It’s Magic!

It’s Magic!

by senior contributor Brendan Kownacki
Photo credit: Brendan Kownacki

“When David Copperfield made his plan to be at the Smithsonian Museum of American History for Flag Day, he had a lofty goal in mind, to find “the best missing piece in history.” For a man who once walked through the Great Wall of China and made the Statue of Liberty vanish, there’s very few actions that are described as subtle. This time, Copperfield was determined to find the missing 15th star from the Star-Spangled Banner.

Photo by Jaclyn Nash. Courtesy “The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History”

The Star-Spangled Banner, the original US flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812, is an important artifact of American history, and is of course the inspiration for the National Anthem by Francis Scott Key. What people may not know though is that after the war, the iconic flag was gifted to commanding officer Major George Armistead and pieces of the flag were cut off and given away as patriotic mementos, including a large piece from the center of the flag that contained one of the 15 stars. Through the years, the location of the star was lost but Copperfield saw this historical mystery as a challenge. “I’ve been collaborating with the Smithsonian for quite a while.They told me about the missing star in the Star Spangled Banner and I thought, ‘wow’ I’d really like to make that into something really vibrant and very inspirational.”

New US Citizens

With a full theater of onlookers on the special occasion, the world class illusionist shared the historical story and explained his mission, go beyond time and space to find the star.

Before the show, Copperfield talked to Hollywood on the Potomac about why these critical Americana items have made their way into his act over the years. “They’re not just objects, they are amazing stories and amazing parts of who we are. Whether it’s the Chinese wall or the Statue of Liberty, they are ripe for messaging and finding a real reason to do it. The Statue of Liberty was about a lesson in freedom; this is about unity. How strong we are together united; we have one star of the Star Spangled Banner that is not united…it’s gone. So to unite those stars is about unity and that’s why I do what I do.”

Photo by Jaclyn Nash. Courtesy “The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History”

Copperfield, who owns the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts appreciates history both broadly and especially in the world of magic. He specifically noted that magic draws a nice parallel for the world around us, “Of course the principles get improved, we keep improving ideas and technologies and so forth, but the stories between the people who are doing it remain the same.” Magic is about suspending disbelief at times, and about chasing a goal that seems impossible. The quest for the impossible another fitting tie-in for the day; after Copperfield’s performance, 14 immigrants were given the oath of allegiance and sworn in as American Citizens…another goal that may have seemed impossible at times, but belief can make the impossible happen.

Outgoing Secretary of the Smithsonian, David Skorton and David Copperfield

David Copperfield embodies the idea of pushing boundaries to make the impossible happen. Whether flying through the air, cutting himself in half, or dreaming up his next futuristic stunt (which have already earned him 11 Guinness World Records) this is a man who always dreams for what frontier he can conquer next. “I do my magic not to fool people or amaze people, I do it to remind people of limitless possibilities.”