Harry Blackstone, Sr & Tom Auburn
1
 (1944)
In Collection
#572
10*
Conjuring
Magician
Photograph 
Nice photo of Harry Blackstone and Tom Auburn
Photo is from News Pictures Of Canada Oct. 1944
Product Details
Personal Details
Read It Yes
Location Magic Library (Home)
Condition Fine
Owner Bryan-Keith Taylor
Notes
Harry Blackstone, Sr.

Harry Blackstone (September 27, 1885 - November 16, 1965) was a famed stage magician and illusionist of the 20th century. Blackstone was born Harry Boughton, of Jewish parents and was raised in Chicago, Illinois. He began his career as a magician in his teens and was popular through World War II as a USO entertainer. He was often billed as The Great Blackstone. His son Harry Blackstone, Jr. also became a famous magician.

Performance style and career

Blackstone was in the mode of courtly elegant predecessor magicians like Howard Thurston and Harry Kellar. He often wore white tie and tails when performing, and he traveled with large illusions and a sizable cast of uniformed male and female assistants. For a number of years he toured in the Midwest, often performing throughout the day between film showings.

Blackstone remained silent during much of his big stage show, which was presented to the accompaniment of a pit orchestra and such lively tunes of the time as "Who," "I Know That You Know," and "Chinatown."

Among his especially effective illusions was one in which a woman lying on a couch and covered with a gossamer shroud appeared to float high in the air and then vanish, as Blackstone pulled off the covering. In another illusion, a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many bright, clear, tubular incandescent light bulbs. When the magician suddenly pushed the perforated front of the cabinet backward, she seemed to be pierced appeared through the holes in the font of the box (to the accompaniment of her blood-curdling scream). The cabinet was then revolved so that the audience seemed to see the lady impaled by the blinding filaments.

His "Sawing a woman in half" involved an enormous electric circular saw some three to four feet in diameter mounted on a swing-down arm. Blackstone demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a piece of lumber. Then a gossamer-clad assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were placed upon her mid-section. The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body, as the ripping sound of (wood?) was heard, the woman shrieked, and particles were scattered by the whirring blade. the blade was stopped and she, of course, rose unharmed.

In a gentler turn was his "Vanishing Bird Cage," an effect in which a score or more of children were invited to join him on the stage and all "put their hands on" a tiny cage holding a canary. Blackstone lowered the cage and then seemed to toss it into the air: bird and cage "disappearing" in the process to the astonishment and delight of the surprised children.

Among his lovelier effects was "The Garden of Flowers," in which countless bouquets of brilliant feather flowers appeared from under a foulard and on tables and stands until the stage was a riot of color. "The Floating Light Bulb," was perhaps his signature piece. In a darkened theatre, Blackstone would take a lighted bulb from a lamp and float it, still glowing, through a small hoop. He would then come down from the stage and the lamp would float out over the heads of the audience.

Blackstone spent the last years of his life performing at The Magic Castle, a magical attraction in Hollywood, California. He died in November 1965 at the age of 80. He was interred close to his former home in Colon, Michigan where the main street was renamed Blackstone Avenue in his honor.

Books carrying Harry Blackstone's byline were ghostwritten for him by his friend, Walter B. Gibson, who also created, in 1941, the comic book Blackstone the Magician Detective and the 1948-49 radio series, Blackstone, the Magic Detective.

In the Cartoon Network animated series Totally Spies, there is a villain named Bluestone the Great, who pretended to disappear for years in order to steal back his priceless relics once he was gone. The character is likely based on Blackstone due to his magical theme and the similarity in name.

In 1985, on the 100th anniversary of his father's birth, Harry Blackstone, Jr. donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. the original floating light bulb - Thomas Edison designed and built it - and the original Casadega Cabinet, used in the "Dancing Handkerchief" illusion. This was the first ever donation accepted by the Smithsonian in the field of magic.

Harry Blackstone, Sr. is memorialized in two official Michigan Historical markers:

American Museum of Magic
Colon, Michigan / Harry Blackstone

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Thomas Rochford Auburn was born on July 7th, 1917. The seventh day of the seventh month of the seventeenth year of last century at the seventh hour! What a magical beginning!

His life has been no stranger to tragedy, and perhaps this has helped to give him the strength of character he has always exhibited. Tom was only two months old when his father died, and at the age of three he went to live with an aunt and uncle. The small boy growing up in Verdon, Québec, Canada, went through local schools then moved to Montreal and graduated from high school in 1936. His aunt, who had so greatly encouraged him was dying in a hospital and could not see the ceremony she had so much anticipated. His only sister had been killed in an accident three years earlier.

In childhood, Tom purchased a copy of Dunnigers's « Popular Magic ». He also received from his cousin a twenty-five cent book called « Thurston's Card Tricks ». Then, at the age of twelve scarlet fever struck. It was a serious case and a long period of quarantine was followed by an even longer period of convalescence. Staying in bed, resting, no visitors allowed and only the two books for company, Tom studied avidly. He learned manipulation and other skills to perform close-up magic. He presented his first public show at the age of fifteen. At first he performed with a mask, then as he gained confidence, the masked magician gave way to the « Great Auburn » and eventually « Magic Tom » Auburn. His early reception was so encouraging that he proceeded to book every engagement he could secure, partly for income, but mainly to improve his technique by constant performance.

Out in the adult world he made his decision for professional magic, and this has been his career until the end of his life. One of his fine publicity techniques was the use of predictions, which quickly built him a reputation throughout eastern Canada. Then a lucky break enabled him to fill in for another magician at the Tic Toc Club in Montreal. He went over very well and the patrons thought he was an « American » act. The success was inevitable. This new guy was performing very good magic, had a wonderful interaction with the audience and had a remarkable charm.

Tom joined the « Society of American Magicians » on January 6th, 1940 and was appointed Chairman of the Honorary Membership Committee. He was also Honorary President of the Montreal local, the Maple Leaf Assembly no. 58.

On November 6th, 1941 he enlisted in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. During his army career as a sergeant he carried out his military duties but also formed the «Military Caravan Show» with other army personnel. All together, they entertained at Military Camps and hospitals. As an army magician, his organized shows were a great asset and used for recruiting male and female personnel as well as entertaining the troop in English and French throughout the Country. In March 1945, he was given a medical discharge. Overall, Tom gave over 1,500 performances while in the army.

On Valentine's Day 1942, he married his childhood sweetheart, Dolores, who has always enthusiastically encouraged his career, though she never worked in the act. They had two children, Byron Thomas and Darlene Pamela.

" ... The Magic Tom Road Show became the longest-running program in Montreal history ... "

English language commercial television arrived in Montreal on February 21st, 1961 and Channel 12 was offering « Surprise Party » starring Tom Auburn. This weekly feature, later known as « The Magic Tom Road Show » became the longest-running program in Montreal history. During this time Tom gave over 4,000 broadcasts and acquired a huge and loyal following of youngsters and the enthusiastic support of their parents, who liked the high tone of his offering and approach. The station averaged 20,000 letters a year praising the show. Sadly, after fifteen years, a newspaper headline announced « ...the magic leaves Channel 12. »

He was always ready to perform for hospitals, bringing laughter to lonesome and frightened kids. He also sat for hours holding hands or doing some magic tricks to kids with only a few days left on Earth. The next day, Tom often received a phone call from the hospital to be advised they had passed away, still holding some little toy given to them by Magic Tom.

The biggest star of magic in the province of Quebec moved to French language television in the mid 70s and performed for that segment of the children's population. The mass of publicity he received in the late 1975 and 1976 was stunning.

He received many awards and certificates from community groups, churches, service clubs, corporations, hospitals and homes for the aged. One organization even gave him a gold watch on the occasion of his twenty-fifth annual appearance at its yearly banquet!

From November 1982 to April 1983 he performed on the Island of Maui in Hawaii doing over 45 performances and on March 3rd, 1983 « Magic Tom Auburn Day » was proclaimed by the Council of Maui and a Testimonial Luncheon was held in his honour.

Throughout his career he has given away many times the only thing he had to sell « his talent » and through his talent he has raised thousands of dollars for different events in Quebec and Ontario. He also appeared on all the local telethons to raise money for the St. Justine and Montreal Children's hospitals both in French and English, as well as many radio programs.


Source: The Society of American Magicians and Dolores Auburn.
























































In childhood, Tom purchased a copy of Dunnigers's « Popular Magic ». He also received from his cousin a twenty-five cent book called « Thurston's Card Tricks ». Then, at the age of twelve scarlet fever struck. It was a serious case and a long period of quarantine was followed by an even longer period of convalescence. Staying in bed, resting, no visitors allowed and only the two books for company, Tom studied avidly. He learned manipulation and other skills to perform close-up magic. He presented his first public show at the age of fifteen. At first he performed with a mask, then as he gained confidence, the masked magician gave way to the « Great Auburn » and eventually « Magic Tom » Auburn. His early reception was so encouraging that he proceeded to book every engagement he could secure, partly for income, but mainly to improve his technique by constant performance.

Out in the adult world he made his decision for professional magic, and this has been his career until the end of his life. One of his fine publicity techniques was the use of predictions, which quickly built him a reputation throughout eastern Canada. Then a lucky break enabled him to fill in for another magician at the Tic Toc Club in Montreal. He went over very well and the patrons thought he was an « American » act. The success was inevitable. This new guy was performing very good magic, had a wonderful interaction with the audience and had a remarkable charm.

Tom joined the « Society of American Magicians » on January 6th, 1940 and was appointed Chairman of the Honorary Membership Committee. He was also Honorary President of the Montreal local, the Maple Leaf Assembly no. 58.

On November 6th, 1941 he enlisted in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. During his army career as a sergeant he carried out his military duties but also formed the «Military Caravan Show» with other army personnel. All together, they entertained at Military Camps and hospitals. As an army magician, his organized shows were a great asset and used for recruiting male and female personnel as well as entertaining the troop in English and French throughout the Country. In March 1945, he was given a medical discharge. Overall, Tom gave over 1,500 performances while in the army.

On Valentine's Day 1942, he married his childhood sweetheart, Dolores, who has always enthusiastically encouraged his career, though she never worked in the act. They had two children, Byron Thomas and Darlene Pamela.

" ... The Magic Tom Road Show became the longest-running program in Montreal history ... "

English language commercial television arrived in Montreal on February 21st, 1961 and Channel 12 was offering « Surprise Party » starring Tom Auburn. This weekly feature, later known as « The Magic Tom Road Show » became the longest-running program in Montreal history. During this time Tom gave over 4,000 broadcasts and acquired a huge and loyal following of youngsters and the enthusiastic support of their parents, who liked the high tone of his offering and approach. The station averaged 20,000 letters a year praising the show. Sadly, after fifteen years, a newspaper headline announced « ...the magic leaves Channel 12. »

He was always ready to perform for hospitals, bringing laughter to lonesome and frightened kids. He also sat for hours holding hands or doing some magic tricks to kids with only a few days left on Earth. The next day, Tom often received a phone call from the hospital to be advised they had passed away, still holding some little toy given to them by Magic Tom.

The biggest star of magic in the province of Quebec moved to French language television in the mid 70s and performed for that segment of the children's population. The mass of publicity he received in the late 1975 and 1976 was stunning.

He received many awards and certificates from community groups, churches, service clubs, corporations, hospitals and homes for the aged. One organization even gave him a gold watch on the occasion of his twenty-fifth annual appearance at its yearly banquet!

From November 1982 to April 1983 he performed on the Island of Maui in Hawaii doing over 45 performances and on March 3rd, 1983 « Magic Tom Auburn Day » was proclaimed by the Council of Maui and a Testimonial Luncheon was held in his honour.

Throughout his career he has given away many times the only thing he had to sell « his talent » and through his talent he has raised thousands of dollars for different events in Quebec and Ontario. He also appeared on all the local telethons to raise money for the St. Justine and Montreal Children's hospitals both in French and English, as well as many radio programs.


Source: The Society of American Magicians and Dolores Auburn.