Podcast #50: Adelaide Herrmann

In this episode, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire conjures up a Victorian-era Dead Lady magician who dazzled audiences and broke boundaries. Starting from her childhood in England, Adelaide Herrmann (née Scarcez) was a born performer, first notable for dance, acrobatics, and trick cycling. She met and married magician Alexander Herrmann, and became his on-stage assistant and the star of many of his illusions, first dressed as his double and later in many guises. Following his death, she eventually took over the act, becoming the Queen of Magic, and collecting a menagerie of animals for her show. Highly successful, she toured for 25 years, performing up to the age of 74. She was buried next to her husband. His headstone reads: HERRMANN THE GREAT. Adelaide’s states more simply, WIFE.    

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer Susan Stone for the introducing duties.

You can download the transcript, created by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Here’s a very young Adelaide…

…in a grainy newspaper photo, showing off her cycling bloomers.

Some shots of her as her husband’s assistant

And some posters from the two stages of her magical career

Never marry a man with his own face on his cheques…

…even if they’re issued by the Bank of Garfield.

That confident stance in later life

Oh, there’s only one billiard ball in each hand!

And a fine stage outfit that has survived

With assistant Milton Hudson Everett

And that gravestone, in case you were wondering:

If you’d like to do some reading, we recommend…

Two books for young readers that feature Adelaide: 100 Immigrant Women who Changed the World in the Rebel Girls series, and Anything but Ordinary Addie. We’re especially grateful to the magician, magic historian and author Margaret Steele for finding and publishing Adelaide’s memoir with lots of fascinating accompanying material: Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic. Steele has also written a blog, The Addie Chronicles, which is well worth checking out. Plus, it looks like we’re not the only ones fascinated by the Herrmanns’ assistants: Steele has a book coming out soon all about “the Boomskys”, which you can read a preview from here.

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month.

This episode of the Dead Ladies Show Podcast was created as part of the Droste Festival 2021 – Dark Magic by Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature.

Funding came from the NEUSTART KULTUR of the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media through the German Literature Fund and the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.