The origins of FISM

When was created the FISM and why?

What was the spark that create this organization? What were the first problems and how did they defeat them in the 40s?
These are just a few questions we will answer.


Be ready to travel through time, starting from from the early 1900s, through September 10, 1937 - when Dr. Dhotel (vice president of the French magic club “Afap”, now FFAP) for the first time launched the seed of what would become the FISM - until to September 5th 1948, when the Fism was founded.


What is FISM? 

ARTICLE 4.1 FISM is an organization based on worldwide voluntary membership of Magic Societies.


Why FISM was NOT created before 1948?

FISM was NOT created before 1900 because FISM is an organization based on worldwide voluntary membership of Magic Societies. and, up to the end of 19th century there were no magic clubs.
Up to the end of 19th century all over the world, magic clubs had no legal statute, they were simple gatherings of magic enthusiasts. At the beginning of 1900 these small groups started growing and constantly increased their number. This process slowed down during World Wars, which directly and indirectly obstructed many aggregation initiatives, but at the end of the 20th century, magic clubs where everywhere in the world.

FISM was NOT created before 1900 … even because in the 19th century were not organized international magic conventions.

Who was the first nation to organize international magic conventions in Europe?
Germany was the first nation to organize international magic conventions in Europe. 

In 1947 Robelly wrote in the Journal de la Prestidigitation, about the international convention in Paris “This year for the first time the great International Convention of magicians will take place in France. Before the war in 1939 it was Germany who had the honor to organize this prestigious event, in which even the furthest nations took part”.

Since 1912, the Magischer Zirkel had been organising national gatherings and in 1931 Berlin had hosted the first European international magic contest, attracting artists from numerous nations: Hungary, United States, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, France and Austria. Between 1936 and 1938 Germany organised 3 international conventions (respectively in München, Berlin and Frankfurt). These shared already many aspects with the FISM conventions, which would see the light in the following decade. 
The contest of 1936 was advertised as the Olympics of Magicians (Die Olympiade der Zauberer). 


The 26th Convention in 1938 in Frankfurt saw the participation of 400 magicians coming from 16 different nations.
Every year the winner of the contest was given a ring (Der Ring des Magischen Zirkels) in 1936 it was assigned to the Austrian Alfred Kessler (1876-1949) and then - in 1937 and 1938 - to the German Fredo Marvelli (1903-1971). 
The French magicians Venot and Mayette (Ies Maybers) won a "Special Prize" at the Munich Congress.


When did the idea of creating the FISM come about? 

Max Maven wrote in Genii “It all began in Paris, France, on the evening of Friday, September 10, 1937, at a meeting of the Association Syndicale des Artistes Prestidigiateurs (ASAP) … 

The meeting of September 10, 1937 - In the absence of Mr Maurier, absent from Paris, the session is open under Dr. Dhotel's presidency, apologizing for gathering members in an improvised room, the keys to our usual room have not been left. Dr. Dhotel shares a proposal he received regarding the organization of an International Magic Congress in Paris in 1939. That of 1938 will have to be held in Vienna and 1940 in Tokyo. The thing will be studied first of all by a committee."

… so … following the line of Max Maven, it was the Asap to have the idea to create the FISM.



What is the ASAP?

The ASAP is the grandmother of what is nowadays is the FFAP History In 1903, an article was published in a newspaper in Paris that was against magicians, especially those who worked in cafes. The magicians were encouraged to form an association for the defense of the profession in accordance with the law of 1889. So, in December 1903, from the “Académie de Prestidigitation” (which was created in 1891 by G. Méliès) came out about twenty members and ASAP (Association Syndicale des Artistes Prestidigitateurs) was founded. On the 1st of January 1945 the ASAP and SIAP came together into a single organisation “the AFAP” (French Association of Artists of Prestidigitation), with Dr. Jules Dhotel as its new president.. and then in 2008 it became the FFAP.

The French began to create the Congress that was to be held in 1939, which which would be the first French international magic congress.

Veno, Mayette, Tessier and Guimar (In 1963 Tessier and Guymard will become respectively AFAP president and vice-president) worked as soon was possible to organize this event, that then did not really happen - even if the preparations were already very ahead and a large capital had already been invested- due to the outbreak of World War II.


The Congress program was supposed to be this 
Friday, 6th October - 
h 8.30 pm congressmen reception (cold buffet) 

Saturday, 7th October 
h 9.30 am (Opening of Magic dealers and Official Session – meeting of the magic clubs); 
h.11,00 am (official meeting of congressmen at the town hall); 
h. 1,30 pm (Mont Martre guided tour and working session); 
h. 4,00 pm (showing new ideas); 
h. 9,00 pm (private exhibitions reserved to the congressmen).

Sunday, October 8th 
from 9 am to 12pm (welcome to the new congressmen, opening of Magic dealers, "book time", authors of magic books exhibit their works); 
h 2,00 pm (magic contest); 
h 8,30 pm (public Gala).

Monday, October 9th 
h10.00am (Opening of Magic dealers); 
h 11,00 am (official photos); Meeting of the jury of the contest; 
h 2,00 pm (bus excursion); 
h 8,00 pm (banquet and distribution of prizes of the contest winners ).


Dr Dhotel wrote in «Le journal de la presigiation (1939 Sett. Ott. n. 109) just after the war broke out.. One day I was talking to Helmudt Schreiber (ndt after the war, 1946, he performed under the name "Kalanag"), the representative of German conjurers, and on that occasion both of us agreed that if there were nobody but conjurers in the world, there would never be any war. Unfortunately, there are not only conjurers in this world”.


Robert Veno wrote in the issue 11/1939 of the magazine Magicien: ".. but not everything is lost, we arrange an appointment with all the magicians after peace, and we will continue to accomplish this mission, even though it seems something very insignificant, seeing the evil that is creeping on the world. ".

Magic in France during World War II.


The involvement of France in the war inevitably affected the world of franch magicians. The ASAP members had to join the army … and 1 died and 16 were taken prisoners. In 1940, after the armistice between France and Germany, the situation was further worsened by the prohibition of associative meetings and the difficulty to create, print and send by mail the club journal to the members.

Meeting june 20th 1943 Mr Talamon explains the steps he has taken in regard of the necessity of submitting to the artistic censorship of the Propagandastaffel not only the programs and posters, but also the text of their presentation.

Even if the situation was like this, in 1941 Jules Dhotel, the newly nominated ASAP president, managed to organise a magic gala that took place in Paris on the 26th of April. The event was met with great success (with about 1600 visitors); it was presented by Jan Savard with the accompaniment of an orchestra conducted by J. Barragan, and it starred the best artists (Ben Chatan, Yolande, Cartis, Bertor, Menito, Robertson and Lucile, Charrington and Manola, Effy and Halma, Kédour and Toto, Jaqueline Figus, Fran-Klint and Sanas). The revenues (a considerable sum, 7659,40 French Francs) was donated to the Sécours National for the aid of the families of war victims.

Exclusion of Germans from Afap.

When the war was over the tension between the French and Germans was very strong and so Sanas, president of the Club des Magiciens Bibliophiles, expresses the request to exclude the participation of the German magicians from French Magic congress and shows. The majority is against the participation of the Germans in the “manifestation magiques”, in the conditions indicated above, for 124 votes against 56.


French-German Reconciliation.

FISM Barcellona 1950 for the admission of German Magic Clubs to FISM, there was a long discussion that ended with 30 votes against 13 in favor.

FISM Paris 1951 Admission of German Magic Clubs to FISM: 35 votes in favor 13 against 02 abstentions.


Re-examen of the Organization of an international congress.

22nd of December 1945 
Pierre Tessier (who would later become president of AFAP in 1963-1968 ) wrote that the idea of organizing international congresses could be re-examined.


9th of August 1946 
was organised the international convention of Amsterdam by Henk Vermeyden (1908-1988), who was also the president of the event.

The registration at Congress: 600 French Francs 1 Franco Anc. = 100 FRF (1 Euro = 6.55957 FRF).

37 Artists performed at the Contest and Gala, from 4 countries NL(25), GB (6), F (5), e E(1)
3 Lectures of University professors on 
- Mysteries in Ancient History 
- The reaction of children to prestidigitation” 
- Psychology of Magic.

September 24 th -25 th-26 th 1947 
was organised the international convention of Paris 
The registration at Congress: 1000 French Francs.

86 Artists performed at the Contest and Gala.


1° Jean Valton (F) 
2° John Ramsay (Scotland) 
3° Balsamo (NL).

1° Borosco (CH) 
2° Renoff (F) 
3° Séru (F).

ALLIED ARTS Memory: Rogello (F).

1° Willane (GB) 
2° Edeling (DK) 3° Conchito (NL) 


Working session to create and regulate a new organization The FISM.


During the International Convention of Paris 1947, the representatives of French and foreign delegations participating in the event set up a working session to create and regulate a new organization, whose purpose would be to promote the communication among groups of different countries and to coordinate an annual convention called “Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques” (FISM). Later on, the Journal de la Prestidigitation published the results of the work session dedicated to the creation of the Federation to be.

InternatIonal ConventIon - Work Session - 
Work sessions open at 10.00 am under the Presidency of Dr. Dhotel. Session participants: the heads of French and foreign delegations present at the Convention. The participants examined different issues brought forward by the Magic Clubs during the Convention. 

1) Creation of a universal symbol. The members present believe that the distinctive mark should be discreet and should not be considered definitive until the creation of the International Federation of Magic. Moreover, it is requested to keep this symbol secret from the lay public. Upon consideration of these requests, the decision is made to temporarily adopt a pin with a dark blue head on the right side of the coat as a universal symbol of magicians. This symbol will become definitive not before one year. 

2) International Convention The members agree upon the annual organisation of an international convention. Following the proposal of the Swiss Circle, the next convention will take place from the 15th to the 19th of September 1948 in Lausanne. 


3) “Débinage” The following definition is agreed upon: “débiner” means to disclose magic secrets in any way to anybody, in particular a lay public. The members unanimously confirm the stance of the magic clubs, strongly opposing the revelation of secrets in any way it may occur, and declare that this practice should be fought with all means available. Those who reveal secrets must be expelled from the magic club they belong to. In case a magician spills out his secrets out of simple clumsiness, it is necessary to make him temporarily suspend all his exhibitions, reporting his name and qualifications; he must work further on his act and may not perform in public until he masters it perfectly. Club members express the wish that the price of magic books sold to the public were higher than that of books reserved for magic clubs. Commercial disclosure done by magic dealers, in which a trick is revealed not to the public but to a purchaser who pays a high price to possess the explanation, does not count as “débinage”. The decision is made to send to all clubs a report about the proposals of means and remedies which could be used to effectively fight the practice of “débinage”. 

4) International Federation of Magic The time left to member clubs to examine this important point was too limited to allow them to start it and definitely close it; in any case, judging by the responses of clubs, almost all clubs present agreed upon the creation of this federation (1). In response to a request of the Belgian and Swiss delegations, each nation may be represented in the federation by two regular delegates or, in case of any hindrance, by two substitute delegates. Each nation is entitled to two votes within the federation. Since AFAP has taken charge of the matter, it is decided that the headquarters [of the Federation – TN] will temporarily be in Paris and that Dr. Dhotel will preside over it with the task to coordinate the AFAP offices for the nomination of delegates and substitutes [for each country – TN]. The delegates undertake to collect all notices, suggestions and advice for the stable constitution of the federation, in addition to the statutes of each club, the number of their members and their location. The information gathered will be sent to Mr. Crosa in Lausanne so that this matter can be examined again in the next convention. The management costs of this temporary federation, according to the above mentioned dispositions and decisions, will be paid for in advance by AFAP and later reimbursed by each participating member club.


The worries of the IBM.

FISM and IBM are two different organizations. 
FISM is a federation which unites the Magic Clubs of different nationalities. 
IBM unites men!.

Creation of the IBM Ring 69 in Paris (9th of April 1948), Dr. Dhotel said “ I must add that if I had not taken the management resolution I took, I would have had the Americans against me in Lausanne and our international federation would have never been constituted like it was. Now, this has to be noted, the creation of this federation is due to AFAP (Association Française des Artistses Prestidigitateurs), which drew incredible prestige and worldwide fame from it. Our Association would have suffered much more from the failure of the federation than from the presence of an IBM Ring in France.”.


The Lausanne Congress and the birth of the FISM 
Finally on 3 September 1948 the first FISM Congres began.

Congress entry fee: 20 Swiss Francs. (1 Euro = CHF 1, 2050).

Gran Prix Willane (GB).

1. Jean Valton (F) 
2. (ex aequo) Paula Baird (GB) 
2. (ex aequo) Zano (CH) 
3 not assigned.

Special Award: Hans Trixer (NL).

1.Burtini (GB) 
2. not assigned 
3. not assigned 
Special Award Gauthron (F).

ALLIED ARTS Prodigious memory: Rogello (F).

1. Edeling (DK) 
2. Van Dijl (NL) 
3. Dominique (F).

Program :
Friday, Sept. 3rd 
h. 10.00 Official opening of the Convention and start of the Contest 
h. 17.40 Gala at Théâtre-Cinéma Bel-Air.

Saturday, Sept. 4th 
h. 10.00 Contest at Theatre's foyer 
h. 14.00 Photo at the Courthouse 
h. 20.45 Grand Gala at Grand Théâtre Municipal of Lausanne following Magicians Grand Ball at Casino De Montbenon.

Sunday, Sept. 5th 
h. 14.30 Contest 
h. 20.45 Gala at Théâtre-Cinéma Bel-Air Monday, Sept. 6th 
h. 10.00 Lecture at Cinéma Bel-Air “The Automatons” and “What may be seen about Mirin-Dajo's case?” 
h. 12.15 Banquet at Theatre's foyer 
h. 14.15 Hiking by Lemano's Lake 
h.16.00 Visit of Chillon Castle Quick lunch - wine offered by Lousanne City 
h. 18.00 Official ending of the Convention.


Working sessions at the Congress of Lausanne for the elaboration of the FISM Statutes, that had been outlined at the Paris Congress in 1947.

English Print According to Goodliffe, publisher of the magazine "Abracadabra" (Vol. 6, No. 137), the working session that would constitute FISM was not a great success.

French print According to R. Veno on “Le Magicien” (Vol. N-29 of 1948) "What will be the goal, what will be the powers of the Federation? We ignore it. Personally we do not think it will live long time and his utility does not seem indispensable to us."



Today, if you ask any magician what FISM is, the first answer they will probably give you is The World Championship of Magic (WCM) It is interesting to note that, when FISM was born this was not the first definition the members who created it would have given, indeed.

•When in 1951 Léon Zitrone interviewed Dr. Jules Dhôtel (the man who created the first editions of the FISM congresses), asking about the aims of the FISM, Dhôtel mentioned all the main goals, but didn’t say anything about the organization of the World Championship of Magic.


Art 4 of the Statutes, until the year 2002 What are the aims of this congress? The goals of the congress, or, better, the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques (International Federation of Magic Clubs), are:.

•To unify the magical movement.

•To create a central body that can be subjected to central issues concerning illusionism and the interest of magicians.

•The goal is to develop and elevate magical art.

•Intensify the authority of the clubs that are part of the organization.

•Encourage reciprocal exchanges of aid and services.

•And then, also the organization of the congresses that the federation organizes each year deciding what will be the country that will organize the congress the following year Do you have a office that deals with the rights of the members? The federation discourage copies of the effects, inventions, original presentations of the magicians, and then wants to prevent revelation of our secrets to the public, that is something we need.


Only in 2003 was added a paragraph to Art. 3 of the Statute to specify that the main mechanism by which FISM seeks to achieve its objectives is “the hosting and organization of the World Championship of Magic”; a few years later it was added “.. and the encouragement and support of the hosting and organization of Continental Championships of Magic”.

About the Author:

Aldo Ghiurmino joined the Club Magico Italiano (CMI) in Bologna in 1989 and was recognized with the esteemed "Premio Garatti" in 2006 for his outstanding contributions to "Magia Moderna" magazine. In 2014, he was appointed as the historian and archivist of CMI, highlighting his commitment to historical research in magic.

Aldo is a founding member of Masters of Magic and co-authored a booklet on Italian magic history. He hosted a segment on the Web TV of Masters of Magic from 2008 to 2013, receiving recognition for his contributions.

His written work extends beyond articles, with translations and publications of books like "Card Fictions" and "The Art of Switching Decks" in Italian. He's authored lecture notes and two books, including "Fism, the Book" and "Moroso e Dhotel una storia di amicizia e di magia."

Aldo's presence in the magic community is not limited to writing. He's an active participant in major magic conventions in Italy, serving as a translator, lecturer.

As a speaker, he regularly engages in historical magic conventions and contributed to the blog of the Congress in FISMITALY 2015 alongside prominent figures in the magic world.