Los Angeles Herald December 1st – 3rd 1915 Houdini and Hardeen, playing in Los Angeles

December 1915 Houdini at the Orpheum and Hardeen at Pantages in Los Angeles. The brothers portrayed themselves as rivals for publicity but in this case the jig is up! In the article below the writer reveals that they are actually brothers working together.

In the advertisements below Pantages plays up Hardeen’s challenge escapes listing that a Brewery will lock him in a “Cask” of Beer, and “Chief Snively’s Punishment Suit challenge”. “Snively!” This has Dash’s sense of humor written all over it! Other escapes are mentioned “The Milk Can” and the “Oregon Boot”. The Orpheum lists Houdini as “The Genius of escape”.

Houdini and Hardeen, the escape wizards playing in Los Angeles this week, are brothers. Both look alike and are said to share the other’s trick secrets.

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Hardeen and Houdini add from December 1, 1915:

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Hardeen and Houdini add from December 2, 1915

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Hardeen and Houdini add from December 3, 1915:

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The Daily Palo Alto November 18, 1915 Houdini at the Orpheum, Hardeen at Pantages

In November 1915 Houdini was on the Orpheum circuit performing the Water Torture Cell or the “Upside Down” as he called it. By day he created publicity by performing his famous Straitjacket escape while suspended from a high building above a swarming crowd of onlookers below on the street. Hardeen was touring for Pantages. The brothers played as rival acts. Hardeen was performing his brothers old Handcuff Escape routine but was still drawing crowds. Below is an article from November 18, 1915 that mentions both Houdini and Hardeen playing in Palo Alto California. It says Hardeen performed an 8 act show. What I would do to have a time machine to travel back to that week to see both of the brothers Houdini perform!

At the Theaters

"A Pair of Sixes" by Edward Peple
is the farce offering for this week only
at the Cort. Oscar Figman plays the
A dramatic sensation, "On Trial," is
remaining at the Columbia for a third
week. A great revolving stage gives
the facilities needed for a realistic
portrayal of this play.
With Evelyn Vaughan back in the
cast of players, "Kick In," Willard
Mack's New York comedy success, is
well received at the Alcazar.
Herbert Bashford, a San Francisco
writer, is the author of "The Woman
He Married," which is being inter
preted at the Wigwam theater this
week, by the Lawrence-Oakley stock
Houdini, "the genius of escape,"
headlines the Orpheum vaudeville
menu for the second week. Idealistic
comedy, musical novelty and farce
acts, compose the remainder of the
Robert Mantell, greatest of Ameri
can tragedians, makes his debut as a
film star in the screen drama, "Rlind
ness of Devotion," at the Empress this
week. A number of vaudeville acts
of merit are also shown.
"King of the Handcuffs," is the title
claimed by Hardeen, who heads an
eight-act show at Pantages.
Hippodrome vaudeville features the
Seven Manjeans, accomplished acro
bats. A five-reel movie feature com
pletes the program.
Motion picture specialties provide
entertainment at the Imperial, Savoy,
Portola, and Tivoli theaters.

The Handcuff King THE GIPPSLAND TIMES Magazine 1951

Here is an interesting article written in 1951. A Mr. W. Buchanan-Taylor who claimed to have been Harry Houdini’s friend and tells some interesting stories. He contributes Houdini’s death to the Water Torture Cell and says he actually died of Pneumonia versus the “Punch”. I cannot find a Houdini connection with Mr. Taylor in my research so if you are aware of who he was please leave a comment. Well I’ll just let you read it!

“The Handcuff King” MANY people, especially those now approach-ing middle-age, will remember the exploits of Harry Houdini, who ranked as one of the finest and best-known escapologists of all time. Houdini’s ingenuity in freeing himself from handcuffs and similar shackles was extraord-inary, and brought world-wide fame to him. In this article Mr. W. Buchanan-Taylor, who was Houdini’s personal friend for many years, tells some interesting tales about this famous man. Harry Houdini’s private and pro-fessional lives were measured by the clock and the lock. He was one of the few men I have ever known who fixed exactly the num-ber of his sleeping hours, the pre-cise moment of his awakening who had a punctilious regard for regular meal-times, and an almost passionate punctuality in all his professional and private affairs (writes Mr. Buchanan-Taylor). This amazing man, whom no police force in the world could hold, lived a life of precision. He died tragically in Detroit, after being immersed head down-wards in a tank for about four minutes. Many American news-papers carried the story that he died from a punch in the dia-phragm, administered playfully by an athletic, university youth who had gained access to Houdini’s dressing room. The punch may have contributed, but the fact is he died of pneumonia, doubtless brought on by excessive pressure on his lungs during the under-water performance. Had Houdini devoted himself to swimming, he would most certainly have held the world’s record for under-water feats. Usually, to maintain tensity of excitement, he stayed upside-down in a churn of milk or water for three-and-a-half minutes. Many Times he was immersed for over four minutes. Sometimes, in per-forming this feat, he would be handcuffed, hands behind his back, and manacled. Good Publicity When he visited for the first time a town with two music halls, he would manacle his brother, Hardeen, on the stage at one of them, then jump out of a stage-box and promise those present to expose Hardeen’s trickery at the opposition hall. Since he taught Hardeen all his feats, exposure was easy. Both halls played to cap-acity business and proved the value of competition. I have never met a man who looked less like an escapologist than Harry Houdini Quiet, rather pallid, with piercing eyes and wavy hair parted down the middle, under medium height, he was, in appearance, more like a tough lawyer than a strait-jacket expert: though, to be sure, in certain cases, there have been afinities between those two. Several imitators of Houdini, or handcuff experts in their own rights, practised under the sub-title of “escapologists.” I do not think Houdini ever used that coined designation. He was just” the handcuff king.” A non-smoker and teetotaller, he kept himself in perfect con-dition, but never muscle-bound.His work demanded physicalelasticity. As became a swimmer, the muscular ripple was beneath the skin. He possessed many types of handcuffs, or, as the police Of America called them, “bracelets.” Some were almost prehistoric; cer-tainly mediaeval. Others were of the most modern manufacture. In whatever country he travelled, he added to his collection of shackles, manacles, locks, bolts, and bars. He kept an acute eye on new developments in the manu-facture of locks of all kinds, mainly. through the technical journals-particularly safe locks and new, safety devices adopted by the police of different countries for use on cells and corridor gates. Early in his stage career, he challenged the most famous, mod-ern lock-makers in the world. He discovered the principles on which the firm had placed its faith, and so confused their efforts to confine him within rooms and cells that they were compelled to make im-provements in their locks. Even then, they paid him large fees as a consultant. Harry was born in the state of Wisconsin, and changed his name by deed poll from his nearly un-pronounceable family surname to Houdini, a name inspired by his reading the works of Robert Houdin, one of the most eminent names in the annals of conjuring. Houdini came to England for the first time in 1900 when he chal-lenged Scotland Yard to handcuff him and leave him naked in a cell. Having stripped to the buff, he was examined by a special searcher and declared not to be in possession of any means of escape. He released himself from his handcuffs, opened the locked door of his cell, and emerged into the gen-eral hall. That escape caused a sensational period of business at the Alhambra Theatre in Charing Cross Road. He spent some four years in England and Continental coun-tries before returning to the United States, where the news of his European exploits had raised him from comparative obscurity to stardom. When he was elected Chairman of the Magicians’ Club of London, to show his fellow-members that sleight of hand was just as easy for him as handcuff-slipping, he demonstrated his version of the needle trick, which involved pass-ing on to the tongue a dozen gen-uine Redditch needles, a yard of sewing thread, accompanied by gulps of water to wash the material down. Within a minute of the last needle disappearing in his mouth, he picked out the end of the thread and slowly withdrew it from his mouth. Every needle was threaded. Polished Conjurer A committee examined his mouth before, during, and after the trick, but there was no clue. I have seen a dozen magicians do the same trick-one of them using razor blades–but none compared with Houdini in the slick, polished presentation. He had verbal fights with many people during his career. He was inclined to spiritualism, and would have become a confirmed convert had he been able to find a medium through whom to communicate with his dead mother. He revered he- memory, and never ended his search for spiritual contact. He even went so far as to take an intensive study course in mahatmatism. I have stood by Houdini on sev-eral occasions when he was about to jump, handcuffed and manacled into dock, river, or canal. I have watched him in his mechanics shop, marvelling at the meticulous work he applied to keys, locks, and shackles. His bench-work was sodelicate that on one occasion I said: “Harry, you missed your vocation; you ought to have beena watchmaker.” His reply was:”What, and spend my life in a factory? No fear! Time may be im-portant, but so is money: you can do so much good with it. “An eavesdropper might have imagined that Houdini’s god was mammon. It was not. He gave lavishly to many charities, asso-ciated with many creeds. He seldom refused to appear at charity performances, and his con-tribution to Jewish organisations must have run into many thous-ands of pounds. He was generous, too, in individual cases of need, as many music-hall professionals will vouch. Houdini, who had booked an en-gagement of one month at the Famous Winter garten Music Hall, arrived in Berlin several weeks before he was to appear. His investi-gations showed clearly that the police knew of his coming and probable intentions. They had ac-counts of his escape feats perform-ed under the challenges to other police forces. They had been at special pains to send for some ter-rible ancient shackles from Nur-emberg, and the combination of their modern locks and mediaeval punishment contraptions seemed like ominous obstacles. Neverthe-less, he went ahead with his daily challenges. At first, they did not respond, but under the barbs of newspaper references, they ultimately accept-ed the challenge. His conditions were that he should be officially stripped bare, searched by their keenest expert and then placed in a cell that would be locked, and that the corridor gates leading to the hall should be locked beyond all question of access except by officials. Within five minutes of being led into the cell, he was out in the Aflice hall, having freed himself of and cuffs, picked the cell-door Lock, and mastered the corridor gate-lock. The police officials were frankly startled. They had never known anything like it, and test they be made into laughingstocks they issued a statement that Houdini had suborned a minor official. The Wintergarten was packed to suffocation at every performance for a month, and every time he appeared on the stage he made a biting reference to the Berlin police. The newspapers poked fun at the officials, and then Houdini issued a writ against the police. The court ruled against him. He determined to appeal, and one day I received a telegram ask-ing me to proceed to Berlin. There I told of what I had seen Houdini achieve in various police headquar-ters in England. Houdini won his appeal, with the full damages claimed and costs.

New York Clipper September 28, 1907 – Hardeen in Louisville KY

Hardeen Chronology – In 1907 Hardeen returned from Europe to tour America under an engagement with Klaw and Erlanger as the featured act. He appeared at the Mary Anderson Theatre the week of September 16th 1907. The Theatre was under the management of Max Fabish. On September 26th Hardeen did his first bridge jump into the Ohio River from the 18th Street Bridge. Hardeen was then re-engaged for another week.

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Mary Anderson (Max Fabish manager). Packed houses greeted a fine vaudeville bill week of 16. Hardeen ,. jail breaker and handcuff expert; was the headliner and made a big impression. New people for week 23: Hardeen (re-engaged).

An illustration of the Mary Anderson Theatre
Marc Klaw
Abraham Lincoln Erlanger
Max Fabish
Images of Hardeen from my own copy of “The life and History of Hardeen”
Images of Hardeen from my own copy of “The life and History of Hardeen”
The original location of the Mary Anderson Theatre

Hardeen Chronology – The Player, January 31 1913 — BOSTON LETTER

Another entry for the Hardeen Chronology. On January 31, 1913 the Player wrote that Hardeen would appear in 2 weeks in Lowell Massachusetts at the Bowdoin Square Theater.

Hardeen , the Handcuff King , who was on the bill , never played to a more appreciative audience . An artist who can attract the youngsters is always sure of being able to please the elders . Hardeen has cancelled western bookings in order to play Lowell this week and the Bowdoin Square theater next week . Chicago will be visited by the handcuff wizard in a fortnight .

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From Google Maps today
Bowdoin Square theater

Unfortunately the theater no longer stands today.

Picture of the Bowdoin Square Theater from cinematreasures.org

Hardeen Chronology -Cambridge Tribune March 27 1909 — Keith’s Theatre in Boston

Another entry for the Hardeen Chronology. On March 27th 1909 The Cambridge Tribune reported that Hardeen would appear at Keith’s Theatre week of March 29th 1909 in Boston.

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Hardeen, the handcuff king, who is now doing feats that are said to surpass anything formerly done in this line, as he escapes from trunks, straight-Jackets and especially devised apparatus for holding prisoners.

Hardeen Chronology -March 13 1909 – Keith’s Theatre in Rhode Island

Another entry for the Hardeen Chronology. March 13th 1909 The New York Clipper reported that Hardeen would appear at Keith’s Theatre week of the 15th. Keith’s was in Pawtucket Rhode Island. I did some research and found that it was called Keith’s Bijou and was on 30 Broad Street in Pawtucket. Unfortunately the building was demolished.

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From the New York Clipper
Keith’s Bijou Theatre 30 Broad Street,
 Pawtucket, RI

Credits: Picture of Keith’s Bijou Cinema Treasures, Current view of Broad Street Google Maps.

San Diego Coronado Eagle and Journal February 10, 1917 – Cat pulls a “Hardeen”

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This article was written prior Hardeen’s appearance in San Diego the week of January 27 1917, the Coronado Eagle printed this story about a cat pulling a “Hardeen” (Not the usual “Pulled a Houdini!”).


Hardeen, the handcuff king, has nothing on Ignatz No. 1 cat of Coronado. The neighbors complained « of Ig’s proclivities in the noise line, and the row he kicked up during the still small hours, and the Health officer asked us to kindly keep him muzzled or something so the neighbors could sleep. We put him in an old kitchen coop, and Ig. went out through a hole about as big as a dollar and a half, and came right up and wanted something to eat. Next we put him in another coop, and he got out before we turned around.’ The next evening we put him in a barrel, with a big heavy box on top, and in a few minutes he was out howling again. We put him back into the barrel, with a 150 pound weight on top, and Father bet $10 that he wouldn’t get out, but when we went the next morning to let him get out and enjoy the fog Ig. was gone. He had gnawed a stave of the barrel, actual size 2% inches wide, and squeezed out • through the hole. I guess the only thing to do is to get a steel cage and put him in it. Meantime, we hope the neighbors will be patient, ’cause we don’t want Ig. to annoy anybody, but as we have paid the license fee as made and provided by law, we claim its protection, and don’t propose to see the cat shot down in cold blood, on our own lot, just because he feels the call of the wild. The female cats should be tied up and kept from annoying the males, and then this nightly concert. business would he stopped. Incidentally, we have learned the names of several owners of cats who have not complied with the ordinance regarding the purchase of’a license, and unless they have paid the license by next week the names will be published in our cat column. Owners of dogs who have failed to conme through will have a column of their own. We want to help the Marshal. Besides, we feel that the ordinances apply to all, and should be respected by all alike. If publicity will help, we will furnish it. Viola!

The Player February 14, 1913 Hardeen at the Chicago Palace Theatre this week!

Adding more to the Hardeen Chronology. Here is an article printed on February 14, 1913. Hardeen “The Handcuff King” appeared at the Orpheum “The Palace Theatre” in Chicago IL. The Palace unfortunately does not stand today.

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Hardeen at Palace

The Palace music hall holds a bill of exceptional merit this week . All acts are up to the standard and have pleased the patrons of the house who have attended the performances this week . A Grand Opera trio composed of Giuseppe Campanari , Mme. Langori , and Maestro F . Tanara are the headline attraction . The balance of the bill is made up of Hardeen , The Handcuff King ; Eva , Taylor , Melville & Higgans , Phina and her Picks , Charles Olcott , Stewart & McNeil , and – the Berg Brothers . On Feb . 17 the Palace will secure first privileges on the new Edison invention , The Kinetophone . This will be its first Chicago appearance .

Palace Theatre, Chicago, ca. 1914
4825 S. Ashland Avenue,
 Chicago, IL 60609
Photo credit: cinematreasures.org
The original site today
Palace Theatre
Palace Theatre 1908
Photo credit: cinematreasures.org

January 1917 Hardeen “The Handcuff King” at Savoy Theatre San Diego

Here’s a newspaper clipping from the San Diego Coronado January 27, 1917. Hardeen had just finished a week of performing in Los Angeles.

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Savoy Theatre. Topping the attractive bill of high class acts will be Hardeen, famous as “The King of Handcuffs.” Hardeen’s work when he appeared at the Savoy more than a year ago is still remembered by all who saw him baffle every attempt to keep him In especially prepared packing boxes., huge milk cans, strait-Jackets and various styles of handcuffs and leg irons. During his present engagement on the Pantages circuit Hardeen is offering; many new feats ” that are said to be even more amazing than those with which he formerly astonished. Special features are to be during the week, in several instances feats never before seen on a San Diego stage being promised by this greatest of all handcuff experts.