Wyman the Wizard (John Wyman, Jr)
Today is the birthday of John Wyman, Jr. (1816-1881), one of the first American-born magician/ventriloquists, billed as “Wyman the Wizard”. A favorite entertainer of Abraham Lincoln, for a time he was managed and presented by P.T. Barnum. He was a pioneer of “gift shows”, giving door prizes to ticketholders based on number drawings. Some say he was the first magician to do a full evening show in the U.S., and the first to do the dangerous “bullet catch”. One of the wealthiest entertainers of his day, he retired to his home base in Philadelphia to live off his real estate holdings during his last years. He performed professionally for over 45 years.
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.