MagicTricks.com owner Peter Monticup tells the story of the discovery of the DeLaMano paper:
DeLaMano was one of many unknown traveling magicians performing in America in the 19th century. Except for a strange twist of fate, the very existence of this magician may have been lost to history. Here is the story of how I discovered DeLaMano's trunk of posters and handbills:
"DeLaMano" was the stage name of a 19th century traveling magician who mysteriously vanished while visiting a farm in Westerlo, NY in 1878.
DeLaMano, whose actual name was reported as Zell Dreitzehn, was from a wealthy Austrian family who owned a successful European circus. Early on, he developed his skills as a magician, and by the age of 20, was touring with his own small show. He took the name DeLaMano, meaning "of the hands" and toured his show in Europe for several decades before his first U.S. tour in 1876. He toured at least one more time along the East Coast of America, his last tour occuring in 1877.
Sometime in 1878, he was staying at an inn in Westerlo, New York. He may have been investigating spirit phenomena, which was a very hot topic in New York State at the time. He may have chosen that particular inn because the inn was rumored to be haunted.
One evening, he locked himself in his room during a particulary severe and violent storm. The next morning, the innkeeper discovered the door still locked- but DeLaMano had vanished.
Along with an unpaid bill for his room, DeLaMano left behind his big steamer trunk, fastened with a trick lock. The trunk was placed in a corner of the barn, up in the rafters, to wait for his return.
More than 100 years later, the modern owners of the property were preparing to move. They discovered the tucked-away trunk, never moved or disturbed since it was placed there in 1878! They opened it to find some odd-looking boxes and scarves, as well as some photos and personal items. There were also a quantity of posters, all still wrapped in the original paper from the printer, and advertising the show of a magician named DeLaMano.
Sadly, all of the props immediately became play toys for the family's children, and were destroyed or lost.
Sensing that the posters would be of interest to the magic world, the family contacted me, the owner of the nearest magic shop. I immediately drove to their barn and was delighted to find this rare material! I was able to purchase all of the paper and the personal items, but not the trunk itself. Ah, well!
The oddest thing about the purchase was that a fierce storm started up while I was in the barn. The family asked if I wanted to leave the items and come back in a day or so, when the weather was better. Something urged me to take the items with me that night. Which was a lucky choice- during the storm, the barn was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Perhaps DeLaMano wanted to be found after all!
A variety of posters, handbills and the souvenir book are still available. Because of the tightness of the trunk's construction and the dry and dark storage conditions inside, the contents of the trunk were in remarkably pristine condition. It is hard to believe that paper this old could have survived in this great condition. By far the most limited is the large yellow DeLaMano Is Coming poster- there are only a few left. And it frames up so beautifully!