Richard Potter is credited as the first successful stage magician born in the United States and as the first black magician.
Potter went to England around 1798. There is no record of his actual education. He returned to the United States around 1801, probably with John Rannie, a professional magician whom he started out working for as an assistant in 1802.
One of The earliest records of Potter advertising a show was in Boston, November 2nd, 1811 at the Columbian Museum. He advertised his show as, "An Evening's Brush to Sweep Away Care, or a Medley to Please."
Effects and show features that he performed included (from surviving printed Potter broadsides):
- Frying Eggs in a Hat.
- Rising Cards.
- Breaking Borrowed Watches and Restoring them.
- Handling and Swallowing Molten Lead.
- Going into an oven with raw meat and remain until the meat was cooked.
- Dancing on Eggs without breaking them.
- Trouble Wit.
- Shadow Puppets, with the play, The Broken Bridge.
- Passing coins through a table.
Casual descriptions of some effects, written by people who may have never seen him perform include "Crawling through a Log" and the "Hindu Rope Trick".
Potter could also throw his voice, especially using bird sounds, with great skill.
His illusions never ceased to amaze. In one trick he climbed up a rope or an unraveled ball of yarn—outdoors and in front of onlookers—and appeared to vanish into the heavens. In another he crawled through a log that appeared hollow; on closer inspection, spectators found that it was solid.
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