Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ehrich Weiss book pulls a Houdini

An 1856 edition of The Confessions by J.J. Rousseau inscribed by its owner "Ehrich Weiss" magically blew past its estimate of $1,000-1,200 and sold for a healthy $13,800 (including the 15% buyers premium) in today's Haversat & Ewing Galleries magic auction. The buyer's ID name was "Copperfield", which is either someone being cute, or it really was the magic man (he did win most of the high-end lots).


It's pretty rare to see an Ehrich Weiss signature of any kind come up for auction. What's especially interesting here is the date of 1893. This is two years into his professional career as "Harry Houdini", yet he still thinks of himself as Ehrich Weiss. Perhaps the act of getting married the following year was what finally made him shed his boyhood name.

Overall, the Houdini items did extremely well, with most selling for well above their estimates. The Houdini Bible fetched $6,238. A Houdini lock pick unlocked $3,018. A letter that mentions H.P. Lovecraft went for $2,817. A rare Dutch advertising card sold for $2,213. A pair of leg-irons grabbed $2,415. (All prices include the 15% buyers premium.)

The lot that I was after (but didn't win) was a Souvenir Program from Houdini's 3 Shows In One. While these aren't particularly rare (and there was a nice reproduction done by Lee Jacobs in 1979) what drew me to this program were the words: "Coast to Coast Tour - Season 1926-27" on the cover. I don't recall ever seeing this on one of these programs before. The fact that Houdini's second season was to be a "coast to coast tour" (his first season didn't travel beyond Illinois) is also a new piece of information to me. Presumably, this would have meant a stop in Los Angeles, which would have been his first appearance in LA since 1923. I wonder what theater he would have played?

Congrats to all the winners, and to Haversat & Ewing for another successful magic auction.

Related:

18 comments:

  1. I used to have that final season souvenir program. It had belonged to Joe Hayman. What does Houdini having this book as an 19 year, old the Confessions by Rousseau, tell us about him? When did he legally change his name?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That program belonged to Joe Hayman??? Man, had I know that, I would have keep bidding. Drat.

      Delete
  2. The price of the Houdini Bible dropped considerably from the last time it went to auction by $17,762. That's a lot. My guess is there was a heated battle for that $24,000 copy, and the winner didn't need a second copy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ehrich reading Rousseau at 19 and signing his name in elegant Palmer script tells me his education was a lot better than we've been led to believe - a voracious reader from early on, despite the lack of formal schooling.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His spelling and grammar problems certainly show his stunted formal eduction (or maybe, like a lot of creative people, he had some level of dyslexia?). But he does appear to have continued to educate himself through reading. I expect his father encouraged this. I always think of the dedication to his father in Unmasking: "Who instilled in me a love of study…"

      Delete
  4. And get this, here is the opening line of Rousseau's autobiography: "I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent, and which, once complete, will have no imitator."

    Does that sound familiar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, my, that is awesome. You might have just discovered the key Houdini there, Leo. :)

      Delete
  5. I have always been impressed by Houdini's beautiful handwriting.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As Patrick asked, what does this book tell us? Well, it tells me that Houdini's approach to his life and his magic went deeper than Robert-Houdin.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very cool. I always thought from reading Houdini's actual writings that he couldn't have been as spottily educated as most biographies claimed, and this proves it. How many nineteen-year-olds then or now go around reading Rousseau unless they have to? And I agree with you, Mr. Culliton, that he did have beautiful handwriting.

    On a related note, does anyone know what happened to the family tenement on E 69th street after Mrs. Weiss moved into 278? Out of curiosity I looked it up an Google maps, and all that came up was an alley between two row-houses.

    -Meredith



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is this a new address? Silverman has the family at 227 East 75th St., which I visited HERE. This was probably a later residence.

      Delete
    2. According to Milbourne Christopher in "Houdini: The Untold Story", as a young boy Houdini found them the 75th St. address, where in Houdini's own words "We lived there, I mean starved there, several years," after-which they moved to E 69th St., which Christopher says was "home for many years to come."

      -Meredith

      Delete
    3. There we go. Thanks, Meredith.

      Delete
    4. Ah! The photo in my story that I linked to is actually E 69th, not E 75th St. Fixed.

      Delete
  8. Handwriting was greatly emphasized back in those days. My dad did not have a long formal education but his handwriting was unreal. He always said back in his day kids were taught to have perfect handwriting skills as a very high priority.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Houdini's handwriting in this book looks nice, but other examples, from notes and letters looks like chicken scratch to me. Perhaps deep down he knew this and preferred to use a portable typewriter?

    In a handwritten letter to Houdini, William Robinson a.k.a. Chung Ling Soo noted that typewritten letters to friends were cold and impersonal.

    ReplyDelete

Translate

Receive updates via email