Recil Bordner on Magic Capital of the World

From TOPS Magazine, January 1961, by Recil Bordner: “I am assuming that everyone knows how Lester Lake came to give Colon the title of THE MAGIC CAPITOL OF THE WORLD, and how I came to buy half interest in this business from Percy Abbott back in 1934.

What has not been told about this Magic Co. is the identity and story of the many people who have and still work here.

Among those who have worked for us were: Jesse Thornton, who was in vaudeville and built magical apparatus in Chicago. “Bill” Brema from Philadelphia – the master machinist – with all the Precision Brass Tricks of the old Brema Line; Lyman Hug who had been on the Harry Thurston Show with Percy as electrician and technician. Also Ted Banks, Frank Luckner and Neil Sweet were from the Blackstone Show. Gen. Grant, Winston Freer and Nardini of “Nardini and Nadine” each spent a couple of years with us. And Eddie Joseph, who came over from India to perform at one of our Get Togethers, stayed several months, writing and developing tricks before going on to London. All the above and many more helped us here, right down to the latest celebrities, Neal and Jeanne Foster, who are now members of the ‘Magic Family’ here in Colon.

The first day I come to Colon to stay, Percy introduced me to all the places in town where he had been doing any business: The first place he took me was to the home of Charles Elliot a man interested in magic in an amateur way. “Chuck” always produced all the minstrel shows and any other dramatic productions that were attempted locally. So it was only natural that he was the “contact” man with the local people on all our magical Get Togethers until his death in 1942. Chuck’s wife Irene was doing some sewing for the Magic Co; Spring Sausages, Carrots etc. She is the same lady who is working today in our sewing department making the same things plus, of course, many more products. She continued to do the sewing in her home until her three children were grown before she came to the shop to work.

During that first year after we had moved into our own building, another man came to see us from the Blackstone Show. This time it was from the advance personnel in the person of a juggler named Fred Merrill or just “Freddie” as everyone called him. He came to help in our paint department, and started on what was to be a part time basis, but today he is still our painter and has finished and painted, I would say, more Magical Apparatus than any other man in the world today.

Before the First World War, Fred was with the Merrill Brothers, a juggling team, and “Morris Cronnin and his Merry Men”, a comedy European Juggler Act. He is the immediate Past President of the International Jugglers Association and those of you who read the OLD TOPS, will remember that he had a series of articles, on the art of juggling, published several years ago. He has promised to write some articles for the NEW TOPS as the months roll along, so if any of you juggling fans have any news, questions or suggestions that you would like to see in print, send them along to Fred Merrill, Colon, Michigan.

In August 1943 Fred’s wife, Caroline, came to help us in the sewing department for a few hours each day. It was not long before she was working full time. When we took over the feather flower making from the DeWitt sisters, she mastered the art of converting the grimy white imported swan and goose feathers to the soft brilliant petals seen on the finished white flowers. Later she become skillful at dyeing them to the bright, even iridescent colors that makes our feather flowers so outstanding. She is especially proud of her fresh carnations, and rightfully so for they are the most realistic in appearance.

If I wrote about all the things concerning all the people who have worked here, this column would be as long as a novel, so I will have to continue it in another issue.”

Recil Bordner by Neil Foster

From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, October 1966; Cover Portrait; by Neil Foster: ”RECIL BORDNER IS THE Abbott Magic Manufacturing Company. Six months after the late Percy Abbott founded the factory in Colon, in 1934, Recil became his partner. Mr. Abbott had the ideas … Recil the financial backing. The partnership lasted a quarter of a century and terminated with Mr. Abbott’s retirement in 1959 and his passing in 1960.

Recil is a quiet and unassuming person, easy to get along with and liked by all his employees. He has a vast knowledge of magic and whenever special orders come in for custom-made equipment he comes up with the right answers. He’s not a hard-nosed businessman, for if he was, magic would be without the ‘Magic Capitol of the World’; instead, he is a man of compassion … a humanitarian. During lean periods in the magic business he prefers to go without in order to meet the company payroll. Many senior citizens of Colon owe their Social Security to The Abbott Magic Company, having worked here at one time or another. Even Christmas season he remembers these past employees with gifts.

If you ever harbored the thought that running the world’s largest magic factory is a breeze … you just try it sometime. In the first place it’s a business that doesn’t come under the three necessities of life: food, shelter, clothing. It’s more of a luxury business. Abbots have always tried to price their merchandise to meet the average pocketbook. Some magicians’ say that apparatus isn’t made as good as it was in bygone years. You don’t see ads reading ‘hand-rubbed finish’ and the like – those were the days when a man worked for a dollar a day. You can still get this quality treatment, if you are willing to pay for it.

Its no wonder Recil sports some gray hair. In addition to the hundreds of inquiries and problems that go along with a specialized mail-order business that catalogs several thousand items, there are always daily problems that arise when you have twenty-five employees. Some people don’t understand Recil … but those who have known him over a period of years do, and when the chips are down he’s in your corner.

Recil and Donna celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary a couple of years ago. Their two sons, Martin and Greg, join forces each year at Get-together time and it’s a family affair, everyone doing their part to help welcome and house the hundreds of visiting magicians who make the annual trek to the ‘magic capitol.’

Keeping a huge stock in a business that’s as elusive as magic takes quite an investment. Naturally Abbott’s can’t stock every item that hits the magic scene, or you’d need a building ten times the size of the present one and the bank account of a multi-millionaire. There are always those who say ‘this should be done this way’ … but isn’t that true with about every field of human endeavor?

I take my hat off to Recil; he’s a great guy, there aren’t many like him who devote their lives in an unselfish way so that others can make a living. And how about the kid in some small town far away who has memorized the Abbott catalog and dreams … and when he orders some of those ‘dreams,’ look at the enjoyment to thousands. Like I say, there aren’t many men like Recil Bordner, who puts service above self. He is a man who is happy because he did what he wanted to do and has made the magic world better for it.”

Recil Bordner by Neil Foster 1976

Recil Bordner

From the Colon Express newspaper, August 18, 1976, by Neil Foster: “The exploration of Viking I on Mars may not disturb the rabbits hereabouts, but mention “magicians” and they hunt their hideouts! They are doing it now because 1,000 magicians and their families arrived today for the first night’s performance of the Abbott Magic company’s 39th annual Get-Together, celebrating 42 years of leadership as the world’s largest manufacturer of quality magic equipment.

Recil Bordner, owner of Abbott’s, stated this is by far the largest advance registration in the history of the Get-togethers. Many early birds started arriving in town last Sunday to get an advance start in greeting their fellow wand wavers as they converge on Colon for this year’s Bicentennial Spirit of ’76 Magical Homecoming.

Harry Blackstone Jr. will headline an all-star cast of over 30 professional acts to be presented at the Colon high school auditorium at 8:00 p.m. tonight, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Each night brings an entirely different show with the exception of Mr. Blackstone, who will appear each night by public demand. He will also emcee the Special Benefit Matinee on Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.

Harry Jr. needs no introduction to Colonites, as this village was home to him for many years; he was born in the Three Rivers hospital. Harry Blackstone III will accompany his father, along with the entire family. The Great Blackstone Sr. is buried in Lakeside cemetery, and for many years made Colon his summer quarters for his big lavish magical spectacular with which he toured the United States and Canada annually for decades. There is great affection for the Blackstones here.

Daytime activities are not open to the public, only magicians who have registered for the four-day conclave. The four evening shows and matinee are open to the public, and tickets are available only from the Abbott Magic company in Colon. All seats are reserved for the evening shows but are not reserved for the matinee.

The magicians who have registered will attend daytime lectures, see demonstrations of what’s new in tricks, the ladies will have two afternoon parties; the senior citizens in magic will have their own luncheon, contests will be held for the young magicians; the ventriloquists will meet each morning; the magi-ministers will hold forth; as will Magical Youths International.

Magic will prevail on streets, in cafes, parks … you name it … when two or more magicians get together magic always happens … and that’s how the Magic Get-Together was founded and got its name.

Sixteen years have passed since the death of Percy Abbott, founder of the Abbott Magic Company, and the TOPS magazine which has a world-wide circulation of over 4,000 readers. Recil Bordner was Mr. Abbott’s partner from the beginning and when he retired in 1959 Recil bought him out. Under his leadership the business has flourished and Abbott’s is recognized as the world’s foremost in inventing, in building and promoting the Art of Magic. One can always see Abbott-made magic on the big television shown featuring all phases of trickery. Countless magic acts all over the globe are indebted to Recil Bordner and the late Percy Abbott.”

 

Recil Bordner Obituary

 

Magic King Bordner dies

 

Newspaper clipping, September 8, 1981: “COLON – Recil J. Bordner, 70, president of Abbott Magic Company and publisher of “The New Tops Magazine” died at noon Tuesday.

A central figure in Colon’s magic heritage, Bordner came to Colon in 1934 to visit Percy Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company, That visit ended  up in a partnership with Abbott that lasted 25 years.

The son of an Ohio farm couple, he tried mind-reading at an early age and then switched to magic.

Bordner, along with Abbott and Harry Blackstone Sr., brought Colon the title of “Magic Capitol of the World.”

In 1932 and 1933, Bordner performed in Ohio and Indiana. Seeking illusions to expand his act, Bordner traveled to Colon to visit Abbott. Abbott and Bordner had met in Montpelier, Ohio in 1931 and Bordner became intrigued with Abbott’s magic catalogues.

Abbott and Bordner became partners, an agreement that lasted until Abbott retired in 1959. During the partnership and under Bordner’s guidance, the company became the world’s largest manufacturer of magic supplies.

In 1936, the first issue of “Tops,” a monthly magazine filled with articles by magicians, was published at the company. The magazine now has a circulation of 4,000 and is mailed to subscribers throughout the world.

Bordner brought his son Greg into the firm. Although semi-retired, the elder Bordner still took an active part in the company.

And a magician at heart, Bordner easily could be talked into performing at Colon’s annual Magic-Get-together, hosted by Abbott Magic Company.”

 

From the Colon Express newspaper: “COLON – Recil J. Bordner. 70, 5257 Elizabeth, Colon, died September 8, 1981.

A graduate of Edon High School, Mr. Bordner came to Colon in 1934.

He was married to Donna V. Lesnet May 29. 1937 in Montpelier, Ohio. She preceded him in death in December of 1974.

He married Eda Mae Cubbernuss, September 11, 1976.

Mr. Bordner was president of Abbott Magic Co., in Colon. His partnership with Percy Abbott lasted from 1934 until Abbott retired in 1959.

Mr. Bordner attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Colon, and was a member of Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He was a past member of the Colon Board of Education and charter member of Colon Lion’s Club.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, Martina Bordner of East Lansing and Gregory W. Bordner of Colon; three grandchildren, four step-children, Frichard L. Cubbermuss of Mendon, George F. Cubbernuss of Elkhart, Indiana, Mrs. Joseph (Diane) Saputo of Detroit and Doris Cubbernuss of Grandville, Ohio, seven step-grandchildren; and one sister, Mrs. Donell (Letta) Campbell of Adrian.”

 

From the Colon Express newspaper, September 25, 1941: “Mrs. D. L. Adey has sold her home on North Main Street to Mr. and Mrs. Recil Bordner; and will sell her household goods at auction, Saturday, October 4.”