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Promotional poster for American magician Howard Thurston. Poster reads: "Thurston, world's famous magician the wonder show of the universe." He is still famous for his work with playing cards. He called himself the King of Cards. Thurston was one of the first magicians to take advantage of the Back Palm with cards. The history of the back palm is just as mysterious as a magic trick itself. According to legend, a Mexican magician appeared at a magic shop in New York city owned my Otto Maurer. The enigmatic magician demonstrated how could make cards disappear, one by one, at his fingertips. Thurston had the largest traveling magic show for the time, requiring more than eight entire train cars to transport his props across the country. He is still famous for his work with playing cards. According to legend, a Mexican magician appeared at a magic shop in New York city owned by Otto Maurer. The enigmatic magician demonstrated how he could make cards disappear, one by one, at his fingertips.
Maurer showed Thurston the move, which he would later feature in his act. He added the "Rising Cards" trick from Professor Hoffman’s Modern Magic, the book from which Thurston had learned the rudiments of magic. For this trick, he would walk into the audience and ask several people to choose cards from a deck of cards. The deck was shuffled and placed into a clear glass. Thurston would then call for the chosen cards. One by one the cards would rise up to the top of the deck. When audiences wanted the cards to rise higher, he developed a way of causing the cards to rise directly out of the pack.
Thurston arranged an impromptu audition with Leon Herrmann, nephew of Alexander Herrmann. His performance fooled Leon. From that point on he called himself "The man that fooled Herrmann" and used the publicity to get booked into top vaudeville houses in the U.S. and Europe, billing himself as the King of Cards. Thurston continued presenting the Thurston-Kellar Show following the retirement of Kellar. The Thurston show became an institution. He kept up the grind for about thirty years. On March 30, 1936, Thurston suffered a stroke he received from a cerebral hemorrhage. He later died on April 14 at his Oceanside apartment in Miami Beach, Florida. Death was attributed to pneumonia. He is entombed at Green Lawn Abbey, a mausoleum in Columbus, Ohio. Thurston is mentioned and appears briefly in Glen David Gold's novel Carter Beats the Devil (ISBN 0-7868-8632-3), concerning fellow stage magician Charles J. Carter and the Golden Age of magic in America. Thurston is also mentioned in two novels by Robert A. Heinlein: Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.
Thurston is quoted as a subject matter expert in Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People (ISBN 0-743272-773). He appears in Part Two, Chapter One ("Do This and You'll Be Welcome Anywhere"). Magic is a performing art that entertains an audience by creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats, using purely natural means. These feats are called magic tricks, effects or illusions.
One who performs such illusions is called a magician or an illusionist. Some performers may also be referred to by names reflecting the type of magical effects they present, such as prestidigitators, conjurors, mentalists, escape artists, and ventriloquists. The term "magic" is etymologically derived from the Latin word magi. Performances we would now recognize as conjuring have probably been practiced throughout history. The same level of ingenuity that was used to produce famous ancient deceptions such as the Trojan Horse would also have been used for entertainment, or at least for cheating in money games, since time immemorial. They were also used by various religions from times ancient, and were even known as far back as the early 17th century to be used to frighten uneducated populi. However, the profession of the illusionist gained strength only in the eighteenth century, and has enjoyed several popular vogues. From 1756 to 1781, Jacob Philadelphia performed feats of magic, sometimes under the guise of scientific exhibitions, throughout Europe and in Russia. Modern entertainment magic owes much to Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (1805-1871), originally a clockmaker, who opened a magic theatre in Paris in the 1840s. His speciality was the construction of mechanical automata which appeared to move and act as if they were alive. The British performer J N Maskelyne and his partner Cooke established their own theatre, the Egyptian Hall in London's Piccadilly, in 1873. They presented stage magic, exploiting the potential of the stage for hidden mechanisms and assistants, and the control it offers over the audience's point of view.
The model for the look of a 'typical' magician—a man with wavy hair, a goatee, and a tailcoat—was Alexander Herrmann (February 10, 1844 – December 17, 1896), also known as Herrmann the Great. Herrmann was a French magician and was part of the Herrmann family name that is the "first-family of magic". Those who witnessed Herrmann the Great perform considered him the greatest magician they ever saw.
The escapologist and magician Harry Houdini took his stage name from Robert-Houdin and developed a range of stage magic tricks, many of them based on escapology (though that word was not used until after Houdini's death). The son of a Hungarian rabbi, Houdini was genuinely skilled in techniques such as lockpicking and escaping straitjackets, but also made full use of the range of conjuring techniques, including fake equipment and collusion with individuals in the audience. Houdini's show business savvy was great as well as his performance skill. There is a Houdini Museum dedicated to him in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
As a form of entertainment, magic easily moved from theatrical venues to television specials, which opened up new opportunities for deceptions, and brought stage magic to huge audiences. Famous magicians of the 20th century included Okita, Alexander, Harry Blackstone Sr., Harry Blackstone Jr., Howard Thurston, Theodore Annemann, Cardini, Joseph Dunninger, Tommy Wonder, Siegfried & Roy, and Doug Henning. Popular 20th and 21st century magicians include David Copperfield, Lance Burton, Penn and Teller, David Blaine, and Criss Angel. Most TV magicians perform before a live audience, who provide the remote viewer with a reassurance that the illusions are not obtained with post-production visual effects.
Many of the principles of stage magic are old. There is an expression, "it's all done with smoke and mirrors", used to explain something baffling, but effects seldom use mirrors today, due to the amount of installation work and transport difficulties. For example, the famous Pepper's Ghost, a stage illusion first used in 19th-century London, required a specially built theatre. Modern performers have vanished objects as large as the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and a space shuttle, using other kinds of optical deceptions. Description Source Wikipedia