Al Baker: From Poughkeepsie to Pet Secrets

In an industry which has given us an Al Lewis and an Al Kelly, to say nothing of an Al Flosso and an Al Mardo, it seems an Al Baker (1874-1951) would be inevitable. In spite of the quotidian handle, however, this Al was a titan in the field of stage magic.

Originally from Poughkeepsie, Baker became a professional magician and ventriloquist working in vaudeville, Chautauqua, Lyceum and at resorts like Coney Island in 1895. Starting around 1929, he began publishing books, pamplets and articles about his chosen art form, including original illusions of his own devising, including his own silk magic effects and his own version of the rice bowl trick.

Baker was a regular contributor to The Sphinx, and operated a magic shop in the vicinity of Times Square. In 1941 he was made Dean of the Society of American Magicians, a distinction he held until his death a decade later. His son-in-law Jay Marshall would later hold the same position.

His last book, Al Baker’s Pet Secrets came out the year of his death. It had illustrations by mystery writer/magician Clayton Rawson, who wrote the book on which Tod Browning’s last film Miracles for Sale (1939) was based.

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