Zamloch the Great

Photos of lot after demolition, 1969

What is going on in these photos?

These photos came from a historically inclined donor who documented street scenes in Napa County. In this case, they photographed a vacant lot where a building had recently been demolished (photo taken in early 1969).When the building next to Beneficial Finance Company at 928 Brown Street was torn down, a long-covered sign was revealed. At the time this photo was taken, Brown Street ran uninterrupted in downtown. The rest of this block was demolished in the 1970s and is now where the parking lot on the Brown Street side next to Wells Fargo Bank is today.

Beneficial Finance office was part of the Edgington Building, built in the 1870s-1880s. That particular lot housed many businesses, everything from a saddlery to a restaurant to a saloon. The building that was torn down in 1969 was the Wells Fargo Express station and Napa’s Exclusive Savings Bank. The historic maps and photos of this block do not show any alley or gap between the buildings, nor do they reveal any architectural alterations to the exterior. This implies the advertisement was on the interior wall of Wells Fargo Express then later sealed in, possibly with the addition of insulation or other interior changes. The encasement protected the bills from extensive deterioration.


What does the advertisement say?

That’s where things get interesting. Looking at the close-ups of the bills, it appears they are advertising a performance of a magician named Zamloch, hosted by an unknown branch of the Congress of Women. After sleuthing around the internet, we discovered the International Congress of Women was a name used by many feminist and pacifist groups, particularly in the late 1800s. Zamloch, as it happens, was one of the most famous magicians of his era. Born in Austria about 1848, he immigrated to America in 1865. Zamloch toured as a professional conjuror, spiritualist, and magician from 1869 to 1912, mostly in California, Mexico, and the Hawai’ian Islands. One of his sons, Carl, was a well-known magician in his own right, as well as a professional baseball player.

Oddly enough, an article in the 1899 Napa Daily Journal mentioned Zamloch got his start as a shoemaker in Napa. While we have yet to determine which cobbler he worked for or where he resided, his wife, Elizabeth Marx (aka Marks) lived in Napa from at least 4-years-old. In another odd coincidence, her father owned a bakery on the same block as Wells Fargo Express but facing Main Street.

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