Green Lawn Abbey

Thurston, Howard

Howard Thurston
Born 7/20/1870
Died 4/13/1936
Body of Famous Magician Scheduled to Arrive From Florida, Thursday

Columbus Native Had Astounded Potentates of World with Skill

Body of the late Howard Thurston, internationally known magician, who died, Monday, in Miami Beach, Fla., is scheduled to arrive in Columbus at 11 a.m., Thursday. The funeral will be held Saturday. Time and details were being arranged Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Thurston, 66 years of age, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, March 30. The immediate cause of his death was pneumonia. The veteran trouper is survived by his wife; a daughter, Jane by his first wife, Nina Fielding; two brothers, William H. Thurston, 739 Broderick street, and Harry Thurston, a museum curator of Chicago and a sister, Mrs. Myrtle O\'Hagen, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Another brother, Charles Thurston, a former Columbus railroad detective, was slain several years ago. Mr. Thurston\'s first wife died in 1934. Tuesday, residents of Columbus practically all of whom knew him as a gentleman, scholar and master of the art of legerdemain, mourned his passing, and awaited the return of his body, which is to find its last resting place in the city where he romped as a boy. He learned his first tricks of magic while bell-hopping in the old Neil House.

Mr. Thurston. billed on the stage as "The World\'s Greatest Magician" died four months, to the day, after announcing success in his fight to recapture his health. Mrs. Ada Thurston Wolfe, a cousin, recounted the story of his career in magic and of the day when he played hooky from school to witness a performance of his idol, "the Great Herman," in a downtown playhouse. "Completely captivated, he could hardly sit still in his seat," Mrs. Wolfe declared.

Hermann threw him into ecstasy by taking a brass button from the youth\'s forehead and presenting it to him. From that day on his only desire was to some day be as great a magician, a goal which he ultimately reached. Hopping bells in the old Neil House, guests, amused by his earnest request for information on all things magic, taught him card tricks. In odd moments he pulled a muchly thumbed book of magic from his pocket and studied it intensely. When he had reached the age of 12 years, he ran away from home to go on the stage with his newly learned tricks. He returned to Columbus soon, but never forsook his ambition.
His mother died when he was very young. Her hope had been that he would enter the ministry. He attended a theological school at Mt. Hermon and seemed destined for the cloth. But here again, his old idol, "The Great Hermann," was to figure prominently in his life. As young Thurston was standing on a railroad station platform awaiting a train to bring him home, he met the great magician and followed him.

Tony Pastor, manager of a little theater on Fourteenth street in New York city, really started Mr. Thurston toward success. He performed there without remuneration, merely for the experience of playing before an audience with his card tricks. Tony recognized his genius and sent him abroad to study magic with the understanding that he would return to the little theater. From then on success was his. The road to greatness, he found, was not an easy one and the trials and struggles which he encountered in his early career would have filled a large size volume. But he was undaunted. He sought to introduce originality into his performance and he invented a new and spectacular "rising card" trick with which he mystified Leon Hermann, a nephew, and successor of Hermann the Great. Combining this new creation with a repertoire of original card manipulations, Mr. Thurston entered vaudeville and soon won fame and recognition. He made a tour of Europe and gave special performances before a dozen rulers, including King Edward VII., President Loubet of France, the emperor of Germany and the tzar of Russia.

Upon his return to America, Mr. Thurston decided to prepare a complete magical performance of his own and to make a world tour. He embarked with his company from San Francisco and traveled to Australia, where he completed the building of his apparatus and made his debut at the Palace theater in Sydney.
He received a tremendous ovation and his success was established. He toured Australia in triumph and then visited the Oriental countries: China, Japan, Indo-China, Sumatra, Java, the Philippine Islands, Burma and India. Mr. Thurston arrived in India in 1905 and astonished the natives with feats of magic that surpassed the fabled wonders of that land of mystery. During the 10 years of Mr. Thurston\'s rise to fame, Harry Kellar, who had become the greatest magician in this country at that time, became attracted to the former and asked him to join the Kellar show. He accepted the offer and returned to America.
In May, 1908, at Ford\'s opera house in Baltimore, Mr. Kellar announced Mr. Thurston as his successor and since that time he has been universally recognized as America\'s leading magician and the foremost magician of the world.

One of Mr. Thurston\'s most unique performances was given in 1925, when he and his company appeared before the late President Calvin Coolidge in the White House. On that occasion. Mr. Thurston borrowed the president\'s watch and apparently pounded it to pieces, but the watch later was discovered, uninjured, in a loaf of bread brought from the White House kitchen. Due to a mistake by one of the assistants, the trick came very nearly to an unfortunate ending that would have ruined the valuable timepiece beyond the aid of Mr. Thurston\'s magic. Fortunately, however, he discovered the mistake in time and through his presence of mind, brought the trick to a happy conclusion. He regarded this performance as one of the outstanding triumphs of his long career.

As a memento of the important occasion he possessed a large photograph of the president, on which was written: "To Howard Thurston, in behalf of his daughter Jane." The picture also bore the president\'s autograph.

His daughter, Jane, in recent years has been appearing in her father\'s productions. During his years on the road Mr. Thurston never failed to return to Columbus for a week\'s engagement each year. One performance of each engagement was always free for children. His boast was that he delighted children from 4 to 94 years of age. His last performance was on March 9, 1934, his twenty-ninth annual visit.

Friends in Miami Beach and New York city recalled, Tuesday, that Mr. Thurston was reported to have entered into an agreement several years ago with Harry Houdini, celebrated trickster; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and spiritualist, and Howard J. Carter, archeologist and writer, to attempt reunion beyond the grave. Incidentally, all are dead.

Mrs. Thurston would not discuss the reported spiritualistic pact.
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