Woodworker and Magician
Henri Bouton (Blackstone, Sr.) was born in Chicago in 1885. Working as a cabinet maker's assistant and pursuing magic as a hobby, his woodworking skills would later prove useful in his magic. Blackstone, "Harry," put together an act with his brother Peter and they performed on the vaudeville circuit as "Harry Bouton & Co." Brother Peter was instrumental in Blackstone's success as he helped to design and build many of the illusions.
When a well known magician passed away, Bouton purchased props that allowed him to perform as an illusionist. At this stage, Bouton performed as "Fredrik the Great," the result of purchasing a large number of unused playbills for an artist called "Fredrik." With the rise of World War I, the German name began to hurt his business. Bouton became "Blackstone," the result of seeing the name of a famous hotel in Chicago.
Large Scale Illusion Show
Blackstone's notable illusions included: The vanishing horse, various escapes in the vein of Houdini, the dancing or "spirit" handkerchief, the vanishing birdcage, the floating light bulb and "The Living Miracle," an open sawing in half with an intimidating buzz saw blade. Blackstone was also accomplished at sleight of hand and performed signature routines with on-stage spectators.
His immense popularity spawned a Blackstone radio series and "Super Magician" and "Blackstone Master Magician" comic books.
Working with the USO during World War II, Blackstone toured and presented his illusion show to some 165 military bases. In the early days of television, Blackstone regularly made appearances on shows such as "The Tonight Show" (Steve Allen) and more.
In retirement, he lived near Hollywood's Magic Castle where he would often visit and inspire magicians. Blackstone Sr. passed away in 1965.