Today, we celebrate the birthday of Horace Goldin (Hyman Goldstein, 1873-1939), the magician who, more than any other, popularized the trick of sawing a woman in half. (The trick was actually invented by P.T. Selbit, but Goldin improved it).
Born in Vilnius, Goldin is said to have learned magic from local Roma before moving to the U.S. (Nashville, to be specific) with his family at age 16. He became a professional in the mid 1890s, and became known as “The Whirlwind Illusionist” because he performed his feats so rapidly and with such flourish. In promoting his vivisection illusion he became known for driving through town in an ambulance with a sign that said “in case the saw slips”.
To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.