Magicians Undercover — “Professor” Leon and the Counterfeiters

Undercover MagicMagicians and undercover work go hand in hand. The ability to surreptitiously take, leave, or swap an item under watchful eyes is extremely helpful in situations where discovery could mean life or death.

One agency which is historically linked with magicians is the Secret Service. Before they were assigned to the protection of the President, the Secret Service was originally created in 1865 to suppress counterfeit currency.

The New York Times reported on May 15, 1886, that in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a man named Ezekiel Wellington Jones was arrested for passing counterfeit silver dollars. He was arrested along with a man named Morehouse and was taken to the Kalamazoo Jail. Also arrested was “Professor” Louis S. Leon, a “reputed magician and sleight-of-hand performer.

Professor Leon gave information to the officers who raided Jones’ “underground cellar, where they captured a large quantity of dies and other counterfeiting implements, with a large quantity of finished and unfinished coin.”

Leon was held at another jail in Cassopolis, Michigan, almost fifty miles away. As per Secret Service practice, undercover agents will submit to arrest until headquarters can be contacted. And, as the New York Times noted in the article, “It is suspected… that Leon is really a detective.”