Today is the birthday of Wiljalba Frikell (Friedrich Wilhelm Frickell, 1817-1903). The German magician began performing professionally at age 16. By the early 1840s he was travelling with an elaborate stage set, Turkish costumes, and all sorts of special equipment. When a stage fire destroyed all of that stuff, he was forced to innovate by putting on a show unaided by trappings, in simple evening clothes and with a handful of household props. To everyone’s surprise this stripped-down act was even more warmly received. He toured the entirety of Europe, as well as Egypt and India, and in 1872, the United States. He retired in about 1880, living an extremeley low-profile existence for his last twenty years.
To find out about the history of show business including magicians like Professor Frikell, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.