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Harry Kellar

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Harry Kellar
BornHeinrich Keller
July 11, 1849
Erie, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 10, 1922 (age 72)
Resting placeAngelus Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles, California
Known forLarge Stage Shows;
"Dean of American Magicians"
CategoriesBooks by Harry Kellar

Harry Kellar (1849–1922), born Heinrich Keller to German immigrants in Erie, Pennsylvania, was an American magician who presented large stage shows during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kellar was arguably the predecessor of Harry Houdini and the successor of Robert Heller. He was often referred to as the Dean of American Magicians and performed extensively on five continents.


Kellar was born Heinrich Keller to German immigrants in Erie, Pennsylvania and constantly experimented in adolescence with games of chicken and with the production of various chemical concoctions. On one occasion, young Heinrich reportedly blew a hole in the floor of his employer's drugstore and rather than confront parental wrath, he stowed away on a train and continued life as a vagabond. It was on the road that he encountered the Fakir of Ava, who inspired his direction into conjuring.
Harry Kellar (and friend). Circa 1908

Kellar was probably one of the most meticulous performers of his day, focusing on both his presentation and on his array of magic tricks. Aside from The Kellar Rope Tie, some other memorable illusions were:

  • The Vanishing Birdcage, an effect which he originally purchased from its inventor, Buatier De Kolta during the late 1870s, for the incredible reported sum of $750.
  • The Vanishing Lamp in Kellar's hands was another memorable effect. Still lit, the lamp would be covered, standing upon a glass-topped table. As the light glowed through the thin cloth, Kellar spoke of the lamp, telling the audience it was a gift from a Brahmin High Priest from India. Each evening, the lamp would be returned to its original owner at a specific time, which was approaching. A bell chimed the current hours of the day as Kellar loaded a pistol and aimed it towards the lamp. At the last chime the pistol was fired. The lamp simply melted away to nothing and vanished, the cloth falling to the stage.
  • Kellar's automaton "Psycho", which was a version of the John Algernon Clark idea used in Maskelyne's original card-playing robot, was a popular sensation wherever it played.
  • Perhaps one of Kellar's least known advancements in magic would be his modification to the levitation illusion "Princess Karnack". It was later purchased by Harry Blackstone, Sr. from the Kellar estate. Blackstone successfully used the illusion for many years.

Kellar was a longtime customer of the famous Martinka Magic Company. They built many illusions for him, including the "Blue Room".

His wife Eva was his constant assistant, especially in his Second Sight and other feats of mental phenomena.[1]

Kellar retired on May 16, 1908 with his last show at Fords Theater in Baltimore. He handed over the mantle of America's Greatest Magician to Howard Thurston.

On November 11, 1917, Harry Houdini arranged for Kellar to perform once more for a show benefitting families of the men who died when the troop transport vessel Antilles was sunk by a German U-boat. Never one for understatement, Houdini arranged for Kellar to be carried off stage in triumph as six thousand spectators sang Auld Lang Syne. This would end up being Harry Kellar's final public performance.

The magic tradition was carried on by his nephew, Frank H. Keller, an amateur magician.


  1. The Sphinx, Vol. 9, No. 2, April 1910, Cover, Mrs. Eva L. Kellar, p. 29
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  • The Sphinx, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 1902, Cover, Harry Kellar, page 1
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 4, No. 12, February 1906, Cover, Harry Kellar, page 133
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 6, No. 9, November 1907, Cover, Harry Kellar and Howard Thurston, page 101
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 13, No. 4, June 1914, Cover, Harry Kellar and Ching Ling Foo, page 65
  • M-U-M, Vol. 11, No. 9, March 1922, MAGIC LOSES ONE OF ITS GREATEST EXPONENTS, Dean Harry Keller Laid to Rest with Impressive Ceremonies, by Adam Hull Shirk, page 101, A Last Interview with Dean Kellar, by H. Syril Dusenbery, page 105
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 21, No. 2, April 1922, Cover, Harry Kellar, page 41, Obituary Harry Kellar, page 43
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 27, No.1, March 1928, Keller opened at the Masonic Temple and christened it "EGYPTIAN HALL", by Powell, page 13, Harry Kellar, Business Agent, by Davenport Brothers & Fay, page 14
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 9, No. 1, March 1929, HARRY KELLAR, page 4
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 10, No. 5, July 1930, Episodes in the Life of Harry Kellar, by Henry R. Evans, page 577
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 31, No. 1, March 1931, THE SPHINX Rotogravure Section, page 26
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 38, No.1, March 1939, Kellar's Magic, by Elmer P. Hansom, page 5, Harry Kellar, by Harry Houdini, page 6, I Met Kellar, by Dorney, page 7, Among my Experiences, by Harry Kellar, page 14
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 20, No. 3, May 1940, Magicians in Retirement, by Dr. Henry R. Evans, Harry Kellar, V., page 199
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 58, No. 12, December 1978, Memoirs of a Magician's Ghost, by John Booth, CHAPTER 138 – Harry Kellar, page 60
  • Photo Genii 1951 March
  • Article Genii 1956 January, page 201
  • M-U-M, Vol. 69, No. 7, December 1979, Harry Kellar - S.A.M.'s First Dean, by J. Gary Bontjes, page 14
  • A Magician's Tour. Up and Down and Round About the Earth (1886)
  • M-U-M, Vol. 79, No. 9, February 1990, Harry Kellar, Our First Dean, by John U. Zweers, pages 13-16
  • The New Tops, Vol. 34, No. 12, December 1994, MEN OF MAGIC, by Robert Olson, about The Floating Lady Illusion, page 22
  • M-U-M, Vol. 91, No. 3, August 2001, Kellar’s Poster, page 34
  • M-U-M, Vol. 91, No. 12, May 2002, The Deans of the S.A.M., Harry Kellar July, 1849 - March, 1922, First Dean of American Magicians, 1907-1922, page 19
  • Magische Welt, Vol. 52, No. 5, Oktober 2003, Amerikas beliebtester Zauberkünstler, Harry Kellar, by Mike Caveney, page 292
  • Genii Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 2, February 2007, From the Archives of the American Museum of Magic, INTRODUCED AND ANNOTATED BY JIM STEINMEYER, Kellar on Kellar, page 46
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 87, No. 11, November 2007, Letters from the Past, Harry Kellar 1849-1922, by Samuel Patrick Smith, pages 62-68, Kellar's Ashes, by Dr. John Booth, page 69
  • M-U-M, Vol. 98, No. 3, August 2008, The Nielsen Gallery, Kellar, page 68
  • Bio-bibliographisches Lexikon der Zauberkünstler Edition Volker Huber, April 2002, Kellar, Harry eig. Heinrich Keller, USA Zauberkünstler (*11.07..1849 Erie, Pennsylvania; †10.03.1922 Los Angeles, Kalifornien), page 180