Today is the birthday of Johaann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806-1875), famous as a close-magic sleight of hand man, and inventor of many lasting illusions.
A minor functionary in the Austrian-Hungarian Ministry of Finance, in 1857 Hofzinser began presenting amateur Salons in his home 3-4 times a week for the enjoyment of invited guests, wherein he displayed his gifts as a conjurer. In 1865, he retired from his government job and toured the German speaking world as a professional performing magician.
In addition to his card tricks, which he called “the Poetry of Magic”, he invented such illusions as “The Ink Vase”, in which the opaque fluid in a clear glass vessel was transformed to water with a swimming goldfish in it; “the Crystal Clock Dial”, where a clock hand was spun and would always land on the number of which a chosen audience member was thinking; and “the Card Star”, in which an entire deck of cards was thrown at a star shape on the floor, and selected cards would land on each of the five points. And of course the Hofzinser card, where a single playing card changes its identity with no apparent motion on the part of the magician whatsoever. I’d like to know to what degree the finances of Austria-Hungary were suffering while Hofzinser was busy thinking up these magic tricks!
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.