Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Project 365 (201/365): Herrmann The Great

.:202/365: Herrmann The Great:.

Nowadays, many people have a pre-conceived notion that a magician is always bedecked in long tails, has a twirly moustache, flat, heavily moussed hair, and a top hat. This man was the one who gave birth to all these conventions, and is considered a part of the “first family” of magic, the Herrmanns.

As the youngest of a brood of 16, it was unquestionable that Alexander Herrmann was born to extraordinary circumstances, even in his own time. His father, Samuel Herrmann, was a part-time magician and a physician, and has gained a lot of popularity in his time, even being summoned to perform by the Sultan of Turkey numerous times (Or at least, this is the claim made by the family.). All throughout, it was only a matter of time before the magical tradition would be passed on to Samuel’s sons, beginning with his eldest, Compars, whom others fondly referred to as “Carl.”

Unlike his father, Compars devoted himself to magic, rather than also becoming a physician. As a performer, he was very happy to discover that his youngest brother, Alexander, was, at the tender age of eight, already expressing an interest in magic. At a very young age, he toured with his elder brother around Europe, and learned everything he could learn from his brother, who eagerly mentored him in the arts of magic. Over time, as Alexander’s skills developed, a mild rivalry arose between the brothers, which set them on their separate ways.

From here, Alexander would tour all over the world as one of the most well-loved performers of all time. In a performance in St. Petersburg, his captivated audience dubbed him as “Herrmann The Great,” in stark contrast to his brother’s title, “The First Professor of Magic in the World.” Although they may have been professional rivals, it could not be said that they were ever at odds with each other on a personal level.

As Alexander took the United States by storm, he became generally known as the King of Magic in the United States, after Robert Heller passed away. His closest rival, Harry Kellar, was a constant thorn in his side, and for many years they would have a storied rivalry that thankfully ended in a truce rather than a drive-by shooting.

It would also be interesting to note that Herrmann The Great was one of the few people who dared to perform the bullet catch illusion. This very routine was learned by his assistant, Billy Robinson, who later became known as Chun Ling Soo, or, for those who don’t recognize the name, the man who became best known for fatally screwing up the bullet catch illusion.

Herrmann The Great’s legacy as a magician certainly lives on to this day. His amazing accuracy with card throwing has given him worldwide notoriety, as he was the first one to make it a significant part of his act, thereby becoming the predecessor to the likes of Jeff McBride and Ricky Jay.

No comments: