Richard Potter (magician)

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Richard Potter (1783–1835) was an American magician, hypnotist and ventriloquist. He was the first American-born magician to gain fame in his own country and was African-American.

Potter was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts;.[1] He claimed his father was Sir Charles Henry Frankland, a tax collector for the Port of Boston and that his mother Dinah was a black servant in the household.[2] Since Sir Charles died in England in 1768, others believe the father may have been Henry Cromwell who lived in the household or a minister by the name of George Simpson.[3]

Richard Potter became a well-known magician in the New England area from 1811 to his death in 1834. As a performer he obscured most of his early life and encouraged speculation. Evidently he went to Hopkinton schools. Various accounts differ on the reason but agree that he went to Europe and joined John Rannie, a Scottish ventriloquist and magician. Rannie came to the United States in 1800.

Potter toured with Rannie as one of his assistants in the Eastern United States. In 1811 Rannie retired to Scotland and encouraged Potter to continue on his own.[4] This is also the year that he became a Mason of African Lodge No. 459 and was part of founding the Prince Hall Masonry.[5] Potter performed up and down the East Coast, going as far south as Alabama. One of Potter's notable run-ins with prejudice occurred in Mobile, Alabama. Despite this issue, Potter still made over $4,000 during that visit.[6]

In 1814 purchased about 175 acres in the village of Andover, New Hampshire. He built a large house on his estate. This area continues to be named after him as "Potter's Place".[7]

Potter inspired Grace Metalious's character Samuel Peyton in the novel Peyton Place.[8]

Potter married Sally Harris in 1808. Potter claimed she was a Penobscot Native American.[9] They had 3 children.[10] Richard and Sally are buried in a small graveyard on the property he bought in Andover. Their graves were moved but his request was to be buried upright.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eastman, John R. (1910). History of the Town of Andover New Hampshire 1751-1906. Vol. II. Concord, New Hampshire: Rumford Press. p. 277. 
  2. ^ Milbourne, Christopher (1973). Illustrated History of Magic. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 63. ISBN 0-690-43165-1. 
  3. ^ "Who Was the 1st Black Vertriloquist? by Henry Louis Gates Jr,<http://www.theroot.com/articles/history/2014/03/_1st_black_ventriloquist_who_was_it.html, who cites Charlie Tomlinson entry in The African American National Biography, page 403
  4. ^ Haskins, James; Benson, Kathleen (2001). Conjure Times-Black Magicians in America. New York: Walker Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8027-8762-2. 
  5. ^ "Bro. Richard Potter: “The Great Magician”, by Elliot Saxton, Freemasonary Website, March 2011
  6. ^ Price, David (1985). Magic: A pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theater. Cornwall Books. p. 52. ISBN 0-8453-4738-1. 
  7. ^ Milbourne, Christopher (1973). Illustrated History of Magic. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 65. ISBN 0-690-43165-1. 
  8. ^ Sammons, Mark; Cunningham, Valerie (2004). Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage. Durham, New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire press. pp. 108–09. ISBN 1-58465-289-6. 
  9. ^ Haskins, James; Benson, Kathleen (2001). Conjure Times-Black Magicians in America. New York: Walker Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8027-8762-2. 
  10. ^ Eastman, John R. (1910). History of the Town of Andover New Hampshire 1751-1906. Vol. II. Concord, New Hampshire: Rumford Press. p. 277. 
  11. ^ Richard Potter at Find a Grave

Bibliography[edit]

  • The Illustrated History of Magic, by Milbourne Christopher, 1973. ISBN 0-690-43165-1
  • MAGIC A Pictorial History, by David Price, 1985 ISBN 0-8453-4738-1
  • History of the Town of Andover New Hampshire, 1791-1906. Prepared by John R. Eastman. Concord nh:Rumford Printing Company, 1910

External links[edit]