Foster Lardner was an actor, magician, and head of the Keith's organization in and around Providence, Rhode Island, during the height of vaudeville. He was also a photography enthusiast. Lardner's albums chronicle the history of Providence's theaters and include an incredible collection of photos of performers who played the city, including about two dozen unpublished photos of Houdini!
Lardner's great-granddaughter, Claire, was kind enough to show me the albums and the Houdini photos last week. Lardner captured Houdini's handcuffed jump from the steamer Warwick in 1911 and his suspended straitjacket escape before 80,000 people in downtown Providence in 1924. He also appears to have been friendly with Houdini as there are candid shots of them visiting the Providence Arts Club (still there) and photos of Houdini with Edward Albee. A treasure trove to be sure!
Lardner himself can be seen in film of Houdini's suspended straitjacket in Providence (which, thanks to the album, I can now date as Sept. 18, 1924). He is standing on the platform beside Houdini with his camera in hand. In fact, at 17 seconds, you can see him snap a photo facing directly into the camera.
Here is the photo Lardner took at that moment preserved in the album today. How cool is this? This is just one of several photos Lardner took that day from his unique vantage point on the platform.
David plans to leave the albums intact to preserve Lardner's work and all the history they contain. Congratulations to all!
Thanks to Claire and David for letting me share in this adventure. You can see more album images as a member of my Patreon.