Nell Odella Newton, the Queen of Magic, was born on Oct. 2, 1897 in Wisconsin — though she always claimed to have been born in 1902, as noted by Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum.
Newton’s father was a traveling circus performer and promoter. A very attractive young woman, she likely worked in “girlie shows” before moving on to juggling and magic, Brookz said. She was an advocate of physical fitness and put on a strongwoman’s act, claiming the title “Miss Physical Culture.” Dell O’Dell was her stage name.
Brookz notes that O’Dell is regarded as one of the few pioneers who provided a role model for modern female performers. She was one of the most successful female magicians of the first half of the 20th century. She specialized in snappy and cute rhyming patter, a quick wit and lots of promotional material. She was married to Charles Carrer, a juggler who managed her acts.
Her act featured rabbits, doves, ducks, and goldfish, Brookz says, and she became known as “The Queen of Magic.” She was one of the first magicians, male or female, to appear on television in New York.
During the late 1930s she came to Queens and performed in the WPA circus, which was part of the era’s Federal Theater Project. She also performed with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the city.
In 1940 O’Dell decided to make Queens her home, moving to a brand-new townhouse at 50-40 61 St. in Woodside. But by the late 1950s she had left Woodside and relocated to sunny California. She died in Santa Monica on Feb. 5, 1962 at age 64.