Martinka & Company is America's longest running magic company. Throughout the years the company has acquired and combined with over 30 other magic firms including Flosso-Hornmann, and Milton Chase, and its roots date back to the early 19th century.
Beginnings & Early History
The business was founded as Martinka & Company in 1877, by two brothers: Francis and Antonio Martinka. It is claimed to be the oldest continuously operating magic shop in the United States.
The back of their New York City store housed a workshop where the company was soon building magic illusions and props for virtually all the famous magicians of the day.
In 1902, the Society of American Magicians was founded in Martinka's backroom. And, early on the Martinka magic shop became a hang-out and gathering spot where both famous and unknown, professional and amateur magicians alike could socialize, swap stories and share insights. Over the decades of its almost 150-year-old existence, generations of magic enthusiasts have congregated there. Customers of the past included Alexander Herrmann, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston and Houdini. And in more recent times, Woody Allen, Penn & Teller, David Copperfield and David Blaine, among others, have visited the shop.
The New York Times once described the shop while owned by the Flosso's as, "a messy Aladdin's cave of magical marvels from trick cards and ropes to a live lion that one owner, the magician Carter the Great, kept in the back room. It was [like] a fraternity house where a visiting European magician . . . and a curious teenager from Queens might rub elbows, ideas, and magic wands.
An amateur magician and hobbyist, writing of more recent times, recounts how rewarded he felt the first time Jack Flosso invited him into the back room, and tells of having met, on different visits to the shop, such notables as master illusionist and superstar David Copperfield, magic enthusiast Muhammad Ali, and Larry Fine's granddaughter, who today follows in her grandfather's show business footsteps as a performing clown magician in New York.
The Martinka brothers also built the special effects for number of shows, including the classic 1939 film production of "The Wizard of Oz".
And, in the 1940s, Martinka & Co., along with a number of other American magicians of the time, were involved in several top secret wartime projects for the United States Government, that largely still remain secret today.
The Back Room
Martinka's "Back Room" contained magical treasures dating back to the 1800s along with other secret items that were reserved for a select few. Being invited into the back room by Flosso was a rite of passage in the world of magic.
The business has had a string of famous previous owners including Charles Joseph Carter The Great (1917), Harry Houdini (1919), Al Flosso the "Coney Island Fakir" (1939), and his son, Jackie Flosso. Today, the firm is run by Ted Bogusta and operates a brick and mortar shop with a mini museum, as well as an online magic auction. The company continues to purchase magic collections and libraries, which are used to supply magicians and collectors throughout the world with vintage and modern magic and memorabilia.
- Carnegie, Dean (January 27, 2012). "The Oldest Magic Shop in America". Retrieved April 20, 2015.
- Jack Flosso obituary, New York Times, October 1, 2003
- Gingles, John, "My Secret Hobby -- & Favorite Escapes (Pun Intended)", from: John Gingles, ''Accidents of Luck - A Personal Memoir'', Washington, D.C., 2007.
- Martinka & Co. website.