Last Thursday, the Cache Valley Historical Society was entertained with tricks and stories from local professional magician and amateur magic historian, Richard Hatch.
The presentation, Pioneers of Prestidigitation: Magicians in Early Utah, only included the highlights of Hatch’s research into the area’s recently digitized local papers, but still included a few interesting finds.
One such find was a series of ads for magical performances that informed audiences that while grain was an acceptable form of payment, anyone with a baby would have to pay a whopping (for the time) $10 to see the show. The sign was a joke – at least part of it was, anyway. As Hatch explained, it was quite common for magicians of the time to be paid in goods rather than cold hard cash. And, surprise, people hated babies back in the 1800’s too.
“They didn’t want crying babies there, but they weren’t really going to charge them $10,” Hatch explained.
Other records made mention of a performance by a magician Hatch described as “the most hated magician of his time,” Herbert Albini.
Not only was the polish-born magician rude to audiences and his fellow magicians, he was also somewhat prone to using other magicians to promote himself. Born Abraham Laski and originally performing under the name “Rossini,” he eventually took on the stage name of “Albini” in order to capitalize on the population of a British magician by the name of Lieutenant Albini. The original Albini complained, and Laski agreed to change his name to “Alvene.” Then he didn’t, and instead of enjoyed a long, fruitful career that outstripped his namesake’s. He was also known for using a new deck of cards for each trick, scattering them to the floor when he was finished. The stage would be filled with cards by the end of the show.
“He was the most hated man in magic at that time,” added Hatch.
As I said before, these are just the highlights of Hatch’s research. We’ll let you know if he finds anything juicy.