Harry Houdini's Birthday, 1874
On This Day in Jewish History: March 24, 1874
On this day, 1874, the world famous magician, Harry Houdini, was born. Intro slide: Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary as Ehrich Weisz and one of six children. His father was a local Rabbi. At just two years old, Ehrich and his family moved to the United States and settled in Wisconsin, where his father got a new rabbinical post. Their last name was also changed from Weisz to Weiss. As a child to help his family earn wages, Ehrich sold newspapers and shined shoes for cash. The first stage act that Ehrich did was not magic, but a trapeze performance at nine years old. The act he created had the title of "Ehrich, the Prince of the Air." Shortly thereafter, he ran away from home and was gone for a year - what happened during this time is not known, but after returning he continued to support his family while working in his adolescence. Next slide: During his teenage years, Ehrich began to act on his interest in magical arts and performance, along with one of his siblings, Theo. His reverence for French magician, Robert Houdin, influenced the name he then created for performing as Harry Houdini. The rest of his teenage years would include small performances around New York doing magic under this new name, of which he was quickly gaining fame. He was married by the time he was twenty to Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, a person that would be his lifelong assistant and use the stage name "Besse Houdini." Around this time he took a position in a circus act to learn more performance and magic technique, specifically working to perfect his escape artistry. He had already developed this act to a minor degree using handcuffs. Next slide: By 1899, Martin Beck, a talent booker had noticed Houdini and arranged a series of vaudeville venues around the United States and then Europe for him to perform in and grow his fame. By 1912, the most recognized achievement Houdini created in his magical career, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, was ready to be used for his act. This performance demonstrated suspension from his feet and being lowered upside-down in a water filled glass cabinet type of arrangement. This segment of his show was so powerful for audiences that it was a critical performance for the next fourteen years, up until the time he died in 1926. Next slide: With success and wealth, Houdini was able to also enjoy other interests and passions beside magic. Though related, he was active in the beginnings of the motion picture and film industry and enjoyed this new art form. He starred in movies that featured his magical work and also founded his own company: Houdini Picture Corporation and the Film Development Corporation. Harry Houdini also published his book, A Magician Among the Spirits in 1924. He was also a lover of aviation in its dawning, and journeyed to Australia to be the first person to fly across the continent. There have been disputes historically if he was indeed this individual to claim that spot, or if it was Captain Colin Defries, who also did a flight in 1909, but shorter than Houdini's in 1910. Final Slide: On October 31, 1926, Harry Houdini died from peritonitis, which is believed to be caused from acute appendicitis that he had momentarily before. He was fifty-two years old when he died while on tour in Detroit, Michigan. Houdini's effects and estate were originally left to his brother and have since made their way to different organizations or people. The water torture cell, for example, now belongs to magician David Copperfield.
https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-9LIWiBMhmsc/WEb--FM7wyI/AAAAAAAAmcY/1Qwqfz9vltcRRvksX2pfT0_N9unha-jtwCLcB/s1600/houdini%2Bwith%2Bbook.jpg Sources: Great Houdini: https://www.thegreatharryhoudini.com/ Biography.com: https://www.biography.com/performer/harry-houdini PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/houdini-biography/ New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/harry-houdini-and-the-art-of-escape