Harry Kellar
American magician
Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar was an American magician who presented large stage shows during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kellar was a predecessor of Harry Houdini and a successor of Robert Heller. He was often referred to as the "Dean of American Magicians" and performed extensively on five continents.
Biography
Harry Kellar's personal information overview.
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BOOKS OF THE TIMES; A Trickster Right Down to His Name
NYTimes - over 11 years
The Glorious Deception The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the 'Marvelous Chinese Conjurer' By Jim Steinmeyer Illustrated. 451 pages. Carroll & Graf Publishers. $27. Audiences at a magic show expect to be deceived, but Chung Ling Soo gave them more than they bargained for. Soo, an international star in the early years of the
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NYTimes article
Now You See It . . .
NYTimes - about 13 years
HIDING THE ELEPHANT How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear. By Jim Steinmeyer. Illustrated. 362 pp. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. $26. IN 1918 Harry Houdini made an elephant named Jennie vanish from a circus wagon on the stage of the New York Hippodrome. How did he do it? That question is the looking glass through
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ANTIQUES; MAGIC CASTS ITS SPELL ON COLLECTORS
NYTimes - over 30 years
''I think of myself as an accumulator rather than a collector,'' said Charles Reynolds. Yet most people would say that his holdings of approximately 100 posters and 2,000 books on magic certainly constitute a collection. Mr. Reynolds's interest in magic harks back to childhood. At age 7 he saw Harry Blackstone Sr., who became the hero of his youth,
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GOING OUT GUIDE
NYTimes - almost 31 years
EXISTENTIAL ENTERTAINMENT Samuel Beckett's 80th birthday was last Sunday. And the celebration, which began then with Beckett readings, continues. This weekend a nine-day film festival begins, screening movies inspired by his work. A series of relatively short films will be shown today and tomorrow at 2, 5 and 8 P.M. The 2 P.M. films, which will be
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NYTimes article
HOUDINI- THE GREATEST SHOWMAN OF ALL?
NYTimes - over 35 years
-------------------------------------------------------------------- Daniel E. Harmon is a freelance writer with a special interest in magic and magicians. By DANIEL E. HARMON ALondon coroner attributed the death to ''misadventure.'' What more could he say? On March 13, 1918, world-famous showman W. E. Robinson, alias Chung Ling Soo, was ''catching
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Harry Kellar
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1922
    Age 72
    Kellar lived in retirement, until he died on March 3, 1922 from a pulmonary hemorrhage brought on by influenza.
    More Details Hide Details He was interred in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. Kellar supposedly developed this trick by abruptly walking onto the stage during a show by Maskelyne, seeing what he needed to know, and leaving. Unable to duplicate it, Kellar hired another magician to help build another, but eventually designed a new trick with the help of the Otis Elevator Company. Another version built by Kellar was purchased by Harry Blackstone, Sr., who used the trick for many years. The Buffalo writer John Northern Hilliard wrote that the levitation was a marvel of the twentieth century and "the crowning achievement of Mr. Kellar's long and brilliant career." The trick was done by a disguised machine hidden from the audience's perspective. Kellar would claim the woman onstage, sleeping on a couch, was a Hindu princess, who he would levitate and then move a hoop back and forth through the woman's body to prove she was not being suspended. Inside the "princess"'s dress was a flat board she was resting on, which was connected to a metal bar going out the side into the backstage. The other end of the bar connected to a machine to raise and lower the woman, blocked from view by the curtain and her own body. To allow Kellar to "prove" with the hoop that she was floating, the bar was in a rough "S" shape, letting him move the hoop through the length of her body in any direction.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1908
    Age 58
    Kellar retired in 1908, and allowed Howard Thurston to be his successor.
    More Details Hide Details Kellar had met Thurston, who was doing card tricks, while on vacation in Paris, France. Kellar did his final show at Ford's Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. Kellar eventually moved to his house in Los Angeles, California. Kellar's wife died two years later. Kellar was often visited by other magicians, notably including Harry Houdini. On November 11, 1917, Houdini put together a show for the Society of American Magicians to benefit the families of those who died in the sinking of the USS Antilles by a German U-boat (who have been considered the first American casualties of World War I). Houdini got Kellar to come out of retirement to perform one more show. The show took place on the largest stage at the time, the Hippodrome. After Kellar's performance, Kellar started to leave, but Houdini stopped him, saying that "America’s greatest magician should be carried off in triumph after his final public performance." The members of the Society of American Magicians helped Kellar into the seat of a sedan chair, and lifted it up. The 125-piece Hippodrome orchestra played "Auld Lang Syne" while Kellar was slowly taken away.
  • FORTIES
  • 1892
    Age 42
    On April 30, 1892, Kellar ended a successful seven-month run at his second Egyptian Hall.
    More Details Hide Details Kellar then returned to the road. During the periods Kellar was abroad, another magician, Alexander Herrmann, had become famous and Kellar found himself with a rival on his return to the United States. Herrmann often criticized Kellar's lack of sleight of hand and claimed he preferred to use mechanical tricks instead. While he lacked sleight of hand, Kellar was so good in using misdirection, that he said a " brass band playing at full blast can march openly across the stage behind me, followed by a herd of elephants, yet no one will realize that they went by." Herrmann died on December 17, 1896.
  • 1891
    Age 41
    Kellar returned to Philadelphia in October 1891 and opened his second Egyptian Hall at Concert Hall, located also on Chestnut Street.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1887
    Age 37
    Kellar and Medley were married on November 1, 1887 at a church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
    More Details Hide Details She played an important role in Kellar's shows in the coming years – not only did she play a part in many of his upcoming illusions, but she also provided music for the shows.
  • 1885
    Age 35
    After 264 performances, Kellar closed the theater on June 24, 1885.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly after Kellar left, the theater burned down. While Kellar was performing in America, Medley arrived a few weeks before his appearance in Erie, Pennsylvania. She played the cornet in the show and started to learn about the magic business.
  • 1884
    Age 34
    Kellar started his version of Egyptian Hall in December 1884, after renting out an old Masonic temple on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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  • 1882
    Age 32
    After another world tour in 1882, Kellar was performing again in Melbourne, Australia and met a fan, Eva Lydia Medley, who came backstage to get his autograph.
    More Details Hide Details Kellar promised to send postcards and letters from his travels. They exchanged letters for the next five years.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1878
    Age 28
    In 1878, Kellar returned to England and invested $12,000 into purchasing new equipment, including a version Maskelyne's whist-playing automaton "Psycho".
    More Details Hide Details After a disappointing tour in South America, Kellar cancelled his remaining shows and returned to New York. Shortly before arriving, Kellar was told of the death of magician Robert Heller. The New York Sun accused Kellar of violating Heller's personality rights, saying that "Heller is scarcely dead before we read of 'Kellar the Wizard'." The article goes on to say, "Of course 'Kellar' aims to profit by the reputation that Heller left, by adopting a close imitation of Heller's name. This is not an uncommon practice." Kellar attempted to prove that his name had always been Keller with an "e" and that he had actually changed it years previously to try to avoid being confused with Heller. He also pointed out that Heller had changed his name from William Henry Palmer. The public was still unreceptive to him, causing Kellar to eventually cancel his upcoming shows in the United States and return to Brazil.
  • 1873
    Age 23
    Kellar spent several years working with them, until 1873, when he and Fay parted ways with the Davenports and embarked on a "world tour" through Central and South America.
    More Details Hide Details In Mexico, they were able to make $10,000 ($ in today's figures). In 1875, the tour ended in Rio de Janeiro with an appearance before Emperor Dom Pedro II. Then, on their way to a tour in England, the ship Kellar and Fay were sailing on, the Boyne, sank in the Bay of Biscay. Lost in the wreckage were Keller's equipment and clothing, along with the ship's cargo of gold, silver and uncut diamonds. After the shipwreck, Keller was left with only the clothes on his back and a diamond ring he was wearing. Afterwards, his bankers in New York cabled him telling him that his bank had failed. Desperate for money, Kellar sold his ring and parted ways with Fay, who left to rejoin the Davenports. After visiting John Nevil Maskelyne's and George Alfred Cooke's theater, called the Egyptian Hall, Keller was inspired and liked the idea of performing in one spot. He loved the illusions Maskelyne and Cook performed but it was Buatier de Kolta, then playing there, who performed 'The Vanishing Birdcage', a trick that Kellar decided he must have and spent his remaining money to buy it from him. Kellar borrowed $500 from Junius Spencer Morgan (father of J.P. Morgan), and returned to the United States to try to retrieve his funds from a bank transaction he had initiated when he was in Brazil.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1869
    Age 19
    In 1869, Kellar began working with "The Davenport Brothers and Fay", which was a group of stage spirtualists made up of Ira Erastus Davenport, William Henry Davenport and William Fay.
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  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1849
    Born
    Born on July 11, 1849.
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