James Harte (Harto), Was he a Ghost Writer?

In Erdnase’s,  Expert at the Card Table,  the quintessential book for card sharping methods,  has a  magic section wherein there are many inclusions about mentalism .  Noted are “Methods for Determining a Card Thought of” and then further on, “A Mind-Reading Trick”, and further on, he writes, ”
Or he may assume the power of mind-reading”, which is about a pre-arranged deck.

There is really a lot of information on mind reading etc. in this book of gambling sleights and legerdemain. If the collaborator, and if there was a collaborator, he or she must have had a good deal of knowledge about this subject.

Why would the main writer, who appears to be a hard core player, “because he needs the money”, dabble or include mind reading in this book about cheating at cards?

Erdnase was a player and pretty unlikely to have performed mental magic,  but perhaps he did.  If he did not have a knowledge of mental card magic a collaborator could have been hired to ad this inclusion  to skirt around the Comstock laws.   Thee collaborator of EACT may have had a good deal of knowledge about mind reading.

James Harto (Harte) could have been the collaborator as reported by many sources. He was a mentalist and was living not to distant from MFA. Here is Harto’s listing in Magicpedia:

James S. Harto was a professional magician that performed a mind-reading act as “Chandra, The Mystic”.
His first performance as at the Bristol Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1886.  Interesting because Worcester was not so far away from the Holyoke home of Milton Franklin Andrews (MFA).

The above are just notes and ideas that may have some interest to some of you. No dogma or proven points. Any thoughts?

Oct 10, 2010

In a post on the Genii Forum, Richard Hatch mentions Harto but does not elaborate on Harto’s road act and the fact that Harto lived very close to Milton Franklin Andrews. Read his post from Aug.,2008:

“Clearly Harto told several people of an association he claimed to have with Erdnase. Only Pratt claimed that Harto had contributed the Legerdemain section of the book, and Pratt’s testimony is questionable as noted in earlier postings. Charles Maly, one of the Harto associates who confirmed for Gardner that Harto spoke of an association with Erdnase, claimed to have seen a notebook of material that Harto was working on as a proposed sequel to Erdnase. If this notebook survived the destruction of many Harto documents by Audley Dunham, it has not yet surfaced, nor have any Erdnase references in Harto documents that have survived. But I take his claimed association with Erdnase as a serious possibility, and one that may lead to further information on the identity question.
I do not think that Harto had much, if anything, to do with the writing of THE EXPERT. If one assumes (as I do, though I recognize it is an assumption and not a proven fact) that the book was assembled shortly prior to publication, Harto’s schedule makes his collaboration with the author unlikely. Harto was touring with the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show as a ventriloquist and magician in the sideshow during several seasons prior to the book’s publication. They would set up in a new city nearly every day, arriving by train, parading through town, setting up the show, doing the shows, striking the show, loading on the train, and traveling overnight to the next stop on the tour. I traveled to Pawnee, Oklahoma to check the tour route books in the Pawnee Bill Museum for those seasons and the schedule does not much leave much free time to work on a book, unless the primary author was also working the same tour. There was a magician name Andrews from Philadelphia (Pratt’s later home) who did later join the Buffalo Bill Wild West show for their tour of Europe, and Harto was also at one time associated with the Buffalo Bill show, but this would have been after the book’s publication and I have been unable to develop much information on this particular “person of interest.” Another possibility I considered was Charles Andress (whose name reverses to S. S. Erdnase if you drop the rest of the first name reversal), a traveling magician with strong circus and Chicago connections, but I think him an extremely long shot for any number of reasons. I did track down Andress’ son and spoke with him by phone a few years back (his father sired him when he was 80 or so!), but he knew nothing about the book and I haven’t followed up on that line of inquiry.
Although Harto did get billing as a card magician early in his career (as a teenager) and was respected by his peers for his general knowledge of magic, mentalism and escapes, he does not seem to have been noted for originality in his card work. And the reference to the originality of his patter that is quoted in TMWWE is, in the original context, actually a reference to the originality of his ventriloqual dialogues, which I don’t think can be extrapolated to assign him credit for the patter in Erdnase’s LEGERDEMAIN section.

The Profile of a Di-generate Gambler

Sid Wyman
Stu Unger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Erdnase profile theory. The book, Expert at the Card Table by S.W. Erdnase, was self published by the author because the writer basically said, “because I needed the money”

This statement fits the profile of a gambler that needed money because they lost in a game of poker or they won in a game of poker and then blew off the winnings to some other form of degenerate gambling. Players and hustlers are in constant need of money because they have bad habits. The author SW Erdnase said that he “bucked the Tiger”, meaning that he played The Bank, or game commonly called Faro.

This seems to fit a profile of a gambler who is constantly playing and looking for new sources of easy money. He is always looking for the next sucker or mark, that doesn’t have the playing ability nor the skills of a card sharp.

Every serious gambler I have ever known had a bad habit. For instance, Stuie Unger first visited the Dunes Hotel on a junket arranged by the legendary Jules “Julie” Weintraub. Julie brought a plane load full of gamblers to the Dunes every other week. To be eligible for the complimentary flight, free room, food and beverages for the Thursday to Sunday junket the player had to 1) be alive, 2) bring cash front money (a minimum of $2500-$5000), and 3) gamble in the casino.

Stu Unger’s parents operated a “Slosh” joint near Manhattan and Stu was raised amongst the best gamblers, kibitzers and characters that frequented this semi secretive card room that offered every kind of short card game under the sun.

Stu could beat most other players in gin rummy and on his first trip to the Dunes he had the opportunity to play the Dunes’s big boss, that we the floorman and dealers referred to as Pacone Grande. If Sid Wyman was walking near the game we where supervising or dealing, the code word Paco was said aloud to another adjacent dealer, to alert the worker to be on his best behavior.
Pacone Grande meant the big boss Sidney Wyman was near and to be very careful. You never knew what kind of mood he might be in.

Wyman and his partners controlled the Dunes Hotel and made it the success that it enjoyed for many years before they sold out.
One of Wyman’s partners pushed the idea of “buying” business and the New York junket became one of the many successful junket operations that the Dunes was known to cater.

I don’t know who conceived the idea of Wyman playing Unger in a round of Gin, but I watched the massacre. In the adjacent poker room, I could see the action develop from my ladder chair in the Baccarat pit. A special table was cleared and Wyman and his kibitzers were on one side and little Stuie Unger was on the other side. Wyman has about 15 to 30 in his gallery while Unger had but one person. I think Stu was not yet 21 years old at the time, but had a reputation of a class A gin rummy player.

It is conceivable,but not provable , that a kibitzer in Wyman’s gallery may have tipped off Wyman’s hand to Unger, because I saw several cross roaders paying close attention to Sid’s play. It was easy enough to see what Wyman was holding. But even if Unger got some assistance, he really didn’t need it. Wyman lost $75,000 on the play.
Unger then followed suit of the profile of every generate gambler and went over to the crap table and lost it all.

This degeneracy profile of shooting craps, playing the horses or bucking the tiger is a sickness that seems to be in every serious gambler who is there to be in the action whether they win or lose.

It is like the guy who follows the elephants, cleaning up after them in a parade, when asked why don’t you get a better job? His answer is,”What, and give up show business?”

More on my Erdnase theory later.

Mob Month 2018 – The Magician & The Mob – The Untold Stories of Las Vegas’ Mob History

 

I hope you can join me on this night. Please excuse the promotional library write up,as I did not put myself into the “world class magician” position. That is a lot of puffery that I did not write.

I am going to talk about many of the things that the promo states, but also talk a great deal about Jimmy Grippo and his connection to the real Godfathers of the Mafia and what role he played in this fascinating period. It is a real story that I was never allowed to talk about. The event is free and if you are not pleased with the event I will offer a refund!