Richard "Cardini" Pitchford
Richard Valentine Pitchford
Cardini, Valentine, Val Raymond,
Place of Birth
Cardini possessed the uncanny ability of supreme dexterity. His masterful skill enabled him to flawlessly manipulate many objects, including cards; billiard balls, thimbles and cigarettes. What was even more amazing, Cardini performed most of his magic routine while wearing gloves.
Cardini was known among magicians as a skilled craftsman; Vanishing Reels made by him are highly prized as collector's items.
Cardini was born Richard Pitchford on November 24, 1895 in the coal-mining village of Mumbles, in south Wales.
He found himself fascinated by magic in his childhood. At the age of six or seven Chung Ling Soo sparked his interest even more when he performed cigarette magic.
He was also influenced by the magic greats Nate Liepzig, The Great Lafayette and Frank Van Hoven, aka "The Dippy Mad Magician."
As a young man he joined the British Army where he practiced his card manipulations in the trenches of World War 1, which is where he developed his ability to perform card flourishes while wearing gloves.
After being injured in battle, he continued to hone his conjuring skills while recovering in a hospital in Southhampton, England.
After the war, he traveled around the world, first performing in Australia; and then in Canada he entered the United states from British Columbia.
While working in Chicago, he met Swan Walker, whom he married and shared the stage with as his life long assistant.
In New York City, he rose to instant success as audiences and magicians have never witnessed such an act.
His artistry went beyond the boundaries of conventional magic acts, where he incorporated acting and dramatization into his performance.
He would create a skit in which he played the part of an elegant but slightly inebriated gentleman bemused by the mysterious appearance and disappearance of cards, billiard balls and other objects.
During his illustrious career, he played The Palace, Radio City Music Hall, London Palladium, Copa Cabana and other prominent theatres, nightclubs and Reviews.
He also played the White House eight times, and gave a command performance for the King of England in 1938.
In 1957 at age 62, he appeared on one of the few magic television shows broadcast at that time - "The Festival of Magic," which is the only known footage to exist of the master at work.
Among his many accolades was the New England Magic Society's proclamation of Cardini as the "greatest exponent of pure sleight of hand the world has ever known."
In 1970 he was honored with the "Master Magician" award at the Magic Castle, LA, presented but Tony Curtis. In 1999 he was named one of Magic Magazines "Top Magicians of the 20th Century."
He was also a three-time president of the Society of American Magicians.
His career, spanning almost half a century, has made him the most imitated magician in the world, but his skill and showmanship could never be duplicated making him one of the greatest magicians in magic history.
Richard "Cardini" Pitchford died on November 13, 1973 in Gardiner, New York.
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