Biography of Robert Harbin (February 14, 1909 – January 12, 1978)
The world famous magician Robert Harbin was born in Balfour, South Africa on February 14, 1909. His birth name was Ned Williams. His interest in magic began at the age of eleven, when an ex-serviceman put on a magic show at his school. A poor performance, in Harbin’s opinion. Teaching himself from books, he began performing. As he said himself, “I was a tremendous extrovert and, I think, somewhat objectionable as a youth – a terrible show-off.”
Robert Harbin in London
At the age of 20, he had moved to London, England where he began working in the magic department of a toy store. He began working in music halls under the title “Ned Williams, the boy magician from South Africa.” By 1932, he was appearing in the famous Maskelyne’s Mysteries in various London theaters.
Robert Harbin’s creations
In 1937, he became the first British illusionist to make the move from stage performances to television. He appeared in the BBC show Variety and his own show in 1940. Robert Harbin had a brilliant, creative mind, which he used to create one of the most famous of all stage illusions – the Zig Zag Girl. He created numerous other effects, including the Blades of Opah, Aztec Lady, and Aunt Matilda’s closet, among many others. In addition to his original creations, he was an accomplished sleight of hand performer.
Robert Harbin and Origami
In 1953, Robert Harbin played a small role in the Lloyd Bridges movie, The Limping Man. Although he appeared occassionaly on television in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it was his interest in origami – the Japanese art of paper folding – that endeared him to childrenâs audiences across the United Kingdom. In fact, it was Harbin who introduced the word “origami” to Western audiences.
Robert Harbin, author
Robert Harbin was a prolific writer – although much of his published work was ghost written by other people. In addition to numerous books on magic, he also became enamored with origami and published numerous books on that as well.
He passed away on January 12, 1978 after a battle with cancer.
Bibliography for Robert Harbin