The History of Magic is Vast, and We Have All Heard The Terms “Magic and Magician” But What Exactly Are We Talking About Here???

Well, there are several dictionary definitions out there, but for our purposes in this article about the history of magic, think of “magic” as something like this:

Magic is a performance art utilizing secret means to create impressions of unexplainable feats designed to amuse, baffle and impress a sense of wonder on the viewer(s).

What does that mean? Modern magic creates the impression that the impossible or supernatural has actually been accomplished. It is important to reiterate; magic offers the “impression of the supernatural,” no ghostly beings or entities really have any part in a magic act. In reality performance magic is accomplished by a knowledgeable and skilled entertainer who has carefully crafted ways to utilize natural methods in to develop the impression that something unexplainable has actually been done.

Drawing from the history of magic, early magic was often utilized to deceive people create and advantage. This might be in gambling, such as card games, or to apparently read the future (fortune tellers).  It could be said that magic/illusion was used in times of war, like making use of the Trojan Horse. During the 18th century magic ended up being less of a series of apparently meaningless deceptions or swindles and became more of a theatrical art performed by expert illusionists and enjoyed by polite society.

Most consider the earliest modern-day practice of magic techniques were created by Jean Eugene Robert Houdin in the mid-1800s. Magic Historians, people who devoted their lives to study the history of magic, have dubbed Houdin the “father of modern conjurers.” Houdin, initially an accomplished clock maker and inventor, turned to the practicing of stage magic. He opened his own magic theater in Paris in the 1840s. Houdin’s technique was way ahead of its time; he featured many mechanical pieces that appeared to move and act as if they were alive and even had a working light-bulb way ahead of Edison.

Through the following years, the appeal of magic continued to grow. In 1873 British entertainers John Nevil Maskelyne and his partner George Cooke developed their own theater, renovated the Egyptian Hall in London England’s Piccadilly. Maskelyne and Cooke (and then later Devant) developed stage magic into real theatrical productions. Many of the illusions the originated are still being performed today,

The late 19th century magic produced true superstars in the world of entertainment. This was the time of the world-famous Harry Houdini. Houdini’s reputation grew from his unique ability to liberate himself from all manner or restraints (handcuff, straitjackets, even jail cells). Today this term is described as escapology.

In the mid-20th century magic lost much of its status. It was often considered insignificant entertainment just for children or a stereotype to make fun of. It wasn’t until Doug Henning, David Copperfield and Paul Daniels came along to once again lift magic to the ranks of legitimate entertainment.

Today magic appears to be in style once again. There are many Magicians and Illusionist headlining the top entertainment spots in the world and there are many primetime television shows that regularly feature magicians. Recently House Resolution #642 of the US Congress recognized “Magic” as a rare and valuable art form, declaring it a national treasure!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip through the history of magic, and we encourage you to enjoy magic in all its many forms, funny or dramatic, large illusions or tricks that happen in your own hands, larger than life spectacle or a revelation of a thought, there is an exciting world of entertainment for your pleasure.


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