Lot 455: A decorative tea canister, manufactured by Parnail & Son Bristol, painted to advertise "The great Hardeen. King of Jail Breakers. Brother of Houdini. Grand Tour of Britain 1905. Never before witnesses acts of Death- Defying Mystery", 91cm high. Estimate: 200 - 300 GBP.
I've never seen something like this. It's interesting. But is it really from 1905? If so, there are aspects that I find perplexing.
First off, "The Great" is not billing that was typically used by either Houdini or Hardeen during their careers (I've actually never seen Hardeen use this, and I've only seen it on a handful of Houdini newspaper ads). It's more common to see King of Handcuffs, Monarch of Manacles, or Hardeen The Mysterious on his advertising.
It's also unusual to see "Brother of Houdini" at this time. It's not unheard of, but the family connection was not generally known in these early days. It was only after Houdini died that Hardeen really exploited the "Brother of Houdini" billing.
Finally, the bottom of the can promises "Never before Witnessed acts of Death-Defying Mystery." But what exactly would Hardeen doing in 1905 that would be considered Death-Defying? This was still the days of the challenge handcuff act and Metamorphosis. The expression "Death-Defying Mystery" arrived with the Milk Can escape in 1908. Of course, Hardeen did bridge jumps, so those could be the death-defying feats referred to here. But like "Brother of Houdini," it's odd to see this specific wording from a later poster used on a piece of advertising that purports to be from 1905.
On the plus side, "King of Jail Breakers" is accurate to the period and Hardeen was in England in 1905.
So what do we think? Is this tea canister really from Hardeen's time? Or is it a later nostalgic recreation?
Thanks to Chuck Romano at My Magic Uncle for finding this one.