The Wonderful Magic Mirror

Woodcut drawing from an 1891 advertisement. A man and woman look out at the reader from a mirror, on which the words Magic Mirror, the only one in use, and the wonder of the world are inscribed.
She also has the Egyptian magic mirror, which you have heard so much about. In it you can see your future husband or wife, enemy or friend.
- St. Joseph Gazette, 9 November 1890.

To learn more about the wonderful Magic Mirror, listen to this episode of How To Be Estelle, or read the overview and transcript below.

See your proper mate

Estelle True-Nell and several others across the American Midwest advertised a special Magic Mirror for their clients. Aligning with popular superstition at the time, they promised that these wondrous devices could show the viewer a glimpse of a future sweetheart. In November 1890, clairvoyant Mrs. Dr. De San advertised:

"In this peculiar glass, you can see the one naturally intended for you to marry. (Remember there never was one born but there was a mate for them.) With the aid of this magic mirror, you can be shown your proper mate."

Know thyself

The Wichita Opinion newspaper said, "We have never had one so well prepared to point out the dangers and pitfalls in life and to direct you to peace and happiness as this person. Will not only correctly describe individuals and things but will materialize them and show them to you in the wonderful magic mirror, so you can classify them for yourself."

All mysteries made clear

The Magic Mirror was also the perfect way to identify enemies and friends. An unnamed mind reader in Wichita, Kansas warned against "two-faced, deceitful, contemptible fiends" who might be pretending to be the reader's allies. "If you have the least suspicion, come to me; I can show them to you in their true light, in my Magic Mirror. It will show your future husband, wife, enemies or friends. This is not a spirit glass, in which only the medium sees, but you see it yourself. All mysteries made clear. Can see the end at the beginning of journeys. Law, marriages, divorces, in fact all things."

Transcript for The Wonderful Magic Mirror

[00:00:00] Narrator: Estelle True-Nell was a remarkable woman. Our modern era has forgotten her, and I think that's too bad. I'd like to introduce you to her amazing life, one career at a time. Along the way, we might pick up a tip or two for ourselves, as we learn How to Be Estelle.

[00:00:25] Narrator: Estelle True-Nell pursued many careers in her lifetime. From about 1890 through 1896, she was a Scientific Life Reader. You can think of her as an early life coach with a clairvoyant's touch.

[00:00:39] Narrator: Estelle was adamant that she was not a trance medium, meaning that she did not attempt to contact the spirit world. She did, however, use some magical technology to help her read your mind and advise you about the future.

[00:00:53] Narrator: One of the tools she advertised was the "wonderful magic mirror," which was used to identify the person who was most on your mind. For single people, that usually meant identifying your future husband or wife. Some ads also promised that the mirror would help you identify enemies or friends.

[00:01:06] Narrator: Some ads identified it as an Egyptian magic mirror. We know from Estelle's use of the Cleopatra Amulet that labeling something as Egyptian was a way to add a note of mystery to her clients in the American Midwest.

[00:01:26] Narrator: Like the Cleopatra Amulet, Estelle advertised that she had the one true Magic Mirror. In 1891, she claimed:

[00:01:35] Estelle: This is positively the only glass of its kind in the country. You may never see it again.

[00:01:41] Narrator: Of course, there were others who claimed the power of a magic mirror. One person claimed to have purchased his mirror at great expense from P. T. Barnum, who had brought the mirror to America from Europe along with a celebrated mind-reader.

[00:01:56] Narrator: Estelle, operating as Mrs. Dr. De San in 1890, described the mirror this way:

[00:02:04] Estelle: This peculiar glass which has been creating so much interest in Europe and New York for the past few years, has recently been secured by Mrs. Dr. De San, the renowned mind-reader and second-sight seer. In it you can see the one naturally intended for you to marry. (Remember there never was one born but there was a mate for them.) With the aid of this magic mirror, you can be shown your proper mate.

[00:02:27] Narrator: Seeing your future mate in a magic looking glass might sound like a party trick, but a clairvoyant (possibly Estelle) advertised in a Wichita, Kansas newspaper in 1892, emphasizing the serious nature of such knowledge:

[00:02:43] Woman: Not a Spirit Mirror. But a true Magic Mirror, in which you can be shown your future husband or wife, enemies or friends. Mis-mated is the cause of so much trouble. Come to me before it's too late. Remember it's not only your future happiness that's at stake, but if you have not your proper mate, you have some other's mate, thus you see four unhappy persons are equally as bad off as you, if not worse. As to enemies or friends, could we see some of them in their true light, how different we would have acted. I can show them to you in their true light. Take no chances while this opportunity is at hand, it may change the whole course of your life. Come today, delays are dangerous.

[00:03:32] Narrator: With technology like the Magic Mirror, Cleopatra Amulet, and Transmitter of Thought, Estelle brought her A-game, and she asked clients to respond accordingly. In 1890, she advertised:

[00:03:44] Estelle: While her charges are slightly higher, her phenomenal predictions and advice are reliable, and of marked benefit to all who have a desire to know what the future has in store for them.

[00:03:55] Narrator: It would seem that she provided results, too. A story in the St. Joseph, Missouri Gazette in 1890 -- probably placed there by Estelle herself -- had this to say:

[00:04:07] Man: A Wonderful Glass. This peculiar glass referred to last week by the lady mind-reader and fortune teller, Mrs. Dr. De San, northeast corner of Sixth and Jule streets, has been showing up some very strange things. A lady on Felix street has been having trouble losing things. She called on the above fortune teller, was shown in the magic mirror, and there was the guilty one. It was the one least suspected, but one well known to her. It might be well to investigate this as we are having robberies, murders, and accidents every day. This lady you will find to be altogether a different person from the class formerly visiting this city.

[00:04:50] Narrator: A few days later, another news item (almost certainly another advertisement in disguise), appeared under the headline Peculiar Events at the Ball. Here's what it had to say:

[00:05:01] Estelle: Peculiar Events at the Ball. Among the many peculiar happenings at the police ball was the wonderful test made of the Mind Reader and Fortune Tellers' Magic Mirror. Two cases are positively known where the ladies on being introduced to their partners recognized at once the faces shown them in Mrs. Dr. De San's magic mirror. One gentleman was quite dumbfounded when introduced to a lady whose face he had seen in the mirror. While on this topic, Madame De San wishes it distinctly understood that she is not conducting a cheap fortune telling business similar to that of clairvoyants and mediums formerly here. She caters only to the better classes and guarantees satisfaction. Her patrons have always been of the best, and a call at the parlors, corner Sixth and Jule streets, will convince the most skeptical of this fact.

[00:05:52] Narrator: By 1892, though, Estelle seems to have changed her mind about the Magic Mirror. In an advertisement as Mrs. Dr. Van True in the St. Louis Post in April 1892, she printed a long message titled "Beware of Imitators" denouncing people who copied her work. These "literary pirates, nonentities in intellect," stole the language from her ads and added their own claims to communication with the spirit world, which Estelle scorned. She warned against them, saying,

[00:06:24] Estelle: There will be others here when she leaves and they will copy her, but beware of their various appliances, such as 'magic mirrors,' transmitters of thought and other nonsensical contrivances designed to entrap the unwary. This TRICK glass can be exposed to anyone who cares to know about it. It is the most ridiculous FAKE that ever decoyed a dupe. Mrs. Dr. Van True courts intelligible criticism, but she scorns the invitation offered her to pollute the public ear with vulgar personalities. For, as the mastiff ignores the poodle's whine, INTELLECT pities the infirmed mind.

[00:07:03] Narrator: Estelle's advertising doesn't seem to mention the Magic Mirror after the spring of 1892, although the Cleopatra Amulet does continue to make appearances on occasion.

[00:07:14] Narrator: While the mirror vanishes from Estelle's ads, I'm pleased to tell you that something new starts to appear in its place: poetry. I'll tell you all about that another time, on How to Be Estelle.

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