(Roughly) Daily

“Magic is an art form where you lie and tell people you are lying”…

 

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Left: “Pheon Waltz Song” with Herrmann dancing on the cover, 1896. (Photo courtesy of New York Public Library). Right: Poster of Herrmann and Company, around 1905. (Photo courtesy of McCord Museum)

In Baltimore, 1878, an eerie silence settled over the crowd in Ford’s Grand Opera House. The boisterous applause for Herrmann the Great’s wondrous illusions, in which the nattily dressed magician in a black velvet suit pulled a rabbit from his hat and levitated a sleeping woman, had abruptly stopped. A net was stretched across the full width of the theater, and the audience knew that the culmination of the evening — the cannon act — had arrived.

A young woman dressed in spangled red tights stepped into an upper stage box where the cannon waited, and was helped into the barrel. When she had vanished from view, Herrmann the Great yelled out: “Are you ready!”

“Yes,” came her muffled response. “Go!”

There was an explosion.

A flash of gunpowder.

And she flew 50 feet through the air.

Only when she landed safely in the net and the smoke cleared did the audience break into a thunder of cheers that lasted on and on as the curtain rose and fell over the bowing Herrmann the Great and the intrepid young woman.

Although the 19th-century audience might not have noticed, she’d also been the evening’s levitating sleeper, the bicycle rider who carried a girl on her shoulders, and the dancer who spectrally swirled in red silk like a pillar of fire. Her name was Adelaide Herrmann, Herrmann the Great’s wife and daring assistant. She was not supposed to be a human cannonball.

She’d taken over that role in Caracas, Venezuela, when their trapeze artists quit halfway through a South American tour, and she described her anxiety the first night “as a condemned man must feel as the fatal hour approaches.” But as she was loaded into the cannon, she showed no fear.

In 1896, Herrmann the Great — a.k.a. Alexander Herrmann — died, leaving his wife responsible for a traveling company, a herd of performing animals, and a lot of debt. If she was frightened, if she was weary, she hid it just as well as she did that night when she was first shot out of a cannon. Adelaide had no choice but to promote herself from assistant to headliner and take center stage.

“Hearts may be torn, bitter tears may be shed, but we of the stage have a jealous mistress in the public, which demands that we be gnawing at the soul,” she wrote.

She would become the Queen of Magic — one of the most celebrated magicians in the world…

When her husband died and left her penniless, audacious Adelaide Hermann transformed from lowly assistant to “the Queen of Magic”– the extraordinary story: “She Caught Bullets with Her Bare Hands — and Made Magic’s Glass Ceiling Disappear.”

* Teller

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As we believe in magic, we might spare a thought for Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (née Cary), the naturalist and educator who was the co-founder and first president of Radcliffe College; she died this date in 1907.  After the death of her husband, Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, with whom she traveled on scientific expeditions, she settled on the idea of college for women in the “Harvard Annex” in Cambridge; in 1894 the Annex became Radcliffe College.  She served as its first president until 1899, then honorary president until 1903.  Her books include A First Lesson in Natural History (1859), and A Journey in Brazil (1867).

 source

 

Written by LW

June 27, 2018 at 1:01 am

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