David Stahl Presents - The Great Lafayette Collection
For the past Forty years, I have traveled the globe with a passion both Performing Magic and in search of information pertaining to the Magician known as
The Great Lafayette.
The journey has been full of surprises. It has and continues to be, an adventure unlike anything I could have imagined.
The story of The Great Lafayette is a complicated and fascinating one. Some might say its utterly bizarre and practically unbelievable with all of its twists and turns.
And If Lafayette's life itself wasn't strange enough, The details surrounding his death are still being talked about to this very day.
Born Sigmund Neuberger on February 25, 1871 in Germany.
Along with his Father, Sigmund immigrated to the USA in 1890. Very little is known of his early years. His interest in show business started soon after coming to the USA. He developed an act called Crackshot with a Bow and traveled throughout the USA.
In 1899 everything changed.
Sigmund had changed his name to The Great Lafayette and was beginning to have some success as a magician. Harry Houdini was also beginning to receive some notoriety at the time. Both were booked on the same bill at The Nashville Opera House. Following their performance, Houdini was given a gift by the chief of police in Nashville - a dog. A mongrel that Houdini immediately re-gifted and gave to The Great Lafayette. It was Love at first sight. Lafayette was a rather flamboyant, larger than life type of character - everything was over the top. He loved the dog - but a simple Mongrel would not due, so he had official looking papers drawn up to show that the dog was in fact a rare select breed of Royal Gleckhundts from a tiny remote island in the Azores (extremely rare I might add, as no such bred exists).
Lafayette named the dog Beauty and told everyone that the dog was indeed his soulmate.
As far as Lafayette was concerned, nothing was too good for his beloved Beauty.
Beauty would bathe twice daily, in a solid gold bath tub built specifically for her. She would dine, seated at the dinner table, eating off of the same fine china that guests would be served upon.
When traveling, Beauty would be reserved her own hotel suite always adjoining Lafayette's room.
Beauty would eat five course gourmet meals in the finest restaurants, seated at the very same table as The Great Lafayette. One can only imagine the looks they would have received from society's upper crust.
Beauty wore a dazzling diamond bracelet and a custom made collar with silver name plates upon it, each plate bearing the name of one of the finest hotels in the world that she had graced. Hotels like
The Savoy, The Ritz, The Waldorf Astoria, & The Caledonian.
At Lafayette's home in London a plaque hung on the Front Door stating "The more I see of men, The more I love my Dog".
On occasion - The Great Lafayette would state that when the time came, if Beauty should die, Lafayette's death was certainly soon to follow. No truer words were spoken. Beauty died on May 1st, 1911. Her body was embalmed and she was laid to rest in a glass top casket. Her funeral was set for May 10th, 1911. Shockingly, Lafayette did not attend the funeral of his beloved Beauty.
In an eerie, Nostredamus like manner - The Great Lafayette had indeed predicted his own demise with pinpoint accuracy.
The Great Lafayette died horrifically, mere hours BEFORE Beauty's funeral took place.
The Great Lafayette died along with nine others in the Edinburgh Empire Palace Theatre fire the evening of May 9th, 1911.
As strange as this sounds, This is only the first of "many" strange circumstances surrounding the death of The Great Lafayette.
For every question answered, two new questions arise.
Years ago, while standing next to Lafayette's Grave - I met a elderly man who had actually attended the funeral in 1911 as a young child.
To my astonishment, he still possessed & allowed me to acquire, several original artifacts pertaining to The Great Lafayette that had been in his safe keeping for roughly ninety years.
I've physically ventured into the underbelly of the Scottish theatre to see firsthand where Lafayette's body laid beneath its stage.
I have visited and spent countless hours conducting research at the following academic institutions. I'd like to once again extend my gratitude for all of their help and hospitality.
The Harvard Theatre Collection is the oldest collection of its kind in America
The H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring & Magicana
The McManus - Young Rare Book and Pictorial Materials Collection
Harry Ransom Center
Research Library & Archives
I have received a tremendous amount of help and support from the most highly regarded magical historians (both past and present) for which I will be forever grateful.
Special thanks goes to the following Notable Scholars.
Dr. Edwin Dawes, Ricky Jay, & Peter Lane.
Houdini envied him, Audience's loved him. He became the highest paid performer of his time and was booked years in advance. However, following his death in 1911, famed magician and author Will Goldston referred to The Great Lafayette as "The Most HATED Magician of ALL TIME"
Beauty and a Bag of Gold - The Great Lafayette's Two Best Friends
The Sword was key in identifying the body of The Great Lafayette.
This sword was kindly and generously gifted to the collection by my dear friend Ken Klosterman on June 22nd, 2018 in Cincinnati following my presentation regarding the life and death of The Great Lafayette.
Since the 1970's it had been on display in his magnificent museum
"The Salon de Magie"
it is with heart felt sincerity that I say,
"Thank you Ken, Your generosity and kindness will never be forgotten."
Saying goodbye to a dear friend.
Ken Klosterman January 26, 1933 - October 21, 2020
Rest In Peace
Please contact me if you have any original memorabilia or information pertaining to The Great Lafayette.
Posters, Broadsides, Letters, Programs, Music Sheets, Photo's, etc.