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David Trevor - Help

MSB

knowlegable brummie
So it looks like it is the one by the post box. Well spotted. It's in the middle of nowhere! I don't know how he got there from Birmingham. How he got around anywhere quite frankly.
My Great Uncle Fred told my dad (in a phone call my dad recorded for family history purposes) that 'Granpapa' Trevor (David, the magician) had his own horse and cart for travelling around. However, that might have been just for local events in later life, as Fred was still quite young when David died in 1916. At the time of the phone call Fred was the last surviving member of my family to have known David in life. I made a digital copy of the Dictaphone original recording but some of it is indistinct.

The diary fragment I have also shows David made good use of the railway system, although one wonders how much equipment he must have been carrying. As a 10 year old child David saw the first passenger train arrive in Birmingham's Curzon Street station in 1838, and recounted this in a newspaper interview in old age, so the system was up and running by the time he started travelling.
 
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MSB

knowlegable brummie
It looks a lovely old world village. I agree - I am not sure why he would have been there.
Probably touring with his magic/ventriloquism show, as his daughter Phoebe was left in Birmingham with family, but I have no way of confirming that short of delving into 1861 newspapers for clippings about performances in Wiltshire.
 
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MSB

knowlegable brummie
Here's an 1857 theatre bill for David's performance in South Shields, scanned from the original in a collection that was passed down to me. I have bits and pieces of others, but this is one of the few complete examples.

Interesting to note in the illustration that he appears to have an assistant on stage. Also German Picco is part of the act.

"The gross imposition of clairvoyance will be exposed on both evenings" : He had a lifelong bee in his bonnet about stage clairvoyants, and was more than happy to reveal their stage secrets to all and sundry, including publishing detailed accounts of their techniques in newspapers and in handbills. This attracted the ire of a well-known Danish American clairvoyant act called The Zancigs when they toured Britain. I have a letter they sent to David asking him to desist from spoiling their act by letting the public know in advance how they did it! Hardly in the spirit of the Magician's Code, but one imagines there was snobbery among magicians as with almost any profession. Maybe clairvoyants were seen as Johnny-come-lately imposters by old school stage magicians?

Trevori 1857 1024.jpg
 
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MSB

knowlegable brummie
Thank you for the advertisement. I think that David was incredibly driven as we have seen that he was determined to become an entertainer at a young age (which was completely unknown in his family tradition) but was also a pragmatist. Like most people in the entertainment industry, unless you become a wealthy and famous star you need other work to fall back on between stage jobs and David had many strings to his bow and he used his real name for them.
I definitely think he was a mould-breaker within his family, when you consider that virtually all of the other members were provisions retailers, bakers and wholesalers, which to be fair was a perfectly sensible choice in a rapidly growing industrial city. Whether David had a musical talent that was recognised early and he was allowed to develop, or whether he had a bust-up with his parents who wanted him to run a local shop like everybody else I don't think we will ever know. He was however the third son in a large family, so maybe there was less pressure on him to follow the family tradition. I can see the sense in having many strings to the bow, and his entrepreneurial spirit certainly stands out - perhaps that's something he learned from his father and mother?

If you don't mind my saying, some of his more grandiose claims might need to be taken with a pinch of salt though. His other work included the music lessons and instrument repairs above, photography and picture framing etc. He was running a picture framing shop when he died.

He was certainly an accomplished self-publicist. One can only imagine what his Facebook page or Instagram account would have looked like today!

It is still possible to find Victorian era Carte de Visite photos with David's stamp on them. I have a few I've picked up on eBay. Another photo of his, found online, appears to be of an elderly clergyman taken post-mortem, but propped up in a chair fully dressed. Such photos enjoyed bizarre popularity for a while.

My impression is that he didn't wait for work to come his way via an agent or audition but set up his own gigs. He posted endless flyers for his act in newspapers and booked his own venues I suspect. With advertisements, venue hire, travel and props he must have had quite a few expenses.

It's certainly quite easy to trace newspaper clippings about his performances both before and after the event, so I think he was adept at managing the local media.

He never seemed to be part of a music hall variety show but was either hired for private performances or performed in local community, assembly or concert halls and county fairs, summer fetes and shows. During the day on tour he would put on his Punch and Judy shows for the children and there probably plugged his evening ventriloquist act nearby.

I have some posters and other materials indicating he performed at music halls as part of wider shows, along with handwritten testimonials from the landed gentry following performances at various stately piles. These include Belvoir Castle, Warwick Castle, Uffington House, and Windsor Castle (no less). There is also one on House of Commons notepaper on behalf of the 1st Viscount Peel (Speaker), for a performance on 28 Dec 1886. He also claimed to have performed before the Emperor and Empress of the French, and the Windsor Castle performance was during a state visit by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany. Whether these performances were before nobility and royalty themselves, or their domestic staff, I don't yet know.

He was prepared to travel anywhere and great distances for his work. He played extensively around England, some parts of Wales and even Ireland. There must have been few cities, towns or even villages where he did not perform. In terms of scale, one day he was at the village hall in Berkswell, the next he was filling Birmingham Town Hall with his audience. He turns up just about everywhere, from Street in Somerset, Norwich, ‘all the towns in Essex’, Derby, Wolverhampton, Abergavenny, Ashby de la Zouch and so on practically infinitum.

The Ireland touring might have been related to his son Harry being stationed at The Curragh Camp in County Kildare during his service with The King's Liverpool Regiment as a bandsman for much of the 1880s. I have references to the pair of them entertaining Harry's fellow soldiers on more than one occasion. Harry also picked up some tricks from his father and performed them solo. Harry kept detailed diaries of the regimental band's performances both there and later in Bermuda, and they're both in my possession. At some point they'll be scanned and offered to the Regimental Museum.

In one of these diaries a monologue is hand written - it's the 'Deck of Cards' story popularised by Wink Martindale and later Max Bygraves, but set in the late 18th century, with the soldier named as Richard Lane. I suspect this story was thus part of military folklore long before late 20th century recording artists got their hands on it.

Apart from 'Louisa', he had other sidekicks. In 1857 it was an Alsatian dog called German Picco.

Picco is featured on more than one of the posters I have.

His next sidekick of many years was Toby, ‘The Wondrous Singing Dog’. David put an advert in a newspaper saying that Toby was the best performing dog in the world and he would give a prize of steak, beefsteak and German sausages to any dog that could beat him. It would appear that no dog came forward to claim the prize, thereby proving his point. The high point of Toby’s career was when he performed his singing dog act at a dog show in the Midlands. In the Punch and Judy shows, Toby ‘kills’ Punch’s baby and batters the policeman (puppets).

Dog Toby is illustrated on a flyer I have, along with David himself. I'll post a copy here soon. Thank you for all the additional information. As for the 'singing' dog act, one wonders if David's ventriloquial skills came into play there?

Later on, on some occasions David performed with an entire pack of dogs. How he got them all on the train with his luggage, instruments, props and conjuring equipment and put them up in a hotel one can only speculate.

Fascinating - I hadn't made the multiple canine connection before. Much food for thought here.
 
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Susan D

master brummie
Thank you for the new information.

I hadn't thought about David using his ventriloquist's skills to make Toby 'sing'. There are many dogs having a crack at 'singing' on You tube.

Looking forward to seeing a depiction of Toby. I have pictured him as being like the dog on the 'His Master's Voice' advert.

Regarding the post mortem photographs, the Victorians were macabre in that way to our eyes, but I suppose death was a much more commonplace event than (even) today thank goodness. The eerie lengths they went to to capture on camera deceased family members I won't recount here.

Regarding the equipment, I would have thought that a Punch and Judy show required a tent and frame, bulky puppets, a truncheon, a string of sausages and possibly a chair. Tricky on the train with a suitcase, Toby and Toby's dinner. I recall that David's brother in law at the Garrison may have owned a stables in town somewhere so that may a link to the transport.

I am not sure it has been mentioned but David ran a mail order business in conjuring tricks.

I knew about the Belvoir castle performance which included Louisa as he never stopped mentioning it. I had also noticed the Windsor Castle performance but never found evidence of it, The others are new to me!

I found an obituary of David on Find My Past with a new photograph of him in the Life in Leicester newspaper, but don't know how to copy it to here.

 
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MSB

knowlegable brummie
Here's the flyer I had in mind, although I'm not now sure if the pooches illustrated are actually Toby.

As his home town is given as Ashby this flyer was printed some time between the early 1870s and the early 1900s. He was in his late 40s when he first settled in Ashby, and was still there in the 1901 Census aged 73. By 1911 he's back in Small Heath. He looks to be in his 50s or 60s in the line drawing. The suggested venues indicate he's no longer into larger audiences, for example Music Halls or Theatres.

I'm surprised he's still 'Signor' given that Punch and Judy is mentioned and 'Professor ' was normally associated with that.

Signor Trevori flyer 1024.jpg

You're right about him selling conjuring tricks. Pyrotechnics and fireworks might also have been part of it. I believe he may have experimented with stage pyrotechnics in early flash photography.

A further sideline I forgot to mention earlier was his inventing and patenting photographic gadgets then licensing them to other photographers. It's possible he did a few of these but I've not looked into it in depth. I know for certain he devised an accessory that allowed for multiple exposures onto a single glass plate, as I have some related paperwork.

I have access to findmypast via my Library card so I'll pursue that image. Regarding the other photo you posted, do you have a source for that? I'm aware that somebody has created a family tree on ancestry.co.uk that David features in, and the account holder has mistaken a photo of David in old age for one of David's son-in-law Samuel Oakes. As I only have a Library account I'm not in a position to contact them about it.

I have photos of David in later life, but they're negatives that will need scanning before I can post them here.
 

MSB

knowlegable brummie
The photo in post #34 is on a tree on Ancestry.

Thank you. I've just double checked, and I'm pretty certain it's the tree that has the photo error. If you follow David's daughter Phoebe Ellen on this tree you'll see a link to her husband Samuel Oakes. The photo shown for him is most definitely David Trevor in advanced age, as I have the same image in the family collection. David has a copy of The Great War magazine on his lap, which can't have been published much before 1915, and he died in 1916. It would be interesting to discover which issue of the magazine that was. I hope they weren't still taking post-mortem photos in 1916!

This doesn't mean that the photo shown for David in #34 isn't David (and there is a likeness), it's just that if there's one error on the Ancestry family tree there might be others. What's to say it isn't Samuel Oakes? Always the hazard with private internet-based research - verification.
 

Susan D

master brummie
Found an interesting account of the wedding of David's daughter Edith, listing all the wedding presents! Cash was most definitely splashed! They include presents from the Jones family at the Garrison and another from David's brother. If you have access to Find My Past you will be able to see the article.


The picture of David on the poster and his photograph on the obituary are very similar. Clearly the same person.
 
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Susan D

master brummie
Looks like Toby was a Yorkshire terrier. How sweet! Compact too. More compact than Alsatian, German Pico. :)
 
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Susan D

master brummie
I note that Toby also had a dance routine.

More of David's sidekicks: He had a joint act in 1852 in Wales with 'Miss Barnham of New York' (! huh?) who sang.

In 1891 David put his daughter Edith on the stage as his assistant. She was described by a press reviewer as his ‘talented little daughter’. Her stage career did not last long though. She fell for a musician (probably in a theatre orchestra) married him and that was the end of that.
 
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Susan D

master brummie
David's ventriloquism act was the mainstay of his career and it was essentially a comedy act. In fact he billed it as F.U.N.

It was said that he could do fourteen different voices and could throw his voice convincingly. The audience would gasp and turn around when they though that there were different people standing around the back of the auditorium. One newspaper reviewer said that when he performed at Birmingham Town Hall he held amusing conversations with people who appeared to have either got stuck on the roof or down in the cellar. Another regular joke and one he performed there was to pull on stage a sack which appeared to have a live, squealing pig inside.

He was privately a practical joker too. A regular thing was for the army to commission him to entertain the troops. A colonel in York hired David to perform and he completely fooled both the soldiers and the journalist reporting the event into believing he was actually an Italian. He obviously pulled it off convincingly as he was reported in the local press as ‘Trevori, the Italian ventriloquist’.

I like to think that he would be pleased if he still making you smile.
 
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MSB

knowlegable brummie
Thank you again @Susan D - my Library findmypast account has a monthly limited use restriction which means I'll have to wait until April to follow the links.

I'm relieved to report that the photo of David holding the Great War magazine wasn't post-mortem, although he was definitely getting on in years! The reason is that I've found two more taken at the same sitting, probably at the family photo studio in Ashby, which his son Harry was running at the time. One is a slightly different seated shot with the magazine, another shows David, Harry, and Harry's eldest son Harry David Sydney (known in the family as Sid), ie three generations.

There is also this one, (which I thought was from the same sitting until I realised that the younger daughters would have looked older by WW1), so best guess for this is late 1890s:

David & Mary Jane & family c1915 1024.jpg

David with wife Mary Jane (seated centre) and their four daughters (L to R back) Edith, Elsie, (R to L front) Constance, and Ida May. I can't help thinking Harry was making the most of the chance to get some pictures done before his old dad popped off! In fact if it was taken in 1898 it could have marked David's 70th birthday.

David had ten children in all, five sons and five daughters, but only one son (Harry) survived infancy. Two sons who died in infancy took their mothers with them. Mary Jane lost two infant sons (Frederick in 1872, and Leopold in 1875) before their first daughter Edith arrived in 1879, and looking at the gap between Leopold and Edith it's possible another child didn't survive full term. [As an edited footnote: The 1911 Census states Mary Jane had had 8 children, of whom 4 died.]

They moved from Birmingham to Ashby sometime between 1872 and 1875, based on the places where Frederick's and Leopold's deaths were registered.

Interestingly, David, a second-time widower by early 1869 at age 41, with a 16 year old daughter Phoebe and a 4 year old son Harry, married Mary Jane (aged 22) within a year of losing Elizabeth.

His Birmingham address in the 1911 Census was within walking distance of his daughter Phoebe's home, so (as was often the case) it may have fallen upon the eldest daughter to keep an eye on her dad in his old age, hence the return to Birmingham, although three of the above daughters, Edith, Elsie and Ida, are present in the household as visitors on Census night.
 
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Susan shaw

master brummie
Hi MSB
Just had to let you know that I have found this thread absolutely fascinating. Could not stop reading. You must be thrilled with all the knowledge that the members have been able to supply.
Good luck in your further searches and thank you. Regards Sue
 

MSB

knowlegable brummie
Hi MSB
Just had to let you know that I have found this thread absolutely fascinating. Could not stop reading. You must be thrilled with all the knowledge that the members have been able to supply.
Good luck in your further searches and thank you. Regards Sue
Absolutely thrilled, thank you - this forum has proven invaluable. Hopefully some of the information I've posted will help others too, at some future point.
 

Susan D

master brummie
I never thought when I was researching David Trevor that I would see him and his family 'in the flesh' so to speak. It is remarkable and wonderful to see. Thank you MSB.
Hi MSB
Just had to let you know that I have found this thread absolutely fascinating. Could not stop reading. You must be thrilled with all the knowledge that the members have been able to supply.
Good luck in your further searches and thank you. Regards Sue
That is so nice to hear Susan.
Hi MSB
Just had to let you know that I have found this thread absolutely fascinating. Could not stop reading. You must be thrilled with all the knowledge that the members have been able to supply.
Good luck in your further searches and thank you. Regards Sue
Dear Susan Shaw,

Thank you very much for the positive feedback on our discussions. It is difficult to gauge whether specific family history discussions are going to be of wider interest or just of use to those exchanging information. I thought that David Trevor being a famous Birmingham figure from the past might belong to the former but could not be sure. Your message provides some affirmation which is very gratifying.
 

Susan D

master brummie
I hope I have now been able to download and attach the amazing newspaper article about David's daughter's wedding. I would be interested to hear if it has worked. It sounds like the society wedding of the year.Trevor wedding.pdf.jpg
 

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Susan D

master brummie
In the hope that the above worked, I am also attaching David's obituary and photograph.David Trevor Obit.pdf.jpg
 

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