Royal Reels: Gambling


This illustrated cover brings together three men, including an alter ego, all involved in the entertainment industry. The cover has a printed “The Vertos/ Escamoteurs And Mystifyers as well as photos of ‘Percy’ as well as of ‘La Petite.’ It is addressed to S. Lubin Esq., 21. S. Eighth Street, Philadelphia Pa., America U.S.A. The prussian blue 2½d QV stamp of New South Wales is canceled by a duplex SYDNEY/ MY 25/ 11-AM/ 03 (Figure 1).

The reverse has a transit duplex SAN FRANCISCO. CAL./ JUN 15/ 12 M/ 1903 with an oval barred numeral ‘1‘ as well as a printed ‘V‘ surrounded by scroll work (Figure 2).

This was a case where luck prevailed for although the receiver’s surname appeared to be ‘Lubiro’, quickly and definitively it was found to be Lubin, confirmed by the address on the cover. In 1851 Siegmund Lubszynski was born in Breslau, Prussia (now Poland), and he emigrated to the United States in 1882. The next year he moved to Philadelphia and opened an optical shop, and in 1890 he moved the shop to 21 South Eighth Street and made lantern slides, and by 1897 he offered his first projectors for sale.

In 1896 he purchased a Jenkins camera and took his first moving pictures. He began making films on a platform in his backyard. In 1898 he was sued by Thomas Edison for copyright infringement. In 1900 he received patents on projectors and film, and continued to defy Edison’s threats. In 1905 his business grew rapidly despite constant litigation and he opened more theatres in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Reading; and, in 1907 he accepted a licence for equipment from Thomas Edison. Although little known to-day, he was a most successful movie producer in his day. A photo of Siegmund Lubin is seen in Figure 3.

The sender of the cover was much more difficult to research particularly in regards to textual information. He started life as George Percy Hausmann and was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 27 September 1869, and he received his education in Wellington, N.Z. He had a boyhood interest in conjuring which led to his entering the theatrical profession in 1881. In styling himself as “Professor” Haussman, he was following earlier conjurors who had adopted this self-endowed title. As well as performing, he was involved in theatrical management and in lean times he was a house painter. He maintained his interest in showing films and traveled with a film show, “Professor Hausmann’s Lumigraph Company”.

For a few years he returned to conjuring , appearing in New Zealand and Australian vaudeville shows as “Percy Verto – The Handcuff King”. He began touring with another company in N.S.W. and there is a record of his being in a show in Sydney in 1907. Some years later he settled in Tasmania showing films in towns too small to support permanent picture shows. He also had an association with Thomas Edison, albeit more peripheral than that of Lubin. On 13 October 1896 at the Opera House in Auckland, “Professors” Haussman and Gow presented a program of films projected by Edison’s Kinematograph during a performance of a Vaudeville Company. This was the first public screening of motion pictures in New Zealand. In fact Hausmann had written to T.A. Edison at Orange Grove, New York that year from Wellington, N.Z. asking him to provide details about his Kinetoscope, asking for prices and particulars. He ends his letter by stating “Your name is well known here as that of G-d Almighty himself and that is why I am sending for reliable information to yourself.” A dapper picture of Percy Verto (as used on the cover), as well as that of his performance in chains and handcuffs, are seen in Figures 4 & 5.

Categories: Professors