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Harry Houdini: Topics in Chronicling America

Houdini was an illusionist and stunt performer who amazed audiences with death defying tricks and escape acts. This guide provides access to materials related to "Harry Houdini" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Harry Houdini, wizard of manacle and cabinet, tells story of his interesting career." September 29, 1907. Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, CA), Image 6. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Harry Houdini (1874-1926) escapes from an underwater box in front of fifteen thousand people in New York on July 15, 1914. Houdini, known as the 'Handcuff King,' made numerous notable escapes from the beginning of his career in the 1890's until his death in 1926, including wriggling out of a straightjacket while suspended in the air as well as escaping being buried alive. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


January 7, 1906Houdini escapes from a Washington, DC jail.
September 29, 1906Houdini escapes from a piano box.
September 23, 1907Houdini performs his handcuff trick in 8 ½ minutes, baffling police officers.
September 29, 1907Houdini leaps into a lake heavily handcuffed and shackled, escaping death. He writes about his life and career in a full page spread.
July 16, 1914A crowd of 15,000 watches a shackled Houdini escape from a box after being thrown into the water.
December 8, 1915Houdini argues with boxer Jess Willard at an event, winning the crowd over with his witty comments.
April 18, 1916Houdini is set to perform his straitjacket trick 100 feet in air.
January 6, 1918Houdini is set to perform his vanishing elephant trick at the Hippodrome Theatre in New York.
December 28, 1919Houdini preserves his tricks on film for prosperity.