April 12, 2016 by houdiniandhardeen
In my latest quest to find local Houdini History I came across a story of a handcuff escape Harry made in Cincinnati in 1899. He was in town promoting his show at the Columbia Theatre. Martin Beck Houdini’s manager also paid a visit to Cincinnati and closed a contract with Houdini. And what’s also interesting is that Magician Leon Herrmann brother of the more famous Alexander Herrmann was in town too!
Here is the timeline and information I could find:
On Saturday 12/08/1899 Houdini walked into the Cincinnati Police Headquarters at the City Hall Building on Central Ave. Police Inspector Luke Drout, Chief of Detectives Ralph Crawford and a Dozen others placed two pairs of handcuffs on his wrists, a pair of Legcuffs on his ankles, and another pair of cuffs connecting them from his hands to his legs bringing him to a stooping position. To prove he had no keys hidden in his mouth he allowed them to cover his mouth with a piece of plaster. Behind a screen of chairs, Harry escaped in three minutes returning the cuffs interlocked.
Houdini in a picture from a Mahatma advertisement . He would have been fettered in a similar manner by the Cincinnati Police.
Cincinnati Enquirer: Sunday 12/09/1899Unknown newspaper article
Cincinnati Enquirer June 2, 1899 – Luke Drout (pictured below) was appointed acting inspector earlier that year.
The following week Houdini would Perform at the Columbia Theatre. Below are some images of it’s exterior and interior. According to Cinema Treasures it was “Located on the corner of 5th Street East and Walnut Street. Originally opened in November 1892 as the Fountain Square Theatre, it was designed by an architect Mr. McLaughlin. It closed in 1899. It was redesigned by architect James M. Wood and reopened as the Columbia Theatre which operated until 1909. It was taken over by B.F. Keith and he employed the recently formed (1907) architectural firm Rapp & Rapp to design or maybe redesign the theatre. It was the firms third theatre project and opened in 1910 as the B.F. Keith Theatre and it operated until 1921”
The Columbia (Pictures found at Cinema Treasures)
Late in the evening on Saturday 12/16/1899 Martin Beck and his Wife arrived in Cincinnati. Before retiring Beck closed a contract with Houdini for 3 years.
Sunday 12/17/1899 Beck and his Wife attended the Columbia in Box seats.
Cincinnati Enquirer 12/18/1899
Sunday 12/17/1899 Leon Herrmann brother of the more famous Alexander Herrmann who died in 1896 arrived to perform at the Grand.
Cincinnati Enquirer 12/18/1899
The Grand (Picture found at Cincinnati Views)
I think the signing of the 3 year contract is interesting. I cannot find anything in the History books describing Houdini and Beck finalizing or updating his contract in Cincinnati. Also it is exciting to find that the building where Houdini made his escape is still standing. I plan to pay a visit to City Hall and take their tour. I hope to figure out if the “Bertillon” room still exists. More to come!