Back in March, I began an article by lamenting the relative obscurity of one of magic’s greatest female performers, Adelaide Herrmann. Once called “The Queen of Magic,” Herrmann’s rise to fame and fortune in an age that afford women little in the way of opportunity makes for a fascinating story. Fortunately, Allison C. Meier over at Narratively clearly agrees, and has penned a superb article covering Herrmann’s life and career. The read begins with her time performing with her husband, Herrmann the Great, to his untimely death and her rise to fame as a solo magician, then onto her 25-year-long run as one of the most successful magicians in the world, the great warehouse fire that effectively ended her career, and finally, her death.
The article goes beyond the mere facts and dates of Herrmann’s career, and tells her story in a much more emotive fashion than you might expect. For example, I knew Herrmann often performed as a man during her early days in the craft, but I didn’t know the story behind her first real trick:
From the beginning of their collaboration, Adelaide starred in many of Alexander’s illusions. In the early days, she dressed in men’s clothing and went by Mr. Alexander. Mainly she handed props to her husband, but one night, as he accepted a strand of six handkerchiefs that she had gathered from the crowd, he winked and said, “Mr. Alexander is now going to perform this trick.” Adelaide ran from the stage in a panic. After a bit of coaxing she came back and performed the trick, blowing on the knots to make them disappear. Her take on the illusion became a fixture in their program.
This is one of many events in Herrmann’s life that is funnier than Wikipedia makes it sound. The piece, like the life of its subject, is full of funny and heartbreaking moments. I strongly suggest you read it.