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Magic Apparatus

The John J. and Hanna M. McManus and Morris N. and Chesley V. Young Collection

The original owner of the magic apparatus was Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806–1875), an Austrian magician.  He is best known for his clever conjuring inventions and refined sleight of hand skills. He is called the Father of Card-Magic by the most prominent representatives of modern card-artistry. In his day, Hofzinser's talents were famous throughout Europe. From 1857 on, under the name of his wife Wilhemine, Hofzinser presented illusions in their apartment (Salon) for an elite audience of invited guests three or four times a week. They called these gatherings Eine Stunde der Täuschung or "An Hour of Deception" and charged a relatively high price for admission. In 1865 he went on tour with his show and was seen in Berlin, Munich and in most of the bigger cities in the Austrian Monarchy. Hofzinser is famous for his minimalist approach to performing his illusions. Rather than presenting large-scale effects to impress his audience, Hofzinser focused on a simple setting using small props to demonstrate his skills. Playing cards were one of Hofzinser's specialties and he was one of the earliest performers to demonstrate card tricks. He invented many card manipulations, some of which continue to be used by magicians today. For more on Hofzinser, see the essay by Magic Christian. Also see Leonard Beck's article entitled, Things Magical in the Collections of the Rare Book Division, from The Quarterly Journal, Library of Congress, v. 31, October 1974, p. 208-234.

The Card Box [silver container] [magic apparatus]. 11 1/4 cm wide x 3 cm deep. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser. Monogram of J.H. impressed on silver with green leather container.

With the means of this box one can change a torn card three times.



Assortment of Different Cups

Cups and Bell [magic apparatus]. From the collection of McManus Young, via Fredo Marvelli and Otto Fischer.

Measurements: Smallest container: 12 x 6 cm. Second smallest container: 12 x 6 cm. Bell: 15 x 8 cm. Third smallest container: 7 x 18 1/2 cm. Largest container: 9 1/2 x 22 cm.

Object 1: Assortment of different cups to make different things vanish.

Object 2: To change grains to water or another liquid or object.

Object 3 through 5: under which the grains reappear it is for the same purpose as the previous images of cups and bell.

Object 4: The bell can be filled with grains and putting it on the table and by pressing the top knob secretly the grains will fall down to the bottom.

Object 5: This cup serves to change a little box for another one. A watch or ring is changed by this box, which is lifted by the cover. A spring lifts up the other box.

A small metal goblet (the size of an egg cup) is filled with millet, covered with a lid, and placed on a try for a spectator to hold. After ringing a metal bell, it is placed on a porcelain dish which is given to second spectator to hold. Upon the performer's command, the millet vanishes from the goblet and appears on the dish, under the bell.

Cups and Coins, (rattle cup). [magic apparatus]. 5 cm x 7 cm. Circular box made of brown leather with red velvet and white silk interior.From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

This item appears to be a kind of early rattle box. A coin is placed into the little vase, and still heard though it is vanished already. The rattle is produced with the little coin. The double bottom is pressed against the bottom of the vase to hinder the coin rattling. The double bottom can be placed on top of the middle of the tray and a coin put on top of it and vanishes. Most likely, the tray can be put into the box also.

The pictured 1/4 Kreuser (1851) was found under the bottom of the vase in April of 1997 by Magic Christian of Vienna Austria.






The last two images are supplied by magician Magic Christian and are not part of the McManus Young Collection. They are supplied to illustrate other examples of rattle cups.

The Forced Thought or Pre-determination of Thought, [fabric and silver trays] [magic apparatus]. 15 3/4 sq. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

The performer puts down one card. Any thought of a card by a spectator appears to be the put down card on the table.

Hofzinser would place a card face down on his table and then ask a spectator to merely think of a card. Under "test conditions" the card merely thought of by the spectator is shown to be the same card that Hofzinser had placed faced down on the table before the spectator had even been asked to think of a card.

The Grandpapa [wooden cones] [magic apparatus]. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Two different cone-sets for Hofzinser’s trick entitled the Grandpapa a big skittle is shown and changes place under a paper cone and a vase with an orange, at the end around six to eight little skittles are produced and placed around the large skittle like grandchildren around grandpa.


Hofzinser Card Rise Box: front Hofzinser Card Rise Box: right sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: back left side Hofzinser Card Rise Box: left sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: inside front Hofzinser Card Rise Box: inside right sideHofzinser Card Rise Box: inside back Hofzinser Card Rise Box

Hofzinser Card Rise Box [magic apparatus] From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser. 20 long x 14 wide x 15 deep cm. Cards: 9 x 6cm

This box contains a mechanism consisting of 32 steel levers, each of which lifts a specific card from a special deck. The levers are activated via the small metal buttons which ring the bottom of the box. The thirty two buttons that are movable each correspond to a single card which is fastened to the lever with a metal clip. The enclosed key is used to wind the spring mechanism which forces the desired card to rise through the slot seen on top of the box lid.

To perform this trick the magician would shuffle a deck of cards which looks identical to the ones held by clips inside the box. He would then place the cards in the compartment which is accessed through the hinged door found on the top of the lid. The cards would appear to the audience to have been placed in the box but would actually rest in a small well in the lid. The audience would choose a card which the magician could make rise by manipulating the buttons on the outside of the box.

This famous apparatus, inscribed with Hofzinser's initials, J. H. was apparently used in an effect in which a chosen card was torn and restored not once, but three times in succession. Alas, Hofzinser's presentation and handling did not survive his death.

This legendary piece of apparatus was apparently constructed for Hofzinser by his Viennese mechanic, Kurz, in the early 1840's. (he mentions it in a letter to Carl von Pospischil in 1847). A shuffled deck of cards would be placed into the box and then any card called for by the audience would slowly and mysteriously rise through an opening in the top of the box.

The famous Card rise automaton of Hofzinser, where any named card out of a 32 card deck, rises out of the box after the deck is shuffled and put into the box.


Homeopathy, also known as Pearl Wonder [magic apparatus]. Green leather case with green silk interior. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Otto Fischer says that there were three identical pillboxes. Presumably, only two were apparent to the audience. Fischer speculated that the effect may be involved a one at a time transposition of the pearls from one pill box to the other (only three of the six pearls being apparent to the audience) but others including Dr. Stanley Jaks speculated that the effect may have involved the magical stringing of the pearls. In any case Otto Fischer laments "we may be certain that with this experiment we have lost a very beautiful idea."

For Hofzinser’s trick Homeopathy in which small pearls vanish from a small container and change their size in a glass cassette which hangs down from the ceiling. The glass cassette is probably in the collection of Ken Klostermann. The glass containers differ in size a little and the pearls vanish by exchanging one container with a smaller one . A second empty box is lifted up on top of the stem when the other box is lifted or picked up by the cover.

(Loose pearls string themselves.)


Magic Ink Ladle aka The Ink of the Enamored, (Die Tinte der Verliebten) [magic apparatus]. 37 x 9 cm. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Hofzinser developed this ladle for use in the effect, "The Ink of Enamored" in which a borrowed wedding ring would be dropped into a crystal vase filled with ink, ostensibly the same quantity of ink expended each second in the writing of love letters. The ink would instantaneously and visibly transform into water, in which several goldfish were seen to be swimming, on of which held the borrowed ring in his mouth.

With this ladle it is possible to pick up ink out of a glass cup which seems to be filled with ink. The ladle is opened at the end and filled with ink. by pressing the knob the ink is released by a fine hole into the spoon of the ladle.

Mirror and Cards [magic apparatus] Mirror: 10 x 4 1/2 cm. Circular box: 4/12 cm. Green leather box embossed with gold. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Mental effect with several discs and a mirror. The box is a changing box in both sides there are different discs. One is arranged beforehand and concealed in the underside. The other stack is shuffled by the spectator and put back from the top side. The lid is put back. The performer turns the box secretly when it is handed back to him and is able to tell the correct order of the discs. If the mirror plays a certain role in it is not known yet.

The Ring Case [magic apparatus]. Box: 3 1/2 Long x 3 wide x 3 1/2 cm deep. Tray: 13 x 12 cm. Red leather box with silver tray. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

A ring is borrowed form a spectator, placed in the ring box which is then placed on the tray where it remains in full view until the climax of the trick. The ring is show in the box one final time, then vanishes from the box and reappears instantaneously in another impossible location, such as the center of a ball of wool. Alas, only the apparatus has survived, not Hofzinser's presentation.

Silver Tray, (The Twenties) [magic aparatus]. 12 1/2 cm wide. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

The individual items belong to the silver tray. The cover fits the outer tray and can be picked up by the base's foot.

A probable coin effect called The Twenties. According to Otto Fischer, this was one of Hofzinser's favorite and most closely guarded effects and that it involved a transportation of some coins (or twenties) and a die. Little else is known about this effect.

With this cup it is possible to pick up a little cover from the tray. The Bottom of the cup has to be restored and soldered back to the cup. Otherwise it is not possible to use it.

Thread Trick [magic apparatus]

From the collection of McManus, via Fredo Marvelli and Otto Fischer.

The Skittle [magic apparatus]. Green leather box embossed with gold. From the effects of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser.

Wooden Cone: 6 cm 2 3/4 x cm wide; Red Ball 2 cm; Brown Ball 1 1/2 cm; Black Pedistool: 10 cm high; Dice: 3 cm; Cup 4 3/4 wide x 6 1/2 long; Metal Vases 2 1/2 cm long x 1 1/2 cm wide. Silk lined leather case

This prop belong to a early version of the Hofzinser trick called: The Skittle, in which a little skittle wanders through the table and changes place with several objects.


Essay: Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser  By Magic Christian, 2011

Although a minor employee with the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806-1875) used the name Dr. Hofsinzer as his stage name. As a magician he was best known for his clever conjuring inventions and refined sleight of hand skills. He is often called the Father of Card-Magic. Hofzinser presented illusions in his apartment (Salon) for an elite audience of invited guests three or four times a week. These gatherings, called “An Hour of Deception,” were popular and profitable. Playing cards were one of Hofzinser’s specialties and he was one of the earliest performers to demonstrate card tricks.

Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806-1875) is called the father of Card-Magic by the most prominent representatives of modern day card-artistry. Hofzinser had humble beginnings. He started as an apprentice to his father’s silk and haberdasher shop and then he moved on to work as a clerk in a governmental financial department in Vienna. From these pragmatic beginnings, Hofzinser went on to completely change his vocation to that of a magician and performer. It is assumed that Hofzinser was deeply impressed by Ludwig DÖbler, his famous magician relative as he vacationed with him in his youth. Hofzinser was likely practicing the perfection of his magic throughout his childhood as by the time he was twenty years old he was acting as an advisor to a magic show. He went on to become a highly respected magician and a beloved member of Viennese society with his theatrical magic salon named the Wilhelmina.

Hofzinser was a most creative magician who understood how to combine the zeitgeist with fantasy to create wonderful magic experiments while chatting and making satirical political banter. Hofzinser was lauded as a natural magician with a deft hand and his wife was applauded as a wonderful part of his act as a clairvoyant. First hand accounts of Hofzinser’s salons describe the content of his programs. The décor and atmosphere greatly impressed his guests who also commented on the intimate setting. Hofzinser’s voice was, according to many newspaper reports, not powerful enough to project in large theatres and this was most likely the reason he preferred to perform in the intimate setting of the Salon. Paintings in gold plated frames adorned the walls, among them one of Hofzinser himself by Josef Mathäus Aigner and a portrait of his wife Wilhelmina. Comfortable arm chairs were available for the visitors who paid top dollar for the best seats. Much of the time, his performances were sold out and extra presentations were added to accommodate all those who came to see him perform. On average, Hofzinser performed up to four times a week and he often changed and added to his act several times in the season. New tricks to his program included  "The Mail," "the Torn One" and "Philadelphia's Most Interesting Trick." In his Salon in Vienna's Wollzeile, respected people from Vienna's high society met to admire his Hofzinser’s "Hours of Deception." He skillfully mixed social satire with current events and magic tricks.  The local and international press loved his inventive presentations and his creative ideas influenced modern artists.

He is rightfully referred to as the father of the parlor-and card-magic. The card-experiment "To think and forget", "Vision of an Insane", watch-tricks, the "Rose-Mirror", the "Appearing Lady" and his unforgettable card-magic were all parts of his repertoire. During his life time Hofzinser sold many of his tricks to his colleagues who practiced magic. He invented many tricks and new routines for his friend Compars Hermann and revealed the secret of the piece. He sold "The forced thought" for 200 florin to a rich English man, named Mr. Clite, who wanted a thorough understanding of how it operated. Newspapers report that Hofzinser was quite generous with his talents and gave many magic lessons in his Salon. The last performance of Hofzinser is noted in Viennese newspapers close to New Years Eve of 1874/1875 when he performed for the Vienna Club of Trade People. After a short illness, Hofzinser passes away. His obituary in a Viennese newspaper reports that the funeral was held in the parish church of St. Johann in the "Praterstrasse.

What we know about Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser is based on the work of Ottokar Fischer (1873-1940). Many of the facts surrounding Hofzinser’s life would have been forgotten if it were not for this young and eager magician, who found by chance, one of Hofzinser’s former pupils by the name of Georg Heubeck. Through interviews with Heubeck, Fischer learned of many of Hofzinser’s experiments and art pieces. Subsequently, a current day well known Austrian magician by the name of Magic Christian, has taken up further research on Hofzinser and through research of newspapers and journals has, for the first time, presented Hofzinser as a real person and corrected previously held misperceptions about him. He is now correctly presented as legendary magician, romantic poet, hated critic, keen balloonist and friend of various well-known celebrities as well as a magician of considerable talent.

    Time Line of the Life of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser

  • June 19, 1806: Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser is born in Vienna-Landstraße to Leopold and Theresia Hofzinser, the youngest of four boys. 1814: Holidays with his relative and famous magician Ludwig DÖbler in Baden/near Vienna.
  • 1817: Hofzinser’s father dies.
    1824: Begins his apprenticeship at his father's silk and haberdasher shop which lasts until he is 18 years old.
  • 1825: Hofzinser is employed as 5th registrant and serves as a probationer at the Royal and Imperial Tobacco Company.
  • 1828:
    • Hofzinser writes his first reviews about concerts and theatre as well as poetry.
    • He meets Carl Pospischil.
    • Act as an adviser for a magic show for the director Carl in the "Theater an der Wien."
  • 1839: Gains employment at the Ministry of Finances.
  • 1844-1865:
    • Hofzinser begins traveling to international cities such as Paris, Graz, Prague, Brno, among others. In Paris he most likely meets Hector Berlioz.
  • 1851: Meets Compars Hermann with whom he maintains a lifelong friendship.
  • 1853: Makes a balloon ride with the Goddard brothers.
  • September 21 1854: marries 27 year old Wilhelmine Bergmann (1827-1900).
  • Janurary  3, 1857: Opens his first magic salon under the name of his wife Wilhelmine.
  • August 1858: Performs in Prague
    1860: Attempts to open a second Salon in the Café Corti, but is closed down by the police.
  • April 1860: Performs for members of the Imperial Court.
  • 1861: Opens of his third Salon, (January 1861-April 1862) at Himmelpfortgasse Nr. 953.
  • 1862: Opens  his fourth salon, (December 1862-April 1864) at Wallfischgasse Nr. 1221, later Nr. 8.
  • 1865-January through May: Opens his 5th Salon in the Hotel Stadt London.
  • 1865: Hofzinser retires from the financial ministry in October through a medical accommodation.
  • 1865: Travels with his show An Hour of Deception to the Austrian Monarchy which today is known as Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and North Italy. He also travels to Berlin and Munich and meets many magician colleagues which turn into long standing friendships with Bosco, DÖbler and Herrmann.
  • November 1865: Performs in Graz, Marburg and Laibach.
  • 1866: Performs in Pressburg, Budapest, Vienna, Troppau, Krakau, Olmütz, Linz, Salzburg and Munich.
  • 1867: Performs in Salzburg, Wels, Steyr, St. Pölten, Krems, Korneuburg, Wiener Neustadt, Lemberg, Znaim and Berlin.
  • 1868:
    • Opens his sixth Salon for a short time in Vienna.
    • He later performs in Marienbad, Eger, Pilsen, Wels, Linz, Steyr, Gmunden and Brünn.
  • 1869: Hofzinser performs in Carlsbad, Marienbad, Franzensbad, Eger, Asch, Gmunden and Bad Ischl.
  • 1870:
    • His pension is partially seized by the government.
    • Performs in Gmunden.
  • 1871:
    • Meets with Carlo Marchini with whom he forms a friendship.
    • He performs in Fiume, Italy, Carlsbad, Znaim, Fiume and Triest.
  • 1873: Hofzinser probably performs in Bad Gleichenberg, Rogitsch-Sauerbrunn and Krapinska-Teplice and Carlsbad.
  • March 11, 1875: After a short illness, Hofzinser dies and is buried in Vienna Central Cemetery in Austria.

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  November 13, 2020
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