Learned Birds and Other Acts

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Sig’r Blitz The World-Renowned Ventriloquist & Magician. Extraordinary Attraction with the Learned Canary Birds!… (Boston: J.H. & F. Farwell Job printing Office, [ca. 1860-1968]). Illustrated broadside. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process

The British magician, ventriloquist, juggler, and animal trainer Antonio van Zandt (1810-1877) performed under the name Signor Blitz, a name pirated by a dozen other magicians in an effort to capitalize on his extraordinary popularity. Blitz emigrated to the United States in 1834, settling in Philadelphia.


When Blitz died in 1877, obituaries ran in newspapers throughout the United States. The Chicago Tribute stated, “In the death of Signor Antonio Blitz … the whole public will feel as if it had lost a friend, so many years had he devoted himself to its entertainment. His name has literally been a household word. He was born in Deal, England…and his peculiar talents were shown so early that at the age of 13 he made his first appearance at Hamburg and then performed in succession at Lubeck, Potsdam, and other continental cities, exciting wonder wherever he went.”

The Detroit Free Press noted that “Signor Blitz deserves to be remembered as the prince of prestidigitateurs in his [time]. …Three generations at least of Americans owed to him some of the happiest hours of their lives. He was ‘the’ conjurer of the republic; the most incredible of ventriloquists; the most insatiable consumer of yards of ribbon, omelettes made in badly astonished hats, and miscellaneous cutlery; the most indefatigable producer of canary birds from watch cases, rabbits from waistcoat pockets, and butterflies from egg shells, that America ever knew.”


Read the magician’s autobiography:
Antonio Blitz (1810-1877), Life and Adventures of Signor Blitz; 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, Conn.: T. Belknap, 1872). Firestone Library (F) GV1545.B6 A3 1872

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Great work putting all that historic stuff in your post.