Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grave Richard Potter

We are all familiar with Harry Potter, the fictional boy wizard from England. Well here is something you’ll find amazing. The first magician to gain notoriety and wealth in America was also named Potter, however he was Richard Potter. And Richard Potter was a free black man from New England.

It's quite a story actually. He was from New Hampshire and born in 1783. History records him as a ventriloquist, but most of his feats are what we know today as magic. He apparently could also do hypnotism as well. He learned these things when he joined a circus early in life. One of the legends surrounding his magic was that he was once seen to climb through a log. The crowd that watched him do this assumed the log was hollow. But when they checked out the log for themselves they discovered it was completely solid! Another of the stories surrounding him was that he could take a ball of yarn, toss it high into the air where it would slowly unravel. Then Potter would climb up the yarn and into the clouds to vanish. This seems to be identical to the Indian Rope Trick, which history has shown is only mythical not something that was ever actually presented. The same could be said about Richard Potter’s version. 

In 1814 he purchased a 175 acre farm in Andover New Hampshire which is what led me to believe he became quite wealthy. He built a two story house and the second floor was converted over to his performance area and people would come over to see his special brand of magic. It’s remarkable that the first well to do magician in America was black in a time when slavery was still legal in many states. Bravo Richard Potter. 

He died September 20th 1835 and is buried behind the rail road station in Potter Place, New Hampshire (the town having been named after Richard Potter)

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