Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter! And a Little History On Magic Rabbits and Eggs

Second, I'm not sure what Rabbits and Eggs have to do with Easter? But, I do know what the connection is to magic.

Of course, the Rabbit has become an iconic image often associated with the magician. This dates back to the 1800s. The first magician to 'pull a rabbit from a hat' was possibly a man named Louis Apollinaire Christian Emmanuel Comte, known as 'The Kings Conjurer'. Born June 22, 1788 in Geneva Switzerland, Comte became a popular Parisian performer. One of his more famous effects was borrowing a hat and producing various objects from it.

John Henry Anderson
However, The Great Wizard of the North, John Henry Anderson, is credited with popularizing the effect of a rabbit from top hat. If his advertising is any indication, Anderson not only pulled a single rabbit from a top hat but actually several! How or why this imagery of a rabbit and top hat become so associated with magicians, I'm not quite sure. Afterall, there are countless other wonderful effects that magicians have done but the rabbit/hat has stuck in the minds of audiences as meaning MAGIC.

Interestingly, even in the 21st Century, the image of top hat and rabbit is associate with magicians, even though hardly any magicians wear top hats (except for us Steampunk types, and some kid-show magicians) and very few even use rabbits. In fact the United States Govt has made it very difficult for magicians to use rabbits which is a story for another time.

NOW let's look at the EGG. When you see an egg you don't think of magic or magician, but magicians have been using them for hundreds of years. In the 1700s a magician named Isaac Fawkes was a popular 'Slight of Hand-Man'. He performed at Fairs and Festivals in Europe and was known to conjure with eggs. He might have been the creator of the early Egg Bag, which can be seen in the image to the left. The Egg Bag was a cloth bag that could be turned inside and out and yet produce egg after egg after egg and eventually a live chicken.

A little more than 100 years later, the Egg Bag remained in the repetoire of magicians though it had gone through some changes. Max Malini introduced a bag which was much smaller and used only a single egg. The productions and vanishes of the egg became even more mysterious and impossible in his hands.

An interesting combination of the top hat and eggs occurred in a trick called 'Boy, Girl and Eggs'. It began with the magician getting two volunteers onstage, a boy and girl. An empty top hat was displayed and the magician would reach inside and produce an egg. This egg would be handed to the girl who was instructed to give it to the boy to hold. Then another egg was produced and the same procedure followed. After 5 or 6 eggs the boy found it rather difficult to hold onto the eggs and the comedic moment kicked in. The magician and girl acted oblivious to the boys dilema while the audience forgot about the incredible countless production of eggs from an empty hat and instead focused on the boy struggling to hold onto the eggs. Needless to say he would eventually drop one here and there. Both David Devant and Howard Thurston made this routine popular in their respective shows.

Today, egg tricks can still be found in the world of magic. One of my personal favorites was demonstrating the true strength of an egg by wrapping it in a cloth and having a spectator try and crush it with the grip of their hand. If done correctly, the egg will not break! But in my routine, it never failed that the spectator would break the egg and ruin my cloth handkerchief. So I would snap my fingers and remove the egg, completely restored and intact! Then I would break it into a glass to prove it was real! Most of these tricks have their origins in the Victorian Era but good magic still captivates even today!

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