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Parlor Magic


Solving puzzles has always fascinated children. The introduction of dozens of family periodicals during the mid nineteenth century provided youngsters every month with new puzzles developed both by magazine writers and by children who sent in brain teasers they hoped would amuse other readers. The American Agriculturist, a periodical for farm families, had a special section for boys and girls with crosswords, rebuses, anagrams, riddles, and all types of parlor tricks. This column was so popular among young readers that one subscriber gratefully wrote that when the Agriculturist arrived "the boys come in from their sledding to puzzle over arithmoreums."

Below is a puzzle from the 1880s that still challenges and delights children of all ages.

Removing a coin from beneath a glass.
American Agriculturist, December 1882
Try this trick after dinner, when the plates are cleared but the tablecloth is still on the table. Put a dime on the tablecloth and place a drinking glass over it, supported by two quarters. Challenge everyone to remove the dime from beneath the glass without touching the dime, the glass, or the quarters. Most people will try in vain to blow it out. After they give up, all you have to do is scratch the table cloth gently with your fingernail, and the dime will gradually move toward you from under the glass.

-Peter Gittleman
Director of Interpretation & Education

Parlor Magic