Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover has the blue ‘Four Corners’ 2d QV and the green ½d QV stamps of Queensland canceled by the duplex BRISBANE/ 23/ JA 20/ 1905/ QUEENSLAND postmark, and there is a red manuscript ‘Private’. The cover is addressed to W.D. Le Roy Esq., Magician etc, office and salesroom, 103 Court Street, Boston, Mass., United States America. There is a printed sender’s name ‘Postmaster-General’s Department, Brisbane’(Figure 1).

The reverse has in the same hand a red manuscript ‘Private’, a reception postmark BOSTON, MASS/ FEB 8/ 10 A.M./ 1905 and there is a manuscript 21/1/05, the date probably that the message was written. The blue insignia on the flap is of an official crown over a shield, flanked by a lion and unicorn crest of Australia (Figure 2).

Leroy’s Mammoth Pictorial 20th Century Up-to-Date Illustrated Catalogue confirms the occupation and address of the receiver for it describes ‘Conjuring Wonders’, ‘Magic Second Sight’ and ‘Anti-Spiritualistic Illusions’. W.D. LEROY, Boston School of Magic, 103 Court St., Boston, Mass. This ca. 1907 catalogue has 212 pages with illustrations of great magic apparatus, both old and of the time period of the cover (Figure 3).

There were not many formally organized fraternities of magic in the world prior to the 1900s outside of local social clubs. L’Academie was the first French Society and possibly the first in the world, although there were very early German and Indian clubs as well as The Conjurers’ Club in Florence, Italy, which was in existence in 1887.

By the late 1800s, there were small groups of magicians in the United States who gathered, such as those that assembled in the “Martinka’s Little Back Shop”in New York city. They were known amongst themselves as the “Saturday Knights” for the fact that it was mostly a Saturday night event. These gatherings resulted in a series of social entertainments.

The first real impetus of creating a club for magicians most likely came as a direct result of the first periodical, Mahatma published in the United State devoted to the interests of magic, which began publishing in 1895. This periodical introduced magicians to each other and fostered fraternal feelings as can be seen in a letter published in Vol. 3 No. 10 of Mahatma: “If all readers of Mahatma will send their address to E.L. Kiley, 32 Franklin St., Cleveland, Ohio, steps will be taken to organize a “Mahatma Club, for the self improvement of the followers of the art”.

W.D. LeRoy of Boston, Massachusetts was one of the first to attempt bringing those interested in the art together in an organized body when he proposed the “Grand Lodge of the Magic Mystic Fraternity”. On January 14, 1896, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of the State of Massachusetts issued a charter for a corporation to be known as “The Magic Mystic Fraternity”. Its objective was to “unite fraternally, acceptable men who are recognized performers of ability in the art of magic or sleight-of-hand, or who possess some skill in legerdemain, and the establishment and maintenance of a place for social meetings”. However the Fraternity did not get any further than to “incorporate”, and nothing more was heard of it. LeRoy later organized and became the first President of the Conjurers’ Club in Boston. The slogan for the club was “Work-Eat-Play”, and it was still going strong in 1918.

In March, 1902, the Sphinx magazine began publishing. In its May issue that year the editorial stated: Last November I devised a scheme for creating a friendship among all magicians and lovers of magic. I called my society “The Order of the Sphinx”. W.D. Leroy was the Boston agent for the Sphinx at the time, and was one of the first to send in his application for membership. However, a few weeks later, after learning about the existence of the newly formed Society of American Magicians (S.A.M.) in New York at Martinka’s magic shop, “The Order of The Sphinx” was disbanded. They decided to put their efforts into the helping the S.A.M. LeRoy became member #33 when he was admitted at the first regular monthly meeting of the Society of American Magicians on June 7, 1902. At the end of 1902, they already had over 100 members. An example of the front cover page of the ‘Sphinx’ magazine March 1912 (of which Le Roy was a frequent contributor) is shown in Figure 4.

Addendum (April 2009): The above discussion is sparse as regards biographical data for Le Roy, and this has been supplemented by the following information: W.D. Le Roy (his early spelling, with still unidentified given names) was born August 5, 1862 in La Salle, Illinois and at the age of 9 he moved to Chicago. He studied music, and at age 16 visited Virginia City, Nevada, where he played the violin. By 19 he was in San Francisco teaching and playing the violin. There, he also started studying and practicing magic, making his first appearance at the Fountain Theatre.

In 1887, he visited Boston, ended up staying there and started to manufacture magic props. By 1893 he opened his own shop and “School of Magic” at 103 Court St., Boston, which remained his business address until his death. It was one of the largest stores at the time devoted to the sale of magical apparatus. He wrote frequent articles for several magic magazines as ‘Boston Notes’ and ‘Boston Items’ columns. In the first 15 years of the Society of American Magicians he was responsible for recruiting 1 of every 6 memberships. He acquired a very large library on conjuring, and in addition he was an avid stamp collector.

Le Roy altered the spelling of his name from Le Roy to Leroy in 1906, and the reason for doing this is not known. He died on June 10, 1919 at his home at 10 Hancock Street, Boston after a long illness, and was buried at the Oak Grove Cemetery, Gloucester, Massachusetts. I end the history of this prominent Boston Magician with a unrelated item to Leroy scan, because I like it! (Figure 5).

Do you think that the Queensland Postmaster-General was a closet Magician?

Categories: People