Houdini Picture CorporationInv# AG1567
Stock printed by Broun-Green Co. and signed by Harry Houdini. (1874-1926) Harry Houdini was born as Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874. His parents were Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz (1829–1892) and his wife, Cecelia (née Steiner; 1841–1913). Houdini was one of seven children. Weisz arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878, sailing on the SS Fresia with his mother and four brothers. The family changed the Hungarian spelling of their German surname into Weiss (the German spelling) and Erik's name was changed to Ehrich. Friends called him "Ehrie" or "Harry". They first lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. From 1907 on, Houdini would claim in interviews to have been born in Appleton, which was not true. On June 6, 1882, Rabbi Weiss became an American citizen. Losing his tenure at Zion in 1887, Rabbi Weiss moved with Ehrich to New York City. They were joined by the rest of the family once Rabbi Weiss found permanent housing. As a child, Ehrich Weiss took several jobs, making his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist, calling himself "Ehrich, the Prince of the Air". He was also a champion cross country runner in his youth. Weiss became a professional magician and began calling himself "Harry Houdini" because he was heavily influenced by the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, and his friend Jack Hayman told him, erroneously, that in French, adding an "i" to Houdin would mean "like Houdin", the great magician. In later life, Houdini would claim that the first part of his new name, Harry, was a homage to Harry Kellar, whom Houdini admired. Houdini began his magic career in 1891. At the outset, he had little success. He performed in dime museums and sideshows, and even doubled as "The Wild Man" at a circus. Houdini focused initially on traditional card tricks. At one point, he billed himself as the "King of Cards". But he soon began experimenting with escape acts. In 1893, while performing with his brother "Dash" at Coney Island as "The Houdini Brothers", Harry met fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, whom he married. Bess replaced Dash in the act, which became known as "The Houdinis." For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant. Houdini's "big break" came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck in rural Woodstock, Illinois. Impressed by Houdini's handcuffs act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, Beck arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini managed to interest Dundas Slater, then manager of the Alhambra Theatre. He gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard, and succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the Alhambra for six months. Houdini became widely known as "The Handcuff King." Great! Rare! Portrait and biography included.