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81 posts categorized "Leisure"

12 January 2017

The Beach Pyjama Incident

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Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow wore them, but British officials felt that beach pyjamas weren’t right for Sharjah in 1933.

Beach pyjamas

Woman in beach pyjamas, 1932. Bundesarchiv_Bild_102-13627 via Wikimedia Commons

Air travel had come to Sharjah the previous year, when it began serving as a stopover on the Imperial Airways route to India. Facilities included a rest house with bath and showers. However, in 1933 a report reached the British Political Agent in Bahrain that passengers had been making visits to the town, including one female passenger ‘clad in beach pyjamas’, the fashionably fast beach leisurewear of the 1930s.

A senior India Office official, J G Laithwaite, was soon referring in an official minute to the ‘beach pyjama incident’.

IOR L PS 12 3807, f 24

Minute by Laithwaite, India Office, 8 May 1933, referring to ‘the beach pyjama incident’ at Sharjah IOR/L/PS/12/3807, f 24.

British concern about the free movement of air passengers at Sharjah took two forms. On the one hand, they wished to limit contact between visitors and the Sheikh of Sharjah, particularly unauthorised representatives of oil companies hunting for lucrative petroleum contracts.

On the other hand, there was concern that passengers might be ‘insulted or molested’ by the local inhabitants, who had ‘not up to now been accustomed to having strangers, especially ladies, wandering about their bazaars’. If this happened, the British authorities would be forced to insist that the Sheikh identified and punished the offenders, with a consequent straining of relations between the British and the Sheikh.

The British Political Resident, Lieutenant-Colonel Trenchard Fowle, proceeded to write to the Sheikh of Sharjah, warning him, more tactfully, about the possible threat to passengers from ‘some bad character or Bedouin from the desert’, and asking him to enforce a treaty clause stating that no Imperial Airways employee or passenger should be allowed to enter the town of Sharjah without the Sheikh’s permission.

IOR L PS 12 3807, f 29

Letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Trenchard Fowle, Political Resident in Persian Gulf, to the Sheikh of Sharjah, March 1933, warning him of the consequences, if some ‘unfortunate incident’ were to occur involving Imperial Airways passengers at Sharjah: IOR/L/PS/12/3807, f 29.

The historian Penelope Tuson thinks that the concern of British administrators for the safety of female passengers was only apparent, and that that their real motive was to preserve sexual propriety and the status quo, in the face of increasing numbers of female visitors to the Gulf – doctors, nurses, oil industry wives, and travellers like Freya Stark. All of these women were outside the British political and diplomatic class, and hence more difficult to control.

However, British officials may have reflected that Sharjah was in a part of the Gulf that had up to that point seen few manifestations of Western culture. (The airfield ‘rest house’ was actually a fort, Al Mahatta, complete with armed guards.) Moreover, the chief concern of British administrators was normally the need to preserve friendly relations with local rulers, who were themselves part of the status quo.

Thus, Fowle had also been at pains to reprimand Imperial Airways over an incident at Gwadar, an exclave of the sultanate of Muscat, in which an employee of the company had accidentally wounded a local person while out shooting. Fortunately, the incident in question was quickly settled.

In the event, Imperial Airways promptly enforced restrictions on the movements of passengers at Sharjah.

The identity of the female passenger at the centre of the controversy is not recorded. However, the incident illustrates some of the cultural interactions that characterised the changing face of the Gulf in the 1930s.

The correspondence file on which this piece is based will be made available in the Qatar Digital Library in 2017.

Martin Woodward
Content Specialist, Archives
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
British Library, Coll 30/88 'Question of residence of European women on the Trucial Coast.' IOR/L/PS/12/3807.
Penelope Tuson, Playing the Game. The Story of Western Women in Arabia (London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2003)
Film of the airport at Sharjah in 1937

 

 

06 January 2017

The mysterious Mr John Fillinham: an apprentice made good?

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Among the collections of printed ephemera at the British Library are eight scrap-books relating to 18th and 19th century entertainments formed by John Fillinham.  The Fillinham volumes are a rich source of information about performing arts and other pastimes.  They are arranged according to venue (British Museum, Carlisle House, etc.) or subject (Christmas carols, or trained animals and menageries, for example).  There are advertisements, playbills, song sheets, tickets, newspaper clippings, and illustrations taken from books (elephants seem particularly popular).  They seem to tell us something about the interests and lifestyle of their collector.

Fillinham B20074-03

From John Fillinham's collection of ephemera

 

But who was John Fillinham?

An invoice in the British Library Archive reveals  that these volumes — along with some printed books — were acquired via an agent for £16 11s 6d at the Fillingham sale of 7 August 1862.  A hunt through the sale catalogues led to the discovery of the Puttick & Simpson auction where the library and antiquarian collections of J.J.A. Fillinham Esq. of Hanover Street, Walworth, were sold.

 

Fillinham 1889.b.10. 2 p.6

 From John Fillinham's collection of ephemera

 

The London Gazette announced the death of a John Joseph Ashby Fillinham of 8 Hanover Street on 15 April 1862. He was buried at nearby Nunhead Cemetery, having died aged 77.  Digging deeper with this full name, we find him initiated as a freemason in 1819, recorded as a member of the Camden Society in the 1840s, and elected to the Society of Antiquaries shortly before his death.  This sounds like educated gentleman of reasonable means.  However, when we explore further back into his background, a curious story begins to emerge.

John Joseph Ashby Fillinham was baptised in 1785, the son of John Fillinham and his wife  Ann (née Potts) of Wardour Street in Soho.  John Fillinham senior was a coach maker who filed for bankruptcy in November 1796.  John Joseph Ashby Fillinham was apprenticed in 1800 to a plumber named Joseph Ashby who also lived in Wardour Street.

Could our gentleman collector have started as an apprentice plumber from Soho?  The name is distinctive and the dates fit.  The reference to his future master in his full baptismal name could indicate a long-standing family or financial connection between the Fillinhams and the Ashbys. When Joseph Ashby died in 1802, he left the bulk of his estate to Ann Fillinham rather than to his widow Elizabeth.  Ann was to hold the plumbing business and the Wardour Street premises in trust for her son John until he came of age – the apprentice was to become owner.

 

Fillinham c04357-06

From John Fillinham's collection of ephemera

 

One final piece of evidence: the 1851 census reveals that John Fillinham was then a bachelor living in Walworth with his unmarried sister, Lucy, and their domestic servant.  It gives his occupation as ‘collecting clerk’.  Not then a gentleman of independent wealth, but certainly someone who had progressed sufficiently up the social ladder to be able to participate in learned societies and form a notable antiquarian collection of his own.   And if the contents of the Fillinham collection reflect his personal interests, then he must also have been someone who had the leisure time to frequent the best museums, pleasure gardens, menageries and fairs in London.  Not bad for someone who started life as a plumber’s apprentice.

Adrian Edwards
Head, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Collection of ephemera, ca. 1700 to ca. 1860, formed by John Fillinham. BL shelfmark: 1889.b.10.
• Vol. 1. The British Museum.
• Vol. 2. Carlisle House and White Conduit Street.
• Vol. 3. Christmas carols.
• Vol. 4. Fairs.
• Vol. 5. Remarkable characters, exhibitions and fireworks in Green Park.
• Vols. 6–8. Trained animals and menageries.
Access is currently restricted owing to the fragility of the volumes.

A Fillinham volume on pleasure gardens is now at the London Guildhall Library.

There Will Be Fun – a free British Library exhibition on Victorian popular entertainments open until March 2017.

 

03 January 2017

Annie De Montford – her mind governed the world

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I’d like to introduce you to Annie De Montford.  She was a Mesmerist.  Not a Lady Mesmerist.  A Mesmerist.  She was also called a ‘psychological star’ and an ‘electro-biologist’, and occasionally a Hypnotist.  Her bill matter claimed that her 'mind governs the world' and she is the 'wonder of the age'.  How she slipped into oblivion seems strange.

  Annie de Montford 1 compressed
British Library Evanion 351

I discovered Annie when researching at the British Library and I was intrigued by the ups and downs of her career.  She was born Annie Riley in Leicestershire - her father was a mill-worker - but by 1861 aged 20 she was staying with William Henry Chadwick who was one of the Chartists, the famous political agitators in the census of that year.  He is described as a Lecturer on Magnetism and Annie as a Lecturer on Phrenology.  She’d fallen in with an interesting crowd and she soon took the name of the local swanky family, De Montford, and started practicing as a Mesmerist. 

  Annie de Montford 2 compressed
British Library Evanion 517

There are lots of mentions of her in The Era, the trade publication for performers, and between 1871 and 1882 she seems to have been working constantly.  There is a detailed description of her performance in a local newspaper which is remarkably similar to what happens in stage hypnotism acts today. 

 
Annie de Montford 3
British Newspaper Archive The Star, Guernsey 16 September 1880

They seem very impressed by the fact that she is a lady – though De Montford doesn’t make a feature of this on her posters.  Less impressed was The Dundee Courier and Argus  in 1875 who carried a story about Annie being exposed in America as an imposter.  

  Annie de Montford 4
 British Newspaper Archive  The Dundee Courier and Argus 4 January 1875

An investigation by an American reporter revealed that she had been caught using stooges whom she employed, and that certain audience members become obsessed with her and volunteered to be her subjects night after night.  Obviously there was a high degree of showpersonship in Annie’s act.  One of the reasons I love hypnosis is that fine line between science and showbiz, and clearly here she crossed that line.  But whether she crossed the line between showbiz and out and out fraud is not clear.  Crucially the exposé in the Dundee newspaper seems to have failed to ruin her career and she carried on touring the UK until 1882. 

The final mention of Annie in The Era in September 1882 reports that she had been unable to appear through ill-health.

Annie de Montford 5
British Newspaper Archive The Era 23 September 1882

Annie died shortly afterwards on 12 October 1882.  She was 46.  I’m looking at her death certificate and wondering what was the ‘supposed injury' that gave her jaundice and liver failure.  I know I’m sentimental about her but she was 'the most powerful mesmerist in the world' and then she wasn’t. She was a trail-blazer, teetering on the edge of legality and respectability, but she must have believed in it.  I imagine all the touring was hard work.  And maybe some nights she didn’t feel like claiming that her 'mind ruled the world', but she probably went ahead and performed anyway.  I’m happy to have restored her legacy a little.  'No end of laughter' reads her bill matter.  Well – that was always going to be an exaggeration but it’s good to reflect whilst looking at theatrical ephemera on the ephemeral nature of life itself.


Christopher Green
Performer and writer, co-curator of the British Library free exhibition Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun

@kit_green

Further reading:
Christopher Green's book Overpowered! The Science and Showbiz of Hypnosis is published by The British Library

Evanion Collection of ephemera

 

29 December 2016

Sanger’s Circus in Sheffield

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Showman John Sanger’s newly-built Royal Hippodrome in Sheffield promised to provide splendid entertainments in December 1888.  The programme at Sanger’s New Royal Circus was regularly changed but additional attractions were brought in for the Christmas season.

Flying Eugenes evan444 cropped

The Marvellous Eugenes c.1885 Evan.444 Images Online


Sanger's Sheffield acts in December 1888 included –
• The Marvellous Eugenes -  ‘the greatest living gymnasts’
• Borkoff the equestrian bear who could ride on horseback with ease and grace
• Engist and Orsa, -‘Continental Musical Grotesques’
• Hadjalhi’s Troupe of Arabs – a novel and daring acrobatic performance
• The Martinette Troupe - ‘Pantomimists and Musical Marvels’
• Dezmonti, Alexandre, and Miss Maude - the greatest aerial bar performers in the world
• ‘Educated’ horses, elephants, bears and kangaroos
• Etherdo and Pugh - ‘the flying batsmen’
• Miss Lavinia Sanger and Herr Hoffman – a classical act of school riding.

On Christmas Eve Sanger staged a ‘gorgeous‘ spectacle, The Carnival on  Ice or Fete in St Petersburg, modestly promoted as ‘the grandest production ever introduced into an arena’.  No expense had been spared, with lavish costumes and sensational effects.  The arena with sawdust had been transformed into a scene of Russian winter.  A packed appreciative crowd was treated to sleighs drawn by ‘diminutive symmetrical ponies’; ‘fancy and scientific skating’ by the Lisbon Troupe; snowstorm scenes; fights with bears; a snow ballet; and a harlequinade.

Sanger Circus 1888

British Newspaper Archive Sheffield Daily Telegraph 20 December 1888

Crowds spilling out of the circus could roam the streets in search of further seasonal delights to sample. They might wish to fortify themselves with one of G Hiller and Son’s celebrated pork pies – over one ton of these had been sold at Christmas 1887.  Or they might browse in the showroom of J S and T Birks who were offering crystallised fruits; calves’ feet and other jellies; magic bouquets; bon-bons; Chinese and Japanese lanterns; wreathes; French and fancy confectionery.  Young and old were invited to walk around T and J Roberts’ Christmas bazaar at The Moorhead.  On display were 10,000 gifts - dolls; musical toys; ornaments; work boxes; and fancy baskets. And I do hope that shoppers remembered to pick up a copy of the Christmas number of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph. This comprised seventeen original complete stories for just one penny, including A Prince of Spoons; The Voice from the Dead House; Mr Buffrog Scalped; and Hah Aw Killed a Tiger at T’Owd Casino.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive - Sheffield Daily Telegraph December 1888

The Sanger family features in  There Will Be Fun – a free British Library exhibition on Victorian popular entertainments, open until March 2017. See rare and wonderful treasures from the Evanion Collection.

Evanion the Royal conjuror plays with fire

27 December 2016

Library closures at Christmas

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If you’re feeling at a loss because the wonderful British Library is closed for five days over Christmas, spare a thought for the residents of Sheffield in 1888.  The reading rooms of the city’s free libraries were shut for a fortnight in December.

  Mechanics' Institute Sheffield

Sheffield Mechanics' Institute which housed a Free Library - image from Pawson and Brailsford's Illustrated Guide to Sheffield and neighbourhood (1862) BL flickr


Protest letters were sent to the editor of the Sheffield Daily Telegraph.  Mr J Thornton of Whitham Road asked why the reading rooms were closed for more than two or three days and complained that the free libraries were being mismanaged.  Money could be saved by reducing the number of assistants at the Central Library from seven to three – they had little or nothing to do half the time. If Mr Thornton was known to the assistants, I do wonder how he fared on his next visit to the library.

‘Pro Bono Publico’ supported Mr Thornton, suggesting that the libraries be kept open all year round except for a few days’ closure for cleaning and painting.  Extra hands could be employed to cover for attendants taking holidays.  It would greatly help those seeking work if the reading rooms opened at 08.30 instead of 10.00. Half the day had gone before job seekers could get to a place any distance away, and they also missed the morning post. 

‘A Burgess’ added his voice to the protest.  Perhaps the library committee thought it did not much matter to close when people were preparing for Christmas, but ‘in this large town there are always a number of people unemployed, and others who are incapacitated from work, &c, to whom the reading rooms are a benefit and pleasure’.

The environment of the reading rooms also came in for criticism.  ‘Pro Bono Publico’ complained of the lack of ventilation: ‘When the gas is lit, and the windows closed, the atmosphere is something awful.  I should think the gas-burners and check valves want seeing to.  After I have been in a few minutes my eyes smart, and my nose certainly tells me the air is vitiated to a great extent’.

We look forward to welcoming our readers back to the well-ventilated rooms of British Library on 29 December, and hope that our services also provide pleasure as well as benefit. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive -  Sheffield Daily Telegraph 17 & 19 December 1888

22 December 2016

Charades – a Christmas game to make a long evening short

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The game of Charades originated in France and became popular in England in the second half of the 19th century.  The Brothers Mayhew published a guide to the new game in 1850 - Acting Charades or Deeds not Words – A Christmas game to make a long evening short. Cards, blind man’s buff, and forfeits are said to have been dropped in favour of Charades: ‘On Christmas day, it has been looked forward to, and entered into with as much energy as the sainted plum-pudding itself’.

  Charades
Acting Charades


Players form themselves into teams.
‘A word is then fixed upon by the corps dramatique; and “my first, my second, and my whole” is gone through as puzzlingly as possible in dumb show, each division, making a separate and entire act. At the conclusion of the drama, the guessing begins on the part of the audience. The great rule to be observed in acting charades, is—silence. Nothing more than an exclamation is allowed.’

Placards may be used to set the scene:
‘It would be utterly impossible for the audience to know that the drawing-room wall before them is meant to represent a “magnificent view on the Rhine,” or “the wood of Ardennes by moonlight,” unless some slight hint to that effect is dropped beforehand’.

 

Charades 3

Gestures and facial expressions are very important.
Love
‘The pressing of the left side of the waistcoat, …the tender look at the ceiling, and the gentle and elegant swinging of the body, have…always accompanied the declaration of a true devotion.’

Rage
‘It may be pictured to an almost maddening amount by the frequent stamping of the foot, and the shaking of the fist. Frowning, and grinding of teeth, should be accompanied by opening the eyes to their greatest possible size.’

Despair
‘The limbs must almost seem to have lost their power. The actor must sink into a chair, pass his hand through his hair, with his five fingers spread open like a bunch of carrots, or else, letting his arms fall down by his side, remain perfectly still…either gazing at his boots or the ceiling.’

Hope
‘Here there must be no violent gestures—everything must be soft and pleasant. The finger must be occasionally raised to the ear, and the performer's countenance wear a bright smile and a look of deep intensity, as if listening to the soft still voice within.’

Disdain
‘The dignified waiving of the hand, and the scornful look, gradually descending from top to toe, are well known to all who have been mistaken for waiters at evening parties. The eyes should be partly closed, the nose, if possible, turned up, the lips curved, and the countenance gently raised to the ceiling.’

  Charades 2
Costumes can be created.
‘A sheet will do for a toga; in the knight, the coal scuttle for helmet, and the dish-cover for breast-plate, make capital armour.’

Here is a list of words for Charades provided by the Mayhews.

Charades 4
We hope many of our readers will insist that guests this festive season play Charades using the Mayhews’ words.  Good luck with blis-ter, corse-let, crack-nell, cap-tain, and cat-sup. May all your long evenings be short.


Happy Christmas!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

01 December 2016

Victorian Vaudeville – Tripping the Light Fantastic

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Come with me into the world of Victorian Vaudeville.  Let me tell you the story of a poor London girl who achieved her dream of becoming a successful dancer, and then died.

   Makepeace Eugenie 2

Eugenie Makepeace – publicity shot taken in New York July 1899 and sent to her brother George in London (Family collection)

Our dancer Eugenie Makepeace was born in Pimlico in June 1882, the daughter of waiter Joseph and his French wife Marie.  Joseph died suddenly on 1 January 1887, leaving Marie to support their six children aged between seven years and six weeks.  She secured places for four of them in institutions for destitute children.  George and Harry went as boarders at Fortescue House in Twickenham, one of the National Refuges for Homeless and Destitute Children, later known as the Shaftesbury Homes.  In May 1888 Eugenie and her elder sister Berthe entered the Westminster workhouse school situated in Ashford Middlesex.  Juliette, the eldest child, appears to have stayed with Marie, but baby William went to live with a family in Islington.  However Marie found work as a dressmaker and gradually succeeded in gathering her family back together in Marylebone. 

Eugenie seems to have gained a place at a John Tiller dancing school.  Tiller trained working class girls in Manchester and London to appear in musical stage productions.  Eugenie became a member of Tiller’s La Blanche Troupe and at the start of 1899 was touring the UK with Milton Bodes’ pantomime Robinson CrusoeThe Era newspaper published reviews of performances before enthusiastic audiences in different venues  - Oxford, Oldham, Wigan, Newcastle-upon-Tyne: ‘Mr John Tiller’s La Blanche Troupe of lady dancers trip on the light fantastic to the delight of everybody’.

   Robinson Crusoe 1899The Era 21 January 1899 British Newspaper Archive


In March 1899 Eugenie sailed to the United States to perform as a member of the ensemble in Man in the Moon which ran at the New York Theatre from April until November.  She made a second trip to the USA in 1901 with the Pony Ballet, a group of eight young girls who performed synchronized dance routines full of high kicks.  Eugenie’s fellow dancers were Lizzie Hawman, Carrie Poltz, Maggie Taylor, Ada Robertson, Seppie McNeil, Eva Marlow, and Beatrice Liddell.  Their punishing training routine made them strong and flexible, as much gymnasts as dancers: ‘they are all marvels of strength, endurance, grace and agility’ (San Francisco Call, 20 April 1902).

 

Makepeace Eugenie 1
 Photograph of Eugenie Makepeace taken in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in February 1899 when she was performing with La Blanche Troupe in Robinson Crusoe (Family collection)


The girls decided to part company with impresario George Lederer and began to arrange their own engagements.  While they were performing at Forest Park Highlands in St Louis, Eugenie and Carrie contracted typhoid fever.  The troupe had to move on to Milwaukee and Eugenie died there on 28 July 1902 aged only 20.  Happily, Carrie survived and continued her dancing career.


  EUGENIE POEM 1 001 (2)

Eugenie’s funeral card (Family collection)

 The Pony Ballet's next engagement was in Chicago. The local Actors’ Relief Association there helped the girls to raise enough money to ship Eugenie’s body home for burial in St Marylebone Cemetery. The funeral card describing her as ‘A much beloved Daughter and our darling Sister’ carried a poem in her memory by ‘M.M’, presumably her mother Marie. 

‘The seas are crossed, the journey is done.’

EUGENIE POEM 1 001

Poem on Eugenie’s funeral card  (Family collection)


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. The Era 14 January 1899, 21 January 1899 and 18 February 1899
San Francisco Call 20 April 1902
Milwaukee Journal 5 August 1902
New York Clipper 16 August 1902

Visit our free exhibition on Victorian entertainments There Will Be Fun  - at the British Library until 12 March 2017

27 October 2016

Evanion the Royal conjuror plays with fire

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Henry Evans Evanion (1832-1905), a conjuror from Kennington, South London, enjoyed a successful stage career in which he presented a full programme of magical effects, illusions, juggling and ventriloquism.

C2903-05

M. Evanion, Royal Conjuror and humourist. Poster, 1870 Evan.2589a Noc

 

An added touch of humour ensured that during a typical performance 'trick followed trick with wonderful rapidity, and a profusion that speaks highly for Mr. Evanion's resources', as the Morning Advertiser reported on 23 December 1873.

 

014EVA000000000U04441000[THM2]

M. Evanion’s wonderful and amusing entertainment. Ticket, 1865 Evan.4441 Noc

 

Evanion probably learnt to be resourceful at a young age. As a boy he liked to entertain the youngsters of the neighbourhood while his father was out at work and he assembled a small stage in the loft of the family house for the purpose. The loft was also where Evanion’s father housed his pigeons. On one occasion Evanion created the startling illusion of fire and caused such a bright red glow to be seen from the window that a neighbour, thinking the house was on fire, alerted Mr. Evans. Evanion’s father rushed home in a terrific rage to find the pigeons he loved like life “sneezing fit to break their necks”. He savagely kicked the boys downstairs.

However his father’s lack of enthusiasm did not deter Evanion in any way and just two years later in 1849 he gave his first professional magic show. Evanion continued to present his ‘evenings of illusions’ to many audiences up and down the country and, as notices and programmes in the Evanion Collection show, he was still active in the 1890s.

 

C13532-72

Evanion's entertainment at the Pier Pavilion, Hastings. Notice, 1891 Evan.1616Noc

 

  C5602-03

Evanion's entertainment at the Central London District School, Hanwell. Programme, 13 January 1893 Evan.58Noc

 

One performance defined Evanion’s career. This took place 150 years ago on Saturday 27 October 1866 when he entertained a distinguished audience at Sandringham that included their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales (the future King Edward VII and Princess Alexandra of Denmark), and members of the Danish Royal family. This gave Evanion the status of ‘Royal Conjuror’ – a title that he naturally continued to exploit in publicity material for the rest of his career.

 

  C2903-02

Evanion performing the ‘Globes of fire, fish and birds’ illusion. Poster, c. 1866 Evan.2586Noc

This poster shows a performance of the illusion ‘Globes of fire, fish and birds’ before an eminent audience. Evanion is pictured at the spectacular magic moment when the final large bowl – of fire – has just been miraculously produced from beneath his coat.

Throughout his life Evanion had also been fascinated by the variety of printed material in general circulation. He collected posters, playbills, programmes and associated ephemera relating to magic and a variety of other entertainments. In 1895 Evanion offered part of this now vast collection to the British Museum and some 6,000 items were subsequently purchased. This was a remarkable acquisition at a time when such contemporary, ephemeral pieces were not considered significant. Today the vibrant Evanion Collection at the British Library brings us particularly close to everyday life in Victorian Britain.

Helen Peden
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1601-1900 and British Library curator of the exhibition Victorian Entertainments: There Will Be Fun

 

Visit There Will Be Fun – a free British Library exhibition on Victorian popular entertainments, open until March 2017, and see many other rare and wonderful treasures from the Evanion Collection.