Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Grave of Signor Blitz


Signor Blitz was born Antonio Van Zandt in Deal, England on June 21, 1810. He was the predecessor of Heller, Herrmann and Kellar. He was such a successful entertainer that many performers adopted his name and started to perform as Blitz. The Illustrated History of Magic states that there were as many as 13 performers using the name Signor Blitz, many of whom even copied his advertising and posters.


During the Civil War Blitz performed at hundreds of Union Army Hospitals. His act was made up of several parts, these included magic, ventriloquism, plate spinning and the performance of trained birds. Blitz was apparently one of the first performers to use a vent dummy during his ventriloquism thus setting the trend for future generations.

Blitz penned his own autobiography which is called ‘Fifty Years In the Magic Circle”. This book is available through books.google.com at the ‘Life and Adventures of Signor Blitz’. It’s a free download and I am currently downloading and getting ready to read about this wonderful conjuror who made thousands of people happy and cheerful with his magic. Among them, Tad Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln. There is a famous exchange by the two men. Lincoln asks Blitz how many children he has made happy. Blitz replies that it must be thousands. President Lincoln follows that with “I fear that I have made thousands and tens of thousands unhappy.” This exchange took place as the Battle of Gettysburg raged.

Houdini claimed to have found Blitz’s grave in the Machpelah Cemetery. Later he would be buried in the same cemetery.

One funny side note. If you search for Signor Blitz online you can turn up his obituary from the New York Times. However if you read the obit. you soon discover that the information is all wrong. They claim his real name was David Batehis and that he suffered a number of strokes since 1885. But Signor Blitz died in 1877. They do give the proper name of his wife in the obit. but the rest of the details are wrong. This is clearly one of the Blitz imposters and yet the TIMES links him to Blitz’s real wife.

To read more about Blitz go here http://deancarnegie.blogspot.com/2011/08/civil-war-era-magicians-part-4.html

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