The Great Nicola

The Great Nicola (William Mozart MacNicol, 1880-1946) was a third generation Scottish magician, born in Burlington, Iowa, the son of immigrant John MacNicol, who billed himself as Nicoli, and the brother of Charles, who billed himself as Von Arx, among other things. Nicola launched his career in 1900 at the Omaha World’s Fair and later at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. He later played London’s Egyptian Hall, and toured the vaudeville and Lyceum circuits in the U.S. before embarking on several world tours.

Nicola is said to have originated several illusions, the most amusing of which to me (based solely on the name) is the “Dream of the Chinese Chop Suey Restaurant Keeper”. Nicola’s large scale illusions were all destroyed on the SS Sirdhana when it hit a land mine in Singapore in 1939. The balance of his career was spent performing parlor scale magic, which he did for the U.S.O. for the duration of the war.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous