Sunday, December 18, 2016

Theo Bamberg aka Okito

Tobias "Theo" Leendert Bamberg (1875 – 1963) was born in Holland. His father had been a court magician to King William III of the Netherlands. Tobias was the sixth member of the Bamberg dynasty. He designed a Japanese-styled act before he was twenty. Using an anagram of Tokio (Tokyo), he became known as “Okito”. He altered the show to a Chinese-style act with more people and elaborate effects. Bamberg appeared before the Prince of Wales, and toured England, Ireland, and Scotland. His tour included thirteen countries in Europe as well as the Balkans. He and his family moved to the United States in 1908, where he toured under contract with the Orpheum Circuit. In 1909, he and his partner opened the Bamberg Magic & Novelty Company in New York City.
Bamberg took an everyday pillbox and invented his famous Okito Coin Box. After selling his portion of the business in 1910, Bamberg was hired to perform his show and to be the chief mechanic for magician Howard Thurston. Eventually he left the tour and took his show to Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Rosario, South America. In the 1920’s, he toured England, Africa, India, Egypt, and the Far East. While in Germany, he performed at the Winter Gardens and the famed Scala Theater in Berlin. Bamberg had stopped performing in 1932, and lived in Holland.

He eventually returned to America and opened a small workshop in Bordentown, New Jersey. Within that year, he was forced to close the shop. The props took too much time to build and his customers were not willing to pay his asking price. He accepted an offer by magic shop owner Joe Berg to move to Chicago, Illinois. Bamberg was able to perform, give lectures to magic clubs, and to assist Berg making magic effects. He left Berg’s shop in 1951. In 1952, Bamberg’s book Okito on Magic was published. By 1954, he was living in the Wacker Hotel in Chicago. He still performed on occasion and attended magic functions. In 1957, artist Salvatore Salla painted a portrait of Bamberg that is still on display in the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. He received the first Tarbell Award in 1961.

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