Jack Gwynne, Cover Portrait 1947
From TOPS Magazine, April 1947, Cover Portrait: “Jack Gwynne, head man of the original Royal Family of Magic, whose likeness appears on the cover this month, has been in Magic a long while indeed, and now does every type of act from a lecture on his trip to the Orient to a full evening show.
He received his first taste of Magic when he saw a side show Magician do the Die Box. His interest was so great that he could not resist the urge to climb a rope to see if there was a hole in the table. For this he was ejected unceremoniously from the tent, but this treatment only served to whet his desire to find out something about Magic.
In a library he unearthed the Hoffman books and he was on the way. He found a catalog of a dealer who was selling out in Chicago, and with money earned on a paper route and as a drugstore helper, he sent for his first “boughten” tricks – Die Box, Linking Rings, and a Color-Changing Handkerchief. These added to the ones he had constructed from the books gave him his first “act”.
Kellar was then making his farewell tour and introducing his successor, Thurston. A thoughtful and sympathetic aunt gave Jack a ticket and streetcar fare to Pittsburgh to see the show and he saw both great artists. This fired his ambition still further and he studied that much harder.
White still in school he was able to present a passable 15-minute act at many school events, and was soon in demand at the Elks Club, church socials and other local affairs.
His schooling completed, he went to work as a roll turner in a steel mill, and studying at night became interested in the Safety First idea, then a new thing. Combining his ability to entertain and talk he was soon a safety engineer. Then by studying public speaking and elocution, he sought to improve his hobby.
Came a period when he was a booking agent for Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits and later a performer on such show. As the Chautauqua idea died out, he became one of the pioneers in doing school shows independently.
By this time, Gwynne had many live stock tricks and small illusions and a shop where he could build. He built many things for Eugene Laurant, Birch, Davis, and Houdini and furnished fish bowls to Thurston and others.
Harry Houdini gave him the stack of bowls and Gwynne still uses the original gimmick that was made for Houdini by Ching Ling Foo in exchange for another trick that Foo wanted.
Married then to Anne, he soon had the two grand assistants who are today the backbone of his new big show – Bud and Peg, born and raised on Magic. And now the third generation, little Bud the Second, Peggy’s boy, is a show stealer in every sense of the word.
Gwynne regularly attended the Pittsburgh vaudeville theatres and if a Magician happened to be on the bill, made backstage visits. He was soon well known to the managers and once when an aerobatic act missed the opening, the manager asked Gwynne to fill in for the day. Fate arrange that a scout for a large circuit caught the show and soon talked Gwynne into getting into the show business and doing his act in vaudeville. Gwynne then hired a teacher for the kids, borrowed on his insurance policy to buy scenery and finance the trip to New York for a tryout. All the boys who knew Gwynne know the result – a 40-week route on the Keith time.
After many years in the “big time” – all the large circuits – Gwynne saw the handwriting on the wall and noticed that nightclubs were opening on a large scale. He immediately slanted his act to that field and became the first and almost exclusive Magician to perform large and spectacular illusions on a nightclub floor, almost surrounded by the crowd.
The war came on and Jack and Anne flew over 75,000 miles, playing in North Africa, Italy, Egypt, Iran , Iraq, Persia, China, Burma and India, arriving home just ahead of his son, Buddy, who was a pilot in the Air Corps through the entire war. His son-in-law, Frank Cole II, was also due home from a European tour for USO. The Royal Family, re-united, decided to pool their talents and do a large show that had been in Gwynne’s mind a long time. The hour unit was an instant success and played in vaudeville theatres all across the country. Then came plans for the two-hour show to play auditoriums. This show recently had a successful premiere and bookings are being arranged.
The show had to have a headquarters, and the family had to have a home, so Gwynne bought a bungalow in the South Shore District in Chicago, which he and Anne and the kids have had a lot of fun arranging a workshop, costume department, storage space and comfortable living quarters.
The active Royal Family now consists of Anne Gwynne, Buddy and Helen Gwynne, Peggy Gwynne Cole, and the Boss Man, Jack. In addition to the combined big show, the three boys – Jack, Buddy, and Frank – each have their respective acts.
It’s a grand family – The Gwynnes.”