President Abraham Lincoln the Magician

Because of his political celebrity and dazzling career in magic, President Abraham Lincoln popularized the top hat among magicians.

The first use of the top hat among magicians is unknown, but Lincoln’s magic career didn’t start until 1833, well after the top hat had been introduced to society. Lincoln’s first magic performance came at a small saloon in Illinois. The performance went well and he decided to continue magic along with his political career, which was not successful at the time.

Lincoln pictured with his top hat and his rabbit named Topper.

His performances, beginning with the first and continuing to his last in 1865, were marked by jokes, character impersonations, a hat-trick, and complex illusions involving ropes. He pulled all of his props out of his top hat.

Fans of President Lincoln said that his illusions truly were mesmerizing, but it was his impersonation of the famous actor John Wilkes Booth that brought the house down with uproarious laughter. Lincoln would imitate each idiosyncrasy of the famous actor, even down to Wilkes’s habit of breathing loudly through his noise after delivering an emphatic line.

In a twist of irony, it was John Wilkes Booth who shot President Lincoln on April 14, 1865 during the play Our American Cousin. Lincoln was scheduled for a surprise magic performance following the play.

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1 Response to “President Abraham Lincoln the Magician”


  1. 1 Nathan September 14, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Best. Picture. Ever.


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