Well, Harry Kellar was one of our many forefathers to Modern Day Magic. Kellar was famous for his levitation of his female assistant, Vanishing Birdcage, The Kellar Rope Tie and Vanishing Lamp.
Howard Thurston was hired by Kellar and both presented one of the largest stage shows during their time.
Each was unique in their respective expertise...Thurston was often billed as "The King of Cards".
You can find out more about these amazing magicians by visiting your local library or try wikipedia or Google.
You might also consider picking up Jim Steinmeyer's book "Hiding The Elephant" There is a lot of information about Kellar and Thurston...as well was other well noted magicians, from years gone by.
And The Illustrated History of Magic
by Milbourne Christopher. A great history book.