Tom Selwyn: Mage and Military Man

Magician Tom Selwyn (1878-1950), often billed simply as Selwyn, was a man of both America and the British Empire. Though his parents were British, he was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, and spent time in both countries as a child. His professional debut was at Huber’s Museum in New York, and he worked the dime museum circuit in the States, as well as similar venues in the U.K. such as Raynold’s Waxworks in Liverpool. In the States, he also toured with Dr. Bigelow’s Medicine Show, Robinson’s Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. For a time he was partnered with Hanco the Handcuff King, and he also mentored Les Cole, whom he dubbed Levante. Selwyn toured South Africa, South Asia, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, where he eventually settled. He served in the Boer War (where he was wounded twice) and World World One, where he fought at Gallipoli. Lingering effects from posion gas forced him to retire by 1940.

For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,