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Harry Houdini

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Harry Houdini, 1874-1926.  Scarce Typed Letter Signed, Houdini, one page, 5½" x 7", April 4, 1922, on personal stationery.

Houdini cordially invites a New York Daily News cartoonist to be his guest at Houdini's birthday performance—and perhaps does a bit of marketing for his show.  In full:  “I have a birthday Thursday, April 6, and would like to celebrate it by inviting my friends among the cartoonists to the Times Square Theatre and if you can be present Thursday evening I would be ever so much obliged to you.  /  Please give me a ring Bryant 5519 or use the enclosed envelope for as many seats as you would like.  Don't be afraid to ask.  I will consider it a compliment for the favors you have shown me in the past."

This letter highlights an intriguing issue about Houdini's birthday.  Houdini claimed that he was born April 6, 1874, in Appleton, Wisconsin.  Instead, he was born Ehrich Weiss on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary.  His parents, a Jewish rabbi and his wife, moved to Appleton with their family when Houdini was a toddler. 

In Houdini:  The Man Who Walked Through Walls (1959), author William Lindsay Gresham recounts that Hungarian synagogue records described the birth of a boy, Ehrich, to Mayer Samuel Weiss on March 24, 1874.  The book reprints a letter dated November 22, 1913, in which Houdini wrote to his younger brother, Theo, that because his mother always wrote him on April 6, that would be his adopted birthday.  The letter was part of the collection of Theos protégé, Sidney Radner.

The letter is in very good condition, with a fine signature, which Houdini has penned in black.  The fold does not touch the signature.  The letter is evenly toned, with some mounting traces showing through from the back.  A piece of the letter is missing in the upper right corner, but another irregularly shaped piece has been glued to the back of the letter in an apparent attempt to repair it.  The bottom of the letter has been removed, and judging from the color of the paper and what should have been the size of the stationery, it appears that the owner may have used the bottom of the sheet for the repair.  The irregular shape of the backing piece could be matted out of this were framed.   

Given the scarcity of Houdini's letters, which are becoming more difficult to find, this is a quite desirable letter despite the imperfections in it.




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