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Artist’s Cache Of Houdini Effects Come To Auction At Ewbank’s

Published on: 24 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 24 Feb, 2022

At the height of his fame, Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was the highest paid entertainer in the world. Among his biggest fans were British audiences, and he toured Britain no fewer than 13 times between 1900 and 1920.

Now photographs, a letter and even a signed menu card from The Magicians’ Club in London dating to his final tour are up for sale at Ewbank’s on March 4.

Menu signed by Houdini on his last tour to London in 1920. The auction estimate is £800 to £1,200.

Consigned by a friend of the Ogle family of Dorset, they came from Richard Bertram Ogle (1889-1976), who painted Houdini’s portrait during the 1920 tour.

That final six-month UK tour took in Edinburgh, Glasgow, a number of northern cities, Cardiff, Bristol, Brighton, Portsmouth and London, where the great escapologist was photographed tied to the railings on the roof of the London Palladium in a publicity stunt to promote his shows there in the first half of May.

Signed photo of Houdini for his friend, artist Richard Ogle. It is estimated to fetch £800 to £1,200 at the Ewbank’s auction on March 4.

His final show took place at the New Cross Empire in London on June 12, with The Magicians’ Club dinner taking place just six days before at Bennion’s Restaurant in Oxford Street.

Houdini chaired the seven-course feast as the club’s president, appearing with other celebrated magicians of the day, including Okito, a sixth-generation Dutch illusionist whose father had been court magician to King William III of the Netherlands, and Hermalin, who sold his show to Houdini, when the latter wanted to start performing stage illusions.

Menu card for the seven course feast hosted by the Magicians club. Houdini, as the cliub’s president, attended the event.

The menu card, estimated at £800-1,200, shows that Houdini made a special presentation to Hermalin that evening, while at least one signed photo addressed to Ogle dates to the tour.

A signed handwritten letter from Houdini to Ogle, dated July 6, 1920 on R.M.S. Imperator letterhead, as he returned to the United States, discusses payment for work on a book and gives Houdini’s New York address. It is estimated at £1,000-1,500.

Signed photo “Best Wishes Houdini”. The photo was likely used by the artist Richard Ogle as it has been sketched over. Estimate £1,000 to £1,500.

Of the photographs, the one of Houdini signed and inscribed “To R. B. Ogle Good Luck Houdini May 14 / 20”, has a guide of £800-1,200, while another is inscribed “Best Wishes, Houdini” and has been sketched over, possibly by Ogle as he completed his own portrait of the star. Offered together with a pencil sketch of Houdini by Ogle and a copy of Houdini’s biography missing the cover, the estimate is £1,000-1,500.

Signed, handwritten letter by Houdini to his friend, artist Richard Ogle, dated July 6, 1920 on R.M.S. Imperator letterhead. The letter discusses payment for work and states Houdini’s New York address. Estimate £1,000 to £1,500.

Ewbank’s partner and specialist Alastair McCrea said: “Houdini was a great self-publicist and man of extraordinary talents. What makes this consignment so interesting is that it has a unique personal element to it, with the clearest of provenances.

“The letter, especially, conveys a strong sense of character and Houdini’s casual affection for Ogle as he negotiates the commission for his book. This makes it all a very attractive prospect for collectors in this field.”

The lots can be viewed online for Ewbank’s March 4 Entertainment, Memorabilia & Vintage Posters auction.

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