Acts performed in magic shows are usually chosen as per various factors like occasion, age group and composition of audience so that the ensuing entertainment is appropriate enough to trigger ohs’, aahs’, claps and squeals. To this effect, magic tricks are segregated accordingly as per the same parameters and there are very few tricks that are universal enough to appeal to all age-groups and suit all occasions. Thumb tip belongs to this cadre and simple though it is, hardly an occasion goes by without it being performed. In fact it is one of those tricks that have endured through the decades without have undergone any cataclysmic changes but do you know exactly when and how it came into being?
Thumb Tip History
Credit for having invented the very first thumb tip goes to Professor Herwin of Bristol who loved to tinker with various paraphernalia in a bid to add a creative touch to as many objects as possible. Born as William Humpage in Birmingham on 31st October 1861, Professor Herwin’s first peek into the world of magic occurred when he was fourteen years old. Having shifted to Bristol, he was scourging the streets for work when he was mesmerized by the acts performed by a man on the street who later on turned out to be both intelligent and well versed in the field. With his demonstration of making the penny disappear when placed in a glass of water, the man succeeded in inspiring the young boy sufficiently to prompt him to follow the field avidly for many long years to come.
One of the reasons that rendered Professor Herwin a distinct advantage was his inherent skill as a mechanic. This gave him the ability to design many new effects and innovate on the existing props such that not only was the effect amazing but it also laid the ground-work for a new genre of magic tricks. Thumb tip was just one example in a long list of gadgets, some of the well known names being Havit Coin Trick and Siberian Handcuff Trick not to mention redesigning all the tables of Hartz in the trick ‘Devil of a Hat’. After having purchased this trick from C.O. Williams who hailed from Cardiff, Professor Herwin re-invented the trick and presented it to the audience many times over as a new trick because it had no semblance to the original.
Thumb Tip History
To say that he was solely connected to magic would be a misguided claim because in addition to being deeply involved with all the greats during his time like Carl Stackman, Dobler and Verveck he was equally incensed with spiritualism. In pursuit of this subject he often opposed the spiritualists and earned the title of being anti-spiritual for himself. His impact was left indelibly on the later generations of magicians too since the likes of late Harry Houdini, Chung Ling Soo and Penstone depended on him for their contraptions.
There are magicians who earn popularity to the point of being inducted into the Hall of Fame and there are others who fade into oblivion even though they may be more dedicated and illustrious. It was some time during the 1880s’ that Professor Herwin, who belonged to the latter category, invented the thumb tip by attaching a scrap of silk to a false finger. Being the first it was also the most convincing replica of a human digit ever made and is regarded by many as being better than the one exhibited at the museum of Magic Circle today.
At the time of his death, Professor Herwin was survived by his son Charles who performed magic and was even attached to Charles Morritt. Although this great inventor of magic machines died in Sheffield his corpse was taken to Bristol for burial and laid to rest with all the respect, gratitude and admiration that was well-deserved by a man of his caliber.