Magicians’ Clubs are a twentieth century phenomenon. Although there was a club which briefly existed in 1896, the first permanent club was the Society of American Magicians (SAM) founded in 1902, followed in 1905 by the British Magical Society (BMS) in Birmingham and The Magic Circle in London.
The Australian Society of Magicians Inc. the fourth oldest magical society in the world, was founded in Sydney, NSW, on 15th January 1907. Meetings were first held at Queen’s Hall, Sydney, and later at Central Chambers, 173 Pitt Street, on the first Tuesday of each month and Harmony nights on the third Wednesday.
On 15th January 1909, the ASM commenced publication of their official magazine, The Magic Mirror, an eight page printed magazine. It was the first magic magazine in the Southern hemisphere. Today the monthly newsletter of the ASM is called Magic Makers. It commenced with the Jan/Feb issue 1946. At that time it consisted of about ten duplicated pages of half-foolscap size and tended to appear on a bi-monthly basis. Since that time the magazine has gone through a variety of formats, and is now published monthly via email. It is still the main method of communication for members. Over the years Magic Makers has recorded much of the magical history of Australia, and a full archive of the magazine resides in the State Library of Victoria
In 1920 the Melbourne, Victoria, branch of the ASM was formed at the proposal of The Great Levante (Les Levante) who happened to be in Melbourne at the time. Later a charter was also granted to an ASM Inc. in Adelaide.
The ASM in Sydney progressed favourably until 1923, when an officer of the club embezzled all the Society’s funds! At the same time, the landlord gave notice for the club to quit its premises, so it ‘folded its wings’ and went into recess. An attempt was made in 1927 to revive the club but with the depression deepening, its members decided that the ASM, as such, go into recess.
From this time on the ASM Melbourne became known as Assembly No.1 and the ASM Adelaide as Assembly No. 2. Subsequently, more ASM Assemblies were formed:
- July 1952 No. 3 in Mt Gambier, South Australia;
- April 1953 No.4 in Brisbane, Queensland;
- January 1954 No. 5 in Port Pirie, South Australia;
- April 1959 No. 6 in Ballarat Victoria;
- November 1960 No. 8 in Hobart, Tasmania;
- May 1962 No. 7 in Launceston, Tasmania.
As communications and transport option improved over time, most of these Assemblies closed, leaving the Melbourne Assembly No 1 as the main Assembly.
On 18th October 1952, the ASM No. 1 Melbourne held the first Magic Convention in Australia. It was a one day affair and the forerunner of many more held since then. The most recent Convention held by the ASM was over a long weekend in 2007, and celebrated the centenary of the club.
The popularity of Magic has ebbed and flowed over time but the ASM has always been at the forefront of the magic scene in Melbourne, adapting to the requirements of the public. In the 1969 Melbourne Moomba Parade, the ASM had float highlighting the ‘History of Magic’. At modern day Moomba the ASM provides roving magicians to entertain crowds, and workshops to teach children magic. In the 1950’s ASM members were popular Supper Club performers. Today magical entertainment is edgier, and members present cutting edge shows for the public in fringe and comedy festivals. As long as magic exists as an art form, the ASM will continue to promote it.
The History of the ASM logo
The ASM Logo has changed considerably over the years. Here is a brief history;
Early ASM publications from the 1920’s and 30’s had no logo on them at all, yet some form of the Logo must have been in existence at that time. Publications only listed the name of the society.
1945 saw a nice clear version of the logo appear. The logo here has many of the traditional points. It has the words “Australian Society of Magicians”, the sphinx and the pyramid (symbols of mystery) and the card suit symbols. It is superimposed on a map of Australia, however it says “Victoria” at the bottom and the map highlights Victoria and Melbourne. This is a nice clear logo, but it didn’t stay around for long….
1947 saw the logo replaced on the cover of Magic Makers with this hand-drawn version. It is suspected this change may have had more to do with the reproduction methods of the time, with the editor finding it easier to redraw the logo than try and copy the original.
1949 saw the logo replaced again. This version dropped the card suits and the word “Victoria”, reduced the size of the sphinx and moved the writing outside of the actual logo. This version of the logo stayed on Magic Makers through to the mid 1950’s. At some point Magic Makers underwent another facelift, with the familiar “Rabbit and Kangaroo” masthead being introduced, and the logo seemed to disappear entirely again. It must have still been used on official correspondence however.
In 2001, a new masthead was designed for Magic Makers, and the logo was included back in the footer. This version almost replicates the original logo with the words and card suits back, although “Victoria” has been replaced with “1907” the year of formation of the ASM. Unfortunately, the copying of the sphinx over the years reduced it to an almost unrecognisable blob. The logo was coloured with the original colours to take advantage of cheaper colour printing.
To clear up the sphinx, the logo was redrawn by ASM member and artist Brian Pleasants in the mid 2000’s. The logo was much clearer and cleaner, and reproduced well. However there was a fundamental problem with the logo – it had hardly evolved over eighty years and it’s symbolism failed to resonate with a new generation of members. There was also very little on the logo to reflect the fact that the club was Australian, other than the wording.
In 2010 magician and graphic designer David Schaak was commissioned by the committee with the task of coming up with a new logo. The brief given to David was equally simple and impossible. “Create a logo that is bold and modern but at the same time reflects the history of the club and its prior logos”. The result was a logo that is a magnificent symbol for the ASM. The new logo carries forward the past, with the wording and card suits retained. It is uniquely Australian with the map of Australia and the Southern Cross, and it is bright and colourful, reflecting the advances in design and publishing now possible. The new logo will proudly carry the ASM into the 21st century and beyond!