By: Miranda Ballard

Why Is Harry Houdini Famous?

Houdini was famous because his work with magic was very well known. Harry came from a very poor family, which meant he couldn't go to school. Harry always was fond of reading, when he was a young adult he spent much time in used book stores. He became obsessed with magic books. It started with card and simple illusion tricks, which over time turned in to grand performance tricks. He trained himself to withstand freezing temperatures and great escapes. Houdini would be covered in chains and locks, and a straight jacket. He would perform and perform and again and again. Magic is all he ever wanted to do! Houdini is known for being a amazing magician.


”Harry Houdini” which is about Harry’s life from boyhood to death. Harry Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 as Erik Weisz. He was born to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and Cecelia Weisz. He had 5 brothers and 1 sister. His family was always on the edge of being homeless and hungry. When Harry was eight he was working instead of going to school. He was shining shoes, selling newspapers, running errands, he even made a perfect trapeze act and charged 1 cent for others to come see, he called it. “Prince of the Air.” At age 12 Erik ran away from home, to lessen the burden on his family. When his family moved to New York looking for work, he caught up with them and worked in a necktie factory. In his free time he practiced boxing, swimming,and especially running. When Erik got older, he read a book about magic and became obsessed. He started performing juggling, card tricks, and routines he learned from books. When he was 19 he started sending money home to his family, and married Bess Rahner who was part of a traveling song and dance act. He was obsessed with books, in his home he had floor to ceiling library filled with books and books. Houdini performed for years, the more he read the more he tried to preform. He trained himself to withstand very cold temperatures. He used handcuffs, locks, chains, and many other things to make his escapeds magical. One tragic Halloween, 1926, Harry Houdini died at the age of 52. He was performing a trick, he was know to be able to take a punch, as a college student hit him in the stomach area his appendix burst spreading infections through out his body, he died within days.

Here is Houdini doing one of his escape tricks. The Water Torture Trick

Harry's Childhood

On March 24, 1874 Erik Weisz (later changed his named to Harry Houdini) was born to the parents of mother Cecelia Weisz and father Mayer Samuel Weisz. Harry was born in Budapest, Hungary, but always claimed his hometown was Appleton, Wisconsin USA. He had 6 siblings, Theodore Hardeen, Nathan J, Carrie Gladys, Gottfried William, Herman M, and Leopold D. His mother and father with their 7 children were always going hungry and on the edge of being homeless. His father was a Jewish Rabbi which he was very unsuccessful in earning money. The lack in money meant that the children couldn’t go to school, because of this Erik started performing a trapeze act in the backyard charging kids 1 cent to watch. In 1876, Mayer Weisz immigrated to the United States with the dream of a better life. He found work as a rabbi and changed his last name to Weiss. In 1876, the remainder of the family joined him in the United States. The family moved to Milwaukee when Ehrich was eight years old. During his early years, Harry and his sibling sold newspapers and shined shoes to help support the family. Nine year old Erik made his first appearance on stage, performing a trapeze act. He called himself, "The Prince of the Air." At 12,Erik went on a freight car and ran away from home. A year later he returned to New York with his family and continued to help support they by working as a messenger, necktie cutter, and photography assistant. Nothing is known of his year away from his family.

Harry Houdini was born in Budapest Hungary on March 24th, 1874

Houdini Primary Source

This is Harry Houdini's letter to John Shaw Billings referring to Conjurers' Monthly (August 31, 1911). It relates to Harry because it shows some of his love for magic books. It shows that his earliest book is from 1489. Harry sent it from New York 104 Years ago. Is his home he had a floor to ceiling bookshelves in his personal library of mostly magic books in his home. At one point Harry had to hire a full time librarian to work in his library. In his early magic days, with any extra money he bought more magic books. Harry learned a lot from magic books. Such as you need to train your body. On Monday he could withstand 52 degrees, Tuesday 48 degrees and the 36. The point is that this letter help show what a big influence books where in his career. He learned, worked and read for hours to achieve where he was famous enough to have his name remembered forever.

The Picture Above shows a picture of Harry,  in a primary source. His straight Jacket (Secondary Source)

Houdini's Acomplishments

Harry Houdini had many accomplishment considering he came from such a poor family, and that he never went to school. Harry was the magician that came from nothing that is now known world wide. Some of Harry’s most well known magic tricks. In 1908, in St. Louis, Houdini showed his new trick. He escaped from a giant milk can filled with water. It became a very popular trick and he took it on tour throughout the U.S., England, and Germany. Another trick was which he began to perform in 1913, was known as the Upside Down Water Torture Cell. In this trick, Houdini's ankles were secured in a brace and he was put under water, upside down and locked in place in full view of the audience. 1918, of the stage of the Hippodrome theater in New York City, Houdini made a 10,000-pound elephant named Jennie disappear. The act was called "The Vanishing Elephant," and when Houdini fired a pistol, Jennie disappeared. These are just a few of his world wide famous tricks. His biggest challenge in his career was when he was a young adult he ran away from home. He learned everything from the real world. Never able to go to school, just books. Learning was the biggest obstacle. Not that he couldn’t learn just he never got the opportunity. The only time he learned anything helpful was that his mother taught him to read and write. This did have a setback in his life, he was uneducated. He succeeded in his career because he was inspired. Reading was a big part of his success, he even found out about magic because of a book.

Additional Interesting Facts

  • He'd hide a key or a lock pick under his foot or in his bushy hair with adhesive, or in a hollowed-out compartment of a shoe
  • Sometimes he would have the opportunity to use rigged handcuffs. The manacles would lock securely when held upright, but snap open when they were turned upside-down.
  • Houdini was a big athlete. He ran track, gymnastics and a bit of a boxer. All of these sports helped give him the bravery, stamina and strength needed to perform stunts.
  • During World War I, Houdini entertained troops and did classes for soldiers, showing how to escape from ropes, handcuffs and shipwrecks.
  • A postage stamp showing Houdini was made and sold in 2002.  The price was 34 cents.
  • Harry's first performance was at age 9. He would pick up pins with his eyelashes while hanging upside down. He would cahrge thirty-five cents.
  • His magic and card tricks weren’t that popular. They just wanted him to do escapes most of the time.


"Magic is the sole science not accepted by scientists, because they can't understand it."-Harry Houdini

Comment Stream

2 years ago

Awesome Job! 200/200