|Born||Dec. 17, 1896
Ellicottville, New York, U.S.
Alexander Herrmann (1844-1896) was a French magician. A member of a famous family of magicians, he usually went by the title “Herrmann the Great.” He was a full-time, touring magician while still a young child, later settling in the United States.
Herrmann was born in Paris on February 10, 1844. His father, although a physician by profession, was also a noted conjurer and sometimes put on shows in Europe. He was the youngest of a large family, having 15 siblings. One of his brothers, Compars – usually known as Carl – went to medical school but dropped out in order to pursue his magic career, and this became an inspiration for Alexander.
By 1853, when Carl returned from a tour of his own, he discovered that his young brother was already showing a keen interest in magic and was delighted. Carl took his younger brother with him on a trip to Russia, without asking his parents’ consent, in order to properly teach him magic.
Beginnings of a Career in Magic
The two brothers traveled together on a long journey across Europe, running from St. Petersburg to Vienna. At that point, their mother intervened to say that Alexander must come back home to Paris. Carl tried to reason with her, and eventually he got his way with Alexander remaining with Carl for the full duration of the tour.
The boy worked as Carl’s assistant, especially in a trick where he lay on a thin rod and was suspended horizontally. He also learned how to perform as a medium – while wearing a blindfold – and Carl also taught him how to perform the intricate movements required for convincing sleight of hand.
One of the most famous conjuring tricks – pulling a rabbit out of a hat – was part of his routine, something that was not the case for most magicians. Herrmann was renowned for his skills with cards and sleight of hand.
Fame and Marriage
After a couple of years back in Paris, Alexander was sent to college in Vienna as part of the deal Carl had agreed with his mother. However, the boy continued to find magic more interesting, and in 1860 at the age of 17, he accompanied Carl on an American tour.
By now Alexander was rivaling his brother with his dexterous ability, and his popularity with audiences made Carl somewhat jealous, although he managed to keep a lid on it. A few years later, however, the pair split, with Alexander remaining in the United States and taking citizenship in 1876. Around this time, he married Mademoiselle Scarcez, a well-known dancer.
Hermann performed with his wife for many years with a hugely popular act involving catching bullets and other elaborate tricks. Then he was asked to perform for royalty including the Prince of Wales, later to be crowned King Edward VII. He was reunited with his brother in Paris in 1885, agreeing with him that he would stick to America while Carl performed in Europe.
Just two years later, Carl died in Germany, and Alexander was shocked. He continued to tour with his magic act, but after a date at the Rochester Lyceum in New York, he had a heart attack on board a train. Nothing could be done to save his life, and he died on December 17, 1896.