So before we said goodbye, we both pulled out our phones and started searching. I brought up the familiar pic from the pitchbook while Eric pulled up a photo from their database.
And my jaw hit the floor!
This is indeed Houdini's Australian Aviation Award, which is not so lost and quite different from what I've always thought it to be. As you can see, it's not a standup trophy as the pitchbook photo makes it appear. What's even more interesting is Houdini appears to have mounted it inside a frame with a label noting that "In the Competition to win this Trophy HOUDINI had to defeat a Wright Bros. Flier & Bleriot Monoplane."
I believe this was used as part of a theater display as the typography on the label matches others I have seen (notably in a photo of a Houdini window display in Silverman, credited to the Ransom Center). It's also interesting that Houdini felt the need to enhance his accomplishment by making it clear that he had beat others for the prize.
Making this discovery was a great way to end our morning. I told Eric if we could accomplish this sitting in my car in Los Angeles, just imagine the damage we could do at the Ransom Center itself! We're both hoping that day will come sooner than later.
— Eric Colleary (@ecolleary) January 20, 2019
Thank you to Eric and the Harry Ransom Center for letting me share this photo of Houdini's rarely seen Australian Aviation Award. The Houdini Collections are open to the public and available via finding aids at the Ransom Center website.