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Timeline of Magic

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Early History

2700BC - The reputed first known performance of a conjuring effect (cups and balls) by the magician Dedi in ancient Egypt. Dedi had done other effects such as decapitating a birds head and reattach the head resurrecting it. (This is disputed as there is nothing in the reference to Dedi, specifically in the Westcar Papyrus, to indicate that he did the cups and balls for anyone. The famous drawing of two men performing the cups and balls, from the tomb and Beni Hasan is believed by most experts to be bakers making bread with bread molds.)(Note: Since there is no indication that Dedi performed the Cups and Balls, and the Beni Hasan heiroglyph is no longer considered to represent the effect, there is no evidence for the existence of the Cups and Balls during this time period.)

50-300AD - The Acetabularii performed the Cups and balls in ancient Rome using stones and small vinegar cups (hence the name Acetabularii). Acetabularii are a group of magicians specializing on the cups and balls effect.

400-1000 - The dark ages; little is known about the history of magic, but much of it was associated with the occult and magic as entertainment is not prominent.

1000-1500 - The Middle Ages where much magic was still associated with the occult and witchcraft. The growing trading nature of society allowed some street or circus performers to make a living out of old classics such as the cups and balls and indeed more modern ideas such as cheating by short changing via sleights with coins and other small objects. [edit] 1500s

1558 - Natural Magick, or Magia natvralis libri viginti is written, dealing with "natural sciences".

1581 -A Brief and Pleasant Treatise, Early book in English, that was one of the first to included magic.

1584 - The Discoverie of Witchcraft published by Reginald Scot. This book was designed in part to counter the activities of persecutionists, but at the same time revealing many conjuring secrets of the day, when magic and witchcraft were still linked.

1599 - Reginald Scot dies.

       View Complete 1500s Page 


1612 - The Art of Jugling or Legerdemaine is published.

1631 - One of the earliest documentations of the bullet catch appeared in the book Threats of God's Judgments by Reverend Thomas Beard.

1633 - Tabarin dies. He was known for performing Chapeaugraphy.

1638 - Claude-Gaspar Bachet, a French mathematician who formed the basis for almost all later books on mathematical recreations, dies.

       View Complete 1600s Page 


       View Complete 1700s Page 


1805 - Year of birth of Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (d. 1871). The "father of modern magic," who brought it from the street and circus side shows to an elegant stage or drawing room setting.

1868 Robert-Houdin published Les Secrets de la prestidigitation et de la magie (translated in 1878 by Professor Hoffmann under the title The Secrets of Conjuring and Magic.)

1874 - Year of birth of Harry Houdini aka King of Cards and King of Handcuffs (d. 1926). Real name Ehrich Weiss, he achieved fame as an escapologist.

1876 - The first publication of Modern Magic. Written by Professor Hoffmann (1839-1919) (Real name Angelo John Lewis), it was a definitive work on the state of the art of that time.

1894 - Year of birth of Dai Vernon (d. 1992). Aka as The Professor and The Man That Fooled Houdini, he was born as David Frederick Wingfield Verner in Ottawa. The most influential 20th C magician.

       View Complete 1800s Page 


1902 - The "Expert At The Card Table" is published by The Charles T. Powner Co. was written by S.W. Erdnase. Considered by serious card workers as one of the most important books written.

1905 - Feb - The British Magical Society formed in London, UK; the oldest continually meeting magic society in Europe. Its first President was David Devant. In June it evolved into The Magic Circle. This prestigious organisation acts like a trade union for magicians and has strict rules against exposure. (It expelled its founder for alleged exposure, something it has done to many famous magicians.) [edit] 1920s

1921 - P.T. Selbit performs the first ever "Sawing in half", something that is, in present day, synonymous with the art of magic.

1926 - On All Hallows Eve at 1:26 pm, Harry Houdini dies. [edit] 1930s

1936 - Genii, the largest independent conjurer's magazine first published. Genii has always been an integral part of the magic fraternity. Founded by William Larsen, Sr, Genii has helped shape the growth of the world of magic for over seven decades. [edit] 1940s

1949 - The first publication of Royal Road to Card Magic Written by Jean Hugard and Fred Braue, it's still an important first text for card workers today. [edit] 1950s

1952 - The first publication of Modern Coin Magic Written by JB Bobo, considered by some the "bible" of coin magic, many other works reference this one.

1956 - David Copperfield is born on September 16th, as David Seth Kotkin. [edit] 1960s

1963 - The Magic Castle is formed by Milt Larsen in Hollywood USA by converting a 1908 Victorian mansion to a centre of magical excellence. Many leading magicians have performed there. Dai Vernon was resident magician in the latter part of his life.

1968 - The book 13 Steps to Mentalism by Tony Corinda was published and is one of the most famous books on mentalism. [edit] 1970s

1974 - The musical The Magic Show starring Doug Henning opens on Broadway and ushers in a new "Golden Age" of magic. [edit] 1990s

1994 - The first online magic stores appear following the older text type newsgroups and bulletin boards. Pictorial and information sites soon follow, changing the way magic is learned and distributed.

1997 - The Masked Magician , Val Valentino, provokes much controversy by exposing magic secrets on major Fox TV specials. David Blaine brings "Street Magic" to America.

1998 - World Of Illusion at Madison Square Garden launched the career of Criss Angel, followed by Criss Angel Mindfreak which ran until 2003.

1998 - Writer and publisher Richard Kaufman purchased Genii from the Larsen family, starting a new era in the magazine's history.

       View Complete 1900s Page 

See also

   * A Timeline of 19th and 20th centuries magic and magicians created from David Alexander's abandoned book project. 


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