Magic and Magicians in the 19th Century

The subject of magic and magicians is an extremely wide subject and difficult to contain in this article. Nonetheless magic and skilled magicians can be traced in the ancient manuscripts written by Emperor Jepang, where he described himself witnessing tricks performed by Indian jugglers, and when not being able to understand the wonders created by them, termed them as supernatural powers.

A scholar describes a magic item he had seen on the western coast of India. Twelve or fourteen persons, of whom nine belonged to the troupe, formed a circle, in the center of which stood a basket. A juggler having lain himself in the basket, was covered up. The form of the juggler dwindled more and more and finally when the cover was removed the basket was found empty. The basket was again covered and the juggler reappeared in his former place. The traveler states that he could not explain this occurrence, the more unable to do so as there was no depression in the ground beneath the basket, the juggler was unprepared as the trick was performed in front of his host’s residence. He further adds that he had often seen experiments by European magicians, but had never been so mystified.

For people not conversant with the art of magic, it seems that the performer possesses extraordinary powers. But then, more the education towards science, more are the tricks that a magician could conjure. The progress in science, at its highest in Europe, has enabled the magician to practice his art to a greater extent than among less civilized nations. But it is a known fact that a person sees more wonders in a foreign land than in his own.

But Magic. Where did it originate? Magic was given much preference in its place of origin, amongst the Medes and Persians. Their Magic-men had the word Megh from which is derived the Greek word ‘Magus’, and hence the word Magic.

Many magicians appeared after this scene with some of the prominent ones being Paracelsus, Agrippa von Nettesheim, Faust, Mesmer, Dr. Eisenheart, Cagliostro, Dr. Graham, Philadelphus Philadelphia, Count Alexander Cagliostro, Prof. Epstein Professor Antonio Blitz , Pinetti, Compte, Grise, Dobler, Bosco, Anderson, Phillipe, Robert Houdin, Maskelyne and Cooke, Dr. LynnProfessor Louis HaselmayerMr. Alfred Stodare, Wiljalba Frikell, and others.

1. Bosco
One of the earliest representatives in the 19th century was Bartholomew Bosco, who was born in Turin. He made the trip of the campaign in Russia with the French armies, whence he was taken prisoner and went to Siberia, where he attracted attention by his astonishing tricks in magic. He was discharged in 1814, and taking leave of a military life, traveled for eighteen years through Europe and the East, practicing his art successfully. His apparatus was very simple, consisting only of tin cups and pasteboard boxes, some of which still exist. He was the first magician who made his experiments with simple apparatus, and declared them to be natural experiments. Bosco died on March 6th, 1863, in Gruna near Dresden.

His son followed in the footsteps of his father, but had the misfortune while performing in Weimar, to shatter his hand by the explosion of a pistol. Magicians traveling now under the name of Bosco have adopted the name purely for advertising purposes.

2. Prof. Liebholz
Prof. Liebholz was not a prominent hand performer, but nevertheless excelled in performances of the extraordinary nicety and accuracy. He started a new direction in modern magic; the general use of apparatus or mechanical instruments of all kinds. He worked out many new ideas, and had the apparatus made by different mechanics. Innumerable tricks of modern magic―the Indian Basket, Hindu Box Trick, the Speaking Head, the Sphinx and many others, were first introduced by him. In the use of his ideas, he had a great influence on the science of mechanics and its profession.

In Hamburg, he ordered a wood turner Oscar Lischke, many pieces of apparatus, boxes, nine pins, plates, cases, etc., which were then also supplied to the Professor’s colleagues. Thus many tradesmen came to know about the tricks used in making these magic shows and a new amateur magician industry was formed in Hamburg, which flourished profoundly.

3. Hermann
The great magician Hermann had a long and lasting fame like Bosco. Compars Hermann, generally known as Carl Hermann, died at 70 years of age, on July 8th, 1887, in Carlsbad.

He was amongst the most noted of modern conjurers. Without using much mechanical or optical apparatus, he produced many wonderful effects by a sharp observation of the absence of mind of the human auditor, assisted by a hand as firm as steel and capable of the most deft movement. Hermann was the son of a traveling conjurer and was probably born in Poland, January 23, 1816.

At an early age he went to Paris where he perfected himself in French. In 1848, he began his professional tours and traveled throughout the world reaping both fame and fortune.

Hermann reigned supreme for years in Austria and Germany in the domain of higher magic, and there was scarcely a European court where he was not a welcome guest. He took pride in showing his friends the invitations of potentates, written with their own hands, bidding him welcome in the most flattering terms.

Everywhere he received costly presents. From the city of New York he received many souvenirs, among them an acknowledgment of his charity performance, a gold medal as large as the top of a silk hat. He was a passionate collector, but did not keep his collections together. He was restless, would sell his collections and again begin the collection of new curios. He lost a fortune several times―once in the panic of 1873; but came again to the top, and died a millionaire. He was noted for his charities, and for his free, honest, and frank life. He was well informed, and liked to talk on different subjects. His sharp eye had also a very good-natured expression.

4. Prof. St. Roman
Prof. St. Roman, whose real name is said to be Stroman, performed in theaters built especially for the purpose of magic, as well as in halls, and was considered a very dexterous performer.

He has performed at many courts and possesses many marks of honor in the form of gifts. He resided in Vienna, owning several houses there, and traveled through all countries with some novelty. His greatest effect is the ‘duck hunt’, and this has never been imitated with the same elegance and accuracy with which he produced it.

5. Agoston
Agoston traveled with a theater through Germany under the title ‘Chevalier Agoston’. In the 60’s he had a ship turned into a magic drawing room, and traveled in this floating palace, up and down the Rhine, stopping at all the cities along this river and giving performances. Later he visited all the larger cities of Germany and Switzerland. He is noted for the interest of his ghost shows, which he produces with elegant settings. Mrs. Agoston afterwards appeared as a magician in Oriental costume, and had surprising success.

6. Charles Arbre
Charles Arbre, whose real name is Carl Baum, is the foremost among them. He was born in Olmutz (Maehren). He is one of the few conjurers who received an extra fine education, being not only a clever gentleman, but also a conjurer par excellence. He is also the inventor of many wonderful pieces of apparatus, which have found the greatest applause wherever shown.

7. Prof. Becker
Prof. Becker, born in Berlin, traveled for many years with an elegantly arranged theater and was met everywhere with great success.

Knowing Russian, he has traveled principally in that country, and in Poland, as well as in countries where he has had less competition. He is for Russia what Hermann was for Germany and Austria, the most prominent and famous artist of modern times.

8. Bellachini
Bellachini, whose real name was Bellach, was born in Poland, and was an officer in the Prussian service. In 1846, he took up magic and succeeded in making for himself both name and fortune.
He performed mostly in Germany, beyond the limits of which country he seldom passed, winning there the title of ‘Court Artist’.

He himself tells that at a performance before the Prussian court he used the magic inkstand to the astonishment of all the court and Emperor William I. He handed his majesty a pen and asked that he convince himself that he could write in any desired color, and the Emperor asked, “but what shall I write?” The performer quickly requested him to write ‘Bellachini, Court Artist’, and the Emperor laughingly did so. The next day he received his diploma as ‘Court Artist’.

Many jokes are told of him, quite a number of which are true. Very often on the first night of his performances he would appear in a traveling suit, as if he had just arrived, and would take off his overcoat and gloves and begin with the words: “Unprepared as I am.” Sometimes when showing a trick with a handkerchief he would turn to the audience with the words: “Does anyone happen to have a clean handkerchief?” And of course all would laugh. Bellachini seldom performed tricks requiring dexterity, for he could scarcely make a dollar disappear. But he was supplied with all modern apparatus, which he worked by electricity and mechanism, and he also did a side business in magical apparatus, which he sold to amateurs as a ‘particular favor, at cost prices only’.

Yet, notwithstanding his successes, he left but very little when he died, in 1880, of a stroke of apoplexy, which attacked him during one of his performances.

9. Prof. Hartwig Seeman
Prof. Hartwig Seeman also traveled in the 19th century with a magic theater. Seeman came from Stralsund, and later gained quite a name and experience in India, he being the first of modern conjurers to visit that far away country.

He returned to Germany with apparatus all of solid silver, and was considered the richest magician of his time. He appeared in his act literally covered with diamonds, and the suit that he wore on the stage was valued at 50,000 marks at that time.

Later, he traveled in Sweden and Norway, and came to the United States in the beginning of 1880. He died in Texas in 1884.

10. Prof. Stengel
Prof. Stengel, who was formerly a traveling Tyrolese singer, has also achieved some celebrity in magic. Honored by many of the court princes, he has also received the title of Court Artist. His home is in Wiesbaden, and in the summer time he makes trips to the watering places along the Rhine.

11. Dr. Hofzinser
The most celebrated card performer of the world is undoubtedly Dr. Hofzinser, of Vienna. He was a government employee, and as he could not appear publicly as a conjurer, he established a theater in Vienna under the name of Madam Hofzinser. He was an educated gentleman, having received his diploma as a doctor, and his manipulation of cards has never been excelled.

12. Ben Ali Bey
We should not forget to name Ben Ali Bey, the inventor of Black Art. His original name was Autzinger, and he was born in Bavaria. For seven years he was an actor in one of the Berlin theaters, and as he could hardly support his family on his small salary, he looked around for something else, and seized upon the original idea of Oriental Magic. His invention was first shown in Berlin, in Castan’s Panopticum where it received very little notice. Shortly afterwards the attention of Arbre was called to it, who visited the performances several times. He saw a chance of improving it and engaged Ben Ali Bey to go with him. The first part of their performances was parlor magic. In the second part Ben Ali Bey introduced Black Art and in this representation he made his reputation. The success was so great that it was imitated immediately by the entire profession all over the world, but none of them succeeded in producing it any length of time, as they were all very poor imitators of the original. To his honor it must be said that no person has yet been able to introduce Black Art as well as he has done.

Other conjurers include great magicians like Prof. Carmelli, Prof. Antonio Eleonora Orlowa, Miss Anna Eva Fay, Madame Cora, and many more.

Conclusively, many more things can be said about the magicians and their magic. Conjuring of magic trick requires art over techniques, which the predecessors of today’s magicians have evolved successfully and their trend is currently being seen in today’s magic also.

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