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Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery.1909.

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Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery.1909.
Item Details
Description
Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery. American, ca. 1909. A heavy and imposing wooden crate with trapezoidal lid. Four heavy locks incorporated into the lid lock it securely to the box, along with hasps for four additional padlocks. In performance, a large metal milk can was lowered into the box and filled with water. The performer stepped into the water-filled can, and its lid was locked securely in place. To further secure the escape artist, assistants next locked the lid of the wooden crate in place. A cloth cabinet was then drawn around the apparatus. Minutes later – long after every spectator in the crowd had run out of breath and patience – the cabinet’s front curtain was pulled aside, and there stood the magician, dripping with water and perspiration, having made his escape. Houdini devised the device offered here after his Milk Can escape, introduced in 1908, gained enough popularity to be copied by other escape artists trading on the “Elusive American’s” fame and reputation. Its method of operation, a cleverly concealed internal mechanism, is likely the forerunner of other more famous escapes Houdini would use with great success later in his career. The box is pictured in a color stone lithograph promoting the feat, and appears in Milbourne Christopher’s book, Houdini: A Pictorial Life (1976), at page 54. In the latter image, Houdini’s brother, Hardeen, is shown performing the routine. The photograph clearly identifies the escape device offered here as being identical to that which Hardeen is pictured in, down to the knots in the wooden walls of the crate. A ring in the bottom of the box (22 ¾” in diameter) shows clearly where the Milk Can was set during performances. Outer dimensions of the box measure 29 ¼ x 29 ¼ x 38 ½”. Upon Houdini’s death, most of his magic apparatus and escape devices were bequeathed to his brother, who spent the next 18 years gifting and selling the material to various magicians and collectors. The person who purchased as much if not more of this material from Hardeen than anyone was a young man from Holyoke, Massachusetts named Sidney Radner. A copy of Hardeen’s advertising brochure which features the Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery is inscribed to Radner as follows: “This is the box escape. How would you like to do it? Not another in the world. H.” See illustration at left. A copy of a letter of provenance from Jack Lawain of Monmouth, Illinois, a well-known dealer in collectible and used magic props and ephemera, is included with the crate. It describes in great detail the device’s provenance and trail of ownership, from Houdini to Hardeen to Lawain, to its most recent owner. In all likelihood, the prop was built to Houdini’s specifications by his trusted assistant, Jim Collins. Includes a later canvas cover for the crate.
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Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery.1909.

Estimate $20,000 - $25,000
Aug 23, 2014
See Sold Price
Starting Price $10,000
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0039: Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery.1909.

Sold for $55,000
33 Bids
Est. $20,000 - $25,000Starting Price $10,000
Houdini Auction: Posters, Handcuffs, Ephemera
Aug 23, 2014 11:00 AM EDT
Buyer's Premium 23%

Lot 0039 Details

Description
...
Houdini’s Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery. American, ca. 1909. A heavy and imposing wooden crate with trapezoidal lid. Four heavy locks incorporated into the lid lock it securely to the box, along with hasps for four additional padlocks. In performance, a large metal milk can was lowered into the box and filled with water. The performer stepped into the water-filled can, and its lid was locked securely in place. To further secure the escape artist, assistants next locked the lid of the wooden crate in place. A cloth cabinet was then drawn around the apparatus. Minutes later – long after every spectator in the crowd had run out of breath and patience – the cabinet’s front curtain was pulled aside, and there stood the magician, dripping with water and perspiration, having made his escape. Houdini devised the device offered here after his Milk Can escape, introduced in 1908, gained enough popularity to be copied by other escape artists trading on the “Elusive American’s” fame and reputation. Its method of operation, a cleverly concealed internal mechanism, is likely the forerunner of other more famous escapes Houdini would use with great success later in his career. The box is pictured in a color stone lithograph promoting the feat, and appears in Milbourne Christopher’s book, Houdini: A Pictorial Life (1976), at page 54. In the latter image, Houdini’s brother, Hardeen, is shown performing the routine. The photograph clearly identifies the escape device offered here as being identical to that which Hardeen is pictured in, down to the knots in the wooden walls of the crate. A ring in the bottom of the box (22 ¾” in diameter) shows clearly where the Milk Can was set during performances. Outer dimensions of the box measure 29 ¼ x 29 ¼ x 38 ½”. Upon Houdini’s death, most of his magic apparatus and escape devices were bequeathed to his brother, who spent the next 18 years gifting and selling the material to various magicians and collectors. The person who purchased as much if not more of this material from Hardeen than anyone was a young man from Holyoke, Massachusetts named Sidney Radner. A copy of Hardeen’s advertising brochure which features the Double Fold Death Defying Water Mystery is inscribed to Radner as follows: “This is the box escape. How would you like to do it? Not another in the world. H.” See illustration at left. A copy of a letter of provenance from Jack Lawain of Monmouth, Illinois, a well-known dealer in collectible and used magic props and ephemera, is included with the crate. It describes in great detail the device’s provenance and trail of ownership, from Houdini to Hardeen to Lawain, to its most recent owner. In all likelihood, the prop was built to Houdini’s specifications by his trusted assistant, Jim Collins. Includes a later canvas cover for the crate.

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