Saturday, January 23, 2016

The birthday girl will be spectator

Today is Bess Houdini's 140th birthday. To celebrate, here's a terrific clipping from the November 6, 1916 Pittsburgh Daily Post that takes a different approach to promoting a Houdini suspended straitjacket escape. As you can see, the subject is Bess -- "Wife of handcuff king" -- and includes a great photo that I've never seen.

Click to enlarge.

Happy birthday Bess!

8 comments:

  1. HBD Bess! Love that photo.

    I find it interesting that the newspaper reports that: “today will be the first time he has ever attempted to free himself while suspended in the air” which we know is not true.

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    1. I know. That's funny. That's why it's dangerous to rely too much on news stories for HH info.

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  2. This looks like Bess circa early 1900s, right after they hit the big time. She had put on a few pounds by about 1916 but kept if off after that.

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    1. Exactly. I think that's her 1900ish stage costume.

      Bess put on weight? She looked about the same weight to me all her life. I actually don't think she ever made it over 100 pounds. She was a tiny thing.

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  3. I love things like this -- Happy belated birthday, Bess! I've trawled through the newspaper archives myself, and have found several instances of her getting a photo along with a mention and sometimes a full interview. I've often wondered if this was Harry's way of helping her feel less left out, or if the journalist just found her too fascinating to ignore!

    I always thought it was funny that Bess, who always looked so young for her age, even after she put on a bit of weight, was such a worrywart about getting older. In recall in one letter to her in 1924, Harry remonstrated with her for thinking that at 48 and 1/2 she was "old" with a "tush-tush" and "couple of fiddle-de-dees."

    -Meredith

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    1. I think then as now the wife of a daredevil makes for a great story. And she was good at interviews. It was another way to keep Houdini's name in the papers. Like you, I love these Bess stories.

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  4. As evidence in the Dietary Court of Justice, I present Henning's book. On the lower left corner of page 108 is a portrait of HH and Bess and on the next page on the lower right hand corner is a photo of HH and Bess in the lawn of somebody's house. Bess looks to me like she has on a few extra pounds.

    I also agree that she is wearing her stage costume. We can see a photo of Bess in a similar costume on page 39 of the Henning book. She seems to be wearing nicer shoes in the photo above. I suppose we can say that at least one of her stage costumes of choice at the turn of the century was a white frilly type shirt, black knickers with black hose and shoes.

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