Profile of S.W. Erdnase

Expert at the Card Table

NOTE: This is a work in progress and by no means finished.  The contents are not in the lineal order or any semblance of a finished work. Please bear with us.

The FBI method of profiling is a system created by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used to detect and classify the major personality and behavioral characteristics of an individual based upon analysis of the crime or crimes the person committed. One of the first American profilers was FBI agent John E. Douglas, who was also instrumental in developing the behavioral science method of law enforcement. (Wikipedia)

The information provided is a profile  and a look at a specific candidate, Milton Franklin Andrews, the subject of a book, The Man Who Was Erdnase, by Bart Whaley, Martin Gardner and Jeff Busby, with Bart Whaley completing at least 90% of the analysis and 997% of the writing. This author (Geno Munari) was fortunate to interview and correspond with Bart Whaley in the making of the video teaching project, The Expert At the Card Table, performed by Alan Ackerman, with an additional documentary titled, The Prologue, narrated by Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine.

Bart Whaley

(Barton) “Bart” Whaley was my favorite magician/writer of all time. Meeting him was a highlight in my life. I am thankful to have the opportunity of talking to him, which I wish I could have done everyday, but I feared the risk of bugging him with my trivial matters. I just loved hearing his opinion and angle on many things.

When I was putting together the Erdnase-Expert at the Card Table series with Allan Ackerman, I was stunningly impressed by the level of Bart’s deep awareness and historical knowledge of the topic. He definitely should have been given the distinction, “Erdnase maxima cum laude”. The Central Intelligence Agency referred to him as the “Father of Deception” within the agency.  Following is Bart’s bibliography of deception that he assembled while working for the CIA and his Textbook of Political & Military Counter- deception.



In my interview he talks about a topic called, “Incongruities”. The topic is one of my favorites. I have attached a rare unedited excerpt from the Expert at the Card Table set. I hope you enjoy this clip.

In the case of S.W. Erdnase, we don’t know 100% who this person is but we have many theories proposed by different researchers.  

What is in a name?

The name. S.W. Erdnase and Andrews.  Swerdna is Andrews backwards. This word is a non discript foreign  name.  It sounds legitimate, however it is not flowing or pretty in any way.  It is the result of reversing the letters in the name Andrews. But looking at it for a second or two and taking the first two letters away,  gives SW erdna. This just doesn’t sound right either. By adding two of the existing letters in the name ,s and e to the word, SW Erdnase is the final product. It becomes a name that can be pronounced. It is simple and doesn’t reveal the real first and last name of the author, but it does give the author an inside code and imprint to the book. If Milton Franklin Andrews would have used a combination of the letters in Milton or Franklin in this anagram, his identity may have been discovered.
Many of the other Erdnase hunters have have discovered persons that had names that when reversed spelled SW Erdnase, and then used weak circumstantial evidence to claim this person as the author. This a fallacious method of conclusion. The writer made every effort to hide his identity. Why would he simple reverse every letter in his or her name and think he would remain anonymous? I don’t think so. So he just used Andrews and its components. The author was very careful not to make a name that could be claimed by anyone else as well.

Milton Franklin Andrews
Martin Gardner has proposed a gambler man named Milton Franklin Andrews as the author. Another proponent who researched this theory was Barton Whaley, in his book The Man Who Was Erdnase, which contains eyewitness interviews from the 1940s. Andrews was wanted by police for questioning in relation to a murder inquiry. When the police found Andrews he shot himself dead after fatally shooting his female companion. Andrews was only 33, as stated in The Man Who was Erdnase. But did he kill himself or did the police kill Andrews and his companion.       

In those days the police did not have the training , temperament and integrity to the law that is required to protect the public and deal with criminals.  Andrews was wanted for alleged murdering two people when he was caught in a room in San Francisco.  The police did not take any guff from anyone and sometimes had a lynching mentality. 

Milton Franklin Andrews

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 08 Nov. 1905

Others argue against Andrews being Erdnase because the known examples of his writing are very much inferior to the exceptional writing of The Expert at the Card Table.

There has been newer evidence since the year 2000 that puts to rest the assumption that Milton Franklin Andrews was Erdnase. It is obvious that Andrews was a card cheat but that is as far as his connection goes. Other historians have also found other men that could have indeed been S.W. Erdnase.[1]

Wilbur Edgerton Sanders
Some argue that Erdnase was probably a well-educated, locally prominent individual, hiding behind an alias to protect his social standing. The late David Alexander, a magician and private detective, did quite a bit of work to find a better and more possible candidate than Milton Franklin Andrews, and he proposed that Erdnase was a prominent mining engineer named Wilbur Edgerton Sanders. (Note that “S. W. Erdnase” is an anagram of “W. E. Sanders”.)

However in a letter to Bart Whaley, David Alexander stated without reservation that he believed that M.F. Andrews was indeed Erdnase.

Since Alexander’s death, others have researched Wilbur Edgerton Sanders. Genii Magazine devoted a large portion of its September 2011 issue to an exploration of Alexander’s theory, providing substantial circumstantial evidence that links Sanders to Erdnase.

E. S. Andrews
Todd Karr has identified a Midwestern-based con artist and business swindler named E. S. Andrews who was active around the turn of the century and whose biography and range of known locations seems to fit Erdnase’s.[2] Also, E.S. Andrews spelled backwards is S.W. Erdnase.

L’Homme Masqué
Juan Tamariz has advanced the theory that Erdnase was written by the Peruvian magician named “L’Homme Masqué” (The Masked Man), who lived in Europe.

Many other people have also been proposed, including James Andrews, James DeWitt Andrews, Robert Frederick Foster and Herbert Lee Andrews, which have been discussed and debated on the Erdnase topic on the Genii Forum since 2003.  Here is a link to the Erdnase Thread

Why Milton Franklin Andrews?

M.F. Andrews is the only one of these major candidates whom we know to be a gambler and proficient with a deck of cards,

  1. He has what would be the closest to contemporary confirmation (statements by Pratt),
  2. His family believed he wrote a book (see _The Man Who Was Erdnase).

My theory on S.W. Erdnase

Milton Franklin Andrews was a gambler that had tremendous skills with cards.  He dabbled in magic, specifically card tricks, hung around pool halls and listed his occupation when he was first married as a drummer.  He was around the “in” crowd so to say of his time and had the opportunity to learn from the best.  He attended every magic show that was in his area and probably frequented or consulted magic shops.

There are newspaper accounts of his getting into gambling games in his area and returning with large sums of money.

Direct testimony from a relative says that he sold private manuscripts on gambling to individuals.

Letter from Martin Gardner

He either sold the basic manuscript TEATCT or partnered up with others to have the legerdemain and trick section completed for the work.  An analysis of the book in sections gives truth to the possibility others helped him write the final addition.

After the book didn’t do so well, he traveled and gambled and then was finally tracked down and killed by the San Francisco police.  Since there Erdnase, a.k.a. Milton Franklin Andrews was dead, the remaining so called collaborators continued selling the book.  Thus  Franklin never came forward to claim the title of  author because he was dead.

Erdnase Ref David Alexander and his mention that Pratt was a musician. I found that MF Andrews listed himself as a musician on his marriage license. 
This very well could have been were Andrews met Pratt.

Developing a profile of Erdnase is important to help discover who he was. Many critics claim the Andrews con not have written the EATCT because the declaration that he wrote in San Francisco while on the lam, was lacking the writing style and careful selection of words that the writer used in the EATCT. Alexander and Hatch both have taken this position.
This is a possibility however another possibility is the fact that most authors and publishers use editors. Andrews had the story and technical information in his mind and if he had his raw manuscript edited by a writer he may have acquainted himself with they surely could have punched up the work. And to go farther, upon taken this to a publisher/printer in Chicago, that company surely had someone they used to further edit and “make ready” the document.
Prior to the sojourn to Chicago there are many connections that need to be considered that could be the source of editing and writing skills. One particular connection that is congruent in this thinking is James Harto, who at one tome lived in Worster, Massachusetts which is 60 miles from Holyoke.
There is a possible connection to the manager of the Sphinx and Harto. The Vernello,s also played the circus circus. Inez Vernello became the manger of the Sphinx. This is the first publication that an ad for TEATCT appeared. Why did the author choose this publication? I say what did the author choose and not the printer/publisher because the printer had no knowledge of magic or gambling and previously had no other books on the market that dealt in gambling and magic.
Smith ay have been contacted by author because he was an artist known by the printer, however if the printer had done other gambling and/ or magic books it seems that one might see Smith’s drawings talent be published in these works or any other books by McKinney . . But we don’t see Smith’s works in any other magic books. So this may indicate he was not known by magicians and publishers of magic books and that his connection with this book may be by some other introduction or reference that has nothing to do with the printer.
Harto ran an ad in the Sphinx and mentioned manuscripts that were for sale regarding Hofzinser’s card book. Harto placed ads in the Sphinx prior to the EATCT’s initial advertising in the Sphinx. Harto may have know the Vernellos from the circus and sideshows and therefore suggested the magazine as a place to offer the book. Harto may have helped edit the manuscript and surely may have suggested that the staff or associates of the magazine edit and punch up the document to give it some perceived value with the magic and legerdemain sections.
Hillier may have been one of the contributors because of his association with the Vernellos and the fact that he also worked the entertainment circuit. He very well could have known Harto and may have been employed on a piece meal basis to prepare manuscripts for Harto as well. Pratt and his connection??
Alexander and Hatch probably did not make the connection that Andrews was a musician and could have known Harto. They also have omitted or ignored that Harto and Andrews lived in a relative close proximity of one another. Harto also worked professionally as a Physic using the name of Chandra. Did he write some of the effects in the magic section of the book? It is very well possible he had something to do with this in some way. He either wrote some of the effects or he may have suggested them. He surely may have been the person to encourage Andrews to write and publish. Andrews wife or sister in law??? said he sold manuscripts to gamblers. SEE ARTICLE.
It is a fact that Andrews made an effort to see every magician’s performance that was in his area. He most certainly would have caught up with Chandra.
Andrews’ father was well off enough to keep the family in money and Milton became accustomed to the finer things in life. He had fashionable clothes and jewelry and had the means to have whatever he wanted. He must have been very social and had a great personality.

In the book E, the author talks about not using devices and prepared or marked cards. This is not for ethical or purist reasons as some may suggest, because these assumptions don’t fit the profile of a real gambler. A real gambler in today’s world would be arrested and convicted for having hard evidence of cheating. The same was true in 1900, and the chest might get shot as well. And if he didn’t get shot he surely would develop a bad reputation that would spread fast.
So cheating devices are completely out of the question so as to fit the profile of a genuine professional card sharp. If he was caught making a move such as a false cut, it was his word against theirs.

A profile and explanation of the author S.W. Erdnase and the book:

Also knows as The Expert at the Card Table

In the preface of the The Expert at the Card Table, hereinafter called TEATCT a lot of information is provided.  The preface is as follows:

The preface is a telling piece of literature from what appears in the use of the writers referral to the terms “the writer” and  “the author”.  It would seem very logical that the author of this preface would have used the term “this author”.  This suggests that someone else wrote this Preface.

The Preface writer also suggests the motive in writing the book is money.  In fact the Preface says exactly that,  “if it sells it will accomplish the primary motive of the author, as he needs the money.”

In a Syracuse newspaper it is documented that Milton Franklin Andrews always needed money and always found a way to obtain it.

Post Standard, Syracuse NY 1903?

Needing money are major traits of a gambler that has to play for the sake of playing.

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 New York City 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 had 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 there were 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 degenerate 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?”

The use of the word WE.

The use of the word “WE”.  It seems odd and incongruous that the sole author would refer to himself as WE, rather than I.  This leads one to suspect that he had assistance writing this book.

Weighing against him:

1. “M. F. Andrews” <=> “S. W. Erdnase” is a forced fit, at best.
2. Known samples of his writing don’t match the style of EATCT.
3. Inconsistencie in his physical description with the statements of Marshall D. Smith.  (ref: Bill Mullins)

Not one other candidate, besides Andrews, can be connected to a deck of cards. And after looking at the evidence available to me it is a very compelling argument that MFA was indeed Erdnase.

For instance: Andrews’s family having knowledge of his magic books and tricks.

2. Testimony from Harte (Harto)
3. Testimony from Dunham.
4. Testimony from Pratt.
5. MFA’s use of a form of anagram on many instances.
6. The police finding books on magic in his belongings. Why would MFA carry books like that around if he was just a card cheat?
7. Nothing more has been heard of the author EATCT, since MLF’s death.
8. No one has claimed authorship, nor is there any hint of the author ever signing a copy. Surely, if the person writing the book had lived a normal life someone would have claimed authorship. The author was dead and probably never signed a copy. No other claimes were made by anyone else especially from those who were associated with MFA, such as Pratt et al.
9. It was never reported in the tome TMWWE about the private cipher code book MFA had in his belongings and reported in the newspaper. This topic has not even thoroughly discussed or researched.
10. The comments that Walter Gibson made about Erdnase pointing to MFA.
11. Even Smith’s comments about Erdnase were no totally clear in his own mind.
12. MFA like to watch magic acts. (see below about Del Adelphia)
Also Whaley writes of loose ends such as:
1.The Andrews and Walsh families. Connie Barrett says Ed Minkley is unwilling to be interveiwed.
2. Info on George Taylor
3. The allegation about Hilliar’s pirated books that he brought to Drake.
4. What were August Roterberg’s activities in Chicago around 1901-1902. The Card in Hank effect in Expert was in Roterberg’s book, New Era Card Tricks, called Penetration of Matter, and uses the same value and black color card, a 5, in the drawing.
5. Edwin Hood who claimed to be a long time friend of Erdnase.
6. The letters of Harte (Harto) that disappeared and never found. Some letters were bought possibly by Waldo Logan and J. Elder Blackledge.
7. Info on Nulda Petrie/Eva Howard. Why is the name Nulda unique to only her. It does not seem to be used any other person.
8. Julia Darby and why did MFA carry press clippings about her missing trunk.
9. Did Charles Ellis leave the US?
10. Del Adelphia and Hugh Johnston’s claime they met Erdnase when they were playing the Empire Theater in Denver. We know MFA caught ever magic act possible. MFA was in Colorado then.  (See Jay Marshall’s letter below)

And there are more…..Respectfully. GM

Reference to Jay Marshall talking to Mrs. Minkley.  As you recall, she was the sister to Andrews wife. She recalled (1) that Andrews had indeed wrote a book, but remembered it a little thicker than the edition Jay showed her.

That is reasonable,there could have been multiple reasons for this.

She also talks about him doing card tricks.

Then Pratt in a letter to Gardner states that the book would not sell and Andrews was holding the bag. Then to create a market, magic was added (2).

He then said he heard of his death after being friendly with him from 1897-1904. (3)

Also when the police went through his belongings after his death they did find a book on card tricks.(4)

This is very compelling information. Between Harte, Pratt, Minkley and Audley Dunham. There is a great deal of collaboration of people that were around Andrews more than Smith if indeed Andrews was Erdnase.

(1) The Annotated Erdnase by Darwin Ortiz
(2) Letter from Pratt to Gardner
(3) The Annotated Erdnase by Darwin Ortiz
(4) San Francisco Newspaper Account

A rebuttal of my theory which is the theory of others:

Geno Munari wrote:
This is very compelling information. Between Harte, Pratt, Minkley and Audley Dunham. There is a great deal of collaboration of people that were around Andrews more than Smith if indeed Andrews was Erdnase.

Geno, I have done quite a bit of research on Harte, Pratt and Minkley. The only connection between Harte and MFA is through Pratt, who told Gardner that Harte had helped with the book. Gardner followed up and found two associates of Pratt (Charles Maly and Audley Dunham) who both confirmed that Harte claimed some association with Erdnase (but not necessary that he helped with the book, only Pratt makes that claim). Neither Dunham nor Maly have anything to say that would connect Erdnase to MFA. But because Pratt had told Gardner about the possible Harte connection, when Gardner found some corroboration for that connection it gave Pratt credibility for Gardner that had previously been lacking. I personally don’t find Pratt a credible witness for MFA at all. I don’t see any evidence that he know MFA personally (though he could have). Everything he told Gardner about MFA was in “THE MALTED MILK MURDERER” article that Pratt later sold to Kanter and that was published before Pratt met Gardner. He never told Gardner about that article, and he sold Kanter a photo that is almost certainly of Pratt’s older brother, claiming it was a photo of MFA. Again, he never told Gardner (who by then knew enough about MFA to have called Pratt’s bluff) about the photo.I think Pratt’s strange behavior is most easily explained by assuming that he did not know MFA personally, but was the first to make the MFA=Erdnase connection after reading the Malted Milk Murderer article.

Minkley’s testimony is very interesting. Jay Marshall visited his parents in Holyoke, Mass. and had an article published in the local paper about his interest in the MFA case, as related to the MFA=Erdnase theory, since MFA had lived there, hoping to stir up some local memories. Mrs. Minkley contacted the newspaper (as did a cousin) to tell them that she was MFA’s sister-in-law. According to the newspaper editor’s report to Marshall, at that time she reported knowing nothing about a book. Marshall, a local celebrity thanks to his national television appearances, calls her up from Chicago to ask her about MFA. This was likely a rather exciting surprise for her, and at that point she recalls that he had sold some typed manuscripts on gambling, but is very vague in her recollection. Gardner makes an appointment to meet with her after an upcoming televised appearance in New York. He takes the train up from New York to interview her and brings with him a copy of the book. Apparently he brought the Fleming edition, as it was handy (Marshall may not have owned a first edition at that time). When she meets him and sees it, she apparently reports that MFA’s book was thicker. That would call her recollection into question, as the Fleming edition is by far the thickest, and much thicker than a first edition. Ironically, she thinks she recognizes the illustrations (unlike Marshall Smith, the illustrator!), but not much else. Now, she would have been in her late teens when MFA was living in her parent’s home, so she was not a small child. Wouldn’t the most remarkable thing about the book, even 50 years later, be the fact that your brother-in-law’s name was not on the book he supposed authored, but instead a version of his name in reverse?

It’s not that I don’t want to believe her, as I actually think MFA is a very good candidate (credible last name, knowledge of gambling and interest in magic… Minkley describes some card tricks he did for her… and he died shortly after the book’s publication, neatly explaining why the author so proud of his work never revealed himself to his fans once the book became a success…), but I find her testimony more in line with prompted false memories, an attempt to tell Jay Marshall what he was hoping to hear after travelling a great distance to see her immediately after a nationally televised appearance. If her claim of having seen copies of the book were credible, that would pretty much seal the case in favor of MFA. But I don’t find them so. Equally damning in my opinion are MFA’s older brother Alvin’s lack of any knowledge of the book, though he knew all about his brother’s gambling and was close enough to him to advise him to escape to Australia via Canada when wanted on murder charges. The claim that MFA didn’t tell his brother about the book because he was embarrassed by it (Gardner and Whaley/Busby’s conjecture) makes no sense at all to me. The author was proud of his work, not ashamed. And how does writing a book on card cheating compare with multiple murder charges on the shame scale? I think his brother would have known about the book and would have told Gardner so. Indeed, I am pretty sure that Alvin was dispatched to San Francisco to recover his brother’s possessions, which would presumably have included the card magic book in the newspaper report. But Alvin knew nothing about the book and never even acknowledged Gardner’s questions about it when Gardner sent him a copy with questions about whether it sounded like MFA and whether he could have written by himself.

(from Richard Hatch)

A Letter to Martin Gardner

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Martin Gardner

750 Canadian Trails Dr.

Norman, OK 73072

Re: MFA Erdnase Nulda Petrie

Dear Martin;

I hope all is well with you. Enclosed is a copy of the San Francisco Call, Nov. 7, 1905. I have enlarged the section of the article so that you can read it. This new revelation is beyond a coincidence. Here is my theory.

Milton Franklin Andrews started this whole mystery by using an alias in the form of an anagram. S. W. Erdnase, although an imperfect anagram, it gives the user protection from his or her real identity, and also gives the user a frame of reference with which to recall a fictitious name. If he was bouncing from city to city, the use of anagrams kept the user from making a mistake and giving the wrong name to a person he may have previously associated.

Thus anagrams may be used as a memory tool. A name is often easier to remember if it is in the form of an anagram. For example, if you choose a pseudonym for Geno Munari, you might uses Oneg Iranum, or Moe Rainnier.

MFA used many aliases as his standard modus operandi; William P. Brush, William Curtis etc.

When Bessie Bouton was murdered the police questioned two bystanders (cited in the Colorado Springs Gazette Dec. 22, 1904) I have enclosed a copy for you also. One bystanders name was W.S. Maunder. An anagram of this, although not perfect, is S.W. Erdnase. Interesting, but perhaps coincidental.

But then in the Nov. 7, 1905 story, MFAs lady friend gave her name as Miss Edna Little. Compare that to the real name, Nulda Petrie, and another anagram. The (u) and (r)are not used and a (t) and (L) are added to make the name look correct.

The answer to the puzzle was right in front of our eyes. A simple anagram.

These findings by my research team Don Fineout and myself are completely independent of any other research. I think it is very strong evidence that affirms the wonderful work that Bart Whaley, Jeff Busby and yourself completed.

This is a direct link between MFA and Erdnase. All of your other strong evidence makes MFA the correct candidate. There is no other suspect that is even close.

One theory I have been thinking about is; who are the people that played in the game with Erdnase? Those that played in the game were probably fleeced. It stands to reason that these easy marks were people of prominence and/or had money. If you could identify one of these parties there is a chance that there may be a trail to a description of Erdnase. If one of these suckers was a businessman that could earn money in business, he or she may have had a background check completed on Erdnase. There even might be a picture taken with him. Read on!

I think there is a very great possibility that Erdnase played poker with Lucky Baldwin. Baldwin was an interesting businessman, gambler and racehorse owner. His land holdings in the San Gabriel Mountains reached about 46,000 acres, which later became Arcadia, Pasadena, Monrovia, Sierra Madre and San Marino, California. His ranch also became Santa Anita Racetrack. My wife Penny grew up in El Monte and Monrovia were Lucky Baldwin had a presence. For instance Baldwin Boulevard is one of the main streets in the area. Penny loves horses, as did Lucky Baldwin, and discovered the book about him, Lucky Baldwin, The story of Unconventional Success, by C.B. Glassock. I thank her for this find. Baldwin fits the prerequisites to play with Erdnase. He loved women, loved to gamble, ran with fast company and had plenty of cash. He also traveled via steamships and spent a great deal of time in San Francisco. Baldwin died in 1909.

Lucky Baldwin

In Glassocks book there is a picture of Baldwin at the poker table with three other players. The game is in Luckys private quarters in his Baldwin Hotel, San Francisco. Could one of those players be Erdnase? In my perspective one of them slightly does resemble M.F. Andrews.

Could this be M.F. Andrews on the right?
Berkeley Daily Gazette Oct 13, 1905 

I would like to release some of this information after I release the video, Expert at the Card Table. I think that you will be in the news again.

Give me a call if you like to discuss this new information.

Very warm wishes,

Geno Munari

I have located some interesting evidence that Andrews had left that I don’t think has been reported here or any other printed articles. (1)     “Everything that could lead to a positive identification had been destroyed or taken away by Brush and the woman. He left, however, what apparently a telegraph cipher code, a private code, and written in pencil in a vest pocket memorandum book, which is accepted as evidence that he is one of a gang.” So possibly this code was used to send telegrams in code and also to make anagrams. Sending a telegram in code requires words that have some meaning that can be spoken and not just a bunch of scrambled letters, otherwise it would have drawn suspicion. This is a pattern that Andrews used; scrambled names an aliases such as Nulda Petrie=Edna Little etc. If there was a way to search old telegrams there could be some more clues to who Erdnase really was. Also if Andrews used codes he may have a secret message in Expert! Notes: (1) Whaley may have found this info but I don’t think it was examined to any degree in TMWWE. Gardner was not aware of this information at all.

Yes the codes were very common in those days.  Here is a link to Pinkerton’s

All these facts about Andrews are strictly speculation and theories, which are fun to explore without drawing a definitive conclusion.

It is just interesting that this private code has never been discussed since it was found in his personal articles.

The source is San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 14, 1905.

Andrews used code. Perhaps he ciphered S.W. Erdnase?

I think there is a very great possibility that Erdnase played poker with Lucky Baldwin. Baldwin was an interesting businessman, gambler and racehorse owner. His land holdings in the San Gabriel Mountains reached about 46,000 acres, which later became Arcadia, Pasadena, Monrovia, Sierra Madre and San Marino, California. His ranch also became Santa Anita Racetrack. My wife Penny grew up in El Monte and Monrovia where Lucky Baldwin had a presence. For instance Baldwin Boulevard is one of the main streets in the area. Penny loves horses, as did Lucky Baldwin, and discovered the book about him, “Lucky Baldwin: The Story of an Unconventional Success”, by Carl B. Glasscock. I thank her for this find. Baldwin fits the prerequisites to play with Erdnase. He loved women, loved to gamble, ran with fast company and had plenty of cash. He also traveled via steamships and spent a great deal of time in San Francisco. Baldwin died in 1909.

In Glasscock’s book there is a picture of Baldwin at the poker table with three other players. The game is in Lucky’s private quarters in his Baldwin Hotel, San Francisco. Could one of those players be Erdnase? In my perspective one of them slightly resembles M.F. Andrews.

Finally, I want all that view this material to look deep into the various aspects. There is something for the student, the professional and those interested in the historical part of this mysterious story. But it does not stop here. If you are interested in the hunt for who was Erdnase, please let us know.

The Mysterious Gambler – Bart Whaley


How Gamblers Win – Gerritt M. Evans



An Erdnase Manifesto
Todd Karr

The details of a number of swindles and crimes committed under various aliases by swindler E. S. Andrews and later, I believe, under his actual name of Charles E. Andrews (b. 1859 in Indiana, d. Aug. 26, 1907 in Chicago) from 1901 to 1907 make me feel he is a strong candidate as the author of The Expert at the Card Table. 

I’m detailing all my research here for you to examine as you like. 

I am also providing a free download link to the 1907 news photo of Charles E. Andrews and his wife, plus two key articles:

Please feel free to investigate all the following clues and paths, if you want to get closer to definitive truth. 

Remember also that Indiana magician James Harto claimed to have known Erdnase.

From Bill Mullins

by Bill Mullins10 Aug 2011 08:47Forum: GeneralTopic: ERDNASEReplies: 6982Views: 2044092


So how many people are swayed? When I first read it (I got a small head start, and it’s been hard to sit on it), I said “I’m convinced. [Marty’s] made a believer out of one person.” Some of that was giddiness at seeing such a fascinating article about a subject that I hold great interest in (some would say, too much interest . . .) But it was also recognition of the strong case made by Demarest. This is good work. 

Over the years, I’ve gone from believing that Erdnase will never be found — that the lifestyle that leads one to write a book about excellence at a cheating at cards is a solitary, a-social, lonely pursuit, and it does not tend to leave the sort of documentary trail that one could call “proof” — to being amazed at the coincidences in the lives of the major candidates with what we know (or think we know) about Erdnase, and thinking that one of these guys will eventually win out. Then I go back again. 

Up until a week ago I probably felt that Edwin Sumner Andrews was the strongest candidate, but I still wouldn’t say that he was more likely than not to be Erdnase. Now W. E. Sanders holds that position; and I would say that he more likely was Erdnase than was not. But we still don’t have documentary evidence tying him to the book, or knowledge that he actually cheated, or performed sleight of hand. The book is about cheating and sleight of hand, and those are important missing pieces — so much so that MFA has remained a “person of interest” despite all the obvious reasons not to think he wrote the book. I still think there is room to establish someone else as a stronger candidate. 

So, I’ve backed off (a little) from my first reaction. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being evidence of the level of a signed contract between Sanders and James McKinney; 1 being speculation that Mark Twain wrote it), I’m putting Sanders at an 8 (with sincere surprise that such a strong case could be developed). I still put Hatch’s Andrews at about a 5, Karr’s Andrews at maybe 3-1/2, MF Andrews at a 2, and other suggested names (Hilliar, Harto, R. F. Foster, etc.) farther down the scale.

16 Apr 2018 17:33Forum: GeneralTopic: ERDNASEReplies: 6982Views: 2044093

Long post, but to answer your question:

This is all discussed earlier in this thread … and is the work of Richard Hatch and Bill Mullins (with additional information from David Ben).

E.S. Andrews was born in the right year, and was the right age for Erdnase as per Smith’s recollection of him.

E.S. Andrews lived in and around Chicago at precisely the right time, such that he would have easily been able to meet Smith, and deal with the printing, binding, and handling of the first edition.

E.S. Andrews simply reverses to S.W. Erdnase. No complex puzzles required. He didn’t want to give his actual name as the author of the book, but we know he didn’t try very hard to conceal himself (the cheque to Smith, filing the copyright, repeatedly traipsing along printers row to McKinney’s facility, etc)

E.S. Andrews had never self-published anything before, which is reflected in the somewhat loose editorial work, spelling mistakes, and errors in instruction which are scattered throughout EATCT.

Day after day, week after week, month after month for years on end … Erdnase had to have had massive amounts of time in which to come up with moves that had never before been seen by human eyes. He had to not only have had time to develop them, he would have had to have had opportunity to develop them in actual games, which mean he had to expose himself to people with money. 
First as a telegraph operator for the trains, and then as a travelling agent … he had plenty of time on his hands, and endless opportunities to meet monied folks, most of whom in the late 1800’s traveled by train.

Because of the vagaries of gambling, even if you’re cheating … Erdnase would have had to have had a steady source of income, during the time he was developing his “system” of moves, during the time he was testing those moves out, during the time he was writing the book, and then after he was done writing the book (which wasn’t a financial windfall for him).

All of the above are to be accomplished in spades if one spends 8, 12, or 16 hours a day, each and every day … working first in a railway telegraph office, and then as an agent onboard trains.

E.S. Andrews spent the better part of his adult life working for a train company.

As you noted, the Seely/Dalrymple connection (still under investigation) is a strong connection.

E.S. Andrews frequently has a deck of cards in his hands, as indicated by the “Mystery of the Pippens”. Going out of the way in order to note that Andrews often has to resort to the “Pippens” excuse to get out of playing cards indicates (to me) that Andrews played a heck of a lot of cards … indeed, that he was well known as a card player.

A huge chunk of the above, although factual, only means that Andrews had what would have been needed to develop his system, practice his system, write the book, and then get on with his life when the book wasn’t as successful as he no doubt wished it would have been.

The solid evidence is the perfect name reversal from E.S. Andrews to S.W. Erdnase.

Less factual as its still waiting to be fleshed out, but in many ways more compelling, is the still incomplete discussion relating to the Seely/Dalrymple connection.

Factual evidence continues with Andrews matching the features of Erdnase as Smith described them to Gardner. (although Sanders fits the bill as well – which doesn’t negate the fact that Andrews too fits the bill).

On the negative side was the fact that Andrews was married, contrary to Smiths observation … although he was a widower when he married the second time, and spent a great deal of time away from home on his own … so perhaps would have put off the “unmarried vibe” to Smith.
Regardless, Andrews being married is contrary to Smith’s observation.

There aren’t really any other negative elements to Andrews, at least such that they stand out as being worthy of note.

All in all, E.S. Andrews is the strongest candidate amongst all the candidates when everything is taken at face value, no massaging of information is undertaken, and candidates are equally compared using the same method.

BTW, I do believe that it’s extremely likely that Gallaway knew Erdnase, to the point where he and other Mckinney employees would have known him by both of his names, Andrews and Erdnase.
If I recall correctly, this was the original impetus of Chris’s research, to investigate the relationship between S.W. Erdnase and McKinney … which may have been something more than simply a customer printing a book.

There’s more, but it’s all in previous posts in this thread … and worth looking for and re-reading.

Re: Erdnase

Postby Bill Mullins » 10 Mar 2011 13:34Milton Franklin Andrews has been the “standard” candidate for having written The Expert at the Card Table for a long time. Other people have been proposed as the author, but the advantage that MFA has always held is that he was known to be familiar with a deck of cards. Other prominent candidates have had interesting circumstantial similarities to the author (usually because of a similarity of their name to “S. W. Erdnase”), but most of them don’t have any known associations with or interests in playing cards. I know, for example, that one reason David Alexander spent so much time researching W. E. Sanders’ private papers was looking for evidence of skill with the pasteboards. 

I’m pretty familiar with what is known about who I consider to be the top three other candidates for having written Expert: W. E. Sanders (proposed by David Alexander), Edwin Sumner Andrews (proposed by Richard Hatch), and the con man E. S. Andrews (proposed by Todd Karr); and I have made modest contributions to what is known about each of these three individuals. Mostly of my research has been done by searching through digitized full-text databases free ones like Google Books and Google News Archives, and subscription ones like ProQuest Historical Newspapers, Newspaperarchive, and others. Content is being added to most of these databases all the time, so it is productive to revisit past searches occasionally. 

I just (yesterday) found something I consider to be pretty exciting not up there with Bill Woodfield’s 1949 telegram to Martin Gardner saying that Milton Franklin Andrews is “definitely our man”, but it is clear evidence that one more of the major candidates was in fact a card player: 


There is a minor error in the article Edwin is referred to as “Edward”. But this is the same person that Richard Hatch identified over a decade ago. Edwin was in fact working for the Pere Marquette railroad at this time. He lived “on the other side of the bay”, in Oakland CA. He is known to have travelled to Watsonville. He ran in the same circles as William F. Schmidt (they were both members of the “Transportation Club”, a social organization of railroad executives). 

Although the article talks about Andrews ducking a game of cards, it is clear that the other participants expected that he would be able to join them he must have been a regular player. I submit this as strong evidence that Edwin Sumner Andrews played cards at a recreational level. It is no smoking gun, and there is much that isn’t said here that would be good to hear. There is no evidence that Andrews cheated, or knew any sleight of hand moves. We have no knowledge that he was familiar with card magic, or even that the card game in question was a gambling game. But we know at least that he played cards, which is more than we know about either W. E. Sanders or the con man E. S. Andrews.Roger M.Posts:1377Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Contact:Contact Roger M.

Re: Erdnase

Postby Roger M. » 10 Mar 2011 13:48Excellent research Bill!…..very exciting stuff. 

You’ve definitively put cards in the hands of one of the three “big” candidates. 

I see this as somewhat of a turning point in the search, and a tip of the hat to Richard Hatch for locating Edwin as a candidate in the first place. 

To write about a man “escaping” a game of cards seems a major indicator of a serious card player. 
Personally, I read into this snippet that Edwin Andrews was a well known card player…….or else why write the article in this fashion? 

I’ve been an active card player for years, but can’t see somebody writing something like this about me based on my once a week poker game. 

The language in the article (and the very fact that it was written focused on “getting away” from the card table) would almost imply that Edwin Andrews was at the card table on an very regular basis, and was further well known locally as a card player. 

Interested to hear what Richard Hatch thinks about this exciting find.Richard HatchPosts:1883Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Providence, UtahContact:Contact Richard Hatch

Re: Erdnase

Postby Richard Hatch » 10 Mar 2011 14:10Bill Mullins is a genius at ferreting out information from digitized searches. This is pretty exciting, thanks, Bill! HatchPosts:1883Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Providence, UtahContact:Contact Richard Hatch

Re: Erdnase

Postby Richard Hatch » 10 Mar 2011 16:55This E. S. Andrews stayed at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen in September 1899 (thanks, Bill, for that reference, too!). Eric Mead performs regularly at the Hotel Jerome (built 1889). Coincidence? 

Actually, I’m hoping perhaps Eric can see if there is a guest book dating back that far so we can compare E. S. Andrews’ handwriting with that on the copyright application (I do have E. S. Andrews’ signature on his marriage certificate, so it may not add anything, but you never know what you will find until you look…) HatchPosts:1883Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Providence, UtahContact:Contact Richard Hatch

Re: Erdnase

Postby Richard Hatch » 10 Mar 2011 18:50Perhaps this image helps explain the humor in the “Pippins” remark: … ffded5.jpg
Incidentally, this E. S. Andrews’ interest in apples may have been genuine, as by 1920 he is listed in the census records as being a fruit farmer in San Jose (he died there in 1922, possibly explaining the non-renewal of the copyright a few years later…) MunariPosts:629Joined: 30 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Las Vegas/Del Mar, CAContact:Contact Geno Munari

Re: Erdnase

Postby Geno Munari » 10 Mar 2011 19:24Bill 
That is very interesting information and wonderful research. I really enjoy your zeal. 

There is no evidence that he was a gambler or magician. Playing Whist, Honeymoon Bridge and other parlor games is not the same thing as going for the money. 

Perhaps there may be some connections to some magicians that he knew? And assuming there were other writers to Expert,are there any connections or clues to these persons? 

And for “the non-renewal of the copyright a few years later”, that is a real speculitive conjecture. Same as saying that is why MFA didn’t renew his copyright. (If he was the copyright holder) 

Also what were his statistics: i.e. height, weight etc. 

And did he travel to Chicago? Or have any connections in an around the area? Friends of other hustlers, etc. 

I think he could be a good candidate, but still, “Can we put a deck of cards in his hands”?Richard HatchPosts:1883Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Providence, UtahContact:Contact Richard Hatch

Re: Erdnase

Postby Richard Hatch » 10 Mar 2011 19:50Hi Geno. You are right that Bill’s new information about Edwin S. Andrews, the train agent, does not show he was a gambler or cheat. But it certainly gets him a step closer to that direction. Incidentally, there is no internal evidence that the author of the book was a cheat. Nowhere does the author say that he won money using the methods described in the book.   (NOTE from Geno Munari: I disagree on Richard Hatch’s statement. Read page 14, second paragraph)

He does admit in several places to having been cheated. Three Card Monte, while in the Card Table Artifice section, is presented as entertainment, not as a way to win money. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a card cheat, but one can’t prove that he was from a careful reading of the book. That Erdnase was, at one time, a gambler is clear from the anecdotes he gives, but not that he was a cheat himself. He makes frequent references to “the expert” and “the professional” but it is not clear that he counts himself in that group.  (NOTE: Hatch has erred again in his assessment.)

On Edwin S. Andrews’ other circumstantial qualifications, may I suggest you check out the excellent DVD set on Erdnase that Houdini’s Magic Shop sells? Lots of good information there, including the fact that he lived in Chicago from 1888 till 1896, working as a clerk for the Chicago & NW RR. He was transfered to another gambling center, Denver, in February 1896 and remained based there (with frequent trips to Chicago) until October 1901, when he transfered to DeKalb, Illinois, though he actually lived in Oak Park, an enclave of Chicago. Thus he arrived in Chicago just in time (if he’s the author) to open a new bank account there and find the illustrator to finish the book for publication in March 1902. He is transferred to yet another gambling center, San Francisco, in February 1903, the very month that an obscure magic company, the Atlas Novelty Company, which was on the same street he lived on, just a few blocks north of him, begins to sell the book for half price. Born in 1859, he is the age recalled by Marshall Smith (40-45 circa 1901). From the one photo I have found, he is also likely the right height (he is smaller than his teenage children and about the same height as his wife, not the very tall (especially for the time) height of 6′ 1.5″ that was one of Milton Franklin Andrews’ (just 29, only two weeks older than the illustrator, who recalled a man more than a decade older than himself) most conspicuous features. I think he’s a great “circumstantial fit” and if I could prove that he was related to Louis Dalrymple in a straightforward way (I found him looking for relatives of Dalrymple named Andrews, but can’t yet complete the necessary genealogy. Would welcome help there!), I’d say “case closed.” Absent that, however, I agree that he is just one of several “persons of interest” in this mystery. Milton Franklin Andrews remains the standard to beat, being the only candidate to date that was known to have some of the necessary skill set (cheating knowledge), is named Andrews, and conveniently died just a few years after the book’s publication, neatly explaining his subsequent anonymity. The facts that MFA is not the height or age recalled by the illustrator and does not seem to have the “voice” of the book (based on the surviving samples of his writing) do no rule him out. But I think Bill’s revelation has significantly boosted the Edwin S. Andrews candidacy. MullinsPosts:4853Joined: 17 Jan 2008 07:00Location: Huntsville, ALContact:Contact Bill Mullins

Re: Erdnase