Joseph Jacobs (1813-1870) was a Jewish conjurer and ventriloquist who also billed himself as a Wizard, Improvisator, Mesmerist, and Electro-Biologist. Born in Canterbury, England, he was touring the provinces by 1835, and first played London the following year. In 1841, he began a major run in London lasting several seasons, where he performed frequently for royalty and the aristocracy, billing himself as M. Jacobs. In early years he had a comical assistant, an overweight boy named “Sprightly” who was actually his brother. Jacobs’ illusions included changing a man into a goose, and passing a one-pound banknote into the interior of an uncracked egg shell. His first tour of the US was in 1854, and he also made several successful tours of Australia.
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.