Posts Tagged ‘Rosedale Cemetery’

The Story of the Sacketts of Hollywood

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

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The extended Sackett family in front of the Sackett Hotel, in 1898. From left to right: Betsy Otis, H.D. Sackett’s aunt; Mrs. Sackett; Lyman Hathaway, cousin of Mary Sackett; William H. Sackett; unknown; Mary Sackett; Zella Sackett, married to George Dunlap; unknown; Lilly ? ; Dora Miller. (LAPL)

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Horace David Sackett, whose family came to America from England in 1831, was born in Blandford, Massachusetts on December 29, 1843, the son of Leverett and Mary Culver Sackett. When he was eighteen years old, he went to Suffield, Connecticut and started a flourishing general merchandise and farming business that lasted for several years.

On January 15, 1873, Sackett married Ellen Minerva Lyman (b. July 24, 1848) and became the parents of five children, Mary Mariah (b. July 8, 1875), William (b. June 22, 1876), Warren Lyman (b. August 30, 1882), Zella Myra (b. June 11, 1883), and Emily (b. March 1885).

Sackett was a squat, spare, busy man with a short beard. He was cheerful and kindly but firm in his convictions. In 1887, with $10,000 in his pocket, he left Connecticut with his family and moved to Los Angeles. There he heard about land in the North Cahuenga Valley being subdivided for business and residential purposes. This new development called Hollywood was without lights, telephones, paved streets or other modern improvements.

The developer, Harvey Henderson Wilcox and his wife Daeida were looking for men willing to build up the area and attract new residents. Sackett’s daughter Mary recalled that her family was one of the first families in the area. “Mr. Wilcox subdivided his 160-acre ranch and named it Hollywood,” Mary recalled years later. “Both our families settled down there in May, 1888 when I was 12.”

Each lot was going for a fixed price of $1,000 each. But Wilcox gave Sackett, free of charge, three, sixty-five foot lots facing the assigned business area at Cahuenga Avenue and the southwest corner of Prospect (now Hollywood Boulevard), if Sackett made certain improvements before the dummy line (the old steam engine with the open car) reached Wilcox Avenue. .

sackett-store2

By 1888, the railroad was functioning, and Sackett built a three-story hotel building (above) of wood with a mansard roof, consisting of a corner store, and Prospect Avenue lobby and parlor. Behind that was the culinary department. The stairway in the lobby led to the upper two stories with eighteen rooms and a bathroom. Behind the hotel was a barn and corral; surrounding the store and lobby front was a cypress hedge and several two-year-old pepper trees planted by Wilcox, giving the place a very cozy appearance.

The Sacketts ran the first hotel in the Cahuenga Valley, and the second general merchandising establishment within the corporate limits of Hollywood. He also kept a few horses for his clientele and gardens to the blocks east and south of the store, to sell produce in his store.

Sackett bought the lot south of the hotel, two lots facing west on Wilcox Avenue, and south of the two northern lots in the row. Here he ran an overnight and breakfast place for city visitors and a bachelors’ roost for the young single men of the village. At his store, Sackett sold butter and eggs, crackers and cheese, overalls, jumpers, boots and shoes, ribbons and yardage, and canned goods that were becoming popular.

Another Hollywood pioneer associated with the hotel was Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, who later wrote a history of the area. Upon his arrival in California, he rented a room and an office there for his medical practice.

Sackett’s daughter, Mary and her siblings, attended the old Temple Street School through grade school, but didn’t go to the downtown high school because they couldn’t get there on time. Later, Sackett added another store, where in a corner nook he opened Hollywood’s post office; Mary became Hollywood’s first postmistress, running her practiced eye over the little rack of boxes. For her duties, Mary was paid as high as $5 per month.

Tragedy hit the Sackett family in 1899 when his son, William died unexpectedly at 23 years of age and was buried at Rosedale, as there would not be a cemetery in Hollywood for another two years.

Due to competition from the new Hollywood Hotel, built three years earlier at the northwest corner of Prospect and Highland, Sackett closed his hotel in 1905. He sold the property to Henry Gillig, but it remained unoccupied for the next five years except for one store room on the first floor.

In 1907, Sackett built a six bedroom house on property he had bought at 1642 Wilcox Avenue. Later that same year, in the reception hall of their home, Sackett’s daughter Zella, married George Dunlap, the mayor of Hollywood at the time, and the city’s last since Los Angeles annexed Hollywood in 1910.

In 1910, J.P. Creque, one of the wealthiest men in Hollywood, bought the former hotel property for $28,000 from the estate of Henry Gillig, who was now deceased. Creque razed the abandoned hotel and erected a fireproof two-story cream brick structure that cost approximately $30,000. The Hollywood National Bank leased a portion of the new building; there were three other stores facing on Prospect. The second floor had offices with wide hallways and tile flooring. .

The J.P. Creque Building being built in 1911 on the site of the Sackett Hotel at the southwest corner of Hollywood and Cahuenga.

In 1931, the Creque Building was enlarged by adding two stories; the Art Deco building at 6400-6408 Hollywood Boulevard, is still on the site. .

The Creque Building as it appears today on the site of the Sackett Hotel.

Now retired from the mercantile business, Sackett devoted himself to the management of his private interests and several properties that he owned. He took an active part in the public affairs of Hollywood and Los Angeles for many years and was a man of ability and worth. He was a staunch democrat and was interested in politics, especially in local matters.

It was in their Wilcox Avenue home that Horace Sackett died in 1918, and was buried next to his son at Rosedale. In 1929, his wife Ellen followed him in death at the age of eighty from heart disease.

At the time of Ellen’s death, the area around Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox had become mostly commercial, and land was being bought for business purposes. Mary Sackett was living in the family home, but instead of demolishing the house, she sold the property in 1929 and moved the house to the San Fernando Valley which was residential.

Remarkably, the old Sackett house is still standing at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. The 1908 residence looks somewhat out of place next to the small bungalow homes built mostly in the 1930s. .

The altered, but original Horace Sackett home, once located at 1642 Wilcox Avenue in Hollywood, is now at 10739 Kling Street in North Hollywood. PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. DO NOT DISTURB the occupants.

The rear of the former Sackett home.

On Wilcox, a row of storefronts still stands in place of the old Sackett homestead.

Mary Sackett never married, and in her old age claimed that she never touched liquor, tea or coffee. “I’m an old maid and proud of it,” she insisted to a reporter in 1950. “I’ve never worn a bit of make-up, yet I had three proposals. Men have taken me out but usually with a chaperone. I wouldn’t let them kiss me good-night and to this day no man has ever been allowed to put his arm around me.”

In 1954, at the age of 78, Mary appeared on an episode of the  You Bet Your Life television show with host Groucho Marx and laughingly ruffled the comedians feathers. She asked Groucho to put away his trademark cigar, either lit or unlit, and he grudgingly complied. .

Mary Sackett, 74, spars with comedian Groucho Marx on “You Bet Your Life.”


Click HERE to watch the episode. Mary’s segment begins at 18:45

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When asked if a man might yet come along and sweep her off her feet, Mary replied, “Not a chance. I’m too set in my ways. I don’t want any man cluttering up my house.” When Mary died on January 31, 1969 at age 93 in Rosemead, California, she was the last remaining Sackett. She was buried in the family plot at Rosedale Cemetery. .

The Sackett family marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

Mary Sackett’s marker at Rosedale Cemetery.

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The history of the Cathedral Mausoleum

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

The history of Hollywood Forever’s Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

This past summer a controversial construction project began at the front of the historic Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery—four additions of crypts and niches were constructed, two on each side of the entrance. The mausoleum is the final resting place for many of Hollywood’s pioneers and film celebrities. Every August 23rd, fans of Rudolph Valentino gather there to pay their respects to the actor in the mausoleum’s massive foyer. In 1937, the founder of Hollywood, Harvey Wilcox, his wife Daeida and other family members were moved here from their former resting place at Rosedale Cemetery. The completed mausoleum, in existence now for 89 years, has only a few original crypts remaining for sale. This is a brief story of the mausoleum’s history.

 

Mausolus, Satrap and ruler of Caria from 377 to 353 B.C., and husband of Artemisia, achieved distinction as the first ruler ever to be honored by the erection of a monument in which his own remains were placed. Though Augustus and Hadrian in Rome may have exceeded in splendor the structure which the widow, Artemisia, built in her husband’s honor, they could not leave to posterity, as Mausolus did, a name for an institution that has continued to surround the burial of loved ones with beauty, refinement and sacredness. It is from Mausolus that we derive the word mausoleum. In 1919, Hollywood Cemetery completed the first unit of a modern replica of such an ancient structure.

 

The plans to build a large mausoleum on the grounds of Hollywood Cemetery were first envisioned in late 1916. The original illustrations for the imposing building were somewhat different than what was finally constructed.

 

 

 

Above is the original design for what would be the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery, January 1916.

 

 

In October, 1917, the California Mausoleum Company, who had constructed mausoleums at Evergreen Cemetery in Riverside and one at Inglewood Cemetery, was hired to oversee the project. The architectural firm of Marston and Van Pelt of Pasadena drew up the plans and William C. Crowell was hired as contractor. Construction began immediately.

 

The plans called for a structure much larger than the Inglewood mausoleum with the edifice of concrete, brick and steel construction, faced with heavy blocks of California granite, and set with rusticated joints. The interior is finished throughout in marble, with decorative features in bronze. Art and cathedral glass was used for ceiling and window lighting. The mausoleum follows the Italian Renaissance design, with the central entrance having a Palladian motive executed in marble.

 

 

 

Above is the completed first unit of the new Hollywood Mausoleum. For those that are familiar with the mausoleum, does anyone notice something strange? I will address it at the end of the article.

 

 

 

Above is a corridor in the first unit built for the Cathedral Mausoleum. 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the entrance to the Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

It took a year to finish construction and the unit was dedicated in October 1918. The demand for crypts in the new Hollywood Mausoleum, as it was called at the time, was great and quickly sold out. In April 1921, the cemetery announced the construction of the second unit of the mausoleum. New plans revealed that the mausoleum would comprise, when completed, five units covering more than three acres, and provide for 6,000 crypts, all above ground. Both individual crypt groups and family sections would be arranged over a huge rotunda, around a great central alcove and along the sides of radiating corridors. At a total cost of $2 million dollars, it would be the largest structure of its type in the world.

 

 

 

Above is an artists rendering of what the completed Hollywood Mausoleum would look like. It’s not a great copy but the large rotunda and two other units behind it can still be seen.

 

 

 

Above is the rear of the Cathedral Mausoleum. The empty lawn is where the rotunda and the additional units would have been located if plans were followed.

 

 

The second unit was finally completed in September 1922. The new structure contained an additional 888 crypts, giving the entire mausoleum a total capacity of 1,454 crypts. In the new section there were 744 individual crypts and twenty-four family sections of from six to twenty-four crypts each. All were faced with Alabama marble. The family sections are separated from the main corridors by bronze gates or marble pedestals (the gates are missing is some sections and the marble pedestals are no longer there). There is also a section for those who desired cremation using specially designed urns provided by the company.

 

 

 

Above is a corridor in the Cathedral Mausoleum with the original gate of a family room still intact.

 

 

 

 

The cremation section in the main foyer

 

 

The main corridor, which originally was designed as a chapel, had a religious note by the design of the interior and by the use of artistic stained glass, which softened the light and gave the entire room an air of reverence. A large floor-to-ceiling stained glass window once located on the southern wall, no longer exists except for the top archway glass. The remaining stained glass has been removed. At the time, plans were made for a series of mural designs as decorations for the room. The corridors were carpeted and lined with potted plants and shrubs.

 

 

 

The main foyer in the Cathedral Mausoleum can be seen above. The stained glass window near the ceiling at one time went down to the floor. It is now boarded up and a door leads out to the rear lawn.

 

 

 

 The stained glass window in the private family room of millionaire merchant, William Adam Faris.

 

 

 

The builders promoted a new ventilation system used in the mausoleum that was advertised as “incomparably sanitary” which can be seen above.

 

 

An open house was held on Sunday, November 12, 1922 for the public to visit the newly completed double-unit of the Hollywood Mausoleum. The invitation read:

 

“Inspect for the first time the building which eventually will contain 6,000 above-ground crypts—built of concrete, and faced with granite and marble.

 

“See the stateliness of its Italian façade, it beautiful marble interior with solid bronze appointments. View its exquisite stained glass windows, its chapel-like corridors—and feel for yourself the very sacredness of its cathedral atmosphere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The plans for the remaining three units and the great central alcove were never completed. Hollywood residents, led by Senator Cornelius Cole, resisted the expansion of the cemetery during construction of the second unit and threatened litigation, even petitioning to have the cemetery closed. At the same time construction of crypts and a chapel were taking place on the western end of the property. Even when the problems were ironed out, the plans to expand the mausoleum never materialized. It’s unfortunate that the vision was not realized; it would have been an imposing and architecturally beautiful structure.

 

The first internments in the second unit of the Cathedral Mausoleum were Samantha Kelly and her grandson, Harry Earl. Kelly, a pioneer hotel woman, was born in Ohio in 1828. She came to Los Angeles from Indianapolis in 1882 in one of the first trains that travelled westward over the plains. She was one of the pioneers in the hotel business in Los Angeles and at different times owned and managed many of the largest hostelries in the city, including the Figueroa and the old Heatham and Ardmore hotels.

 

Kelly’s grandson, Harry Earl, was at one time the stage director of the old Belasco Theater and had died nine years earlier. He was almost worshipped by his grandmother, as well as by his mother, Katherine Earl. When he died in 1913, the two women kept his ashes with them at their home, 417 South Central Avenue. When Samantha Kelly died on July 22, 1922 at the age of 94, she was interred in a crypt in the still uncompleted mausoleum and in the crypt next to hers was placed the ashes of her grandson, Harry Earl.

 

 

 

The crypts of Samantha Kelley (left) and her grandson, Harry Earl.

 

 

The statues of the twelve apostles which now line both sides of the inside corridor, were originally to be placed on pedestals in a semi-circular lot behind the mausoleum. But these plans also never came to pass and it was decided to move them indoors, where they will probably remain permanently.

 

 

 

 

 

Several years ago electricity and lighting was added to the interior making it available for nighttime services. The damage to the mausoleum caused by the neglect of the then-owner, Jules Roth in the 1990s was restored when Tyler Cassity bought the cemetery. Whether the current changes made to the Cathedral Mausoleum will cause further concern to those who love Hollywood Forever Cemetery, are still to be heard from. Once the facings and architectural trimmings are completed, I will post photographs of the finished product.

 

 

 

The stained glass window that is next to Rudolph Valentino’s crypt.

 

 

Some of the prominent people whose final resting place is in the Cathedral Mausoleum are:

 

  • Barbara La Marr – Silent film actress
  • Rudolph Valentino – Silent film actor
  • June Mathis – Screenwriter
  • Peter Finch – Academy Award winning actor
  • Max Karger – MGM producer
  • Daieda Wilcox Beveridge – Founder of Hollywood
  • Horace Wilcox – Founder of Hollywood
  • J. Peverell Marley – Cinematographer
  • William Desmond Taylor – Silent film director, victim of unsolved murder
  • Peter Lorre – Actor
  • Dr. Henson H. Cross – Early Los Angeles physician
  • Eleanor Powell – Actress and dancer
  • Rick Jason – Television actor on Combat
  • Jesse Fonda Millspaugh – President of Los Angeles State Normal School
  • Ernst Dryden – Artist
  • Cecile Lovsky – Actress
  • Thomas Miranda – cofounder of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Jules Roth – One-time owner of Hollywood Cemetery
  • William Hutchinson – Silent film actor
  • Walter Henry Rothwell – Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl
  • Edmund Sturtevant – Hollywood pioneer
  • Annetta Solaski – Opera singer
  • William H. Clune – Motion picture studio pioneer—Clune Studios (now Raleigh Studios)
  • Harry Delmar – Vaudevillian
  • Max Whittier – Beverly Hills pioneer
  • Mary Eudora Vance – Aunt of Carol Burnett
  • Capt. A.W. Murray – Los Angeles Police Chief
  • George W. Hoover – Builder of the Hollywood Hotel
  • Marie Weid – Widow of Hollywood pioneer, Ivar Weid (Ivar Street is named after him)
  • Theresa Dorris – mother of Wesley and Charles Ruggles and murder victim
  • Henry Smith Carhart – Physicist
  • William C. Crowell – Contractor for the Cathedral Mausoleum

 

 

The oddity in the photograph I mentioned earlier is what looks like grave markers in the ground in front of the mausoleum. There have never been graves there. If they are grave markers, they were obviously moved but the questions are who were they and where were they moved to.

 

 

 

 

 

Above is the Cathedral Mausoleum as it was on November 13, 2011

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Gideon Curtis Moody at Hollywood Forever

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

Gideon Curtis Moody, first Senator of South Dakota, and former state justice

 

 Gideon Curtis Moody

  

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Gideon Curtis Moody was a forceful, brilliant speaker, a man who detested shams and subterfuges, whose professional and private reputation was stainless. He commanded the profound admiration of his neighbors and friends, and his vigorous, pleasing personality made him a figure of prominence in the Northwest. He was South Dakota’s first Senator and that states Moody County is named in his honor.

 

Moody was born in Courtland, New York on October 16, 1832 where he spent his early years. He studied law at Syracuse and was admitted to the bar when he was only 21. He practiced law there and moved to New Albany, Indiana in 1852 and was appointed prosecuting attorney for Floyd County in 1854.

 

Moody married Helen Eliot of Syracuse on September 21, 1855. In 1860 he was elected to the Indiana State Legislature and served until the outbreak of the Civil War. In  April 1861 he enlisted in Co. G, Ninth Indiana Infantry and was commissioned a Captain. He was with that unit until the fall of 1862 when he was promoted to Colonel and assigned to the command of the Nineteenth United States Infantry, which was stationed at Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.

 

Moody was given a command at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and was named chief mustering officer with Major-General George H. Thomas.

 

After the Civil War he moved to Yankton, Dakota Territory and took an active part in the development of the Northwest. He was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court by President Rutherford B. Hayes, and his district at that time comprised all the territory west of the Missouri River. He filled this position from 1878 to 1889.

 

On November 2,1889, as a Republican, he was elected the first United States Senator to the new state of South Dakota along with Senator Richard F. Pettigrew. He remained a senator until 1891. He was also a member of the Territorial Legislature for two years, and was Speaker of the House. He was a member of the State Constitutional Convention and was the first provisional Senator.

 

Moody’s specialty as judge was in corporation law and riparian rights and he ruled on many important cases. For many years he was the confidential attorney of the Homestake Gold Mining Company at Deadwood, South Dakota, which was the richest gold mining corporation in the world, and of interest to then Senator George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst. Until his death, Moody was the confidential attorney of Hearst’s mother, Phoebe.

 

Around 1899, Moody began making occasional visits to Los Angeles and found the climate beneficial to his health. After his daughter and her husband settled here he spent the last nine months of his life with her while building an elegant mansion next door at 1019 Beacon Street. He and his wife moved into their new home only two months before his death.

 

On March 17, 1904, Moody died at his new residence from Bright’s Disease; he was 71. He was survived by his wife Helen and five children: Helen Dickenson of Los Angeles; Charles, editor of the Sturges Record (South Dakota); James, an attorney at Deadwood; Burdette, a civil engineer with the Homestake Company, and Warner, recently graduated from Yale and in a law office in Deadwood.

 

Gideon Curtis Moody grave

 

 

Gideon Curtis Moody grave

 

 

Moody children also buried at Hollywood Forever

 

Moody’s grave is located at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the Chandler Garden’s (Section 12) just east of the Harrison Otis obelisk and a short distance from the road.

 

For the past 105 years, all published biographies have stated that Moody was buried at Rosedale Cemetery. This error is included in the official Biographical Directory of the United States Congress and is listed as such on Findagrave. The confusion probably came from his obituary which noted that his body was “placed temporarily in a receiving vault at Rosedale.” Hopefully that inaccuracy can now be corrected.

 

To read more about Gideon Curtis Moody, check out this article at Deadwood Magazine.

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Harry Kellar — the Dean of Magic

Monday, November 30th, 2009

LOS ANGELES HISTORY

 

 Harry Kellar-portrait 

 

Harry Kellar signature 

…the dean of magic

 

The Magic Castle, located at 7001 Franklin Avenue at the foot of the Hollywood Hills, is currently observing the centennial of it’s headquarters which was built by banker Rollin B. Lane in 1909. To celebrate, over the next couple of weeks I will post a biography of Lane and the history of the mansion and articles on magic and magicians in Hollywood. Today is a look at the dean of magicians, Harry Kellar, who upon his retirement, spent the last fourteen years of his life in Los Angeles and is also interred here.

 

 By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Harry Kellar, known as the “Dean of American Magicians,” enjoyed both public recognition and financial success. His was the largest and most elaborate stage illusion show touring during the late 1800s and early 1900s. He is best known for his spectacular version of the Levitation, in which a girl mysteriously rises up from a couch, floats across the stage to the audience, then disappears into thin air. Upon his retirement in 1908, Kellar chose to spend his remaining years in Los Angeles.

 

Kellar was born Heinrich Keller on July 11, 1849 in Erie, Pennsylvania. The son of German immigrants, his father, Francis P. Keller, had been a soldier under Napoleon. At the age of ten, Harry was put to work and found employment at Carter’s pharmacy on North Park Row. One day, while experimenting with chemicals he knew to be off-limits, he blew a hole in the shop floor. Knowing his father would be harsh with him, he jumped aboard an outbound train and left Erie.

 

Now a vagabond, Harry performed a series of odd jobs and was soon taken in by a minister in upstate New York, who offered to adopt him if he would study for the ministry. However, it was a chance visit to a traveling show that displayed the conjuring of The Fakir of Ava that enchanted the youngster. Kellar later confided to Houdini that he “immediately got the urge to go on the stage… became very restless, bought books on magic and finally left my friend and benefactor.” Harry traced down the Fakir, became his assistant, and began his professional training.

 

After several false starts and some disappointing results, Harry became connected with the Davenport Brothers and Fay, celebrated mediums who were involved with the “Spiritualism” movement. Harry continued with the Davenports for four years as their business manager, learning the cabinet tricks and becoming more expert at them than the brothers themselves. During this period he traveled extensively throughout the United States.

 

Harry reportedly changed the spelling of his name to Kellar because there was another popular magician named (Robert) Heller and wanted to avoid any possible confusion. It wasn’t until 1911 that he legally changed his name to Harry Kellar.

 

 

Harry Kellar poster

 

 

Kellar was famous for his playbills and advertisements featuring imps and devils, implying, without totally stating, that his skills were really powers gained through dealings with dark forces. This enticing idea brought people to his show in droves.

 

In 1873, Kellar formed a partnership with Fay, former partner of the Davenport Brothers, and as Fay and Kellar, toured Mexico and South America, acquiring an extended knowledge of the magician’s craft. Combining Kellar’s old magic tricks with a Davenport-inspired séance, was one of their showstoppers. After a shipwreck in 1875 on their trip to England left them destitute, Fay left the act to rejoin the Davenports.

 

On his return to the United States, Kellar joined Ling Look and Yamadura, billing themselves as Royal Illusionists, setting out on a tour of South America, Africa, Australia, India, the Philippines, Japan and China. While performing in China in 1877, both of his partners died, and for a time he toured alone.

 

For five years beginning in 1879, he traveled with J. H. Cunard under the name of Kellar & Cunard, giving exhibitions in Asia and Egypt. In 1882, Kellar was performing in Melbourne, Australia and met a fan, Eva Lydia Medley, who wanted his autograph. Kellar was smitten and promised to correspond with her while on the road. They exchanged letters for the next five years.

  

Kellar specialized not so much in feats of sleight-of-hand, as in other branches of the magicians art, more particularly those involving the use of apparatus, many of which Kellar was the originator, and are still models in magic today.

 

 

  Harry Kellar poster

  Harry Kellar poster

 

 

One of Kellar’s more popular illusions was The Levitation of Princess Karnac. One version of this was later purchased by Harry Blackstone, Sr., who used the trick for many years. Others included the Vanishing Birdcage, the Vanishing Lamp, and his automation Psycho, which was a popular attraction wherever it played.

 

Kellar returned to the United States in 1884 and began appearing alone and played here continuously. Eventually Eva arrived in America and played the cornet in the show and began learning about magic. They were married on November 1, 1887 at a church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and she continued to play an important role in his shows.

 

Kellar’s strength was his presentation. Over the next twenty years, he became one of the best known magicians in the world and once performed “The Nested Boxes” illusion at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt and his children.

 

On May 16, 1908, Kellar retired and in a grand onstage ceremony at Ford’s Theatre in Baltimore, removed his cape and placed it on the shoulders of his chosen successor, Howard Thurston. Not long after, Kellar and his wife retired to Los Angeles where his sister Anna Marie lived. They bought a house at 698 Wilshire Place (demolished) and it was here that Eva died sometime before 1910.

 

 

Harry Kellar and Houdini

 

 

At the end of his career, Kellar befriended Harry Houdini, who idolized the elder magician. Houdini was a frequent guest at Kellar’s Wilshire Place home. Much of what is known about Kellar comes through Houdini, who conducted several interviews to help chronicle the history of magic. Houdini, in his fight to unmask fake mediums, once admitted that there was only one man who knew more about them than he did – Dean Harry Kellar.

 

Houdini once announced that he would perform the bullet catching feat, which had already killed several magicians, at an upcoming convention of the Society of American Magicians. Kellar got wind of it and fired off a letter. “Don’t try the damn bullet catching trick,” he warned, “no matter how sure you may feel of its success. There is always the biggest kind of risk that some dog will ‘job’ you. And we can’t afford to lose Houdini.”

 

Few men were more stubborn than Houdini, but he was no fool. He knew that Kellar had investigated the stunt himself and assumed that there must be more than enough reason for such strong advice. Houdini quietly withdrew his plan.

 

On September 7, 1917, a banquet in Kellar’s honor was held at the Angelus Hotel on the corner of Fourth and Spring Streets. After the meal, each magician gave exhibitions of their skill. Kellar demonstrated his famous “Kellar Rope Tie” and string tricks, and even those who assisted could not solve them.

 

Two months later, on November 11, 1917, Houdini convinced Kellar to perform once more. The event was an enormous show held at New York’s Hippodrome to benefit the families of soldiers who perished when the USS Antilles was sunk by a German U-boat.

 

After his performance, Kellar started to leave, but Houdini stopped him, saying that “America’s greatest magician should be carried off in triumph after his final public performance.” The members of the Society of American Magicians helped Kellar into the seat of a sedan chair, and lifted it up. The 125-piece Hippodrome orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” while Kellar was slowly carried away.

 

 

Harry Kellar grave

 

 

At some point, Kellar moved in with his sister Anna Marie Buck at 460 S. Ardmore Avenue (demolished) near S. Normandie and 5th Street. It was here that Harry Kellar died after a brief illness on March 10, 1922. He was interred at Rosedale Cemetery but his grave was unmarked for almost 80 years until 2001 when the Academy of Magical Arts, who are headquartered at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, placed a stone there.

 

 

Click below to view a 16 second film of Harry Kellar with Houdini.

 

 

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