When you think of a Magician what comes to mind? For many, it is the famous image of a Magician pulling a rabbit out of hat? As a person who is a lover of animals and has many pets, including two rabbits (who appear in some of my shows), I thought it would be interesting to share a little history of the history of the rabbit out of the hat stereotype. First of all, the rabbit out of a hat is not nearly as old as you may think.
According to the Magic Detective website, the first magician to pull a rabbit from a top hat might have been Louis Apollinaire Christian Emmanuel Comte, known as ‘The Kings Conjurer’. Born June 22, 1788 in Geneva Switzerland, Comte became a popular Parisian performer. One of his more famous effects was borrowing a hat and producing various objects from it. Milbourne Christopher in his book The Illustrated History of Magic says the rabbit from hat trick originated in the 1830s, but does not give the name of the first person to present the effect.
However, Christopher does give a great deal of credit to John Henry Anderson, the Great Wizard of the North, for popularizing the trick. John Henry Anderson was born in 1814 in Scotland. There are numerous posters and woodcut illustrations of Anderson not only pulling a single rabbit from a hat, but numerous rabbits from a top hat.
The top hat itself seems to have originated in Europe sometime in the late 1700s. Given the size and shape of the hat it was an ideal object for a magician to borrow and make things appear from. Even into the 20th Century magicians were still using a borrowed hat for productions of rabbits and other animals.
However, while that image of the Magician dressed in a tuxedo pulling a live rabbit out of top hat may still be a stereotype of “The Magician”, the reality is that you have probably never actually seen a magician produce a rabbit from a hat. I am a professional magician that sometimes uses one of my rabbits. I have never produced any of my rabbits from a hat. I have never, ever seen another magician produce a rabbit from a top hat.
And now in the immortal words of the late Paul Harvey, you have “the rest of the story”.
About the Author: Michael Reist, The Amazing Magi is a professional magician who lives in Annville, PA with his wife Kathy and their many pets. He enjoys performing his family style of magic for audiences of all ages. To contact him either email him at [email protected] or call him at (610) 698-0311.