William Carl

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William Carl was a black entertainer who successfully made the transition from minstrelsy to vaudeville.

William Carl


Around 1890, Carl was billed as the King ot the Magicians with a minstrel troupe called Boston's Merry Musicians, developing an act that included music.

Over the years he billed himself as "Black Carl, the Magician", "Black Carl, the Creole Mahatma", "Black Carl, Hoodoo Magician." Among the tricks he performed were producing roses in a vase; changing coffee beans into a cup of steaming coffee; coughing up feathers, first, and then a whole baby chick.

While in Australia, he took advantage of associating himself with the late magician, Oscar Eliason, and began billing himself as "Black Dante." Arriving back on the North American, he toured vaudeville as Black Carl Dante.

In 1909 Carl and a fellow performer, George Archer, opened New York's first black vaudeville theater, the Palace Hall Theatre at 51st Street and Seventh Avenue, in the heart of Manhattan's black community.[1] Harry Houdini wrote in the December 1909 issue of his Conjurers' Monthly Magazine: "Black Carl was once frequently heard of, but at the present date a colored magician is an actual novelty."


  1. Conjure Times : Black Magicians in America by Jim Haskins, Kathleen Benson (2001)

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