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Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin
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    (December 7, 1805-June 13, 1871)
    Born in Blois, France
    Birth name was Jean-Eugene Robert
    Notable illusions included Second Sight (a mind-reading act), Ethereal Suspension (a levitation act), Robert-Houdin’s Portfolio (production of objects from a space too small to hold them) and the Light and Heavy Chest (a chest that became impossible to move on his command)
    He was originally a watchmaker and got interested in magic accidentally when he sent away for a two-volume ‘Treatise on Clockmaking’ and received a two-volume set about magic instead.
    His first performance was a disaster due to stage fright and almost caused him to have a nervous breakdown.
    His memoirs blended in a heavy dose of fiction with the facts.
    He was often credited as ‘the father of modern magic’ – before him, magicians performed in market places and fairs, while he performed in theaters and at private parties.
    He gave command performances for King Louis Philippe and Queen Victoria.
    When marabouts in Algeria began using displays of magic to encourage local chiefs to rebel against the French government, Napoleon III sent him to the country to demonstrate that French magic was superior. After several feats, such as catching a bullet fired at him in his teeth, the threat of rebellion died down.
    He inspired the stage name of Harry Houdini.

Credit: C. Fishel

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