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June 15 – September 16, 2018

Exhibition features highlights from International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts, the unrivaled trove of magical historical artifacts from Emmy Award-winning illusionist David Copperfield

New York, NY – May 15, 2018 – An enchanting summer awaits visitors to the New-York Historical Society with Summer of Magic, an exciting, museum-wide line-up of mesmerizing displays, evening programs, family activities, and free films that offer a historical perspective on the spectacle of magic and the magicians who became famous performing death-defying feats. From June 15 – September 16, visitors will explore rarely exhibited artifacts from the Golden Age of Magic—including unique items from David Copperfield’s private collection that Harry Houdini used to make his thrilling escapes—plus meet historical reenactors portraying the great illusionists of the past, try your hand at magic tricks, and learn about mind reading, women in magic, tragic performances, unsolved mysteries, and more.

“Visitors will be captivated as they discover the tricks, illusions, and escapes that mystified audiences in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Our Summer of Magic is sure to thrill and entertain as we explore the links between magicians and their craft.”

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 newlyweds Harry and Bess Houdini, that allowed the couple to magically trade places as well as a costume worn by Bess in such a performance in London in 1900; handcuffs from the 1904 London Daily Mirror challenge, from which Houdini struggled to escape for more than 70 minutes; 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; and a regulation straitjacket used by Houdini in the 1920s to free himself within three minutes. 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 that the Dean of American Magicians performed for President Roosevelt’s family; props belonging to the mystic mind reader Alexander the Man Who Knows; 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, which included scores of vanishing coins, rope tricks, mind reading games, and many other illusions; and props from Tannen’s grand catalog—decks of cards, linking rings, disappearing bottles, cups and balls, a disappearing bird cage, and wands.

Family Programs
Family fun takes place every weekend during the Summer of Magic! On Saturdays and Sundays from June 23 – August 26, New York’s magical past comes to life with historical magicians, fortune-tellers, escape artists, and other marvelous illusionists from the past—all portrayed by Living Historians from the present.

On weekend afternoons, young magicians can check out a special Summer of Magic-themed History Detective briefcase in our DiMenna Children’s History Museum to explore the exhibition. Each briefcase is chock full of activities that invite families to draw, discuss, interpret, and even do a little magic of their own! At the end of the visit, the briefcases can be returned.

Join special festivities on Houdini Weekend (Friday, July 13 – Sunday, July 15) while exploring the life and work of the legendary escape artist with films, programs, workshops, and activities for the whole family. Come back for Capturing the Magic Weekend (Friday, August 24 – Sunday, August 26) to watch films and enjoy programs about magic in New York from the 19th century to today.

Evening Programs
Summer of Magic evening events bring the magicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries to life throughout the summer.

An Evening with David Copperfield
Saturday, June 16, 7 pm | $38 (Members $24)
Magic has the power to inspire, amaze, and make the impossible a reality. How did sleight of hand and grand illusion evolve into one of the most fascinating and intricate performance arts in history? In an illuminating conversation with Mark Pocan, world-renowned magician David Copperfield uncovers the history of magic from its origins, including well-known figures such as Georges Melies and Harry Houdini.
David Copperfield, the magician who floated over the Grand Canyon, walked through the Great Wall of China, and made the Statue of Liberty disappear, is an Emmy award-winning illusionist and performer and the founder of the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. Congressman Mark Pocan (moderator), who represents Wisconsin’s 2nd District, has performed magic since the age of eight and, most recently, has worked with David Copperfield to pass a “Magic as an Art” resolution in Congress. 

Magic Workshop with Jeremy the Magician
Tuesday, July 17, 7–8:30 pm | $25 (Members $23)
Learn some astonishing magic to wow your friends in this 90-minute hands-on magic workshop. No prior magic experience necessary.

The Witch of Lime Street with David Jaher
Wednesday, July 18, 7–8 pm | $10 (Members $8)
Her most vocal advocate was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Her supernatural gifts beguiled many. There was only one left to convince—Harry Houdini! Learn about Houdini’s rival, known as the Witch of Lime Street, and how their lives intersected at a time when science was on the verge of embracing the paranormal.

Watson Adventures’ “Escape the New-York Historical Society”
Friday, July 20 and Friday, August 10, 6–8 pm | Free with Museum Admission
Bad news: An evil magician has poisoned you. How? Magic! He will provide the antidote, but only if you can solve a series of puzzles involving objects on display in the Museum. Think your team can come up with the code that will save your life? Join us for this thrilling 45-minute game. No team size limit. Created and run by Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunts.

Parlor Mind Reading with Kent Axell, mentalist
Tuesday, July 24, 7–8:30 pm | $20 (Members $18)
In the years after the Civil War, many New Yorkers—devastated by the massive loss of life—turned to Spiritualism to connect with the dead, hosting psychic readings as a form of parlor entertainment. Renowned mentalist Kent Axell takes you back 150 years to experience mind reading, magic, and mystery.

Tragic Magic with Joshua Jay, magician and author of Magic: The Complete Course
Wednesday, July 25, 7–8 pm | $20 (Members $18)

Master magician Joshua Jay explores the strange, fascinating history of the magicians, spectators, and assistants who have died during magic shows from failed escapes, staged suicides, and freak accidents. (Plus, hear some unsolved mysteries!) He’ll even recreate one of Houdini’s most beautiful and dangerous pieces in this multimedia-rich theatrical presentation.

Women in the Golden Age of Magic with Margaret Steele, editor of Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic
Thursday, August 2, 7–8 pm | $10 (Members $8)

In the 1880s, women exploded into the world of magic when Madame Adelaide Herrmann replaced the traditional boy assistant as the first glamorous female illusion partner, and many followed in her footsteps. Learn about these fascinating women from noted historian and magician Margaret Steele.

Magic Workshop with Jeremy the Magician
Tuesday, August 7, 7–8:30 pm $25 (Members $23)
Learn some astonishing magic to wow your friends in this 90-minute hands-on magic workshop. No prior magic experience necessary.

The Bowery Boys Magical Mystery Hour
Tuesday, August 14, 7–8:30 pm | $20 (Members $18)
Presenting the most magical tales in all of New York City history! Tom Meyers and Greg Young of the Bowery Boys Podcast conjure up stories of historical wizardry and superstition. They may even perform a bit of sleight-of-hand themselves!

Abracadabra to Alchemy: 7000 Years of Magic with Gabriella Corey, auction specialist at Artnet and art history lecturer
Wednesday, August 15, 7–8 pm | $10 (Members $8)
Trace the journey of magic through its exciting and hotly debated formative years. From the performance of the “cup and ball” trick observed in ancient Rome through medieval incantations and potions, the story of magic will enchant you.

The Psychology of Magic with Kent Axell and Eric Walton
Thursday, August 16, 7–8:30 pm | $20 (Members $18)
Why do our minds believe the impossible? Magicians Kent Axell and Eric Walton uncover the psychology behind illusion. Witness the impossible—even while knowing you are being artistically deceived!

The Magic Lantern: The Grandfather of Cinema with antique collector, artist and filmmaker Joel Schlemowitz
Friday, August 24, 5–8 pm | Free
Used in lecture halls and Vaudeville theaters, the spectral, glowing images of the lantern slide could transport viewers to distant lands, conjure ghosts and spirits, or simply amuse with silly jokes. Artist and filmmaker Joel Schlemowitz demonstrates this Victorian-era tradition used to produce apparitions for storytelling.

Summer of Magic Free Film Series
Throughout the summer on Pay-as-you-wish Friday evenings—and a select Thursday in August—free film screenings illuminate the world of magic and its practitioners.

Houdini (2011) | Friday, July 13, 7–8:30 pm (60 min)
In this PBS documentary, audiences are transported behind the scenes to meet the man who made his living performing death-defying escapes. Introduction by John Cox—writer of the popular “Wild About Harry” blog and member of the world-famous Magic Castle.

Now You See Me (2013) | Friday, July 27, 7–9:30 pm (115 min)
Four talented magicians mesmerize an international audience with a series of bold and original heists, all the while pursuing a hidden agenda that has the FBI and Interpol scrambling to anticipate their next move.

Now You See Me 2 (2016) | Friday, August 3, 7–9:30pm (129 min)
In this sequel to the 2013 film, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (2014) | Thursday, August 9, 7–9pm (94 min)
This special Thursday screening showcases the recent documentary that looks at Orson Welles and the enigma of his career as a Hollywood star and filmmaker.

War of the Worlds (2013) | Friday, August 17, 7–8:30 pm (60 min)
When the initial broadcast of War of the Worlds took place in 1938, it was met by a believing public, terrified that aliens had landed in New Jersey. This 2013 documentary examines the elements that created this frenzy, the emergence of radio as a powerful new medium, and the creative wunderkind Orson Welles, the 23-year-old director of the drama and mischief-maker supreme.

The Prestige (2006) | Friday, August 25, 7–9:30 pm (130 min)
An illusion gone horribly wrong pits two 19th-century magicians—played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale—against each other in a bitter battle for supremacy.


For additional information about Summer of Magic and its related programs, visit nyhistory.org/magic.

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.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West (at 77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

Tuesday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm
Friday: 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm

Adults: $21
Teachers and Seniors: $16
Students: $13
Children (5–13): $6
Children (4 and under): Free
*Pay-as-you-wish Fridays from 6 pm – 8 pm.

Press Contacts

Ines Aslan                                                               Marybeth Ihle
New-York Historical Society                             New-York Historical Society
(212) 485-9263                                                       (212) 873-3400 ext 326
Ines.aslan@nyhistory.org                                Marybeth.ihle@nyhistory.org

Photo credits:
Harry Houdini handcuffs and poster, ca. 1920. Photo: Homer Liwag. Copperfield Collection
Harry Houdini’s Milk Can, ca. 1908. Photo: Glenn Castellano. Copperfield Collection 
Kellar’s New Wonder, Oh!, 1897. Strobridge Lithography Company. New-York Historical Society
Duffy Hudson portraying Houdini. Courtesy of Duffy Hudson
A.C. Gilbert Mysto Magic Co. Mysto Magic Kit No. 25, ca. 1950. Copperfield Collection 


Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Creative: Tronvig Group