Thursday, October 27, 2016

S.A.M. dedicates historic plaque and honors Deborah Hardeen in New York


Yesterday George Schindler, dean of the Society of American Magicians, dedicated a historical plaque at 244 East 79th Street in New York City. The building was once Mrs. Loeffler's boarding house, where the Weiss family first lived when they came to New York. The plaque honors the location as "Home of Harry Houdini 1887." It will be placed on the building's facade sometime this week.

Schindler also presented Houdini family member Deborah Hardeen with a honorary plaque on behalf of the S.A.M. and Sojourn restaurant (which is housed in the historic building and hosted the event). Deborah is the granddaughter of Theo Hardeen. She traveled from Connecticut for the event with her daughter.

Deborah said she grew up hearing stories about Houdini in school, but didn't know she was related until she was 12 years old when she discovered a letter addressed to "Harry Houdini Hardeen" and asked her father to explain. She said her father used to roll a coin across his fingers, a trick he had learned from his own father, Hardeen.


George Schindler also performed the annual Broken Wand Ceremony, which is normally held at the site of Houdini's grave in Queens. United States Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, New York State Senator Liz Krueger and New York State Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright attened the event.

Despite Schindler telling stories about how the young Houdini and Hardeen practiced their magic at the boarding house, it's unclear if the entire Weiss family ever lived there. Current biographies say Ehrich and his father boarded there alone while the rest of the family remained in Milwaukee. The Weiss family later moved into a flat at 305 East 69th Street, which today are modern condos. When Houdini bought his brownstone in Harlem in 1904, it became the new Weiss family home.

As reported earlier, Sojourn will also be the site of Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz "Original Houdini Seance" on Halloween.

You can watch video of the press conference HERE.

Photos from DNAinfo and MentalFloss.

UPDATE: Our friend Joe Notaro has found this excellent quote from Hardeen in a November 1933 New York Evening Journal:

“…we trekked to N.Y. Stopping on 79th st with Mrs. Leffler, mother of George and John, but don’t tell these managers that we still owe “Ma” for room rent. During that first Winter, experiencing the Great Blizzard of “1888” and receiving much food from Mrs. Leffler, and studying at P.S 70”

Related:

8 comments:

  1. The cuffs in the top photo...are they Mirror replicas?

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    Replies
    1. No. Those are a standard cuff. Plug 8 maybe?

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    2. According to Fred Pitella, who loaned George these cuffs for the event, they are figure eight handcuffs or Irish eights. Plug eights are another style of this cuff.

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  2. Silverman implies that “[Houdini and his father] came on first, sometime in 1887, and lived for several months in a boarding house on East Seventy-ninth Street, run by a Mrs. Loeffler. Cecilia and the others joined them the following year.”
    Kalush implies that “By 1888 they had saved enough to rent their own second floor cold water flat in a tenement building at 227 East Seventy-fifth Street and reunite the family. Ehrich met them at Grand Central Station and escorted them to their new home.”
    However Hardeen in a Nov 1933 New York Evening Journal says:
    “…we trekked to N.Y. Stopping on 79th st with Mrs. Leffler, mother of George and John, but don’t tell these managers that we still owe “Ma” for room rent. During that first Winter, experiencing the Great Blizzard of “1888” and receiving much food from Mrs. Leffler, and studying at P.S 70”

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    Replies
    1. Oh, nice find on that NY Evening Journal article. And he spells it Leffler.

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  3. Nothing at all against Mr. Silverman, or any other Houdini biographer, but I think I'd go with Hardeen's version. He was actually alive & present at the time. Everything else is hearsay. jmho.

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    Replies
    1. I would agree that Hardeen is a pretty excellent source here. It also sounds like Ms. Leffler was the mother of sons who became theater managers?

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  4. BTW, George gave a brief history of Houdini and the SAM that isn't quite what I've come to understand. He said HH became a member in 1908 and was made a life member in 1909 (so he didn't have to pay dues). I don't know exactly when HH became a member, but I know that in 1908 he resigned from the SAM (remember this post?). I don't think he rejoined until 1917 when he became president.

    ReplyDelete

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