Houdini, Harry (1874 – 1926)
‘Did you know I patented the Hand cuff act in Europe’
A rare and important autograph letter signed by Harry Houdini, “Houdini,” one page, both sides, August 2nd, 1900, Dresden, Germany, written to fellow magician Servais Le Roy.
In part: ‘Opened here last night & made good. You ought to see the Handcuffs and irons used in Germany. Here cuffs are used and every station has different cuffs, in fact there are no two alike. I am going to bring some styles back with me and I’ll give you a fine pair. Here is the way they look [sketch of the handcuffs]. Has two spring lock & looks like the lilly iron, the leg irons look like this [sketch]. Did you know I patented the Hand cuff act in Europe. The drawings won’t be published in 9 months. Robinson patented his catching gold fish in the air, and he stopped Hiam from making the trick and Maskeleyne from doing it. The opposition house hired a man from Berlin to expose Hand cuffs and he was closed after his first show. It seems strange people like to see the act exposed. But it does not pay to expose anything.’
In generally fine condition, with chipping along the right edge affecting one word of text. Houdini writes during the first year of his tour through Europe, where he would remain for four years. As alluded to in this letter, he challenged the local police departments of each city he visited to restrain him; Houdini, of course, inevitably escaped and he became famous throughout Europe as the ‘King of Handcuff.’
In addition to discussing his own act here, Houdini touches upon the flourishing illusionist trade, mentioning William Robinson, who performed under the name Chung Ling Soo, and John Nevil Maskelyne, known for his levitation illusion.
An early and truly remarkable Houdini letter boasting ideal magical content.