Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

Robert Houdin

The earlier years of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin's life was spent working to his family's clockmaking business in the French town of Blois. It was at this time that he particularly became interested in magic and very soon he was entertaining friends with his skilful sleight of hand tricks. Before he married, his last name was Robert but when he married the daughter of Jacques François Houdin, he petitioned the French government to allow him to use the old style hyphenated last names which had actually been banned under the new regime. His father-in-law was a well-known Parisian clockmaker and soon he opened his own clockmaking studio in Paris with his father-in-law's backing.

Of course the fact that he now lived in the French capital gave Houdin much more an opportunity to indulge his love of magic.

It was in 1844 that PT Barnum the famous American circus impresario purchased a small android that Robert-Houdin had built for the universal exposition. Robert-Houdin was paid 7000 francs and this financial injection gave him the opportunity to finish the creations he was building for a magic theatre which he was soon to open in Paris.

The sight of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin in his elegant evening attire set him apart from other magicians in their long robes and this has led many to see Houdin as the first 'modern' magician.