Notables

Louis McCord
Magician known as "Silent Mora"

..........................

Louis McCord was born in Allegheny City in 1884. By his own accounts he was practicing magic tricks while still in grade school, studying books of tricks and attending performances of The Great Kellar and other prominent magicians who performed in Pittsburgh.  He studied with local plumber and magician, John McKissock who had also mentored Edward Maro, a magician and bandleader.  It was a performance by Maro that McCord credited with putting him on the path of performance: “ I remember the glitter of the gold on his paraphernalia and to me at that time it was real gold that I saw and not paint and brass. That night I fully made up my mind to master some of the magic I had seen.  After three years I had the satisfaction of giving my first public performance in a church near my home.”  In a nod to his colleague and friend, McCord flipped two letters in Maro’s name to come up with his own stage name, Mora.  He later became known as “Silent Mora” based on a Chinese style pantomime magic act in which he dressed as a “Chinaman” and performed, without speaking, a set of illusions based on Chinese tricks, some of which he had learned from Ching Ling Foo.   A  1918 description of McCord’s Chinese inspired set marveled how, “it is nothing unusual to see Mora take form the mysterious folds of a chinese garment an assortment consisting of several live ducks, jars of water with goldfish swimming about, large bowls of flaming redfire and various cooking utensils.  Usually he recruits from his audience volunteer assistants who add to the hilarity of the occasion.”

Silent Mora enjoyed a long, successful career, traveling extensively and performing in tent shows, vaudeville houses and theatres.  He was a regular feature on the Redpath Chautauqua circuit during the 1920's.  He was a respected member of the magic community and is credited with creating the Wand Spin Vanish and the Balls in the Net routine.  He eventually retired the Chinese pantomime of his early career and became known as a charming and dapper magician in a tuxedo who performed in small clubs.  As he grew older he traveled less and eventually settled in Boston, where he became a fixture in the local magic community.

McCord died in 1972 and was buried in the lot of his wife’s family in The Union Dale Cemetery, contrary to some biographies that claim he died impoverished and a was laid to rest in a potter’s field in Boston.  As late as 1999, magicians on the Googlegroup, “alt.magic” were discussing McCord’s career and influence on their craft.  One member of the group, listed as “Tonga,” provided a concise, heartfelt description of Silent Mora: “Silent Mora is best remembered not for his actual tricks -- which he did superbly -- but for his personality -- his presentation was the absolute ultimate of the nice gentleman.  When you saw him perform you felt a deep wish that he were your grandfather.  He did wonderful magic -- but that wasn't the point -- with his persona he could have stood there and swatted flies and you would have loved him.  It is many years since I saw him but the cockles of my heart have not yet cooled.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what magic is all about.”