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Charles Joseph Carter

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Charles Joseph Carter


Cover of Genii (1974)
BornJune 14, 1874
New Castle, Pennsylvania
DiedFebruary 13, 1936 (age 61)
Bombay, Inda
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery in Queens New York

Charles Joseph Carter (b.1874–d.1936), who began his career as a journalist and lawyer, was an American stage magician who performed as "Carter the Great."


Due to stiff competition from the number of magic acts on the American stages at the time, Carter opted to pursue his career abroad, where he achieved his greatest fame.

Among the highlights of Carter's stage performances were the classic "sawing a woman in half" illusion (an elaborate surgical-themed version with "nurses" in attendance), making a live elephant disappear and "cheating the gallows", where a shrouded Carter would vanish, just as he dropped at the end of a hangman's noose.

Charles Carter first theatrical experience occurred at the Herzog's museum and Pat Harris' Masonic Temple in Baltimore at the age of 10, where he appeared as "Master Charles Carter the Original Boy Magician".

Carter purchased the famous Martinka Magic Palace in 1917, when he was unable to continue his world touring magic show. It's been told that he kept his lion, Monty in the back room of the shop which would often startle customers when it would roar. He sold the Martinka Magic Store to Houdini in 1919.

On April 9, 1918, Carter opened on Broadway to mixed reviews. Billboard said he was clever and witty, however, Variety found the acting in one of his skits "almost as atrocious as the lion seems ferocious." Carter's "indefinite" run only lasted a mere two weeks.

After becoming ill in early 1935, his son Larry Carter (1936-1995) took over the show with his final performance given in San Francisco the following year when The Depression started.[1]

A fictionalized account of his life can be found in Carter Beats the Devil (ISBN 0-7868-8632-3) by Glen David Gold (2001).

Touring Dates


  • September 15-21  : Decatur, Illinois
  • September 27 - Oct 3 : Cleveland, Ohio
  • October 4 - ?  : Cincinnati, Ohio
  • October 28 - ?  : Holland, Michigan
  • November 8 - ?  : Chicago Heights, Illinois
  • November 19 - ?  : Fairmount, Indiana
  • November 30 - ?  : Tecumseh, Michigan


  • December 25  : Terre Haute, Indiana


  1. Carter the Great by Mike Caveney (1995)
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  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 15, No. 12, February 1936, Magician Carter Dies in Bombay; to Try Return, page 1049
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 35, No. 1, March 1936, Charles J. Carter, by Anson B. Ingels, page 17
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 32, No. 12, February 1953, Charles Joseph Carter, by John Braun, page 39
  • Genii Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 12, August 1965, Carter The Great, A Review of his show at the Excelsior Theatre Bombay, India, March 17, 1928, by Arnold Furst, page 608
  • M-U-M, Vol. 80, No. 4, September 1990, Carter The Great’s Show Lives On, by Phil Temple, page 19
  • The Magic Circular, Vol. 85, No. 918, August 1991, Carter The Great, page 171
  • The New Tops, Vol. 32, No. 1, January 1992, Cover, PERSONALITY PARADE by Geoffrey Hansen - Carter The Great, page 12
  • The Magic Circular, Vol. 87, No. 933, February/March 1993, THE CARTER SCRAPBOOK, page 33
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 90, No. 11, November 2010, Pictures from the Past, page 29, Answer to Pictures from the Past, page 98
  • Bio-bibliographisches Lexikon der Zauberkünstler Edition Volker Huber, April 2002, Carter, Charles Joseph = Boy Magician; The Great Carter; USA Zauberkünstler; Zauberkunst-Fachschriftsteller (*14.06.1874 New Castle, Pennsylvania; †13.02.1936 Bombay), page 72