The first definite representation of a hoop used as a magician's prop appears to be in Hieronymus Bosch's "The Magician" (1475-80), though it is far from clear what its purpose is (is it, for example, for the small decorated dog to jump through?). One potential use of larger hoops would be in acrobatics, as can be seen in a 16th C scene of conjurors by Pieter Bruegel (sadly not online, but can be found in Christopher*).

However, the history of the hoop-pass specifically is tied into the history of large-scale modern levitations, and the ties are so intimately it is hard to discuss one without the other.

The first static and supported suspension of an assistant appears to be watchmaker Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin's (Biography) "Ethereal Suspension" (1847), in which his son seemed to hover just supported on a single stick (Description; Mechanism; Though also see Note on prior Indian illusions). There doesn't seem to be any evidence he used a hoop-pass with the trick, though the general complexity of some of his balances (boy on stick, on stool, on left end of a plank supported at the right end on a trellis*) would have ensured no additional proof was needed for effect.

The first free-floating and moving levitation of an assistant seems to originate with another watchmarker - John Nevil Maskelyne (Biography), who's complex "fan of wires" rig at the Egyptian Hall in London took weeks to set up*. Maskelyne probably picked up the idea of levitations from the Spiritualist "Davenport Brothers" (Biography). The Davenports started out in 1854 conducted seances in the dark, in which people would reach up into the darkness and touch their shoes and clothes as they flew by*. They later moved to being tied up and locked in a cabinet and inducing spirits to levitate musical instruments into the air and play them. They were frequently revealed to be untied and operating the instruments themselves and Maskelyne was one of their unmaskers - an event that led him into magic*.

Maskelyne's design was (with some notoriety*) copied by Harry Kellar (Biography) for his "Levitation of Princess Karnac(k)" illusion, which innovated the design for easy travel*. However, there is some confusion over the matter. For example, Kellar was said to have got the design by employing Paul Valadon, Maskelyne's co-worker, c.1905*. While a poster of Kellar's from 1905 does advertise a levitating uncovered woman, this is also advertised on two posters from 1894 (one; two) and one from 1900. It is possible Kellar may have already featured a simpler wire levitation, as possibly shown on this 1876 poster which features him floating across the audience, and/or an assistant suspension on a support. It should be noted that Kellar acted as a bill-poster, assistant and manager for the Davenport brothers* (For other contemporary floatings, see also this "Bimbo of Bombay" poster from 1897, and Zig Zag poster of 1899).

The main importance of this for the hoop-pass is that the first extant written description of a hoop-pass seems to be in a review of an act by Charles Joseph Carter at the Palace Theatre in Manchester in 1910. Carter's levitation was apparently a version of Kellar's, with an added engine**, though a 1905 poster shows him performing a levitation with props more reminiscent of the LeRoy levitation (see below). Carter's use of the hoop may suggest Kellar, and, in turn, Maskelyne, used a hoop-pass, and this would go some way to explaining the obvious complexity of the machinery. However, the hoop-pass doesn't feature in Kellar's posters, or those (1908; 1909) of his chosen "successor" Howard Thurston, though he had apparently added it by 1929.

In a separate development, Servais LeRoy took the levitation of an assistant and, in 1902, added the twist of covering their body prior to floating, only to whip the cloth off mid- or post-flight to reveal they had vanished (the ASRAH Levitation : Mechanism; see also his "Rostrum" Levitation: 1920 poster). A 1907 poster for LeRoy's act shows an uncovered woman levitating over a brazier and a hoop prop. That the hoop was used for a hoop-pass seems likely, and this is confirmed a 1915 Harry Rouclere poster advertising the three stages of the ASRAH (here "AZRA").

By 1910 it appears the hoop-pass was a confirmed element in magician's advertising: stock posters for ASHRA-style levitations by French Lithographer Galice (poster, 1910) and German Lithographer Friedlander (poster, 1913) both feature the Hoop-Pass. Other adverts featuring the Hoop-Pass include a poster for Mel-Roy (c.1932); an advert for the "Great [Eugene] Laurant Company" and their "Phantom Bride" levitation (1915 or earlier), which shows a large hoop ready for use (not online, but can be found in Christopher*); and a Richards bill of 1911.

The modern master constructor of hoops for hoop-passes appears to be Walter Blaney.