Harry Blackstone, Sr. (1885-1965)
Harry Blackstone, Sr.'s Real Name
The Great Blackstone,
Fredrik the Great
Place of Birth
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Blackstone possessed the ability of superior sleight-of-hand and showmanship skills. A master in the art of grand illusion, Blackstone's signature stage effects were: The Floating Light Bulb, The Vanishing Birdcage and the Dancing Handkerchief.
Dutch illusionist Hans Klok became the custodian of Blackstone, Sr.'s famous "floating light bulb" illusion after the death of Blackstone, Jr.
Harry Blackstone, Sr. was born Harry Bouton September 27, 1885, in Chicago, Illinois. He became fascinated with magic at the age of eight, when he received a magic trick for his birthday.
That same year, he performed his first show for at a church for the members of the congregation. At the age of twelve, after watching legendary magician Harry Keller perform at the McVickers theater, Harry vowed to himself to become the next great magician.
Harry inundated himself in the art of conjuring; he checked out books on the subject from the local library and experimented with incorporating sleight-of-hand and large illusions into his act.
He took on various jobs as a carpenter, and used his abilities in cabinet making to devise and construct his own magic props. His brother Pete would inevitably design and build most of the props used in Harry's extravagant shows.
At 14, Harry performed his first paid show, and thereafter he and his brother began to book shows around town, entertaining for private parties and clubs.
IN 1904, the brothers created a vaudeville act called "Straight and Crooked Magic" - Harry providing the straight magic and Pete delivering the comedy. and later performed under the name "Fredrik, the Great & Co."
He changed his name again during World War I, due to the unpopularity of German names and re-billed himself as "Blackstone The Magician."
Blackstone achieved great success in the vaudeville circuit in the 1920's, and in his early 30's, Harry and Pete developed a large-scaled illusion show and began touring the country.
Incidentally, legendary Harry Kellar sat in and watched one of Blacktone's show during a Los Angeles performance.
Keller, so impressed by Blackstone's act, visited him backstage to compliment him. The two befriended, and shared many of each other's secrets in magic.
Often billed the "Great Blackstone," the white tie and coat tail wearing magician continued to tour across the nation, performing extravagant illusions and incorporating a large cast of uniformed male and female assistants.
He toured the midwest for many years, often performing throughout the day between film showings.
Harry Blackstone, Sr. performed many of his acts in silence and presented his illusions to the accompaniment of a pit orchestra and such lively tunes of the time as "Who," "I Know That You Know," and "Chinatown."
He performed many popular magic effects, such as the Dancing Handkerchief, The Floating Light Bulb, The Vanishing Birdcage, The Vanishing Horse, The Garden of Flowers, his sawing a woman in half illusion, and many other notable stage effects.
Harry's career as an illusionist flourished, eventually becoming the most popular magician in North America and rivaling such magicians as Houdini (in his latter career) and Thurston.
He became a celebrity through World War II as a USO entertainer, and toured his grand illusion show to one hundred and sixty-five military bases.
Blackstone produced a number of books that were ghostwritten for him by his friend, Walter B. Gibson, who also created, in 1941, the comic book "Blackstone the Magician Detective" and the 1948-49 radio series, Blackstone, the Magic Detective.
During the early days of television, he made numerous appearances on many shows, such as "The Tonight Show" with Steve Allen, the "Ernie Kovac Show," "Person to Person" and "This is Your Life."
In the 1950's he stopped touring and resided in Hollywood, California where he made a number of stage and television appearances; he also frequented the world famous "Magic Castle."
Harry Blackstone, Sr. died on November 16, 1965, at the age of 80. He was interred close to his former home in Colon, Michigan where the main street was renamed "Blackstone Avenue" in his honor.
In 1985, on the 100th anniversary of his father's birth, Harry Blackstone, Jr. donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. the original floating light bulb - Thomas Edison designed and built it - and the original Casadega Cabinet, used in the "Dancing Handkerchief" illusion.
This was the first ever donation accepted by the Smithsonian in the field of magic.
Information courtesy of Wikipedia, BlackstoneMagic.com
Return from Harry Blackstone, Sr. to Index: B page
Photos courtesy of State Library of Victoria