Percy Abbott “The Caliph of Colon” 1886 – 1960
From The “TOPS” Magazine, December 1964. By Neil Foster: “Tragedy struck a family in Sydney, Australia in 1894 when a young mother passed away followed six month later by the father, leaving a family of five small boys in the care of an aunt. This is the story about one of these boys who was but eight years old at the time and who left home at fourteen, on his own, to seek his way in the world. This boy was Percy Abbott.
Percy became interested in magic at the age of twelve, an interest which fired into a lifetime of magic. He toured the vaudeville circuits and was the first magician to perform the sawing a woman in haves illusion in Australia. He was also the first to do a Mind-Reading Act selling horoscopes “down under”. There were many “firsts” he was to accomplish during his lifetime in magical activities, innovations and inventions. He was the first ventriloquist to tour Java and the first foreign magician to appear in may cities of the Far East. He appeared in American vaudeville in 1917 performing as a singer and monologist. He joined the Ferari Carnival with Harry Jansen (Dante).
It was after this that Percy Abbot did most of his extensive touring through the Orient. From the Far East he went to Africa for a long tour, then on to London where he played variety. He returned to Australia and opened the first Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company. It was located at 437 Pitt Street, “One door from Campbell Street”, Haymarket, Sydney. In his first catalog he listed “American and Continental Puzzles, Surprises, Jokes and Novelty Notions”. Later he opened two more shops in Sydney.
Abbott returned to America and was associated with Harry Blackstone for eighteen months in the magic business. He then toured for several years playing under auspices. In 1934 the Abbott Magic Novelty Company was reborn in the small village of Colon, Michigan, and has since become know as “The Magic Capital of the World”. With his partner, Recil Bordner, the company grew tremendously, a factory, unique in that it is the only one of its kind in the world. He inaugurated years ago an affair that has become famous in the annals of Magic … The Abbott Magic Get-Togethers. In the years before World War II Abbott’s opened retail stores in Indianapolis, Detroit, New York, Chicago and Hollywood, California. When war restrictions made it impossible to secure certain raw materials those stores were closed.
One of his proudest accomplishments was the TOPS magazine, which he edited and published in 1936. Percy turned the editorial responsibilities over to Howard “Mel” Melson when he joined the Abbot staff in 1940.
After “Mel’s passing the magazine ceased for two years and nine months. In 1960 the NEW TOPS was published with Recil Bordner and Neil Foster as its publisher and editor. During the early Get-Togethers Percy installed a fire-alarm-siren in the showroom and every time a magician would subscribe to TOPS this siren was blown. Regardless of what was going on at the time, a new subscriber meant an ear-shattering screech of the siren. Many subscriptions were sold as the magicians caught on to the idea and when someone was demonstrating or performing, at the apropos moment, the wail would be sounded. This went on for several years until the late Lloyd Chambers talked Percy into selling him the siren. He didn’t tell Percy he hated the thing. When he bought it he promptly marched two blocks from the factory and threw the siren into the lake!
Percy Abbot had a comprehensive knowledge of magic and a vast amount of practical experience as well as being an excellent showman. His lifetime was true to the axiom of show business and he “quit” and “left us wanting more”. His colorful career combined with his dynamic personality has left and indelible mark on Magic.”
Neil Foster (1921 – 1988) was editor of TOPS Magazine and appeared at Abbott’s Get-Together in 1952, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1971, and 1973. Percy Abbott appeared at the Get-Together in 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1952, and 1955.