Images from Egyptian Hall: Will Nicola

Images from Egyptian Hall: Will Nicola

Will Nicola (seen on the right) was another globe-trotting illusionist from America. Young Will learned the magic business as an assistant in his father’s magic act and his older brother, Charles, who would gain his own fame as Von Arx, also mentored Will in the mysterious arts. Will’s first performance on his own occurred at the Trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898. During the run of the Fair he became friends with the great Chinese magician, Ching Ling Foo, who was visiting America for the first time. Twelve years later, with his own full-evening show, Will had set forth on his first world-tour. While appearing in Tientsin, China, a familiar face turned up at the theater. It was Ching Ling Foo. This photo was taken in front of the theater to commemorate their reunion. In 1938 Nicola was on his fourth world tour working very successfully through Australia and New Zealand. From there they sailed to Java and then on to Singapore. It was during this engagement in November of 1939 that WW II broke out in Europe. Nicola thought it best to suspend the rest of his tour and cancelled his bookings in India. The show, as well as a large quantity of Chinese silk that he hoped to turn into costumes and backdrops, was loaded on board a British ship named Sirdhana. With the entire company onboard they set off for Honolulu but before clearing Singapore harbor the ship struck a submerged mine. The passengers safely scrambled into the lifeboats and then, from a safe distance, watched Nicola’s entire show disappear under the ocean’s surface....
Images from Egyptian Hall: Adelaide Herrmann

Images from Egyptian Hall: Adelaide Herrmann

  During the early morning of December 17, 1896 Adelaide Herrmann suddenly found herself not the co-star of the Herrmann the Great touring show but simply as the widow Herrmann. Her husband, Alexander Herrmann, had reigned supreme as America’s foremost magician for many years and she had lived a life of luxury. Now, just forty-three years of age, Adelaide needed to make a living and magic was all she had known throughout her adult life. Immediately following Alexander’s death she cabled her nephew in France instructing him to sail for America. Leon Herrmann was already an accomplished magician and perhaps even more important, he looked like his uncle with a black mustache and goatee. This new iteration of The Herrmann the Great show toured America for three seasons but a clash of temperaments finally doomed the enterprise. Leon further antagonized his aunt by retaining the title Herrmann the Great, which he used for his own full-evening show. Another nephew, Felix Kretschmann, the son of Adelaide’s sister, decided that he too would become a magician. He purchased enough of Alexander’s magic equipment, costumes, and curtains from Adelaide to produce an act, grew the required goatee and mustache, and then, much to his aunt’s chagrin, legally changed his name to Felix Herrmann. Taking this as an affront to her deceased husband, Adelaide never forgave Felix to the point that she removed his name from her will. Adelaide carried on as a magician, a domain that was inhabited almost exclusively by men. During her long career she appeared at the Wintergarten in Berlin, the Folies-Bergere in Paris, and the Hippodrome Theatre in...
Images from Egyptian Hall: Charles Carter

Images from Egyptian Hall: Charles Carter

This exotic looking wizard did not travel to America from the mysterious East. His name was Charles Joseph Carter, born in New Castle Pennsylvania in 1874. As a teen-ager he was already performing as Carter –The Boy Magician and what he lacked in artistic ability and creativity he more than made up for with ambition and fortitude. Attending law school in Chicago provided him with skills that served him well throughout a long career. He formed a booking agency called The National Theatrical Exchange; he started a theatrical magazine called The Chicago Footlights and for a few short years he owned the famous New York magic company (Martinka’s Magical Palace) before selling it to Harry Houdini. In 1921 Carter lost a fortune filming The Lion’s Bride in South Africa, a movie that was written, produced, directed and starring Charles Carter. Orson Welles he was not. In 1933 he lost another fortune when his Temple of Mystery at the Chicago World’s Fair closed after just two months of miserable business. But over the course of three decades Carter the Great made seven long trips around the world where he presented a three-hour show of magic and illusions. The secret to his success was that rather than appearing in major cities where he would be competing with the greatest magicians in the world, he played the far corners of the globe where audiences rarely saw anything like what Carter had to offer. His world tours could easily last more than two years and during those circumnavigations of the earth he lived like a king, staying in fine hotels, eating in the...
Images from Egyptian Hall: Alexander Herrmann

Images from Egyptian Hall: Alexander Herrmann

If a non-magician were asked to create the image of a magician they would undoubtedly draw a picture of a tall, thin man sporting a goatee and twisted mustache. His costume would include a black tailcoat and knee britches. It is doubtful that our layman would realize they had drawn a picture of Alexander Herrmann, a French magician who died in 1896. Even though Herrmann vanished off this earthly orb 120 years ago, it is his image that still defines how the public perceives the classic magician. Born in Paris in 1844, Alexander was the youngest of sixteen children. His father, Samuel, and his oldest brother, Carl, were both magicians and much to his father’s dismay Alexander hoped to follow in their footsteps. For years he apprenticed with his brother traveling through Russia, Europe and America, learning the tricks of the trade. He established himself as a magician of the highest order during an engagement at London’s Egyptian Hall that lasted for an astonishing one thousand nights. It was during this engagement that he met a twenty-two-year-old dancer named Adelaide Scarcez. The mayor of New York City conducted their marriage ceremony in 1875. The years that Herrmann spent touring throughout America demonstrating his considerable sleight-of-hand skills and performing jaw-dropping stage illusions made him a star of the highest magnitude, who earned enormous sums of money. He and Adelaide lived like royalty with a mansion in Whitestone Landing on Long Island, New York, they enjoyed their private yacht called Fra Diavolo, and an extravagant railway car that once belonged to Lily Langtry. Alexander was Herrmann the Great every waking moment....
Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

In my inaugural column we explored some magic theory as it related to the use of the term “trick.” As we discussed, many magicians hate the word “trick” so much that they will spew utter nonsense just to keep from saying it. One cause for this distaste is rooted in the performer’s ego. The idea of a “magic trick” suggests to the audience that a special prop or device, something that anyone could buy if they only knew where to find one, was the cause of the miracle the audience has witnessed and not the skill of the performer. But, as any passionate magic collector will tell you, there are props and tricks which are specially made just to create a miraculous moment, and some of these “tricks” are pretty darned amazing. Their inventors and builders manage to combine engineering, design, psychology, craftsmanship, creativity, and even sleight of hand into these amazing products that can amaze and befuddle as deeply as any other magic experience, by any name you wish to call it. I love “magic tricks.” Some of the most beautiful magic “tricks” ever presented were the design and creation of a Dutch magician named Eddy Taytelbaum. Eddy is 91 years old as of 2016. Like many, his interest in magic began in childhood. An early leg injury sent him into the hospital where he discovered a book on magic. He was attracted to a particular piece of card conjuring which necessitated remaking a standard card into a special magic changing card. His talents for arts and crafts served him well over the years, working as he did...
A Lecture by Ricky Smith

A Lecture by Ricky Smith

The Conjuring Arts Research Center’s own Ricky Smith will be lecturing this Friday, October 2nd at 8pm at Fantasma Magic following the meeting of The Society of American Magicians Parent Assembly #1. Widely respected in underground magic circles, Ricky is an impressive sleight-of-hand practitioner who has been amazing fans, peers and mentors with his technique for several years. Ricky’s lectures are always entertaining and informative, but unfortunately far too rare. Do not miss out on your chance to catch one this Friday. The lecture is free for Parent Assembly members, $25 for other S.A.M. members and $25 for non-members. When: Friday, October 2, 2015. Where: Fantasma Magic, 421 Seventh Avenue (enter on 33rd...

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