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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Everything old is new again » » The origin and history of the Square Circle (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

radamwarner
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Does anyone know the history of this old standard?
Steve Burton
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The Square Circle or sometimes, "Squared Circle" was created by Louis Histed in 1930. He published his method in 1946 and you can find it in the first Tannen's catalog as well as the earliest Abbott's catalogs. Abbott claimed to be the first to offer it to the magic community. It has since become so popular as a production device that similar boxes are referenced as utilizing the Square Circle "principle".
radamwarner
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Thanks for the reply. Are there any books that focus exclusively on the origins of various effects?
Michael Baker
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Some of the Albo books will detail the history of particular effects and props when known. If I recall, one of the Eric Lewis trilogy has some info on Louis Histed's creations.

In most cases though, you are more likely to find such info scattered in books about particular inventive magicians. Examples: David Charvet's book on Jack Gwynne discusses many of his creations. The Miracle Factory book (as well as Stuart Cramer's books) on Karl Germain go into much detail regarding his particular creations. Magic by HoYam deals exclusively with his creations.

In a lot of cases, inventions are less often of virgin birth, and are more commonly extensions of other ideas, even if the latter application barely resembles its predecessor. While Histed's Square Circle uses the exact same method as stage black art, the two can hardly be compared beyond that. The S/C put the method into the hands of the average magician in an extremely practical form, which probably responsible for that trick's undeniable popularity.

Actually for me, part of the joy of studying magic history is that the information is scattered. Treasure hunts are always fun. Finding everything in one place kind of leaves you nowhere to go. Smile
~michael baker
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Steve Burton
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Upon further investigation it seems that Edward Massey used an Okito design for the first Square Circle with the mesh front. Massey was a profound inventor with many ideas to his credit but he was not always listed as the originator. So it seems there are three contenders for the invention of the Square Circle; Okito (Theo Bamberg) with his original design, Massey who changed that design to make it more deceptive (and visible) and Histed who outright claimed its invention.
Dick Oslund
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When I was about 14, I bought Abbott's "Classic" Square Circle, (I still think Percy made one of the best designed square circle. I think Howard Melson designed the paint job ("art deco"). I don't think it was catalogued as "square circle". I used it to vanish Percy's "Lifelike" bun-e, which was producded from Abbott's "Unbelievable Production Box" (black box with yellow snakes painted on sides.)

Many years later, I bought at an estate sale, Abbott's stage sized prop. It was very well made, but I never used it.

It seems to me that Percy credited it to someone other that Histed, but I can't remember whom. I'll check my old #7 catalog and report back on this.
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Merc Man
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The origanator of The Square Circle Production box was Edward Massey.

It was later improved upon by Massey, after Theo Bamburg (Okito) designed a box for 'Madame Hermann' to produce a boquet of roses from.

The later 'see through' screen front was also developed by Massey.

The inner 'tube' was later replaced by a 'bottomed box' design by Eric 'Nitwit' Williams (circa 1933).

Heaven knows what Michael Baker is rambling on about! Smile
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Michael Baker
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My rambling was mostly in response to the question as to if there was a book dealing with the origins of tricks, not to the origin of the Square Circle.

I have learned that Histed first created "The Dairy Trick", in which the concept of concealing a BA chamber inside another is used. Later, he developed "The Sentry Trick", involving three sentry huts, all operating virtually identically to Square Circles. The effect is that of a transposition, followed by the production of multiple "sentries". This alone sets it apart from the typical Square Circle, as they are commonly used.

This later evolved to "Camouflage", a very similar trick using one hut and three tubes.

Regarding a screen front, Fred Hanchean also used them to aid the illusion with BA devices (I've seen both production boxes and Checker Cabinets).

I do not know dates of origin on any of the items described. I am therefore not claiming anyone as the originator, but would welcome documentation supporting any of the other claims here. I am not posing this as a challenge to anyone's statements. I just wish to further my own knowledge.
~michael baker
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Jim Sparx
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Three tricks based on the square circle principle first appears in Abbott's #6 catalog, 1940.

1. Under livestock, Abbott's New Rabbit Vanish, drop a rabbitt in tube in open faced box, vanish ("can be used for productions too , pg 162 $10.50
2. Original Tube Cabinet Silk an Flower Melange, "please note ours is the orignal" may mean that the end production of a vase of flowers after the usual production.
$16.50 with feather flowers pg 522
3. Abbott's Spectacular Production, "presented by the Great Levante on his recent trip here." as above, stage size. incluse dart boquets and parasols, overall height 36", $55.00 with production items, $27.50 without page 527

Seems like this was a new idea and Abbott's ran with it producing three tricks for them1940 catalog. No mention of original idea, may very well be from England. Will check old Davenport catalogs prior to 1940

I see no square circle premise tricks in any previous Abbott's catalog 1-5
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Dick Oslund
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I don't remember the exact date, but Percy advertised a "Round Circle" about the mid '40s. The blk tube had a convex (or concave (!!??!!) "dent". The second tube, if I recall, was slightly taller to facilitate handling.
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Quentin
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Eric P. Wilson invented a trick he called Wunda Villa which is very similar to Histed's Square Circle. I understand there was some controversy at the time in the UK.
As a teenager, I remember being confused reading Ron Bishop's book, Laughter All The Way. Ron described production boxes as Eric Wilson's 'Wunda Villa", and I kept thinking that he meant "square circles"
Ron was close friends with Eric P. Wilson and was obviously standing up for his friend.

Eric Wilson's book, The Art of Conjuring To Children was reprinted in Bert Easley's book, Doing Magic For Youngsters.
Quentin
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Since posting the above, I've acquired a Wunda Villa prop, as supplied by Eric P. Wilson. Technically it uses the same principle as the Square Circle but theatrically and magically it is superior. I'll be doing some research into it.
Michael Baker
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Are these books sources for mechanical information regarding the Wunda Villa, or just mentions of it? I'd be curious to research this.
~michael baker
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Quentin
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Michael, I'm just starting my research but there are two routines with a Wunda Villa in Ron Bishop's book on children's magic, Laughter All The Way, including one where more solid items are produced than could fit in the chamber.

The prop I bought has instructions written and signed by Eric P Wilson, dated 1944. The square part folds flat and the fake has an inner section which becomes one of the production items, in this case a Golliwog (a black rag doll) . In the UK a golliwog was a popular children's toy and did not carry any of the racist implications it might have had in the US. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golliwog

AS Wunda Villa was a marketed item, I'm not sure if it were ever written up in a book.
Michael Baker
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OK, thanks Quentin. I have seen a few varieties where the load chamber became one of the production items (a mantle clock being one such). It's a good and logical approach.
~michael baker
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Michael Baker
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I just found this reference on Granville Taylor's site. http://www.freewebs.com/taylormademagic/theatticworkshop.htm
~michael baker
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Dick Oslund
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Ha! Quentin's mention of the golliwog, and Michael's mention of the load chamber becoming a production item, has reminded me of the late C. Thomas Magrum's square circle. In the Magrum sq. circle, the load chamber was 3 stacked "tubs", each of which had a bouquet of flowers (the Horace Marshall "variety"). Along with the bouquets, a "humongous" load of silks fit in between the swan feathers. A black velvet "tube" did what was necessary. The tube could be stripped away under cover of a big silk, and the three "pots" of flowers
could be produced one at a time. Then the "square" could be set aside, followed by the "circle", and the gaff was no longer there!

Clem's square circle was about the size of Abbott's Spectacular Production.

Clem was so proud of his "improvement", that he asked the late John Braun for "approval". John replied, "Why bother proving the blk tube didn't exist, when no one knew of it?

Clem, after retiring, wanted me to buy it. To please Clem, I took it home, and looked it over, but, I said, "No,thanks!"! --Hekk, I could have carried my whole school show in it!!!

This has been an interesting thread! "Doc" Charles Fretz, an old carnie side show manager, had given me an Abbott "Unbelievable Production Box (catalog price $7.50). Other than my Abbott Brakawa Fan, and mirrr glass, it was my first "professional" prop. I bought the Abbott's "New Rabbit Vanish" (sq. crcl)soon after.

I think that John Mendoza bought Clem's square circle, and Clem's "tip over production box", and his two Thayer Elephant tables. I bought everything else that Clem had, --even his shadowgraphy fekes!
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Julie
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I recall George Robinson (Viking/CW) mentioning that Fred Haenchen came out with his b/a Production Box in the early 1930's and MIGHT have pre-dated Histed in this particular application...

Julie
David Todd
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Two versions I've made and used years ago : The Henning Nelms idea of making it a futuristic "Transformation/Transportation device" (found in "Magic and Showmanship") and Mark Wilson's "Alakazam Hat" version (a Bev Bergeron idea , I think) shown in the Mark Wilson Course on Magic .

Here's a photo I found online (this is not the one I built , which is long gone) -

Image



I saw a clever version made by The Magic Woodshop , on their Facebook page , which is themed as Dr.Who's Tardis.

https://www.facebook.com/122578214436546......&theater

Magic Woodshop also has an example of the Alakazam Hat version:

Image


https://www.facebook.com/122578214436546......&theater


Henning Nelms's idea:

Image


This could easily be themed as a pseudo-scientific "steampunk" device .





.
tstark
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Louis Histed was a magician and magic inventor in England. In 1930 Histed began developing the Chinese Pagoda, and began showing it in c1932. Everyone was astounded and promptly began building, performing, and selling the trick...including the Wunda Villa mentioned previously in the thread. According to Les Levante, who was at a dinner with Histed in the Shackleton home, the trick was discussed. A week or two later Histed showed Levante a mock up. Levante immediately made a large one and put it in his act. Percy Abbott acquired the rights from Levante, I believe, renamed it the Square Circle, and began marketing it. It wasn't until years later that Histed, in his book, claimed the effect to set the record straight. I don't think there was anyone in England who didn't know that Histed was the originator. Two references are given to the inspiration for the creation, the Dairy Trick which was a liquid effect (Histed was a genius with Hydrostatic principles) and the Chinese Pagoda. The Pagoda version had a roof which created a deeper shadow for the Black Art.
Steve Burton
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Thanks, TStark, for the informative post! Yes, it wouldn't make sense that Histed would claim to be the inventor as it could be easily checked.
jimgerrish
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Thinking beyond the Square Circle, what is the next stage in the evolution of production props? I believe it is the iPad. What you see on the screen is what you pull out into the real world.
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Steve Burton
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Does anyone know the name of the Square Circle that Abbott's sold that had a round birdcage as the final production?
Hayre
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I have one...made by Metamorpho Spots fellow...Fenichel ?
Dick Oslund
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Yes...Joe Fenichel
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Steve Burton
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Yes, but what was the name of the Fenichel Square Circle with the birdcage?
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