January 4, 1861 (Peoples Press)
- On Friday evening last Mr. W. A. Reich of this place, gave a benefit exhibition for the above Society. (Forsyth Literary Society) It was a complete success in every way, and we never had the pleasure of seeing as intelligent and refined an audience assembled in our Town Hall before. It was a perfect jam, many failing to obtain admittance.
The entertainment consisted of a choice selection of feats of Magic, illustrating the adage "The Hand quicker than the Eye." Among the surprising feats, the Egg Bag seemed to create considerable surprise, while the "Tow Supper" was the most amusing, and wonderful of all, especially the "fire spitting" part. We are sure that there was no one present who did not enjoy the exhibition, and all will agree that it was a pleasant "Night in Wonder World." We hope Mr. Reich will give a second entertainment shortly. (note: 1st documented performance of Gus Rich)
October 24, 1862 (Peoples Press)
-The Friends of the 26th Regimental Band will be pleased to learn that the series of Concerts recently given by them, "assisted by Guss Rich" in his inimitable deceptive feats, were very successful. They performed in Raleigh, Wilmington, Goldsboro and Petersburg. A donation of $253.35, a portion of the proceeds were donated to the N.C. Hospital at Petersburg. (note: one of a series of tours the band made during the war to raise money both for themselves and hospitals)
October 19, 1866 (Peoples Press)
- Guss Rich, The Wizard, on the Boards Again - Last night we had the pleasure of witnessing the prestidigitatorial feats of this great genius in the arts deceptive and fantastique. In such performances Monsieur Rich doubtless has his equals in Signors Blitz, Heller and Hartz, but we will not acknowledge his superior. His entertainments cannot fail to please those who appreciate the real art of magic or sleight-of-hand. In the course of a few days, Monsieur Rich in company with Professor Sussdorff and his famous phantasmagoria, will start on an exhibitional tour through some of the Southern States. (note: first tour Gus made after the Civil War)
September 22, 1881 (Peoples Press)
- The following came to hand too late for last week:
East Bend, Sept. 15th, 1881
Messrs. Editors:- As I promised to inform you how we were progressing on the route, I hastily scribble a few items from my diary. In the first place, arrived at Germanton and performed to a large and appreciative audience. The next morning proceeding to Walnut Cove, saw the fine bottom lands, extending for miles up the creeks; noticed the finest tobacco growing, notwithstanding the drought. In the woods along the road is the place for shooting squirrels, and our men being excellent shots, with their pistols, in a short time brought down several from their lofty perches; and that day we bivouacked by a cold spring, squirrels constituting part of the bill of fare for dinner. I was never very fond of a dish of that kind of game, but on this occasion I certainly very materially changed my mind - at least the cook thought so. The next day passed through an excellent farming section, and arrived at Madison, performing to a large and select audience. At this place I was the recipient of kindness from Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Carter. The next place on the bills was Prestonville, by the way the fastest place, in a certain sense of the word, for the size of it, of any place in the State. On arriving about noon, feeling very warm and tried, I took a blanket, as usual, spread it under a shady old oak, and gave our cook instructions to get up a good square meal. After a refreshing nap of two hours, dinner was announced. It was really very tempting to a whetted appetite, a large dish of nicely cooked chicken with the necessary accompaniments. I praised our colored cook, and asked him where he managed to raise chicken. Says he, "I took that one out of the wagon." Imagine my surprise, he had taken my trained trick hen. Alas, poor Yorick! The goose that laid the golden egg was no more. At night, during the performance a man passed in, giving the door-keeper what he said was an old shilling, but on examining it found it to be one of Winker's beer checks, good for one glass; had no idea that kind of coin had such a far and wide circulation. At these performances there is always something to laugh at not on the bills. While performing on the stage at this place , an old lady approached me and asked for a drink of water. Having a bucket full convenient, I handed her a cup. The audience was convulsed with laughter at the inordinary quantity the old lady apparently consumed. At this she says to me, "Mister, what sort of a cup is this, when I go to drink the bottom flies to the top, and I get no water?" In the excitement and hurry of the moment I had given her one of my trick cups.
The next day, after traveling over the worst road I ever saw, and nearly upsetting several times, reached Danbury, shortly before sundown, but gave a performance to a crowed house. Noticed Judge Cloud in the audience.
On Sunday was the guest of Sheriff Estes, a most sociable and high toned gentleman.
I somewhat pride myself on our gaily lettered car, and was stopped on the road in the Sauratown by a man wishing to know if that was a bran new thrashing machine. I felt like thrashing him.
After leaving Danbury was accompanied a few miles by Mr. Pepper; he informed me he had discovered several alum springs on his lands, half a mile from the old Piedmont. After a very satisfactory analysis, the Messrs. Pepper Bros. concluded, and are now erecting very large and commodious hotel with all conveniences, and will be ready for guests next season. I predict a decided success. On Monday night performed at Moore's Store. The next morning Mrs. Moore, a very elderly lady, took a great interest in showing me her large, and varied collection of growing flowers; everything so neat and tasty in house and flower garden, she informed me, that taste was imbued many years ago when a scholar in the old Salem Academy, and a pupil of Mrs. Denke. Leaving here went to Westfield, from thence to Mr. Airy. Performed here two nights to good houses. As in days of yore met with that kind of good cheer and hospitality, for which the place is proverbial.
Will never forget Mrs. Schaub's midnight supper after the performance, it was inexpressibly delicious. In going through this country, the severe drought appeared confined to certain localities, in some places even on the ridges find the very best of corn. As to fruit, for about a week we saw and had fine peaches in abundance. The next performances on the route were Dobson, Rockford, Yadkinville and Elkin.
At Rockford the old courthouse still stands, which used to ring with the eloquence of a Morehead and a Gilmer. Arrived at East Bend Thursday, the rain coming down in torrents could not put up. That night received an invitation to a debating club in the hall of the Academy; there was a goodly number in attendance. Your humble servant was called upon to participate in the discussion. I make a few impromptu remarks. A noticeable feature in the organization, was the length and breath of the goaks as Artemus Ward would say. Passed through Flint Hill, the apple trees bending and breaking with the great abundance. The show wags with a change of route in a few days. As I am occupying considerable space and perhaps already wearied your readers, we will ring down the curtain, and conclude the performance.
October 5, 1882 (Peoples Press)
-For the Press
Messrs. Editors: - Agreeable to promise, I cull a few items from my diary in regard to our late route with the canvas show. Our first performance was at Reidsville, on Saturday night, to a large crowd. We had just taken down and cleared away, when Pullman, Hamilton & Co's Circus came in, and occupied the ground. They arrived shortly before day, and to give you an idea how systematically and expeditiously such establishments are conducted, by seven o'clock the horses were eating in their tented stalls; the culinary department was in full blast, some already at breakfast, the large tent up, and with the exception of (no ring) would have been ready for opening. From thence went to Pelham, showed to good business; our canvas was near the Railroad. The road certainly does business, for not less that fifteen long freight trains passed that night.
After showing at intermediate places in the country, arrived at Milton; interviewed Father Evans, of the Chronicle, by whom I was very courteously received. He is the oldest editor in the State. At Milton the advance agent and paste brigade of Miles Orton's circus came in and attended our show that night, and as I might almost say "as usual" our seats came down here. The circus men laughed, so did everybody else; but we did better than they did at Mt. Airy, for with us there was nobody hurt. What amused me forcibly was, just before night, I told our men to have everything in apple order, as we would be criticized by some of the brethren.
Our next place billed was Roxboro. Owing to a long and bad road did not arrive there until sundown, but gave the performance. The canvass never looked more enchanting than on that night. No wonder, for near half the seats were occupied by some of the most beautiful young ladies in the State. At this place was the guest of Whitaker, of the Person News. The circulation of his paper is very large, and rapidly increasing, and the job department well facilitated. Roxboro is the center of a great tobacco growing region. I will never forget the sociability and geniality of her citizens. When you go to Roxboro don't fail to see Whitaker.
From here, for nearly a week, we ruralized; our stands were in the country. At ----- X Roads we Sundayed, and took our meals at Aunt Nancy's, who did our cooking. I never met with such a character before, a venerable old lady. Says she, "Professor, I have cooked for show folks before to-day. Many years ago John Robbinson's circus stopped here, and I did the cooking, and such a time; they were the hardest set to please I ever saw. The man who somersaulted over the elephant just couldn't be pleased with my cooking; nothing was good enough. (Here let me say Aunt Nancy is a splendid cook) But, says she, "the clown was a gentleman," and added philosophically, "no clown, no show." Says she, "I was young then and good looking, and wanted to go to the show, but they put me off, saying, 'you can go tonight." When night came old Robbinson said he couldn't show, the crowd wouldn't justify. So you see, I got knocked out of it."
In noticing the cotton growing in this section, I almost imagined myself in South Carolina. Corn, tobacco, everything looking so well. Chills and fever, however, are prevalent. Noticed many farmers are adopting barbed wire fences.
At the next place, a blind man constituted one of the audience for the first time. I wondered he came, and seemed to enjoy it, thought he had some method in it, he had a keg of cider in his wagon for sale. What astonished my, was that he seemed to enjoy the show. I asked him afterwards how he liked it. He said it was the best thing he ever saw in his life.
At Oxford, was the guest of A. M. Jones, formerly of Salem, who showed me great kindness.
At Hillsboro had a crowded house. Only regretted we were not billed for two nights.
At one of the stations in the country, was just ready to begin the performance, when a deputy sheriff entered and demanded regular circus tax. I explained to him that this was just a magic show. "Too thin," says he, "too thin; you advertise a kicking mule." I parleyed with him, and finally showed him the mule, and assured him it would not kick him. We both then laughed.
Showed at minor places, nothing however, of interest.
Perhaps I have wearied your readers, so we will have an intermission for a little while and conclude the first part of the performance.
February 27, 1890 (Peoples Press)
-The Wizard of the Blue Ridge at Gymnasium Hall
Tuesday the Academy girls celebrated Washington's Birthday, as they always do, with a holiday. Had the weather been propitious a ride behind ex-sheriff Fogle's four-horse team would have been the feature of the day. As this could not be a happy inspiration came to the Principal, Mr. Clewell, and Professor Gus Rich, our always popular magician, legerdemanist and ventriloquist was engaged to give one of his inimitable performances in the evening. Did Cap's tricks ever undergo such a searching, inquisitorial scrutiny before? Pen Stick thinks not. Not less than four-hundred eves feminine gleamed and danced and flashed on every subtle manipulation, on every mystery. Reader, 'twas an ordeal. And the wizard! how did he bear himself under the search-lights of the good ship Academy. Calm, serene, imperturbable, affable, Chesterfieldian! Not a single instance of the eye quicker than the hand occurred. The magician was at his best! Never was the profession's motto, "Wonder, Mirth and Mystery" so completely exemplified. Wonder at the deftness o(f) the magic fingers and weird commands of the Professor; mirth at the cotton supper, with two of the Academy's colored servants, Anderson and Allen, as the magician's guests, mirth grew into hilarious laughter as the sons of Ham vainly endeavored to appease the exquisite politeness of their host instead of their own appetites, until bulging cheek and starting eye told that their limit had been reached, - and the boy who drank the wine and must have it pumped it out through a hole in his forehead, bored for the purpose, and the pumping by working the arm up and down alternately and violently, there was merry, musical, unrestrained laughter then; mystery at the change of articles of one kind into articles of another, round-eyed amazement as the assistant boy ruthlessly pounded the ladies handsome gold watch into everlasting smithereens with a pestle in a metal canister, and added wonder when the treasured gift of some dear friend was eventually found safe and sound in the said boy's pocket. And the mystery of it all conjured up visions of the Voodoo doctors of Hayti and Santa Domingo, of juggler of Japan, of snake charmer of India, of medicine man of American Indian, and the great magicians of the civilized world, Houdin and Herrmann and Kellar. The performance closed with dancing Marionettes, which most especially pleased the younger portion of the audience. Surely, the Wizard of the Blue Ridge will mark this evening as the most crimson-hued in all his experience. The music of the evening was exceptionally good, Miss Covington , of the Academy, presiding at the piano with unflagging zeal and skill. Pen-Stick returns his thanks to Principle Clewell for the invitation for himself and little daughter.
Pen-Stick (note: an excellent example of the typical show that Gus gave)
October 21, 1916 (Twin City Sentinel)
-HERE AND THERE
Gus Rich, the Wizard of the Blue Ridge
When Zeb Vance stood for governor he came to Salem to make a campaign speech.
During the Civil War Vance was colonel of the Twenty-Sixth Regiment, N.C.T., to which was attached Sam Mickey's band. Hence it was altogether fitting that the band should gather in front of the Belo House, where Vance was staying, and salute him, with some rousing tunes.
This, accordingly, they did: and soon the colonel made his appearance upon the balcony. Recognizing each player, he called out to him by name but presently, missing one asked: "But where's Gus Rich? Where's the Wizard of the Blue Ridge?"
Mysteriously the wizard produced himself. Until then no one had noticed that he was in the crowd. He appeared like a genie, answering the touch of a magic ring.
But the truth was, no one had noticed him because he did not wish to be noticed. He had learned the trick of slipping into gathering quietly, without attracting attention. There was no one in the South, who could attract attention more quickly and be more sure of holding it when he wished. But as a general thing the wizard talked little and kept himself in the background.
When he stepped forward to greet Vance, however, there was nothing constrained in his manner. It was just easy and unassuming. An observant stranger, taking notes, might have jotted down a description something like this: straight and slender; five feet four or five; closely-cropped mustache; eyes hidden by thick, but not shaggy brows; forehead rather low and slanting; appearance alert.
Such was Gus Rich.
An old show-bill reads in part like this: "A good laugh is better than a dose of physic. Then go and see the old original Gus Rich, Wizard of the Blue Ridge and Magician of the South, formerly a drummer boy in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, 26th Regiment, N. C. T. Pronounced by the press and the public the funniest sleight of hand show on earth. Be sure and bring your children. Teach them that the hand is quicker that the eye, and that all that glitters is not gold."
The "amusing, moral and instructive entertainment lasted "near two hours." The show-bill credits the performance with the hearty endorsement of the Twin-City Sentinel.
Mr. Reich was asked what the numbers on the bill were like.
"Oh! there are so many," he said, wondering where to begin. "I generally began with card tricks. One was to distribute cards thru the audience, and then draw them out of an empty bottle placed on the stage in full view of everyone."
"Then there was the hen trick. I would take an empty sack; turn it inside out and bang it about to prove that it was empty; and then I would say "Now good chicken, lay us an egg." and take an egg from the sack. After repeating this a few times. I would say, "Now, good chicken, come out." and out of the sack would fly a large, fluffy hen. But there were so many things! Card tricks, coin tricks, ventriloquism! It would take too long to tell about them all!"
But just to illustrate the principle upon which all were based, the wizard took a coin and asked for his interviewer's hat, rubbed the coin thru the crown and took it from the previously penniless inside. After that demonstration it all seemed very simple, of course!
Many people have asked Mr. Reich to give performances, but he always refuses now. He gave the last at Piney Grove about two years ago, to help raise funds for the building of a new schoolhouse. that was the last public show the Wizard of the Blue Ridge will ever give.
Undated Clipping From Scrape Book
Good for Guss Rich
We are now and then, afforded the pleasure of having Guss Rich, the inimitable legerdemain and humorous delineator spend half an hour or more in our sanctum.
Guss has just recently returned from a successful exhibitional tour in the West, and was relating to us the other day, some of his surprising adventures, when in stepped a noisy fellow about "half-split" who make himself particularly disagreeable by unceremoniously joining in conversation. He insisted on Guss to do some little sleight of hand, declaring that he could detect the point in any trick in a trice.
"Well", said Guss, in his droll way, "look here, stranger, I'll bet you twenty five cents that I can stew molasses in your new hat in two seconds, without any fire, and you may watch me as closely as you please".
"Can't do it" , said the fellow, " can't do it - just no use in talking".
Guss procured about a pint of genuine molasses, stood before the fellow, rolled up his sleeves, and quietly poured the fluid in the hat. After shaking the hat in ever way, and pretending to do various mysterious things, Guss said: "Well sir you win the bet I can't do it".
It is useless to say that at this juncture Guss vanished like a dream through our back door.
The fellow saw the point.