Dark Art: Spectacular Illusions from the Golden Age of Magic..
Wonderful article by Hunter Oatman-Stanford for COLLECTORS WEEKLY, complete with over twenty classic magic poster photos. They alone are worth the visit..
At the height of the live-magic era, seeing was believing. On a nightly basis, heads were severed and reattached, horses levitated from the stage, and bullets were caught in mid-air. To advertise these impossible feats, magicians at the turn of the 20th century commissioned vividly illustratedposters, emblazoned with exotic-sounding names and ominously scowling faces, daring you to doubt them. More than 100 years later, these posters still provoke an insatiable desire to see these illusions firsthand.
“How do you look at a poster of somebody being decapitated and not buy a ticket to see it performed live?”
Magicians of the period typically got their start in vaudeville, sandwiched between song-and-dance routines and stand-up comedians. But if an illusionist had enough charisma, he or she might strike out on their own, headlining a show of death-defying acts and sleights of hand that left crowds dumbfounded. Fans especially loved the darker side of magic, so the most successful magicians frequently toyed with life and death, evoking the power of some otherworldly being.