Jay Marshall (1919 – 2005)


Jay Marshall's Real Name

James Ward Marshall


The Dean of Magic, he often billed himself as "one of the better of the cheap acts."


Magician, Ventriloquist, Writer

Place of Birth

Abington, Massachusetts, USA.








Jay Marshall possessed the ability of impeccable sleight-of-hand and showmanship. He specialized in card tricks combined with ventriloquism. 

Interesting Fact

Marshall's ventriloquist gloves "Lefty" is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. 


Jay Marshall was born August 29, 1919 was an American magician and ventriloquist. Over a 60 year career he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 14 times together with his glove puppet rabbit dummy, "Lefty". 

He also was the opening act for performers like Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle and Liberace.

In fact, he was the first act to open for Sinatra in Las Vegas. In Marshall's later years, he was honored with the title of "Dean of American Magicians" by the Society of American Magicians.

According to the Chicago Tribune, his interest in magic started when he was six. As a youngster, he saw performances by Thurston and Houdini.

In later years, he admitted to dozing off in the midst of Houdini's show. Marshall failed to graduate from Bluefield College in West Virginia and went on to be a professional entertainer instead, initially working out of Boston. 

He later moved to New York City where he met Naomi Baker, daughter of Al Baker, then Dean of American Magicians. Naomi married Marshall and they had two sons, James and Alexander ("Sandy").

During World War II, Marshall was "island hopping" in the Pacific to entertain military personnel in USO shows.

He became tired of taking his elaborate ventriloquist's dummy called Henry with him, so he decided to use a white glove and some bunny ears to turn his left hand into his dummy, "Lefty". 

Marshall often described the transition from his use of a traditional vent dummy to the development of his glove puppet rabbit commenting that the "dummy wouldn't carry the suitcase." 

Originally made from a khaki army glove, when Marshall was discharged from the army, he replaced it with a white dress glove.

While performing in Las Vegas, at the suggestion of one of Marshall's friends, the puppet was further transformed into a rabbit by affixing two fingers from a separate glove to it, thus forming a pair of perky ears.

In the 1950s, Marshall moved to Chicago. His first marriage ended in divorce, and he married the former Frances Ireland, whose husband owned a Chicago magic store until he died in the 1950's. 

Frances, widely respected as a magic writer, merchant and performer, died in 2002, after 48 years of marriage. Together they operated the Ireland Magic Company at 109 North Dearborn St. in the Chicago Loop. 

In 1963, the firm was relocated to the North side of Chicago at 5082 North Lincoln Ave., and renamed Magic Inc.. Marshall's reputation as an all-knowing historian of stage magic, vaudeville and entertainment grew through the years, as did his lengendary collection of books, posters and assorted ephemera on a wide range of subjects.

Marshall took over the editorship of the 'Phoenix' from Bruce Elliott, and saw the 'New Phoenix' through four dozen issues. 

He authored 'TV Magic And You,' 'How To Perform Instant Magic,' 'Jaspernese Thumb Tie' and other books. 

On May 10, 2005, Marshall died at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago after a series of heart attacks.

James Randi remembers Jay Marshall during the JREF Amazing Adventure 4, March 8–15, 2009. Randi describes how Marshall was an expert at taking advantage of an opportunity and gives the example of when Lefty ate a fly. Randi's anecdote begins with "a fly came into the spotlight..."

Jay Marshall won several awards in the United States, Britain and elsewhere. But in the Genii interview, he told the writer Max Maven how he came to be dean of magic.

"What do the dean do?" he remembered immediately demanding. "As far as I know the dean don't do nothin'," the president of the magicians' society answered. "That's the job for me!" 

Information Credit: Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians, The New York Times: May 13, 2005.

Photo Credit: www.wizardsclubofchicago.com

For more information, visit the Jay Marshall site.

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