"The Queen of Magic" (b. 1853-1932)
Queen of Magic
Place of Birth
Adelaide Herrmann, considered one of the great pioneers of female conjuring, was famous for performing grand illusions. She performed the potentially deadly Bullet Catch illusion.
From making a painting of a woman come to life to the skilled manipulation of billiard balls, Adelaide was a versatile powerhouse of a performer.
Adelaide was one of the few magicians to perform the notorious Bullet Catch stunt, which had been an infrequent feature of her husband's act. It was said that, because of the potentially dangerous trick's reputation, she couldn't bear to watch her husband this act.
However, on January 19, 1897, a month after his passing, she stood in his place in front of a large firing squad at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Surviving publicity material describes her as catching six bullets fired at her by local militiamen.
"The Queen of Magic" Adelaide Herrmann was born on August 11, 1854 in London, England. While in her teens, she entered show business as a dancer.
In 1874, at twenty-two years old, Adelaide decided to go to america in hopes of marrying an American actor. While on the boat she sees the famous magician Alexander Herrmann whom she met in London.
Sparks flew between them, and on March 27, 1875, the Mayor of New York performed the ceremony marrying Alexander and Adelaide.
At their wedding, Herrmann, a spontaneous performer, produced a roll of bills from the Mayor's beard. Adelaide joined Herrmann's show, assisted him and dancing. As they continued to tour the United States they decided to become U.S. citizens.
Alexander began adding spectacular illusions to his sleight-of-hand. Adelaide was the subject of his "After the Ball" illusion, in which she disappeared in front of a full-length mirror.
Alexander also created the "Cremation" act, which saw Adelaide going up in smoke. For years she would work as the chief assistant to her husband until his passing in 1896.
Adelaide was left without income or savings due to Alexander's careless investing.She sent an urgent message to Leon Herrmann, the 29-year old nephew of Alexander.
Leon was making a name for himself in Europe as a gifted manipulator, and he was Alexander's acknowledged successor. Together with Leon, Adelaide hoped to keep the show on the road.
The revived "Herrmann the Great Company" starred Adelaide, who performed several illusions and a serpentine dance, and featured Leon, who performed his repertoire of tricks and joined Adelaide for a faux Japanese finale.
After three seasons, Leon demonstrated that he wished to be on his own.
With both performers parting ways, Adelaide discovered that she had the makings of a headline variety act in herself.
Like her husband, she preferred living and working in the USA despite her enormous success overseas.
Her elaborate show was a hit in the Folies Bergére, the Wintergarten in Berlin and London's Hippodrome.
As she grew older, she grew plumper and eventually ceased to dance. But she hired young women dancers to her illusion acts.
In Adelaide's shows young women vanished with a snap of her fingers, Satan materialized in a puff of smoke. A painting of a young woman came to life, danced and returned to canvas and oil.
She used many animals in her act: cats, dogs and birds of many types. They were caged in a warehouse in 1926 when it burned to the ground. All but three of the 60 animals died in the fire.
The Queen of Magic, then in her 70's, continued to perform her "Magic, Grace and Beauty" show on the Keith-Orpheum circuit until she retired in 1928.
She died at the age of 79, and is buried along with her husband in New York.
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