Today is the birthday of Samuel Spencer “Samri” Baldwin (1848-1924) . Originally from Cincinnati, Baldwin became inspired to become a magician by studying the Davenport Brothers, and became one of the first mentalists by studying the tricks of Anna Eva Fay (who claimed to be a true medium). Billed as “The White Mahatama”, Baldwin publicly performed handcuff escapes and debunked fraudulent mediums, both activities prior to Houdini. His wife Kate or Kittie was often employed as his partner in the mentalism part of his act, as was his daughter Shadow. The lady confederate would be led onstage in a trance, blindfolded, and then asked to ascertain the content of messages audience members had written on pads of paper. The Baldwins were the first to do this type of act. Samri Baldwin’s books include Spirit Mediums Exposed (1879) and Secrets of Mahatma Land Explained (1895).
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold