Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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PALMER, William Henry, magician, born in Canterbury, England, in 1828; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 18 November, 1878. His father, Henry Palmer, was the organist in Canterbury cathedral, and intended his son, who was a musical prodigy, to succeed him. At the age of twelve the son played the piano before Liszt, by whom he was commended. He received a good education in Kent, and subsequently became a fellow of the Royal academy in London, and while a student there gave his first magical entertainment. In 1852 he came to this country, assuming the name of Robert Heller, for a time taught music in Washington, D. C., and then adopted the profession of a magician, acquiring a fortune by his public performances. His best-known trick, 15y which he made a wide reputation, was riffled " second sight," and was performed in conjunction with an assistant, who correctly and minutely described unseen articles of all kinds that were handed to Heller as he stood among the audience in the body of the house, while the assistant was on the stage. He directed in his will that all the secret apparatus and mechanical devices connected with his art, many of which were his own invention, should be destroyed ; but this was not done.
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