Germain the Wizard

Today a wave of the wand over the wizardry of Karl Germain (Charles Mattmueller, 1878-1959).

Born and raised in Cleveland, Mattmueller began performing magic as a teenager after receiving Professor Hoffman’s Modern Magic book as a birthday present and seeing such transformative illusionists as Harry Kellar, Herrmann the Great, and Edward Maro live on stage. Initially he performed in local small time vaudeville, but by the time he was 18 (1896) he began working the Chautauqua and Lyceum circuits. After originally calling himself “Alexander” professionally he now went by the name Karl Germain, inspired by the Count of St. Germain an 18th century alchemist. His sister Ida played piano during his telepathy routines. In addition to doing mindreading he did a “flower growth” illusion that was said to be an improvement on Kellar’s, and an act where he magically filled five large “Egyptian” jars with water. Many of his props were built by his father, a machinist.

Initially Germain worked the midwest, gradually expanding to include the Far West and Eastern States. In 1906 and 1907 he toured England, including Maskelyne’s, where he worked with P.T. Selbit. By 1909, he played a farewell tour, with a major engagement in New York City attended by the royalty of the magic community: Kellar, Thurston, Adelaide Herrmann, Carter the Great, and Imro Fox among them. His sister Ida died in 1910, further dimming his ardor for performing. At this stage he went to law school and hung out his shingle as a probate lawyer, but he rapidly succumbed to the bug and embarked on tours again. His last tour was in 1916. Germain’s career was ended by a brain tumor which took away his eyesight. His last four decades were spent in sightless retirement, although he occasioned lectured on magic.

For more on varietry entertainment, including vaudeville, Lyceum and Chautauqua, where Germain performed his magic, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.