The stage variety rather than occult practitioners. The levitating Mephistopheles above is the one I borrowed earlier this year for the Alas Vegas Tarot designs. “Kellar” was Harry Kellar (1849–1922), a popular American magician blessed with some talented poster designers who stripped away the superfluous text to concentrate on his name and the recurrent motif of a red devil. Considering their age (they date from around 1900) these posters are surprisingly elusive, with no indication on some of them that Kellar is a stage performer at all. He retired in 1908 so by this time his name alone was evidently enough of an audience draw.

Howard Thurston was Kellar’s appointed successor, hence the continuity of the red devils and type design. Devils and imps weren’t the sole property of the pair as the other examples here demonstrate. “Miss Baldwin” is a rare example of a woman achieving parity with her male colleagues, at least in the poster department. All these posters are from the collection at the Library of Congress where many more examples may be seen. A detail from the horizontal Kellar poster below appears on the cover of the recent lavish Taschen volume Magic: 1400s–1950s by Mike Caveney, Jim Steinmeyer, Ricky Jay and Noel Daniel.




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