Keeping Up With The Times Change in the Character of Magic

The character of Magic, like that of everything else in life, has changed with the changing world. At one time a great deal of cumbersome apparatus was used — many trick cases and trunks and long table drapes. The Magician, too, was encumbered with voluminous robes.

Robert-Houdin, whom I have mentioned before as the founder of the modern school of legerdemain, did away with all the gaudy, clumsy paraphernalia of his predecessors. From his time sleight of hand came into its own and this, of course, does not require much paraphernalia. Many Magicians acquired great skill in manipulating small objects, such as coins and cards, and made a great success of it. T. Nelson Downs is a King of Coins in the magic world. Manuel is another clever coin expert. There was a craze at one time for coin acts in imitation of Downs. Special acts were also built around the use of cards. Howard Thurston was once famous for his card act.

This was the beginning of the development of impromptu and vest-pocket Magic, which of recent years has come into such popularity. The demand for Magicians to perform at clubs, in homes, at social functions, has required the further development of this type of Magic. In such cases the performer cannot have an elaborate preliminary set-up. This has necessitated the simplification of apparatus and the creation of effects which permit the use of paraphernalia which the Magician can carry about with him and for which he can use ordinary objects.

This simplification of paraphernalia and of effects has made the Art of Magic even more astonishing by reason of its impromptu and apparently makeshift nature.

This type of work has developed the suit case act, where the properties are carried in a suit case and are taken out and replaced as necessary. (See Lesson 10, How to Present a Program.) At such a performance the Magician is ready for work when he opens the suit case and has completed his act when he closes it.

The important thing in Modern Magic is not necessarily elaborateness, but novelty, surprise, something spontaneous and effective; and that is what the Modern Magician must give.

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