Showing posts with label Adelaide Herrmann. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adelaide Herrmann. Show all posts

Friday, May 26, 2017

Adelaide Herrmann For Kids

I stumbled upon this book quite by accident. I found it while searching ebay for vintage magic props. What is it? It's a new children's book all about the life of Adelaide Herrmann by Mara Rockliff.

I have most great things to say about the book. First, it's wonderful to see a book about a different magician (other than Houdini) for the general public and especially kids. Second, it's wonderful to read about a female magician who deserves all the press she can get, both in her time and in ours! Third, the illustrations are phenomenal.

But sadly, there is one negative. It's not something that hindered my reading or my purchase of the book, but I'm a magic fan. They've included the story of the Bullet Catch routine. And though it's historically accurate, schools, libraries and parents are hyper politically correct these days and this one single thing could prevent them from purchasing or reading the book, which is unfortunate I must say. Because I love the book.

The author did a fantastic job covering the life of Adelaide Herrmann. You also get a glimpse of ole Alexander in there as well. And there is a tip of the hat to the two leading Herrmann historians of today, James Hamilton and Margaret Steele. This book came out in 2016, so James would have seen it and I'm sure he loved it. For those unaware, James passed away this week from liver cancer.

If you want to pick up this book, I found my copy on eBay, and I know there are other copies available there as well. The price runs just under $20.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Grave of Herrmann The Great

photo courtesy of Kenneth Hughes

Over on my DeadConjurers blog, I have posted photos of the graves of Adelaide Herrmann and her husband Alexander, known as Herrmann The Great. But recently I came upon THIS photo on and the owner of the photo Kenneth Hughes kindly gave me permission to put the photo up. Just below this image are two grave markers, one for Adelaide and one for Alexander. But I'd never seen the large tombstone before.

I've written a number of articles on Alexander and his wife Adelaide. I'd encourage you to check them out if you've never read them before!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Adelaide Herrmann and the 1926 Fire

Warehouse on 46St NYC
This is a story I had read about in different books over the years, but always in snippets. I never quite knew the whole story and now thanks to the publication of Adelaide Herrmann's Memoirs, I've got more information. But I'm also going back to other sources to pull out the various discussions of the event because other historical figures get involved.

Adelaide Herrmann was the widow of Alexander Herrmann, known as Herrmann The Great. After Alexander died in their traincar in December of 1896, Adelaide decided to take a version of their show out. She chose Alexander's nephew Leon to fill the male role and she sent for him in Europe.
They toured together for three seasons until personality clashes caused them to part ways.

Adelaide had inherited all of the properties from the original Herrmann the Great show and these were stored in a warehouse near 37th St in New York City.  However, Mrs. Herrmann had been notified that the warehouse building that held all her equipment was due to be demolished and she would need to find a new location. The new warehouse was at 611 46th Street NYC.  Along with all the props, costumes, scenery, and illusions were also all of Adelaide's animals that she used during her 'Noah's Ark' routine.

On the morning of September 7th, 1926, an explosion occurred at the warehouse and the building was engulfed in flames. All 200 animals perished in the fire, along with an animal trainer and the majority of the Herrmann props. Apparently, one crate remained unharmed but was later broken into by thieves so nothing remained of the Herrmann legacy.

What caused the fire? The New York Times reported that an alcohol still, or several stills, hidden on the roof of the warehouse had exploded causing the fire.

It would seem that Adelaide Herrmann's show business career was over. However, a number of professional performers came to her aid. Among them was the President of the Society of American Magicians, Harry Houdini, who donated a Noah's Ark Illusion to replace the one that had been destroyed by fire. Harry Blackstone Sr. also helped Mrs. Herrmann by donating equipment. She quickly put together a new act and was up and running by October 1926.

Though the majority of the props owned and used by the Herrmann's had been destroyed in the Sept 7th warehouse fire, some props still remain today in private collections. Among the props that still exist are a Pistol used by Alexander Herrmann to vanish rings and a pair of Rapping Hands, both in the collection of Ray Goulet. Also Ken Klosterman has a center table that belonged to Herrmann, and the magic wand that used by Alexander Herrmann, which once was owned by Houdini, is now in the Copperfield collection. There may be other props scattered among collectors but those are a few I'm aware of.

Below is a photo of the location of the 611 46th Street warehouse. You'll see today it still remains a shell of it's former self. However, at the top of the page is a photo of 609 46th Street,  a warehouse that has been there since 1879 and this is very likely exactly what Adelaide Herrmann's warehouse once looked like. One other note, this location is walking distance from the pier where the USS Intrepid is docked and also where one of the NASA Space Shuttles now sits on display.
Location of Adelaide Herrmann's Warehouse & Fire

Milbourne Christopher, The Illustrated History of Magic
M-U-M Magazine, March 1981, article 'Ladies of the Hall of Fame' by Colette Cozean
Genii Magazine August 2000, article 'Adelaide Herrmann' by James Hamilton
M-U-M Magazine, May 2011, article 'Adelaide Herrmann & The SAM' by Margaret Steele
Frank Dudgeon with Ann Goulet, RAY GOULET Recollections of a Renaissance Man
Adelaide Herrmann & Margaret Steele, Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic, Memoirs

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Queen of Magic - Book Review

A while ago I mentioned that Margaret Steele had published the recently discovered memoirs of Adelaide Herrmann. But at the time I had not read the book. I was unaware that the book would be released not only in a hardbound edition but also in trade paperback version. This is exciting news because the book is much more affordable and easily accessible.

The bulk of this book (30 chapters) was written by Adelaide Herrmann. These were the Memoirs of her life with Alexander Herrmann and then her own career after he passed on. Sadly, she did not quite finish the book. She did complete the section on her life with Alexander but the part about her own career stops at a particular part which I plan to cover in a separate blog later.

Margarete Steele edited the book and then gathered additional information, such as all the articles that Adelaide ever wrote on magic and reprints of newspaper articles and similar articles of interest. There were no corrections in the language of the times, so there are occasions when Mrs. Herrmann was not politically correct by modern standards.

As to the content of the book, it is simply amazing. I've always enjoyed the brief biographies of the Herrmann's that appear in various magic books, but always yearned to know more. In this book, we learn that there was a rivalry between the two brothers Compars and Alexander and that they didn't speak for a period of time. I'm not sure still if they reconciled their differences. Adelaide implies they did but it's really tough to say.

One of the things I love about Alexander Herrmann was that he chose to a magician both on and off the stage. He was 'street magic' 100+ years before David Blaine and others were even born. He would cut open fruit to find coins inside while at a market. He would often produce a diamond ring from a biscuit or piece of bread, which had backfired on him on one occasion. A waitress took the ring and did not want to give it back! Alexander had to plead with the restaurant owner to retrieve his ring.

I was fascinated to learn that Alexander Herrmann was doing the 'muscle pass' with a coin as far back as the 1890s. For some reason I thought this effect was a bit more modern, but Adelaide properly describes his method for causing a coin to apparently float up from one hand to the other through the use of muscle control.

Adelaide doesn't go into specifics on the amount of money that Alexander made over the course of his lifetime but it had to be millions. He invested in theatres long before that kind of thing was popular. The Herrmanns you see were on the scene before Vaudeville came about. Herrmann's idea of buying theatrical properties and putting shows in them was just ahead of it's time.

Herrmann was also very generous and on more than one occasion took it upon himself to help pay expenses for other performing troupes. His generosity and his excessive spending had left them with very little money at the time that Herrmann passed away. It's clear that the hope was the restore their money by the end of their tour, however Alexander died midway.

In the book, The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher, there is a wonderful photo of Herrmann's house, known as Whitestone Manor on Long Island Sound. There is an even better photo of it in the book. It's a beautiful property but apparently, Herrmann only leased the property he did not actually own it.

Herrmann loved purchasing extravagent items like his  Herrmann Railcar. This train car was originally owned by actress Lily Langtry and Herrmann purchased it from her. The book contains photos of the interior and the exterior of the train car. As it turns out, Alexander Herrmann would die upon this train car in December 1896. They also owned a yacht which they called Fra Diavolo.

After her husband died, she went out on her own, first with her nephew Leon and then as a solo act. Apparently, she never spoke on stage, all of her work was done silently. She also incorporated special dances into her act as well. Her husband was known as an excellent sleight of hand artist and while he was alive Adelaide never ventured into that part of performing. But after he died, she began to learn and develop her own Billiard Ball Manipulation act, which takes a great deal of skill.

Adelaide and Alexander were remarkable people from a unique time in history. They were performing during the days of the Wild West right up until just before Vaudeville started. Eventually, Adelaide became a popular Vaudeville attraction in her own right.

This book is a must have for any magic historian or magic enthusiast. Margaret Steele has done a fine job which really feels like a labor of love from all parties involved. I saw the book listed on the Barnes & Noble website so it's even available to the general public which is exciting. For the price, you just can't beat it!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Adelaide Herrmann Memoirs

(Library of Congress photo)
I decided to rewrite the earlier blog about the new 'Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic Memoirs' book, edited by Margaret Steele. The book can be purchased at!the-book After reading an article about Margaret Steele that appeared in the October 2011 MUM magazine, I found some helpful information that I'm going to share with you.

Margaret Steele, is a musician, magician and magic historian among a host of other things. From what I've read, her approach to magic is quite artistic and she actually presents an act which is an homage to Adelaide Herrmann.

Who was Adelaide Herrmann? She was born Adelaide Scarcez in 1853 in Surrey England. She would meet and marry a man who later become the most famous magician of his time, The Great Herrmann (Alexander Herrmann). They worked together presenting magic all over the Globe until Alexanders sudden death aboard a train in 1896. It was up to Adelaide to pick up the show and carry on the tradition, which she did and became known as the Queen of Magic.

The book is just as much about Alexander as it is Adelaide. The final five chapters are those strictly about Adelaide and her life/work. It's exciting to know that such a book exists as there is just not enough information out there on the Herrmann family.

If you are wondering how this all came about, it turns out that that while Margaret was doing her own research on Adelaide Herrmann, a Herrmann family relative discovered the book. Apparently, it had been passed down through the family and now it was in the hands of someone who wanted to pass it on to a proper home. The relative contacted the SAM Parent Assembly, who in turn contacted Margaret Steele, because they knew of the work she was doing researching Adelaide's life. Long story short, Margaret purchased the book with an agreement to one day pass it on to the Parent Assembly.

How exciting is that? This happened LAST year, in 2010! It gives me such hope that other wonderful magic treasures are still out there waiting to be uncovered. I can't wait to order this book, hopefully they don't run out before that time. I thought I'd share with you a video of Ms. Steele presenting her act 'Cornucopia' An Homage to Adelaide Herrmann. It's a beautiful piece of magic set to an equally amazing piece of music. Enjoy.

You might also be interested in a previous blog article which mentions Compars Herrmann and his daughter, Alexander and Adelaide Herrmann, as well as Houdini, who it turns out was a relative!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Houdini & The Herrmann Connection

Houdini and Compars Herrmann
I had heard speculation that Houdini and the Herrmann Family (Compars and Alexander) were related but I always thought it was more of a myth. As it turns out, the Kalush biography does spell it out a bit more and explains they were first cousins through marriage. However, here is the family connection in Houdini's own words.

"Knew Blanche Corelli very well, and it may surprise you to know that my father's first wife
was a first cousin to Compars Herrmann's first wife. Rosa Csillag. My dear old Dad and Compars Herrmann were great companions and for business reasons have never given out the facts, because they might think that at one time I was seeking publicity."
The last line of this is priceless, Houdini fearing someone might think he was just out to seek publicity! lol. This is from a letter Houdini wrote to Frederick Eugene Powell.

In his day, Compars Herrmann was enormously successful in Europe and very well known. Compars had one child by the name of Maria Dorothea Herrmann. She was named after the daughter of the Belgian Archduke Josef Palatin and his wife whose name was Dorothea. Maria would grow up to become a fairly well known opera singer and change her name to Blanche Corelli. My article here centers on Herrmann's daughter, Houdini's cousin, Blanche Corelli. Incidentally, Blanche herself would often tell people that she and Houdini were related. To make it easy, I'll refer to Compars daughter from here on out by her stage name Blanche Corelli.

Compar's daughter
I honestly had never heard her name before. She is mentioned in a single sentence in the Herrmann biography by H. Burlingame. She does appear in a few magic periodicals, but again, mentioned briefly as attending German magic society meetings. I found her by stumbling upon an extremely interesting website devoted to a man named Hall Lippincott, If you've heard of the famous Lippincott Box which was created by Jack Lippincott, well Hall was Jack's first cousin. Hall's daughter Cindy put together an incredible website about her father and his exploits traveling around the world. The information was taken from her father's journals and from letters he had written. One of the people that Hall Lippincott encountered on his journey was Madam Blanche Corelli. Hall and Blanche exchanged so many letters that Cindy Lippincott created a separate site for Ms. Corelli.

Postcard showing the students of Blanche Corelli
It's hard to know where to begin. So let's just start with what I know. Blanche was born Feb 4, 1853 in Odessa Russia. She was the daughter of Compars Herrmann and his first wife Rose.  Rose Szchlig (as Houdini spelled it) sang in the Imperial Opera of Vienna, the proper spelling of her name is Rosa Csillag. Her daughter Blanche would follow in her mothers shoes and one day became an operetta vocalist.  One book I found says that 'Blanche Corelli' was actually a stage name and her real name was Blanche Crillae, though her actual real name was Maria Dorothea. She would one day live in America and have her own opera company. Eventually Blanche returned to Germany and started a family. She changed from singing in the opera to becoming one of the most well known and sought after music teachers in all of Germany.
An online search for Blanche Corelli brings up several pages where her name is mentioned either in conjunction with her Opera Company or as a music teacher. But the only place that I could find that really reveals who this woman really was is the site created by Cindy Lippincott.

Houdini was aware of the family connection and he knew and corresponded with Blanche. In one letter he wrote to Blanche he signs his name 'Harry Houdini-ski". In another letter he begins with "My Dear Dear Blanche Corelli, You note that I call  you dear dear, that means I want something from  you." which is a very funny line to start the letter.

Another line of interest reads "PLEASE dont refuse, for if you do, when I play a return to Berlin, I will tell Ike Rose." This line makes no sense to me today, so I tried to research who 'Ike Rose' was. Turns out there was an Ike Rose who managed a troupe of midgets. So I take it that the line was written in jest, again showing the friendly terms that Houdini and Blanche Corelli were on.

On a different note, I found the red/white/blue Houdini sticker at the top of the letter to be quite interesting. The very same sticker was placed over the back of the envelope that the letter was sent in. Take a closer look.

Getting back to Blanche, when she met Hall Lippincott she was 75 years old and living in Berlin. They stayed in touch through letters all the way into 1939. The letters are revealing in many ways. From a historical perspective, remember in 1933 Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and it was that same year that the first Concentration Camp was opened. But her letters describe the conditions in Germany as being bad as early as 1931.

It's clear that Blanche is not a wealthy woman and money is an issue at this time of her life. She tried unsuccessfully to obtain money from her fathers estate. When Adelaide Herrmann died Blanche tried to obtain something from her Aunt's Adelaide's estate. Blanche reveals that she was the one who kept after Alexander Herrmann, her Uncle, to marry Adelaide. Sadly, Adelaide gambled away her money and left pretty much nothing when she died. And to make matters worse, poor Blanche ended up getting into a battle of words with Herrmann family members here in the U.S..

What eventually happened to Blanche Corelli is unknown. Her last letter to Hall Lippincott was in 1939 when she would have been 86 years old. I can't help but hope she died quietly of old age in her home and not suffered the fate of many Jewish residents of Berlin Germany in the 1930s.

I have a personal interest in the Houdini/Herrmann connection, because I too have a Herrmann in my family tree. I've not been able to dig deep enough to discover if there is a connection to Compars & Alexander & Blanche, but even if there is, my connection is via marriage and regardless I would not be a blood relation only related through marriage.

If you'd like to read the letters that Compars Herrmann's daughter wrote you can read them by going to

I want to extend a huge thank you to Cindy Lippincott for letting me use the photos on this blog and for creating the site that records such incredible information about not only Blanche Corelli but also her father Hall Lippincott, one very amazing individual.