Houdiniana & Magic Memorabilia
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HOUDINI, Harry. Earliest Known Photograph of Harry Houdini Presenting the Metamorphosis. New York: Feinberg, ca. 1892/3. Full-length albumen portrait of Harry and Theo Weiss, later Harry Houdini Theo Hardeen, presenting the first stage of Houdini’s reputation-making trunk trick, the Metamorphosis. Theo stands next to Harry, who is partially obscured by a cloth sack into which Theo is tying him. Printed photographer’s mount, 6 ½ x 4 ¼”. Corners clipped, chip into right side of image. Believed to be the first known photograph of Houdini and his brother presenting a magic trick. A rare and possibly unique example of this historically significant photograph. Provenance: Steiner family collection, passed to current owner by descent. EARLIEST KNOWN HOUDINI MAGIC PHOTOGRAPH. The “trunk trick” or Metamorphosis illusion, became synonymous with Houdini and his unimaginable feats of escape. The effect combined speed and skill in a dazzling yet simple effect. One performer secured in a canvas bag (as shown here) was then locked inside a wooden packing crate. The second performer – Houdini – then brought a curtain around the trunk, and, on the count of “one-two-three” ducked behind the curtain which immediately opened again to reveal Hardeen in his place. When the trunk was unlocked, Houdini was found inside the bag where his brother had been secured only moments before. It was a startling change – a transformation, in some eyes – that always brought gasps of astonishment. This image shows the Houdini brothers, as they were known in their earliest days, in knee breeches and at the outset of the trick. It is also interesting to note that they are wearing contrasting clothing, which would make the switch in the illusion all the more obvious to viewers who might not be paying close attention. Both Hardeen and Houdini would present the Metamorphosis throughout their careers as escape artists, and after the brothers parted ways (as performers), Hardeen’s role was filled by Houdini’s wife, Beatrice. Images of Harry and Bess presenting the illusion, as well as posters advertising it for some of their earliest circus and dime museum shows, are widely known and have been widely reproduced. And while photographs of Houdini and Hardeen as young men – in this image, Harry would be eighteen-year-old and Theo just 16 - have been published and come to market in the past, it is believed that this cabinet card is the earliest known image showing the boys presenting a magic trick, and a legendary one at that.
 HOUDINI, Harry. Earliest Known Photograph of Harry Houdini ...
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