In 1909 a “L. Levitch” photographed and published a series of post cards of gambling in Reno, including the night, September 30, 1910, gambling became illegal in Nevada. Was Levitch a photogrpaher or a palm reader, or both?
“L. Levitch” first shows up on the public landscape in 1903 in Roswell, New Mexico, where he is “Prof. L. Levitch” a “scientific Palmist.”[i]
Seven years later, in July of 1910, “L. Levitch” shows up briefly in Reno, Nevada as a “commercial photographer.”
Photographer Levitch would become known for visually preserving the moments before gambling in Nevada became illegal, midnight, September 30, 1910.
When “L. Levitch” the photographer appeared on the scene in July of 1910, “L. Levitch” the palm reader disappeared.
When “L. Levitch” the photographer disappeared in October of 1910, “Prof. L. Levitch” reappeared.
Beyond name, place and circumstances, it is possible, but not likely, “L. Levitch” is two different men.
In addtion, “L. Levitch” in both cases is Louis Levitch.
To date, no photographs of either “L. Levitch” have been uncovered.
Early in 1910 “Prof. Levitch’s” was touring California as a clairvoyant. In February he was in Bakersfield, California” where his “Mind Reading” and “Hypnotism” skills were on display.
By April Levitch moved to San Francisco. He set up his fortune telling studio on 700 block of Market Street.
Then in May, plans were announced for a heavyweight champion boxing match between champion Jack Johnson, and retired heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries.[ii]
The event, promoted as the “Fight of the Century” was scheduled for July 4, 1910. It would be held in downtown San Francisco at Sixth and Market Street. [iii]
Within days of the announcement, work on a temporary 30,000-seat arena began, a block from Levitch’s palm reading studio.[iv]
But as the arena was taking shape so was the opposition to the fight being held in California.
Religion leaders and politicians banded together calling on the Governor of California to take action.
Less than three weeks before the fight, on June 15, 1910 the Governor of California took action that forced the boxing match out of the state.[v]
Six days later, the front page of the front page of the Reno Evening Gazette declared the championship bout would be held in Nevada.[vi]
“L. Levitch” made travel plans for Nevada, arriving in Reno the last week in June.
There is no record of Levitch the photographer or palm reader in Reno before July 3, 1910.
It is at the end of July “L. Levitch” the photographer began taking photographs inside Reno’s gambling clubs.
It was at this point that Levitch began work with a person called “Rendart” and formed a photography business.
The last known word on “L. Levitch” as a “commercial photographer” is found in a series of classified advertisements in the Reno Evening Gazette.
The advertisements promoted to sale of “photographic post cards” at the Washoe Cigar Stand on Commercial Row.
In the spring of 1910, Joe D. Miller purchased the cigar stand and began promoting it as a place where “strangers” could purchase “newspapers, magazines, postcards, cigars and tobacco.”[viii]
After the Johnson-Jeffries boxing match, Miller’s advertisements focused on selling post cards; “5-CENT POST CARDS –Photographic post cards of Reno views now on sale at the Washoe Cigar stand, 32 Commercial Row. Also all the Jeffries & Johnson fight cards taken by Rendart & Levitch, commercial photographers. All mail orders promptly attended to.”[ix]
The advertisement started on July 20, 1910 and ended two weeks later.
To date, no “Jeffries & Johnson fight cards taken by Rendart & Levitch” have been discovered.
And no information has been uncovered regarding Levitch’s temporary partner “Rendart.”
And the series of classified advertisements for the cigar stand ended on August 4, 1910.
That was the last time Levitch the “commercial photographer” appeared in print. But, he had not left town.
Six weeks later on the evening of September 30, the ban on gambling in Nevada went into effect. Levitch was there.
By the end of 1910 Levitch had left Reno apparently selling all of his post cards to Joe at the cigar stand.
In February of 1911, Miller, whose cigar stand made “a specialty of post cards” began offering “out of print” post cards of “Reno gambling scenes.”
While Miller “cut the price to five for five cents” for some post cards, he was still charging five cents for each “Handsome colored Reno views” and the “Reno gambling scenes.”
Miller ran the advertisement thought the end of March, 1910.[x]
The photographs Levitch made are the only known photographs of the inside of Reno’s gambling clubs in 1910.
As for “L. Levitch” the photographer, after his visit to Reno, which likely lasted less than ninety days his career appears to have come to an end. No other information has surfaced including additional non-Reno photographs.
As for “L. Levitch” the professor, by mid-June, 1911, he is still operating in San Francisco at his old address.
Two years later, the professor is back on the road, and back in Nevada.
First stop Reno, with the Nevada State Journal, on May 29, 2913, publishing Levitch’s press announcement; “ARRIVAL EXTRAORDINARY. Prof. L. Levitch, World’s Most Scientific Palmist and Clairvoyant.”[xi]
The press release says “without a doubt Levitch stands as far ahead of the ordinary in his peculiar line as the perfect automobile is above the wheelbarrow.” [xii]
The announcement closed with “no matter what your trouble is, he will help you. 227 Virginia Street.” [xiii]
The announcement was followed by a series of display and classified advertisements in the Nevada State Journal offering his services as a “Palmist, Astrologer, Spirit Medium, Greatest Life reader” and a “wonder work in Psychic Phenomena.”
No mention was made regarding any skills in the area of photography.
The last advertisement ran in the Nevada State Journal on June 11, 1913. By the end of the month, L. Levitch said he was heading east for a “convention of Spiritualists” in New York City.
Levitch provided the Elko, Nevada Daily Independent with a press release that included his background and his plans to provide the citizens of northern eastern Nevada with “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
For the next thirty years Prof. Levitch traveled through most of the United States appearing as part of a carnival, or setting up his own palm reading studio.
In the early 1940’s he moved to San Diego, California and set up shop.
With one exception, there is no record of Levitch returning to Nevada. In late September of 1945, The Billboard magazine announced his marriage; “Prof. L. Levitch palmist, to Mrs. Joan Perry Smith, graphologist of Broadway Center Amusement Arcade, San Diego, Calif., in Las Vegas. Nev., September 6.”[xiv]
Less than two years later Billboard carried another announcement under the listing, “The Final Curtain;” “Levitch-Prof. Louis, 62, former carnival mitt camp worker, July 12 in South gate, Calif. Burial in Mount Carmel Cemetery, South Gate.”[xv]
Not likely that “L. Levitch” would think he would be remembered more for his few weeks as a photographer, instead of a life time of being “the world’s most expert scientific Palmist.”[xvi]
(Among the additional pieces of information uncovered during the search for Levitch the Reno photograph. A ‘mitt camp worker’ is a palm reader in the land of carnivals, and Jerry Lewis, the late comedian’s last name is Levitch.)
Known L. Levitch Photographs/Post Cards
- July 3, 1910 “Sagebrush Club July, 3’.10. Reno. Nev. BY L. LEVITCH” UNR Special Collections Image ID UNRS-P1992-01-9113
- July 3, 1910 “THE “CASINO” July 3’.10, BY L. LEVITCH.” UNRS-P1992-01-9115.
- October 1, 1910 “THE DOOR OPEN ARE CLOSED OCT. 1ST. 1910 1215 M. © BY L. LEVITCH” Exterior night time photograph of group standing in front of Louvre, Oberon and The Casino” gambling halls. While Levitch put a © logo on the photograph, there is not record he actually filed the necessary papers to copyright the image.
- “COMMERICAL OR. GAMBLING ROW. RENO NEV. 1910 AT NIGHT BY L. LEVITCH” The image, on a post card, shows the exterior of three gambling halls with their marquee, the “Louvre Lacy,” the “Casino,” and the “Sagebrush Club.”
- 1910 “Roulette Game Sagebrush Reno Nev. L. L. Photo. 1910” This is the only post card or photograph to date where Levitch signed “L. L. Photo.”
- 1910 “© By L. Levitch. The end of open Faro games Reno, Nev.”
Images L. Levitch registered with the
Library of Congress Copyright Office
Date published Title LOC Copyright Number
- August 15, 1910 “Present, the past, maybe the future.” 145321
- The post card published by Levitch has, in addition to the title, the following information “RENO NEV. THE CASINO COPYRIGHT APPLEID FOR 1910 BY L. LEVITCH”
- The N in Nev is backward.
- August 15, 1910 “Passing pastime.” 146023
- The title on the post card published by Levitch reads “A PASSING PASTIME RENO NEV. THE LOUVRE L.L. COPYRIGHT 1910 BY L.LEVITCH”
- There are two L’s that may have been where Levitch started to put his name. The first L appears to be written over a R.
- September 26, 1910 “A thing of the past.” 146045
- September 26, 1910 “Overland roulette game.” 146046
- This photograph is available at the Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-04032.
- September 26, 1910 “Open gambling.” 146047
- The post card published by Levitch adds “THE LOUVRE” to the title.
- The photograph shows a large open safe behind the bar and a man standing next to it. The post card printed by Levitch does not show the safe or the man, or most of the bar on the right side of the post card. Instead the image is focused on the men playing roulette.
- September 29, 1910 “Plunging at Faro Bank” 146099
- September 29, 1910 “Playing roulette.” 146102
- September 29, 1910 “Reno, Nev., the Casino.” 146103
- October 1, 1910 “Last night of open gambling at Reno.” 146229
- The title on the post card published by Levitch is “THE LAST OF OPEN GAMBLING RENO NEV © BY L.LEVITCH 1910”
- October 1, 1910 “Last night of open gambling at Reno.” 146230
- The title on the image published by Levitch is “THE LAST OF OPEN GAMBLING RENO NEV © BY L.LEVITCH 1910”
- This image is available at the Library of Congress. Reproduction number LC-USZ62-64633.
- October 1, 1910 “Last night of open gambling at Reno.” 146231
- October 1, 1910 “Last deal” 146232
- October 1, 1910 “Last deal” 146233
- October 11, 1910 “In days gone by.” 146526
[i] Display advertisement, “Prof. L. Levitch,” October 21, 1903, The Roswell, New Mexico Daily Record, page three.
[ii] “Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson will Clash in this City on July 4,” May 19, 1910, San Francisco Call, Volume 107, Number 170, page thirteen.
[v] “Governor Swings Knockout for Fighters,” June 16, 1910, The San Francisco Call, Page one.
[vi] “Battle of the Century will be Fought in Reno on July Fourth,” June 21, 1910, Reno Evening Gazette, page one.
[viii] Classified Advertisement,” Washoe Cigar Stand, June 28, 1910, Reno Gazette-Journal, page five.
[ix] Classified Advertisement “Washoe Cigar Stand,” July 20, 1910, Reno Evening Gazette, page five.
[x] Classified Advertisement, “Washoe Cigar Stand,” February 27, 1911, Reno Evening Gazette, page seven.
[xi] “Arrival Extraordinary,” May 29, 1913, Nevada State Journal, page two.
[xii] “Arrival Extraordinary,” May 29, 1913, Nevada State Journal, page two.
[xiii] “Arrival Extraordinary,” May 29, 1913, Nevada State Journal, page two.
[xiv] “Marriages,” September 22, 1945, The Billboard,” page forty-three.”
[xv] “The Final Curtain,” July 31, 1948, “The Billboard,” page fifty-three.
[xvi] “Celebrate The Fourth,” June 30, 1913, Daily Elko Independent, page one.