Showing posts with label Ray Goulet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ray Goulet. Show all posts

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Visit to the Mini Museum of Magic

While in the Boston area, Denise and I stopped by Ray Goulet's Magic Art Studio and the Mini Museum of Magic in Watertown. Ray was a very close friend of Cesareo and in fact, Cesareo had suggested I make this visit on one of my trips. So this time out, we made sure to stop.

I must say it was well worth the visit for many reasons. First off, we spent a few minutes in the actual magic shop which was fun. Then a fellow came in who said he was going to give us a tour. I kind of recognized him but couldn't quite figure out who it was. He introduced himself and gave me his card and as I looked at it for a minute I realized, "WOW, I know who you are!". The fellow giving us the tour was none other than Houdini's Great Nephew John C. Hinson. As you might imagine, the talk moved from general magic history to HOUDINI. My first question right out of the gate was in regards to the WTC and how many there were....and my suspicions were confirmed. It was really fun hearing his stories and talking about Houdini. We spent a little time looking over the collection in this room. There was a lot of stuff, some cool posters. tons of apparatus, pictures of Le Grand David and even a couple automatons. John is a really nice guy and it was fun meeting with him and talking to him.

I'm not sure how long we were in there talking to be honest because we all lost track of time. Then we went into the theatre area where Ray and his wife Ann were along with several other magicians. Among that group was a fellow I also recognized Alan Wassilak the illustrator and cartoonist and magician! I had seen his cartoons in MUM for years and this was the first time meeting him. He turned out to be a super nice fellow and we even saw him the following day at the LeGrand David Show! Great guy!

We spent some time talking to Ann and Ray and everyone. I noticed on the wall a LeGrand David poster I had never seen before. Apparently it was one of the very early ones and was never made into prints. It was hand painted by Rick Heath and it's simply stunning. Also on the wall, suspended by chains was a 500 lbs sculpture of the LeGrand David troupe which was made by David Bull's father. Three of these giant sculptures were cast and Ray has one, there is one on display at the Cabot and then a third is at the American Museum of Magic in Marshall Mich.

Ray decided to take us on a tour of his Mini Museum Annex, and what a surprise we were in for! There is so much stuff in there it boggles the mind. Hanging framed on the wall is a Houdini Buried Alive Poster. There is also a rather large display window with numerous Handcuffs, a costume worn by Bess Houdini, a stock certificate of Houdini's and a punch bowl trophy that was given to Houdini by his assistants. There was also a display with pieces of the original Water Torture Cell.

Among the pieces which belonged to famous magicians, Ray had; Harry Kellar's Die Box, a cloth used in the decapitation trick performed by Alexander Herrmann, A flower botania owned by Harry Blackstone Sr., and a costume worn by none other than Cesareo Pelaez. The wonderful thing about the costume was that it was on a mannequin that looked just like Cesareo. Well it turns out that this amazing piece was also created by hand by Rick Heath, the resident artist at LeGrand David. I think this was our favorite piece in all the collection!

Ray has a video called "Ray Goulet's Mini Museum of Magic" which is available from the shop. It's not very long but it does give a wonderful overview of his collection. By the way, Ray pointed out to us he has never purchased entire collections in his entire time of collecting. Instead, he purchased each item piece by piece and amassed it all over a period of 35 years. It was a real treat to meet Ray and his wife Ann, they are an adorable couple and super nice people!

If you're interested in finding out more about Ray, I suggest you pick up the new book Ray Goulet Recollections of a Renaissance Man by Frank Dudgeon and Ann Goulet available through

If you do contact the shop, also ask about the DVD on his Mini Magic Museum as well!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Boston Globe Article on Ray Goulet

There is a great little article on Ray Goulet the magic collector, historian, performer and magic shop owner that appeared in the Boston Globe recently. You can read the article called Den of Illusion by clicking the link: Den of illusion

Ray's shop called Magic Art Studio can be found online at Within the walls of the shop is Ray's Mini Museum of Magic.. There are a couple Houdini items, including this unusual looking wall bust of Houdini.