Author J.K. Rowling‘s fictional boy wizard Harry Potter is an internationally known character, but few probably have heard of a famous trickster in America who shares the same last name.
Richard Potter is hailed as the first African-American magician and the first to gain fame doing so. Potter was born in July 1783 to his father, a British tax collector, and his mother, a servant, in Massachusetts.
Because of his father’s standing, Potter was educated in Europe and lived with his father for much of his life.
Historians note that Potter’s specialties were ventriloquism, hypnotism, knife-throwing, and other daring acts. Potter entertained audiences in New England and Canada before taking his act on the road.
Potter toured along the East Coast, but ran into several instances of racism in the Deep South. While on a 20-day engagement in Alabama, Potter endured his most trying tests, but walked away unscathed and several thousand dollars richer.
Some historians also state that aside from Potter’s pioneering position, he was considered the wealthiest and best-known magician of his time.
He certainly amassed a considerable amount of wealth, purchasing a 175-acre farm in Andover, N.H. in 1813 with his wife, Sally. Potter died on September 20, 1835.
Much of the land and the home he owned has long since been replaced, but the town has honored him by naming a village within its borders “Potter Place,” which sits near the area he once lived.