Biography of Harry Blackstone, aka. The Great Blackstone (1885 – 1965)
Many people are called stars of stage, screen, television and radio – The Great Blackstone was all of these, as well one of the great magicians of the 20th Century, counting such luminaries as Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston as his rivals. But the story of the Great Blackstone begins on September 27, 1885 in Chicago, Illinois, with the birth of Harry Bouton.
Young Harry’s first introduction to magic was on his 8th birthday, where he received a magic trick for a birthday present. This started a lifelong fascination with the art of magical entertainment. This included studying books from the library on the subject. It resulted in young Harry giving his first amateur magic performance in a church basement for members of the family congregation that same year.
In 1897, young Harry saw a performance by the great Harry Kellar, the leading magician of his day, at Chicago’s McVickers Theater. Years later, after a performance in Los Angeles by Harry Blackstone and his brother Pete, Harry Kellar came backstage. The two Harrys became friends. But that was years ahead – first came many years of practice at sleight of hand. Also working with cabinet makers to learn how to build magical props of his own, along with his brother Pete. Some of the handmade Blackstone props were so well made that Harry’s son, Harry Blackstone Jr., inherited some of them and continued to use them in his own performances.
Prior to any of that, however, Harry and Pete had to earn their stripes by putting their skills into action. In 1899, Harry and his brother, Pete, became regular performers on the club and party circuit, perfecting their art and helping to pay the bills at home. Harry and Pete started a vaudeville act titled “Straight and Crooked Magic” in 1904. Later, they began performing as “Fredrik, the Great & Co.” after buying lithographs with that name for cheap. German names become unpopular during World War I, and so Harry started performing as “Blackstone” - a name that stuck, and became legendary.
Harry Blackstone created a successor with the birth of his son, Harry Blackstone Jr., on June 30, 1934. He grew up to become a successful magician in his own right. He spent years performing at military bases across the world. He was following in his father’s footsteps, who had done the same, performing at 165 military bases during World War II. The 1940’s were a booming time for Harry Blackstone, Sr. – in addition to his film career, he actually became the star of his own comic book, Blackstone the Magic Detective written by his friend Walter Gibson, who also ghost wrote Blackstone’s various books on magic – and also created a radio series of the same name in 1948.
Possibly Harry Blackstone’s most famous illusions, however, happened in 1942 – ”the vanishing audience“. At a performance, Blackstone informed the audience that he had an illusion so vast, so incredible, that the stage couldn’t contain it. He had the entire audience get out of their seats and move outside to the front of the theater. Outside, the audience found out that the theater had caught on fire! Harry Blackstone Sr.’s quick thinking and cool head had saved hundreds of lives.
Harry Blackstone Sr. retired – but continued performing, both on television as well as at the famous Magic Castle.
Harry Blackstone Sr. died on November 16, 1965 in Colon, Michigan, USA.
Bibliography for Harry Blackstone, Sr.
- Internet Movie Database entry on Blackstone
- Old Time Radio – Blackstone the Magician Detective
- Wikipedia entry on Harry Blackstone Sr.
Books by Harry Blackstone, Sr.
- Blackstone’s Modern Card Tricks
- Blackstone’s Tricks Anyone Can Do
- Blackstone’s Tricks And Entertainment (1929)
- Blackstone’s Annual of Magic 1929
- Easy magic for everyone: Ingenious ways in which a beginner, without any expensive apparatus or a knowledge of sleights can entertain and amuse his friends (1930)
- Blackstone’s magic: A book of mystery
- Blackstone’s Modern Card Tricks And Secrets Of Magic (1941)
Classic illusions performed by Harry Blackstone, Sr.
- Disappearing birdcage
- Dancing handkercheif
- Floating light bulb
- Garden of flowers
- Asrah illusion
- Impaling assistant in cabinet with light bulbs
- Sawing a woman in half