We know that magic doesn’t exist, who do you take us for? This is the whole point of prestidigitation; you have to give the illusion that magic exists and it’s not within everyone’s reach (even with the magic accessories you received for Christmas when you were a kid). The first famous magicians lived in the 18th century but there have been many more since.
1. Louis Courtois and his 18 children
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Louis Courtois is one of the very first conjurers remembered in history. He became known in Europe in 1815 by traveling with his wife to show his art in different cities. His specialty is to make objects disappear and reappear or even animals like canaries. He is known as “Papa Courtois” because of the shows he organized with his 18 children. Each child had a number, which formed a real circus. Having become adults, most of his children continue the shows on their side by developing new tricks.
2. Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic
Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin is considered one of the greatest conjurers of all time; he is the one who invented a large number of tricks still used in modern magic tricks. Originally passionate about mechanics and science, he discovered illusionism around 1840 and fell in love. He opens a magic theater in Paris where he presents magic tricks but also “magical” automatons (controlled remotely) that he has made. Roger-Houdin thus made a fortune in less than five years.
3. Georges Méliès, the one who mixed formats
After Robert-Houdin’s death, his theater and equipment were sold to a young 27-year-old illusionist: George Méliès. The famous director was above all a magician and he decided to create shows combining magic tricks and image projections. The artists of the time were impressed and Méliès enjoyed great success. In the 1890s, he greatly improved the lives of all traveling magicians in the country by founding a Syndicat des Illusionnistes de France to protect performers from the police who treated them as vagabonds.
4. Adelaide Hermann
Adelaide Herrmann is a British illusionist who for a long time remained in the shadow of her husband despite her great talent. In 1875, the young couple set up a show where Alexander was the magician and Adelaide his assistant. Adelaide knows all the tricks, including the “rabbit coming out of the hat” which they are the first to do, and invented most of them. That’s why she takes over the show on her own when her husband dies and offers dangerous tricks with levitation and sharp weapons. She is a great professional in “bullet catch”, the art of catching a bullet with her hands or even her mouth.
5. Harry Houdini, the Master of Escape
Harry Houdini is one of the most famous magicians of the 20th century. He chose his stage name in homage to Robert-Houdin, who we talked about just above, proof that the latter was not just anyone. Houdini has been an expert in magic tricks since a young age; he made a name for himself by unmasking charlatan mediums, by making elephants disappear but above all thanks to his impressive escape tricks. He is able to free himself from any padlock or chain, even while underwater.
6. David Copperfield
There were many successful magicians between the end of the 20th century and today (including a good number of French people) but the best known of all is surely David Copperfield, since he is the most titled and publicized in the world. According to Forbes, he is the most commercially successful magician of all time. Copperfield creates impressive illusions like his audience disappearing during a show. His most famous trick was the disappearance of the Statue of Liberty in 1983, an event that stunned the world.