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Houdini Biography: Harry Houdini Magician-Escape Artist

Harry Houdini: The most famous magician of all time.

Houdini's actual name.

Houdini's actual name was Ehrich Weiss.

Houdini's actual birthplace and date.

The performer known world wide as Harry Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest. Although Houdini often claimed to be born in Appleton, Wisconsin, Houdini actually came to the United States when he was four years old. To this day many connected with the small town of Appleton still claim the untruth that Houdini was born there strictly to attract tourists. It is clear from copies of birth records and early family records on file at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the Pocono region, that Houdini was in fact born in Budapest, on March 24, 1874. Historians are now finally agreed on this fact. In later years, in a magazine interview, Houdini said about Appleton, "the greatest escape I ever made was when I left Appleton, Wisconsin."

Houdini's early years.

Houdini's father was Mayer Samuel Weiss. Houdini's father was a Rabbi. His father for a short time was Rabbi for the German Zoin Jewish Congregation in Appleton. His mother's name was Cecilia Steiner Weiss. Houdini's original family pictures are on display at the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the Pocono region.

His parents spoke only Yiddish, Hungarian, and German.The family was quite poor so most of the children began to work at an early age. From the age of eight young Ehrich Weiss (Erik Weisz) sold newspapers and worked as a shoe shine boy. Please note that when coming ot the United States there were often many spellings of names as people adjusted to English. At the age of 12, young Ehrich left home to make his way in the world in an attempt to help support his family. This was a great sign of independance. This is contrary to those who incorrectly claim he was overly obsessed with his mother. However he did love her very much.

Houdini moves to New York City at the age of 13.

Young Ehrich traveled the country for about a year, always sending money home when he could. Finally he joined up with his father in New York City. His father would die about five years later on October 5, 1892, The move to New York would change his life and introduce him to the world of big time magic. The family moved to New York in the the hope of finding a better life there. In New York, Houdini worked as a messenger and as a cutter in a garment center sweat shop, Richter & Sons, a tie factory to help support his family. He was very athletic and won awards in swimming and track. He would use this athletic and swimming talents to great use in his future as an escape artist.

1874 -1887
1887 - 1900
1900 - 1913
1913 - 1926 and beyond.

Go to Houdini Museum .


© 1989-2003 by The Houdini Museum. Except for reviews, no part of any of this document may be reproduced in any form, without written permission by the authors. The graphics have been retouched, computer enhanced and resized by the authors.

Houdini Museum

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