Abbott Fire 1938



From the Sturgis Daily Journal, September 19. 1938.

Fire Destroys Colon Magic Factory – OVER $10,000 DAMAGE DONE: SAVE SECRETS


Colon, Sept. 19 – There was no illusion about the flames that blazed from the home of Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company Saturday night at 9 o’clock resulting in an estimated $10,000 loss. Mystery does overshadow the destruction, however, as no on can trace the origin of the fire which started at the rear of the factory. Percy Abbott, head of the magic center, stated this morning the actual loss amounted to over $10,000, but that he was fortunate in that all of his records, secrets, and valuable manuscripts had been saved.

Though Mr. Abbott was out of the village at the time of the fire, employees of the factory saved all the documents in the office. The scene in Colon, the Magic Capital of the World, was considerably different Saturday night from that of a week previous when 500 magicians from all over the world gathered here for their annual convention and frolic. About 9 o’clock Saturday evening flames were seen at the rear of the Abbot factory. According to the report Mrs. Audrey Eggstaff, an employee at the magic institute, who resides next door, and several other residents of Colon discovered the fire at about the same time. A general alarm was given.


Walls are saved

With surprising rapidity, the volunteer firemen of Colon reached the scene of activity and despite the fact that the fire had a big start, the exterior of the building was saved. On the interior fire, smoke, and water resulted in complete destruction. On the first floor of the two-story frame building fire destroyed small tricks, materials used in their manufacture, and a considerable amount of expensive machinery, including a printing press. The press, except for rubber rollers and other combustible parts, can be salvaged and put back into use. On the second floor was a stage and auditorium where the illusions and stage routine was performed and practiced. In addition to this, fire destroyed stage properties, an upright piano, and an expensive stock of illusion cabinets and sense-befuddling  mechanisms.


Other Property Threatened


Because of the proximity of the Colon Hatchery on one side and the Eggstaff dwelling on the other, the fire threatened the entire resident block. P. W. Keesler, owner of the hatchery, stated that when the fire was first discovered it looked as though all the buildings were doomed. It took several hours for the firemen using water and chemicals to bring the conflagration under control and several times during the night small flames broke out anew and made it necessary for firemen to return.


To Rebuild Structure


Mr. Abbott is making plans for the construction of another factory building on the same location. It will be modern in every respect except for the front where the illuminated skeletons, used as the trademark, will be painted as on the old building. The work of cleaning out and salvaging has begun and the wrecking of the old building will start soon. Through the courtesy of Charles Correll, manager of the Lamb Knit Mills, the Abbott Magic Company has a temporary home in one of the warehouses where a showroom and office is being arranged. On the east side of Colon a temporary workshop has been set up where the printing press will be repaired. “Tops,” the magazine of magic, which is printed by the Abbott Company will be published as usual the first of the month, stated Mr. Abbott this morning. The magazine has over 3,500 circulation and is sent only to magicians as their regular trade journal.


Cause of Fire Unknown


Ted Ward, chief of the Colon fire department, and officials of the factory were unable to explain the cause of the fire. Smoking regulations inside the plant are very strict and Mr. Abbott, personally, closed up and inspected the shop at 5 o’clock, only four hours before the fire was discovered. A tank of gasoline exploded while the volunteers were extinguishing the fire giving the stubborn blaze added impetus. The building which was burned on the inside and scorched on the outside was insured at $1,000. This was the only insurance carried.