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Biography of Okito, creator of the Okito coin box – Theo Bamburg

Biography of Okito, creator of the Okito coin box (Tobias “Theo” Leendert Bamberg—1875-1963)

Tobias “Theo” Leendert Bamberg (1875 – 1963) was a professional magician. Born in Holland, Bamberg performed under the name Okito which was an anagram of Tokio (Tokyo). His father had been court magician to King William III of the Netherlands making Okito the sixth generation in a family of outstanding magicians known as the Bamberg Magical Dynasty.

Early life of Okito

As a young boy, Theo Bamberg nearly drowned while ice skating. The accident left him almost completely deaf and as a result he performed entirely in pantomime.[citation needed] As a young man, inspired by a performance of the great French magician, shadowist and mimic Felecien Trewey, Bamberg developed a shadowgraphy routine which he performed professionally, beginning in his early teens.

Early career of Okito

Poster of Okito, aka. Theo BambergIn 1893, Bamberg created his first Japanese-style act in Berlin at the age of eighteen. Success was virtually immediate, but he eventually abandoned the show to elope with the theater manager’s daughter. Shortly after, his new wife convinced him to change his name from “Tobias/Toby” to “Theodore/Theo”. When he returned to performing, Bamberg altered his Japanese act to become a Chinese-style act to better facilitate a new illusion he had designed. Unlike William Ellsworth Robinson who performed as Chung Ling Soo, Bamberg didn’t make an attempt to hide his European identity.

February 1907 brought the birth of his son, David Bamberg (who would later perform under the stage name Fu Manchu, continuing the magical Bamburg dynasty into its’ six generation) in England. Okito and his family eventually moved to The United States of America where, beginning in 1908, Okito worked as an off-stage assistant/advisor and on-stage feature in the shows of illusionist  Howard Thurston. On the Thurston show, he was billed as “Europe’s Greatest Shadowist.”

Later career of Okito

In 1909 he sold his Okito act to a Brooklyn magician and plumbing contractor, W.J. “Doc” Nixon. It was in that year that Bamberg opened, with partner Joe Klein, the Bamberg Magic & Novelty Co. in New York City. The company was the primary representative of the German firm of Carl Willmann. While minding the store and toying with a pillbox, Bamberg invented his famous Okito box used to perform coin magic.Eventually, Bamberg returned to the road (playing vaudeville and variety theaters), selling his interest in the shop to Klein. Bamberg’s skills were such that existing handmade props created by Bamberg are highly prized by collectors today.[citation needed]

Following a South American and European tour in 1932, Theo decided to settle down and he returned to Holland. Meanwhile, David had established himself in South America and persuaded his father to come and visit him. Okito did so just as the Nazis invaded Belgium and Holland. As a result, all of his possessions were either confiscated or destroyed. Theo Bamberg, known as Okito and frequently billed on posters as The Mystic ended his last years in Chicago where he won the friendship, respect and admiration of everyone interested in magic.

Originally published at  Wikipedia

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