Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Houdini's 1912 Overboard Box poster

Here's a nice photo of the Houdini's Overboard Box poster currently on display at the New-York Historical Society's Summer of Magic: Treasures from the David Copperfield Collection exhibition. This gigantic 8-sheet poster is a one of a kind (as far as I know) and was part of the Norm Nielsen collection. It now belongs to David Copperfield.


This poster depicts Houdini first Overboard Box escape in New York on July 7, 1912. It certainly takes some dramatic license. The "ocean steamship" was actually a tug boat (Catherine Moran). The box was slid down a plank, not "thrown" overboard. And as far as sinking into shark infested depths, the top of the box actually remained visible on the surface during the course of the escape. Still, a great poster that fires up the imagination and plays on primal fears, like so many of Houdini's posters.

This poster was created by the Strobridge Lithography Company of Cincinnati. In a recent talk on posters at the Magic Castle, Mike Caveney called Strobridge the "Tiffany" of stone lithography. Strobridge created many posters for Houdini, as well as other Golden Age magicians such as Thurston, Kellar, and Carter the Great.

You can see this beautiful poster at the New-York Historical Society's Summer of Magic exhibition through Sept. 16, 2018.


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6 comments:

  1. A beautifully rendered poster! The blue color of the ocean hits the viewer between the eyes.

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    1. So true. The colors on these stone lithographs are stunning. And they've maintained beautifully.

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  2. Stylistically, the poster's in a class by itself, and in certain aspects, very different from other Houdini posters from Strobridge. It would be interesting to know how many different artists worked on their posters.

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    1. It's said Strobridge did not allow one artist do a poster entirely themselves. One artist would do the people, another would do elements or backgrounds, etc. This was done in part to keep any one artist (employee) from becoming a star. However, David Copperfield told me Houdini favored a particular artist who had a background in magic catalog illustration, and Houdini would insist that artist do his entire poster. So Houdini posters were unique in this way. Sorry I don't recall the artist's name offhand, but I believe his signature is on the early Buried Alive sheet.

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    2. I should add DC has a little section devoted to this artist in his museum.

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    3. Great information - thanks very much, John.

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