Tobias Leendert Bamberg
Tobias "Theo" Leendert Bamberg (1875 – 1963) was a professional magician who performed under the name Okito.
The Bamberg Family
The Bamberg family of magicians started in 1760, in Leyden, Holland with Eliaser Bamberg, the first in a line of magicians evolving six consecutive generations.
- Eliaser Bamberg (1760, - 1833)
- David Leendert Bamberg (1786 - 1869)
- Tobias Bamberg (1812 - 1870)
- David Tobias Bamberg (1843 - 1914)
- Tobias "Theo" Leendert Bamberg "Okito" (1875 - 1963)
- David Theodore Bamberg "Fu Manchu" (1904 - 1974)
Eliaser Bamberg had one son David Leendert.
David Leendert had four children, two were actors and two magicians. One being Tobias.
Tobias had one son, David Tobias.
David Tobias had six sons. Three of them are magicians. Emile, who specializes in sleight of hand work for social parties; Edward, who presented various magical novelties in America, and Theo.
Theo had two sons (David born in 1904 and Donald, born in 1920) and a daughter (Dorothy). David, who first appeared on the stage in Russia, at the age of four, as a little Chinaman, having been produced from a cloth. After completing his education in America, he joined Julius Zancig, the world-famous telepathist and worked in partnership with him for a number of years, after which he left for England. In 1921, he returned to America and appeared in various magical acts. Finally, David went abroad in pursuance of success, and presented his original comedy shadowgraph act in Vienna, touring all of Europe with his act. Theo and David also worked together for a time.
Born in Amsterdam, Holland July 15, 1875.
His father,David Tobias Bamberg, was a court magician. His connection with the royal family gave him entree to the highest society of Holland. He made his first appearance before the court at the age of eleven. His father, David Tobias, introduced him during a performance on Princess Wilhelmina's birthday. Under his father he worked as "Smallest conjurer of the world" until he was about 17.
Then he started to practice as a Shadowgraphist and in one year he was able to give an entertainment of 2 and half hours, consisting of Conjuring and Shadows. And so Theo went travelling several years through Holland and Belgium, alone with only the aid of an assistant and Pianist.
As a young boy (17?), Bamberg nearly drowned while ice skating and got water in his ears. The accident left him almost completely deaf and as a result he started to perform entirely in pantomime as a Chinese character.
In 1893, at the age of eighteen, Bamberg created his first Japanese-style act in Berlin. Unlike William Ellsworth Robinson who performed as Chung Ling Soo, Bamberg didn't make an attempt to hide his European identity.
His first wife was a French woman who worked as an "iron jaw" by hanging from her teeth from a rope. She died when she fell from the dome of a theater when she was four month pregnant.
He adopted the name of Okito, which Theo states that in Japanese means magician or wonder worker. Okito is also an anagram for Tokio (Tokyo). He managed to be fairly successful, and later enlarged his act by engaging a black-face comedian. The act was called "Okito & Polising."
In 1900, he works in Paris at the Folies Berger and the World Fair.
In 1900, during an engagement at the Theatre des Folies Marigny in Paris, he became acquainted with a card manipulator, which grew into a warm friendship. This magician was Howard Thurston, who became one of America's fore most magicians.
In 1901 he was hired in London for 6 weeks, but its success remains 26 weeks! He eloped with the theater manager's daughter. Shortly after, his new wife convinced him to change his name from "Tobias/Toby" to "Theodore/Theo", because she said it was a name commonly given to pet dogs in England.
After discontinuing the act with Polising, he returned to Holland and enlarged the act by adding three people and changing it to Chinese which offered a larger scope for elaborateness and superiority over Japanese. He retained the name of Okito, which had won him quite a reputation.
After a successful tour throughout Europe, he finally scored his first great success in England in 1902. He appeared before the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) accompanied by the Shah of Persia and played every big theatre in London.
He played consecutively from 1903 until 1908, with the exception of the summer of 1907 when he went to the Dutch Strait Settlements with his father.
His tour of Europe embraced England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and all the Balkans.
February 1904, his son David Bamberg (who would later perform as Fu Manchu) was born in England.
In 1908, Bamberg and his family moved to The United States of America. He received contracts for the Orpheum Circuit in America and arrived in New York in October of that year. He opened at St. Paul and toured the States from coast to coast.
In 1909 he opened the Bamberg Magic & Novelty Co. at 1193 Broadway, New York City in partnership with Joe Klein. The company was the primary representative of the German firm of Carl Willmann. While minding the store and toying with a pillbox, Bamberg invented his famous Okito box used to perform coin magic.
Unfortunately, he became entangled in an objectionable partnership, customers were being driven away, and when he found that the business was declining, he sold out in 1912.
In 1912, he returned to performing, traveling with Howard Thurston's magic show, presenting a shadowgraphy and magical acts covering the best part of the United States and Canada. Thurston hired Bamberg to open the second half of his large stage show as well as take the position of Thurston's chief mechanic and designer.
In 1916, he becomes a U.S. citizen.
He began a business creating specialty magic apparatus for professional magicians at his home in new home in New York. Bamberg's skills were such that existing handmade props created by him are highly prized by collectors today.
In 1919, he ceased producing for others and began performing once more as a Chinese act. He left New York in June 1919 sailing for South America, where he had success again.
In February 1920 he returned to England and left again to tour Africa. Again he returned to England, only to leave for India, Egypt, China, Siam and the Far East.
By this time, conditions in Europe were more settled, and he made appearances in Germany, the land where he had his first engagement as a boy thirty years before.
He was the first successful magician to appear in Europe after the war, both financially and artistically. This is evidenced by the fact he played three return dates at the Winter Gardens and three at the Scala which is the largest theater in Berlin. After his first appearance at the Winter Gardens he was booked solid for three years in advance, and from November 1922 until 1925.
During his act at this time he had an enormous collection of real Chinese costumes, over eighty in all. He work for forty-five minutes on the stage, one trick following the other in rapid succession-all Chinese and oriental. He produced a monster bowl of water on a raised platform a foot and a half from the ground.
In 1932, he decided to withdraw and return to hi homeland, the Netherlands. With the advent of the Second World War, Okito departed for South America with his son, and later to Chicago.
He led the last years of his life, after many years of travel,in Chicago.
He died on 28 June 1963.
Originated a number of magic effects including the Okito Coin Box and the Vanishing Wand (using shells) 1887. He invented the vanishing wand trick at the age of 12 as a practical joke to fool his father.
Also invented Tray and Eight Glasses, Block Illusion, Okito Mat Production, Okito Duck Production, Okito Tea Canister Mystery, Multim In Parvo (not the liquid trick, but a box production by the same name), Okito Floating Ball (after David Abbott), Okito's Bowl of Gobi, Okito Card Mystery, Okito Handkerchief Tray, Scare Mask and Cabinet, Break-Away Casket, Disappearing Bowl of Water, Ming Toy, The Mandarin's Dream, Oho!, Barehand Silk Production, Silks and Soup Plate, Okito Glass.
- Provided introduction for Principles and Deceptions by Arthur Buckley (1948).
- Provided introduction for An Evening With Charlie Miller by Robert Parrish (1961)
- The Oriental Magic of the Bambergs by Robert J. Albo (1973)
- Illusion Show: A Life in Magic by David Bamberg (1988)
- The Oriental Magic Of The Bambergs, Volumes 1 - 4 (1992) Greater Magic Video Library.
- Stanyon's Magic, Vol. 03. Author/Editor: Ellis Stanyon, 1902
- Conjurers' Monthly Magazine, Vol. 01, Sep 15, 1906 by Harry Houdini
- The Unmasking of Robert-Houndin By Harry Houdini (1908)
- The Sphinx of August 1909 by Mr. Oscar Teale describes the first Bamberg.
- The Tarbell Course in Magic, Vol 5 - Lesson 68 Magic of the Bambergs, pg 362 Theo. Bamberg (Okito) 1948.
- A Short Autobiography By Okito, MUM, Vol. 45, Number 4, September, 1955, pps. 152 - 155
- The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973)
- Magic: A Picture History By Milbourne Christopher (1991)
- Okito and the Bamberg Dynasty By Dr. Robert J. Albo - Magic Magazine, Feb 2007
- James Randi (October 1993). Conjuring. St. Martin's Griffin, pp. 127-138. ISBN 0-312-09771-9.