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Topic: Magicians of the Old West (mid-late 1800s)?
Message: Posted by: Jay Jennings (Jan 20, 2010 04:33AM)
I'm doing some research for a project and not having much luck. I'm looking for real-life magicians who performed in the old west during the mid-late 1800s. I've done searches here and using Google and am drawing a blank.

The Illustrated History of Magic mentions John Henry Anderson in California in 1859, Kellar and Herrmann in California in the late 1880s, and Thurston in Colorado in 1898, but other than that I'm drawing a blank.

I'd like to find info on guys who lived and performed in the old west, not who just did a tour through there. But maybe that's the kind of thing that just fades into history -- if they weren't big names then maybe their "fame" was so limited that we can't know about them.

But, just in case someone has some info, I'd be very grateful for some pointers on where to look.

Thank you.

Jay Jennings
Message: Posted by: Spellbinder (Jan 20, 2010 04:52AM)
You might want to add gamblers and con-men into your search for "magicians." Soapy Smith comes immediately to mind, along with Claude Alexander Conlin (Alexander the Man Who Knows), and others. You can find info about many of them HERE:

http://scoundrelswiki.com/ScoundrelsGallery
Message: Posted by: RiffRaff (Jan 20, 2010 07:40AM)
Medicine shows and circuses had magicians.
Message: Posted by: Jay Jennings (Jan 20, 2010 02:04PM)
Thanks for the suggestions -- medicine shows is probably closest to what I have in mind.

That Scoundrels Gallery is awesome! I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading about the guys there. Not quite what I'm looking for, but *very* interesting anyway!

Jay Jennings
Message: Posted by: David Charvet (Jan 20, 2010 05:06PM)
Jay -
James Willard "The Wizard" performed throughout the west, particularly California during the 1880's before settling in Texas with his tent show. Details about him are in my book, "Willard: A Life Under Canvas" published by Mike Caveney. http://www.mcmagicwords.com
Message: Posted by: msmaster (Jan 20, 2010 05:22PM)
The willard book is great.
Message: Posted by: Jay Jennings (Jan 20, 2010 05:26PM)
Hmmm...that looks promising. Thanks!

Jay Jennings
Message: Posted by: Anatole (Jan 29, 2010 07:54PM)
As I recall, Thurston worked out west in a saloon and one of the rowdy cowhands shot the glass that he used for his rising card trick using the standard threading method. According to Thurston's biography (ghost-written by Walter B. Gibson I believe) when he found himself without his glass for the trick, Thurston worked out a new version of the rising cards without the glass and where the card rose it left the deck completely and then up to Thurston's waiting hand. I think it was this trick that Thurston used to advertise himself as "The Man Who Fooled Hermann." IIRC, the Hermann he fooled was not the Great Hermann (Alexander), but Carl Hermann, his brother.

There is also a story regarding the bullet trick about a magician out West who did the bullet catch. A rowdy (and probably inebriated) cowhand pulled his six shooter and called out, "Can you catch these?" and shot the magician dead. You might be able to substantiate this report by checking some of the magic history books like _The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo_ and a book called (I believe) _Ten Have Died_.

----- Amado "Sonny" Narvaez
Message: Posted by: BostonBlackie (Jan 29, 2010 08:19PM)
Actually, the Herrmann fooled was Leon. Carl hadn't been in the United States since the 1870s.