Artist Unknown, “Chung Ling Soo”, 1908 Advertising Poster
This rare 1908 poster advertised a tour of the talented magician Chung Ling Soo. It is one of eight different known posters of the magician’s tours.
Born William Ellsworth Robinson in Westchester County, New York in 1861,Chung Ling Soo was a behind-the-scenes designer of magic tricks for headliners Harry Keller and Alexander Herrmann before he struck out on his own. Around 1900, while in Europe, he adopted the Chung Ling Soo persona.
Robinson went to great lengths to preserve the illusion, limiting his speech on stage to the occasional bit of broken English and relying on an interpreter to talk to journalists. Robinson in his persona of Chung Ling Soo performed a bullet catch trick at a show in London, England in 1918; it was one of the big theatrical showpieces of his performances. Instead of catching the bullet on a plate, the bullet hit his chest. Robinson died a few days later at the age of 56.