Colon, Michigan is a blip of a town in the midwest, with a population of about 1100 people (according to recent census estimates) and covers less than two square miles. And yet, this remote town somehow became the epicenter of the magic industry for a time during the 20th century. In a recent episode of Stateside on Michigan Public Radio, archivist Steve Ostrander and American Museum of Magic board member Jeff Taylor dig into the reason why Colon, Michigan is known as the “Magic Capital of the World”. The answer involves the legacy of Harry Blackstone, Sr. and his unlikely choice for a summer getaway.
Steve Ostrander explains: “The real renaissance of magic in Michigan began when Harry Blackstone [Sr.]…made the small town of Colon, Michigan in St. Joseph County…he made it his summer residence. He was from Chicago, and the city in the summertime is hot and people didn’t like to go to shows in the summer and sit in a hot theater. So they would take the whole summer off and go some place and relax and unwind from the road and do maintenance on their stage props.”
Blackstone’s presence in the small town was a boon to the economy there, especially when he partnered with Australian magician Percy Abbott to form the Blackstone Company. When the two split, Abbott renamed the outfit Abbott’s magic company, and stayed put in Colon.
“To have this going on in such an out of the way place,” Taylor explains, “if you’ve been to Colon, you know it is still very much a small town. It’s quite a distance from the nearest expressway exit. You can only imagine what it must have been when Blackstone first moved there, even smaller, even more remote. Magicians would come for this get-together, and they would come literally from all over the world. The list of names that have either been there, performed there, or purchased magic apparatus from the Abbott Company, you know, is really a who’s who of magicians in the last 70 years or so. It’s unique to see something like this in a small town.”
And even as small as the town remains, it’s still embracing its magical heritage, hosting summer camps and conventions every year. In fact, 2017 marked the 80th anniversary of the aforementioned Abbott Company’s Magic Get Together convention in the tiny town.
To listen to the rest of the interview with Taylor and Ostrander, head over to Michigan Radio’s official site, or subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or via their RSS feed.