Interpretation on S.W Erdnase

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by mexican nanny, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. Hey guys I know that this may seem a bit stale simply due to the fact on the mass amounts of threads around this topic. I have looked through the many threads but I just wanted to ask you guys on your own interpretation on the author this is for a presentation i'm doing on analysing other peoples interpretive articles on the character and creating my own. I know that S.W Erdnase is a controversial character persay as his novel was seen as obscene (illegal sort of) due to the current era it was released in (1902) as well as it most likely made many card cheats and manipulators dislike him as it also uncovers many secrets which wasn't acceptable but he also layed a foundation for many aspiring card manipulators and provided insight for many card places making them aware of cheaters. I would like to see your own opinion whether you see him in a positive or negative light and point me in the direction of other forums, I have done my research and found articles on people uncovering his/she identity. Thanks x.
  2. Hey man, didn't that cheater write a book? Not sure what they thought back then.
  3. My opinion, which I admit is not not backed by any serious data, is that Erdnase was a magician who pretended to be a card cheat. Perhaps he did play some as well, I don't know.

    There's also a theory that the book was written by two or more people, but I don't know any more than that.

    To me it does seem like someone who just wanted to make some money wrote up a book and gave it more prestige and intrigue by claiming it was a howto on cheating.
  4. There is zero evidence that Erdnase's book was seen as "obscene" or illegal by anyone when it was published. Quite the contrary - it appears to have been completely ignored! Only a few magicians seem to have paid any attention to it although it continued to sell well via gambling supply stores for 60+ years after it was released.

    The idea that he might have had problems publishing the book due to the "Comstock laws" that were on the books is a theory put forth by Hurt McDermott. It's an interesting idea, but supported by no hard evidence. To the contrary - there were numerous other books on the exact same subject published for decades before and after The Expert at the Card Table. None of them seemed to have any problems with the authorities. Why would Erdnase's submission to the genre be any different?

    There is also zero evidence that cheaters or magicians disliked the book (or author). Again, the book was essentially ignored when it was first released. It was primarily (although not only) due to the championing of the book by Vernon, Downs, and Miller that it gained any traction at all in the magic community in the early 1920s. As for cheaters, most of the hard-core hustlers of the past 50 years or so will tell you they never heard of the book! That may not have been true in the first half of the 20th century - after all, someone was buying it quite regularly from the gambling supply houses (as I stated earlier), but it doesn't appear to have had much of an impact on cheating one way or another. Cheaters still operate virtually identically to the way they did before Erdnase was published - collusion, paper (marked cards), holding out, cold decking, false dealing and stacking. All of that was known and practiced loooong before The Expert at the Card Table was published.

    To cheating and cheaters the book was little more than a blip on the radar. To magicians it's primarily remembered as the book Dai Vernon told us all to read. It's value is considerable to us from a historical standpoint (for a variety of reasons), but it didn't affect the gambling world much at all.

  5. Not to thread bump but somebody recently pointed this out...What proof is there that Erdnase wasn't a woman?
  6. My understanding is that the artist behind many if not all of the illustrations (M.D.Smith) could recollect meeting him in a small hotel room in Chicago and was able to describe the man he met although at that point it had been decades since they met.

  7. This isn't meant to be sexist or anything but an unfortunate fact about early 20th century America. I'm fairly certain that a vast majority of the people who would know enough about card cheating and magic to write EATCT were men. Hell, even now a majority of magicians and magic authors are men.

    Update as I'm writing this: Apparently the illustrator, Marshall Smith, met Erdnase himself on at least one occasion and was willing to describe Erdnase in as much detail as he could recall years later. Smith always referred to him as male.

    I think it's unlikely that Smith was lying about the description and gender as it's was clear Smith was just commissioned by Erdnase for the drawings. So Smith had no real stake in concealing Erdnase's identity and/or gender.

    I suppose there's always a chance, but I think it's pretty unlikely given the evidence. I suppose there's always a small chance was a woman at the time who was very knowledgeable in card magic and was able to get Smith to lie about her identity for years to throw people off her trail. But based on what we know, there's no reason to think otherwise. It's Occam's razor really. The simplest explanation is probably right. There's no reason to over-complicate the explanation when there's no evidence to suggest we should do so.
    MohanaMisra and Gabriel Z. like this.
  8. Oh. But then why doesn't that man confirm the identity of Erdnase one and for all? :/
  9. This, I think, does close the case, lel.

    And women were the assistants. Which means that although not the magicians per se, they'd have known the inner mechanics to quite a lot of tricks.
    Which by the way would have made a very sensational and sensible theory HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE FACT that somebody did witness Erdnase in real life XD

    Well, case closed then. O:)
  10. It's somewhat reasonable. But I don't think many card magicians or card cheats would have female assistants. If any of them did have assistants, I'm not sure they'd be able to learn enough from watching the magician perform to be able to write an in-depth book.

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