Ed, his young years

Edward Munn Burdick

Born August 23, 1861

Baldwinsville, New York

Edward was the fifth and last child born to Capt. Isaac Clute Burdick and Sarah Ann Davis.  Sarah was Isaac’s second wife. There were two children by his first marriage to Pamela A. Sprague.

The Burdick’s roots go back to a Robert Burdick of Rhode Island. Robert is documented as being in the USA in 1655, and his descendants are well documented in Nellie (Willard) Johnson’s extensive work in 1937, The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island,  Higginson Book Company, Salem, Massachusetts.

Edward’s great grandfather, Ebenezer 2nd, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, served under General Greene, and  named one of his sons after the General.  His grandfather, Ebenezer 3rd, was a soldier in the war of 1812, and his father, Isaac, in 1830 joined an artillery company, of the 16th Regiment, 37th  Brigade, 18th Division, NY Militia, and obtained the rank of captain by the time he was discharged in 1839. 


Capt. Isaac C. Burdick

Capt. Isaac, born December 3, 1815,  married Pamela A. Sprague on May 13, 1835.  There were two children by this marriage:

Pamela Almira            April 24, 1836    Later changed her name to Myra P.  -    Died 1917

Eli Sprague                   October 12, 1838

Pamelia (Capt. Isaac’s first wife) died December 13, 1839.  Capt. Isaac married Sarah Ann Davis on April 24, 1841.  Children of this marriage, all born in Baldwinsville, New York, are:

Helen Amanda              October 20, 1842

Louisa M.                     April 12, 1844

Isaac Ebenezer              August 4, 1846     -      Died 1908

(The “Ebenezer” was Isaac’s father’s first name.)

Alice Marion                May 27, 1848

Silas E.                         Born (Unknown)    -     Died October 5, 1882

Edward Munn               August 23, 1860     -     Died  April 2, 1949

(The “Munn” was Sarah’s father’s first name.)

Edward was 12 years younger than his youngest sibling and 24 years younger than his oldest half-sister.  Having no siblings close to his own age, he had to amuse himself around the house.  His siblings did not want to be “bothered” with their younger brother. 

It’s believed that around the age of nine he was taken to a magic show in town.  That brief encounter with magic planted the seed that grew into his lifelong profession.  At the age of 12, he got a job beating a drum to attract customers to Professor Collier’s magic show at a county fair. The pay was only ten cents per day, but Ed was allowed to watch the Professor’s two magic shows every day. 

After that, Ed became obsessed with magic.  He read every book about magic that he could find.  He started practicing magic on his mother and anyone with time to watch.  When his mother died in 1872, he totally emerged himself in his magic and, much to the disdain of his father whom was a very successful building contractor in Baldwinsville, showed no interest in learning any profession that was proper for young men in those days.

Family legend has it that at the age of 15, (1876), an impresario named Fiske saw one of Ed’s impromptu shows and contracted him to tour England and a few other countries.  He would have to leave school to take the job.  His father, Isaac, became so upset that it took many years before the two of them would speak again.

Ed’s contract with Fiske was more to set up the stage and move equipment, although he was promised some time on stage to do some magic.  As the tour continued, more and more time was allowed for Ed’s portion of the show.

According to Ed in his later years, his pay for that tour was $15  per week, and he also toured Africa, Australia, India, Syria, Egypt and New Zealand, although there seems to be no documentation of him ever being in these countries.

It was during this tour that Ed took on the stage name of “Reno.” The origin of this name is not known, but like many performers to this day, they assume names that are easy to spell and remember. Also, a short name would allow the typesetters of that day to use very large type on posters and handbills making the performer’s name very prominent.



In the above newspaper clipping from 1912, Ed is stating that he did visit Syria, Egypt and India.  It must be stated that it was acceptable for all performers in those days to claim foreign tours to boost their prestige.  However, Ed told this to many of his fellow performers as well as using it in his advertising.  So even though there is no proof at this time of his world tour, his statements to his peers are not to be taken lightly.

The tour ended in 1880 and Ed returned to Baldwinsville, NY.  He put on at least a few shows in the Baldwinsville area on his own before meeting a black-faced comic named Ed Vann.  A partnership was drawn, Ed put on his “farewell” show, and the two of them started an American tour that year.  This is considered the official start date of Ed’s professional career.


As you can now see, Ed is using the “Professor” in front of his assumed name.  Ed’s father did not attend the performance.  The phrase, “Trusting that my feeble efforts have merited your approval and that at some future time I may have the honor of entertaining you again,” is thought to be a plea to his father to accept him and his profession. 

This rejection of magic by his father stayed with Ed throughout his life.  He always remembered the rejection that he received, so he would always have time for a child.  Until the day he died, in 1949, if a youngster stopped him on the street, Ed would always take the time to put on a few tricks for him or her.  He was well known for this generous talent when most other magicians of the time, or even today, would not take the time to amuse any street urchins. 

The partnership with Ed Vann lasted for three years and was known as “Reno and Vann’s Mystic Consolidation.”  Ed Vann did a burnt-cork, black face routine, and Ed Reno did the magic show. Reno did use Vann for at least a portion of his show, producing eggs from the mouth of Vann while he was still in his black face. The contrast of the white egg against the back face gave the trick such a comedic punch that Reno could not resist using it.  Today that would be classified as racist, but one must remember that black-faced comics and minstrels were, at that time, accepted as a normal part of show business.

Around 1883, Ed met William B. Alvord and employed him to be his advance manager.  The route traveled was primarily west of the Mississippi.  In 1884, Ed was scheduled to do a show in a school some 30 miles outside of Omaha.  After the show, while meeting and greeting the show goers, Ed met Emma Austin, a young lady from the area.  It was love at first sight.  Emma was still in school, so love and marriage would have to wait until she graduated from school, but wait it did, and on November 13, 1886, Edward Munn Burdick married Emma M. Austin in Atchison, Kansas.