|Harry Blackstone Sr.|
|Born||Sep. 27, 1885
Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Died||Nov. 16, 1965 (at age 80)
Harry Blackstone Sr. was a famous magician and illusionist of the 20th century. He was often referred to as The Great Blackstone. His son, Harry Blackstone, Jr., was also a very famous magician. As a magician, Blackstone Sr. possessed the ability of superior sleight-of-hand and showmanship skills. He was a master in the art of grand illusion and some of his signature stage effects were the Vanishing Birdcage, the Floating Light Bulb, and the Dancing Handkerchief.
Harry was born Harry Bouton on September 27, 1885, in Chicago, Illinois. At the early age of eight, he became fascinated with magic after he received a magic trick as a birthday present. After a short while, Harry performed for members of his church congregation.
When he turned 12, Harry vowed to himself that he would become the next great magician. This was inspired by the legendary magician Harry Kellar, who was performing at the McVickers Theater.
Early Career in Magic
Harry did a lot of research about magic. He went to the local library and experimented by incorporating sleight-of-hand and large illusions when he practiced. After this, he took various jobs as a carpenter. As a carpenter, he used his abilities in cabinet making to devise and construct his own magic props. His own brother would then design and build most of the props used in Harry’s extravagant magic shows.
When Harry Blackstone Sr. turned 14, he performed his very first paid show. After this, together with his brother, they started booking shows around town, entertaining for private parties and clubs. In 1904, the two brothers created a Vaudeville act known as Straight and Crooked Magic. Harry provided the straight magic while his brother delivered the comedic portion of the act.
Blackstone the Magician
Harry changed his name during the First World War due to the rising unpopularity of German names. Before long, he achieved great success in the Vaudeville circuit in the 1920s and 1930s. Harry and his brother developed a large-scale illusion show and started touring the country with it.
By coincidence, the legendary Harry Kellar watched one of Blackstone’s shows in Los Angeles. He was very impressed by the act and even visited him backstage to congratulate him. The two became great friends and shared many secrets in the magic world.
Harry Blackstone Sr. continued to tour the country, and he performed his extravagant illusions and incorporated a large cast of uniformed male and female assistants. In most cases, Harry performed in silence.
His career as an illusionist flourished over time. Eventually he became the most popular magician in North America. Throughout the Second World War, Harry was a great celebrity as a USO entertainer. He even took his grand illusion show to 165 military bases to entertain the troops.
Publications and Television
Harry Blackstone, Sr. published a number of books that were ghostwritten for him by Walter B. Gibson, including a comic book entitled Blackstone the Magician Detective.
During the early years of television, Harry made several appearances on many shows such as Person to Person and The Tonight Show.
Later Years and Death
In the 1950s, Harry stopped touring and resided in Hollywood where he made several stage and television appearances. On November 16, 1965, he died at the age of 80. He is memorialized in Michigan by two historical markers – the American Museum of Magic and another marker in the town of Colon, where he spent much of his time when he was not on tour.