History of Magicians
Welcome to the magic timeline: history of magicians, a collection of fascinating facts recorded in history with emphasis on famous performers in the world of magic.
Conjuring is one of the oldest forms of entertainment. It was first mentioned in writing in the Westcar Papyrus nearly 4,000 years ago.
This records how the great magician Jajamanekh recovered an ornament lost in a lake by splitting the lake in two and stacking one half on top of the other.
After picking up the jewel, he returned to the shore, clapped his hands, and the water fell back into place!
Since then there have been hundreds of records of magicians - working in the streets or at markets and fairs, or putting on shows in private houses and large theaters.
Many are famous for creating specific tricks or elaborate illusions and still amaze and entertain audiences today.
1700 BCE - The Westcar Papyrus (now in the State Museum, East Berlin) records the earliest known performance of conjuring as a form of entertainment.
Circa 40 CE - Simon Magus, aka Simon the Sorcerer and Simon of Gitta. Samarian magician who has been referred to as the founder of post-Christian Gnosticism. He is said to have fallen to his death while levitating, or, more accurately, when he stopped levitating too soon.
50-300 - The Acetabularii performed the Cups and balls in ancient Rome using stones and small vinegar cups (hence the name Acetabularii). Acetabularii are a group of magicians specializing on the cups and balls effect
400-1000 - The dark ages; little is known about the history of magic, but much of it was associated with the occult and magic as entertainment is not prominent.
1000-1500 - The Middle Ages where much magic was still associated with the occult and witchcraft. The growing trading nature of society allowed some street or circus performers to make a living out of old classics such as the cups and balls and indeed more modern ideas such as cheating by short changing via sleights with coins and other small objects.
1584 - Jean Prévost published the first French book on practical magic , "La Premiere Partie Des Subtiles et Plaisantes Inventions" (The First Part of Subtle and Pleasant Tricks).
1584 - Reginald Scot publishes The Discoverie of Witchcraft(sic) a book designed in part to counter the activities of persecutionists, but at the same time revealing many conjuring secrets of the day. Magic and witchcraft were still linked, and many copies of Scot's book were burnt in the early 17th century.
1720 - Isaac Fawlkes, English Magician retires. His performances at fairs leaves him with a fortune of nearly ten thousand pounds. Among his tricks were a card on ceiling with any card called for and his bag of many eggs. His booth is featured in Bartholomew Fair by Hogarth with a sign that says "Dexterity of Hand." He also presented impressionists and contortionists as part of his shows.
1734 - Jacob Meyer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Meyer, using the name "Philadelphia," was the first American magician to win fame in Europe.
1750 - Joseph Pinetti, "considered to be the major figure of eighteenth century magic," is born. "Pinetti is said to be the first recorded performer to do the thumb tie effect" and he also performed second sight, exhibited automata and the orange tree illusion. ( history of magicians )
1769 - Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen, a Hungarian noble, invents "The Automatic Chess Player." Although not designed as a magical illusion, it baffled many people and introduced new methods of concealment and misdirection that have been used by illusionists ever since.
1805 - Year of birth of Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (died 1871). The "father of modern magic," who brought it from the street and circus side shows to an elegant stage or drawing room setting.
1814 - Year of birth of John Henry Anderson, The Great Wizard of the North," who performed with "Solid Silver" apparatus.
1845 - Robert-Houdin, presents his first Soirée Fantastique in Paris. ( history of magicians )
1853 - Adelaide Herrmann, possibly the world's greatest female magician, is born in London, England. She took over from her husband, Alexander Herrmann, when he died in 1896.
1873 - Maskelyne and Cooke first perform et the Egyptian Hall, England's Home of Mystery, in London.
1874 - Year of birth of Harry Houdini, aka King of Cards and King of Handcuffs (died 1926). Real name Ehrich Weiss, he achieved fame as an escapologist.
1876 - The first publication of Modern Magic. Written by Professor Louis Hoffman (1839–1919) (Real name Angelo John Lewis), it was a definitive work on the state of the art of that time.
1877 - Martinka and Co. was founded by Francis and Antonio Martinka, it was run by Houdini in 1919 and is still in existence today. ( history of magicians )
1894 - Year of birth of Dai Vernon (died 1992). aka "The Professor" and "The Man That Fooled Houdini", he was born as David Frederick Wingfield Verner in Ottawa. The most influential 20th C magician. ( history of magicians )
1902 - The "Expert At The Card Table" is published by The Charles T. Powner Co. was written by S. W. Erdnase. Considered by serious card workers as one of the most important books written.
1902 - May 10, The Society of American Magicians is founded at Martinka's Magic Shop in New York City, New York. It is the oldest magic society in the world.
1905 - July - The Magic Circle was formed in London. It's first President was David Devant. This is a prestigious organisation for magicians and has strict rules against exposure. (It expelled its founder twice for alleged exposure, something it has done to many famous magicians.)
1911 - The Great Lafayette dies in a fire at the Empire Theater, Edinburgh. His body was cremated but then a second body was found and also identified as The Great Lafayette - the first body had been that of a double who featured in some of the illusions.
1911 - "Our Magic" by Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant arguably one of the most important books of magic theory is published. ( history of magicians )
1911 - The Mysto Magic Company incorporated by Gilbert, Gilbert, and Petrie. ( history of magicians )
1918 - Houdini first performs Morritt's Vanishing Elephant at the Hippodrome on January 7.
1921 - P.T. Selbit performs the first ever "Sawing in half", something that is, in present day, synonymous with the art of magic.
1926 - On All Hallows Eve at 1:26 pm, Harry Houdini dies. The date of his death is marked as National Magic Day in the United States.
1936 - The British magician Fred Culpitt, becomes the first magician to perform on television.
Circa 1940 - Edward M. Massey invents the finger chopper which becomes many young magicians' first trick. ( history of magicians )
1949 - The first publication of "Royal Road to Card Magic" Written by Jean Hugard and Fred Braue, it's still an important first text for card workers today.
1952 - The first publication of "Modern Coin Magic" Written by JB Bobo, considered by some the "bible" of coin magic, many other works reference this one.
1956 - David Copperfield is born on September 16, as David Seth Kotkin.
1960 - Lance Burton is born on March 10, as William Lance Burton in Louisville, Kentucky. ( history of magicians )
1963 - The Magic Castle is formed by Milt Larsen in Hollywood USA by converting a 1908 Victorian mansion to a center of magical excellence. Many leading magicians have performed there. Dai Vernon was resident magician in the latter part of his life.
1968 - The book "Thirteen Steps To Mentalism" by Corinda was published and is one of the most famous books on mentalism. ( history of magicians )
1973 - David Blaine was born on April 4, as David Blaine White in Brooklyn, New York.
1974 - The musical The Magic Show starring Doug Henning opens on Broadway and ushers in a new "Golden Age" of magic.
1977 - Marco the Magi presents Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company premieres on February 20 in Beverly, Massachusetts. It becomes the longest running "Resident Magic Show" in history.
1977 - Jeff Sheridan, NY's celebrated Central Park Street Magician publishes "STREET MAGIC - An Illustrated History of Wandering Magicians and Their Conjuring Arts". Published by Dolphin Books, an imprint of Doubleday & Company. The first street magician to perform in NY in over 100 years.
1994 - The first WWW magic stores appear following the older text type newsgroups and bulletin boards. Pictorial and information sites soon follow, changing the way magic is learned and distributed. ( history of magicians )
1997 - The Masked Magician , Val Valentino, provokes much controversy by exposing magic secrets on major Fox TV specials. David Blaine brings "Street Magic" to America.
1997 - David Blaine debuts his first television special, "David Blaine: Street Magic" aired on the ABC network. He redefined magic on television and became synonymous in the art of magic in modern culture.
1998 - World Of Illusion at Madison Square Garden launched the career of Criss Angel, followed by Criss Angel Mindfreak which ran until 2003.
( history of magicians )
2000 Doug Henning dies, aged 52 on February 7, in Los Angeles five months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
2003 Roy Horn of the magic act Siegfried & Roy was attacked and seriously injured by a seven-year-old male tiger named Montecore while performing on stage in Las Vegas. Horn was in critical condition for several weeks thereafter, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. On April 23, 2010, the duo officially said farewell to show business.
2007 - British Society of Mystery Entertainers Borne from communication on niche web forums a meeting was arranged in Treadwells Bookshop, Covent Garden London on 07/07/07. A meeting of likeminded UK and European based mentalists, bizarrists, storytellers, readers, spiritualist performers, and other 'mystery'entertainers met and became subsequently formally established as a private association dedicated to the arts.
Return from History of Magicians to Homepage