The Traveling Magician

Born in Salem, Massachusetts on October 30, 1829, John Rogers was a prominent American sculptor of the second half of the nineteenth century. He produced extremely detailed, narrative sculpture groups that focused on themes of everyday American life, popular literature, and the Civil War.  This subject matter, along with his desire to "sell many at a low price" led to his being dubbed "The People's Sculptor".

The popularity of Rogers' work was unprecedented among American sculptors; between 1860 and 1893 he sold approximately eighty-thousand works. Cast in plaster in order to be affordable, the Rogers Groups were renowned for their wit, humor, and sentimentality. 

Of the over 80 groups that John Rogers produced, one is of special interest to magicians.

John Rogers – The People's Sculptor (1829-1904)
The Traveling Magician

This group gives us a glimpse into the life of the traveling magician in the late 1800's. It is easy to imagine that John Rogers got his inspiration while taking in the sights at a county fair. Pausing to watch, he saw the magician amaze and mystify his audience, while his assistant, exhausted from the day's work, dozed in the warmth of the afternoon sun.

It is interesting to note that John Roger's daughter Kathrine remembered sitting "sleepily" for the magician's assistant and thought the boy probably was her brother Charles.

Pictured at right is the bronze master model, which the New York Historical Society purchased in 1936 from Katherine R. Rogers.

Shown below is an advertisement that includes The Traveling Magician Group.  It was Rogers' 49th Group.  Made of plaster and painted, it stands 23 inches tall and is signed JOHN ROGERS / NEW YORK / 1877.  The original Price of $15.00 was later lowered to $12.00 in 1895.

My Image
The above three photos from "John Rogers Statuary" by Paul & Meta Bleier, 2001.

The Hunt

Ever since I saw a picture of The Traveling Magician on the cover of the November, 1971 issue of "The Linking Ring", I have wanted to own one of these masterpieces. However, since only about 61 Travelling Magician Statues are known to exist they only rarely come up for sale. After years of patiently waiting, my hunt finally ended on Saturday, September 21, 2002, when I was the high bidder for The Traveling Magician Statue from the Willaim Spencer Estate Auction..

Here is the known provenance of this statue:

George Daily received a call from Richard Kaufman telling him that a TM was for sale at an Antique Jewerly Store in New Hope, PA. George drove 175 miles and purchased the TM for $900. About a month later, George purchased a second TM and decided to sell the first one at a Magic Collector's Weekend. While Bill Spencer was interested, Mike Caveney bought it. Interestingly, a few years later Mike bought a second TM and sold the one he had bought at the Magic Collector's Weekend to Bill Spencer. Mark Jensen bought it for $3,300 from the Bill Spencer Estate Auction and is the current owner.


The Statue Arrives Damaged

The arrival of the group was bittersweet with the discovery that it had been damaged during shipment. The photos below show the main damage to the piece.

The male spectator's neck has a crack all the way around.

Large piece of fringe
chipped off.

Rear corner of base has extensive damage.
Bottom of magicians table
has a crack.
Male Spectator's elbow has two major cracks.
Restoration link

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