Carl Hertz in Australia

Line drawing of Carl Hertz, 1896

Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia

"Carl Hertz" was the stage name of the conjurer, illusionist, and prestidigitator Louis (or Leib) Morgenstern. Apart from his world-wide renown as a stage magician, he is credited with being the first person to show projected motion pictures:

Although Hertz's main stage activities were sleight-of-hand with card tricks and the presentation of elaborate "vanishing lady" and other illusions, he, like fellow conjurer David Devant, early on realised the potential of the presentation of projected motion pictures to increase the variety, and hence drawing power, of his act.

In mid-1896, Hertz and his wife Emma (née Dalton), who worked with her husband using the stage name "Emilie D'Alton", set out on what became a three-year tour of South Africa, Australasia, India, south-east Asia, Fiji, and Honolulu. This page is mostly concerned with their activities in the Australian colonies.

Summary list of Hertz's 1896-1897 Australasian activities

At most further shows in Australia prior to going to New Zealand, Hertz did not use a cinematographe in his act.

Carl and Emma Hertz then went on an extensive tour of New Zealand, showing a cinematographe.
Note that some of the dates in the following list are taken from advance notices and may not be accurate.

  • 20 February 1897: Hertzes arrived at Auckland, New Zealand on board the R.M.S. Zealandia from Sydney.
  • 20 February - 2 March 1897: at the Opera House, Auckland.
  • 3, 4 March 1897: at the Academy of Music, Thames.
  • 5, 6 March 1897: at Paeroa.
  • at Gisborne.
  • 15 March 1897: at the Princess Theatre, Hastings.
  • 16 - 19 March 1897: at the Theatre Royal, Napier.
  • 20 March 1897: at Dannevirke.
  • 24 March - 3 April 1897: at the Opera House, Wellington.
  • 5 - 15 April 1897: at the Theatre Royal, Christchurch.
  • 17 - c.27 April 1897: at the Princess' Theatre, Dunedin.
  • 28 April 1897: at Oamaru.
  • 29, 30 April 1897: at Timaru.
  • 1 May 1897: at Ashburton.
  • 3 May 1897: at Christchurch.
  • 6 - 8 May 1897: at the Opera House, Greymouth.
  • 10 - 12 May 1897: at Hokitika.
  • 13 - 15 May 1897: at Reefton.
  • 17 May 1897: at Westport.
  • 21, 22, 24, 25 May 1897: at [the Opera House,] Wellington.
  • 31 May - 2 June 1897: at Auckland.
  • 4 June 1897: at New Plymouth.
  • 5, 7 June 1897: at Hawera.
  • 8 - 10 June 1897: at Wanganui.
  • 11 June 1897: at Palmerston North.
  • 14, 15 June 1897: at Christchurch.
  • 16 June 1897: at Ashburton.
  • 17 June 1897: at Timaru.
  • 18 - 22 June 1897: at the Princess' Theatre, Dunedin.
  • 26 June 1897: last show in New Zealand at Invercargill.
  • 28 June 1897: Hertzes left the Bluff (Invercargill) on board the steamer Talune for Hobart, Tasmania.
Carl Hertz

Carl Hertz
Image courtesy of the
National Library of Australia

Further shows in the Australian colonies featured a cinematographe.
  • 2 July 1897: Hertzes arrived at Hobart on board the steamer Talune from New Zealand.
  • 2, 3, 5 July 1897: at the Theatre Royal, Hobart.
  • 6, 7 July 1897: at the Academy of Music, Launceston, Tasmania.
  • 10 - 24 July 1897: at the Athenæum Hall, Melbourne.
  • 27 July - 10 August 1897: at the Bijou Theatre, Adelaide.
  • 14 August 1897: at the Town Hall, Albany, Western Australia.
  • 16 - 28 August 1897: at the Cremorne Theatre, Perth, Western Australia.
  • 30 August - 2 September 1897: at the Town Hall, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • 4 - 14 September 1897: at the Miners' Institute, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.
  • 15 - 23 September 1897 at the Theatre Royal, Coolgardie, Western Australia.
  • 25 September - 1 October 1897: at the Town Hall, Fremantle.
  • 2, 4, 5 October 1897: at the Town Hall, Perth.
  • 7 October 1897: at the Town Hall, Albany.
  • 12 October 1897: at the Town Hall, Port Adelaide, South Australia.
  • 14, 15 October 1897: at Port Pirie, South Australia.
  • 16 October 1897: at Petersburg [Peterborough], South Australia?
  • 18 - 25 October 1897: at the Crystal Theatre, Broken Hill, New South Wales.
  • 27 October 1897: at the Institute hall, Burra, South Australia.
  • 28 October 1897: at the Kapunda Institute hall, Kapunda, South Australia.
  • 29 October 1897: at the Gawler Institute hall, Gawler, South Australia.
  • Resting in Melbourne.
  • 8 - 11 November 1897: at the Academy of Music, Ballarat, Victoria.
  • 12 November 1897: at the Town Hall, Maryborough, Victoria.
  • 13, 15 - 17 November 1897: at the Royal Princess' Theatre, Bendigo, Victoria.
  • 19, 20, 22 November 1897: at the Academy of Music, Launceston.
  • 24 - 29 November 1897: at the Theatre Royal, Hobart.
  • 1 December 1897: at the Pontifex Hall, Strahan, Tasmania.
  • 2, 3 December 1897: at the Academy of Music, Zeehan, Tasmania.
  • 4 December 1897: at Queenstown, Tasmania.
  • Other towns in north-west Tasmania?
  • 9 December 1897: Hertzes arrived at Melbourne on board the steamer Grafton from ? Strahan.
  • 18 December 1897: Hertzes left Melbourne on board the R.M.S. Ophir for Colombo, Sri Lanka.
MME. [sic] D'ALTON | Carl Hertz Company, on tour | Talma Photo

Emilie D'Alton
Image courtesy of the
National Library of Australia

Carl Hertz was born on 14 May 1859 at San Francisco, California, and died, of pneumonia, on 20 March 1924 at the Nursing Home, Saint Nicholas Street, Coventry, Warwickshire, England.
Emma Dalton was born in 1869 in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, and died in 1945 in London.

In 1892, Carl and Emma Hertz made their first tours of south-eastern Australian colonies and of New Zealand as members of George Musgrove's Empire Company (though the advertisements soon read "Carl Hertz and the Empire Company"). The following summarises where they appeared on these tours.

Late in 1895, actor-manager-entrepreneur Harry Rickards, on a "shopping trip" in America and England, booked the Hertzes for another tour in Australia with his New Tivoli Minstrels and Specialty Company, to take place in the second half of 1896.

On 28 March 1896 the Hertzes left London on the steamer Norman to go to South Africa. Carl Hertz managed to get a Theatrograph from its inventor, Robert William Paul of London, to take with them. In an interview given in South Africa, he said

I have got the rights [for the cinematographe] for South Africa and Australia from Edison and Robert Paul, the latter of whom is now exhibiting it in London at the Alhambra. The machine I have is exactly the same as the one in use at the Alhambra.

(Despite the fact that Paul called his machine a Theatrograph, the term cinematographe had become the common name for, in modern terms, a motion picture projector, and this word will be used here.)

On the journey to Cape Town, Hertz

gave a performance on the ship - conjuring and the cinematographe. It was rather difficult on account of the constant motion, but the Norman is such a good steady boat that the pictures were produced very successfully.
In default of any prior claim, this was the first time that projected motion pictures were shown at sea.

Their tour in South Africa was under the management of Messrs. Hyman and Alexander. Their first shows were at the Empire Palace of Varieties in Johannesburg, where they played from 20 April to 13 June 1896. It was here on 9 May 1896 that Carl Hertz (privately, and not very successfully) first showed a cinematographe in South Africa, and on 11 May that the instrument was first shown to the public there. (Why did 3 weeks elapse before the cinematographe was exhibited?) Further shows were in Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Durban, Maritzburg, East London, Kingwilliamstown, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town.

On 20 July 1896 they left Cape Town on the New Zealand Steamship Company's steamer R.M.S. Ruapehu and arrived at Hobart, Tasmania on 7 August. They are listed as passengers for Sydney although this would not be their first place to stop. (Many times during their tours were wrong destinations announced: were they trying to mislead potential competitors?) As the Ruapehu was going on directly to New Zealand, they disembarked at Hobart and made their way north to Launceston, Tasmania, where they caught the intercolonial steamer Pateena to Melbourne, Victoria, to arrive there on 11 August.

Harry Rickards knew, by the end of July, that Hertz was on his way, and placed advertisements in the Melbourne newspapers stating that he would soon appear. There is no mention of a cinematographe as part of Hertz's act, so it must have been a very pleasant surprise to Rickards to learn that Hertz had one with him.

Hertz's first show of his new season in Melbourne was at the Opera House, run by Rickards, on Saturday, 15 August 1896, but this did not include the cinematographe. He first exhibited the new device on the following Monday, at a special screening following his usual performance.1,2 This was the first time projected motion pictures were shown in Australia. The first advertised exhibitions of the cinematographe did not start until the next Saturday, 22 August 1896.3

The cinematographe was an instant success, producing full houses at the Opera House. Wednesday matinee performances were introduced to get more customers. The Melbourne season was originally planned to finish on 4 September, but, "by general desire and at enormous expense, cancelling other important engagements" (!), Rickards continued shows until 17 September.

The company then went to Sydney, opening at Rickards' Tivoli Theatre on Saturday, 19 September 1896. And again there was enormous public enthusiasm to see the cinematographe films.

But in Sydney Hertz was not, apart from the first few days, the only "animated photographs" man in town.

To be continued ...

Hertz had a press release about the cinematographe that was reproduced in whole or part, and sometimes with the wording slightly altered, in newspaper reports and interviews:6

This is the latest invention in photography, and is causing a big sensation in England. It is a combination of photography, electricity, and stereopticon, and reproduces any scene in motion as it appears in real life. For instance, I give a scene from 'Trilby,' and you will see the representation in a picture of the death of Svengali. Then I give a representation of Parliament street, one of the busiest streets in London, and you can see the 'buses, cabs, &c., moving along as though gazing at the actual scene. It is an invention partly of Edison's, and partly of a man named Paul, of the Royal Institute in London, to which I have added several improvements of my own. I have obtained the inventor's right for South Africa and Australia, and I may tell you that the production of each picture necessitates the taking of 1400 photographs. Each picture thus costs £30, the photographs passing through the lens at the rate of about 600 a minute. With this instrument I also show a picture of the Derby. You see the course, the grandstand, the people all shouting, the police clearing the course; see the horses canter off to the starting point, and afterwards the whole of the race from start to finish. I also show a representation of the Oxford and Cambridge boatrace, and a representation of the arrival of a train at Euston Station.

Hertz (apparently) claimed in his autobiography that he was the first to exhibit a cinematographe in New Zealand. But this is not so, because one was shown by Joseph MacMahon for about six months from 28 October 1896,4 starting at Wellington.

Carl Hertz admitted that on his Australasian tour he had netted £10,000.5

His autobiography, A Modern Mystery Merchant: The Trials, Tricks, and Travels of Carl Hertz, was published by Hutchinson, London, in 1924. It makes entertaining reading, but, at least as far as the Australian tours are concerned, the details described are sometimes at variance with the historical record.

See also Angela Alexander's Web site dedicated to Carl Hertz, who was her great-grandfather.

Further information about Carl Hertz, related to his place in the history of cinema.

References and notes

[1] The Herald (Melbourne), 18 August 1896, p.2e, After the Opera.

[2] Table Talk (Melbourne), 21 August 1896, p.14b, On and Off the Stage.

[3] The Age (Melbourne), 20 August 1896, p.8h, Amusements;
The Argus (Melbourne), 20 August 1896, p.8h, Amusements;
The Age, 24 August 1896, p.6f, Amusements;
The Argus, 24 August 1896, p.7b, Theatres and Entertainments.

[4] Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand), 27 October 1896, p.2.

[5] The Mercury (Hobart), 1 January 1898, supplement p.2g, Dramatic Notes.

[6] The Referee (Sydney), 7 October 1896, p.7f, People Prominent, Carl Hertz;
The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 23 October 1896, p.4g;
The Daily Northern Argus (Rockhampton), 23 October 1896, p.2f, Evening Entertainments, Rickards' Tivoli Company.

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