Steele assembles the long-lost memoirs of the “Queen of Magic,” a once-famous, nearly forgotten female magician.
Aside from Harry Houdini, few magicians from the golden age of magic have any contemporary name recognition—and any that do are men. Yet around the turn of the 20th century, Adelaide Herrmann held her own as a popular female magician. But because magic’s allure waned as the century wore on, few remember her. Enter Steele, a magician and Herrmann fan, who also performed tributes to the late magician. After acquiring Herrmann’s missing memoir in 2010 after it was discovered in a descendant’s closet, Steele edited it for this publication, a compilation of the memoirs along with an impressive selection of photographs, magazine articles and other ephemera. The memoir itself is compelling—it tells of her early life as a dancer and her falling in love with renowned magician Alexander Herrmann—although Steele notes that Herrmann “wasn’t above occasionally re-casting herself into anecdotes that had originally starred her husband. As much as I adore her, I don’t always trust her.” Alexander received all the attention during his life, and when he died, his nephew Leon briefly took over the act but proved ill-suited for the role. Herrmann next stepped up and made the show her own. She traveled across the United States and Europe, encountering floods and fires and often performing the “bullet catch” trick. It’s a fun story improved by Steele’s peppering the text with photographs to illustrate Herrmann’s text, giving the book the feeling of a well-loved scrapbook. The additional ephemera at the back of the book features writing about Herrmann’s costumes, articles Herrmann wrote for magazines about her job and numerous mentions of her in the press.
A must-own for fans of magic, Steele’s book is a fun peek into the history of magic’s golden age.