FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, TOP ROW : BLACKSTONE, Sr., DANTE, THURSTON. BOTTOM ROW: HOUDINI, McDONALD BIRCH
HARRY BLACKSTONE was born in Chicago on Sept. 27, 1885. His actual name was Henri Boughton but as Blackstone he was for many years among America's top stage performers. He carried membership card #10 in the International Brotherhood of Magicians and was important in the early history of the organization. Blackstone is perhaps best known for the "Vanishing Birdcage" effect that he began performing in 1917. His late son, Harry Blackstone, Jr. performed the same effect until his death. Blackstone, Sr., retired in 1959, and died on November 16, 1965.
DANTE was the stage name of Harry August Jansen, a native of Denmark who was born on October 3, 1883. At the age of six, Jansen's family moved to America and by the age of 17 he was performing professionally, When the first of his five children was born he settled in Chicago and as an illusion builder produced apparatus and illusions for other magicians. In 1923, Dante was chosen by Howard Thurston to tour with a lavish production featuring Thurston's major illusions. Over the next few years, he developed his own show that he called "Sim Sala Bim,"and continued to tour the world until he retired to California in 1949. He died at his home there on June 16, 1955.
HOWARD THURSTON a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born July 20, 1869. He was a self-taught illusionist and card worker when the great Harry Kellar chose him to be his successor. From 1908 to 1931 he toured the world performing major illusions. Before Houdini's ascendancy, Thurston was America's best known stage magician and illusionist. He died April 13, 1936.
HARRY HOUDINI was born as Erik Weisz, the son of a Hungarian rabbi, on March 24, 1874. It is unclear if he was born just before or just after his family moved to America, but soon his name was Americanized to Ehrich Weiss. He became a professional magician as a teenager in NYC, adopting the name Houdini as a tribute to the former French magician, Robert-Houdin. After a humble start as a carnival act, Houdini's great talents for publicity eventually permitted him to travel the world--becoming a legend in his own time as the performer of death-defying escape effects. Although he died on Halloween Day, 1926, he remains the best known of all magicians.
McDONALD BIRCH was born in 1902. Over a show business career of nearly 50 years he performed on the Lyceum, Chatauqua, and various other circuits. For many years he and his wife-assistant, Mabel, featured a "Vanishing Pony" effect in their full stage act. Prior to his retirement in 1964, Mack was known primarily for his school show tours throughout the midwest. In 1980 he was awarded a Master's Fellowship by the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood.
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