|Antique Half Trunk w/Key
Manufactured By - C. A. Taylor Trunk Works - Chicago - Circa 1900-1910
Originally Owned By Madame Pearl Tangley
"The Mental Marvel" - Early 20th Century Mentalist
Partner of the Infamous Norman Baker
Collectible Early 1900's Authentic Vaudeville/Magic Memorabilia
This half trunk comes with a good bit of history as Pearl Tangley was a well known early 20th
century mentalist called the "Mental Marvel". She toured as the headliner of a Vaudeville traveling
troop run by Norman Baker from 1904-1914. During that time period there were two people who
used the stage name. The original "Pearl Tangley" and then a replacement assumed the name when
the original quit around 1909. Norman Baker would marry the second Pearl Tangley. Norman
Baker would later partner with the father of the second Pearl to invent an air-powered calliope (the
large piped instrument used outdoors such as for a circus playing circus music), called the Tangley
Calliaphone, named after Pearl, and start KTNT radio which was a pioneer of early broadcasting.
Norman Baker would become infamous for his proclaiming to have a cure for cancer. A snake oil
salesman on such a scale putting him in a class by himself in American medical hoaxes. This trunk,
however, was Pearls and the troop would eventually sign with and tour on the famous Orpheum
Circuit. The same circuit that hosted such stars as Harry Houdini during the same era.
Given the slot in the trunk, I would take it that it was part the act of Pearl Tangley. I believe she
performed with tarot cards among other things and having an audience member drop something in
the locked trunk for her to "mentalize" seems reasonable, especially given the trunk size being so
fitting for this use. While Pearl was no Harry Houdini, she did perform in the years that were early in
Houdini's career and was popular enough that there were tarot cards made in a "Pearl Tangley
Case" and other items such as coin tokens made with her name and picture I believe.
The trunk is a Number 2 Professional made by C.A. Taylor Trunk Works out of Chicago and New
York. It measures 16.75"L X 19"H X 16.25"W and retains its original canvas and brown toned paint.
The hardware is all original being heavy cast metal with much of it stamped "Taylor" including the
oversize #4 latches with a herringbone pattern and brass lock marked Taylor Trunk Works. The lock
comes with a working key. In person, it has a wonderful "strong box" appeal which I believe was
the intent. It's weight will surprise you. The only real work performed on this trunk was what I
believed proper to stop some decay such as knocking off rust and coating the exterior/interior with
a light finish coat. While it retains much of its natural appeal, it is very suitable, top to bottom, for
display and use in your home....or museum.
It is rare to find an actual stage prop relating to early 20th century magic. Probably even rarer to find
a trunk that who's owner is the namesake of a musical instrument, one that will set you back about
$20,000-$25,000 if you can find it in good working order.
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