| Welcome to the Magic Museum|
*Note: This site is still under construction!
Welcome to The Magic Museum
Welcome to The Magic Museum! My name is Richard Mendez and I have dedicated this site to the showcasing and reviewing of antiquarian magic pieces from around the world. Some of the pieces are owned by me but many of them are not. Whenever the information is known, I will make every effort to identify, date and annotate every piece on display; however, keep in mind that this will be an ongoing effort so any information that you can provide to me is greatly appreciated.
The History of Mystery
It is difficult to pinpoint with great accuracy exactly when magic began. The earliest documented evidence to suggest a performance of magic was found in the Westcar Papyrus, written about 1700 BC, which tells a story that goes back to about 2600BC. Dedi, an Egyptian magician, was summoned to entertain King Cheops. One of his tricks involved cutting off an animal's head and then bringing it back to life unscathed. Dedi was asked to do the trick again using a prisoner. Much to the king's disappointment, he declined to do so, but repeated the effect with an ox instead.
The Cups and Balls is often mistakenly considered to be the earliest magic trick. It features in what was once thought to be the earliest known illustration of a magical performance. Egyptologists have dated a painting on a wall at an Egyptian tomb at Beni Hasan as being between 2500BC and 2200BC. It depicts two people playing with four cups. Recently there has been much speculation whether the absence of balls in the painting nullifies the claim that it is indeed the Cups and Balls. It certainly is an ancient trick, however, and is still popular today. There are many variations, but the basic effect is that of balls magically passing from cup to cup, appearing and disappearing at the magician's will. The trick often finishes with the surprise production of large objects from beneath the cups - sometimes even live chicks and mice!
Sources and References
The Practical Encyclopedia of Magic by Nicholas Einhorn
Top: The beauitful lithograph by Carle Vernet is called "Escamoteur. La primière muscade, la voilà"
roughly translated "Prestidigitator. The first ball, here it is!"
Left: This late fifteenth-century painting by Hieronymus Bosch is called "The Juggler"
. It is another example which highlights the popularity of the famous Cups and Balls. Magicians were often referred to as "jugglers", which explains the title of the painting. Did you notice the man in the back row stealing the purse of the person in front of him? Sadly, the original has disappeared but fortunately many copies are still available for us to look at.
Alvin H. Wheatley 1901-1965 (AKA "Tung Pin Soo", "Chop Chop")
The Chop Cup was invented by Australian magician Alvin H. Wheatley whom was born in 1901, and performed under the name of Tung Pin Soo as well as "Chop Chop". He performed as an Oriental and appeared many times on American television including an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. He is acknowledged to have invented the idea sometime in the mid 1950's, so the gimmicked cups were named after him.
Two legendary names are associated with making the chop cup popular as it were their "signature" pieces - Don Alan and Larry Jennings. History records that Wheatley saw Jennings perform his chop cup routine at The Magic Castle shortly after it opened in 1963. He was so impressed that he asked Jennings to please not reveal his method or routine in print until after his death. Larry kept his promise, and did not publish his routine until a year after Wheatley's death. It was published in Genii Magazine, Volume 29, Number 7, in March of 1965.
More than four thousand magicians played on vaudeville and nite-club bills around the world between the 1890's and the 1930's. At the turn of the century there were twenty theatres presenting variety shows, acrobats, jugglers, comedians, singers, animal acts, dramatic skits, and novelty
acts in and around London and as many within a thirty mile radius of New York City. Acts varied in length from eight minutes to an hour. Entertainers could work a hundred weeks in the United States without appearing twice in the same city by playing the Keith circuit in the East, the Orpheum chain in the West, and other affiliated theatres in the South and Midwest.
Al Wheatley was a part of this era. He was born in Australia and brought to the United States as a boy by his parents. He worked for a few years as Jean Hugard's assistant, before becoming an expert "Chinese" magician.
In the early 40's Al used the stage name Ching Ling Fu and later was Ting Pin Soo, however, in the 50's he changed his name to Chop Chop and his act became Chop Chop and Chalene. They played up scale clubs such as The Empire Room of the Palmer House in Chicago and the Moulin Rouge in Los Angeles.
The Chop Cup was created in the mid 1950's and was originally marketed as "Chop Chop's One Cup & Ball Routine. It sold for $9.50 and came complete with a hand-polished imported bamboo cup. By 1957 Wheatley's company, Excato Magic, was advertising a modified aluminum Chop Cup in magic magazines for $12.50.
Don Alan who introduced close-up magic to network television performed his Chop Cup routine on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1960. Needless to say at was a big hit.
The trick has spawned many variations, leading to elaborate routines developed by Larry Jennings, Ron Wilson, Earl Nelson and Alan Wakeling. Larry Jennings' "Famous Chop Cup Routine", was noted for its loading of a big ball and the use of a silk handkerchief and a shot glass. It
was published in Genii Magazine in March of 1965. The Nelson and Wakeling routines eventually appeared in The Chop Cup Book (1979). Ron Wilson's Uncanny Chop Cup saw print in "The Uncanny Scot" (1987).
Al Wheatley, whose name of Chop Chop is forever linked to that classic prop, died on November 12, 1965.