The Checker Cabinet displayed here is one of the original checker cabinets made by Theo "Okito" Bamberg.

 

This checker cabinet was an improvement on the checker cabinet originally made by Okito's father, David Tobias Bamberg, who is himself mentioned in Robert Houdin's 1868 book, "The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic".

 

Okito describes his father's checker cabinet as follows:

 

"The first checker cabinet made by my father was merely a box which had no feet, and when the switch had to be made, the box was held in a slanting position. Even the fake which represented the 12 checkers was a poor imitation, as black strips of paper were pasted around the white fake to simulate the black checkers. The whole thing was a homemade job; nevertheless the basic idea was there, and ti was worth my while to elaborate on the principle."

 

Regarding his own checker cabinet, Okito states:

 

"I claim I am the first who transformed the box into a cabinet and the first to decorate it in Oriental style. I am also the first to utilize the black art principle to a box or cabinet and the mechanism employed to shift the interior compartment."

 

Okito built his first checker cabinet in 1908. It was immediately acquired by Dr. Hooker, who also purchased the second and third cabinets built. The cabinets were made in the era of Bamberg's Magic Shop, which Theo Bamberg established in New York, at 1193 Broadway above Proctor's 28th Street Theater. The Allied embargo on the import of German goods, including apparatus from magic manufacturer Carl Willman, brought Theo Bamberg's magic shop to an end in 1914.

 

This checker cabinet, hand-made by Theo Bamberg, likely dates from that period. The brass plate hallmark [see below] affixed to the rear states "Theo Bamberg - Maker - New York". The later, and still rare but more common plate credited Okito, not Bamberg by personal name.