Magician H. Adrian Smith (Class of 1930) never achieved the fame enjoyed by some of his contemporaries, but his contributions to the world of magic were significant. Smith spent his life studying the history of magic and practicing its art, using the money he earned from his performances to help pay his tuition at Brown University. Spoken of highly by those who knew him, Smith practiced small magic, and was known for his ability to memorize an entire deck of cards almost instantly. He was heavily involved in magic societies, at one point holding the office of President of the Society of American Magicians. Perhaps his most significant legacy, though, is his vast collection of magical memorabilia. Smith assiduously collected anything and everything to do with magic, from rare texts on the subject of witchcraft to modern magic kits and games.
Upon his death, Smith bequeathed his immense collection to his alma mater, including the homemade props used in his performances (which are especially interesting, as many of their functions are still not understood), wands, ready-made tricks, and mementos of any kind. A number of the items are still in almost-new condition, purchased solely to expand his collection. He owned busts of Houdini, commemorative coins and buttons, statuettes featuring magicians and rabbits, and items that had been owned by other magicians.
A small exhibition in the Rockefeller Library features some of the highlights of his collection, including several stage props and tricks, as well as the fake head used by magician Harry Kellar in his famous Blue Room illusion.
Date: October 24 – December 23, 2016
Time: Rockefeller Library Hours
Location: Finn Reading Room Cases, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, 10 Prospect Street, Providence