|Sig. Blitz, The Great Magician and Ventriloquist with his Learned Canary Birds, (Philadelphia, 1863).|
Whenever it was known that I was to appear, unusual excitement prevailed. Men whose limbs had been amputated but a few days, although forbidden by the physician, begged to be dressed, that they might attend; and the same was the case with the feeble and exhausted, who were confined to their beds; who, when reminded of the imprudence and danger, replied, “A good laugh will raise our spirits, and bring about a speedy recovery.” (p. 417)
|Detail of above playbill|
With the focal point of the above playbill being his “Learned Canary Birds,” the left border illustrates what a ticketholder might see if attending the performance. These incredible acts include a canary sitting in a ring of fire, another canary pulling a dead(?) canary on a wheeled cart, a canary standing on its head, and a canary returning to life, to mention a few.
Upon first viewing the above playbill, I was utterly fascinated by Signor Blitz, wondering to what kind of coercion he subjected these canaries. Were they alive or perhaps taxidermy pets? The description of his performance evoked myriad imaginings of the performance: women using lorgnettes to view the show, men sporting binoculars (how could people view the performance from even a few rows back?), a cacophony of birds chirping, birds playing dead?
W. & F. Langenheim (Firm), photographer. Signor Blitz, ventriloquist, from life. Philadelphia [ca. 1859]. Albumen print stereograph.
|Alice Austin, Dance of Six Dinner Plates photographed by Jon Snyder.|
Alice Austin, Dance of Six Dinner Plates (bottom and upper left corners) in the Library Company’s staff art exhibition photographed by Jon Snyder.
Print Department Assistant & Digital Collections Manager
Antonio Blitz, Fifty Years in the Magic Circle: Being an Account of the Author's Professional Life ; his Wonderful Tricks and Feats ; with Laughable Incidents, and Adventures as a Magician, Necromancer, and Ventriloquist. Hartford, CT: Belknap & Bliss, 1871.