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Blackstone, Harry, Jr. (30 June 1934–14 May 1997), magician, was born Harry Bouton Blackstone, Jr., in Three Rivers, Michigan, the son of Harry Blackstone, a noted magician, and Mildred Phinney Blackstone, who assisted her husband in his shows. The younger Blackstone allegedly made his stage debut as an infant, carried on by his mother when she was unable to find a babysitter. By the age of four he was appearing regularly onstage as his parents toured the country, and like the children of most magicians he learned his father's tricks. He enjoyed performing, and it seemed natural that he, too, would become a magician; but throughout his childhood his father made it clear that young Harry was to get a formal education and prepare himself for a “real” profession....

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Davenport, Ira Erastus (17 September 1839–08 July 1911), and William Henry Harrison Davenport (01 February 1841–01 July 1877), mediums and stage magicians, were born in Buffalo, New York, the sons of Ira Davenport, a police officer, and Virtue Honeysett. Following publicity about ...

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See Davenport, Ira Erastus

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Houdini, Harry (24 March 1874–31 October 1926), magician and escape artist, was born Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss and Cecelia Steiner. In 1878 the family immigrated to Appleton, Wisconsin. The town’s small Jewish congregation hired Mayer Samuel as its rabbi but released him after four years. He began a hapless twelve-year search for a settled rabbinical post to support his wife and seven children and was reduced to accepting provisions from a relief society and selling part of his scholarly library. Young Ehrich once ran away from home and later recalled the period as “hard and cruel years when I rarely had the bare necessities of life.”...

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Kellar, Harry (11 July 1849–10 March 1922), magician, was born Heinrich Keller in Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of German immigrants. He had little formal schooling and worked at a young age to assist his family. At the age of ten he hopped a train and traveled about the country, eventually earning his living selling newspapers in Manhattan. Robert Harcourt, a British-born clergyman, took him under his wing, taking Kellar to Canandaigua, New York. He began his career after seeing a performance by I. H. Hughes, known as the Fakir of Ava. Soon afterward Kellar became Hughes’s assistant at the age of eleven. When he was sixteen, he attempted to succeed with his own show but failed, returning to Hughes after a short period of time....

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Thurston, Howard (20 July 1869–13 April 1936), magician, was born Howard Franklin Thurston in Columbus, Ohio, the son of William H. Thurston, a carriage maker, and Margaret Claude. He was first enthralled at the age of seven by Herrmann the Great when he saw him perform in Columbus. Shortly thereafter, as a result of the depression of 1873, Thurston dropped out of school to earn money in a variety of jobs to help support his family. At the age of thirteen he hopped a freight car, became a hobo, and spent several years working concession sales at race tracks. He returned home at the age of sixteen. A year later he was arrested when he tried to steal a nickel from a train conductor because he did not have the fare. He was interviewed by relatives of a prison reformer, ...