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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Black Carl Obit (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

SJMiller
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There are quite a few mistakes in this but it is Black Carl’s obit so I thought I would post it. Comments and corrections will follow.


From The Chicago Defender, Feb. 1, 1930

Reported Dead Many Times “Black Carl” Dies in K.C.

Kansas City, Mo. Jan 31 - Good copy till the last, Edward Johnson, 60, known to thousands of New Yorkers and to many noted operatic and stage stars as “Black Carl” died in a hospital here Jan. 22.

He had been a patient in the institution for a month following a mental collapse last season.

His death was reported a few months ago in New York, but the report was proved untrue when it was disclosed that another man also named Edward Johnson was the deceased.

For 25 years his stalwart uniformed figure stood before the main entrance to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in the capacity of head doorman. Every arrival at the opera could not expect Black Carl’s personal attention, though, as he had his own social register. If a guest could not conform to his idea of “social nobility” he would relegate the task of opening their limousine door to an assistant. A guest who arrived in a taxi, unless of the greatest prominence, never even got a glance from him.

He was as much a part of opera tradition as any of the famous stars. In his youth he was a magician, which probably accounts for his cognomen, Black Carl. He came to new York to break into the big time, but joined that staff at the Metropolitan, where he remained until last year.

Last fall on his sick bed he fretted constantly because the opera was opening without him. It was this, say physicians, which hastened his end.

He will be buried in Kansas City. His wife was with him at the end and he was surrounded by relatives and friends.


Although it was repeatedly used in various stories about Carl’s illness, the term “mental collapse” is not entirely accurate. According to an article from the same paper dated Nov 24, 1928, he collapsed at his home in New York City and after being discovered “raving” by neighbors and sent to Bellevue Hospital, he was diagnosed with “hardening of the brain arteries”.

Additionally, a self proclaimed friend of Carl’s wrote, in Feb of 1931, a very strange and inaccurate tale of the onset of Carl’s illness. The only useful fact in the whole piece was that he stated Carl had a “fatal paralysis”. If this can be believed, then it would appear that Carl suffered at least two strokes; one in Nov of 1928 that paralyzed him and affected his speech, thus the raving his neighbors spoke of, and another that contributed to his death in late 1929 or early 1930.

Carl’s job at the Metropolitan Opera was not a job he took after leaving magic. It was a job that he filled during the opera season apparently because of his love of opera. As a black man, he would not have been allowed to attend the performances unless he was working at the opera house in some capacity. Head doorman was most likely the highest position attainable by a black man. In addition, having nearly a dozen assistants, Carl would have only had to open doors when he chose.

He continued to work in show business, after taking the doorman job in 1905, as both a magician, as well as a front man for traveling shows. The last recorded performance by Carl as a magician occurred at a midnight show in Harlem at the Renaissance Theater in Jan. of 1925.

Finally, I think there is a mistake about where Carl was to be buried. I have not found his grave but I believe it likely that he was buried in Kansas City, Kansas and not Missouri. The reason for this is that available information shows that Carl was born and spent at least a part of his childhood in Kansas. Throughout his life he would return regularly Kansas to visit his family. Nothing I found showed any connection to Missouri.
Spellbinder
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Now I can't wait for the book!
Professor Spellbinder

Professor Emeritus at the Turkey Buzzard Academy of Magik, Witchcraft and Wizardry

http://www.magicnook.com

Publisher of The Wizards' Journals
Jim Magus
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Great stuff! Both this and the Black Herman info. Black Carl Dante was one of my favorites in my research on the subject of black magicians. I am anxious to see what else you have uncovered about him.
Jim Magus
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I had researched a lot of his magic years, but you have helped put an ending on the story. How about the beginning? Have you been able to uncover who Black Carl learned the magic trade from?
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