Known as "The Great Herrmann," "Herrmann the Great"
Place of Birth
Alexander Herrmann possessed the ability of masterful sleight-of-hand and illusionary skills. He was also a specialist in "card scaling" or "card throwing."
During the 18th century, Herrmann was one of the few magicians that actually produced a rabbit from a hat.
Alexander Herrmann was born on February 10, 1844 in Paris, France to Samuel and Anna Sarah Herrmann, a physician who occasionally performed throughout Europe as a conjuror.
He was the youngest of sixteen children. Alexander's brother Compars "Carl" Herrmann left medical school at an early age to pursue a career as a magician and served as a role model and inspiration for Alexander.
When Compars returned to his parents' home in Paris in 1853, he was thrilled to find out that his eight-year-old brother Alexander was already showing an interest in magic.
Without his family's consent, Carl 'kidnapped' his younger brother and took him to Saint Petersburg, Russia to teach him the art of magic. While there, he took his younger brother with him on a tour that started in Russia.
Alexander remained with Carl until they arrived in Vienna. Their mother came there and insisted upon Alexander's return to Paris. They eventually reached a compromise; Alexander stayed with Carl until the tour was over.
Alexander's duties consisted of being suspended in a horizontal position on top of a rod, performing as a blindfolded medium, and being lifted from an empty portfolio.
During their European excursion, Carl was teaching Alexander advanced sleight-of-hand techniques,
some of which he had learned from their father, others of which he had picked up on his own.
Alexander was an eager and willing student. After touring places like Germany, Austria, Italy, and Portugal, the tour ended in Vienna. Carl settled in Vienna and, as promised, he sent Alexander home to their parents in Paris.
Back in Paris, Alexander showed his father what he had learned from Carl. Samuel was so impressed with Alexander’s skill that he decided to let him continue in magic.
Alexander Herrmann stayed in Paris until he was about 11 years old; then he returned to Vienna to meet up with Carl, who was to continue mentoring him.
Carl had promised Samuel to teach Alexander things other than magic, and while in Vienna Alexander attended college. But it was sleight-of-hand that was to be his main interest.
When Alexander’s skills increased, he became a more integral part of Carl’s show. By the time they arrived in the United States in 1860, Alexander was seventeen. Audiences noticed his adroitness; his dexterity soon rivaled that of his famous brother. Jealousy brewed on that tour, but never surfaced.
They still performed Houdin’s "Second Sight" as Alexander assisted Carl on stage. Carl introduced Alexander to the audience as his successor. Then Alexander performed a "card scaling" (card throwing) act.
They toured the world together; eventually they would go their separate ways, Compars returning to Europe and Alexander to America where he became a naturalized citizen in July 1876 in Boston.
While returning to America. On the boat, Alexander saw the young dancer Mademoiselle Scarcez that he had met in London.
The titian-haired, bilingual Adelaide had been planning to marry an American actor. Before the ship docked, she changed her mind. The two married on March 27, 1875 in Manhattan.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Alexander and his wife Adelaide Herrmann performed together in elaborate stage shows. The pair adapted Robert Houdin's Arial Suspension routine and performed their own version of the bullet catch.
Alexander Herrmann performed across the globe, mystifying and enchanting international dignitaries and royalty, including Emperor Don Pedro II of Brazil, Czar Alexander III of Russia, the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Alexander met his brother Carl again in 1885 in Paris. Carl was still miffed at Alexander from his triumph at Egyptian Hall. Carl was planning on retiring again and was grooming their nephew Leon to be his successor.
However, he did not intend to retire until he regained his fortune. So an agreement was made between the two brothers to split the world. Compars was to return to Europe and Alexander to the United States.
Alexander left Paris to go back to America, where he became an established institution. Two years later, while in New York, Alexander was shocked to hear the news of the death of his brother Carl, who died on July 8, 1887 in Karlsbad in Germany.
Even with the rivalry between them, Alexander could not help but feel that he owed everything to him. "We've always had a warm and brotherly feeling towards each other," he told a newspaper.
On December 17, 1896, Alexander Herrmann had just finished a week engagement at the Lyceum in Rochester, New York and boarded a train to his next performance. While on board he suffered a heart attack.
The train stopped in Ellicottville, New York. Alexander whispered to Adelaide, "Make sure all in the company get back to New York."
The local doctor arrived a few moments later, but it was too late; He failed to recover. Herrmann the Great was pronounced dead. He was 52.
After his death, his nephew Leon Herrmann moved to the U.S. to continue the act with his Aunt Adelaide.
Information, courtesy of MagicPedia, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians.