Cardini’s birth name was Richard Valentine Pitchford. He was born in the coal-mining town of St. Thomas, Wales on November 24th, 1895. Cardini was known for sleight of hand which he performed while wearing white gloves. He traveled to Australia, Canada, and the United States performing his act, and became a world-famous magician. On November 12th, 1973 Cardini died in Gardiner, New York. He was 77 years old.
As a young child Richard Pitchford was captivated by the cigarette tricks he saw performed by a magician named Chung Ling Soo. His interest in magic led him to learn basic magic tricks at a young age.
Richard joined the British Army during World War I. While serving he would pass time in the trenches by practicing card manipulations. During his military service, he was required to wear thick gloves. By practicing manipulations with gloves on he developed incredible dexterity. Wearing gloves while performing later became a hallmark of his act. Even after being injured in battle, Richard continued to hone his magic skills while in the hospital.
Cardini’s career in magic began in England where he performed in nightclubs. Unfortunately, he was not well-received there, causing him to leave Great Britain for Australia. In Australia, he began using the stage name Val Raymond. He found greater success with audiences in Australia. Eventually, Richard took the stage name of Cardini a combination of the words “Card” and “Houdini”.
Cardini’s early act was a sleight of hand act, featuring mostly cards, which he performed set to music. He later developed a silent act that featured manipulation of cards, billiard balls, and cigarettes. His elegant style earned him many fans and imitators in the magic community.
Cardini in North America
After performing his original act for audiences in Australia, he then traveled to Canada. He eventually entered the United States from British Columbia performing his act along the way.
Cardini found major success in Chicago, where he also met his wife and lifelong assistant Swan Walker. He then made his way to New York City, which had become an epicenter for live performances. Here Cardini set his sleight of hand tricks to synchronized music. He became popular and was a headliner at The Palace and Radio City Music Hall.
Cardini performed before the King and Queen of England in 1933. He also performed at the White House eight times. In 1957, Cardini made a television appearance on “The Festival of Magic” which garnered him even more fame. It is believed that this is the only footage of Cardini performing his act.
Awards and Honors
Cardini served as the president of the Society of American Magicians three times in the early 1940s. He was featured on the April 1942 cover of Genii Magazine. In 1960, The Magic Circle in London presented him with the Silver Wand Award. In 1970, Cardini received the “Master Fellowship” award from the Academy of Magical Arts. In 1999, he was named one of the Top Magicians of the 20th Century by Magic Magazine.