Thursday, August 23, 2018

'Apology in the Name of the Kaiser' poster variant

Currently there is a signed copy of Houdini's The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $6,750.00 (which is wildly overpriced IMHO). To its credit, the book is inscribed to Ida M. Tarbell, the famous muckraking journalist, and is signed "Harry Handcuff Houdini". Unfortunately, it's not dated.

But what has me most intrigued is what's tipped into the front of the book. The seller doesn't mention it, but does include a picture. It's Houdini's famous "Apology in the Name of the Kaiser" poster from 1902. But if you look closely, it is not the same poster we are all familiar with.

Click to enlarge.

In this version, Houdini is presented looking much closer to middle age. Note the grey temples. In the more familiar poster (which you can see here), he's the youthful 1902 version. In fact, the entire poster appears to be redrawn. The judge on the far right has his hand to his cheek, which he does not in the original. Overall, I think it's a much better illustration, capturing the moment with more drama, and Houdini looks fantastic.

This is not the first time we've seen this variant. It also appears on page 8 of Houdini on Magic by Walter B. Gibson. But this one offers better clarity and is less cropped, allowing confirmation of just how different it really is.

It's hard to say if this image was tipped into the book by Houdini himself. But we do know he tipped photos of himself with Teddy Roosevelt into copies of The Unmasking (I own one of these myself), so possibly he did the same with this image. I'm curious if anyone has ever seen one of these in a copy of Unmasking before? Or anywhere else for that matter?

You can view the 30 day eBay auction HERE.

UPDATE: Looks like my post succeeded in getting the already crazy price bumped up to $6,950.00. Lordy.



  1. That's amazing. I looked at my copy of the more widely known version and it almost looks like the picture above was copied and altered by another artist. Houdini with the grey at the temples really looks like him, whereas the other more familiar image doesn't resemble Houdini much at all. And the picture above, overall, looks more sophisticated in terms of technique. Yet another mystery! (Alas, my copy of "Unmasking" only has a receipt tucked into its pages!)

    1. Agree on all counts. This is a much better image. Would love to see it in color and full size, if there was a color version.

    2. Me too. One more thing to search for!

  2. BTW, this version can also be seen in Randi's Houdini His Life and Art.