 'There is no evidence'
      • Anagrammatic attributions
      • The knaves
      • The magic of language
      • The magic of the individual
      • Language change over time
      • Change and individualism
      • Focus of the investigation
      • Why vocabulary is important in authorship studies
      • Vocabulary sources
      • Aspects of vocabulary: very long words
      • Aspects of vocabulary: words relating to cognition
      • Aspects of vocabulary: relative rarity of the lexicon
      • Period and manner of composition
      • Author consistency
      • Conjunctions
      • Conjunctions and punctuation: a series of author choices
      • Decline of the semi colon
      • The comma in relation to conjunctions
      • Punctuation in relation to 'or' and 'nor'
      • Style comparisons
      • Comparing Expert and Roterberg
      • Comparing Expert and Hilliar
      • Comparing Expert and Wilson
      • Comparing Expert and Sanders
      • Summary of tests
      • Comparing Expert and Gallaway
      • Conclusion
    • My Comments To Olsson's Report
    • Cinnamon Word Analysis
    • Compound Expressions
    • Analytic Negative
    • System of
  6. Copyfitting Book
    • The Monotype System Part I and II
    • Comparing Hands
  7. Traits, Habits and Interests
    • Instructor, Educator, Pedagogue
    • Performer
    • Reading
    • Wit
    • Religious Questions
    • Business Knowledge
    • Gambling and Magic
    • Pretty Money and Stock Market
    • Math
    • Print
    • Detail-Oriented
    • Learning from Failure
  8. Erdnase Spoke German
      Other Books Erdnase Must Have Known
  9. Cover, Title Page, and Bookplate
  10. Career and Circus
    • Circus Time in Detail
    • James Harto
  11. Estimating Books
  12. My Thoughts on the Smith Recollections
    • Bank Account
  13. Dalrymple Deception
  14. The Name S. W. Erdnase
    • My Favorite Explanation
    • Other Explanations
  15. Eugene Edwards
  16. Edward M. Vernelo
  17. The Book
  18. The Copyright Registration Form
    • Gallaway's Knowledge about Copyrights
    • Earlier Copyright Rumor
  19. Alexander August Gallaway
  20. Carl A. Jettinger
  21. Places
  22. Timeline
  23. Summary
  24. Further Research
  25. Envoi
  26. Appendix 1: Copyright Registration Form
  27. Appendix 2: Estimating for Printers
  28. Appendix 3: Marshall Gardner Letters
  29. Appendix 4: Western Carbon Paper and Supply Company
  30. Appendix 5: McKinney & Gallaway Co
  31. Appendix 6: Copyright Registration (How To Price Job Printing Properly)
  32. Appendix 7: Interesting News Reports

The hunt for Erdnase started in January 2015. First edition, titled "The Hunt For Erdnase: and the Path to Edward Gallaway" 2016; Title change to "The Cardsharp and his Book" 2022; PDF 338 pages.
word count: 116384 which is equivalent to 465 standard pages of text

Reviewed by Gregg Webb (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Friday 10 November, 2023

I am an author and publishes and carries my eBooks. Doctor Wasshuber mentioned to me in passing that he was interested in the Erdnase mystery and that he felt the evidence for Edward Gallaway being Erdnase was overwhelming. He mentioned that he had written a book about it. I proceeded to obtain the book, The Cardsharp and his Book, and read it. Although the section on forensic studies of the language used is difficult to wade through at first, and necessarily so, in the end is convincing when you understand how the science works.

There are other aspects of the book that are of a different nature, and to me, they were even more visceral and compelling in a down-to-earth way. I'm referring to the biographical facts about the man in question. He is fluent in German and English and wrote for German-American newspapers and English-speaking newspapers.

He also worked in the printing industry. He took time off to travel and gamble and he took time off to perform magic in a circus. Both activities put a deck of cards in his hands for both gambling at poker and doing magic. Interestingly, concerning printing, he worked for the company that printed the Erdnase book! In a book on printing that he wrote, there are photos where you can see the same unusual hands which we see what are surely tracings of, in the Expert. There are art experts who feel that the illustrations in Erdnase are done from photos. Also, in a book on printing, Edward Gallaway is seen doing card manipulations with thin 4" rulers found in printing schools.

Returning to writing, Gallaway wrote newspaper stories about poker games which were compiled into a book called Jack Pots: Stories of the Great American Game. The book was written, supposedly, by Eugene Edwards, which is a pseudonym of Gallaway's. In it, you find out how he got to know so much about poker from traveling and gambling. And, you see what a great writer he was. This is not a textbook. It is a storybook and has humor irony and pathos and fascinating uses of interesting words and dialects. Houdini's copy of Jack Pots is in the Library of Congress complete with his handwritten notes in the margin. Another link to greatness is the fact that Jack Pots is illustrated by Ike Morgan who also illustrated Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz!

Many of the other contenders for the authorship of the Expert have Andrews as their name. Andrews spelled backwards, etc. Well, Gallaway's great aunt was an Andrews, and his favorite author was an Andrew. Getting back to the German language connection, when in Chicago Gallaway lived across from Roterberg's Magic Shop. German magic books and magic apparatus were very good at this time. Gallaway would have been able to read German language magic books. At least 1 trick in Erdnase, The Three Aces trick, is from a German book. There were also at least several books on cheating at cards in German, at this time. After reading these, he probably concluded that he could improve on them, and write in English, but still use them as a blueprint.

Another interesting thing is that Gallaway went to a school growing up that specialized in speed drills for math. This would have helped him with his estimating of the price for a printing job but it would have also have helped when using his original system to run up hands for differing amounts of players and differing amounts of cards. Not everyone could do the math in their heads, but he could.

In conclusion, Erdnase is a nickname for a boy in the German language. Dirty Nose would indicate a boy who was so active outside as to be always a bit dirty. Perhaps Erdnase is actually his childhood nickname. His German language nickname.

Reviewed by Hans-Christian Dr. Solka (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Wednesday 30 November, 2016

Fascinating! Thrilling! Chris Wasshuber solved a more then 100 years old mystery. The search for Erdnase has been going on for decades. But at now the magic community may be pretty sure Edward Gallaway will be generally accepted as S.W. Erdnase. Chris Wasshuber can even explain the name S. W. Erdnase. Erdnase actually comes from the German words Erd (earth or soil) and Nase (nose). Chris Wasshuber explores Gallaway's opportunity, motive and means to prove his theory. Gallaway must be S.W. Erdnase!

Reviewed by Chet Cox (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Wednesday 30 November, 2016

The description is wrong in one place, right at the end. Dr Chris' Hunt for Erdnase began a LOT earlier than 2015. Why 2015 became the year that a full "scientific detective" search was truly possible, is the start of this story.

The evidence is compelling. There are no conclusions based on "this cannot be coincidence." Perhaps it needed the sort of training of a scientist with no agenda. The way the data came together, and the pathways taken, including the fascinating dead ends, makes this the detective mystery of the year. Or, if you are a magician, of any year.

This product is listed under the following topics:

Magic & Conjuring / Biographies & History

Magic & Conjuring / Books (printed)