JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT newspaper, April 6, 1936
Thriving Industry Wins Colon “City of Magic” Title
Abbot Firm is Magician’s Aid
Produces All Types of Wars for Art.
Magic Master and His “Gadget” Factory
Colon – Figuring out new and better ways to saw off a girl’s legs and chop off her head is really quite fascinating after you get used to the idea.
Most people might not see any fun in dismembering bodies but it makes a highly entertaining relaxation for tired nerves.
There’s an art to it, too. You can’t just go out and chop the head off without any advance preparations. That would be much too crude. You’ve got to do it with a finesse which takes a great deal of planning and practice but it’s great fun after you get the hang of it.
Ask Percy Abbott of Colon. He’s doing it right along and making genuine success out of it. The little town of Colon is scarcely a place where you’d look for this kind of business but that’s why Mr. Abbott likes it here. He has far fewer interruptions while at work than he would have in the cities for that reason can concentrate much better on the subject at hand.
That place where Mr. Abbott conducts the unique industry is called the Abbott Magic Novelty Co., the most versatile business of its kind in the United States and the only one of three. Approach to the Abbott plant may be a little disconcerting for the easily startled because of the skeletons seen in various poses on the outside walls of the building which is entirely black, but closer inspection reveals that these are only painted skeletons.
Strangely enough, romance was the medium through which Mr. Abbott happened to get into the business of inventing and manufacturing head chopping and leg sawing boxes, among many other things. Born in Australia as the son of an English magician who believed in having his boy practice magic eight hours a day, Mr. Abbot spent all of his life until two years of age wandering across the stages of Europe, China, India and other lands making things vanish and appear to the mystification of black, yellow and white audiences. Then he came to the United States intending to stay but a short time and while here visited Colon to do a little vacation fishing. While there he met a girl and it was Mr. Abbott’s turn to erase himself from the stage.
To one who has no yen to associate with “spooks” a first glimpse of the Abbott magic factory at Colon might be rather disconcerting.
Today Mr. Abbott’s company is shipping the paraphernalia which magicians use to every land in the world as for example the head chopping, leg sawing box now under construction for a customer in the Straits Settlement at Singapore, this one being an improvement on the type long familiar in that act during which the magician seems to dismember the body of the girl inside, but of course really doesn’t.
Inside Mr. Abbot’s plant there’s everything from disappearing water glasses, collapsible flowers and multiplying golf balls to phony funnels, displayed in long counters on the first floor. On the same floor of the building also is located the machine shop. Mr. Abbott and his staff of 11 specially trained employees doing all of their own machine work and upstairs if a miniature theatre for demonstrations.
The bizarre decorations, featuring the skeletons on the outside of the place, which incidentally was formally a buggy factory, are carried out inside as well, predominated by curling, crawling lines of black which are almost as dizzying as the music going round and round, except that the lines don’t seem to come out anywhere. In Mr. Abbott’s office strange bill posters cover almost the entire wall space and among them are many in foreign languages even to Chinese, memoirs from his years of trouping here and there across the face of the globe.
Mrs. Abbott was the first spectator too the trick that led Mr. Abbott into the manufacture of magic. It’s called the “squash” and if you can figure it out you’re a magi yourself. Mr. Abbott demonstrated it by placing a small liquor glass half full of water – and it’s really water – on a table. Then he places his hand, which you have seen nothing whatever over the glass and presses hard and there’s a squishy sound after which there isn’t any glass. No, it wasn’t under the table or up Mr. Abbott’s sleeve, because in a minute he pulls it from his pants leg. The next time he made it vanish in the palm of his hand, not more than two feet from the goggle eyed reporter’s nose and found it later in his pocket. Strange, isn’t it, how a glass will wander?”
More magic, thought the reporter who was now thoroughly convinced that Mr. Abbott would make the moon vanish if he was disposed against it.
But no, the whistle proved to be the fire alarm, and Mr. Abbott’s partner and first assistant rushed out to the building. “He’s the fire chief,” explained Mr. Abbott between counting the number of whistles to tell the location to which the towns’ volunteer fire department was being summoned.
The incident added to the incongruity of finding a magician in a small town far removed from the bright lights, but Mr. Abbott says he doesn’t miss the stage. One reason perhaps is a two-year-old son who already plays with a handkerchief and gurgles “tricks.”
“This is an ideal location,” Mr. Abbott said, “We don’t have the interruptions we would have in the city where we would be within easy reach of everybody. Our customers like to come here because it’s a change from metropolitan hubbub and they can do their buying in a leisurely fashion, chatting and exchanging ideas in the meantime as magicians like to do.”
But the magicians have no monopoly on magic. Many an ordinary dignified business man might be seen if you could surprise him in the privacy of his den, doing funny things with what looks like a lemon, or with some other gadget. You’d be judging him too hastily if you sent for a straightjacket before you determined whether he’s one of the thousands of businessmen, doctors, lawyers and others who have taken up magic as a hobby. The Abbott Company does not sell only to professional magicians, but also to hundreds of amateurs and semi-amateurs.
The number of people learning the tricks of magic is increasingly astonishingly,” Mr. Abbott said. That’s good for our business, of course, and tends to give the magicians larger audiences. At the same time it demands more skill from us. Audiences are more keener than they used to be.”
Proof of how widespread the magic virus is was manifest a time ago when a minister visited Mr. Abbott asking for advice on ways and means of exposing spiritualists. He became so interested in the art of magic that he took it up, forsook the pulpit and is now trouping and doing quite well at it.
Besides his own plant the only manufacturing magic in this country, which Mr. Abbott knows about, are two small concerns, one in Chicago and the other in California. But Mr. Abbott is more than a manufacturer. He also is an inventor and anyone who thinks that magic is a standardized thing doesn’t know his Houdini. There are fads in it the same as in any line of business and a constant need for improvement.
For instance, Mr. Abbott explained, “The repeal of prohibition brought a revival of the night club and popularized the floor show. Working magic in the center of a floor with your audience seated all around you is decidedly more difficult that doing it on a stage where you have the advantage of background drapery and other effects. Floor show magic calls for what is known as self-contained illusions – that is, illusions which will be concealing and deceiving from any angle of view. Many card tricks and other slight of hand manipulations had to be eliminated.
Mr. Abbott’s art is expressed in improving upon the equipment used in the past and to developing new tricks and new kinds of illusions. Last year he had under manufacture and development about 500 different kinds of tricks at one time and he is now in direct contact with approximately 5,000 magicians in all parts of the world who look to him for the creation of new ideas or the practical interpretation of their own suggestions.
The magicians who gather at Mr. Abbott’s place each fall – last year more than 250 attended – for an annual get-together, named Colon “the magic capital of the world.” And since Mr. Abbott gives periodical shows at which he experiments with his latest tricks on fellow residents of the town, Colon is no place to try the old shell game. The magic wise Colonites would laugh you back to the hinterland where they’re still chopping off heads and sawing off limbs in the old fashioned way.
The Abbott Magic Company. Recil Bordner became a partner in the Abbott Magic Novelty Company in 1934.