The Origins of Wonder
The effect of having a chosen card appear with the brief pass of a handkerchief on the face of a deck sitting in a clear water goblet is a youthful invention of Karl Germain. Stewart Cramer documents this in Germain the Wizard, 2002, p. 102, where he quotes an entry, “Appearing Cards”, from Germain’s boyhood notebook, apparently made c. 1892-3, when he was fourteen or fifteen. Germain produced two forced selections in this way on the face of the deck.
The idea eventually hit the printed page in Henry Hardin's “A Card Miracle” in Mahatma, Vol. 4 No. 7, Jan. 1901, n.p. The mechanics were used with two goblets at the same time to effect a transposition. Hardin provided no credit of inspiration to Germain (or anyone else).
Sometime in the 1920s or early 1930s, British professional Herbert Milton took Germain's method and used it to produce the four Aces, one at a time, on the face of a deck while it rested inside a goblet. Milton published very little, and his ideas were constantly stolen by other magicians and dealers. Will Goldston published his guess at a method for Milton's trick under the title of “The Best Four Ace Trick” in Tricks That Mystify, 1934, p. 35. Goldston had received information about Milton's trick from “a distinguished amateur conjurer” whom he did not name. The method Goldston gives varies from Milton's, but is correct in its basic principle. The history and method for Milton's trick were revealed after his death by Geoffrey Scalbert in Abracadabra, Vol. 29 No. 745, May 7, 1960, p. 260, and thereafter became known as “The Milton Aces” and “Milton's Aces”. Scalbert's description isn't precisely Milton's handling but, as he writes: “Our version differs somewhat from the original one, but the broad effect remains the same.”