In the first decade of the 1900s, Master Magician Howard Thurston created a masterpiece.
Initially, searching for some small bit of magic that could play “in one” (in front of the curtain while the stage was being reset), he decided to ask a young boy from the audience to join him on stage. Thurston then proceeded to produce a large number of eggs from the air handing each one down to the boy who, of course, was unable to hold them all – resulting in splattered eggs on the stage floor.
The result had the crowd roaring with so much laughter that Thurston, to ensure proper hilarity, often used dubious methods – like purposefully holding the egg just far enough that the boy would have to reach for it – to ensure plenty of eggs were dropped.
The comical effect became so popular that the son of President Teddy Roosevelt was once called up as Thurston’s helpless helper. Later, Thurston hit upon the idea of adding a girl into the mix. Bringing a girl up onto the stage, Thurston now first handed the egg to the girl, who, in turn, would pass it on to the boy. With each hand-to-hand transfer, the odds of dropping increased, along with the comedy. Thurston then layered on elements of verbal humor between the two young participants. He whispered instructions to the kids so when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the boy would always respond, “a policeman.” The girl responded that she wanted to be “a policeman’s wife.” And, as a final touch, when the unsuspecting couple walked together up the stairs to the stage, the orchestra further delighted the crowd by striking up Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.
David Devant, who promoted his show with the slogan, “all done by kindness” and, as illustrated by this 1910 poster showcasing, not the entertainer, but his audience, was (and still is) far ahead of his time, was considered Thurston’s brilliant British counterpart.
The two magicians were friends and often swapped tricks. With Devant, The Egg Trick, or, Boy, Girl and Eggs, as he referred to it privately, became an absolute sensation.
In fact, Devant is noted for performing this trick at a command performance for British royalty and prompting Queen Alexandra to laugh out loud.
Below is an illustration of a magician fooling “Burt and Ruth” from the venerable 1920 correspondence course of magic written by Dr. Harlan Tarbell, The Tarbell Course. Nearly 100 years old and still the definitive text for stage and parlor magic.
In spite of its world-wide success, owing probably to the fact that eggs are difficult to work with and messy, this trick is rarely performed today.
Yet, when the proper efforts are made, and despite all of the changes in our society over the past 100 years, this trick still plays as strong as ever. Perhaps, the more things change, the more they remain the same. A thousand years from now, Virgina, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, wherever there are girls, and boys, and eggs, magicians will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Scotty Walsh & Co.