Madame Cora de Lamond: Magicienne

Madame Cora1
Madame Cora, magicienne, between 1869-1875 Bardwell’s Royal Studio, Ballarat. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

Madame Cora de Lamond (real name Ursula Bush) was the first woman to tour as a magician in Australia and New Zealand. She first appeared at Sydney’s Prince Of Wales Theatre in November 1871. Her performance consisted of troublewit (folding paper into shapes) and legerdemain (sleight of hand). The high point of her show was the ‘Couch of Angels’ where her sister was placed in a reclining position in mid-air, suspended only by her elbow resting on a pole.

At the conclusion of the show, Madame Cora would distribute prizes ranging from a bag of flour to a silver-plated tea service to members of the audience via numbered tickets. This earned her some notoriety when, in 1878, the Bendigo Court fined her £1 plus costs for conducting a lottery.

In 1883 while on tour in New Zealand, her husband (the theatrical agent T.W. Bush) was found dead in his hotel bed in Auckland. The Lorgnette reports: He was of intemperate habits, and a verdict of apoplexy was returned.

After touring India, China, and Japan, Madame Cora (now Mrs Chisholm) returned to Melbourne in 1890, advertising herself as a mesmerist in addition to her repertoire of illusionist, conjuror, mind-reader, and general dealer in magic. She became involved in the Van Tassel balloon exhibitions but on 7 May 1890, she had Van Tassel arrested on an absconding debtors’ warrant in Adelaide. The outcome of this dispute features in Chapter 10 of The Only Living Lady Parachutist.

Madame Cora died in South Africa, where she had lived for the last ten years, in 1902.

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