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Last edited on: Thursday, 28 October, 2004
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:: History of Magic & Famous Magicians ::
Hermann the Great
Magic and Magicians fell on hard times in the fourth century when Christianity became the dominant religion. Christians turned against all magicians, as they were thought to be evil, devil worshipers and were outlawed. In the Middle Ages, magicians were condemned and along with witches, wizards and the like, were imprisoned and executed. When they reemerged in the sixteenth century they had evolved into true illusionists, mentalists, and sleight of hand artists who possessed no occult powers.
Harry Kellar
Magicians emerged as entertainers. One such entertainer, Chevalier Joseph Pinetti, in 1782 wowed audiences with his repertoire of tricks. He produced a blossoming orange tree on stage which bore fruit. His wife assisted him in both escape and mentalist tricks. Billed as the "Professor of Natural Magic," his magic clearly belonged to the new modern magic.
T. Nelson Downs
The nineteenth century ushered in the age of technical magic, as some magicians developed devices to aid in the magician's illusions. Using optical devices, electromagnets, and forms of stage lighting, they were able to baffle audiences with very elaborate illusions. The German, Alexander Herrmann, known as Hermann the Great, did his act using all types of stage magic, from close up to full stage productions. Herrmann used live animals and did both levitation and vanishing as a varied menu in his shows. Harry Kellar, an American, took center stage as the most popular magician for over a decade. T. Nelson Downs, a vaudevillian, billed as the "King of Koins" and Howard Thurston, master card manipulator rose to prominence. Thurston invested his money in creating an extravaganza, a magic show, which dominated the American magic scene for twenty-five years.
Howard Thurston
Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini, one of America's greatest magicians, "Handcuff King and Escape Artist" came to be famous for his spectacular escape act. One of his most sensational escapes was his own creation, the "Chinese Water Torture Cell," a large tank of water into which he was immersed head downward after his feet were secured in stocks. Houdini, also created the illusion of "Walking Through a Brick Wall" and "The Vanishing Elephant," both of which have been updated by David Copperfield, another famous American Magician. Copperfield, still performing today, has walked through the Great Wall of China and Made the Statue of Liberty disappear. In 1974, Doug Henning appeared on Broadway in 'The Magic Show', which added many new fans to the entertainment.
David Copperfield
Murdoch University