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The Magic Wand (1910 - 1957)
by George Mackenzie Munro & George Johnson & George Armstrong


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The Magic Wand (1910 - 1957) by George Mackenzie Munro & George Johnson & George Armstrong
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Martin Breese purchased the copyright to the Magic Wand many years ago. He intended to issue material from the magazine in book form and was little to know, at the time, of the advent of digital publishing and ebooks.

The Magic Wand was first published in September 1910 and continued for 256 issues until December of 1957. It began as a monthly magazine and after a decade it was published quarterly. It was edited by George Munro who was succeeded by George Armstrong. It is rare and very hard to find a complete run. The most valuable issues are those containing the serial publication of The Annals of Conjuring. Martin Breese assembled a run of the magazine over a period of 15 years and was greatly helped by David Britland and other kind magical friends.

There is little doubt that the Magic Wand was one of the most significant and important magical magazines to have been published. It's contributors were the leading magicians and writers of their time during the 47 years the magazine was issued and even the distinguished Professor Hoffmann made regular contributions. Reports from Chung Ling Soo's stage shows are to be found as are countless reports and articles about Houdini. Many of the great magical effects and illusions of today had their first showing in the pages of the Magic Wand.

This incredible magazine from the UK can only be compared to The Sphinx which was similarly long running (over a very similar time frame) and influential but published in the US.

The Magic Wand – An Introduction

A wave of the Wand and you will be transported into a world of secrets long hidden away. Thanks to digital magic, you have the power at your fingertips to open the doors of bygone magicians and lost secrets. Caverns of information awaits you: articles by the masters, profiles on the top practitioners, historical research, and effects in every realm of conjuring. May you use this wisdom to better your craft and increase your knowledge of the magic art.

The story of the Magic Wand begins with P. T. Selbit, the inventive conjurer who founded The Wizard magazine in September 1905. Throughout its five-year run, Selbit filled his thin journal with the best news and effects he could collect. Because of his status as a professional performer and not simply a writer, Selbit was able to attract some of the top working magicians of his time to compose articles and contribute effects for his magazine.

With his performing career blossoming, Selbit apparently had ever-diminishing time to devote to his monthly publication, and so in 1910 he authorized magic dealer George Munro to continue the magazine under a new name: The Magic Wand.

The transition was smooth. Munro retained the format of The Wizard, so the new magazine differed mainly in title. He continued its tradition of strong material, including a series by Professor Hoffmann, thus launching The Magic Wand in style.

Munro's shop, Ornum's Magical Mart, was something of a crossroads for the magic community, allowing the editor to stay up to date with the latest news and developments in the art. Situated in London, he was also in a perfect location to encounter the many performers passing through town.

After over three years, however, Munro sold the magazine to his editorial assistant, George Johnson. As Johnson recalled in 1953, Munro, frustrated by deadlines and the pressure of filling pages, "said, 'Bother The Magic Wand' - at least, he said something like that." Munro passed his pen to Johnson, who became The Magic Wand's new editor and publisher.

Despite low earnings (losses the first year, and a profit of ninepence the second) and a break due to World War I, the publisher gradually expanded the magazine and refined its format. By 1919 he had begun including glossy supplementary illustrations for articles like Devant's "The Supreme Test."

In 1921 Johnson altered the publication schedule to quarterly, undoubtedly due to concerns about both time and money. To supplement his business, Johnson sold magic books and published his own as well, including S. H. Sharpe's translation of Hofzinser's Card Conjuring and many other titles. Johnson brought a sense of elegance to his magic books, with careful typography and aesthetic bindings and covers.

Johnson continually strove to help his magazine grow both in size and depth. The height of his ambitions was the serialization of Sidney Clarke's massive, detailed history of magic, lp=365519 The Annals of Conjuring]. It took Johnson over almost five years - between 1924 and 1928 - to publish it all, and he still devoted great space and care to its illustrations, the finest quality yet included in a magicians' journal, separately printed on glossy paper, some in colored inks, with fine artworks, prints, and woodcuts depicting magicians from centuries before.

In March 1946, with issue 209, Johnson handed the Wand over to a new editor-publisher, Lieutenant W. G. A. Jenkins, known to magicians as George Armstrong. Johnson noted that through over thirty years and two world wars, he had tried to keep the magazine progressing as best he could, then told his readers goodbye, citing the author William Hone: "Thou wilt, maybe, not thank me for what I have done…but thou will be my witness that I have been at some trouble. In short, if thou ever wert an editor, thou wilt have some compassion on my failings."

Armstrong expanded the magazine's size to a large format in 1953 and continued publication before abruptly ceasing with volume 46, issue no. 256, ca. 1957. S. H. Sharpe's in-depth series "Salutations to Robert-Houdin" was in mid-stream. No fanfare, no goodbye. Like a magic wand had dematerialized it.

But now we can let George Johnson have the last word (as he wrote in 1946): "May The Magic Wand wave over a still larger field and may the magazine and our art prosper."

Todd Karr, March 2003

Copyright 2003 by Martin Breese.

1st edition 1910 - 1957;