Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection
Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection features highlights from the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, the incomparable trove of magical historical artifacts from the Emmy Award-winning illusionist David Copperfield. Evoking the New York magic shops that sparked Copperfield’s imagination, displays explore the careers and achievements of legendary magicians from the Golden Age of Magic (1880s–1930s) and showcase iconic objects used by Harry Houdini in his famous escape stunts, culminating with the Death Saw—one of Copperfield’s groundbreaking illusions. Curated by Cristian Petru Panaite, assistant curator of exhibitions.
Iconic objects on view include the Metamorphosis Trunk, used by Harry and Bess Houdini, that allowed the couple to magically trade places; handcuffs from the 1904 London Daily Mirror challenge, from which Houdini struggled to escape for more than 70 minutes; and Houdini’s Milk Can, an act that premiered in 1908 in which he attempted to escape from this colossal, locked can filled to the brim with water. Also on display are a dress believed to be worn by Adelaide Herrmann (1853–1932), the “Queen of Magic,” who started out as her husband’s assistant and carried on the show after his death, performing her dangerous death-defying bullet catch act; Harry Kellar’s Nested Boxes, an illusion performed for President Roosevelt’s family; and an Inexhaustible Barrel from Dante the Magician’s Broadway show Sim Sala Bim.
A recreation of a magic shop evokes the legendary New York City stores like Macy’s Magic Counter and Tannen’s Magic Shop that inspired and nurtured many magicians. On display are A. C. Gilbert Mysto Magic sets and props from Tannen’s grand catalog—decks of cards, linking rings, a disappearing bird cage, and wands.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.