Harry Houdini

...now browsing by tag

 
 

How well do you know Harry Houdini?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Google Doodle: March 24, 2011

In honor of Houdini’s 137th birthday, we encourage you to visit our exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic, online or in-person.

And if you’re up for the challenge, please let us know, how well you know, Harry Houdini. One winner will be chosen randomly from those with the highest tally. The winner will receive a related exhibition catalogue, tote bag, and admission passes for 2.

Congratulations to our winner J Cox. Many thanks to all the participants
.

Need help? Get stumped? Visit Google or the exhibition page Houdini: Art and Magic.

“My darling I love you”

Monday, February 14th, 2011

On June 22, 1894, Harry Houdini married Wilhelmina Beatrice (“Bess”) Rahner after just three weeks of courtship. The newlyweds spent their honeymoon at Coney Island and were married for 32 years. Bess, a Cathholic girl born in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, was an entertainer in her own right and performed at the Sea Beach Palace in Coney Island as part of “The Floral Sisters” trio. After marrying Houdini, she joined her husband on stage and they appeared as “The Houdinis.” A petite woman, Bess helped Houdini perfect the Metamorphosis illusion with her speed and agility. Yet, as Houdini’s fame rose, Bess found herself farther from the limelight and the attention focused solely on the adventurous feats of her husband. Although Bess disappeared from the stage, Houdini often confided and consulted with his wife about his new ideas.

Houdini adored his wife and enjoyed leaving her love notes and poems around their Harlem brownstone at 278 West 113th Street. He affectionately called her his “Precious Lump of Sweetness,” “Sweetie Wifie, Mine,” and “Darling One and Only.” Houdini signed these notes with various pet names including “your popsy” and “Houdinsky.”  Houdini biographer Kenneth Silverman included this note from the magician to his wife in the book Houdini!!! The Career of Erich Weiss:

Adorable
Sun Shine
Of my Life
I have had my coffee
     have washed out this glass,
     and am on my way to business.
Houdini
“My darling I love you”

Related Link: 
Houdini: Art and Magic on view through March 27, 2011

Image credit: Harry and Bess Houdini, Married Thirty-One Years, 1925. Photograph Kevin A. Connolly Collection.

Collective Magic: An Interview with Dr. Bruce J. Averbook

Friday, November 5th, 2010

In our final installment of Collective Magic we meet Dr. Bruce J. Averbook. A magician since childhood, he enjoys performing card magic and is interested in mentalism. Dr. Averbook started his collection nearly 20 years ago and he has acquired notable objects such as Houdini’s diaries. Currently on view in Houdini: Art and Magic, the diaries offer a glimpse into the daily activities and introspective thoughts of Harry Houdini. The exhibition is organized by guest curator, Brooke Kamin Rapaport. Joanna Montoya, Curatorial Assistant, coordinated this interview.

1. When did you become interested in magic and when did you start collecting magic objects?
When I was 12 years old I studied Karate with Chuck Norris and his group in Redondo Beach, Calif. I injured my left knee and thigh during practice sparing and was confined to bed and had physical therapy for one month. My mother gave me John Scarne’s book of card magic and I was hooked. The Inglewood Public Library became my next resource and after that my Grandfather Charles introduced me to Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Magic Shop and later Joe Berg’s Magic Shop. I began to do shows in the area assisted by my younger brother, Allen. I made some money and then would take the bus by myself 45 minutes to Hollywood and buy magic tricks at the shops. My parents joined the Hollywood Magic Castle so we could go to the Sunday brunches and shows. I performed on the wards of Daniel Freeman Hospital for patients. The rest is history.

I purposefully started collecting magic in 1991 after I met my good friends, Ken Trombly and George Woo who introduced me to this aspect of magic and told me about dealers who sold this material (Mario Carrandi, Ron Allesi, Keena Thompson and Ed Verba amongst others) and the Magic Collectors Association.

Click to continue »

Collective Magic: An Interview with Ken Trombly

Friday, October 29th, 2010

This week Collective Magic introduces Ken Trombly, an avid magic collector and magician. He has also contributed articles to numerous publications such as Magic Magazine and M-U-M. Mr. Trombly started his collection over 30 years ago and highlights include Houdini posters and broadsides as well as photographs of Bess Houdini and Cecilia Weiss, Houdini’s beloved mother.   Houdini: Art and Magic, opens at The Jewish Museum today, Friday, October 29. It is organized by guest curator, Brooke Kamin Rapaport. Joanna Montoya, Curatorial Assistant, coordinated this interview.

1. When did you become interested in magic and when did you start collecting magic objects?

Like many kids, I became fascinated with magic at about the age of 9 or 10. Unlike the majority, I never seem to have grown out of it. As to collecting, I have always been fascinated by the imagery found in the posters and other advertising of old time magicians, and while in junior high school  had reproductions of old magic posters decorating our basement, which I had taken over as my “magic room”.  I began collecting actual magic posters, I guess, when, while in college I took a poster of faux-psychic Uri Geller, who was appearing nearby, down off of a wall – and I still have it some 40 years later. In law school I learned about a collector in Tennessee who was putting out lists of duplicate magic posters in his collection, and that got me started in earnest on a lifelong passion, which began with magic posters, and has gradually spread out to the wider area of magic ephemera. Following in the tradition of my late Tennessee collector friend, David Price, I am selling duplicates, although he did not have the benefit of the internet. My website is magicposters.com.
Click to continue »

Collective Magic: An Interview with Jeff Taylor

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

American Museum of Magic

Jeff Taylor, Director of the American Museum of Magic, is this week’s contributor to our blog series Collective Magic. Located in Marshall, Michigan, AMM was founded by Robert Lund who collected magic objects and ephemera for over 60 years. Acquisition highlights include Houdini’s Milk Can and collection of needles and thread used for his famed Needle Threading Trick. Both will be on view in Houdini: Art and Magic which opens at The Jewish Museum on Friday, October 29. It is organized by guest curator, Brooke Kamin Rapaport. Joanna Montoya, Curatorial Assistant, coordinated this interview.

1. When did you first become interested in magic?
Bob Lund (1925-1995), the founder of the American Museum of Magic first became interested in magic at about the age of 9.  He was in sick and in the hospital when a magician performed for the children in his ward.  From that point on, Bob and magic were inseparable.  By the time he was a teenager, Bob knew that he was not a performer.  As much as he loved magic, he didn’t enjoy being the one on stage.  He began collecting anything he could find on magic.  Today, the collection at AMM contains thousands of books, over 20,000 photographs, 3,000 posters and an extensive collection of archival materials.  Bob’s collection contained information not only on the big names of Houdini, Thurston and Blackstone, but on countless magicians that are little known today.

The one thing that separated Bob from countless other magic collectors was his desire to share his collection with the public.  This desire to share the wonder of magic with others  lead to the opening of the American Museum of Magic in 1978.
Click to continue »

Collective Magic: An Interview with Kevin Connolly

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Collective Magic presents a closer look at collectors who have contributed to Houdini: Art and Magic. Kevin Connolly has been acquiring Houdini memorabilia for over three decades. His vast collection includes pamphlets, broadsides, and photographs of the magician’s thrilling feats such as his escape from the Water Torture Cell. Mr. Connolly’s website, HoudiniHimself.com, provides comprehensive information on how to start a collection and features a blog with detailed posts on Houdini objects and ephemera. Houdini: Art and Magic, opens at The Jewish Museum on Friday, October 29. It is organized by guest curator, Brooke Kamin Rapaport. Joanna Montoya, Curatorial Assistant, coordinated this interview.

1. When did you become interested in magic and when did you start collecting magic objects?
I became interested in magic when I was about 15 years old. I would look in the stores that sold pranks, etc.; as they also carried small magic tricks. It was about two years later that I discovered a real magic store and that’s when a whole new world opened up for me.

When I started to collect magic, at about 18-19, I knew instantly that collecting was for me. I knew the direction I wanted to go in when my uncle sent me a box of magic books that he bought in the 1930’s. I don’t know what it was that intrigued me about the books, but I knew I was happy just holding them.

Click to continue »

Collective Magic: An Interview with Arthur Moses

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Arthur Moses biography Houdini Speaks OutCollective Magic presents a closer look at the many collectors of Houdini objects and ephemera. Our first post highlights Arthur Moses, the author of Houdini Speaks Out. His extensive collection of Houdiniana includes the straitjacket on view in Houdini: Art and Magic, opening at The Jewish Museum on Friday, October 29. It is organized by guest curator, Brooke Kamin Rapaport. Joanna Montoya, Curatorial Assistant, coordinated this interview.

When did you become interested in magic and when did you start collecting magic objects? I read a book on Houdini when I was in the 7th grade. I began reading and collecting books about him shortly thereafter. The real growth of my collection (currently over 4000 items) began in my mid 20′s (1985) when I had real money to spend on purchases instead of a youth’s “allowance”.

What is a favorite piece in your collection? I can’t really say that I have a favorite piece. Whether if it’s a $20 item or a $1000 item, each piece makes up an integral part of the collection. Just to name a piece with great dollar value does not make sense and is only showing off that I own something expensive. It is that I have built a collection of varied overall significance that is my favorite. Click to continue »

Happy 136th Birthday, Ehrich Weiss (better known as Harry Houdini).

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

What would Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) have done to celebrate his birthday? It’s safe to say that cupcakes and candles may not have been on the top of his list. But we do know from Houdini’s biographer, Kenneth Silverman, that the great magician and escape artist often visited the gravesite of his beloved mother, Cecilia Weiss, at the Jewish Machpelah Cemetery, in Queens, New York on his birthday and hers. Houdini adored his mother. He stipulated that he be buried at Machpelah, too, with a pillow of letters from his mother under his head. The novelist E. L. Doctorow has called Houdini “one of the last great mother lovers.” Houdini’s devotional relationship to his mother is one fascinating facet of his famous persona. While Mrs. Weiss is buried in the Houdini family plot, Bess Rahner Houdini (1875-1943), his wife who was Catholic, was not permitted burial there.

Click to continue »