Richard Potter
  • Print
Written by Link Free or Die

First Magician (1783 - 1835)

Despite the fame of the fictional Harry Potter, Richard Potter of New Hampshire is credited as America's first successful stage magician, hypnotist and ventriloquist. Legend says he was able to climb a rope and disappear while performing outdoors surrounded by spectators. That's the legend. His best known illusion was "crawling through a log" and Potter could throw his voice, especially using bird sounds, with great skill. Whether he was the first to use a ventriloquist's doll or dummy isn't known. Reportedly Potter was rhe son of an English baronet and an African American serving woman (some say "slave"). He was educated in Europe and traveled widely before beginning his 25 year career as a performer in post-Revolutionary America. He lived with his father in Hopkington, NH and later married and lived in Andover, NH. Potter's prestidigitation with eggs, money and cards was considered of scientific interest and he often performed at the Columbia Museum in Boston. He could throw knives and touch a hot iron to his tongue, walk on flames, dance on eggs without breaking them. He performed in New York and all over New England. Charles Brewster, in his history of Portsmouth, NH refers to Potter as living on what is now State Street. Potter apparently had a son of the same name who performed magic like his father. In 1813 Potter, a successful performer, bought a 175-acre farm in Andover, NH, in the village now known as Potter's Place. Potter and his wife Sally were buried in the front yard of their estate, but the bodies were later moved by the town to a their current location. His story intrigued Harry Houdini who included Potter in his popular magazine of magic.

He was America's first successful magician,
ventriloquist and hypnotist.

More Famous NH People 

RICHARD POTTER LINKS

BIOGRAPHY

Potter the Magician
Genealogical info on Richard Potter

Potter the Magician
Article by Milbourne Christopher reprinted from 1953 magazine

The Magician of Potter's Place
From the "Black Richard Ring" of Manchester, NH, a magician's group named in honor of Potter. Includes photo of graves.

Potter Place
A NH historical landmark in Andover from the official NH state web site

Early American Magicians
History of professional magicians including Potter

Ventriloquism A Dissociated Perspective
Research essay mentioned Potter in passing.

RELATED LINKS

Rich Potter
A modern entertainer with a similar name

Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism

Vent Haven Museum & International Ventriloquist Convention
With online audio interviews with ventrioloquists of note

Houdini on PBS

Shopping for Magic at Houdini.com

International Brotherhood of Magicians

Magic Past Time
Online journal of the history of magic

More Famous NH People 

ABOUT THE IMAGE AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE:
We have no image of the real Richard Potter. The picture at the top of the page comes from the AMERICAN MEMORY collection at the Library of Congress and shows the frontispiece of an Conjurer's Magazine", an early English text on magic. According to the Lubrary of Congress:

"Houdini believed "The conjurer's magazine" to be the first English-language work published in the serial literature of magic. Within its volumes appeared articles concerning alchemy, astrology, legerdemain and card magic. Because it was rich in the early literature and lore of his art, Houdini took pride in owning an original edition of the work. "The conjurer's magazine" was published from August, 1791 to July, 1792, and continued through 1793-1794, as "The astrologer's magazine." When Houdini launched his own journal in 1906, he titled the serial "Conjurers' monthly magazine."

Copyright © 2003 SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved. by J. Dennis Robinson.