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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » Richard Potter, America's first professional magician (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Ronin
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Martinez,CA
190 Posts

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I recently came across a wonderful article on Richard Potter (1783-1835) that greatly expanded my knowledge of America's first professional magician. Written by historian Paul Johnson, it's titled "Playing with Race in the Early Republic: Mr. Potter, the Ventriloquist". It's available online through MIT press:

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/......aq4jytPY

Previously, the most substantial material I'd found was in Jim Magus' book, "Magical Heroes: The Lives and Legends of Great African American Magicians" and Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson's "Conjure Times: The History of Black Magicians in America". The Johnson article was a wonderful read, and I was delighted to find that many of the sources he referenced are available online. The president of the Andover (NH) Historical Society also informed me that Dr. John Hodgson, another historian, is finishing a book on Potter, due to be published soon.

And: the travel website Atlas Obscura just added an entry on Potter's gravesite in Andover (entry written by yours truly):

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grave......magician
David Hirata
www.thingsimpossible.com


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
--Federico Fellini
Dick Oslund
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In the very early '70s, I saw a young man, whose name I have sadly forgotten, do a re-creation of Richard Potter and his act, in the "Jay Marshall Theater" (the "back room" of Magic Inc. in Chicago).

The "theater" was full! The show was great! The performer, dressed in period costume, presented the act that Potter made his living with (egad! another Charlie Miller!). Potter, somewhat like the late BOB HUMMER, was a busker, who worked in the "pubs" in early America. (Max Malini, often worked like this!)

With small props (a few coins, handkerchiefs, etc.) it was very entertaining, especially because the performer's patter was delivered in the vocabulary of the early 19th century.

Maybe someone will know the name of the young fellow who "was" Potter, that evening.
SNEAKY, UNDERHANDED, DEVIOUS,& SURREPTITIOUS ITINERANT MOUNTEBANK
Ronin
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Martinez,CA
190 Posts

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Wow, Dick--I'm envious! I'm guessing that the performer might have been Robert Olson, who performed re-creations of Potter's act in New England for many years?

(And I'm sure a lot of great things have been done in the "Jay Marshall Theater"--I was lucky enough to see the room on a tour at Magic, Inc, and it was a thrill to think of the history in that room.)

I just received an email from Dr. Hodgson, and his book, "Richard Potter--America's First Black Celebrity" is due in January from University of Virginia Press. I can't wait!
David Hirata
www.thingsimpossible.com


"Life is a combination of magic and pasta."
--Federico Fellini
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