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She Caught Bullets with Her Bare Hands — and Made Magic’s Glass Ceiling Disappear

French magician Alexander Herrmann, also known as Hermann the Great, toured North America, South America, and Europe with a production that brought ever-increasing crowds. His show was spectacular, and relied on his innovation and expertise, and also that of his talented and versatile assistant- Hermann's wife, Adelaide. But then Hermann died in 1896.

Alexander Herrmann’s December 20 funeral at Masonic Hall on 23rd Street in Manhattan was so crowded it blocked the streets. After the burial, Adelaide was alone, with the show and its debts. As the Chicago Tribune reported on December 22, she went to the Queens County Courthouse and “declared the property left by the magician to be worth not more than $2,000,” and that the “debts of the dead man far exceeded the amount of the estate left by him.”

She lamented: “It is among the most pathetic aspects of the stage — of which the general public knows little or nothing — that it allows no time for the indulgence of private sorrows.” Even in her immediate mourning, a crew of 16 people, a show with expensive contraptions, and a menagerie of animals were all waiting for her to decide their fate.

Adelaide knew that show must go on, and that Hermann's nephew, who resembled him, was a poor substitute for the master magician. So she took control and added new acts- like the one in which she caught bullets from a firing squad in her hands, and the one where she was shot out of a cannon. Read how the grieving magician's assistant Adelaide Hermann became the Queen of Magic and led the show for 25 years, at Narratively.  -via Metafilter

(Image credit: Jared Boggess)


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