Sunday, January 1, 2017

Houdini in 1917

Welcome to another year of WILD ABOUT HARRY. Let's kick off 2017 with a look back at what Houdini himself was up to 100 years ago.

Quick! Name a significant Houdini escape, piece of magic or performance associated with the year 1917?

One can easily do this for nearly every year of Houdini's life: 1903/Carette; 1908/Milk Can; 1914/Walking Through A Brick Wall. But 1917 is tricky. That's because for the first time in many years, Houdini didn't invent or perform any new escape or feat of magic. In fact, his act was basically the same one he had been doing since returning to the U.S. in 1914. Of this period Silverman writes: "Much of what had brought Houdini to this height he was now preparing to downplay or abandon."

But in regards to his significance and impact on the magic community, 1917 might actually be the most significant year of Houdini's life, and it's why the year appears on his Machpelah monument. But we'll get to that.

This post is now retired. 

But you will still be able to enjoy the story of Houdini in 1917 with the publication of my upcoming book.

14 comments:

  1. Wow! A great recap for 1917 John! The chronological order by month puts it all in clear focus.

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    1. I'm telling you, Leo, these posts are always revelatory for me, especially this one as 1917 didn't seem to be a standout year. But as I dove in, I realized it's as fascinating as any! I also realize biographies really only skim years, highlighting the same basic stuff. Kalush intercuts the events of 1917 and 18, so you have no sense of the year or how one thing led to the other.

      Doing deep dives on each year is a genuinely NEW way of telling Houdini's story. I come out of each of these with a totally new understanding and appreciation for that year, and therefore of Houdini's life.

      Eventually I'll do one of these for every year of Houdini's professional life. I'll keep adding every 100th anniversary new year, but I will go back and fill in years as I did last year with 1899 and 1900.

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  2. Exactly! The bios don't give us HH's life in perfect chronological order as you have done here. It really is a new way of telling Houdini's story. You're slowly giving us a fleshed out Koval's Diaries.

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  3. Way to kick the new year off, John! I also love the newly organized menu pages.

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    1. Thanks Joe! I'm still adding menu pages. Did a Leo page today.

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  4. And he's back...great detailed start. Thanks. Happy new year to all.

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  5. Once again, great work. Your constant new and unique perspective on Houdini's life, combined with excellent research, almost brings Houdini back to life, as if he never really left!

    --Dale from Cleveland

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  6. I'm very pleased to see how much traffic has flowed to this post. It's my most viewed "year in the life" post yet. It's encouraging. So I'm now working on 1901. Again, a year I didn't think was all that significant, but as I get into it, I find it's fascinating! My plan is to build forwards and backwards on existing posts until we have them all.

    Thanks everyone.

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  7. So these "Year in the Life" posts will meet somewhere in the middle like the Union Pacific Railroad?

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  8. I love this site..great job and all the info you provide..regards..fred

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