Friday, January 28, 2011

Under the hood of Houdini's Humber

A few weeks back I had a story in which I identified the make of Houdini's car as a Humber. Now, thanks to historian John Tarring of The Humber Register, I can bring you more details about Houdini's first automobile.

According to John, the car depicted in the photo on page 9 of Houdini Art and Magic (which I sent him for identification purposes) is a 1904 14 hp Humber Tourist Car that was made at the Humber factory at Beeston, Nottingham. This model car was only produced in 1904, confirming the 1900 dating of the photo in this book and elsewhere cannot be correct.

Says John, "You will see that the 14 and 25 hp were virtually identical apart from a different size of engine and a few other minor differences. It is possible to identify it as a 14 hp as the 25 hp had transverse front spring above the front axle whilst the 14 hp had two springs, these can be clearly seen in the photo."

Furthermore, John has generously sent pages from a 1904 Humber catalog detailing the precise specifications and options of the 14 and 25 hp models.

Click to enlarge

A very big thank you to John Tarring of The Humber Register for helping with this previously unknown piece of Houdini history.


  1. You're right you know - everywhere you see that photo it is said to have been taken in 1900. I am guessing that Houdini was a bit loose with dates at times. I've noticed that tendency on some of his other photos too.

    Charlie should be in an appropriate infant restraint.

  2. There's also a shot of Houdini looking under the hood of the car. It certainly looks like it might have been taken at the same time, yet that one gets dated "1914 or 1915" (in Notes to Houdini!!!). I'd say we can now conclusively date all these photos 1904. Because of the car make we know know it could not have been before, and as the one closeup shot appears in The Mirror in 1904 (previous story) we know it can not be after. So...1904.

  3. Always interesting to see info about Houdini "tightened up" to improve the record but, in fairness, "c.1900" stands for circa 1900. According to Webster's circa means... about.

    That said, love your blog!

  4. Oh! Jeeze. I should have known that. Thanks, Dave.