The Great Depression of the 1930s, especially after the luxurious and glamorous loving of the 1920’s jazz and flapper age, was one of the lowest points of history for the United States. Because of the lack of jobs and a crashed economy, a lot of families suffered through poverty. This made morale among citizens at an all-time low.
During this time, in New York City, Fiorella La Guardia, who was then the city mayor, sought to provide happiness and entertainment for children outside of school. The problems caused by unemployed adults and poor living conditions of the time compelled La Guardia to create the position for recreation director. The post was fortunately taken up by Abraham Hurwitz.
Dr. Abrahan Hurwitz – The Official New York Magician
Dr. Abraham Hurwitz was a Lithuanian-born New Yorker who worked both as a government employee and as New York’s official magician in the 1930s. He is also known by his stage name as Peter Pan. Before La Guardia employed him into the position of recreation director for New York, he had already been using magic tricks to bring joy to children.
For several years, he had been working as a guidance counselor for Brooklyn Hebrew Orphanage. Through his skills as a magician, he proved successful in making learning enjoyable for the children by integrating magic tricks into lesson plans. Creating a fun learning experience for children made them more motivated to learn. Fiorella la Guardia was a fan of Hurwitz’ work at the orphanage. The mayor convinced Hurwitz to share his craft to the rest of the children of New York.
The Significance of Hurwitz, The Magic Man
Abraham Hurwitz accepted the job and started performing for the children of New York as the city’s official magician. For almost two decades, he traveled and entertained children in recreation centers, schools, and parks. He both put on magic shows and lead magic classes. Hurwitz’ work with children gained him the attention and praise of The New York Times who called him “The Magic Man.”
Hurwitz saw the usefulness of magic in serving as a great learning strategy for children. He considered the children’s specific needs when making the lessons. Shy kids are taught public speaking, blind children are taught with lessons on the sleight-of-hand, and magic acts teach young children the rules of grammar. In addition, Hurwitz also founded a young magicians’ program. The Magic Club was later on renamed in the 1950s as F.A.M.E.
Later on, Abraham Hurwitz retired as New York’s official magician and his duties as recreation director. By then, he had already performed for over a million children. Even if he was retired, he still put on many volunteer magic shows for various audiences throughout the years. Aside from his role in New York’s history, his legacy as a magician is also passed on through his daughter, a ventriloquist named Shari Lewis. She became the host of Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, a popular children’s show.