Friday, October 23, 2020

The Weed Chain rematch

Last weekend a challenge handbill sold at Haversat & Ewing Galleries latest magic auction for $1,404.00. This is more than three times what challenges typically fetch. But that could be because this is a very special challenge. This documents the second challenge from the Weed Chain Tire Grip Company in 1908. Houdini had beat a Weed Chain test in New York on April 10th. But the company felt they could do better and followed him to Philadelphia with more chains and new conditions, as you can read below.


While I knew Houdini had repeated the challenge in Philadelphia, I never knew the date nor details. But this provides both! This challenge was said to have created an even bigger sensation than in New York as it was reported via ticker tape "in the same manner as every great sporting event."

Below is a photo of Houdini confined in the Weed Chains taken at the White Studio around the time of his first test. This became one of Houdini's most widely used publicity images and it's likely the reason the Weed Chain challenge is so well-known today. But is there a photo of Houdini in the second test configuration? One wonders how more chains could be added to this!


Below are links to more Weed Chain challenge info and images.

10 comments:

  1. This was the photo used by the World Book Encyclopedia back in the day for the Houdini entry.

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    1. If was certainly among the first images of HH I every saw. But as a kid I didn't realize those where tires. It was years before I figured that out.

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    2. This photo was also among my first images of HH. There's something magical about it, and his face looks different--like a movie star. I thought those tires were ship lifesavers.

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    3. This was the photo of HH that I cut out of a library book (shhhh...don’t tell) when I was a kid and have saved ever since...that stolen photo is in a frame in my home to this day. Clearly this image holds quite the draw

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    4. Haha. I'm trying to think of what book that would have been. I know it's in the Gresham paperback.

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  2. I feel like it might have been some sort of more generalized book on the paranormal that mentioned HH and illustrated him with that picture...but it was about 28 years ago so the details of the memory are slightly fuzzy. I should take it out of its frame and see if the print on the back contextualizes it

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  3. fyi--

    A rather large photo (across 2 pages), of the "Weed Tire Chain" escape - also appears in Hyla Clark's 1976 pictorial book: "The World's Greatest Magic".

    btw - The dustjacket features a photo of a shackled James RANDI; along with several pages of the book devoted to Randi teaching several magical tricks.

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    1. I forgot that book also came out in 1976. What a year that was! Great images of Randi doing the Milk Can in there as well. I think I'm going to spend my Sunday morning paging back through that book. Still have the copy I got in '76.

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    2. Here's a YT video of Randi performing the Milk Can with Bob Lund's Houdini can. The images of Randi doing the can are straight out of this performance. That book influenced me in so many ways:

      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NbB7TekZAl8&t=372s

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  4. Speaking of this photo, there is an original signed by Houdini to the Weed Chain Co. thanking them for the fair test. I have a photo of it, but I don't know where it came from or who owns it.

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