|Born||July 11, 1849
|Died||March 10, 1922 (aged 72)
Los Angeles, California
Harry Kellar was a famous American magician who was known by man as the Dean of American Magicians. He was the one of the most popular magicians of his time and his performances of illusions used to be the most elaborate ones during late 1890s and early 1900s.
Harry Kellar was born with the name Heinrich Kellar in Erie, Pennsylvania, on July 11, 1849. He was born to German immigrant parents. His father, Francis Kellar, was a soldier in Napoleon’s army.
Harry started working at Carter’s Pharmacy at the age of ten. One day, while experimenting with chemicals, he blew a hole in the shop floor. Knowing that his father would be mad at him due for this, Harry caught a train and left Erie. Out on his own, Harry did many odd jobs until he was taken in by a minister in New York.
The minister offered to adopt Harry if he was willing to study and become a minister as well. However, Harry’s association with his benefactor was short-lived after he visited an illusion show by the Fakir of Ava that inspired him immensely and changed his life completely. He left the minister and tracked down the Fakir of Ava and started working with him as an assistant and learned the tricks of the trade. Kellar made his first solo performance in Michigan, but it turned out to be a disaster.
While performing in Melbourne, Australia, in 1882, Harry met Eva Medley when she asked him for an autograph. They became friendly and Harry promised to send her postcards from his travels. Over next five years, they exchanged letters. In 1887, Eva came to America and the two got married. She played a crucial role in Harry’s shows in the years to come.
Major Work and Achievements
Harry Kellar amazed his fans with several types of magic tricks, including sleight of hand, illusions and duplications of feats performed by alleged spirit mediums. His greatest strength was his presentation. His innovative, lavish productions won him admiration all over the world.
In 1869, Kellar started to work with a group of spiritualists named The Davenport Brothers and Fay. Four years later, William Fay (the “Fay” of the group) and Kellar decided to break away and form a partnership. They went on tour to Mexico and South America. Their show combined Kellar’s old tricks with a Davenport-inspired séance.
After a shipwreck in 1875, however, Fay left Kellar in order to rejoin the Davenports. Over the next 30 years, Kellar became one of the most popular magicians in the world. One of his most popular illusions was the Levitation of Princess Karnac. He also incorporated the aspect of spiritualism in his magic. He demonstrated that he could replicate anything a medium can do. His major performance includes The Nested Boxes illusion, which he performed at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt and his children.
Later Years and Retirement
Kellar retired from his work as a magician in 1908, and he allowed Howard Thurston to become his successor. Harry Kellar’s last performance was at Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore. Post retirement, Harry moved to Los Angeles, California. His wife, Eva, died couple of years later. Harry died in 1922 due to a pulmonary hemorrhage.