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Robert Houdin, named the Father of Modern Magic, is best known making orange trees grow before an audience's eyes and suspending bodies in air.
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Magician. Born Jean Eugne Robert on December 6, 1805 in Blois, France. The son of a clockmaker, Robert-Houdin attended France's University of Orleans and worked as a watchmaker before pursuing a career as a magician.
Robert-Houdin succeeded in elevating magic from a street show to a performance art that drew audiences to large theaters, including Palais Royal, and lavish Parisian homes. With his background in clocks, Robert-Houdin brought electricity to the magic stage for the first time, and his inventiveness awarded him the title of the Father of Modern Magic. For his performances, he dressed formally in top hats and coattails to lend authority to his work, a costume that magicians still wear today.
Famous for making orange trees grow before an audience's eyes and suspending bodies in air, Robert-Houdin was forced to reveal his tricks to authorities to avoid prosecution for witchcraft. In fact, He became so renowned as an illusionist that Napoleon III sent him to Algiers in 1856 to outdo the "miracles" performed by religious leaders there. His magic tricks left the Arabs awestruck and thus kept France's influence strong.
Jean Eugne Robert-Houdin's hyphenated name derives from his marriage to his wife, Josephe Cecile Houdin. American escape artist Harry Houdini adopted his stage name in honor of Robert-Houdin. He published his autobiography, The Memoirs of Robert-Houdin, in 1859.
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