*Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
In an industry dominated by larger-than-life personalities, one man stands above the rest as the epitome of a daring showman: Harry Houdini. Born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, he would go on to become arguably the world’s most famous magician through a series of death-defying escapes over a 30-year career.
The third of five children born to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz, Houdini’s birth name was Erik. At the age of four, the Weisz family sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to make a new life in the United States, settling in the eastern Wisconsin town of Appleton. Like many immigrants, Houdini’s father opted to change the spelling of each person’s name upon arriving in the US — young Erik Weisz became Ehrich Weiss to match the more familiar German spellings common in America. As he got older, Houdini’s friends gave him the nickname “Harry” and it stuck.
The Weiss family, stricken with poverty, relied on Houdini and his brothers to help provide income, leaving each of the boys to find odd jobs. At the age of 9, Houdini took to the stage for the first time, performing under the name “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air” as part of a trapeze act. Once in New York City, the importance of his financial support became all the more crucial, which led Houdini to believe magic — an interest shared with his younger brother Theodore — could provide him with a suitable career. …(Read more)