Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Cone and Ball

Burling Hull is often credited with publishing the first Cone and Ball sequence in a booklet titled Deviltry, 1909, p. 2. In his description he mentions that there had been some debate over the originality of the trick, but Hull had discovered that the other claimant used two rubber balls. Since Hull used a billiard ball and shell, he focused on method to sustain his claim of originality. However, he does not argue that the two-ball method existed before his, which places the credit to the effect on the previous creator. He fails to give the name of this magician or further details of his sale of the method. While evidence of this trick being advertised for sale in the trade journals must still be found, Edward Maro's “Ball and Cone Trick”, published two years after Hull's Deviltry, by Joseph Ovette in The American Magician, Vol. 3 No. 5, Sep. 1911, p. 187, matches in method all the details Hull gives, and since Maro died in 1908 at age thirty-eight of typhoid fever, this places his trick and method firmly prior to Hull's. The circumstantial evidence that Maro is the magician Hull alludes to is strong.

Ralph W. Hull, in the description of his routining of the Cone and Ball, titled “The Homing Ball” in his and Nelson Hahne's Smart Magic, 1935, p. 41, says, “Some of the fundamental moves of this little trick were first shown to me more than 25 years ago by my old friend, L. J. McCord (Silent Mora) in the days when we were young and magic was new to both of us.”

Leslie Guest wrote a short biography of Silent Mora (Louis McCord) in M-U-M, Vol. 48 No. 9, Feb. 1959, p. 375, where he gives this information:

“Louis McCord was born October 25. 1884 in Allegheny, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was only ten when he took lessons in magic from John McKissock (who still does magic in Florida). Then he was greatly impressed by the performance of “Maro”; in fact he later borrowed the name, transposing the letters to 'Mora.' his permanent stage name.”

And further on…

“In 1907 and 1908, he [McCord] was with a comedy dramatic troupe, which presented a full two hour show entitled, “Not Like Other Girls.” This troupe was managed by Fred Schwartz, later the manager of the Thurston Show. While with this company playing Philadelphia, Lou spent some time with Jim Barton (El Barto), who showed him a routine with Balls and Cone. From these moves, Lou developed his own brilliant routine.”

Another biographical article on McCord, this one by George Corregan, Jr., in The New Tops, Vol. 2 No. 11, Nov. 1962, p. 4, has this:

“Mora did not meet Maro at that time, but met his assistant, Alonzo Moore, who on their first meeting was practicing magic himself, unknown to Maro. It was Alonzo Moore who taught Mora how to vanish 12 silks at once. He had seen the “vanisher” (metal tube) for causing one silk to vanish, but Alonzo had a cloth pull made from a stocking. This stocking pull held 12 silks and when Mora went home he made a copy of the stocking pull and became proficient in its use.

”'Silent' Mora practiced his profession while traveling tent and Repertoire shows, museums, independent theatres and finally vaudeville. While in Philadelphia Mora met El Barto the magician, with whom he spent a great deal of time (he lived at his home) and who taught Mora the '4 Balls under 2 Hats', also the Cone & Ball (ball appears continuously under cone) some handkerchief sleights (knots, etc.) and many others with common objects. From the Ball and Cone routine Mora created the Vanishing Ball from under the Cone.

“The routine here was placing one ball on the back of the extended left hand. Right hand covers this ball with cone held in right hand. Upon removing cone, ball has disappeared.”

This vanish off the backs of the fingers is described as an alternative handling in the Maro description given by Ovette.

As Corregan reports above, McCord, as a young man, was so very impressed by Maro's performance, that he derived his stage name from Maro's. According to Corregan, McCord took lessons from one of Maro's assistants, Alonzo Moore. It is certainly not impossible, but it would be ironic if he learned Maro's Cone and Ball, with the vanish done on the back of the hand, from El Barto rather than through its inventor, Maro, or Maro's assistant, Moore.

Inspired by Hull's description of Cone and Ball moves in Expert Billiard Ball Manipulation, 1910, p. 22, De Vega published a variant handling that begins with Maro's back-of-the-hand vanish sequence, which he states to be Hull's. De Vega's handling appeared in The Sphinx, Vol. 9 No. 11, Jan. 1911, p. 241.

Lionel Scott was another who published a variant handling inspired by reading Hull. His handling of the ball vanish he felt easier to do for those with “the average size hand”. Scott's method, though, requires a tube rather than a cone. This appeared in The Sphinx, Vol. 10 No. 10, Dec. 1911, p. 197.

De Vega's handling, and Silent Mora's, are cited by Dai Vernon as influential to developing his Cone and Ball routine.