In today’s post, we’re sharing some fascinating insights and stories from the life of one of the great magicians of history—Harry Kellar.
(We’d like to thank ‘The Magic Detective’ for providing a lot of this information. Go check out that podcast if you haven’t already!)
Now, chances are you haven’t heard of Harry Kellar. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he was one of the most famous and influential magicians in the world.
The wizard from the classic story ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was actually based on Harry Kellar—which you’ll notice if you check out the early illustrated versions of the story!
So how did this now little-known illusionist make such an impact during the golden age of magic? Let’s dive in…
The Amazing Life of Harry Kellar…
Kellar was born Heinrich Keller in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1849. He dropped the “H” from his first name and tweaked his last name to the more stage-friendly “Kellar” after beginning his career.
Following a successful international tour early in his career, Kellar suffered a shipwreck and lost nearly all of his equipment—forcing him to rebuild his show.
His breakthrough came when he purchased the rights to French magician Buatier de Kolta’s famous “Vanishing Birdcage” illusion. Despite its controversial method (which we do NOT condone) this effect became wildly popular in the USA though Kellar.
Over his decades-long career, Kellar toured extensively, performing across the world.
One of his biggest contributions to magic was his work on “The Levitation of Princess Karnac”—a brilliant method for making someone levitate on stage while apparently demonstrating that there was nothing supporting them.
John Northern Hilliard said that this act was “the crowning achievement of Mr. Kellar’s long and brilliant career.”
Kellar influenced many 20th century greats including Houdini, Howard Thurston, Horace Goldin and more—either directly as a mentor or through his pioneering style of showmanship which brought illusion theater to the mainstream.
Known as the “Dean of American Magicians”, Kellar forever changed the art we know and love!
If you’re interested in hearing more of Harry Kellar’s story then I highly recommend you listen to all the episodes on ‘The Magicians Detective” about him…
The Amazing Harry Kellar (Part 1, 2 3)
In these episodes you’ll learn all about Harry Kellar, including…
- The 6-year-old’s magic “awakening” that foreshadowed Kellar’s career
- How a chance dog encounter landed Kellar his first magic gig
- Kellar’s rebellious act that got him fired…yet propelled his fame
- The shipwreck that robbed Kellar of his fortune…and gave him a historic new illusion
- The illusion that sparked controversy – was Kellar really killing birds each night?
- The rag-to-riches story of how Kellar rebuilt his career from nothing
- Kellar’s stripping act: Why he willingly went on stage wearing only his underwear
- How Kellar was the real-life inspiration for the Wizard of Oz
- The lost treasure worth a fortune…is it still sitting on the ocean floor?
Click HERE to listen to the amazing story of Harry Kellar!
So what lessons can today’s magicians take from Kellar’s trailblazing career?
1: Be resilient – Whether physical or mental, all magicians will face set-back at some point in their career. Kellar’s ability to rebuild his show and career following a devastating shipwreck is pretty inspirational stuff.
2: Market yourself effectively – Kellar knew how to brand his magic, hype up his shows and draw crowds. Honestly, we think some of the ‘old school’ effects have the coolest names.
3: Don’t just recreate, innovate – According to Wikipedia, Kellar was originally unable to duplicate the levitation act he was hoping to. Instead, he designed a new method with the help of the Otis Elevator Company. His version would become hugely successful!
4: Mentor others – Passing on knowledge to the next generation is powerful. Be generous in teaching if you can.
We’re doing our part to mentor the next generation of magicians by sharing our journey mastering different elements of magic.
Last black friday, we made a project that involved reaching into the past and bringing the best of that era of magic into the modern day…
This project is a VIDEO collection of 138 of the BEST tricks from our library of 368 classic magic books!
First, we spent hours upon hours pouring over these books, sifting through the material, and finding the very best ‘hidden gems’.
And there were a LOT of them.
In fact, while creating this project we quite literally found the method for one the best selling magic tricks of 2023 in a single throwaway paragraph written by Theodore Annemann.
(this is no exaggeration, check out trick 39 of this project upon purchase to see the proof!)
Next, we spent nearly two weeks practically living in our studio, filming high quality videos going over each of these tricks and making them as EASY to understand as possible.
Our goal was to do ALL the hard work for you.
We’ve taken these tricks, added our own modernizations, touches, alternate handlings and most importantly brought them into the modern age in the form of video.
We’ve also made sure the original excerpts are right below the video because reading and watching can create an even better experience!
This was a mammoth task.
This project has taken 2 years to be fully realized.
As Black Friday and ‘crunch time’ approached, we even had to carve out 2 weeks of our schedule to create a ‘magic bootcamp’ where we did nothing but read, film, edit, learn and produce.
(spending regular 12, 13 and even 20 hour days immersed in this stuff)
Imagine knowing more about magic than you ever have.
Imagine being able to sit down with magicians such as Hugard, Annemann, Vernon, Erdnase, Cardini, Hunter and others, knowing you could have kept up with them.
(and perhaps show them a few things of your own!)
That’s how we felt at the ‘peak’ of this project, while we were so immersed in their work. It’s a feeling we tried to capture in the product.
We’ve talked to magic circle members, top magicians and clients about it for a while now.
But we’re finally sharing it with you…