Royal Reels: Gambling


The first cover has a black G.P.O. Registration Label of Melbourne and the blue 2½d and orange 3d stamps of Victoria are cancelled REGISTERED/ 1 30P 15 AU 11/ MELBOURNE. It is addressed to Prof. A. Victor Segno, Inspiration Point, Echo Park, Los Angeles, Calif. U.S.A. Station E.  The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second cover has a red Flemington Registration Label and the green bantam ½d and the 5d purple-brown stamps of Victoria are cancelled with a FLEMINGTON/ 11-P-7AU12/ VICTORIA postmark. It is addressed to the American Institute of Mentalism, Inspiration Point, Echo Park, Station E. Los Angeles, California U.S.A. It has a red REGISTERED handstamp, a typed ‘Personal’ as well as a ‘29037′ handstamp.  The reverse was not seen (Figure 2).

The third registered cover gives credence to the spread of his technique to South America for this cover is addressed to Sr. A. Victor Segno, (President of the Segno Success Club), Los Angeles, Estados Unidos de America, California, 701 N. Belmont Ave. There is a strip of three blue 5centavos Chile stamps plus a single grey stamp cancelled CORDOBA/ 24/ May/ 1903 The reverse was not seen (Figure 3).

In 1902, A. Victor Segno began promoting himself as someone who could read palms and guide ‘Angelenos’ in the ways of “Mentalism” the practice of putting ones brain waves on the right frequency – a practice that was sure to bring success. According to Segno’s literature: “The vibrations which Prof. Segno is able to produce in people, through being in harmony with their mentalism, is often felt by them, though thousands of miles distant, as a sensation similar to a slight electric shock. Victor Segno speaks of ‘Success Waves’ in one of his books which promote Success, Influence, Happiness, Ambition, Health, Peace, Hope and Love (Figure 4).

To get their brain waves in order, Segno promised to send out the right vibrations. But he also told his acolytes they could get the scoop on mentalism by mailing $1 to A. Victor Segno. By 1903, Segno had 12,000 subscribers to his publications, a fact that infuriated an indignant Los Angeles Times. “It seems incredible that there should be even a thousand of cheerful suckers for every month of the year who are clamoring for the opportunity to contributed $1 per month for the support of a scheme so rank,” the Times wrote.

Segno’s popularity took off in 1904, when he built an elaborate two-story concrete building at Clinton and Bellevue avenues, right above Echo Park Lake on the promontory he called Inspiration Point. With lecture halls, an octagonal reception room and distinctive domes, the building immediately grabbed the attention of anyone who walked around the lake, then only a decade old (Figure 5).

The marketing schemes did not end with brain waves, either. With help from Segnogram Printing, Segno sold self-improvement books like How to Possess a perfect head of HairPersonal magnetism and How to Be Happy Though Married. There were also other books and pamphlets that spread his message, such as The Law of Mentalism and How to Live 100 Years, as seen in Figures 6 and 7.

As it turned out, Segno wasn’t so happy about being married himself. In 1911, he ran off with his (also married) secretary, abruptly leaving town in 1911 to the consternation of the city. By 1915, he found himself in World War I-era Berlin. A few years later, Segno was back in Los Angeles pursuing other schemes. But his popularity had peaked, even as his educational palace was sold off to others.

The school of success, and the nearby Segnogram printing, were demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the complex now known as the Lago Vista. Although the complex now houses 48 condos, a tiny piece of the old success factory – a cupola — can be seen in front of the red house across the street.

Addendum (August 2010):  An email correspondent (Edward Grabowski) sent me a scan of an ‘exotic’ registered cover from New Caledonia  which had a single 5c yellow green and a strip of three grey15c, both with thename of the colony in carmine, stamps known as the 1902 issued ‘Navigation and Commerce’ series.  The cover was well and truly registered in ink ms. (in French), wirh 2 handstamped numbers, as well as blue crayon and a ‘boxed’ R.  It was postmarked NEW CALENDONIA (or NEU CALEDONIE?)/ 27/ OCT/ 07/ PT. SANDWICH.  It was addressed to Prof. A. Victor Segno, Esqr, 701 North Belmont Ave,. Los Angeles, Calif., U.S.A..  The reverse was not seen (Figure 8).