Mayer Samuel Weiss

Houdini's father, Mayer Samuel Weisz (later Weiss), was born to Leopold and Josephine Weisz on August 27, 1829, in Groß-Kanizsa, Hungary. In 1851, he received his Certificate of Ordination by the Rabbinical Examination Committee for the Wespnimer Comitat in Buda, Hungary.

In 1863, his first wife died, leaving him with one infant son, Armin (Herman). That same year, he met and married Cecelia Steiner, 13 years his junior. The couple lived at Rakos arok-Gasse No. 1 in the Buda section of Budapest, Hungary. Their first child died.

After the births of his sons Natan Josef (1870), Gottfried Vilmos (1872), Erik/Houdini (1874), and Ferencz Deszo (1876), Rabbi Weiss left his family in Hungary and traveled to London and then to America. Legend has it that he killed a man in a duel and that is why he had to flee the country. In 1878, he secured a job as the Rabbi in Appleton, Wisconsin, and sent for his family to join him there.

 In Appleton, Mayer Samuel and Cecelia had two more children: Leopold David (1879) and Carrie Gladys (1882). On June 6, 1882, Mayer Samuel and his family became U.S. citizens. But in August of that same year, Rabbi Weiss lost his job and the family moved to Milwaukee where they fell into poverty.

In 1887, the Weiss family relocated to New York City. While respected, the aging Rabbi Weiss (who never learned English) could not find steady work and for a time worked beside his son Ehrich at R. Richter and Sons tie factory.

On October 5, 1892, Mayer Samuel died at age 63 after an operation for tongue cancer at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. He is buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Queens.