Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keystone State Federation of I.B.M. Rings

The benefit of having a large, representative accumulation of magic memorabilia is that it provides you the opportunity to excavate your collection and uncover hidden gems. One such is the subject of this blog, a spread of lovely playing cards that chronicle an important organization that began small and spread across the eastern seaboard.

The spread of ten cards above are held together with
a brass paper fastener and were created as a program for the 4th annual Convention of the Keystone State Federation of I.B.M. Rings. The convention took place in Philadelphia February 10, 1934 at the Central Y.M.C.A. auditorium. It was sponsored by Philadelphia Ring No. 6.
Philadelphia Y.M.C.A
The cards feature Art Deco backs produced by the Gibson Playing Card Co., of Cincinnati and New York, which started producing playing cards around 1930. These bridge-size cards feature Scotty dogs, female polo players, milkmaids, a rooster crowing on top of a cocktail with a cigarette burning below the glass and a very 1930s woman in a cloche hat with fashionable cigarette. At the bottom of each card it reads “Compliments of The Gibson Playing Card Co.”

Gibson Playing cards was part of the Gibson Greeting Card Company whose history can be traced to 1850, when George Gibson and his family emigrated to the United States from Scotland, where Gibson had operated a lithographic and copperplate engraving business. However, the playing card division had a shorter lifespan and was eventually sold to the United States Playing Card Co. (Source:

By way of background, the Keystone State Federation of Rings flowed from the founding of Keystone Ring No. 20 in Harrisburg, PA, that was formed February 13, 1928 by William Wagner, Jesse J. Lybarger, and Charles J. (Colta) Jones.

There were a number of I.B.M. rings in Pennsylvania at that time but they were only affiliated with the national organization. The very first State Convention of the I.B.M. was hosted by Ring 20 in Harrisburg, Jan. 22, 1931. At that event, the organizers of the Ring decided to form the Keystone State Federation of I.B.M. Rings, which brought together all the Pennsylvania rings. At that convention, 40 I.B.M. members from across the state attended.

James Wobensmith, then National President of the Society of American Magicians, was the honored guest. Wobensmith was a patent attorney by profession and helped patent and protect most of Thurston’s magic illusions.

For the example being discussed here, the ten cards provide some background on the organization as well as the talent scheduled to appear at the fourth convention in 1934. President was Harold Brown; Vice President Jack Kootz; Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Bill Endlich and Chaplain was Rev. John Bieri. The Master of Ceremonies for the big show was Allentown’s Herman Weber and the acts included:

Vin Carey – Baltimore

Max Holden – New York
Max Holden 

Lu Brent – New Jersey

Jarrell – Philadelphia

Clint Riedel and Brown – Lancaster
Clint Reidel

Frank Rice – Philadelphia

Bill Wagner – Harrisburg 
Burling Hull

Burling Hull – Long Island, New York

Hadji Ali – Scranton

Eng Sung – Allentown

And, if time permitted, attendees might also see Grover George, Paul Rosini, Phil Thomas, and Carter Burgher.
Paul Rosini 

Grover George
Around 1938, the Keystone State Federation held its last convention in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania and then disbanded and morphed into The Magicians Alliance of Eastern States (M.A.E.S.).

The primary reason the Keystone Federation of IBM Rings disbanded, was that by the late 1930s, magicians from Rings in other Eastern states wanted to join, and of course this presented difficulties, as the Keystone Federation was a Pennsylvania organization.

After discussion among the more active members it was decided to form a new society which would take in magicians from a wider area, preferably the Eastern states, although the membership would not necessarily be limited to them. From its founding onward, The Linking Ring always carried accounts of their conventions which continue to this day each September. Some of the men responsible for the formation of the M.A.E.S. were Dr. William M. Endlich, Dr. Kenneth H. Sheeler, Charles Jones, Harry J. Messersmith, Harry Otto, Elmer Eckam, Phil Weisbecker, John D. Lippy, Jr., Clint Riedel, and Larry Hess.

The current officers for 2017 are:

· Ed Schmitt – President

· Eric Lampert – Vice President

· Joe Curcillo – Secretary/Treasurer

· Michael Sloves – Sargeant at Arms

· John Bobik – Sargeant at Arms

The 2017 convention is Sept. 7-8-9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ. For registration information -

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