OUR COVER - Reprinted with
permission of The Linking Ring
Moe "Clean from Pittsburgh" Seidenstein
You might want to read Fred Rosenbaum's "The Linking Ring on CD-Rom" column
this month before reading this cover story. Back in the 1930's, "Moe from
Pittsburgh" created a sensation with his unbelievable card locations. He
marketed a couple of his tricks, wrote a manuscript which sold for $5.00 (a
worthy sum in those days), and then he disappeared.
In 1986, William P. "Bill" Miesel with Jeff Busby and P. Howard Lyons wrote
Moe And His Miracles With Cards attempting to recreate and explain Moe's
card work. Miesel had made an extensive search of the New Jersey area where
Moe had last been heard from to no avail. An avid card man, Miesel contacted
every possible source he knew of to find out what might be known of Moe and
of his card work. Unbeknownst to him, Moe was alive and well, but had gotten
out of organized magic, although he still did tricks for family and friends.
Enter Bill Kalush, an avid and expert card man and magic historian, Bill is
in the wholesale grocery business and furnished the watermelons so expertly
pierced by Ricky Jay in New York appearances. In 1997, Bill decided to do a
search for Moe's family on the Internet and located a Bruce R. Seidenstein
in Boca Raton, Florida. Bruce told me that after identifying himself, Bill
asked, "Do you know a man named Moe; in 1930 he was a young magician in
Pittsburgh?" "Yes," Bruce said, that's my dad, he's still alive and working
at a travel agency in Long Island, New York." Bill Kalush responded: "No,
that couldn't be the same Moe I'm looking for. If that were he and he was
still alive, he couldn't possibly be working. He'd have to be about 90 years
old by now." I told him, "That IS my dad, and if you want to call him
direct, I'll give you his work phone number. You can call and speak to him
yourself. Bill Kalush did call, and the rest is history!"
So here is the story of...
Moe from Pittsburgh, a Legend in Magic, Discovered
by Moe Seidenstein
My full name is Morris Seidenstein and I was born on March 31, 1909 in
Avalon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. My education was very limited
after grade school. I went to a school named Business High School. They only
had two-year courses such as English, Typing, Math, Shorthand, and
Bookkeeping. In the last half term, I fell down a flight of stairs, broke a
foot and lost six weeks. They would not let me graduate unless I returned
for another semester that was six months. I never returned and therefore I
I will describe my working years and early years in magic strictly from
memory, so if I make a few mistakes in dates, please accept my apologies in
advance. (All my own original documents pertaining to magic were lost in a
move long ago.)
My early beginnings in magic are as follows: Some time between 1928-1929, I
was working as an errand boy for Yawman & Erbe, a manufacturer of office
equipment and supplies. A few doors away I would eat with a fellow by the
name of Bill Beatty, a magician. One day he did a few tricks with cards and
I said to him, "I could do something like that."
I did this on my very first try and what I did then turned out to be "Moe's
Look at a Card." I did this in several different ways. Beatty remarked, "My
God, I've never seen anything like this. You would make a hit at one of our
It was shortly after that I went to an I.B.M. meeting of magicians and later
became a member of both I.B.M. and S.A.M. This was in 1929. My convention
experience also started in 1929. That was the real start of my "15 Minutes
Of Fame," which lasted for about four years. I took first prize for the best
card trick of the year. That was for "Moe's Look at a Card." I gave up
attending magic conventions after the 1934 IBM Convention in Batavia.
I came up with one better trick that I thought I could make easier to
describe, a triple sympathy card effect. This was released by me in 1933.
Your version of that reads well to me and I can only wonder as to how I
described it since I don't have a copy. That too was lost in my moving along
with all my own original documents pertaining to magic.
Earlier in this writing, I talk about how I got into magic in late 1928 and
how I received the job. An uncle of mine saw a sign in a window "Boy
Wanted". He went in and told them he had a bright, young, smart nephew; to
hold the job and he would get me there in a half hour. I got the job. At
this job, I became an Inventory Clerk and demonstrated my memory ability on
numerous occasions. We had a few thousand different stock numbers on visible
index cards. Each item was on a separate card in a visible index cabinet. If
an item were sold during the month, a colored tab would be put on that card.
At the end of the month, I would make a report for the home office
(Rochester, New York) and just go to the card with the tab and make out the
report. There could be hundreds of items to report.
I would challenge other workers to go to any card with a tab, tell me the
part number and I would tell them how many we had in stock. I was always
able to come up with the correct answer. I expanded this trick from time to
time to further explain what I meant. When I spoke of "recovery" on some
occasions, I was able to tell them the number on hand as well as the number
sold during that month, and then expand it even further by saying how many
we recently had ordered to replace our sales. You can just imagine how
surprising or miraculous this was to those who had the opportunity to see me
do this. I performed this trick many, many times. (Incidentally, Gene Gordon
had me demonstrate this with freight trains moving through the city.)
In October of 1929, I learned our New York branch had an opening for an
Inventory Clerk and my boss mentioned it to me. I said I would certainly
want to go for an opportunity in the big city at $20.00 per week. On the day
of the Wall Street crash, October 30, 1929, I was on my way to New York. By
1933 (I believe March 4, 1933), President Roosevelt had declared we were in
a depression. Some time after that we had to take cuts in our salary. (The
only good thing while I was still an Inventory Clerk was I had the chance to
again create another "Moe's Miracle".)
In the early days of my successful acceptance in magic, I had a meeting with
Milton Berle. I had known Herb Magidson from Pittsburgh (who was also known
as Ray Vaugh or Rave-On-Ray). In addition to doing magic, he was a
songwriter for Sophie Tucker. He wrote the song "The Continental" that was
in the great movie 42nd Street. When Milton Berle came to New York and Ray
was also here, he arranged for me to meet Milton because he too was somewhat
of a magician. On a couple of occasions we would meet at the Edison Hotel
and practice some of my latest tricks.
Howard Thurston, one of the world's greatest illusionists of his time, heard
about my work and arrangements were made for me to meet him backstage (I
believe it was at the Alvin Theatre in Pittsburgh). Thurston had a teenage
daughter that I became friendly with. In my early convention years, I had
the pleasure of meeting Harry Blackstone, Sr. and his wife Inez who became
my very good friends.
By 1935, I became the Office Manager and got married. All of this was with
the office equipment firm of Yawman & Erbe. We moved from downtown Broadway
to Radio City to a very elegant floor display. When the war started December
7, 1941, we had to stop the manufacture of steel office equipment and the
company then no longer required me and many other employees as well.
In 1942, I became the assistant to the President of the Ever-Ready Label
Corporation. I believe at that time we were the world's largest, just making
all kinds of paper labels. My job there was to improve our procedures in
order to curtail expenses due to the war. I worked there about one year and
went to Fairchild Aviation to be in a defense job. Here again, I became an
assistant to the President of the company. I was with Fairchild until the
end of the war in 1945. In 1946, Emerson Radio bought out the division of
Fairchild and my boss there recommended me to Emerson. I then moved back
from Jamestown to New York.
At Emerson, we opened a small office on Duane Street in a three-story
building in the city. It was an agency of the Government known as WAA that
stood for War Assets Administration. Our job was to dispose of the
Government surplus equipment that was surplus electronic material and
equipment. My first day on the job, I received a list from the Government
telling us what was on the way to us from various Government locations such
as switches, radio tubes, wire and many other small items. My job with
Emerson Radio continued after the WAA ended and I worked with them from 1946
This is the beginning of another of "Moe's Miracles." I ran across a Bill of
Lading for 75 carloads of steel radio towers. I thought, what are we going
to do with all that in a small 3-story loft with a 25-foot storefront? My
job was to control and report the disposal and the financial data. We had an
Engineer to examine and assign prices to most of the items and sales. I went
to him with the Bill of Lading, handed it to him and said. "What in the
world are we to do with this shipment?" He handed it back to me and said,
"Young man, that's your problem."
I must have put on my magic hat because I came up with a solution that saved
the Government thousands of dollars. I obtained a warehouse that had free
storage agreements with a railroad, which had an outside storage with the
train company. There would be no charge for storage and no charge for
unloading the cars or the reloading if we used their railroad for outbound
towers. The value of the surplus that we handled in a little over a year was
in excess of more than $350 million. So I am putting this in my so-called
"Moe's Miracles." There are other matters that I could talk about in
business, but I will stick to those that only pertain to magic.
My job from 1946 to 1962 was administering Government contracts. Litton
Industries subsequently bought out the Government contracts. It was the end
of their business and I continued to do similar type work with them from
1962 to 1970 when I retired.
(In June of 1964, Joe Berg -- who I believe adopted one of my tricks - knew
I was coming to Hollywood and he arranged for my new wife and I to get into
the Magic Castle. It was there that I met Harry Blackstone, Jr. and Jose
Jimenes, an actor whose real name was Bill Dana. I performed for them and a
few friends, and it worked out very well.)
During the next 26 years, I became a part-time traveler and people looked to
me for more miracles. On January 3,1997 until the present, I have been
living in a senior assisted living facility. I have plans for some more
magic ideas, but my present age of 92+s makes this pretty difficult.
The following is a small paragraph that appeared on Page 45 of the
Manuscript about my years in magic. I will quote the entire reference, it's
like Tinkers to Evers to Chance: (Note: Tinkers, Evers and Chance were a
long-ago double-play team, perhaps the best ever to play baseball.)
"Moe's first marketed effect, "Look At A Card," was originally sold in 1930.
On February 26, 1933, Connie Bush received personal instruction from Moe in
performing the effect. Connie took notes which he has kindly given me
permission to publish."
I can honestly say that I don't remember this particular meeting. You or
anyone else may call it a coincidence, but to me it turns out to be another
"Moe's Miracles." If at all true, why wouldn't Connie ask me to put it in
writing? Next, why would Jeff Busby or Bill Miesel not have asked Connie the
same? Another "Miracle?"
When Bill Kalush gave me a copy of the whole Manuscript, Pages 45 and 47
were missing. To anyone, a coincidence. To me, another of "Moe's Miracles."
These pages are the only ones I'd like Miesel to answer to me so I can
publish his reply on my web site. I'd like him to acknowledge the
misunderstanding of the right to publish and acknowledge the fact that I am
the author of Moe's $5.00 Manuscript and Moe's Miracles. The three people
who have the other original copies: Arthur Johnston, Jeff Busby, and Al
Aldini should cherish the copies they have.
I have been requested to explain in my own words how I would describe each
of my tricks. Many writers use terms such as photographic memory" and
"phenomenal memory" when describing my tricks. On "Look at a Card" and "Move
a Card," I did these numerous ways. "Memory" and "Estimation" would be my
description of how I did them. I performed my tricks many times with
different memory or estimation procedures and improved my ability to perform
them as time went on. It made my recovery methods to bring the tricks to
successful conclusions look that much more miraculous.
When they published William P. Miesel on MOE, Miesel and Busby thought that
I did not write the original manuscript, the fact that my original
manuscript was lost in one of my moves made my authorship difficult to prove
Actually, Frank Lane and I worked together trying to put some of my saleable
tricks into words that would be fairly understandable. In the meantime,
Frank was reinventing new methods to do some of my tricks. Undoubtedly Frank
Lane issued or sold his version in 1932 as his own, after we had finished
the write-up of each of the 10 tricks. I did not want to have anything to do
with the selling of these because of negative reactions from some people to
two of my prior tricks. My reason for stopping my own sales was due to those
two tricks that were being panned with the statement, "Moe was selling
tricks that nobody but Moe, himself, could do."
Another reason I refused to sell any more of my work was because the tricks
were too difficult to explain in writing. Frank and I talked about a
Manuscript based on what I wrote to him that was a description for each of
my tricks. I am of the opinion Frank wrote his own version and sold copies.
The history of the various publications of "Moe's Miracles," is very cloudy
since these tricks have been some of the most copied, modified, reproduced,
reworded, renamed, and sold card tricks one can imagine. Some of the
magicians who sold or traded these tricks were Arthur Johnson, Frank Lane,
Lew Harmon, Dodson, possibly others, and, of course, William Miesel and Jeff
Busby. However, the latter two waited fifty years to do it, perhaps for
copyright reasons. In any event, I never saw this version before 1997.
I was so happy when I received the copy of the Manuscript that gave me so
many kind praises. I read it and thought, "Now I can tell everybody what I
did almost 70 years ago!" Here comes the good news: I never expected any
compensation, nor do I intend to bring suit for any publication prior to
April 1, 2000. I simply want it known that I now have proof positive of
being the author of the original manuscript in 1932.
Thanks very much to my friends in magic for bringing me back to life. A very
special thanks to Phil Willmarth for the honor of the front cover picture. I
figured that out when he sent me a sample of a prior issue with a picture of
Herb Zarrow. I will add that to my "Miracle" list. Who could ask for
anything more at this time of my life? Thank you.
Also, a special note of thanks to Mark Mitton. Mark is responsible for my
connection to The Linking Ring. I did a few tricks for him and he then wrote
to me: "I just wanted to write and tell you how amazing it was to see your
miracles right before my eyes. Your "Think-a-Card" and "Move-a-card" are as
astonishing as I read in the magazine articles about you in the 1930's. How
can someone look at a card, cut three times, give the cards to you and you
divine their card?? Terrific! What I didn't expect was that you also could
do such astounding miracles making numbers appear on my calculator."
This, coming from a young magician about 41 years old, is similar to
comments heard 70 years ago! Thank you, Mark!
Bob Kohler recently emailed Moe, saying: "Hi Moe, I just
wanted to drop you a short note. I've been using your "Move a Card
Miracle' for over 15 years to fool some of the best magicians around.
I've been a full-time professional in the corporate market for the last 21
years. I have many memories of 'fooling" the boys' with your effect."