The Magic of Dante the Magician
Featured in this week’s History of Magic is Harry August Jansen, who became better known as Dante the Magician. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1883. He moved to the United States 6 years later and eventually travelled the world as a highly successful magician illusionist. He became so influential that at his death in 1955 brought to an end what historians called the “Golden Age of Magic”. He became famous for his phrase ‘Sim Sala Bim’, nonsensical words taken from an old Danish children’s song. He was to become one of the most successful magicians of the era and was known as The King of Magic. His travelling illusion show toured as a musical revue with a troupe of 40 assistants, many tons of equipment and props, and large scale illusions.
Harry Jansen made his stage debut at age 16 and soon afterwards was ready to begin a 5 year long world tour under the banner of The Great Jansen. In 1922 Howard Thurston saw Jansen perform and recognised his talent and possible competition, so engaged him to build and co-produce Thurston’s 2nd show. Top illusionists often ran two separate shows at the same time when they had a captive market.