Celebrating Magical Houdin’s Birthday!
Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic and the inspiration to perhaps every magician born after him, was a French magician who hobnobbed with the greatest men of his time, including French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. On his birthday today, we bring you some interesting facts about his magical and glorious life.
- The legendary magician was born as the son of Prosper Robert, a famous French watchmaker, and was meant to follow in his father’s footsteps, until an accidental purchase of a book on magic, titled Scientific Amusements piqued his interest in the world of magic.
- Since the book only mentioned about magic tricks and did not teach one how to perform those tricks, the French lad sought education in the art from a local magician named Maous and paid him ten francs for it!
- In 1865, when Napoleon’s Second French Empire was faced with a mob of wizards in Algeria and witch-hunting had gone out of fashion, they called upon the services of Robert-Houdin, who had by then become Europe’s greatest and most powerful magician. His magic tricks such as ‘Light and Heavy Chest’ stupefied even the smartest of them and they ran from their tent, afraid of his ‘sorcery’. Later on, the Algerian wizards gifted him with an illuminated manuscript and also pledged their loyalty to the French Empire.
- The famed conjurer Harry Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss, named himself after his biggest source of inspiration, Robert-Houdin! The name ‘Harry’ however was derived from his childhood nickname ‘Ehrie’.
- Funnily, the surname ‘Houdin’ by which Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin became so popular was not his own. It was his wife Cecile-Églantine Houdin’s maiden name, which he hyphenated and added to his own name. Talk about gender equality in the nineteenth century!
- Robert-Houdin made conjuring a classical and fashionable art by choosing to perform at parties and theatres, unlike his predecessors and contemporaries who would perform at fairs and marketplaces. Robert-Houdin shaped the very foundations of magic and gave it a high status in the society through his innovations and vision.
- Every modern magician who wins your hearts with his skilled abilities and polished style of conjuring coupled with his suave appearance in top hat and tail-coats is certainly imitating Robert-Houdin, whose smart appearance and clever style helped him dazzle his audience across Europe as well as the rest of the world.
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