A Short Autobiography

By Okito (from an Okito manuscript written 30 years ago)

The well known history of the Bamberg family of magicians opens in 1760, at Leyden, a university city of Holland, with the birth of Eliaser Bamberg, the first link of an unbroken chain of magicians, embracing six consecutive generations, covering a period of one hundred and sixty-five years and touching three centuries:

  • Eliaser Bamberg - Born 1760, died 1833 - age 73 years.
  • David Leendert Bamberg - Born 1786, died 1869 - age 83 years.
  • Tobias Bamberg - Born 1812, died 1870 - age 58 years.
  • David Tobias Bamberg - Born 1843, died 1914 - age 71 years.
  • Theo "Okito" Bamberg - Born 1875, now living, age 50 years.
  • David Theodore Bamberg - Born 1904, now living, age 21 years.

On the right: Okito in evening clothes Usually he is pictured in elaborate oriental robes. Since he wrote the accompanying story in 1925, another early Bamberg was unearthed- Jasper Bamberg, an alchemist.

While the above shows the line of succession it does not cover all the magicians in the Bamberg family. It only represents the oldest in succession of each generation.

Eliaser Bamberg had one son; David Leendert had four - two were actors and two magicians. Tobias had one son, who in turn, had six sons, all living at the present time. Three of them are magicians, that is, Emile, who specializes in sleight of hand work for social parties mostly; Edward, who has been presenting various magical novelties in America during the past fifteen years, and finally myself, a devotee to magic for the past thirty-five years. I have two sons and one daughter. David, my eldest son, first appeared on the stage in Russia, when a tot of four, as a little Chinaman, having been produced from a cloth. After completing his education in America, he joined Julius Zancig, the world-famous telepathist and worked in partnership with him for a number of years, after which he left for England. In 1921, he returned to America and appeared in various magical acts. Finally, David went abroad in pursuance of success, and presented his original comedy shadowgraph act in Vienna, touring practically all of Europe with his act. Next we are now together, David presenting his act on the same program with me and at the same time learning the mysteries of Chinese magic from the bottom up. Donald, my other son, born in 1920, is still too small to take an active interest in the subtleties of misdirection, while my daughter, Dorothy, is at the present time in a boarding school in Northern Austria.

 

Fu Manchu (David Bamberg) uses novel heralds for his show.

For a complete and detailed account of the actual circumstances which led up to the first Bamberg taking up the magic wand, please refer to The Sphinx of August 1909. There you will find a most illuminating article written by Mr. Oscar S. Teale, covering every detail worthy of mention, and every detail mentioned therein is authentic. This, however, is my first attempt at writing an account of myself for any periodical.

I remember, when a very young man, I first realized that success lay for me in lands farther away from my little Holland. My father enjoyed an enviable reputation as court magician, which honor entitled him to have the coat-of-arms of the Imperial Court of Holland over his door. His connection with the royal family gave him entree to the highest society of Holland. It is, therefore, evident that his programme was most refined and extremely modern. However, I longed to see the world, and in the latter part of the nineteenth century, I presented a very small Japanese magical act. I adopted the name of OKITO, which in Japanese means magician or wonder worker. I managed to be fairly successful, and later enlarged my act by engaging a black-face comedian. The act was called "Okito & Polising." In 1900, during an engagement at the Theatre des Folies Marigny in Paris, I became acquainted with a card manipulator who worked with good success with a little Negro boy, which acquaintance grew into a warm friendship. I am speaking of Howard Thurston, who is now one of America's fore most magicians.

After discontinuing the act with Pausing, I returned to Holland and enlarged the act by adding three people and changing it to Chinese which offered a larger scope for elaborateness and superiority over Japanese. I retained the name of Okito however, which had won for me quite a reputation, even at that time. After a most successful tour through all of Europe, I finally scored my first great success in England in the years 1902-1904. Having been engaged for one week at the Palace Theatre in London, my engagement was prolonged for sixteen weeks. Here I had the honor to appear before the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) accompanied by the Shah of Persia, I played every big theatre in London for an extended period:

8 weeks at the Alhambra, 8 weeks at the Oxford, 4 weeks at the Pavilion, 4 weeks at the Tivoli, 8 weeks opening the programme at the Coliseum, following which, I played the Moss & Stall tour, Barris Ford & Livermore tours, neither of which exist now. I married in 1903, and with my wife and brother, returned to the continent where I remained playing consecutively until 1908, with the exception of the summer of 1907 when I went to the Dutch Strait Settlements with my father. My tour of Europe embraced England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Russia, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and all the Balkans.

In 1908, I received contracts for the Orpheum Circuit in America and arrived in New York in October of that year. I opened at St. Paul and toured the States from coast to coast. The following year I played the old Sullivan and Considine time which is now out of existence.

During my years of travel, I accumulated quite a bit of money, and having tired of road life, I opened the Bamberg Magic & Novelty Co., 1193 Broadway, New York City, in 1909. Fate, however, never meant me to be a shopkeeper, although had I continued along the lines on which I originally started the business, I have no doubt but that it would have prospered. Unfortunately, I became entangled in an objectionable partnership, customers were being driven away, and when I found that the business was declining, I finally sold out.

After this, I presented a novelty shadowgraph and magical act, with which I covered the best part of the United States and Canada. Again, I opened a private magical trade which up until 1919 was highly profitable. I bought a beautiful home in the select district of New York, and my apparatus was produced solely for the most select amateur conjurors of America.

In 1919, I was once again inspired to do a Chinese act. I left New York in June 1919 sailing for South America, where my success was instantaneous. In February 1920 I returned to England and left again to tour Africa. Again I returned to England, only to leave for India, Egypt, China, Siam and the Far East. By this time, conditions in Europe were more settled, and I returned to the continent making my sensational appearance in Germany, the land where I had my first engagement as a boy thirty years ago. Next my premiere in Europe was at the Winter Gardens, Berlin, where I scored a tremendous success. I was the first successful magician to appear in Europe after the war, both financially and artistically. This is evidenced by the fact I have since payed three return dates at the Winter Gardens and three at the Scala which is the largest theatre in Berlin. After my first appearance at the Winter Gardens I was booked solid for three years in advance, and from November 1922 until the time of writing, I have not been without an engagement for a day. Of course being booked for not less than a month in each theatre, it is easier to fill a year's engagement than playing split weeks. Having made my reputation in America as an inventor, builder, designer and painter of exclusive apparatus, I was able to compile the most original and elaborate illusions and unique tricks in existence. I am reputed, there fore, to have the most novel and without doubt the most costly magical production the world over.

My show is now at its height. I have an enormous collection of real Chinese costumes, over eighty in all, representing a fortune in value. I work for forty-five minutes on the stage, one trick following the other in rapid succession-all Chinese and oriental. I produce a monster bowl of water on a raised platform a foot and a half from the ground, faster than any magician, white or yellow, has done heretofore. I carry four illusions, a staff of four people, including live stock, all decorations and scenic effects. Altogether, I carry two tons of baggage.

The coming September, I am headlining the largest theatre in Europe, the Paris Empire, the city in which I played twenty-five years ago in an obscure hall. To return now as the highest paid and largest act, at the largest theatre in the largest city on the continent is indeed an extreme satisfaction. My success in Vienna was also phenomenal, and I had an ovation on my appearance in Budapest, the capital of Hungary.

Life has not all been a bed of roses for me, but after many years of struggle and discouragement, I finally have reached the apex of my career, and quoting a Hungarian paper of April 3rd:

"The laughing Chinaman, with his face like carved yellow ivory is without doubt the greatest living exponent of the mysteries of the Orient."

With this notice and thousands of others from all parts of the earth, it looks as tho' I have lived up to the mark set forth by the generations of magicians preceding me.

Vienna, July 1925.

Theo. Okito

(MUM, Volume 45, Number 4, September, 1955, pps. 152 - 155. Reprinted with permission of MUM. Copyright 1955.)