El Barto, “The Merry Wizard”

El Barto was the stage name of a magician named James Barton (not to be confused with the singer/performer/actor of the same name). Born on this day in 1859, he was an orphaned and homeless teenager hoboing his way across the country when he met and apprenticed himself to the magician Antonio Blitz, who taught him the ropes. At 14, he branched off on his own, working medicine shows and circuses until he got bookings in small time vaudeville. By the turn of the century he was working big time Keith and Orpheum circuits. His act was intimate, done “in one” before the curtains, as close to the audience as possible, with a handful of props and no assistants. He performed it for 65 years never retiring until shortly before his death in 1935.

To find out more about  the history of vaudeville, including magicians like El Barto, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous


    • El Barton was also my great grandfather! I would love to see the picture you have of him with your grandmother! Who was your grandmother? Mine was Mildred Young. Was Dorothy your mom?


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