Early American Magicians

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Bill Mullins » 01/08/12 08:04 PM

Potter is an early American magician, but in 1524, a member of Hernando de Soto's party did sleight of hand tricks (according to a diarist), making him the earliest (currently) known Western magician in the Americas. Between those two were likely many more performers. Here's one account:

[Williamsburg] Virginia Gazette, October 20, 1738, page 3

ADVERTISEMENTS

Ran away from Mr. Cornelius Sale, of Essex County, about the 15th of December, 1736, a Servant Man, named William Bellaman, middle-siz'd, with black Hair, black Eyes, and somewhat Pock-setten: He was sometime in Company with one Hawkins; who goes about the Country, shewing Tricks by slight of Hand. Whoever will secure the said Servent, shall have a Pistole Reward, besides what the Law allows, paid by Benjamin Fisher.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/08/12 08:16 PM

Background:
http://www.history.com/topics/hernando-de-soto

Fascinating, Bill! The things you turn up!
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Postby Joe Pecore » 01/13/12 10:57 AM

In Charles Pecor's book "The Magician on the American Stage" (1977), he has the exact reference above, along with a few more from the Virginia-Gazette in the late 1700s.

Dr. Pecor states that the most notable performer of magic in the first half of the eighteenth century in America was the German, Joseph Broome, who appeared in New York City in March and April of 1734. He then mentions that John Mulholland credits Broome's initial advertisement with being the first-known advertisement of a magician in America.
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Postby mfamagic » 04/09/12 07:26 PM

I'm looking for sources on magic in 18th century America. I've read Pecor's dissertation book and the appendix to the Miracle Factory edition of _Annals of Conjuring_ , but would be grateful for any additional leads.
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Postby Gary Hunt » 04/10/12 06:32 PM

If you want to dig deeper into magicians who played American in the 1700's you need to look outside of the magic literature. My favorite place is in Odell's Annuals of the New York Stage. This massive work (I think 14 or more volumes) discusses every performer, big or small, who played NY city till 1894. An amazing thing to read. Most major university libraries have a set. Worth looking up. Other works that deal with the history of the stage may also mention magicians. I have to stress may, as many authors dismiss anything off the "legitimate" stage as not worth a mention. I have been doing some research in newspaper databases and have found a few. The problem is the term magician was not used in newspaper advertisements in the 1700s. There are not any good keywords to use and don't even get me started on old English spellings. Drop me a note and I can provide some info I have found, especially in NC.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 04/10/12 08:25 PM

You might get some help from R. A. Olsen, who's been performing in American colonial character for a while. He seems very serious in his studies and also a good guy.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 04/10/12 08:40 PM

Charles Pecor's book, THE TEN YEAR TOUR OF JOHN RANNIE (1998) has lots of interesting reference to that performers appearance in America. Available here: http://www.magicbookshop.com/product_in ... cts_id=132
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Postby mfamagic » 04/10/12 08:41 PM

Mr. Hunt, Thanks for the suggestions---and Private Message sent.

In appreciation,

Matthew
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Postby mfamagic » 04/10/12 08:43 PM

Thanks for the suggestion, Mr. Townsend. I've met Mr. Olsen, and he is nice, but do not currently have contact info for him. :(

In appreciation,

Matthew
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Postby mfamagic » 04/10/12 08:44 PM

Thanks Richard, yes, I love that book, though I confess I may have purchased it from the publisher rather than from H&R! ;)

In appreciation,

Matthew
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