||The Harry Houdini Papers are arranged into eight series: I. Houdini's Act, 1907-circa
1920s, undated; II. Correspondence, circa 1800s-1926, undated; III. Writings,
1894-1926, undated; IV. Promotional Material, 1894-1926, undated; V. Photographs,
1900-circa 1920s; VI. Personal and Professional, 1903-1927, undated; VII. Film
Career, 1919-1925; VIII. Collected Material, circa 1641-circa 1930s, undated.
Houdini was a prolific collector of material related to magic, performance, theatre,
and other topics. The bulk of the papers consist of this collected material.
||The Houdini Papers were housed in the University of Texas Main Building tower when
caught on fire on August 10, 1965. Some items were indirectly affected by the
smoke, and water used to distinguish the fire. As a result, a large portion of
material—particularly correspondence—has water damage. The ink on letters is smeared
and has migrated to other pages making some letters difficult to read. Other items,
such as photographs were ruined or have adhered to other photographs or papers.
documents have the appearance of dirt or soot. Though the Ransom Center Conservation
Department cleaned such items, some are stained. Because of this associated damage,
some photographs and other documents are restricted from use, but they are still
listed in the container list.
||There are many duplicate publications, playbills, and photographs in the papers. For
preservation and paging purposes, three copies were maintained in the body of
collection and the remainder are housed separately in the "Duplicate Material"
boxes. In cases where duplicate material was removed, the appropriate "duplicate
box" number is also listed in the container list. For example, the Houdini Exposes the Tricks Used by the Boston Medium "Margery"
to win the $2500 prize offered by the Scientific American is listed as
being in box 11.18 and box D2. The duplicate material is restricted; however,
researchers may contact the Performing Arts curator for permission to access these
||Series I. Houdini's Act, 1907-circa 1920s, undated (0.5 box, 2 note boxes) contains a few items associated with Harry Houdini's performances. It is difficult to determine the intent, purpose, or authorship of the notes about magic tricks and the drawing of a swing apparatus in this series. It is unclear if these were illusions used, considered, or studied by Houdini. Of particular interest are the glass lantern slides Houdini used to illustrate his spiritualism lectures between 1923 and 1926. Houdini had the slides especially made by the Standard Slide Company in New York and many of the images used on the slides were taken from Houdini's extensive collection of engravings and photographs. Special permission from the Curator of Performing Arts, plus advance notice, is required to access the glass lantern slides and the artifacts. To make an appointment, please email Reference.
||Series II. Correspondence, circa 1800s-1926, undated (7.5 boxes) is further arranged
into three subseries: A. Letters to Houdini, B. Letters from Houdini, and C.
Third-Party Letters. Subseries A. Letters to Houdini includes letters, telegrams,
and postcards from world-famous, local, and amateur magicians from all over the
world, as well as retired magicians, magic suppliers, and other performers. These
letters reveal a great deal about Houdini and his interests, his feuds, his
friendships, his frequent generosity, and the history of magic. Very often Houdini
corresponded with relatives of deceased magicians to learn more about their career
or to add playbills or other memorabilia to his extensive magic collection. Of
interest regarding Houdini's rare books and manuscripts collection are letters
theatre impresario Quincy Kilby, who was a significant source of Houdini's theatre
||The letters are in alphabetical order, most often by the name used in the signature;
which may be either a given name or a stage name. Because magicians often use
researchers should look in the container list under all names used by a performer.
In most cases, there is only one or two letters and many are in languages other
English, primarily German or French. There are several correspondents with a large
volume of letters, including: Ernst Basch, Dr. Walford Bodie, Birchet "Kit" Clarke,
T. Nelson Downs, Henry Ridgely Evans, Robert Evans (nephew of Henry Evans Evanion),
Ottokar Fischer, Marie Frikell (widow of Wiljalba Frikell), Professor Hoffman,
Quincy Kilby, Robert Kudarz, Alexandra Nicholas (Eleanor Bishop), Edwin Fay Rice,
William Ellsworth Robinson (Chung Ling Soo), Augustus Roterberg, Alex Weyer, A.
Wilson, and M. M. Wood. Any enclosures such as programs, clippings, and photographs
are included with the correspondence. In a few instances, a file may also include
carbon copies of the outgoing letters written by Houdini, but for the most part,
few outgoing letters that exist in the papers are in Subseries B. Letters from
||The relatively few letters addressed to Houdini's magazine Conjurers' Monthly Magazine are also included in this series. The
subject of the letters include subscription requests, advertisements for the barter
and exchange column, comments on the magazine, article submissions, general magic
happenings, as well as comments regarding Houdini's books. Some letters include
typed comments which served as internal memos between Houdini and his brother
Weiss who assisted with the magazine.
||Subseries B. Letters from Houdini includes letters as well as "love notes" that
Houdini sent or left for his wife Bess. Addressing Bess as "My sweet little wife"
"My dear little popsy wopsy" or "My darling baby," Houdini's letters and notes
reveal a very intimate glimpse into their marriage. In a revealing letter dated
January 1, 1918, Houdini provides "just a few important instructions, after our
conversation, in case I die first" wherein Houdini advises Bess in the event that
she once again enter "the 'bonds' of wedlock" that she should protect herself
make the suitor sign away his marriage rights, otherwise "they will have half
everything I worked and slaved for, suffered and went hungry and sleepless nights
earn." Houdini re-read this letter in June 1918, February 1921, and May 1926 and
noted that he still agreed with the content of the letter.
||After Houdini's death, Bess annotated some letters such as the June 1924 telegram
where she stated that Houdini sent her "hundreds of wires" and added "my letters
wires will form a pillow for my head when I join my beloved." The folder of undated
notes includes quick jottings Houdini left for Bess. On one such note, Bess
described them, "Every morning I would find a dear little message like these,
||The few outgoing letters are regarding various topics including a segment of letters
about a manuscript by Professor Hoffmann (Angelo Lewis) that Houdini was helping
published, a letter to Dr. Leo Weiss about publishing an illusion by M. M. Wood
the Conjurers' Monthly Magazine, and copies of
letters Houdini sent to newspaper editors in 1912 regarding an advertisement he
wanted published while also asking them to "please read it over carefully, to
that there is nothing libelous in same."
||Subseries C. Third-Party Letters includes letters sent to Bess from friends, letters
sent to Houdini's brother Theo "Dash" Weiss from other magicians and associates,
letter sent to Houdini's assistant Franz Kukol, and a letter from Houdini's brother
Leo to an unidentified woman (possibly his wife). The letters to Theo Weiss from
and Felix Berol discuss property lots Houdini had considered purchasing. Houdini
Theo were helping Henry Evans Evanion's widow, Mary, secure a pension and letters
with her demonstrate that effort. The other letters provide details about
performances and magic gossip; particularly the letters with Albert Hill.
||Series III. Writings, circa 1894-1926, undated (3 boxes) is arranged into four
subseries: A. Magician Research and Notes, B. Book-Length Works, C. Unidentified
Manuscripts, and D. Published Works by Houdini. Houdini wrote about magic and
magicians throughout his entire career and published six books. Additionally,
published articles in popular publications and, as editor, he was a frequent
contributor to the Society of American Magician's monthly newsletter M.U.M. He also wrote numerous pieces for his short-lived
magazine Conjurers' Monthly Magazine. As a result, he
spent a lifetime accumulating notes, gathering research, and collecting material
support of his writings.
||Subseries A. Magician Research and Notes includes assorted notes about different
magicians and illusionists. In many cases, the notes extend to one or more typed
pages with the subject clearly listed. In other cases, the notes are jottings
written on scraps of paper, the back of envelopes, and anything at hand. Often,
is difficult to identify the magician who is the subject of the note. As a result,
it is difficult to determine if certain notes were used and to what end; however,
many appear to have been used in The Unmasking of
Robert-Houdin (1908). When the subject of the note could be identified,
it is filed alphabetically; however, there are three folders which are in no
identified order. The "interviews and other typed notes" folder contains more
formalized notes regarding plans for a book; for example, a list of magicians
should be included. The interview notes are summaries of biographical information
either gleaned directly from the magician himself or from a third-party, such
assistant or contemporary magician. The assorted notes are either unidentified
there is more than one name listed on the note. The "filing notes" provide
directions to where something may be filed within Houdini's original filing system.
For example, one note says, "Gun trick, see Mathews."
||Though Houdini published six books, there is only material associated with A Magician Among the Spirits (1924) and The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin (1908) in Subseries B.
Book-Length Works. The material that is associated with these two books is minimal
and there are no working drafts or complete drafts, but rather small segments
typescript manuscripts and documents related to the end of book production or
marketing. Of interest is the page in folder 10.5 that lists the different locations
where copies of the manuscript were stored for safe-keeping and the two folders
correspondence in which Houdini requested permission to publish from different
authors and publications. It is clear that Houdini envisioned a revised edition
some point, as he went through the published edition and made extensive corrections
directly in the text, glued in small sheets of paper for longer corrections, and
even longer corrections, he laid in entire sheets of paper. Houdini gave this
corrected version to Head of Production at Harper and Brothers, Arthur W. Rushmore,
for safekeeping. A revealing note written on the flyleaf by Rushmore states, "This
volume, with changes by the author was given me by Houdini to be held for any
subsequent edition. He considered himself in constant danger because of his
investigations and wanted this volume where it would be safe. It was never reprinted
and these ms. changes are the only copy in existence."
||The notes, fragments, and drafts filed with the material for The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin was not originally identified and
associated with this publication. After comparing passages from the typed
manuscripts and the published text, it is highly likely that these pages are
associated and therefore have been filed under this title. The working draft titled
"Robert Houdin" in folder 11.2 is an incomplete draft and also includes clippings
and illustrations from Houdini's magic collection that were considered for the
||Subseries C. Unidentified Manuscripts is comprised of writings, some with titles,
of which the purpose and intent is unknown. Because Houdini contributed to many
publications, it is likely they were published somewhere, but this is unable to
||Subseries D. Published Works by Houdini includes printed advertisements, articles,
letters to editors, pamphlets, and short stories. There are no drafts for any
these works, only these printed versions. The articles related to magic and
spiritualism are arranged by the name of the publication.
||The few advertisement clippings are paid ads that appeared in the entertainment
columns in newspapers promoting Houdini's appearances at different venues, such
the London Hippodrome.
||The pamphlets and booklets are in alphabetical order by title and range in date from
circa 1884-1885 to 1924. All of these appear to be either written by Houdini or
commissioned by him, as most are promotional in nature. There are two editions
Harry Houdini The Adventurous Life of a Versatile
Artist; printed in 1910 and updated in 1922, with a 1923 letter from a
publisher suggesting future editions. As the title suggests, the 63-page booklet
details all of Houdini's successes to that point, while boastfully claiming "Even
the salary of the President of the United States is a small item beside Houdini's
earning per anum."
||According to a note handwritten on it by Houdini in 1921, Mysterious Harry Houdini - Tricks Requiring No Practice or Special
Apparatus was his first "book" printed in Chicago sometime around 1894
or 1895. This, along with Magic Made Easy by Professor
Houdini, are the oldest items documenting Houdini's earliest attempt to
make a living in magic. Going by Professor Harry Houdini, the 25 cent booklet
advertises tricks, techniques, and personal instruction, as well as trading in
apparatus or books at Harry Houdini's School of Magic located at 221 E. 69th Street
in New York City. These are very rare and extremely fragile. Magic Made Easy by Professor Houdini, King of Cards and Handcuffs is
too fragile for handling; therefore, it has been digitized and a copy is available
||Series IV. Promotional Material, 1894-1926, undated (2.5 boxes) is divided into four
subseries: A. Printed Material and Ephemera, B. Posters, C. Clippings, and D.
Publications about Houdini. Considering Houdini's near forty-year career, there
relatively few handbills, playbills, or programs documenting Houdini's performances.
Subseries A. Printed Material and Ephemera contains bills divided between escape
challenges and Houdini's other performances. The challenge handbills give details
about contests issued by individuals and groups inviting Houdini to attempt to
remove himself from restraints such as straitjackets, handcuffs, manacles, sea
wooden packing cases, and even in front of a loaded canon. The general performance
handbills, playbills, and programs date from 1900 to 1926 and advertise Houdini's
overboard box escapes, spiritualism lectures, charity benefits, as well as other
performances. Each of these is listed individually in the container list.
||Subseries B. Posters includes over forty publicity posters and broadsides advertising
Houdini's appearances in cities throughout the world. The posters are in
alphabetical order either by venue name or by the text most prominent on the poster.
The earliest poster is dated 1894 when Professor Houdini performed at the Globe
Museum in New York City's Bowery. An undated poster, possibly from 1897, advertising
"Spiritualistic Entertainment" performed by Professor Houdini and the rare billing
of Mademoiselle Beatrice Houdini, a "psycometric artist," performing the "greatest
séance ever introduced in America" documents the Houdinis own foray into
spiritualism. The bulk of the posters are from Houdini's 1920 tour of Great Britain
when he played at the chain of Empire, Hippodrome, and Pavilion theatres. Many
posters are digitized and are available via the Ransom Center's Digital Collections
Portal and are so noted in the container list by a camera icon.
||In Subseries C. there are numerous clippings documenting the publicity Houdini
received beginning in 1896 to after his death in 1926, with a few clippings dating
from 1927 to 1943; the year Bess Houdini died. Messmore Kendall purchased the
Houdini papers from Bess in June 1927 and very likely continued to add clippings
related to Houdini. Most of the clippings are brittle and very fragile.
||Series V. Photographs, 1900-circa 1920s (1 box) includes promotional portraits,
family portraits, casual snapshots with magicians and other entertainers, as well
Houdini's spiritualism exposé evidence photos with Bess and Oscar Teale
demonstrating the methods used by self-proclaimed mediums.
||Series VI. Personal and Professional, 1903-1927, undated (1.5 boxes) comprises
documents and ephemera related to Houdini's personal life and interests. The most
personal are the few diary pages that exist in the papers. The page dated February
15, 1915, communicates Houdini's final wishes for the disposition of his mother's
letters to him and two personal letters; one to his mother before his marriage
love letter from Bess. He asks that a pillow be made of them and it is to be buried
with him. As with the letter to Bess regarding her marrying after his death, he
reviewed the note on three later occasions. At some point, he handwrote at the
"in case letters are not found until after I am buried, please burn [underlined
twice] them" signed Houdini, Ehrich Weiss. A note dated 1917 details Houdini's
to Colonel T. Allston Brown and in 1918, a visit to his coffin. The two other
entries were removed from an actual diary book and it is Bess Houdini's notes
are the most significant. On June 22nd 1926, Houdini wrote on the day of their
wedding anniversary, that it was raining and they couldn't travel to Coney Island.
few months later in December 1926, Bess added the details of that last anniversary
together and that her "heart is breaking. I need my dear one's strong arms about
to help me." On June 22, 1927, Bess reflected on the above entry, "My first
anniversary alone. I am desolate. H. Cohen called. Had my treatment." The other
journal entry of January 8, 1927 is pasted to the back of one of Houdini's little
notes he left every morning for Bess.
||The rare books and manuscript catalogs and receipts give a small sense of Houdini's
varied collecting interests, which included magic, the supernatural, the theatre,
and Americana. The complete catalogs include booksellers such as Frank Hollings.
Suckling & Co., Dunster House Bookshop, Thomas F. Madigan, George A. Van
Nosdall, and Maggs Brothers. The lists, notes, and clippings include fragments
removed from catalogs highlighting a single item and perhaps sent to Houdini by
others. There are many handwritten and typed notes, made by Houdini, his librarian
Alfred Becks (noted by his initials), or other assistants who worked on his
collection. One listing for the Joseph N. Ireland records has several annotations
Houdini. The clippings and articles are regarding rare books and manuscripts
generally. There are less than ten invoices and receipts for rare books and
documents Houdini purchased, including David Garrick's travel diary to France
1751, Edmund Kean correspondence, Scot's 1584 Discoverie of Witchcraft as well
engraved prints, playbills, and programs which are held in other collections at
||Houdini's tumultuous relationship with the Society of American Magicians is reflected
in the material he retained, as most of it dates from his tenure as President,
a few items predating his resignation in 1908. There is almost a complete run
Society's member newsletter, M.U.M., but there are
several years that are missing issues. Additionally, there are three typed
manuscripts by Kit Clarke and one by C. Fred Crosby that were published in the
||Series VII. Film Career, 1919-1925 (4.5 boxes) includes documents and ephemera
associated with Houdini's involvement with Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, his
Film Developing Corporation (FDC) / Weehawken Street Corporation, Houdini Picture
Corporation, Mystery Pictures Corporation, and Octagon Film Corporation. This
is arranged alphabetically by company name and then within each company either
film title or by subject.
||Famous Players-Lasky Corporation produced The Grim
Game (1919) and Terror Island (1920)
starring Harry Houdini. As his role was limited to acting, there is only promotional
material including film stills, a title card (which was used by Houdini as a file
divider), and advertisements.
||Houdini's earliest venture in film production was his Film Developing Corporation
(FDC) / Weehawken Street Corporation, which was founded by Houdini and a group
investors in 1921 and dissolved in 1925. Financial statements, correspondence
his lawyer Bernard Ernst and accountant George M. Sachs, a mortgage contract,
tax documents dating from 1920 to 1925 are included.
||Despite Houdini owning Houdini Picture Corporation and having written, produced, and
acted in its only two films, The Man From Beyond
(1921) and Haldane of the Secret Service (1923),
these films are represented in the collection with promotional material only.
are film stills and publicity shots for Haldane of the Secret Service. The range
promotional material is more extensive for The Man From
Beyond and includes press kits, lobby cards, promotional posters, and
newspaper mat molds. Many posters have been digitized and are available via the
Ransom Center's Digital Collections Portal and are so noted in the container list
a camera icon. In addition, there are three silent film title cards and limited
||Mystery Pictures Corporation was a foreign film distribution company and
interestingly contains the broadest volume of material associated with Houdini's
film projects. The primary project undertaken by Mystery Pictures Company was
American adaptation of the original Italian film, Il Mistero
Di Osiris, produced by VeraFilm Roma. The business and administrative
files are in alphabetical order by Houdini's original folder title, noted in the
container list with single quotation marks. In cases where no original title
existed, one was supplied by the archivist. Many of these files contain
correspondence regarding intellectual property and legal issues, as well as invoices
and receipts. Related to the creative aspect of the film, which had several names
including Ashes of Passion, Reincarnation, Il Mistero Di Osiris, and the final
Il Mistero Di Osiris or The Mystery of the Jewel
(Talisman), are adaptations beginning with an original play script by
Agnes Fletcher Baine, the Italian script with English translations, and the Mystery
Pictures Corporation story and script.
||Houdini signed a contract with Octagon Film Corporation to appear in a 15-part
mystery serial called The Master Mystery. It was
released in 1919 and each installment had its own title. The papers include the
scripts for all but one of the fifteen episodes and 23 silent film title cards.
||Series VIII. Collected Material, circa 1641-circa 1930s, undated (53 boxes) forms
bulk of the papers and it is further arranged into ten subseries: A. Magician
Entertainer Files; B. Subject Files; C. Robert Evans Material; D. Autographs and
Letters; E. Manuscripts; F. Photographs, Engravings, Prints; G. Scrapbooks; H.
Posters; I. Periodicals; J. Publications and Printed Material, and K. Artifacts.
||Subseries A. Magician and Entertainer Files is in alphabetical order by name; which
may be either a given name or a stage name. Because magicians often use both,
researchers should look in the container list under all names used by a performer.
The performers reflect Houdini's broad collecting interests and he amassed files
about all categories of entertainers, or people associated with the entertainment
business, including ventriloquists, acrobats, spiritualists, mind readers, escape
artists, jugglers, clowns, and of course, magicians. Very often, there may be
one item, or in some cases, there may be multiple folders for an individual. For
most part, this material was already arranged in alphabetical order. It is unclear
if this was the filing system used by Houdini or was imposed by the Ransom Center
between the 1960s and the 1990s. Since that could not be determined, the arrangement
||An explanation of format terms used in the finding aid:
Article-long form narrative; usually removed from
a magazine or journal
Broadside-single sheet advertisement; mostly text
Business brochure-single sheet folded in half
with program of services offered, etc. and without actual performance dates
Cabinet card portrait-card photographs, generally
portraits, which measure 4 1/4 by 6 1/2 inches, including the mount
Calling card-small card, similar to a business
card, but bearing only a name
Carte de visite portrait-small-format photographs
affixed to card stock, typically portraits, and the image was a standard
size of 3 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches
Chapbook-small books or pamphlets, usually
Clipping-short narrative usually removed from a
Handbill-small printed advertisement, often with
only one performer listed; intended to be distributed by hand
Letterhead-only the portion of the stationery
with the design; usually has been cut from an actual letter
Magic trick descriptions-includes typed
manuscripts, clippings removed from publications, printed and published
Playbill-often skinny and long, sometimes large,
printed advertisement; usually with a bill of multiple performers or cast;
intended to be hung as an advertisement
Printed advertisement-not a playbill or handbill;
usually a decorative and colorful design
Stationery-blank sheets of personalized
stationery; often very elaborate designs, in multiple colors, and featuring
drawings or photographs of the performer
Tear sheets-Sheets torn from a publication,
usually to send as proof of inclusion
Tintype photograph-photographs produced directly
on lacquered metal, usually iron
||Of interest are the files belonging to the Sphinx
editor A. M. Wilson. The material dates between 1904 and 1923 and is primarily
incoming correspondence from magicians and magazine subscribers. There are some
letters from his son, Dyke, and letters related to his medical and pharmaceutical
practice. Included is a small amount of manuscripts submitted by readers for
inclusion in the magazine, clippings, playbills and business cards sent by
magicians, and magical apparatus suppliers. Writings by A. M. Wilson for his column,
Sphinx advertisements, and an issue of the Sphinx is also present. It is unclear how Houdini
acquired these materials.
||Subseries B. Subject Files contains advertisements, articles, broadsides, brochures,
business cards, catalogs, clippings, engravings, handbills, letters, manuscripts,
notes, pamphlets, photographs, playbills, postcards, scrapbook pages, scrapbooks,
sheet music, and sketches collected by Houdini on very broad subjects pertaining
magic, the occult, spiritualism, and performance, as well as unrelated topics
as crime, medicine, science, the city of New York, mothers, museums, fairs, weather,
and animals. Most of these files include clippings from British periodicals sent
Houdini by Robert Evans (his initials are frequently present, as well as broad
subject terms he provided). The nature of this relationship is unclear, as is
whether Houdini requested Evans send him material on various subjects; or, if
knowing Houdini as he did, sent him material on a variety of subjects that he
would interest Houdini. For the most part, this material was already arranged
alphabetical order by subject. It is unclear if this was the filing system and/or
the terms used by Houdini; however, in some instances, a Houdini envelope is present
with a term (such as Fairs) handwritten on it. In those cases, the term is
maintained and is so noted by single quotations in the container list. It is unclear
if the rest of the arrangement was imposed by the Ransom Center between the 1960s
and the 1990s. Since that could not be determined, the arrangement is
||There are several subject files which are particularly interesting; not necessarily
for what they include, but for the subject matter. The "mothers" file for example,
no doubt reflects the deep affection and connection Houdini felt for his mother,
he described as one of only two women he ever loved.
||Houdini is said to have had a fascination with death and there are several items in
the papers that appear to reflect that. The "Chinese torture" file includes
photographs sent to him by E. A. Dean. The "crime" files contain a photograph
two clippings about Garfield Burley and Curtis Brown, who were lynched by a mob
Newbern, Tennessee, on October 8, 1902. Also of interest are the large volume
British criminal broadsheets. These single sheet publications date from the 1678
1875 and detail the week's most heinous murders and included confessions, trials,
verdicts, and sentences. Often, following the execution, another sheet was printed
with an eyewitness account of the execution itself. Many of these sheets are
ballads. Printers include Birt, Catnach, Disley, and Rial.
||The file titled "indigenous peoples" was ascribed by the Ransom Center and includes
tintype drawings of people native to all continents—particularly Africa, South
America and Asia—as well as sample cranial structures. Many of these are labeled.
The intent and purpose of these is unclear.
||There are several folders of uncategorized Robert Evans clippings, which are
organized broadly by century and people and places.
||Subseries C. Robert Evans Material contains notes and notebooks sent to Houdini from
Henry Evans Evanion's nephew. The notebooks appear to be handwritten transcriptions
of portions—or in some cases—entire works published between the 17th and 19th
centuries. The notes are likewise copied excerpts from various published sources.
Again, it is unclear if Evans served as Houdini's proxy researcher and requested
this of Evans; or, if Evans engaged in this on his own.
||Subseries D. Autographs and Letters includes single signatures removed from
correspondence or actual autographs, but most of this series is comprised of letters
Houdini purchased. The letters date from the 1700s to 1901 and are arranged first
letter volume: single letters, multiple letters to or from the same recipient,
letter collections; then alphabetically by name. Many of the single and multiple
letters are from people associated with the theatre or some other creative pursuit,
but not magicians. There are three large letter collections: Colonel Robert G.
Ingersoll, James Northcote, and William Frederick Wallet.
||Robert G. Ingersoll was an attorney, orator, and an anti-spiritualist. It is likely
for this last characteristic that Houdini collected this material. It is made
original outgoing letters from Ingersoll to various recipients from 1872 to 1899.
There are also various documents associated with Ingersoll and third-party
correspondence from members of the Illinois legislature to Present-Elect Ulysses
Grant recommending Ingersoll for the position of U.S. District Attorney for the
Northern District of Illinois. There is also an 1801 letter from Jared Ingersoll,
delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the United States Constitution,
to John Sleet. The original dealer folders are included for many of the letters.
These letter are included in the Index of Correspondents.
||James Northcote was an English painter who specialized in portraits and historical
events. These letters were received by Northcote and sent from family, prominent
people, and some third-party correspondence where Northcote is mentioned.
Originally, these were bound into two volumes, but were removed by the Ransom
sometime between 1960 and 1990. Houdini typed an annotation regarding Northcote
the nature of the letters which he signed and attached inside the volume boards.
first folder contains a photocopy of this note preventing the need to open the
containing the original binding and boards. These letter are included in this
finding aid's Index of Correspondents, but many of the names are not identified.
||William Frederick Wallet was a popular circus clown who performed before Queen
Victoria in 1844, after which he referred to himself as the Queen's Jester. The
letters date from 1883 to 1890 and are from Wallet to Thomas Gibbons. They are
attached to paper gatherings which at one point likely formed an album. Pages
include clippings, programs, photographs, a letter and poem by Edwin Waugh, a
by George Byrne, a letter from D. A. Seal, a letter from J. L. Toole, and a letter
from John A. Dingess. These letter are included in the Index of Correspondents.
||Subseries E. Manuscripts includes handwritten documents and fiction and nonfiction
writings. Many of these are unidentified and why Houdini collected them is unclear.
The German "Anthropometrischer Congress zu Berlin" may be associated with the
indigenous tintypes located in box 72.
||Subseries F. Photographs, Engravings, and Prints is a general category comprised of
visual materials that are either unidentified or defy easy categorization. Included
is one photo album, possibly from the late 1890s, containing travel snapshots
wherein the people and location are unidentified. Based on an image of the ship
Saratoga present in the album and the nature of
the photos, it is likely Cuba. The album may have belonged to a friend, or because
of Houdini's varied interests and collecting habits, it may be something he
||Subseries G. Scrapbooks includes twelve scrapbooks; at least six of which were
assembled by other magicians including Professor Baldwin, Herr Alexander, Professor
Helms, Dante the Magician, and Dr. Merlin. These scrapbooks include clippings,
playbills, programs, and photographs documenting the careers of their previous
owners, and often contain material about other magicians. The other scrapbooks
loose and specific themes such as magic, magicians, spiritualism, snake charmers,
and other illusionists. Some of these scrapbooks are digitized and are available
the Ransom Center's Digital Collections Portal and are so noted in the container
list by a camera icon. Bound volume one is a large scrapbook containing letters
movie fans from around the world and addressed to Houdini care of Famous
Players-Lasky. The letters date from 1920 to 1922 and are organized alphabetically
by country name. The construction of the scrapbook includes pages in which each
covered with envelopes containing the folded letter. The scrapbook itself is made
brittle paper and the weight of each page bearing the envelopes and letters makes
impossible to use, so it is restricted.
||Subseries H. Posters includes four posters; only one of which is related to magic.
There are two 1912 posters for the convict ship Success which was on display in London. Houdini would later perform an
escape from one of her cells while the ship was on display in New York harbor
||Subseries I. Periodicals contains almost sixty titles and ranges from single to
multiple issues, as well as portions of an issue. Most topics relate to magic,
spiritualism, or entertainment more broadly. The British encyclopedic periodicals
such as the Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and
Instruction and the Gentleman's Magazine
were sent to Houdini by Robert Evans; many of these were still wrapped in string
into parcels by year. Red Magic was a Sunday
supplement geared toward children that printed tricks, jokes, riddles, and optical
illusions. It was put out by the New York World and
Houdini was listed as the Editor; though he probably had very little hands-on
involvement with selecting the material. This and other periodicals dating from
1920s were almost all printed on paper that has become brittle and is too fragile
use. Many of these titles are restricted, as noted in the container list.
||Subseries J. Publications and Printed Material includes published books, booklets,
map, and single sheet items. Many are related to magic or history.
||Subseries K. Artifacts includes magic apparata, a Houdini picture frame, and two decks of playing cards. The provenance of the cards and magic apparata is unclear and may not have belonged personally to Houdini. Special permission from the Curator of Performing Arts, plus advance notice, is required to access the artifacts and picture frame. To make an appointment, please email Reference.