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Howard Thurston – his career

Thurston struggled in his early years as a magician. The magic trick secrets he worked hard to develop and jealously guarded, did not give him early success. He traveled through many states, giving magical performances under difficult circumstances and conditions. Finally, after inventing his remarkable version of the famous "Rising Card Trick", he obtained vaudeville engagements, and arrived in Denver, Colorado.

As chance would have it, Leon Herrmann, nephew and successor of the Great Magician Alexander Herrmann (who had been Thurston's inspiration and had died in 1896), was playing at the Tabor Grand Theatre, in Denver. He heard of Thurston's unusual performance, and agreed to have the young magician appear before him on the stage of the Tabor Grand. The special performance was an immense success. Herrmann was enchanted with the mystery of the new " Rising Cards" and Thurston was heralded far and wide as" The Man Who Mystified Herrmann".

Seeing that the time the action had arrived, Thurston traveled to New York, and endeavored to convince theatrical agents that an act of card tricks was suitable for the stage. He finally managed to obtain a try-out that Tony Pastor's Theatre. His single-handed card manipulation and his " “Rising Card Trick" won him instant popularity and recognition. He became a star attraction in vaudeville, and made a successful tour of Europe, appearing before King Edward VII of England, the President of France and the Emperor of Austria.

Thurston happened to be at Copenhagen, when King Edward VII, the Czar of Russia and the King of Greece were visiting the King of Denmark. Thurston posted himself in a conspicuous place, and as the four monarchs approached in their carriage, he stood up, and produced the four Kings from a pack of cards, apparently materializing them from the air. King Edward immediately recognized him as the man who entertained him sometime before. He smiled and spoke to his companions. Thurston bowed, and the four Kings smiled and bowed in acknowledgement.

Thurston returned to America and embark upon a newer and greater field, with a full evening show. In 1905 he went to Australia by the time he arrived there, he had exhausted all his money in transportation. Fortunately his fame had preceded him, and he obtained engagements immediately, under arrangements that enabled him to build up his show to a greater size. The tour was a huge success and it continued on through China, Java and other countries of the region.

Then he visited India, the homeland of mystery, and astounded audiences with the wonders of Occidental magic. Perhaps he tried a version of the infamous Indian Rope trick. His adventures in the country where varied and numerous. In traveling through the northern India, Thurston was obliged to carry a huge tent, with interior arrangements of a stage and seats, as there were no theatres in the northern provinces that could accommodate his large show.

In the meantime, Harry Kellar had become the leading magician of the American stage. Thurston's success had made its impression upon him, and he cabled to his fellow magician, asking him to join his show. Thurston returned to the United States and he and Kellar toured together during the 1907 to 1908 season.

In May 1908, on the stage of Ford's Opera house, in Baltimore, Kellar announced his retirement, and introduced Thurston as his successor, the future leader of magic in America. From then on, Howard Thurston toured the country every season, presenting new mysteries and novel creations of magic in the entertainment of the public. His success was constant and well-deserved. He won the hearts of his audiences and they responded by demonstrating their unfailing interest in the wonder show of the world.

Thurston show more than doubled in size over the years after 1908 and was by far the largest and most spectacular entertainment of its kind that had been presented on the stage. Its phenomenal success may be attributed to one primary cause-the tireless efforts in the congenial personality of Howard Thurston-the great magician and a great man. The Thurston show became an institution. He kept up the grind for about thirty years. On March 30, 1936, Thurston suffered a stroke he received from a cerebral hemorrhage. He later died on April 14 at his Oceanside apartment in Miami Beach, Florida. Death was attributed to pneumonia.He is entombed at Green Lawn Abbey, a mausoleum in Columbus, Ohio.

 

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