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BornRaymond Stanley Sugden
November 03, 1887
Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania
DiedJuly 20, 1939 (age 51)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Resting placeAllegheny Cemetery
Known forThird touring unit for Howard Thurston, designing one of the methods for Thurston's "East Indian Rope Trick"

Tampa (November 3, 1887 - July 20, 1939) was born Raymond Stanley Sugden in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.


By the age of six he was doing a mental act in his backyard for the neighborhood. During the 1907-08 season he was a pitcher for the Carnegie Tech baseball team. After seeing his first real magician, Harry Kellar, he would follow the lure of magic for the rest of his life.[1]

Early Career

He became a professional magician at the age of 30, performing a Chinese act with magician Ray Hartman in the "Chau Tung Mysteries". When Hartman was drafted, Sugden started performing with his wife and two sons under the name "Sugden the Magician". In 1925, Sugden changed his billing to "Sugden England's Court Magician". He was friends with Harry Kellar, Houdini, and Howard Thurston. He assisted Thurston in the planning of illusions such as his "Ghost in the Blue Room", "Beauty", and "East Indian Rope Trick". He also built effects for Thurston including a version of the "Spirit Painting" effect.

Becoming Tampa

Howard Thurston signed Sugden to a ten year contract on November 2, 1925. In 1926, he traveled with a full evening show under Howard Thurston as "Tampa England's Court Magician". In 1929, the stock market crashed and everything came to a halt for the world of entertainment. Thurston was barely keeping his company paid. He couldn't keep the Tampa show booked, so Ray started to find bookings on his own. Thurston only saw that Sugden was taking business away, not helping to keep the "Thurston" name in the public's mind. Sugden suggested that they part company and end the contract. Thurston kept delaying inevitable.

In the beginning of the 1930's, vaudeville was on the way out. Tampa redesigned his large illusion and accepted a booking tour in a tent show. Thurston did all that he could to dis-involve himself with Sugden's attempt to perform, he even placed an advertisement in The Billboard magazine denying he owned any part of the show. The truth came out when a number of photos showed he and Sudgen standing outside the tent in Charleston, Virginia. The tent show was short lived and the props were eventually packed away in Pittsburgh. By then end of 1930, Tampa entered into a contract with the Hankey Baking Company to present a radio program, "Tampa, England's Court Magician and the Musical Hankey Farm Bakers" in Pittsburgh. The show was a grand success. He built all his own sound effects for each show and his listening audience grew. Tampa exposed bunco games, spoke on palmestry and astrology, writing the script himself. After his contract ended with Hankey Baking Company, he continued to perform his show under different sponsors. He developed a number of magic tricks and advertising ideas to promote sponsors like Kroger Grocery Stores and Pittsburgh Post Gazette. He created a magic club children could join if they obtained three paid subscriptions. The club was named "Tampa's Post-Gazette Magic Circle".

Finally after months of correspondence, on May 1, 1935, Thurston wrote to Sugden and agreed to pay back some of the money that Sugden paid supporting the Tampa show. And, the settlement included the entire Tampa show props and the "Tampa" name.

Later Career

By 1934, he became associated with The Pittsburgh Press as their "Ambassador of Good Will," working in the circulation department along with his youngest son, Edward. On April 13, 1936, the news came into the news office that Howard Thurston passed away. Sugden was aback with the news. It would take another twenty-one months before he would finally receive what he and Thurston agreed upon. Sugden finally had control of the Tampa show. He tried to update the show and place his oldest son, Ray Jr. into a show titled, "Tampa II", but the theater owners were not interested. Most of the smaller theaters had closed during the Depression and when the economy started to recover, the theater moguls saw the opportunity to combine their investments. Also, the theater audiences wanted movies that would transport them away from their current life. The theater managers would hire Sugden only if he did a little act in front of the curtain between movies. Sugden was defeated. The Tampa Show was placed in storage. Sugden continued his association with the Pittsburgh Press until he succumbed, after a long illness, of coronary heart disease.

Honors and Awards

  • The IBM Ring 13 in Pittsburgh is now known as the Tampa Ring, which Raymond was a member.