Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lost Houdini posters FOUND!

This is why I love having a Houdini blog. Yesterday I did a story about The lost posters of Harry Houdini, talking about posters long gone, and others that have never been reproduced in color. Among the latter examples were these two posters that only ever appeared in black and white in the book, Houdini His Art and Magic.

Now, 24 hours later, thanks to the detective skills and generosity of my readers, fellow bloggers, and conservationists, I can show you BOTH these posters in full color!

First, Magician and historian Chuck Romano ( alerted me to the blog Refried Bean run by Renée Wolcott, a third-year master's student in book and paper conservation from the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.

Renée is currently working under the direction of Grace Owen, the conservator for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, conserving 84 magic posters and three window cards that were glued into a scrapbook from the American Society of Magicians. Among these posters is our "lost" American's Sensation poster, and Renée has graciously allowed me to share this terrific photo taken by Denise Stockman.

Renée Wolcott with the Houdini poster. Photo by Denise Stockman

Says Renée, "I had no idea that the Houdini poster -- which I worked on all day today and yesterday, as it happens -- was so unusual. It has now been washed and lined, the losses and tears have been filled, and the fills have been inpainted. The lost corners are no longer obvious."

Renée says she may do a follow-up blog on the finished poster -- which belongs to the Billy Rose Theater Division of the NYPL -- showing before and after shots (yes, please!), so make sure you watch Refried Bean for the update. Renée has also posted more information about the poster scrapbook conservation project at the University of Delaware website. Thank you Renée.

Next, Chuck Romano also tells us the "Overboard Box" poster is now in the amazing magic collection of Norm Nielsen. Says Chuck, "It is a huge poster and the colors are beautiful. It was done by Howard K. Elcock, the artist who did many illustrations for Will Goldston."

Dean Carnegie (Carnegie: Magic Detective) alerted me to the Facebook profile of talented French photographer Zakary Belamy (, who photographed Mr. Nielsen in front of the Houdini poster in Las Vegas. Zakary has generously allowed us to share that photo here. I've waited 33 years to see this poster in color, and it was worth the wait. This is truly one of the most beautiful Houdini posters in existence. Thank you Zakary and Norm!

Norm Nielsen with his Houdini poster. Photo by Zakary Belamy


  1. NICE! I really love that second poster---gorgeous. I wonder how many others are hiding out there?

  2. That Overboard Box poster is stunning. I'm wondering if this is the same one that's in the Randi book, which was credited at the time as having come from the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada. If so, this could very well only be the one.

  3. I think what is so amazing about this Overboard Box escape poster is first the size and second it shows Houdini did promote these kinds of things after they were done. So it gives hope that a Vanishing Elephant or Walking Through a Brick Wall Poster may still be out there somewhere.

  4. Exactly! Or a suspended straitjacket poster maybe?

  5. Outstanding.

    Thanks to those who shared, and to you, John, for leading the way in finding these untapped resources.

  6. We can call John C., the Sherlock Holmes of our time. He leaves no stone unturned. Thanks again JC for unearthing these fine treasures!!!


  7. Hey, on this one, the detective work was done by everyone else. But thanks, BB.

  8. It's all been said but ... brilliant.

  9. Little update. Renée Wolcott tells me she finished the restoration on the poster yesterday. Kind a wild cosmic coincidence all this.

  10. Very cool I think that all this has come to pass in only a couple of days. Must be very rewarding for you after the effort you put into this place.

  11. And here I thought this was going to be a slow news week!

  12. Dear John,
    As many collectors know, I have had the Houdini "America's Sensation" poster in my collection for over 20 years. You can see it on my profile shot on both the Thayer blog site and on Facebook. I don't know how to post a photo on this space, so if you want to email me at [...] I will be glad to email you a photo.

    Houdini commissioned this poster in London around 1901, right after he arrived there.....following the advice he received from Martin Beck to "go to Europe and make a name for yourself, then I can book you as a headliner in the best houses in the USA when you return." If you look carefully you will really see the face of the young Erich Weiss staring back at you in his American flag colors swimsuit....this is before he became "The Great Houdini."

    Best regards,
    Gale Molovinsky

  13. Thank you for the post, Gale (btw, I reposted it so I could edit out your email -- don't want you to get spam). I'm thrilled to learn you are the one who owns this beautiful poster. Interesting details. Could this have been his first poster after King of Cards and The Houdinis? It is that same curious size. I'll shoot you an email. Thanks again.