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Jacob Philadelphia was a Jewish magician, physicist, mechanic, juggler, astrologer, alchemist, and Kabbalist.[1][2]

Jacob Philadelphia
Jacob philadelphia.jpg
Image of the magician/scientist Jacob Philadelphia
Jacob Meyer

(1735-08-14)August 14, 1735
Notable work
Little Treatise on Strange and Suitable Feats



He is believed to have been born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 14, 1735 as Jacob Meyer.[3] Dr Christopher Witt, the associate of Johannes Kelpius, was chiefly responsible for his education. Meyer's patron in England was Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, for whom he performed astrology, magic, and alchemy.

When he converted to Christianity, Jacob Meyer took the name of Jacob Philadelphia in homage to the home city of the American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin. He was also known by the names Meyer Philadelphia and Philadelphus Philadelphia. Meyer became a member of the occult Rosicrucian order. After the death of his patron in 1756, Meyer began to perform in public. He exhibited his skills in Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. In 1771, he performed in St. Petersburg for Catherine II of Russia.[4] Also, in Constantinople, he had Sultan Mustapha III as an audience. The year 1773 found him chasing away ghosts for Kaiser Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna[5] at a charge of 300 Thalers. In Potsdam and Berlin, he had difficulty with Friedrich the Great, who was alarmed after Meyer read his mind. Friedrich was also averse to Meyer's Rosicrucianism and subsequently banished the magician from Prussia.

Meyer was an early pioneer of phantasmagoria, a performance magic show with a focus on the appearance of ghostly figures.[6]

The Little Treatise on Strange and Suitable Feats[7] was written by Meyer in 1774. In 1758, he toured England. Although he presented himself as being a scientist, many took him for a magician. In 1777 he refused to lecture in Göttingen because of an extravagant, satirical poster campaign by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg who libeled him as being a magician and miracle-worker. Among other things, the poster was designed to make people think that they would be forced into harmful situations if they attended the lecture. Lichtenberg's Avertissement placard became widely known and damaged Meyer's career. His final lecture was given in 1781 in Switzerland. In 1783, he made an application to the Prussian court in order to be licensed to form the Prussian-American Trading Company.

His date of death is believed to have been in 1795.

Biographical novelEdit

A biographical novel has been written by Marion Philadelphia in German about the life of Jacob Philadelphia. Its title is Der Gaukler der Könige (The Conjurer of Kings).[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol. 13, Macmillam, 1971 Library of Congress Card Catalog Number 72-90254, ISBN 0-02-865928-7
  2. ^ Sachse, Julius (1907). "Jacob Philadelphia, Mystic and Physicist". Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. 16: 73–94. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  3. ^ [ magic, in entertainment. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-07.
  4. ^ Magic and magicians - Early American Magicians
  5. ^
  6. ^ Ruffles, Tom (October 2004). Ghost Images: Cinema Of The Afterlife. Mcfarland & Co. pp. 19–20.
  7. ^ About Facts Net
  8. ^ Philadelphia, Marion, Der Gaukler der Könige, Blanvalet, 2001, ISBN 3-7645-0071-9