Timeline of magic

This time-line of magic is a history of the performing art from B.C. to the present.

Time-line of magic

2700 B.C. - The reputed first known performance of a conjuring effect (balls) by the magician Dedi in ancient Egypt. Dedi had done other effects, such as decapitating a bird, then reattaching the head to resurrect it. (This is disputed as there is nothing in reference to Dedi, specifically in the Westcar Papyrus, to indicate that he performed the cups and balls for anyone. The famous drawing of two men seemingly performing the cups and balls, from the tomb of Baqet III at Beni Hasan is believed by most experts to show a game using pots[1] or cups[2] but details of the game are unknown.) (Note: Since there is no indication that Dedi performed the Cups and Balls, and the Beni Hasan tomb painting is considered unlikely to represent the effect, there is no certain evidence for the existence of the cups and balls during this period.)

50-300 A.D. - The Acetabularii performed the Cups and balls in ancient Rome using stones and small vinegar cups (hence the name Acetabularii). Acetabularii are a group of magicians specializing on the cups and balls effect.

400-1000 - The Dark Ages; little is known about the history of magic, but much of it was associated with the occult and magic as entertainment is not prominent.

1000-1500 - The Middle Ages where much magic was still associated with the occult and witchcraft. The growing trading nature of society allowed some street or circus performers to make a living out of old classics such as the cups and balls and in fact more modern ideas such as cheating by short changing via sleights with coins and other small objects.

1584 - Reginald Scot publishes The Discoverie of Witchcraft a book designed in part to counter the activities of persecutionists, but at the same time revealing many conjuring secrets of the day. Magic and witchcraft were still linked, and many copies of Scot's book were burnt in the early 17th century.

1720- Isaac Fawkes, English Magician retires. His performances at fairs leaves him with a fortune of nearly ten thousand pounds. Among his tricks were a card on ceiling with any card called for and his bag of many eggs. His booth is featured in Bartholomew Fair by Hogarth with a sign that says "Dexterity of Hand." He also presented impressionists and contortionists as part of his shows.

1750 - Joseph Pinetti, "considered to be the major figure of 18th century magic," is born. "Pinetti is said to be the first recorded performer to do the thumb tie effect" and he also performed second sight, exhibited automata and the orange tree illusion.[3]

1805 - Year of birth of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (died 1871). The "father of modern magic", who brought it from the street and circus side shows to an elegant stage or drawing room setting.

1874 - Year of birth of Harry Houdini A.K.A. King of Cards and King of Handcuffs (died 1926 because of a ruptured appendix). Real name Ehrich Weiss, he achieved fame as an escapologist.

1876 - The first publication of Modern Magic. Written by Professor Louis Hoffman (1839–1919) (Real name Angelo John Lewis), it was a definitive work on the state of the art of that time.

1877 - Martinka and Co. was founded by Francis and Antonio Martinka, it was run by Houdini in 1919 and is still in existence today.

1894 - Year of birth of Dai Vernon (died 1992). A.K.A. "The Professor" and "The Man That Fooled Houdini", he was born as David Frederick Wingfield Verner in Ottawa. The most influential 20th-century magician.

1902 - The "Expert At The Card Table" is published by The Charles T. Powner Co. was written by S. W. Erdnase. Considered by serious card workers as one of the most important books written on the subject.

1902 - May 10, The Society of American Magicians is founded at Martinka's Magic Shop in New York City, New York. It is the oldest magic society in the world.

1905 - July - The Magic Circle was formed. Its first President was David Devant. This is a prestigious organisation for magicians and has strict rules against exposure. (It expelled its founder twice for alleged exposure, something it has done to many famous magicians.)

1911 - Our Magic by Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant arguably one of the most important books of magic theory is published.

1911 - The Mysto Magic Company incorporated by Gilbert, Gilbert, and Petrie.

1918 - Houdini first performs Morritt's Vanishing Elephant at the Hippodrome on January 7.

1918 - The South African Magical Society (SAMS) was formed. SAMS is also affiliated to the London Magic Circle.

1921 - P.T. Selbit performs the first ever "Sawing in half", something that is, in present day, synonymous with the art of magic.

1926 - On All Hallows Eve at 1:26 pm, Harry Houdini dies.

Circa 1940 - Edward M. Massey invents the finger chopper[4] which becomes many young magicians' first trick.

1949 - The first publication of Royal Road to Card Magic Written by Jean Hugard and Fred Braue, it's still an important first text for card workers today.

1952 - The first publication of Modern Coin Magic Written by JB Bobo, considered by some the "bible" of coin magic, many other works reference this one.

1956 - David Copperfield is born on September 16, as David Seth Kotkin.

1960 - Lance Burton is born on March 10, as William Lance Burton in Louisville, Kentucky.

1963 - The Magic Castle is formed by Milt Larsen in Hollywood USA by converting a 1908 Victorian mansion to a centre of magical excellence. Many leading magicians have performed there. Dai Vernon was resident magician in the latter part of his life.

1968 - The book Thirteen Steps To Mentalism by Corinda was published and is one of the most famous books on mentalism.

1972 - New York's first magic show spot The Magic Towne House is opened by Ed Davis and taken over by Dorothy Dietrich (then a teenager) and Dick Brookz. It featured such notables as Frank Garcia (magician), Jack London, Harry Blackstone, Jr. etc. Performers who got their start their included Eric DeCamps, Rocco Silano, Johnny Ace Palmer, Jeff McBride and Michael Chaut. Year's later Michael would organize Monday Night Magic after The Magic Towne House closed in the 1980s.

1974 - The musical The Magic Show starring Doug Henning opens on Broadway and ushers in a new "Golden Age" of magic.

1977 - Marco the Magi presents Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company premieres on February 20 in Beverly, Massachusetts. It becomes the longest running "Resident Magic Show" in history.

1977 - Jeff Sheridan, NY's celebrated Central Park Street Magician publishes "STREET MAGIC - An Illustrated History of Wandering Magicians and Their Conjuring Arts". Published by Dolphin Books, an imprint of Doubleday & Company. The first street magician to perform in NY in over 100 years.

1994 - The first WWW magic stores appear following the older text type newsgroups and bulletin boards. Pictorial and information sites soon follow, changing the way magic is learned and distributed.

1997 - The Masked Magician , Val Valentino, provokes much controversy by exposing magic secrets on major Fox TV specials. David Blaine brings "Street Magic" to America.

1998 - World Of Illusion at Madison Square Garden launched the career of Criss Angel, followed by Criss Angel Mindfreak which ran until 2003.

2011 Dynamo (Steven Frayne) releases series 1 of magic series 'Dynamo: Magician Impossible', and goes on to release 3 more series in the following years.

2012 On July 5, 2012, Dynamo (Steven Frayne) is promoted to Associate of the Inner Magic Circle.


  1. Decker, Wolfgang, Sports and Games of Ancient Egypt, translated by Allen Guttman. The American University in Cairo Press, 1993, pp. 123,124
  2. Kanawati, Naguib, and Woods, Alexandra, Beni Hassan - Art and Daily Life in an Egyptian Province. Supreme Council of Antiquities Press, Cairo 2010, p43
  3. The Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians, T.A. Waters, p. 263
  4. The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic, Bart Whaley p. 361
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