Egyptian Hall Museum of Magical History
Sold to Caveney and Daily
Artifacts and rarities brought to light as major collection changes hands.
On August 15, 2000, as rumors proliferated, one of the worlds largest collections of historic magic posters, periodica1s, apparatus, books and ephemera, David Prices’ Egyptian Hall Museum of Magical History in Tennessee was sold by his son Dave Price to collectors Mike Caveney and George Daily. The nucleus of the Egyptian Hall Museum was assembled in the 1890’s by W.W. Durbin, early IBM powerhouse, at his home in Kenton, Ohio. In 1953, David Price purchased it’s contents and moved them to Tennessee. At press time the collection had already been transported to York, Pennsylvania where George Daily lives. MagicTimes spoke with George after a long days work unpacking.
“The acquisition grew from a simple invitation extended by David Price to Mike and I to visit the museum quite some time ago. David was not in good health prior to his passing away. When I contacted him to schedule a visit he could only accommodate us for an hour. Due to the distance, an hour didn’t seem to make the trip worthwhile, so we did not visit while David was still alive. After David passed away, his son, Dave, continued to maintain the museum. Dave is a collector in his own right, having accumulated a top circus collection. While his father collected magic, Dave collected circus,” George explained to MagicTimes.
“At the 2000 Magic Collectors Association convention hosted by the Society of Osiris in Baltimore I spoke with Dave Price who was also in attendance. I had heard that the Egyptian Hall Museum was about to, ‘close it’s doors.’ I thought I had better make an appointment to see the collection before it was too late. Dave graciously invited Mike and I to come for a visit. We did.”
“During the several days we were there. Dave mentioned that Mike and I would probably be the last to visit, as it was his intention to discontinue access to the museum. It’s my opinion that perhaps Dave wanted to focus his attention on his circus interests. Mike and I had not gone to Tennessee with the notion of purchasing the collection. It was while we were there that the idea of Mike and I acquiring the museum coalesced.”
“We stayed for three days. Dave Price is a very pleasant man. As the sale began to jell, Dave remarked that, ‘Both you guys have paid your dues.'” (Referring to Mikes publication of important books on magic history and George’s expert knowledge of conjuring periodicals in addition to their extensive individual holdings of thaumaturgical collectibles).
“It was the simplest and easiest negotiation of this sort I have ever been involved with. He gave us everything. We filled a 24 foot truck as well as my van and drove it all to York. The van had all the lithographs. I have to tell you that the night en route back home I didn’t sleep at all. When we stopped at a motel I couldn’t fall asleep because I kept checking that the van was still parked in the lot.”
The days since bringing the collection to Pennsylvania have been long but exciting. George and Mike have spent the time dividing, sorting and cataloging its contents. Dave Price is finishing up a CD listing of the provenance of many of the pieces.
“Because of the size of Mikes’ collection and my own there are a lot of duplicates. Soon, there will be a sale of some of these items. Mike has exclusive rights to the use of the name Egyptian Hall Museum of Magical History. It is very’ likely that he will set up a museum at his home in California or in a separate building nearby.”
“Although the reputation of the museum was established by it’s incredible lithographic holdings, I was impressed by the library. It is complete and comprehensive with many antiquarian books including a 1st edition of Reginald Scotts’ Discoverie of Witchcraft.”
“I was surprised by the extent of the periodicals. In addition to complete runs of Mahatma, Sphinx, Goldstons Quarterly and Magic Wand there are many rarities. There are some magazines of very limited circulation; also a complete file of Edwards Monthly including the rare final issue featuring Houdini.
“It’s too early to give a top 10 list of important items. Although we are working diligently to sort through everything, the collection is vast. One item that certainly comes to mind is a paper mache head of Harry Kellar which he used in The Blue Room illusion.” This is just one of many treasures which will be brought to light as the dust of time is blown away from this old and extensive magical repository.Readers of MagicTimes are advised to watch these pages for further details of the dispensation of the contents of the Egyptian Hall Museum of Magical History.
–Richard Steven Cohn
Richard Steven Cohn has written for Genii, Magicol, M.U.M., The Yankee Collector, MAGIC, as well as magic themed articles for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine and Stagebill. He is a magical consultant for television and theater and performs both as a single and with his wife Alexandra.