David Copperfield, the illusionist who made the Statue of Liberty disappear, is back to bring more magic to New York City. Copperfield and the New-York Historical Society have teamed up for “Summer of Magic,” a new exhibit that takes a historical look at some of the greatest magicians and their tricks, and New York’s City’s role in making the magic happen.
Welcome to the magic shop
As Copperfield explained in a preview tour, the exhibit is split into three sections: Viewers start off in a recreated magic shop with decks of cards, disappearing bottles, and magic wands on display. The exhibit then highlights what is known as the Golden Age of Magic, a time when the death-defying stunts of Harry Kellar, Alexander and Adelaide Herrmann, and Harry Houdini had audiences holding their breath. And for even more thrills, the exhibit also features David Copperfield’s suspenseful Death Saw act, a testament to the technological advances of modern magic.
Adelaide Herrmann supposedly wore this dress during her bullet catch act
Although the actual Death Saw that split Copperfield in half during his 1988 performance isn’t on display at the New-York Historical Society, viewers get to see the Nested Boxes which Harry Kellar used when he performed for Theodore Roosevelt’s family, the Milk Can featured in one of Houdini’s daring escapes, and even the dress Adelaide Herrmann was said to have worn while performing her bullet catch act. These items and others hail from David Copperfield’s International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, an impressive collection of magic-related artifacts, according to Margi Hofer, the Vice President and Museum Director of the New-York Historical Society. “When we set out to develop an exhibition exploring New York’s place in the history of magic, we knew that we needed to go beyond our own collections to find the most compelling artifacts to fully explore this topic,” she said. “We quickly determined that the magic goldmine is David Copperfield’s museum.”
David Copperfield’s Death Saw
For Copperfield, having these items on display at the New-York Historical Society for “Summer of Magic” made perfect sense, not only because of the city’s history as a setting for some of the greatest illusions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but because the city was also home to many Midtown magic supply stores, including Martinka & Company and Tannen’s Catalog of Magic, where David Copperfield often found inspiration as a kid. “It was like being in heaven,” Copperfield said of the magic stores. “You would go up an elevator, and the doors would open and you were in this amazing place. And it’s important to remember this because there are fewer and fewer magic shops in existence today because of the internet.”
Magic shop tricks
“Summer of Magic” is on view now until September 16, 2018. The New-York Historical Society will also be hosting magic-related talks, workshops, and movie nights all summer long.
Next, read Harry Potter and the History of Magic is Coming to the New-York Historical Society and 5 Places to Visit in NYC to Celebrate the Art of Magic. Contact the author @ImShilohF.