Joseph Michael Hartz
Birth Date: August 10, 1836 (Liverpool, England)
Death Date: June 29, 1903 (London, England)
The illusionist Joseph Michael Hartz, like Harry Keller, was inspired to become a magician after witnessing the performances of Robert-Houdin in England. Encouraged by his father, who was a watchmaker by trade, and the success of his debut performances in Liverpool and London, Hartz chose to make “crystal” illusions his trademark. With the help of his father and his natural talent for mechanical engineering, the magician made all of his visible stage apparatus out of transparent glass. As one of his London press releases recalled him saying during his 1861 presentation at the Hanover Square Rooms, he “hoped that though the spectators could see through his apparatus, they would not be able to see through his tricks.”
In 1867, following his success in England, Joseph Hartz and his brother Augustus migrated to America. This same year, press announcements and reviews of the magician place him in Boston, Massachusetts during the month of June and in Toronto, Ontario during September. Shortly after this tour, the brothers opened what may be the earliest North American magic shop — The Hartz Magic Repository — both in New York (c. 1869-1870) and in Boston (February 25, 1871). Their shop proudly claimed to use the highest quality materials and the best engineering techniques to produce the apparatus it sold, but also carried smaller, more affordable tricks for sale to amateurs. While the brothers retail magic businesses grew, Joseph continued touring and perfecting his show. He decided to drastically streamline the equipment he required to perform such acts as “The Wonderful Hat.” This effect, after some additional, brilliant touches, was redubbed “The Devil of a Hat” and is today considered one of Hartz’ most significant contributions to the history of conjuring. The last record of his performances in the Boston area, and perhaps in north eastern America, occurs in 1881 only two years before the magician’s return to England in 1883.