The first example of the effect of a card or cards ascending to the top of the deck from lower positions in the pack is the centuries-old trick commonly called “The Four Robbers”, in which the four Jacks or Kings are apparently distributed throughout the deck—one at the bottom, two at different levels in the deck and one on top—and then all four appear on top. This trick was recorded in late sixteenth-century manuscripts, such as MSS III. 18 (see Gibecière, Vol. 8 No. 1, Winter 2013, p. 56) and became a staple of introductory conjuring texts.
The modern form of the effect most frequently called “The Ambitious Card” (also popularly called “The Eye-Popper” in the 1930s and 1940s) generally features the repeated ascension of a specific card from the middle of the deck to the top. The French professional magician Gustav Alberti is credited by the author L. P. with the invention of this effect and the “ambitious” presentation, in Recueil de Tour de Physique Amusante, published in 1877, and translated into English by Professor Hoffmann as Drawing-room Conjuring, 1885, p. 46.
Also see Elevator Cards