I've often wondered how and when that change occurred? Was it Beck's idea to sideline Bess in the billing? That might have been an awkward conversation, especially as we know Houdini feared Bess's "brainstorms."
But now I've stumbled on an article from the March 15, 1908 Pittsburgh Post Gazette Sun which, incredibly, describes that very conversation. As with other articles that focus on Bess -- "a little brown-haired bit of humanity" -- it's filled with oddities. Houdini introduced her onstage as his sister? But it also features a knockout shot of Bess and their dog Charlie that I've not seen before.
I know the image quality is poor, so I've also excerpted the relevant paragraph below, but the entire article is worth the read if you can.
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"Harry," said the wife one day. "I have never known a act billed as 'Mr. and Mrs.' to succeed. Can you think of one?" He thought awhile and then shook his head in negation. "Well," said she, "suppose you bill yourself just as Houdini and leave me out of it." To make a long story short, the following week, "Mr. and Mrs. Houdini" disappeared from the program and the single word Houdini had taken their place. From that time dates the rising tide of Houdini's fortune.
So is this true? Who knows. Bessie was as much a myth-maker as her husband. Remember the interview in which she talked about her daughter? But it's still a great tidbit.
Check out the links below for more tales from The Houdinis early career.