Maro, Prince of Magic
Leelanau Historical Society
Created on October 27, 2020
Prominent from 1892-1908, Edward Maro was a an impressive magician with many talents. Explore his variety of tricks and learn about Maronook, the home in Leland, MI, where he and his wife would spend their time when not touring.
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Alonzo Moore-From 1892-1908 Maro had many assistants most notable was Alonzo. Maro’s programs had listed his black assistant as “Theosis” and was seen on many occasions at the Clark Street Museum in Chicago. Alonzo branched out on his own in 1903 and sometimes went by the stage name Black Herrmann (Alexander Herrmann was a popular French magician). In 1904, Alonzo joinedBilly Kersands’ Minstrels. The act, during the five years he was with it, matured from a minstrel format into a vaudeville bill that played in the United States and to Queen Victoria in London. Alonzo appears to have remained associated with Allie after Maro’s death in 1908. He was listed as working as a servant at Maro's Estate,Maronook, in the 1910 census. He is also pictured in images of Allie's tea room, The Blue Lantern,in Leland, MI. In some advertisements for the business it is stated “With “Alonzo” in charge of the dining room.” Alonzo passed away on April 3, 1930 in Chicago at the age of 54.
Edward Maro was quite the accomplished magician who dominated the entertainmentscene from 1892-1908. Not only did he have a list of impressive magic tricks, but he also wowed the crowd with his music. Each show would accompany a performance on one of the many instruments Maro had mastered, sometimes he would even play an instrument he invented called the Gogglepeg.Maro was an accomplished Shadowgraphist as well, creating ‘amusing and grotesque’ shadowgraphs of animals, faces and figures. Not only was he versed in the art of music, but Maro also had an Art Séance act, where he would rapidly execute crayon sketches of impressionistic scenes.Many believe if he were to have recovered from the illness that ended his life in 1908, Maro would have gone on to be one of the most impressive and talented magicians, surpassing some of the best of his time. Although he was almost forgotten in time, he truly was the Prince of Magic with a variety of tricks at his disposal.
Flags of all Nations: “In this feat he produces from nowhere multitudes of flags of all sizes and all nations, beginning with small flags a few inches square and growing in size and number until there are hundreds of beautiful silk flags, on sticks, covering the stage completely, and Old Glory, fifteen feet long and on an eight-foot staff, floats out over the heads of the charmed and bewildered audience.” - Maro’s Program, from University of Iowa Libraries
Magic of the Orient: “Maro produces from a small cloth, cages full of singing birds, plates of edibles, glasses full of water, immense bouquets of flowers, etc. until the stage is filled, concluding with an immense cage filled with live doves.” -Maro’s Program, from University of Iowa Libraries
Skull of Cagliostro: “The close-shaved skull of Cagliostro tells the names of cards draw by people in the audience, and after mixing them with others, they are thrown in the air and Maro pins those selected to a target by arrows from a blow gun.” -Maro’s Program, from University of Iowa Libraries
Spirit Cabinet of Balsamo: “From the miniature Cabinet of Balsamo come the spiritualistic manifestations of bells ringing, tambourines and flutes playing.” -Maro’s Program, from University of Iowa Libraries
The Meteoric Ribbons:“Ribbons of all colors and no end appear from nowhere and go shooting out over the heads of the spectators, to be gathered into the hands of the magician and transformed, in the twinkling of an eye, into a large Japanese umbrella.”-Maro’s Program, from University of Iowa Libraries
Allie May Kaiserand Walter Truman Best were married on April 3, 1899 both at the age of 29. They met when Maro performed at Irwin Hall in Allie’s hometown of St. Charles, Illinois. Allie was a dedicated spouse and during the early years of their marriage she traveled with Maro on tour assisting him on stage. Eventually Allie did not travel as often with Maro and stayed in Leland caring for the estate. After Walter passed away, it was his wish that Allie continue to develop and improve Leland where they had cleaned up about $25,000 in real estate and as much unsold.In the early 1900s the Walter T. Best Women’s Club (Allie being a founding member) organized an effort to build a community center. A driving force in the successful fundraising effort was Allie, who was no stranger to the theatrical world. In 1922, under master carpenter John Buehrer the construction was completed, and the building became the venue for social and cultural events. In addition to her work with the community Allie ran the Blue Lantern Tea Room starting in 1923. By 1941 Allie had moved to Florida where she remained for the rest of her life. She passed away on October 19, 1950. She was laid to rest beside Walter in St. Charles, IL along with her parents and Maro's mother.
Walter Truman Best(Stage Name: Edward Maro)was born September 25, 1869 in Montpelier, Vermont to parents Truman and Addie. Walter lived a typical childhood for that period in time until August 3, 1872 when his father tragically drowned leaving Walter and Addie to fend for themselves. The two moved west and Walter took an apprenticeship with a photographer. He received one dollar per week and board. During this time he became very intrigued with music and diligently saved his meager pay until he could afford a guitar. Walter taught himself the instrument without ever having heard another guitar player. Soon Walter gained more interest in music and began teaching in that field instead of pursuing photography.While working as a music teacher and living in a boarding house he discovered magic and the effect displaying these tricks had on an audience, starting his career as a magician. In 1890 Walter went to Chicago and opened a school of banjo and mandolin and began using the name Edward Maro while traveling and performing as a magician throughout the country until the end of 1891.In the years between 1892 and 1908, Maro absolutely dominated the field of Lyceum magicians. If others equaled or surpassed him as a magician, it was after his death. In 1908 Walter suddenly fell ill, he remained in the hospital for six weeks until February 26, 1908 when he passed away at the young age of 39. His wife Allie and friend and magician Harry Kellar were at his side and soon began to arrange his funeral.
Maronook In 1902 Allie and Walter built a substantial home on the banks of north Lake Leelanau. They named it Maronook and it became their place of respite between tours. It was designed by a Traverse City, MI architect, Jens C. Petersen. Their idllic resort-like summer home is still present today in all it's splendor and is occupied as a private home.
"Presto" Maro & Allie's boat that plied the Carp River and Lake Leelanau.
Maronook was a place of fun and leisure for Mr. and Mrs. Maro and their many visitors. Guests were greeted with beautiful architecture, music, arts, and a large library.
St. Charles, Illinois is the final resting place for Walter and Allie. The image below is a rock from their estate in Leland, MI arriving by cart in St. Charles as requested by Mr. Maro to serve as the Maro Family headstone.
One of the distinguishing features of Maronook was the built in display cases of Maro's knife and dagger collection gathered during his travels around the world. The knife collection remained a part of the house after Maro's death.