This Day in History for November 13: Daredevil Sam Patch’s Final, Fatal Stunt (1829)

Daredevil Sam Patch’s Final, Fatal Stunt (1829)

Sam Patch (1799[1]November 13,1829),known as “The Yankee Leaper”, became the first famous American daredevil after successfully jumping from a raised platform into the Niagara River near the base of Niagara Falls in 1829.


Early life

Sam Patch was born to Mayo Greenleaf Patch and Abigail McIntire and wasthe fifth child of the family that included Molly, Greenleaf, Nabby, Samuel (diedas an infant), Samuel, and Issac.[1]

Sam was raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island[2]where he working as a child laborer spinning cotton in a mill.[3] When he not working, he entertaine
other boys by jumping off the mill dam. By his early 20s he wasworking at a mill in Paterson, New Jersey, and was jumping off ever-higherspots. He was beginning to attract crowds for his well-advertised stunts. OnSeptember 30, 1827,[2] he jumped off the 70-foot Passaic Falls in New Jersey, pleasing a large crowd that had gathered. He repeated this jump atleast two more times. On August 11, 1828 Patch jumped 100 feet at Hoboken, New Jersey. He became known in the press as “Patch the New JerseyJumper.”[2] Patch continued his career jumping from bridges, factory walls, andship’s masts.

Niagara Falls

In the fall of 1829, Patch gained fame by leaping into the Niagara River near the base of Niagara Falls. Patch was the starattraction at an event designed to draw visitors to the falls. A 125-foot ladder was extended over the river below Goat Islandopposite the Cave of the Winds. Less than an hour before the scheduled noon jump, a chain securing the ladder to the cliffwall snapped, breaking 15 feet from the ladder. Rescheduled for 4 PM, Patch jumped on time. A boat circled near the entrypoint, but Patch did not appear. When he was finally spotted on the shore, a great roar went up from the crowd.

Bad weather and the delay in his arrival drew a disappointingly small crowd for this jump, so Patch announced he wouldrepeat the feat a second time October 17.[2] A few days later, 10,000 gathered to watch him keep his word.

Following his feat at Niagara falls, Sam Patch achieved nationwide fame. His name became a household word[4] and hisslogan “some things can be done as well as others” became a popular slang expression across the nation.


Shortly after, Patch went to Rochester, New York, to challenge the 99-foot High Falls of the Genesee River. On Friday,November 6, 1829, in front of an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 spectators,[5] Patch went out onto a rock ledge in the middle of thefalls. He first threw a pet bear cub over the falls and the cub managed to swim safely to shore. Patch then successfully jumpedafter the bear.[2]

Last jump

His first jump into the Genesee River raised a disappointing amount of money,[2] so he decided to repeat the stunt one weeklater on November 13, 1829 (Friday the 13th). This time, he increased the height of the jump to 125 feet by constructing a 25-foot stand.[2] Accounts from the 8,000 present differ on whether he actually jumped or fell, but he did not achieve his normalfeet-first vertical entry.[5] A loud impact was heard and he never surfaced. Rumors were passed that he had hidden in a caveat the base of the falls, and was enjoying all the excitement he had created. But his frozen body was found in the ice inCharlotte (Rochester) early the next spring by Silas Hudson. Local ministers and newspapers were quick to blame the crowdfor urging him to jump, and put the guilt of his death on them.[2]

He was buried in Charlotte Cemetery, near where his body was found.[6] A wooden board (now gone) was placed over hisgrave. It read: “Sam Patch – Such is Fame”.[2]


Sam’s legacy continued to build in the years following his death. He became a popular folk hero in both written poems andstories as well as the hero of a series of theatrical plays by actor Danforth Marble entitled Sam Patch the Yankee Jumper,followed by Sam Patch at Home, a London Tour of Sam Patch in Franceand Sam Patch the Jumper (1844). PresidentAndrew Jackson named his horse Sam Patch in Sam’s honor.

Sam’s legacy continues into the 21st century with media references including;

  • The band Piñataland chronicled Patch’s 1827 jump on a song titled “The Fall of Sam Patch” on their 2008 album Songsfor the Forgotten Future Vol. 2.

Literary references

“Sam Patch’s Fearsome Leap,” a tale in Grandfather Stories by Samuel Hopkins Adams, is a reconstructed first-hand account of the day of Patch’slast leap. It is not clear whether Adams based the tale on a real first-handaccount or wrote it as historical fiction.

Patch appears as a “daring moral hero” in the works of Hawthorne and Melville,[1] and also appears in the poem “Paterson” by William Carlos Williams.


  1. a b c Johnson, Paul. Sam Patch, the Famous Jumper (New York: Hilland Wang, 2003) ISBN 0-8090-8388-4.
  2. a b c d e f g h i Rosenberg-Naparsteck, Ruth (Summer 1991). “The Real Simon Pure Sam Patch” (PDF). Rochester History (RochesterPublic Library) LII (3). ISSN 0035-7413Retrieved January 6, 2008.
  3. ^ Wilson, James Grant; John Fiske (1888). “Patch, Samuel”Appletons’ cyclopaedia of American biography IV669Retrieved 4January 2012.
  4. ^ Smith, Seba; Smith, Elizabeth Oakes Prince (December, 1856). “Life and Death of Sam Patch”United StatesMagazine (J. M. Emerson & Co.): 567–570Retrieved July 7, 2009.
  5. a b “Sam Patchs Last Leap” (PDF). New York TimesAugust 12, 1883Retrieved June 22, 2008.
  6. ^ Thomas, W. Stephen; Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck (October 1988). “Sleep City The Sesquicentenneial History of Mt. Hope Cemetery” (PDF). Rochester History (Rochester Public Library) L (4): 4. ISSN 0035-7413RetrievedDecember 31, 2007.

This Day In History: Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day

Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day) is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors military veterans; that is, persons who served in the United States Armed Forces. It coincides with other holidays, including Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, celebrated in other countries that mark the anniversary of the end of World War I; major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. At the urging of major veteran organizations, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Veterans Day should not be confused with Memorial Day, a U.S. public holiday in May; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day honors those who died while in military service.[1] It is also not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, a minor U.S. remembrance that also occurs in May, which specifically honors those currently serving in the U.S. military.



On November 11, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued a message to his countrymen on the first Armistice Day, in which he expressed what he felt the day meant to Americans:

The White House, November 11, 1919.

A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.


The United States Congress adopted a resolution on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies.[2] A Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made November 11 in each year a legal holiday: “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”[3]

In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the “Father of Veterans Day.”[4]

U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954. It had been eight and a half years since Weeks held his first Armistice Day celebration for all veterans.[5]

Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing “Armistice” with “Veterans,” and it has been known as Veterans Day since.[6][7]

The National Veterans Award was also created in 1954. Congressman Rees of Kansas received the first National Veterans Award in Birmingham, Alabama, for his support offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday.[citation needed]

Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October (October 25, 1971; October 23, 1972; October 22, 1973; October 28, 1974; October 27, 1975; October 25, 1976, and October 24, 1977). In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11. While the legal holiday remains on November 11, if that date happens to be on a Saturday or Sunday, then organizations that formally observe the holiday will normally be closed on the adjacent Friday or Monday, respectively.[citation needed]


Because it is a federal holiday, some American workers and many students have Veterans Day off from work or school. When Veterans Day falls on a Saturday then either Saturday or the preceding Friday may be designated as the holiday, whereas if it falls on a Sunday it is typically observed on the following Monday. When it falls on weekend many private companies offer it as a floating holiday where employee can choose some other day. A Society for Human Resource Management poll in 2010 found that 21 percent of employers planned to observe the holiday in 2011.[8]

Non-essential federal government offices are closed. No mail is delivered. All federal workers are paid for the holiday; those who are required to work on the holiday sometimes receive holiday pay for that day in addition to their wages.

In his Armistice Day address to Congress, Wilson was sensitive to the psychological toll of the lean War years: “Hunger does not breed reform; it breeds madness,” he remarked.[9] As Veterans Day and the birthday of the United States Marine Corps (November 10, 1775) are only one day apart, that branch of the Armed Forces customarily observes both occasions as a 96-hour liberty period.

Election Day is a regular working day, while Veterans Day, which typically falls the following week, is a federal holiday. The National Commission on Federal Election Reform called for the holidays to be merged, so citizens can have a day off to vote. They state this as a way to honor voting by exercising democratic rights.[10]

Spelling of Veterans Day

While the holiday is commonly printed as Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day in calendars and advertisements (spellings that are grammatically acceptable), the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website states that the attributive (no apostrophe) rather than the possessive case is the official spelling “because it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”[11]

See also


  1. Jump up^ Kelber, Sarah Kickler (May 28, 2012). “Today is not Veterans Day”Baltimore Sun. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  2. Jump up to:a b “Supplement to the Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Covering the Second Term of Woodrow Wilson, March 4, 1917, to March 4, 1921”. Bureau of National Literature. 11 November 2015.
  3. Jump up^ “Veterans Day History”. Veteran’s Affairs. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  4. Jump up^ Zurski, Ken (November 11, 2016). “Raymond Weeks: The Father of Veterans Day”. Unremembered History. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
  5. Jump up^ Carter, Julie (November 2003). “Where Veterans Day began”VFW Magazine. Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. Archived from the original on July 14, 2012.
  6. Jump up^ “History of Veterans Day”. United States Department of Veterans Affairs. November 26, 2007. Archived from the original on July 28, 2006. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  7. Jump up^ “The History of Veterans Day”. United States Army Center of Military History (CMH). October 3, 2003. Retrieved November 1, 2007.
  8. Jump up^ Society for Human Resource Management (November 4, 2010). “2011 Holiday Schedules SHRM Poll”. Archived from the original on December 4, 2010.
  9. Jump up^ Smith, Andrew F. (2007). The Oxford companion to American food and drink. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. p. 290. ISBN 0-19-530796-8. Retrieved November 12,2010.
  10. Jump up^ Sutter, John D. (November 12, 2012). “Election Day should be a federal holiday”CNN. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  11. Jump up^ Veterans Day Frequently Asked Questions, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Updated July 20, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2015.

This Day In History, November 10: Mary Anderson Patents the Windshield Wiper (1903)

Mary Anderson Patents the Windshield Wiper (1903)

Mary Anderson (February 19, 1866 – June 27, 1953)[1] was an American real estate developer, rancher, viticulturist and inventorof the windshield wiper blade. In November 1903 Anderson was granted her first patent[2] for an automatic car window cleaning device controlled from inside the car, called the windshield wiper.[3]

Early life

Mary Anderson was born in Greene County, Alabama, at the start of Reconstruction in 1866. In 1889 she moved with her widowed mother and sister to the booming town of Birmingham, Alabama. She built the Fairmont Apartments on Highland Avenue soon after settling in. By 1893, Mary Anderson had moved west to Fresno, California until 1898 where she then she operated a cattle ranch and vineyard.

Invention of the windshield wiper

In a visit to New York City in the winter of 1902, in a trolley car on a frosty day, she observed that the motorman drove with both panes of the double front window open because of difficulty keeping the windshield clear of falling sleet.[4] When she returned to Alabama she hired a designer for a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clear and had a local company produce a working model. She applied for, and in 1903 was granted, a 17-year patent for a windshield wiper.[1] Her device consisted of a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield. The lever could be operated to cause the spring-loaded arm to move back and forth across the windshield. A counterweight was used to ensure contact between the wiper and the window.[5][6] Similar devices had been made earlier, but Anderson’s was the first to be effective.[6]

In 1905 Anderson tried to sell the rights to her invention through a noted Canadian firm, but they rejected her application saying “we do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale.” After the patent expired in 1920 and the automobile manufacturing business grew exponentially, windshield wipers using Anderson’s basic design became standard equipment.[citation needed] In 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to adopt them as standard equipment.[5]

Later life

Anderson resided in Birmingham, where she continued to manage the Fairmont Apartments until her death at the age of 87. At the time of her death she was the oldest member of South Highland Presbyterian Church. She died at her summer home in Monteagle, Tennessee. Her funeral was conducted by Dr. Frank A Mathes at South Highland and she was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.[1]

In popular culture

Anderson’s invention of the windshield wiper is mentioned in Season 17, Episode 19: “Girls Just Want to Have Sums,” of the cartoon The Simpsons, during a debate between Marge Simpson and her husband and son, Homer and Bart, about gender equality:

Marge: “Well, a woman also invented the windshield wiper!”
Homer: “Which goes great with another male invention, the car!”[7]

Anderson’s windshield wiper invention is also briefly mentioned on the British panel/quiz show; QI (Quite Interesting); Season 10, Episode 16 – “Just the Job”.

“When was the windshield wiper invented?” was the Weather Channel “Question of the Day” for July 6, 2016.

NPR’s Morning Edition produced a profile, including an interview with her great-great-niece into her legacy and societal context on July 25, 2017. [8]


In 2011 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.[9]


  1. Jump up to:a b c ObituaryBirmingham Post-Herald, June 29, 1953
  2. Jump up^ United States Patent 743,801, Issue Date: November 10, 1903
  3. Jump up^ Women Hold Patents on Important Inventions; USPTO recognizes inventive women during Women’s History Month, United States Patent and Trademark Office press release #02-16, March 1, 2002, accessed March 3, 2009
  4. Jump up^ Slater, Dashka, Who made that? Windshield Wiper, New York Times Magazine, September 14, 2014, p.22
  5. Jump up to:a b “Hall of Fame Inventor Profile: Mary Anderson”Invent Now Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2013-05-07.
  6. Jump up to:a b Mary Anderson: Windshield Wipers, September 2001, Inventor of the Week Archive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering website, accessed March 3, 2009
  7. Jump up^ Girls Just Want to Have Sums“. The Simpsons. April 30, 2006. Fox.
  8. Jump up^ Palca, Joe (25 July 2017). “Alabama Woman Stuck In NYC Traffic In 1902 Invented The Windshield Wiper”Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  9. Jump up^ “Spotlight | National Inventors Hall of Fame”. 2013-11-21. Retrieved 2016-05-28.

This Day In History For November 9: Great Lakes Storm Reaches Peak Ferocity (1913)

Great Lakes Storm Reaches Peak Ferocity (1913)


The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, historically referred to as the “BigBlow”, the “Freshwater Fury”, or the “White Hurricane”, was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds that devastated the Great Lakes Basin in the Midwestern UnitedStates and the Canadian province of Ontario fromNovember 7 through November 10, 1913. The storm was most powerfulon November 9, battering and overturning ships on four of the five Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron. Deceptive lulls in the storm and the slowpace of weather reports contributed to the storm’s destructiveness.

The deadliest and most destructive natural disaster ever to hit the lakes,[1] the Great Lakes Storm killed more than 250 people,[2][3][4][5][6]destroyed 19 ships, and stranded 19 others. The financial loss in vesselsalone was nearly US $5 million (or about $116,145,000 in today’s dollars).[7] This included about $1 million at current value in lost cargo totallingabout 68,300 tons, such as coal, iron ore, and grain.[8]

The storm, an extratropical cyclone, originated as the convergence oftwo major storm fronts, fueled by the lakes’ relatively warm waters—aseasonal process called a “November gale”. It produced 90 mph(145 km/h) wind gusts, waves over 35 feet (11 m) high, and whiteoutsnowsqualls. Analysis of the storm and its impact on humans,engineering structures, and the landscape led to better forecasting andfaster responses to storm warnings, stronger construction (especially ofmarine vessels), and improved preparedness.

During autumn, cold, dry air moving south from northern Canadaconverges with warm, moist air moving north from the Gulf of Mexico,forming large storm systems in the middle of the North Americancontinent. Several of these systems move along preferred paths towardthe Great Lakes. When the cold air from these storms moves over thelakes, it is warmed by the waters below. This added heat postpones theArctic spread in the region, allowing the lakes to remain relatively warmfor much later into the year.[9][10]

In November, two storm tracks converge over the Great Lakes. Onetravels southeastward from the province of Alberta; the other bringsstorms from the lee of the central Rocky Mountains northeast toward theGreat Lakes. This convergence is commonly referred to as a “Novembergale” or “November witch”. When a cyclonic system moves over thelakes, its power is intensified by the jet stream above and the warmwaters below. This allows the storm to maintain hurricane-force windgusts, produce waves over 50 feet (15 m) high, and dump several feet ofsnow or inches of rain. Fuelled by the warm lake water, these powerfulstorms may remain over the Great Lakes for days. Intense winds thenravage the lakes and surrounding shores, severely eroding the shoreline,and flooding the shorelines.[9][10]

November gales have been a bane of the Great Lakes, with at least 25 killer storms striking the region since 1847. See, GreatStorms of the North American Great Lakes. During the Big Blow of 1905, twenty-seven wooden vessels were lost. During aNovember gale of 1975, the giant ore bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald sank suddenly, without a distress signal.[10][11]

Prelude to the storm
The storm was first noticed on Thursday, November 6, on the western side of Lake Superior, moving rapidly toward northern Lake Michigan. The weather forecast in The Detroit News called for “moderate to brisk” winds for the Great Lakes, with occasional rains Thursday night or Friday for the upper lakes (except on southern Lake Huron), and fair to unsettled conditions for the lower lakes.[12]

Around midnight, the steamer Cornell, while 50 miles (80 km) west of Whitefish Point in Lake Superior, ran into a sudden northerly gale and was badly damaged. This gale lasted until late Monday, November 10, almost forcing Cornell ashore.

On Friday, the weather forecast in the Port Huron Times-Herald of Port Huron, Michigan, described the storm as “moderately severe.”[13] By then, the storm was centered over the upper Mississippi Valley and had caused moderate to brisk southerly winds with warmer weather over the lakes. The forecast predicted increased winds and falling temperatures over the next 24 hours.

At 10:00 a.m., Coast Guard stations and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Weather Bureau offices at Lake Superior ports raised white pennants above square red flags with black centers, indicating a storm warning with northwesterly winds. By late afternoon, the storm signal flags were replaced with a vertical sequence of red, white, and red lanterns, indicating that a hurricane with winds over 74 mph (119 km/h) was coming. The winds on Lake Superior had already reached 50 mph (80 km/h), and an accompanying blizzard was moving toward Lake Huron.[14]

November 8
By Saturday, the storm’s status had been upgraded to “severe”. The storm was centered over eastern Lake Superior, covering the entire lake basin. The weather forecast of the Port Huron Times-Herald stated that southerly winds had remained “moderate to brisk”.[15] Northwesterly winds had reached gale strength on northern Lake Michigan and western Lake Superior, with winds of up to 60 mph (97 km/h) at Duluth, Minnesota.

A false lull in the storm (a “sucker hole”) allowed traffic to begin flowing again, both down the St. Marys River and up Lake Erie, and the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, into Lake Huron. Gale wind flags were raised at more than a hundred ports, but were ignored by many ship captains. Long ships traveled all that day through the St. Marys River, all night through the Straits of Mackinac, and early Sunday morning up the Detroit and St. Clair rivers.[16]

November 9
By noon on Sunday, weather conditions on lower Lake Huron were close to normal for a November gale. Barometric pressures in some areas actually began to rise, bringing hope of an end to the storm. The low pressure area that had moved across Lake Superior was moving northeast, away from the lakes.

The Weather Bureau had issued the first of its twice-daily reports at approximately 8:00 a.m.; it did not send another report to Washington, D.C. until 8:00 p.m. This proved to be a serious problem: the storm would have the better part of a day to build up hurricane forces before the Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C., would have detailed information.[17]

Along southeastern Lake Erie, near the city of Erie, Pennsylvania, a southern low-pressure area was moving toward the lake. This low had formed overnight, so was absent from Friday’s weather map. It had been traveling northward and began moving northwestward after passing over Washington, D.C.

The intense counterclockwise rotation of the low was made apparent by the changing wind directions around its center. In Buffalo, New York, morning northwest winds had shifted to northeast by noon and were blowing southeast by 5:00 p.m., with the fastest gusts, 80 mph (130 km/h), occurring between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Just 180 miles (290 km) to the southwest, in Cleveland, winds remained northwest during the day, shifting to the west by 5:00 p.m., and maintaining speeds of more than 50 mph (80 km/h). The fastest gust in Cleveland, 79 mph (127 km/h), occurred at 4:40 p.m. There was a dramatic drop in barometric pressure at Buffalo, from 29.52 inHg (999.7 hPa) at 8:00 a.m. to 28.77 inHg (974.3 hPa) at 8:00 p.m.

The rotating low continued along its northward path into the evening, bringing its counterclockwise winds in phase with the northwesterly winds already hitting Lakes Superior and Huron. This resulted in an explosive increase in northerly wind speeds and swirling snow. Ships on Lake Huron that were south of Alpena, Michigan—especially around Harbor Beach and Port Huron in Michigan and Goderich and Sarnia in Ontario—were battered with huge waves moving southward toward St. Clair River.

From 8:00 p.m. to midnight, the storm became what modern meteorologists call a “weather bomb”. Sustained hurricane-speed winds of more than 70 mph (110 km/h) ravaged the four western lakes. The worst damage was done on Lake Huron as numerous ships scrambled for shelter along its southern end. Gusts of 90 mph (140 km/h) were reported off Harbor Beach, Michigan. The lake’s shape allowed northerly winds to increase unchecked, because of the lower surface friction of water compared to land, and the wind following the lake’s long axis.[18]

In retrospect, weather forecasters of the time did not have enough data or understanding of atmospheric dynamics to predict or comprehend the events of Sunday, November 9. Frontal mechanisms, referred to then as “squall lines”, were not yet understood. Surface observations were collected only twice daily at stations around the country, and by the time these data were collected and hand-drawn maps created, the information lagged actual weather conditions by hours.[19]

November 10 and 11
On Monday morning, the storm had moved northeast of London, Ontario, dragging lake effect blizzards in its wake. An additional 17 inches (43 cm) of snow were dumped on Cleveland, Ohio that day, filling the streets with snowdrifts 6 feet (2 m) high. Streetcar operators stayed with their stranded, powerless vehicles for two nights, eating whatever food was provided by local residents. Travelers were forced to take shelter and wait for things to clear.

By Tuesday, the storm was rapidly moving across eastern Canada. Without the warm lake waters, it lost power quickly. This also meant less snowfall, both because of the fast motion of the storm and the lack of lake effect snow. All shipping was halted on Monday and part of Tuesday along the St. Lawrence River around Montreal, Quebec.[20]

Historically, storms of such magnitude and with such high wind velocities have not lasted more than four or five hours. The Great Lakes storm, however, raged for more than 16 hours, with an average speed of 60 mph (100 km/h), and frequent bursts of more than 70 mph (110 km/h). It crippled traffic on the lakes and throughout the Great Lakes basin region.

Surrounding shoreline
Along the shoreline, blizzards shut down traffic and communication, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. A 22-inch (56 cm) snowfall in Cleveland, Ohio, put stores out of business for two days. There were four-foot (122 cm) snowdrifts around Lake Huron. Power was out for several days across Michigan and Ontario, cutting off telephone and telegraph communications. A recently completed US$100,000 Chicago breakwater, intended to protect the Lincoln Park basin from storms, was swept away in a few hours.[21] The Milwaukee harbor lost its entire south breakwater and much of the surrounding South Park area that had been recently renovated.[22]

After the final blizzards hit Cleveland, the city was paralyzed under feet of ice and snow and was without power for days. Telephone poles had been broken, and power cables lay in tangled masses. The November 11 Plain Dealer described the aftermath:

“Cleveland lay in white and mighty solitude, mute and deaf to the outside world, a city of lonesome snowiness, storm-swept from end to end, when the violence of the two-day blizzard lessened late yesterday afternoon.”[23]
William H. Alexander, Cleveland’s chief weather forecaster, observed:

“Take it all in all—the depth of the snowfall, the tremendous wind, the amount of damage done and the total unpreparedness of the people—I think it is safe to say that the present storm is the worst experienced in Cleveland during the whole forty-three years the Weather Bureau has been established in the city.”[24]

On the lakes
The 504-ft (154 m) Charles S. Price, upside down on the southern end of Lake Huron.
The greatest damage was done on the lakes. Major shipwrecks occurred on all but Lake Ontario, with most happening on southern and western Lake Huron. Lake masters recounted that waves reached at least 35 feet (11 m) in height. Being shorter in length than waves ordinarily formed by gales, they occurred in rapid succession, with three waves frequently striking in succession. Masters also stated that the wind often blew in directions opposite to the waves below. This was the result of the storm’s cyclonic motion, a phenomenon rarely seen on the Great Lakes.

In the late afternoon of November 10, an unknown vessel was spotted floating upside-down in about 60 feet (18 m) of water on the eastern coast of Michigan, within sight of Huronia Beach and the mouth of the St. Clair River. Determining the identity of this “mystery ship” became of regional interest, resulting in daily front-page newspaper articles. The ship eventually sank, and it was not until early Saturday morning, November 15, that it was finally identified as the Charles S. Price (this was the first time in Great Lakes History that a fully loaded ore carrier had been capsized[25]). The front page of that day’s Port Huron Times-Herald extra edition read, “BOAT IS PRICE — DIVER IS BAKER — SECRET KNOWN”.[26] Milton Smith, an assistant engineer who decided at the last moment not to join his crew on premonition of disaster, aided in identifying any bodies that were found.

The final tally of financial loss included US$2,332,000 for vessels totally lost, $830,900 for vessels that became constructive total losses, $620,000 for vessels stranded but returned to service, and approximately $1,000,000 in lost cargoes. This figure did not include financial losses in coastal cities.[27]

The storm had several long-term consequences. Complaints against the USDA Weather Bureau of alleged unpreparedness resulted in increased efforts to achieve more accurate weather forecasting and faster realization and communication of proper storm warnings. Criticism of the shipping companies and shipbuilders led to a series of conferences with insurers and mariners to seek safer designs for vessels. This resulted in the construction of ships with greater stability and more longitudinal strength. Immediately following the blizzard of Cleveland, Ohio, the city began a campaign to move all utility cables underground, in tubes beneath major streets. The project took half a decade.

Ships foundered

The following list includes ships that sank during the storm, killing their entirecrews. It does not include the three victims from the freighter WilliamNottinghamwho volunteered to leave the ship on a lifeboat in search ofassistance. While the boat was being lowered into the water, a breaking wavesmashed it into the side of the ship. The men disappeared into the near-freezing waters below. The following shipwreck casualties have beendocumented:[28]

  • Lake Superior
    • Leafield: 18 victims
    • Henry B. Smith: 25 victims
  • Lake Michigan
    • Plymouth (barge): 7 victims
  • Lake Huron
    • Argus: 28 victims
    • James Carruthers: 22 victims
    • Hydrus: 25 victims
    • John A. McGean: 28 victims
    • Charles S. Price: 28 victims
    • Regina: 20 victims
    • Isaac M. Scott: 28 victims
    • Wexford: 20 victims
  • Lake Erie
    • Lightship LV 82, Buffalo: 6 victims[29]

Of the twelve ships that sank in the storm, four have never been found: LeafieldJames CarruthersPlymouthand theHydrusThe most recent discovery is the Henry B. Smith, which appears to have been located in June of 2013. [30] The lastwreck found previous to the Henry B. Smith was the Wexford in 2000. [31]


See also


  1. ^ Brown, David G. (2002).White Hurricane.International Marine / McGraw-Hill. pp. 208, 222. ISBN0-07-138037-X.
  2. ^ Brown, 2002.
  3. ^ The Great Storm of 1913: Vessels Totally Destroyed.” Newsletter, Winter 2003, Save OntarioShipwrecks, Inc.. Accessed on February 9, 2005.ArchivedApril 24, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Hemming, Robert J. (1992).Ships Gone Missing:The Great Lakes Storm of 1913Chicago:Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN 0-8092-3909-4.
  5. ^ Shipwrecks.” Maritime History of the Great Lakes.Accessed on February 10, 2005.ArchivedFebruary 6,2005 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Annual Report of the Lake Carriers’ Association.1913.
  7. ^ Brown, 2002, p 245, Oregon State University.Retrieved 2007-04-10.ArchivedOctober 5, 2007 atthe Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Brown, 2002, pp 203, 225.
  9. ab Heidorn, Keith C. (2001).“The Great Lakes: Storm Breeding Ground”Science of the Sky.Published online 16 Nov 2001, Suite101. Retrieved 5February 2005.
  10. abc Bentley, Mace and Steve Horstmeyer. “The witch of November“. Weatherwise Magazine.Nov/Dec 1998.
  11. ^ Brown, 2002, p 246.
  12. ^ Weather forecast,The Detroit NewsDetroit,Michigan, 5 Nov 1913.
  13. ^ Front page,Port Huron Times-HeraldPort Huron,Michigan. 7 November 1913.
  14. ^ See Brown, 2002, pp 28–44, for wind speeds andother figures for November 7.
  15. ^ Front page,Port Huron Times-HeraldPort Huron,Michigan, 8 November 1913.
  16. ^ See Brown, 2002, pp 44–67, for wind speeds andother figures for November 8.
  17. ^ Brown, 2002, p 12.
  18. ^ See Brown, 2002, pp 68–127, for wind speeds andother figures for November 9.
  19. ^ Brown, 2002, pp 13, 19, 68.
  20. ^ See Brown, 2002, pp 127–142, 163–180, for windspeeds and other figures for November 10 andNovember 11.
  21. ^ Brown, 2002, p 94.
  22. ^ [1]Barcus, 1986, p 6.
  23. ^ Reprinted in Brown, 2002, p 162.
  24. ^ Reprinted in Brown, 2002, p 163.
  25. ^ Minnich, Jerry The Wisconsin Almanac pg. 218 ISBN0-944-13306-1
  26. ^ Front page,Port Huron Times-HeraldEXTRAedition, Port Huron, Michigan, 15 November 1913.
  27. ^ Brown, 2002, p 245.
  28. ^ Brown, 2002, p 223.
  29. ^ Vogel, Michael N. and Paul F. Redding, Maritime Buffalo, Buffalo History, Lightship LV 82.
  30. ^
  31. ^…/the-wexford-elusive-shipwreck-of-the-great-storm/‎



  • Barcus, Frank, Freshwater Fury: Yarns and Reminiscences of the Greatest Storm in Inland Navigation(1986: Wayne State University Press166 pages. ISBN 0-8143-1828-2.
  • Brown, David G. (2002). White Hurricane: A Great Lakes November Gale and America’s Deadliest Maritime Disaster.International Marine / McGraw-HillISBN 0-07-138037-X.
  • Hemming, Robert J. (1992). Ships Gone Missing: The Great Lakes Storm of 1913Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc. 198pages. ISBN 0-8092-3909-4.
  • Ratigan, William (1987). Great Lakes Shipwrecks and SurvivalsGrand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ISBN0-8028-7010-4.
  • Shipley, Robert and Fred Addis (1992). Wrecks and Disasters: Great Lakes Album SeriesSt. Catharines, Ontario: VanwellPublishing Limited. ISBN 0-920277-77-2.
  • Articles in The Port Huron Times-HeraldPort Huron, Michigan. (Nov. 10–15, 1913). various authors and pages.Transcripts of relevant articles are available online.

This Day in History for November 8th: The Beer Hall Putsch (1923)

Beer Hall Putsch

The Beer Hall Putsch, also known as the Munich Putsch,[1] and, in German, as the HitlerputschHitler-Ludendorff-PutschBürgerbräu-Putsch or Marsch auf die Feldherrnhalle (“March on the Feldherrnhalle”), was a failed coup d’état by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) leader Adolf Hitler—along with Generalquartiermeister Erich Ludendorff and other Kampfbund leaders—to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, on 8–9 November 1923. Approximately two thousand Nazis were marching to the Feldherrnhalle, in the city center, when they were confronted by a police cordon, which resulted in the death of 16 Nazis and four police officers. Hitler, who was wounded during the clash, escaped immediate arrest and was spirited off to safety in the countryside. After two days, he was arrested and charged with treason.[2]

The putsch brought Hitler to the attention of the German nation and generated front page headlines in newspapers around the world. His arrest was followed by a 24-day trial, which was widely publicized and gave him a platform to publicize his nationalist sentiment to the nation. Hitler was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in Landsberg Prison,[3] where he dictated Mein Kampf to his fellow prisoners Emil Maurice and Rudolf Hess. On 20 December 1924, having served only nine months, Hitler was released.[4][5] Hitler now saw that the path to power was through legal means rather than revolution or force, and accordingly changed his tactics, further developing Nazi propaganda.[6]


In the early 20th century, many of the larger cities of southern Germany had beer halls where hundreds or even thousands of people would socialize in the evenings, drink beer and participate in political and social debates. Such beer halls also became the host of occasional political rallies. One of Munich’s largest beer halls was the Bürgerbräukeller. This was the location of the famous Beer Hall Putsch.

The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, sounded the death knell of German power and prestige. Like many Germans of the period, Hitler (who still held Austrian citizenship at the time) believed that the treaty was a betrayal, with the country having been “stabbed in the back” by its own government, particularly as the German Army was popularly thought to have been undefeated in the field. Germany, it was felt, had been betrayed by civilian leaders and Marxists, who were later called the “November Criminals”.[7]

Hitler remained in the army, in Munich, after World War I. He participated in various “national thinking” courses. These had been organized by the Education and Propaganda Department of the Bavarian Army, under Captain Karl Mayr,[8] of which Hitler became an agent. Captain Mayr ordered Hitler, then an army lance corporal, to infiltrate the tiny Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated DAP (German Workers’ Party).[9] Hitler joined the DAP on 12 September 1919.[10] He soon realized that he was in agreement with many of the underlying tenets of the DAP, and he rose to its top post in the ensuing chaotic political atmosphere of postwar Munich.[11] By agreement, Hitler assumed the political leadership of a number of Bavarian “patriotic associations” (revanchist), called the Kampfbund.[12] This political base extended to include about 15,000 Sturmabteilung (SA, lit. “Storm Detachment”), the paramilitary wing of the NSDAP.

On 26 September 1923, following a period of turmoil and political violence, Bavarian Prime Minister Eugen von Knilling declared a state of emergency, and Gustav von Kahrwas appointed Staatskomissar, or state commissioner, with dictatorial powers to govern the state. In addition to von Kahr, Bavarian state police chief Colonel Hans Ritter von Seisser and Reichswehr General Otto von Lossow formed a ruling triumvirate.[13] Hitler announced that he would hold 14 mass meetings beginning on 27 September 1923. Afraid of the potential disruption, one of Kahr’s first actions was to ban the announced meetings.[14] Hitler was under pressure to act. The Nazis, with other leaders in the Kampfbund, felt they had to march upon Berlin and seize power or their followers would turn to the Communists.[15] Hitler enlisted the help of World War I general Erich Ludendorff in an attempt to gain the support of Kahr and his triumvirate. However, Kahr had his own plan with Seisser and Lossow to install a nationalist dictatorship without Hitler.[15]

The Putsch

The attempted putsch was inspired by Benito Mussolini’s successful March on Rome, from 22 to 29 October 1922. Hitler and his associates planned to use Munich as a base for a march against Germany’s Weimar Republic government. But the circumstances were different from those in Italy. Hitler came to the realization that Kahr sought to control him and was not ready to act against the government in Berlin. Hitler wanted to seize a critical moment for successful popular agitation and support.[16] He decided to take matters into his own hands. Hitler, along with a large detachment of SA, marched on the Bürgerbräukeller, where Kahr was making a speech in front of 3,000 people.[17]

In the cold, dark evening, 603 SA surrounded the beer hall and a machine gun was set up in the auditorium. Hitler, surrounded by his associates Hermann Göring, Alfred Rosenberg, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Hanfstaengl, Ulrich Graf, Johann Aigner, Adolf Lenk, Max Amann, Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, Wilhelm Adam, and others (some 20 in all), advanced through the crowded auditorium. Unable to be heard above the crowd, Hitler fired a shot into the ceiling and jumped on a chair yelling: “The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with six hundred men. Nobody is allowed to leave.” He went on to state the Bavarian government was deposed and declared the formation of a new government with Ludendorff.[18]

Hitler, accompanied by Hess, Lenk and Graf, ordered the triumvirate of Kahr, Seisser, and Lossow into an adjoining room at gunpoint and demanded they support the putsch.[19] Hitler demanded they accept government positions he assigned them.[20] Hitler had promised Lossow a few days earlier that he would not attempt a coup,[21] but now thought that he would get an immediate response of affirmation from them, imploring Kahr to accept the position of Regent of Bavaria. Kahr replied that he could not be expected to collaborate, especially as he had been taken out of the auditorium under heavy guard.[22]

Heinz Pernet, Johann Aigne and Scheubner-Richter were dispatched to pick up Ludendorff, whose personal prestige was being harnessed to give the Nazis credibility. A telephone call was made from the kitchen by Hermann Kriebel to Ernst Röhm, who was waiting with his Bund Reichskriegsflagge in the Löwenbräukeller, another beer hall, and he was ordered to seize key buildings throughout the city. At the same time, co-conspirators under Gerhard Rossbach mobilized the students of a nearby Officers Infantry school to seize other objectives.

Hitler became irritated by Kahr and summoned Ernst Pöhner, Friedrich Weber and Hermann Kriebel to stand in for him while he returned to the auditorium flanked by Rudolf Hess and Adolf Lenk. He followed up on Göring’s speech and stated that the action was not directed at the police and Reichswehr, but against “…the Berlin Jew government and the November criminals of 1918”.[18] Dr. Karl Alexander von Mueller, a professor of modern history and political science at the University of Munich and a supporter of Kahr, was an eyewitness. He reported:

I cannot remember in my entire life such a change in the attitude of a crowd in a few minutes, almost a few seconds … Hitler had turned them inside out, as one turns a glove inside out, with a few sentences. It had almost something of hocus-pocus, or magic about it.

Hitler ended his speech with: “Outside are Kahr, Lossow and Seisser. They are struggling hard to reach a decision. May I say to them that you will stand behind them?”[2]

The crowd in the hall backed Hitler with a roar of approval.[23] He finished triumphantly:

You can see that what motivates us is neither self-conceit or self-interest, but only a burning desire to join the battle in this grave eleventh hour for our German Fatherland … One last thing I can tell you. Either the German revolution begins tonight or we will all be dead by dawn![23]

Hitler returned to the anteroom, where the triumvirs remained, to ear-shattering acclaim, which the triumvirs could not have failed to notice. On his way back, Hitler ordered Göring and Hess to take Eugen von Knilling and seven other members of the Bavarian government into custody.

During Hitler’s speech, Pöhner, Weber, and Kriebel had been trying in a conciliatory fashion to bring the triumvirate round to their point of view. The atmosphere in the room had become lighter but Kahr continued to dig in his heels. Ludendorff showed up a little before 9 p.m. and, being shown into the ante-room, concentrated on Lossow and Seisser, appealing to their sense of duty. Eventually the triumvirate reluctantly gave in.

Hitler, Ludendorff et al. returned to the main hall’s podium, where they gave speeches and shook hands. The crowd was then allowed to leave the hall.[23] In a tactical mistake, Hitler decided to leave the Bürgerbräukeller shortly thereafter to deal with a crisis elsewhere. Around 10:30 p.m., Ludendorff released Kahr and his associates.

The night was marked by confusion and unrest among government officials, armed forces, police units, and individuals deciding where their loyalties lay. Units of the Kampfbund were scurrying around to arm themselves from secret caches, and seizing buildings. At around 3 am, the first casualties of the putsch occurred when the local garrison of the Reichswehr spotted Röhm’s men coming out of the beer hall. They were ambushed while trying to reach the Reichswehr barracks by soldiers and state police; shots were fired, but there were no fatalities on either side. Encountering heavy resistance, Röhm and his men were forced to fall back. In the meantime, the Reichswehr officers put the whole garrison on alert and called for reinforcements. Foreign attachés were seized in their hotel rooms and put under house arrest.

In the early morning, Hitler ordered the seizure of the Munich city council as hostages. He further sent the communications officer of the Kampfbund, Max Neunzert, to enlist the aid of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria to mediate between Kahr and the putschists. Neunzert failed in the mission.

By midmorning on 9 November, Hitler realized that the putsch was going nowhere. The Putschists did not know what to do and were about to give up. At this moment, Ludendorff cried out, “Wir marschieren!” (We will march!). Röhm’s force together with Hitler’s (a total of approximately 2000 men) marched out—but with no specific plan of where to go. On the spur of the moment, Ludendorff led them to the Bavarian Defence Ministry. However, at the Odeonsplatz in front of the Feldherrnhalle, they met a force of 130 soldiers blocking the way under the command of State Police Senior Lieutenant Baron Michael von Godin. The two groups exchanged fire, killing four state police officers and 16 Nazis.[24]

This was the origin of the Blutfahne (blood-flag), which became stained with the blood of two SA members who were shot: the flagbearer Heinrich Trambauer, who was badly wounded, and Andreas Bauriedl, who fell dead onto the fallen flag.[25] A bullet killed Scheubner-Richter.[26] Göring was shot in the leg, but escaped.[27] The rest of the Nazis scattered or were arrested. Hitler was arrested two days later.

In a description of Ludendorff’s funeral at the Feldherrnhalle in 1937 (which Hitler attended but without speaking) William L. Shirer wrote: “The World War [One] hero [Ludendorff] had refused to have anything to do with him [Hitler] ever since he had fled from in front of the Feldherrnhalle after the volley of bullets during the Beer Hall Putsch.” However, when a consignment of papers relating to Landsberg prison (including the visitor book) were later sold at auction, it was noted that Ludendorff had visited Hitler a number of times. The case of the resurfacing papers was reported in Der Spiegel (“The Mirror”, German news magazine) on 23 June 2006; the new information (which came out more than 30 years after Shirer wrote his book, and which Shirer did not have access to) nullifies Shirer’s statement.[28][29]


State Police and Police units were first notified of trouble by three police detectives stationed at the Löwenbräukeller. These reports reached Major Sigmund von Imhoff of the State police. He immediately called all his green police units and had them seize the central telegraph office and the telephone exchange, although his most important act was to notify Major-General Jakob von Danner, the Reichswehr city commandant of Munich. As a staunch aristocrat, Danner loathed the “little corporal” and those “Freikorps bands of rowdies”. He also did not much like his commanding officer, Generalleutnant Otto von Lossow, “a sorry figure of a man”. He was determined to put down the putsch with or without Lossow. Danner set up a command post at the 19th Infantry Regiment barracks and alerted all military units.[30]

Meanwhile, Captain Karl Wild, learning of the putsch from marchers, mobilized his command to guard Kahr’s government building, the Commissariat, with orders to shoot.[30]

Around 11 p.m., Major-General von Danner, along with fellow generals Adolf Ritter von Ruith and Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, compelled Lossow to repudiate the putsch.[30]

There was one member of the cabinet who was not at the Bürgerbräukeller: Franz Matt, the vice-premier and minister of education and culture. A staunchly conservative Roman Catholic, he was having dinner with the Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber and with the Nuncio to Bavaria, Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli (who would later become Pope Pius XII), when he learned of the putsch. He immediately telephoned Kahr. When he found the man vacillating and unsure, Matt decisively began plans to set up a rump government-in-exile in Regensburg and composed a proclamation calling upon all police officers, members of the armed forces, and civil servants to remain loyal to the government. The action of these few men spelled doom for those attempting the putsch.[30]

On Wednesday, 3,000 students from the University of Munich rioted and marched to the Feldherrnhalle to lay wreaths. They continued to riot until Friday, when they learned of Hitler’s arrest. Kahr and Lossow were called Judases and traitors.[30]

Trial and prison

Two days after the putsch, Hitler was arrested and charged with high treason in the special People’s Court.[2] Some of his fellow conspirators, including Rudolf Hess, were also arrested, while others, including Hermann Göring and Ernst Hanfstaengl, escaped to Austria.[31] The Nazi Party’s headquarters was raided, and its newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter (“The People’s Observer”), was banned. In January 1924, the Emminger Reform, an emergency decree, abolished the jury as trier of fact and replaced it with a mixed system of judges and lay judges in Germany’s judiciary, which still exists.[32][33][34]

This was not the first time Hitler had been in trouble with the law. In an incident in September 1921, he and some men of the SA had disrupted a meeting of the Bayernbund (“Bavaria Union”) which Otto Ballerstedt, a Bavarian federalist, was to have addressed, and the Nazis who had gone there to cause trouble were arrested as a result. Hitler ended up serving a little over a month of a three-month jail sentence.[35] Judge Georg Neithardt (de) was the presiding judge at both of Hitler’s trials.[4]

Hitler’s trial began on 26 February 1924 and lasted until 1 April 1924.[5] Lossow acted as chief witness for the prosecution.[21] Hitler moderated his tone for the trial, centering his defense on his selfless devotion to the good of the people and the need for bold action to save them; dropping his usual anti-Semitism.[36] He claimed the putsch had been his sole responsibility, inspiring the title “Führer” or “Leader”.[37] The lay judges were fanatically pro-Nazi and had to be dissuaded by the presiding Judge, Georg Neithardt (de), from acquitting Hitler.[38] Hitler and Hess were both sentenced to five years in Festungshaft (literally fortress confinement) for treason. Festungshaftwas the mildest of the three types of jail sentence available in German law at the time; it excluded forced labour, provided reasonably comfortable cells, and allowed the prisoner to receive visitors almost daily for many hours. This was the customary sentence for those whom the judge believed to have had honourable but misguided motives, and it did not carry the stigma of a sentence of Gefängnis or Zuchthaus. In the end, Hitler served only a little over eight months of this sentence before his early release for good behaviour.[39]

However, Hitler used the trial as an opportunity to spread his ideas. The event was extensively covered in the newspapers the next day. The judges were impressed (Presiding Judge Neithardt was inclined to favouritism towards the defendants prior to the trial), and as a result Hitler served a little over eight months and was fined 500 Reichsmark.[4] Due to his story that he was present by accident, an explanation he had also used in the Kapp Putsch, along with his war service and connections, Ludendorff was acquitted. Both Röhm and Wilhelm Frick, though found guilty, were released. Göring, meanwhile, had fled after suffering a bullet wound to his leg,[27] which led him to become increasingly dependent on morphine and other painkilling drugs. This addiction continued throughout his life.

One of Hitler’s greatest worries at the trial was that he was at risk of being deported back to his native Austria by the Bavarian government.[40] The trial judge, Neithardt, was very sympathetic towards Hitler and held that the relevant laws of the Weimar Republic could not be applied to a man “who thinks and feels like a German, as Hitler does.” The result was that the Nazi leader remained in Germany.[41][note 1]

Though Hitler failed to achieve his immediate stated goal, the putsch did give the Nazis their first exposure to national attention and a propaganda victory.[6] While serving their “fortress confinement” sentences at Landsberg am Lech, Hitler, Emil Maurice and Rudolf Hess wrote Mein Kampf. Also, the putsch changed Hitler’s outlook on violent revolution to effect change. From then on he thought that, in order to win the German heart, he must do everything by the book, “strictly legal”.[citation needed]

The process of combination, where the conservative-nationalist-monarchist group thought that its members could piggyback onto, and control, the National Socialist movement to garner the seats of power, was to repeat itself ten years later in 1933 when Franz von Papen would legally ask Hitler to form a coalition government.


Bavarian police

  • Friedrich Fink
  • Nikolaus Hollweg
  • Max Schobert
  • Rudolf Schraut

National Socialists

  • Felix Allfarth, merchant, born 5 July 1901 in Leipzig. Alfarth had studied merchandising at the Siemens-Schuckert Works and moved to Munich in 1923 to begin his career.[43]
  • Andreas Bauriedl, hatter, born 4 May 1879 in Aschaffenburg. Bauriedl was hit in the abdomen, killing him and causing him to fall on the Nazi flag, which had fallen to the ground when its flagbearer, Heinrich Trambauer, was severely wounded. Bauriedl’s blood soaked the flag, which later became the Nazi relic known as the Blutfahne.[44]
  • Theodor Casella, bank clerk, born 8 August 1900.
  • Wilhelm Ehrlich, bank clerk, born 8 August 1894.
  • Martin Faust, bank clerk, born 4 January 1901.
  • Anton Hechenberger, locksmith, born 28 September 1902.
  • Oskar Körner, businessman, born 4 January 1875 in Ober-Peilau
  • Karl Kuhn, head waiter in a restaurant, born 7 July 1875.
  • Karl Laforce, engineering student, born 28 October 1904; the youngest to die in the putsch.
  • Kurt Neubauer, valet, born 27 March 1899 in Hopfengarten, Kreis Bernberg.
  • Klaus von Pape, businessman, born 16 August 1904 in Oschatz.
  • Theodor von der Pfordten, county court counsel, who had fought in World War I; born 14 May 1873 in Bayreuth; the eldest to die in the putsch.[citation needed]
  • Johann Rickmers, retired cavalry captain who had fought in World War I; born 7 May 1881 in Bremen.
  • Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, Nazi leader, born 21 January 1884 in Riga.
  • Lorenz Ritter von Stransky-Griffenfeld, engineer, born 14 March 1889.
  • Wilhelm Wolf, businessman, born 19 October 1898.

Scheubner-Richter was walking arm-in-arm with Hitler during the putsch; he was shot in the lungs and died instantly.[45] He brought Hitler down and dislocated Hitler’s shoulder when he fell. He was the only first-tier Nazi leader to die during the Putsch. Of all the party members who died in the Putsch, Hitler claimed Scheubner-Richter to be the only “irreplaceable loss”.[46]

According to Ernst Röhm, Martin Faust and Theodor Casella, both members of the armed militia organisation Reichskriegsflagge, were shot down accidentally in a burst of machine gun fire during the occupation of the War Ministry as the result of a misunderstanding with II/Inf.Regt 19.[47]


The 16 fallen were regarded as the first “blood martyrs” of the NSDAP and were remembered by Hitler in the foreword of Mein Kampf. The Nazi flag they carried, which in the course of events had been stained with blood, came to be known as the Blutfahne (blood flag) and was brought out for the swearing-in of new recruits in front of the Feldherrnhalle when Hitler was in power.

Shortly after he came to power, a memorial was placed at the south side of the Feldherrnhalle crowned with a swastika. The back of the memorial read Und ihr habt doch gesiegt! (And you triumphed nevertheless!). Behind it flowers were laid, and either policemen or the SS stood guard in between a lower plaque. Passers-by were required to give the Hitler salute. The putsch was also commemorated on three sets of stamps. Mein Kampf was dedicated to the fallen and, in the book Ich Kämpfe (given to those joining the party circa 1943), they are listed first even though the book lists hundreds of other dead. The header text in the book read “Though they are dead for their acts they will live on forever.” The army had a division named the Feldherrnhalle regiment, and there was also an SA Feldherrnhalle division.

Der neunte Elfte (9/11, literally the Ninth of the Eleventh) became one of the most important dates on the Nazi calendar, especially following the seizure of power in 1933. Annually until the fall of Nazi Germany, the putsch would be commemorated nationwide, with the major events taking place in Munich. On the night of 8 November, Hitler would address the Alte Kämpfer (Old Fighters) in the Bürgerbräukeller (after 1939, the Löwenbräu, in 1944, the Circus Krone Building), followed the next day by a re-enactment of the march through the streets of Munich. The event would climax with a ceremony recalling the 16 dead marchers on the Königsplatz.

The anniversary could be a time of tension in Nazi Germany. The ceremony was cancelled in 1934, coming as it did after the so-called Night of the Long Knives. In 1938, it coincided with the Kristallnacht, and in 1939 with the attempted assassination of Hitler by Johann Georg Elser. With the outbreak of war in 1939, security concerns caused the re-enactment of the march to be suspended, never to be resumed. However, Hitler continued to deliver his 8 November speech through 1943. In 1944, Hitler skipped the event and Heinrich Himmler spoke in his place. As the war went on, residents of Munich came increasingly to dread the approach of the anniversary, concerned that the presence of the top Nazi leaders in their city would act as a magnet for Allied bombers.

Every Gau (administrative region of Germany) was also expected to hold a small remembrance ceremony. As material given to propagandists said, the 16 fallen were the first losses and the ceremony was an occasion to commemorate everyone who had died for the movement.[48]

On 9 November 1935, the dead were taken from their graves and to the Feldherrnhalle. The SA and SS carried them down to the Königplatz, where two Ehrentempel (Honour Temples) had been constructed. In each of the structures eight of the martyrs were interred in a sarcophagus bearing their name.

In June 1945 the Allied Commission removed the bodies from the Ehrentempels and contacted their families. They were given the option of having their loved ones buried in Munich cemeteries in unmarked graves or having them cremated, common practice in Germany for unclaimed bodies. On 9 January 1947, the upper parts of the structures were blown up.

Since 1994, a commemorative plaque in the pavement in front of the Feldherrnhalle contains the names of the four Bavarian policemen who died in the fight against the Nazis. The plaque reads:

Den Mitgliedern der Bayerischen Landespolizei, die beim Einsatz gegen die Nationalsozialistischen Putschisten am 9.11.1923 Ihr Leben ließen. (“To the members of the Bavarian Police, who gave their lives opposing the National Socialist coup on 9 November 1923”)

Supporters of the Putsch

Key supporters

Other notable supporters

At the front of the march

In the vanguard were four flag bearers followed by Adolf Lenk and Kurt Neubauer, Ludendorff’s servant. Behind those two came more flag bearers, then the leadership in two rows.

Hitler was in the centre, slouch hat in hand, the collar of his trenchcoat turned up against the cold. To his left, in civilian clothes, a green felt hat, and a loose loden coat, was Ludendorff. To Hitler’s right was Scheubner-Richter. To his right came Alfred Rosenberg. On either side of these men were Ulrich Graf, Hermann Kriebel, Friedrich Weber, Julius Streicher, Hermann Göring, and Wilhelm Brückner.

Behind these came the second string of Heinz Pernet, Johann Aigner (Scheubner-Richter’s servant), Gottfried Feder, Theodor von der Pfordten, Wilhelm Kolb, Rolf Reiner, Hans Streck, and Heinrich Bennecke, Brückner’s adjutant.

Behind this row marched the Stoßtrupp-Hitler, the SA, the Infantry School, and the Oberländer.

Chief defendants in the “Ludendorff–Hitler” trial


  1. Jump up^ The court explained why it rejected the deportation of Hitler under the terms of the Protection of the Republic Act: “Hitler is a German-Austrian. He considered himself to be a German. In the opinion of the court, the meaning and the terms of section 9, para II of the Law for the Protection of the Republic cannot apply to a man who thinks and feels as German as Hitler, who voluntarily served for four and a half years in the German army at war, who attained high military honours through outstanding bravery in the face of the enemy, was wounded, suffered other damage to his health, and was released from the military into the control of the district Command Munich I.”[42]


  1. Jump up^ Dan Moorhouse, ed. The Munich Putsch., accessed 2008-05-31.
  2. Jump up to:a b Hitler, Adolf (1924). Der Hitler-Prozeß vor dem Volksgericht in München [The Hitler Trial Before the People’s Court in Munich]. Munich: Knorr & Hirth. OCLC 638670803.
  3. Jump up^ Hitler’s Festungshaft (“fortress-way”). Hitler’s sentence was to be served in the mildest form of incarceration under German law.
  4. Jump up to:a b c Harold J. Gordon Jr., The Hitler Trial Before the People’s Court in Munich(Arlington, VA: University Publications of America 1976)
  5. Jump up to:a b Fulda, Bernhard (2009). Press and politics in the Weimar Republic. Oxford University Press. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-0-19-954778-4.
  6. Jump up to:a b Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p. 24, ISBN 0-674-01172-4.
  7. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 61–63.
  8. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 72–74.
  9. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, p. 75.
  10. Jump up^ Stackelberg, Roderick (2007), The Routledge Companion to Nazi Germany, New York: Routledge, p. 9, ISBN 978-0-415-30860-1
  11. Jump up^ Sayers, Michael and Kahnn, Albert E. (1945), The Plot Against the Peace. Dial Press.
  12. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, p. 124.
  13. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 125–126.
  14. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, p. 125.
  15. Jump up to:a b Kershaw 2008, p. 126.
  16. Jump up^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 125–127.
  17. Jump up^ Piers BrendonThe Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p. 36 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  18. Jump up to:a b Kershaw 2008, p. 128.
  19. Jump up^ Piers BrendonThe Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, pp. 36–37 ISBN 0-375-40881-9
  20. Jump up^ Shirer, William (2011). The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Fiftieth Anniversary ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4516-4259-9.
  21. Jump up to:a b Knickerbocker, H. R. (1941). Is Tomorrow Hitler’s? 200 Questions on the Battle of Mankind. Reynal & Hitchcock. p. 12.
  22. Jump up^ Bear 2016, p. PT20.
  23. Jump up to:a b c d Kershaw 2008, p. 129.
  24. Jump up^ Shirer 1960, pp. 73–76.
  25. Jump up^ Hilmar HoffmannThe Triumph of Propaganda: Film and National Socialism, 1933–1945, Volume 1, pp. 20–22.
  26. Jump up^ [1] Hitler Sites by Steven Lehrer. McFarland & Co, Publishers, ISBN 0-7864-1045-0.
  27. Jump up to:a b Kershaw 2008, p. 131.
  28. Jump up^ Der Spiegel, 23 June 2006.
  29. Jump up^ Shirer 1960, p. 312.
  30. Jump up to:a b c d e Bear 2016, p. PT22.
  31. Jump up^ “Hermann Goring (German minister) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia”. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
  32. Jump up^ Kahn-Freund, Otto (January 1974). “On Uses and Misuses of Comparative Law”. Modern Law Review. footnote 73, p. 18. 37 (1). JSTOR 1094713.
  33. Jump up^ Wolff, Hans Julius (June 1944). “Criminal Justice in Germany”. Michigan Law Review. footnote 7, pp. 1069–1070. 42 (6). JSTOR 1283584.
  34. Jump up^ Casper, GerhardZeisel, Hans (January 1972). “Lay Judges in the German Criminal Courts”. The Journal of Legal Studies1 (1): 135. doi:10.1086/467481JSTOR 724014.
  35. Jump up^ Richard J Evans: The Coming of the Third Reich. A History, 2004, S. 181; Joachim Fest: Hitler, 2002, S. 160 und 225.
  36. Jump up^ Claudia KoonzThe Nazi Conscience, p. 21
  37. Jump up^ Piers BrendonThe Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, p. 38
  38. Jump up^ Landauer, Carl (September 1944). “The Bavarian Problem in the Weimar Republic: Part II”. The Journal of Modern History16 (3): 222. doi:10.1086/236826JSTOR 1871460.
  39. Jump up^ Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p. 22
  40. Jump up^ Kershaw 1999, p. 238.
  41. Jump up^ Revoking the Fuehrer’s Passport at
  42. Jump up^ Ian Kershaw. Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. Penguin Books. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-14-192579-0.
  43. Jump up^ Christian Zentner, Friedemann Bedürftig (1991). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. Macmillan, New York. ISBN 0-02-897502-2
  44. Jump up^ Bear 2016, p. PT21.
  45. Jump up^ Toland, JohnAdolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography. New York: Anchor Books, 1976 p. 170 ISBN 0-385-42053-6
  46. Jump up^ Balakian, PeterThe Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response. New York, HarperCollins, 2003 p. 407 ISBN 0-06-055870-9
  47. Jump up^ “Ernst Röhm, Die Geschichte eines Hochverräters, Franz Eher Verlag, Munich 1928.
  48. Jump up^ Bytwerk, Randall (2000). “Nazi ceremonies for 9 November 1942”. German Propaganda Archive. Archived from the original on 5 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26.

This Day in History, November 7th: Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapses (1940)

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapses (1940)


Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Rhe Tacoma Narrows Bridge is a pair of twin suspension bridges that span the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound in Pierce County, Washington. The bridges connects the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula and carry State Route 16 (known as Primary State Highway 14 until 1964) over the strait. Historically, the name “Tacoma Narrows Bridge” has applied to the original bridge nicknamed “Galloping Gertie”, which opened in July 1940 but collapsed because of aeroelastic flutter four months later, as well as the replacement of the original bridge which opened in 1950 and still stands today as the westbound lanes of the present-day twin bridge complex.

The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened on July 1, 1940. It received its nickname “Galloping Gertie” because of the vertical movement of the deck observed by construction workers during windy conditions. The bridge became known for its pitching deck, and collapsed into Puget Sound the morning of November 7, 1940, under high wind conditions. Engineering issues as well as the United States’ involvement in World War II postponed plans to replace the bridge for several years; the replacement bridge was opened on October 14, 1950.

By 1990, population growth and development on the Kitsap Peninsula caused traffic on the bridge to exceed its design capacity; as a result, in 1998 Washington voters approved a measure to support building a parallel bridge. After a series of protests and court battles, construction began in 2002 and the new bridge opened to carry eastbound traffic on July 15, 2007, while the 1950 bridge was reconfigured to carry westbound traffic.

At the time of their construction, both the 1940 and 1950 bridges were the third-longest suspension bridges in the world in terms of main span length, behind the Golden Gate Bridge and George Washington Bridge. The 1950 and 2007 bridges are now the fifth-longest suspension bridge spans in the United States, and the 31st-longest in the world.

Tolls were charged on the bridge for the entire four-month service life of the original span, as well as the first 15 years of the 1950 bridge. In 1965, the bridge’s construction bonds plus interest were paid off, and the state ceased toll collection on the bridge. Over 40 years later, tolls were reinstated as part of the financing of the twin span, and are presently collected only from vehicles traveling eastbound.

Original bridge

The desire for the construction of a bridge in this location dates back to 1889 with a Northern Pacific Railway proposal for a trestle, but concerted efforts began in the mid-1920s. In 1937, the Washington State legislature created the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority and appropriated $5,000 to study the request by Tacoma and Pierce County for a bridge over the Narrows. The bridge was designed by Leon Moisseiff.

The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. Its main span collapsed into the Tacoma Narrows four months later on November 7, 1940, at 11:00 AM (Pacific time) as a result of aeroelastic flutter caused by a 42 mph (68 km/h) wind. The bridge collapse had lasting effects on science and engineering. In many undergraduate physics texts the event is presented as an example of elementary forced resonance with the wind providing an external periodic frequency that matched the natural structural frequency, even though the real cause of the bridge’s failure was aeroelastic flutter. A contributing factor was its solid sides, not allowing wind to pass through the bridge’s deck. Thus its design allowed the bridge to catch the wind and sway, which ultimately took it down.[2] Its failure also boosted research in the field of bridge aerodynamics/aeroelastics, fields which have influenced the designs of all the world’s great long-span bridges built since 1940.

No human life was lost in the collapse of the bridge. The only fatality was a cocker spaniel who perished after it was abandoned in a car on the bridge by its owner, Leonard Coatsworth. Professor Frederick Burt Farquharson (an engineer from U. Washington who had been involved in the design of the bridge) tried to rescue it, but was bitten by the terrified dog when he attempted to remove it. The collapse of the bridge was recorded on 16 mm film by Barney Elliott, owner of a local camera shop, and shows Farquharson leaving the bridge after trying to rescue the dog and making observations in the middle of the bridge. In 1998, The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. This footage is still shown to engineering, architecture, and physics students as a cautionary tale.

Dismantling of the towers and side spans—which survived the collapse of the main span but were damaged beyond repair—began shortly after the collapse and continued into May 1943. The United States’ participation in World War II as well as engineering and finance issues delayed plans to replace the bridge.

Westbound bridge
The current westbound bridge was designed and rebuilt with open trusses, stiffening struts and openings in the roadway to let wind through. It opened on October 14, 1950, and is 5,979 feet (1822 m) long — 40 feet (12 m) longer than the first bridge, Galloping Gertie. Local residents nicknamed the new bridge Sturdy Gertie, as the oscillations that plagued the previous design had been eliminated. This bridge along with its new parallel eastbound bridge are currently the fifth-longest suspension bridges in the United States.

When built, the westbound bridge was the third-longest suspension bridge span in the world.[3] Like other modern suspension bridges, the westbound bridge was built with steel plates that feature sharp entry edges rather than the flat plate sides used in the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge (see the suspension bridge article for an example).

The bridge was designed to handle 60,000 vehicles a day. It carried both westbound and eastbound traffic until the eastbound bridge opened on July 15, 2007.[4]

Eastbound bridge
In 1998, voters in several Washington counties approved an advisory measure to create a second Narrows span. Construction of the new span, which carries eastbound traffic parallel to the current bridge, began on October 4, 2002, and was completed in July 2007. The Washington State Department of Transportation collects a toll before entering the eastbound span, at $4.00 for Good To Go! account holders with in-vehicle transponders, and a $5.25 toll for cash/credit card customers. The existing span had been free of tolls since 1965. The new bridge marks the first installation of the new Good To Go! electronic toll collection system.


See also

This Day In History: Publishing Magnate Robert Maxwell Dies Mysteriously at Sea (1991)

Robert Maxwell


Ian Robert Maxwell MC (10 June 1923 – 5 November 1991), born Ján Ludvík Hyman Binyamin Hoch, was a British media proprietor and Member of Parliament (MP). Originally from Czechoslovakia, Maxwell rose from poverty to build an extensive publishing empire. After his death, huge discrepancies in his companies’ finances were revealed, including his fraudulentmisappropriation of the Mirror Group pension fund.[2][3]

Early in his life, Maxwell escaped from Nazi occupation, joined the Czechoslovak Army in exile in World War II and was decorated after active service in the British Army. In subsequent years he worked in publishing, building up Pergamon Press to a major publishing house. After six years as an MP during the 1960s, he again put all his energy into business, successively buying the British Printing Corporation, Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan Publishers, among other publishing companies.

Maxwell had a flamboyant lifestyle, living in Headington Hill Hall in Oxford, from which he often flew in his helicopter, and sailing in his luxury yacht, the Lady Ghislaine. He was notably litigious and often embroiled in controversy, including about his support for Israel at the time of the 1948 Palestine war. In 1989, he had to sell successful businesses, including Pergamon Press, to cover some of his debts. In 1991, his body was discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean, having fallen overboard from his yacht. He was buried in Jerusalem.

Maxwell’s death triggered the collapse of his publishing empire as banks called in loans. His sons briefly attempted to keep the business together, but failed as the news emerged that the elder Maxwell had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his own companies’ pension funds. The Maxwell companies applied for bankruptcy protection in 1992.

Early life

Maxwell was born into a poor Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish family in the small town of Slatinské Doly (now Solotvyno, Ukraine) in the easternmost province of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.[4][5][6] His parents were Mechel Hoch and Hannah Slomowitz. He had six siblings. In 1939, the area was reclaimed by Hungary. Most members of his family died in Auschwitz after Hungary was occupied in 1944 by Nazi Germany, but he had already escaped to France.[4] In Marseille, he joined the Czechoslovak Army in exile in May 1940.[7]

After the defeat in France and the retreat to Great Britain, Maxwell (using the name “Ivan du Maurier” [8]) took part in a protest against the leadership of the Czechoslovak Army, and with 500 other soldiers he was transferred to the Royal Pioneer Corps and later to the North Staffordshire Regiment in 1943. He was then involved in action across Europe, from the Normandy beaches to Berlin, and achieved the rank of sergeant.[4] He gained a commission in 1945 and was promoted to the rank of captain. In January 1945, he received the Military Cross from Field Marshal Montgomery. Attached to the Foreign Office, he served in Berlin during the next two years in the press section.[6] Maxwell naturalised as a British subject on 19 June 1946[9] and legally changed his name by deed of change of name on 30 June 1948.[10]

In 1945, he married Elisabeth “Betty” Meynard, a French Protestant with whom he had nine children with the goal of “recreating the family he lost in the Holocaust”.[11] Five of his children were later employed within his companies. His three-year-old daughter, Karine, died of leukemia and his eldest son, Michael, was severely injured in a car crash in 1961 (at the age of fifteen) while being driven home from a post-Christmas party when his driver fell asleep at the wheel. Michael never regained consciousness and died seven years later.[12][13][14][15]

After World War II, Maxwell used various contacts in the Allied occupation authorities to go into business, becoming the British and U.S. distributor for Springer Verlag, a publisher of scientific books. In 1951, he bought three-quarters of Butterworth-Springer, a minor publisher; the remaining quarter was held by the experienced scientific editor Paul Rosbaud.[16] They changed the name of the company to Pergamon Press and rapidly built it into a major publishing house.

In 1964, representing the Labour Party, Maxwell was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Buckingham and re-elected in 1966. He gave an interview to The Times in 1968, in which he said the House of Commons provided him with a problem. “I can’t get on with men”, he commented. “I tried having male assistants at first. But it didn’t work. They tend to be too independent. Men like to have individuality. Women can become an extension of the boss.”[17] Maxwell lost his seat in 1970 to the Conservative William Benyon. He contested Buckingham again in both 1974 general elections, but without success.

At the beginning of 1969, it emerged that Maxwell’s attempt to buy the News of the World had failed.[18] The Carr family, which owned the title, was incensed at the thought of a Czech immigrant with socialist politics gaining ownership and the board voted against Maxwell’s bid without any dissent. The News of the Worlds editor Stafford Somerfieldopposed Maxwell’s bid in an October 1968 front page opinion piece, in which he referred to Maxwell’s Czech origins and used his birth name.[19] He wrote, “This is a British paper, run by British people…as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding…Let us keep it that way”.[20] The tycoon who gained control was the Australian Rupert Murdoch, who later that year acquired The Sun, which had also previously interested Maxwell.[21]

Pergamon lost and regained[edit]

In 1969, Saul Steinberg, head of “Leasco Data Processing Corporation”, was interested in a strategic acquisition of Pergamon. Steinberg claimed that during negotiations, Maxwell falsely stated that a subsidiary responsible for publishing encyclopedias was extremely profitable.[22][23] At the same time, Pergamon had been forced to reduce its profit forecasts for 1969 from £2.5 million to £2.05 million during the period of negotiations, and dealing in Pergamon shares was suspended on the London stock markets.[23]

This caused Maxwell to lose control of Pergamon and he was expelled from the board in October 1969, along with three other directors in sympathy with him, by the majority owners of the company’s shares.[24] Steinberg purchased Pergamon. An inquiry by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the Takeover Code of the time reported in mid-1971:[6] “We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell’s acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company.” It was found that Maxwell had contrived to maximise Pergamon’s share price through transactions between his private family companies.[22]

At the same time, the United States Congress was investigating Leasco’s takeover practices. Justice Thayne Forbes in September 1971 was critical of the inquiry: “They had moved from an inquisitorial role to accusatory one and virtually committed the business murder of Mr. Maxwell.” He further continued that the trial judge would probably find that the inspectors had acted “contrary to the rules of natural justice”.[25] The company performed poorly under Steinberg; Maxwell reacquired Pergamon in 1974 after borrowing funds.[26]

Maxwell established the Maxwell Foundation in Liechtenstein in 1970. He acquired the British Printing Corporation (BPC) in 1981 and changed its name first to the British Printing and Communication Corporation (BPCC) and then to the Maxwell Communications Corporation. The company was later sold in a management buyout and is now known as Polestar.

Later business activities

In July 1984, Maxwell acquired Mirror Group Newspapers from Reed International plc.[27] for £113 million.[28] MGN, now part of Reach plc, formerly Trinity Mirror, published the Daily Mirror, a pro-Labour tabloid, and other popular newspapers in England and Scotland. At a press conference to publicise his acquisition, Maxwell said his editors would be “free to produce the news without interference”.[27] Meanwhile, at a meeting of Maxwell’s new employees, Mirror journalist Joe Haines asserted that he was able to prove that their boss “is a crook and a liar”.[29][30] Haines quickly came under Maxwell’s influence and later wrote his authorised biography.[29]

In June 1985, Maxwell announced a takeover of Sir Clive Sinclair’s ailing home computer company, Sinclair Research, through Hollis Brothers, a Pergamon Press subsidiary.[31] The deal was aborted in August 1985.[32] In 1987, Maxwell purchased part of IPC Media to create Fleetway Publications. That same year, he launched the London Daily News in February after a delay caused by production problems, but the paper closed in July after sustaining significant losses contemporary estimates put at £25 million.[33] At first intended to be a rival to the Evening Standard, Maxwell had made a rash decision for it to be the first 24-hour paper as well.[34]

By 1988, Maxwell’s various companies owned, in addition to the Mirror titles and Pergamon Press, Nimbus Records, Macmillan Publishers (of which Collier was a part), Maxwell Directories, Prentice Hall Information Services and the Berlitz language schools. He also owned a half-share of MTV in Europe and other European televisioninterests, Maxwell Cable TV and Maxwell Entertainment.[26] Maxwell purchased Macmillan, the American publishing firm, during 1988 for $2.6 billion. In the same year, he launched an ambitious new project, a transnational newspaper called The European. In 1991, he was forced to sell Pergamon Press and Maxwell Directories to Elsevier for £440 million to cover his debts;[26] he used some of this money to buy an ailing tabloid, the New York Daily News. Also in 1991, Maxwell sold 49 percent of the stock of Mirror Group Newspapers to the public.[6]

Maxwell’s links with Eastern European totalitarian regimes resulted in several biographies (generally considered to be hagiographies[35]) of those countries’ leaders, with interviews conducted by Maxwell, for which he received much derision.[6] At the beginning of an interview with Romania’s Nicolae Ceaușescu, then the country’s Communistleader, he asked, “How do you account for your enormous popularity with the Romanian people?”[36]

Maxwell was also the chairman of Oxford United, saving them from bankruptcy and attempting to merge them with Reading in 1983 to form a club he wished to call “Thames Valley Royals”. He took Oxford into the top flight of English football in 1985 and the team won the League Cup a year later. Maxwell bought into Derby County in 1987. He also attempted to buy Manchester United in 1984, but refused owner Martin Edwards’s asking price

Israeli connection

1948 war

A hint of Maxwell’s service to the Israeli state was provided by John Loftus and Mark Aarons, who described Maxwell’s contacts with Czechoslovak anti-Stalinist Communist leaders in 1948 as crucial to the Czechoslovak decision to arm Israel in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Czechoslovak military assistance was both unique and crucial for the fledgling state as it battled for its existence. It was Maxwell’s covert help in smuggling aircraft parts into Israel that led to the country having air supremacy during their 1948 War of Independence.[41]

Mossad allegations; Vanunu case

Shortly before Maxwell’s death, a former employee of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, Ari Ben-Menashe, approached a number of news organisations in Britain and the U.S. with the allegation that Maxwell and the Daily Mirrors foreign editor, Nicholas Davies, were both long-time agents for Mossad. Ben-Menashe also claimed that in 1986, Maxwell had told the Israeli Embassy in London that Mordechai Vanunu had given information about Israel’s nuclear capability to The Sunday Times, then to the Daily Mirror. Vanunu was subsequently kidnapped by Mossad and smuggled to Israel, convicted of treason and imprisoned for eighteen years.[42]

Ben-Menashe’s story was ignored at first, but eventually The New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh repeated some of the allegations during a press conference in London held to publicise The Samson Option, Hersh’s book about Israel’s nuclear weapons. On 21 October 1991, two MPs, Labour’s George Galloway and the Conservative’s Rupert Allason (also known as espionage author Nigel West), agreed to raise the issue in the House of Commons under Parliamentary Privilege protection,[43] which in turn allowed British newspapers to report events without fear of libel suits. Maxwell called the claims “ludicrous, a total invention” and sacked Davies.[44] A year later, in Galloway’s libel settlement against Mirror Group Newspapers (in which he received “substantial” damages), Galloway’s counsel announced that the MP accepted that the group’s staff had not been involved in Vanunu’s abduction. Galloway himself, however, referred to Maxwell as “one of the worst criminals of the century.”[45]


On 5 November 1991, Maxwell was last in contact with the crew of his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, at 4:25 a.m. local time, but was found to be missing later in the morning.[44]Maxwell was presumed to have fallen overboard from the vessel, which was cruising off the Canary Islands,[44][46] and his naked body was subsequently recovered from the Atlantic Ocean.[42] The official ruling at an inquest held in December 1991 was death by a heart attack combined with accidental drowning,[47] although three pathologists had been unable to agree on the cause of his death at the inquest;[42] he had been found to have been suffering from serious heart and lung conditions.[48] Murder was ruled out by the judge and, in effect, so was suicide.[47] He was buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.[49]

Prime Minister John Major said Maxwell had given him “valuable insights” into the situation in the Soviet Union during the attempted coup of 1991. He was a “great character”, Major added. Neil Kinnock, then Labour Party leader, spoke of him as a man with “a zest for life” who “attracted controversy, envy and loyalty in great measure throughout his rumbustious life.”

A production crew conducting research for Maxwell, an eponymous biographical film by the BBC, uncovered tapes stored in a suitcase owned by his former head of security, John Pole. Later in his life, Maxwell had become increasingly paranoid of his own employees and had the offices of those he suspected of disloyalty wired so he could hear their conversations. After Maxwell’s death, the tapes remained in Pole’s suitcase and were only discovered by the researchers in 2007.[50]


  1. Jump up^ Haines, Joe (1988). Maxwell. London: Futura. pp. 434 et seq. ISBN 0-7088-4303-4.
  2. Jump up^ “A Notorious Fraud – the Robert Maxwell Farrago”. Australian Guardians. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  3. Jump up^ “The way is still clear for a tyrant and a fraud”The Independent. 20 January 1996. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  4. Jump up to:a b c Марк Штейнберг. Евреи в войнах тысячелетий. p. 227. ISBN 5-93273-154-0 (in Russian)
  5. Jump up^ Иван Мащенко (7–13 September 2002). Медиа-олигарх из СолотвинаЗеркало недели (in Russian) (#34 (409)). Archived from the original on 22 December 2012.
  6. Jump up to:a b c d e Whitney, Craig R. (6 November 1991). “Robert Maxwell, 68: From Refugee to the Ruthless Builder of a Publishing Empire”The New York Times. p. 5.
  7. Jump up^ Ludvík Hoch (Maxwell) in the database of Central Military Archive in Prague
  8. Jump up^ “Naughty Boys: Ten Rogues of Oxford” Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  9. Jump up^ “No. 37658”The London Gazette. 19 July 1946. p. 3739.
  10. Jump up^ “No. 38352”The London Gazette. 13 July 1948. p. 4046.
  11. Jump up^ Witchell, Alex (15 February 1995). “Interview with Elisabeth Maxwell”The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
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  13. Jump up^ A mind of my own by Elisabeth Maxwell
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  15. Jump up^ Rampton, James (28 April 2007). Maxwell was a monster – but much more, tooThe Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
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  19. Jump up^ Greenslade, Roy (2004) [2003]. Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda. London: Pan. p. 395.
  20. Jump up^ Grundy, Bill (24 October 1968). “Mr Maxwell and the Ailing Giant”The Spectator. p. 6.
  21. Jump up^ “The Maxwell Murdoch tabloid rivalry”BBC News. 5 November 2011.
  22. Jump up to:a b Dennis Barker and Christopher Sylvester “The grasshopper”, – Obituary of Maxwell, The Guardian, 6 November 1991. Retrieved on 19 July 2007.
  23. Jump up to:a b Nicholas Davenport “Money Wanted: A Board of Trade inquiry”The Spectator, 29 August 1969, p.24
  24. Jump up^ Nicholas Davenport “Money: The End of the Affair”The Spectator, 17 October 1969, p.22
  25. Jump up^ Betty Maxwell, p. 542
  26. Jump up to:a b c “Robert Maxwell: Overview”,
  27. Jump up to:a b “Briton Buys the Mirror Chain”The New York Times, 14 July 1984
  28. Jump up^ Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Pan, 2004 [2003], p.395
  29. Jump up to:a b “Say It Ain’t So, Joe”The Spectator, 22 February 1992, p.15
  30. Jump up^ Roy Greenslade Press Gang, p.395
  31. Jump up^ “Sinclair to Sell British Unit”The New York Times. 18 June 1985. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
  32. Jump up^ “Sinclair: A Corporate History”Planet Sinclair. Retrieved 4 December 2009.
  33. Jump up^ “Maxwell Closes London Paper”Glasgow Herald, 25 July 1987, p.3
  34. Jump up^ Duncan Campbell “The London legacy of Cap’n Bob”The Guardian, 28 August 2006
  35. Jump up^ David Ellis and Sidney Urquhart “Maxwell’s Hall of Shame”Time, 8 April 1991
  36. Jump up^ Editorial: “Breaking the Spell”The Spectator, 21 December 1991, p.3
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  39. Jump up^ Reuters “Murdoch conclusion stirs memories of his old foe Maxwell”Chicago Tribune, 1 May 2012
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  41. Jump up^ John Loftus and Mark AaronsThe Secret War Against the Jews.
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This Day in History: Harry Houdini Makes His Final Escape (1926)

Harry Houdini


Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz, later Ehrich Weiss or Harry Weiss; March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-born American illusionist and stunt performer, noted for his sensational escape acts. He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the US and then as “Harry Handcuff Houdini” on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up. Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to escape from and hold his breath inside a sealed milk can with water in it.

In 1904, thousands watched as he tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London’s Daily Mirror, keeping them in suspense for an hour. Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface, emerging in a state of near-breakdown. While many suspected that these escapes were faked, Houdini presented himself as the scourge of fake spiritualists. As President of the Society of American Magicians, he was keen to uphold professional standards and expose fraudulent artists. He was also quick to sue anyone who imitated his escape stunts.

Houdini made several movies, but quit acting when it failed to bring in money. He was also a keen aviator, and aimed to become the first man to fly a plane in Australia.

Early life

Erik Weisz was born in Budapest to a Jewish family.[3] His parents were Rabbi Mayer Sámuel Weisz (1829–1892) and Cecília Steiner (1841–1913). Houdini was one of seven children: Herman M. (1863–1885) who was Houdini’s half-brother, by Rabbi Weisz’s first marriage; Nathan J. (1870–1927); Gottfried William (1872–1925); Theodore (1876–1945);[4] Leopold D. (1879–1962); and Carrie Gladys (1882–1959),[5] who was left almost blind after a childhood accident.[6]

Weisz arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878, on the SS Fresia with his mother (who was pregnant) and his four brothers.[7] The family changed their name to the German spelling Weiss, and Erik became Ehrich. The family lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as Rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation.

According to the 1880 census, the family lived on Appleton Street.[8] On June 6, 1882, Rabbi Weiss became an American citizen. Losing his job at Zion in 1882, Rabbi Weiss and family moved to Milwaukee and fell into dire poverty.[9] In 1887, Rabbi Weiss moved with Ehrich to New York City, where they lived in a boarding house on East 79th Street. He was joined by the rest of the family once Rabbi Weiss found permanent housing. As a child, Ehrich Weiss took several jobs, making his public début as a 9-year-old trapeze artist, calling himself “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air”. He was also a champion cross country runner in his youth. When Weiss became a professional magician he began calling himself “Harry Houdini”, after the French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, after reading Robert-Houdin’s autobiography in 1890. Weiss incorrectly believed that an i at the end of a name meant “like” in French. In later life, Houdini claimed that the first part of his new name, Harry, was an homage to Harry Kellar, whom he also admired, though it was more likely adapted from “Ehri,” a nickname for “Ehrich,” which is how he was known to his family.[10] When he was a teenager, Houdini was coached by the magician Joseph Rinn at the Pastime Athletic Club.[11]

Houdini became an active Freemason and was a member of St. Cecile Lodge #568 in New York City.[12] In 1918, he registered for selective service as Harry Handcuff Houdini.[13]

Magic Career

Houdini began his magic career in 1891, but had little success.[14] He appeared in a tent act with strongman Emil Jarrow.[15] He performed in dime museums and sideshows, and even doubled as “The Wild Man” at a circus. Houdini focused initially on traditional card tricks. At one point, he billed himself as the “King of Cards”.[16] Some – but not all – professional magicians would come to regard Houdini as a competent but not particularly skilled sleight-of-hand artist, lacking the grace and finesse required to achieve excellence in that craft.[17][18] He soon began experimenting with escape acts.

In 1893, while performing with his brother “Dash” (Theodore) at Coney Island as “The Brothers Houdini”, Houdini met a fellow performer, Wilhelmina Beatrice “Bess” Rahner. Bess was initially courted by Dash, but she and Houdini married in 1894, with Bess replacing Dash in the act, which became known as “The Houdinis”. For the rest of Houdini’s performing career, Bess worked as his stage assistant.

Houdini’s big break came in 1899 when he met manager Martin Beck in St. Paul, Minnesota. Impressed by Houdini’s handcuffs act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts and booked him on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Within months, he was performing at the top vaudeville houses in the country. In 1900, Beck arranged for Houdini to tour Europe. After some days of unsuccessful interviews in London, Houdini’s British agent Harry Day helped him to get an interview with C. Dundas Slater, then manager of the Alhambra Theatre. He was introduced to William Melville and gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs at Scotland Yard.[19] He succeeded in baffling the police so effectively that he was booked at the Alhambra for six months. His show was an immediate hit and his salary rose to $300 a week.[20]

Houdini became widely known as “The Handcuff King.” He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini challenged local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails. In many of these challenge escapes, he was first stripped nude and searched. In Moscow, he escaped from a Siberian prison transport van, claiming that, had he been unable to free himself, he would have had to travel to Siberia, where the only key was kept. In Cologne, he sued a police officer, Werner Graff, who alleged that he made his escapes via bribery.[21] Houdini won the case when he opened the judge’s safe (he later said the judge had forgotten to lock it). With his new-found wealth, Houdini purchased a dress said to have been made for Queen Victoria. He then arranged a grand reception where he presented his mother in the dress to all their relatives. Houdini said it was the happiest day of his life. In 1904, Houdini returned to the U.S. and purchased a house for $25,000 (equivalent to $680,926 in 2017), a brownstone at 278 W. 113th Street in Harlem, New York City.[22]

Whilst on tour in Europe in 1902, Houdini visited Blois with the aim of meeting the widow of Emile Houdin, the son of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, for an interview and permission to visit his grave. He did not receive permission but still visited the grave.[23] Houdini believed that he had been treated unfairly and later wrote a negative account of the incident in his magazine, claiming he was “treated most discourteously by Madame W. Emile Robert-Houdin.”[23] In 1906, he sent a letter to the French magazine L’Illusionniste stating: “You will certainly enjoy the article on Robert Houdin I am about to publish in my magazine. Yes, my dear friend, I think I can finally demolish your idol, who has so long been placed on a pedestal that he did not deserve.”[24]

In 1906, Houdini created his own publication, the Conjurers’ Monthly Magazine.[25] It was a competitor to The Sphinx, but was short-lived and only two volumes were released until August 1908. Magic historian Jim Steinmeyer has noted that: “Houdini couldn’t resist using the journal for his own crusades, attacking his rivals, praising his own appearances, and subtly rewriting history to favor his view of magic.”[26]

From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He freed himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, Houdini put his “handcuff act” behind him on January 25, 1908, and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded his repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. These included nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into water), riveted boilers, wet sheets, mail bags,[27] and even the belly of a whale that had washed ashore in Boston. Brewers in Scranton, Pennsylvania and other cities challenged Houdini to escape from a barrel after they filled it with beer.[28]

Many of these challenges were arranged with local merchants in one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing. Rather than promote the idea that he was assisted by spirits, as did the Davenport Brothers and others, Houdini’s advertisements showed him making his escapes via dematerializing, although Houdini himself never claimed to have supernatural powers.[29]

After much research, Houdini wrote a collection of articles on the history of magic, which were expanded into The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin published in 1908. In this book he attacked his former idol Robert-Houdin as liar and a fraud for having claimed the invention of automata and effects such as aerial suspension, which had been in existence for many years.[30][31] Many of the allegations in the book were dismissed by magicians and researchers who defended Robert-Houdin. Magician Jean Hugard would later write a full rebuttal to Houdini’s book.[32][33][34]

In 1913, Houdini introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water, holding his breath for more than three minutes. He would go on performing this escape for the rest of his life.

During his career, Houdini explained some of his tricks in books written for the magic brotherhood. In Handcuff Secrets (1909), he revealed how many locks and handcuffs could be opened with properly applied force, others with shoestrings. Other times, he carried concealed lockpicks or keys. When tied down in ropes or straitjackets, he gained wiggle room by enlarging his shoulders and chest, moving his arms slightly away from his body.[29]

His straitjacket escape was originally performed behind curtains, with him popping out free at the end. Houdini’s brother, (who was also an escape artist, billing himself as Theodore Hardeen), discovered that audiences were more impressed when the curtains were eliminated so they could watch him struggle to get out. On more than one occasion, they both performed straitjacket escapes while dangling upside-down from the roof of a building in the same city.[29]

For most of his career, Houdini was a headline act in vaudeville. For many years, he was the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville. One of Houdini’s most notable non-escape stage illusions was performed at the New York Hippodrome, when he vanished a full-grown elephant from the stage.[35]He had purchased this trick from the magician Charles Morritt.[36][37][38] In 1923, Houdini became president of Martinka & Co., America’s oldest magic company. The business is still in operation today.

He also served as President of the Society of American Magicians (a.k.a. S.A.M.) from 1917 until his death in 1926. Founded on May 10, 1902, in the back room of Martinka’s magic shop in New York, the Society expanded under the leadership of Harry Houdini during his term as National President from 1917 to 1926. Houdini was magic’s greatest visionary. He sought to create a large, unified national network of professional and amateur magicians. Wherever he traveled, he gave a lengthy formal address to the local magic club, made speeches, and usually threw a banquet for the members at his own expense. He said “The Magicians Clubs as a rule are small: they are weak … but if we were amalgamated into one big body the society would be stronger, and it would mean making the small clubs powerful and worthwhile. Members would find a welcome wherever they happened to be and, conversely, the safeguard of a city-to-city hotline to track exposers and other undesirables.”

For most of 1916, while on his vaudeville tour, Houdini had been recruiting—at his own expense—local magic clubs to join the S.A.M. in an effort to revitalize what he felt was a weak organization. Houdini persuaded groups in Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City to join. As had happened in London, he persuaded magicians to join. The Buffalo club joined as the first branch, (later assembly) of the Society. Chicago Assembly No. 3 was, as the name implies, the third regional club to be established by the S.A.M., whose assemblies now number in the hundreds. In 1917, he signed Assembly Number Three’s charter into existence, and that charter and this club continue to provide Chicago magicians with a connection to each other and to their past. Houdini dined with, addressed, and got pledges from similar clubs in Detroit, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati and elsewhere. This was the biggest movement ever in the history of magic. In places where no clubs existed, he rounded up individual magicians, introduced them to each other, and urged them into the fold.

By the end of 1916, magicians’ clubs in San Francisco and other cities that Houdini had not visited were offering to become assemblies. He had created the richest and longest-surviving organization of magicians in the world. It now embraces almost 6,000 dues-paying members and almost 300 assemblies worldwide. In July 1926, Houdini was elected for the ninth successive time President of the Society of American Magicians. Every other president has only served for one year. He also was President of the Magicians’ Club of London.[39]

In the final years of his life (1925/26), Houdini launched his own full-evening show, which he billed as “Three Shows in One: Magic, Escapes, and Fraud Mediums Exposed”.[40]

Notable escapes

Mirror challenge

In 1904, the London Daily Mirror newspaper challenged Houdini to escape from special handcuffs that it claimed had taken Nathaniel Hart, a locksmith from Birmingham, five years to make. Houdini accepted the challenge for March 17 during a matinée performance at London’s Hippodrome theater. It was reported that 4000 people and more than 100 journalists turned out for the much-hyped event. The escape attempt dragged on for over an hour, during which Houdini emerged from his “ghost house” (a small screen used to conceal the method of his escape) several times. On one occasion he asked if the cuffs could be removed so he could take off his coat. The Mirror representative, Frank Parker, refused, saying Houdini could gain an advantage if he saw how the cuffs were unlocked. Houdini promptly took out a pen-knife and, holding the knife in his teeth, used it to cut his coat from his body. Some 56 minutes later, Houdini’s wife appeared on stage and gave him a kiss. Many thought that in her mouth was the key to unlock the special handcuffs. However, it has since been suggested that Bess did not in fact enter the stage at all, and that this theory is unlikely due to the size of the 6-inch key[41] Houdini then went back behind the curtain. After an hour and ten minutes, Houdini emerged free. As he was paraded on the shoulders of the cheering crowd, he broke down and wept. Houdini later said it was the most difficult escape of his career.[42]

After Houdini’s death, his friend Martin Beck was quoted in Will Goldston’s book, Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, as admitting that Houdini was bested that day and had appealed to his wife, Bess, for help. Goldston goes on to claim that Bess begged the key from the Mirrorrepresentative, then slipped it to Houdini in a glass of water. It was stated in the book The Secret Life of Houdini that the key required to open the specially designed Mirror handcuffs was 6 inches long, and could not have been smuggled to Houdini in a glass of water. Goldston offered no proof of his account, and many modern biographers have found evidence (notably in the custom design of the handcuffs) that the Mirrorchallenge may have been arranged by Houdini and that his long struggle to escape was pure showmanship.[43]

This escape was discussed in depth on the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum in an interview with Houdini expert, magician and escape artist Dorothy Dietrich of Scranton’s Houdini Museum.[44]

A full-sized design of the same Mirror Handcuffs, as well as a replica of the Bramah style key for it, is on display to the public at The Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[45][46] This set of cuffs is believed to be one of only six in the world, some of which are not on display.[47]

Milk Can Escape

In 1908, Houdini introduced his own original act, the Milk Can Escape.[48] In this act, Houdini was handcuffed and sealed inside an oversized milk can filled with water and made his escape behind a curtain. As part of the effect, Houdini invited members of the audience to hold their breath along with him while he was inside the can. Advertised with dramatic posters that proclaimed “Failure Means A Drowning Death”, the escape proved to be a sensation.[49] Houdini soon modified the escape to include the milk can being locked inside a wooden chest, being chained or padlocked. Houdini performed the milk can escape as a regular part of his act for only four years, but it has remained one of the acts most associated with him. Houdini’s brother, Theodore Hardeen, continued to perform the milk can escape and its wooden chest variant[50] into the 1940s.

The American Museum of Magic has the milk can and overboard box used by Houdini.[51]

Chinese water torture cell

Around 1912, the vast number of imitators prompted Houdini to replace his milk can act with the Chinese water torture cell. In this escape, Houdini’s feet were locked in stocks, and he was lowered upside down into a tank filled with water. The mahogany and metal cell featured a glass front, through which audiences could clearly see Houdini. The stocks were locked to the top of the cell, and a curtain concealed his escape. In the earliest version of the torture cell, a metal cage was lowered into the cell, and Houdini was enclosed inside that. While making the escape more difficult – the cage prevented Houdini from turning – the cage bars also offered protection should the front glass break. The original cell was built in England, where Houdini first performed the escape for an audience of one person as part of a one-act play he called “Houdini Upside Down”. This was so he could copyright the effect and have grounds to sue imitators, which he did. While the escape was advertised as “The Chinese Water Torture Cell” or “The Water Torture Cell”, Houdini always referred to it as “the Upside Down” or “USD”. The first public performance of the USD was at the Circus Busch in Berlin, on September 21, 1912. Houdini continued to perform the escape until his death in 1926.[29]

Suspended straitjacket escape

One of Houdini’s most popular publicity stunts was to have himself strapped into a regulation straitjacket and suspended by his ankles from a tall building or crane. Houdini would then make his escape in full view of the assembled crowd. In many cases, Houdini drew tens of thousands of onlookers who brought city traffic to a halt. Houdini would sometimes ensure press coverage by performing the escape from the office building of a local newspaper. In New York City, Houdini performed the suspended straitjacket escape from a crane being used to build the New York subway. After flinging his body in the air, he escaped from the straitjacket. Starting from when he was hoisted up in the air by the crane, to when the straitjacket was completely off, it took him two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. There is film footage in the Library of Congress of Houdini performing the escape.[52] Films of his escapes are also shown at The Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. After being battered against a building in high winds during one escape, Houdini performed the escape with a visible safety wire on his ankle so that he could be pulled away from the building if necessary. The idea for the upside-down escape was given to Houdini by a young boy named Randolph Osborne Douglas (March 31, 1895 – December 5, 1956), when the two met at a performance at Sheffield’s Empire Theatre.[29]

Overboard box escape

Another of Houdini’s most famous publicity stunts was to escape from a nailed and roped packing crate after it had been lowered into water. He first performed the escape in New York’s East River on July 7, 1912. Police forbade him from using one of the piers, so he hired a tugboat and invited press on board. Houdini was locked in handcuffs and leg-irons, then nailed into the crate which was roped and weighed down with two hundred pounds of lead. The crate was then lowered into the water. He escaped in 57 seconds. The crate was pulled to the surface and found still to be intact, with the manacles inside.

Houdini performed this escape many times, and even performed a version on stage, first at Hamerstein’s Roof Garden where a 5,500-US-gallon (21,000 l) tank was specially built, and later at the New York Hippodrome.[53]

Buried alive stunt

Houdini performed at least three variations on a buried alive stunt during his career. The first was near Santa Ana, California in 1915, and it almost cost Houdini his life. Houdini was buried, without a casket, in a pit of earth six feet deep. He became exhausted and panicked while trying to dig his way to the surface and called for help. When his hand finally broke the surface, he fell unconscious and had to be pulled from the grave by his assistants. Houdini wrote in his diary that the escape was “very dangerous” and that “the weight of the earth is killing.”[54][55]

Houdini’s second variation on buried alive was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who had claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton for one and a half hours. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing.[56] He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes.[57]

Houdini’s final buried alive was an elaborate stage escape that featured in his full evening show. Houdini would escape after being strapped in a straitjacket, sealed in a casket, and then buried in a large tank filled with sand. While posters advertising the escape exist (playing off the Bey challenge by boasting “Egyptian Fakirs Outdone!”), it is unclear whether Houdini ever performed buried alive on stage. The stunt was to be the feature escape of his 1927 season, but Houdini died on October 31, 1926. The bronze casket Houdini created for buried alive was used to transport Houdini’s body from Detroit to New York following his death on Halloween.[58]

Movie career

In 1906, Houdini started showing films of his outside escapes as part of his vaudeville act. In Boston, he presented a short film called Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt. Georg Hackenschmidt was a famous wrestler of the day, but the nature of their contest is unknown as the film is lost.[59] In 1909, Houdini made a film in Paris for Cinema Lux titled Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris (Marvellous Exploits of the Famous Houdini in Paris).[60] It featured a loose narrative designed to showcase several of Houdini’s famous escapes, including his straitjacket and underwater handcuff escapes. That same year Houdini got an offer to star as Captain Nemo in a silent version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but the project never made it into production.[61] It is often erroneously reported that Houdini served as special-effects consultant on the Wharton/International cliffhanger serial, The Mysteries of Myra, shot in Ithaca, New York, because Harry Grossman, director of The Master Mystery also filmed a serial in Ithaca at about the same time. The consultants on the serial were pioneering Hereward Carrington and Aleister Crowley.[62]

In 1918, Houdini signed a contract with film producer B. A. Rolfe to star in a 15-part serial, The Master Mystery (released in November 1918). As was common at the time, the film serial was released simultaneously with a novel. Financial difficulties resulted in B. A. Rolfe Productions going out of business, but The Master Mystery led to Houdini being signed by Famous Players-Lasky Corporation/Paramount Pictures, for whom he made two pictures, The Grim Game (1919) and Terror Island (1920).[63]

The Grim Game was Houdini’s first full-length movie and is reputed to be his best. Because of the flammable nature of nitrate film and the inherent chemical instability of the acetate “safety” film that supplanted it, only 10 percent of old silent movies exist. Film historians considered the film lost. One copy did exist hidden in the collection of a private collector only known to a tiny group of magicians that saw it. Dick Brookz and Dorothy Dietrich of The Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania had seen it twice on the invitation of the collector. After many years of trying, they finally got him to agree to sell the film to Turner Classic Movies[64] who restored the complete 71-minute film. The film, not seen by the general public for 96 years was shown by TCM on March 29, 2015, as a highlight of their yearly 4-day festival in Hollywood.[65]

While filming an aerial stunt for The Grim Game, two biplanes collided in mid-air with a stuntman doubling Houdini dangling by a rope from one of the planes. Publicity was geared heavily toward promoting this dramatic “caught on film” moment, claiming it was Houdini himself dangling from the plane. While filming these movies in Los Angeles, Houdini rented a home in Laurel Canyon. Following his two-picture stint in Hollywood, Houdini returned to New York and started his own film production company called the “Houdini Picture Corporation”. He produced and starred in two films, The Man from Beyond (1921) and Haldane of the Secret Service (1923). He also founded his own film laboratory business called The Film Development Corporation (FDC), gambling on a new process for developing motion picture film. Houdini’s brother, Theodore Hardeen, left his own career as a magician and escape artist to run the company. Magician Harry Kellar was a major investor.[66]

Neither Houdini’s acting career nor FDC found success, and he gave up on the movie business in 1923, complaining that “the profits are too meager”.

In April 2008, Kino International released a DVD box set of Houdini’s surviving silent films, including The Master MysteryTerror IslandThe Man From BeyondHaldane of the Secret Service, and five minutes from The Grim Game. The set also includes newsreel footage of Houdini’s escapes from 1907 to 1923, and a section from Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris, although it is not identified as such.[67]


In 1909, Houdini became fascinated with aviation. He purchased a French Voisin biplane for $5,000 and hired a full-time mechanic, Antonio Brassac. After crashing once, he made his first successful flight on November 26 in Hamburg, Germany. The following year, Houdini toured Australia. He brought along his Voisin biplane with the intention to be the first person in Australia to fly.

Falsely reported as pioneer

On March 18, 1910, he made three flights at Diggers Rest, Victoria, near Melbourne. It was reported at the time that this was the first aerial flight in Australia,[68][69][70] and a century later, some major news outlets still credit him with this feat.[71][72]

Wing Commander Harry Cobby wrote in Aircraft in March 1938 that “the first aeroplane flight in the Southern Hemisphere was made on December 9, 1909 by Mr Colin Defries, a Londoner, at Victoria Park Racecourse, Sydney, in a Wilbur Wright aeroplane”.[73] Colin Defries was a trained pilot, having learnt to fly in Cannes, France. By modern standards his flight time was minimal, but in 1909 he had accumulated enough to become an instructor. On his first flight he took off, maintained straight and level flight, albeit briefly, and landed safely. His crash landing on his second flight, when he tried to retrieve his hat which was blown off, demonstrated what a momentary lack of attention could cause while flying a Wright Model A.

It is accepted by Australian historians[74] and the Aviation Historical Society of Australia that the definition of flight established by the Gorell Committee on behalf of the Aero Club of Great Britain dictates the acceptance of a flight or its rejection, giving Colin Defries credit as the first to make an aeroplane flight in Australia, and the Southern Hemisphere.

Additionally, aviation pioneer Richard Pearse is believed by many New Zealand historians to have undertaken his first flight as early as 1902, which would give him not only the Southern Hemisphere but the World record, although this is disputed.[75]

In 1965, aviation journalist Stanley Brogden formed the view that the first powered flight in Australia took place at Bolivar in South Australia; the aircraft was a Bleriot monoplane with Fred Custance as the pilot. The flight took place on March 17, 1910. The next day when Houdini took to the air, the Herald newspaper reported Custance’s flight, stating it had lasted 5 minutes 25 seconds at a height of between 12 and 15 feet.[69]

In 2010, Australia Post issued stamps commemorating Colin Defries, Houdini and John Robertson Duigan, crediting only Defries and Duigan with historical firsts.[76] Duigan was an Australian pioneer aviator who built and flew the first Australian-made aircraft. Australia Post did acknowledge the part Houdini played (Harry Houdini can’t escape being part of Australia’s history) but did not attribute any record to him.

After Australia

After completing his Australia tour, Houdini put the Voisin into storage in England. He announced he would use it to fly from city to city during his next Music Hall tour, and even promised to leap from it handcuffed, but he never flew again.[77]

Debunking spiritualists

In the 1920s, Houdini turned his energies toward debunking psychics and mediums, a pursuit that inspired and was followed by latter-day stage magicians.[79]

Houdini’s training in magic allowed him to expose frauds who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He was a member of a Scientific American committee that offered a cash prize to any medium who could successfully demonstrate supernaturalabilities. None was able to do so, and the prize was never collected. The first to be tested was medium George Valiantine of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. As his fame as a “ghostbuster” grew, Houdini took to attending séances in disguise, accompanied by a reporter and police officer. Possibly the most famous medium whom he debunked was Mina Crandon, also known as “Margery”.[80]

Joaquín Argamasilla known as the “Spaniard with X-ray Eyes” claimed to be able to read handwriting or numbers on dice through closed metal boxes. In 1924, he was exposed by Houdini as a fraud. Argamasilla peeked through his simple blindfold and lifted up the edge of the box so he could look inside it without others noticing.[81] Houdini also investigated the Italian medium Nino Pecoraro, whom he considered to be fraudulent.[82]

Houdini’s exposing of phony mediums has inspired other magicians to follow suit, including The Amazing Randi, Dorothy Dietrich, Penn & Teller, and Dick Brookz.[83]

Houdini chronicled his debunking exploits in his book, A Magician Among the Spirits, co-authored with C. M. Eddy, Jr., who was not credited. These activities cost Houdini the friendship of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle, a firm believer in spiritualism during his later years, refused to believe any of Houdini’s exposés. Doyle came to believe that Houdini was a powerful spiritualist medium, and had performed many of his stunts by means of paranormal abilities and was using these abilities to block those of other mediums that he was “debunking”.[84] This disagreement led to the two men becoming public antagonists, and Sir Arthur came to view Houdini as a dangerous enemy.[29]

Before Houdini died, he and his wife agreed that if Houdini found it possible to communicate after death, he would communicate the message “Rosabelle believe”, a secret code which they agreed to use. Rosabelle was their favorite song. Bess held yearly séances on Halloween for ten years after Houdini’s death. She did claim to have contact through Arthur Ford in 1929 when Ford conveyed the secret code, but Bess later said the incident had been faked. The code seems to have been such that it could be broken by Ford or his associates using existing clues.[29] Evidence to this effect was discovered by Ford’s biographer after he died in 1971.[85] In 1936, after a last unsuccessful séance on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel, she put out the candle that she had kept burning beside a photograph of Houdini since his death. In 1943, Bess said that “ten years is long enough to wait for any man.”

The tradition of holding a séance for Houdini continues, held by magicians throughout the world. The Official Houdini Séance was organized in the 1940s[86] by Sidney Hollis Radner, a Houdini aficionado from Holyoke, Massachusetts.[87] Yearly Houdini séances are also conducted in Chicago at the Excalibur nightclub by “necromancer” Neil Tobinon behalf of the Chicago Assembly of the Society of American Magicians;[88] and at the Houdini Museum in Scranton by magician Dorothy Dietrich, who previously held them at New York’s Magic Towne House with such magical notables as Houdini biographers Walter B. Gibson and Milbourne Christopher. Gibson was asked by Bess Houdini to carry on the original seance tradition. After doing them for many years at New York’s Magic Towne House, before he died, Walter passed on the tradition of conducting of the Original Seances to Dorothy Dietrich.[83]

In 1926, Harry Houdini hired H. P. Lovecraft and his friend C. M. Eddy, Jr., to write an entire book about debunking religious miracles, which was to be called The Cancer of Superstition. Houdini had earlier asked Lovecraft to write an article about astrology, for which he paid $75. The article does not survive. Lovecraft’s detailed synopsis for Cancerdoes survive, as do three chapters of the treatise written by Eddy. Houdini’s death derailed the plans, as his widow did not wish to pursue the project.[89]

Appearance and voice recordings

Unlike the image of the classic magician, Houdini was short and stocky and typically appeared on stage in a long frock coat and tie. Most biographers give his height as 5 ft 5 in, but descriptions vary. Houdini was also said to be slightly bow-legged, which aided in his ability to gain slack during his rope escapes. In the 1997 biography Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss, author Kenneth Silvermansummarizes how reporters described Houdini’s appearance during his early career:

They stressed his smallness—”somewhat undersized”—and angular, vivid features: “He is smooth-shaven with a keen, sharp-chinned, sharp-cheekboned face, bright blue eyes and thick, curly, black hair.” Some sensed how much his complexly expressive smile was the outlet of his charismatic stage presence. It communicated to audiences at once warm amiability, pleasure in performing, and, more subtly, imperious self-assurance. Several reporters tried to capture the charming effect, describing him as “happy-looking”, “pleasant-faced”, “good natured at all times”, “the young Hungarian magician with the pleasant smile and easy confidence”.[90]


Harry Houdini died of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix, at 1:26 p.m. on October 31, 1926, in Room 401 at Detroit’s Grace Hospital, aged 52. In his final days, he believed that he would recover, but his last words before dying were reportedly, “I’m tired of fighting.”[29]

Witnesses to an incident at Houdini’s dressing room in the Princess Theatre in Montreal speculated that Houdini’s death was caused by a McGill University student, Jocelyn Gordon Whitehead (b. 1895 – d. 1954), who repeatedly struck Houdini’s abdomen.[92]

The accounts of the witnesses, students named Jacques Price and Sam Smilovitz (sometimes called Jack Price and Sam Smiley), generally corroborated one another. Price said that Whitehead asked Houdini “if he believed in the miracles of the Bible” and “whether it was true that punches in the stomach did not hurt him”. He then delivered “some very hammer-like blows below the belt”. Houdini was reclining on a couch at the time, having broken his ankle while performing several days earlier. Price said that Houdini winced at each blow and stopped Whitehead suddenly in the midst of a punch, gesturing that he had had enough, and adding that he had had no opportunity to prepare himself against the blows, as he did not expect Whitehead to strike him so suddenly and forcefully. Had his ankle not been broken, he would have risen from the couch into a better position to brace himself.[92][93]

Throughout the evening, Houdini performed in great pain. He was unable to sleep and remained in constant pain for the next two days, but did not seek medical help. When he finally saw a doctor, he was found to have a fever of 102 °F (39 °C) and acute appendicitis, and was advised to have immediate surgery. He ignored the advice and decided to go on with the show.[94][95] When Houdini arrived at the Garrick Theater in Detroit, Michigan, on October 24, 1926, for what would be his last performance, he had a fever of 104 °F (40 °C). Despite the diagnosis, Houdini took the stage. He was reported to have passed out during the show, but was revived and continued. Afterwards, he was hospitalized at Detroit’s Grace Hospital.[92]

It is unclear whether the dressing room incident caused Houdini’s eventual death, as the relationship between blunt trauma and appendicitis is uncertain.[92] One theory suggests that Houdini was unaware that he was suffering from appendicitis, and might have been aware had he not received blows to the abdomen.[92]

After taking statements from Price and Smilovitz, Houdini’s insurance company concluded that the death was due to the dressing-room incident and paid double indemnity.[94]

Houdini grave site

Houdini’s funeral was held on November 4, 1926, in New York City, with more than 2,000 mourners in attendance.[96] He was interred in the Machpelah Cemetery in Glendale, Queens, with the crest of the Society of American Magicians inscribed on his grave site. A statuary bust was added to the exedra in 1927, a rarity, because graven images are forbidden in Jewish cemeteries. In 1975, the bust was destroyed by vandals. Temporary busts were placed at the grave until 2011 when a group who came to be called The Houdini Commandos from the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania placed a permanent bust with the permission of Houdini’s family and of the cemetery.[97] The Society of American Magicians took responsibility for the upkeep of the site, as Houdini had willed a large sum of money to the organization he had grown from one club to 5,000-6,000 dues-paying membership worldwide. The payment of upkeep was abandoned by the society’s dean George Schindler, who said “Houdini paid for perpetual care, but there’s nobody at the cemetery to provide it”, adding that the operator of the cemetery, David Jacobson, “sends us a bill for upkeep every year but we never pay it because he never provides any care.” Members of the Society tidy the grave themselves.[98]

Machpelah Cemetery operator Jacobson said, they “never paid the cemetery for any restoration of the Houdini family plot in my tenure since 1988”, claiming that the money came from the cemetery’s dwindling funds. The granite monuments of Houdini’s sister, Gladys, and brother, Leopold were also destroyed by vandals.[99] For many years, until recently, The Houdini grave site has been only cared for by Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania.[100] The Society of American Magicians, at its National Council Meeting in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2013, under the prompting of The Houdini Museum’s Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz, voted to assume the financial responsibilities for the care and maintenance of the Houdini Gravesite. In MUM Magazine, the Society’s official magazine, President Dal Sanders announced “Harry Houdini is an icon as revered as Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. He is not only a magical icon; his gravesite bears the seal of The Society of American Magicians. That seal is our brand and we should be proud to protect it. This gravesite is clearly our responsibility and I’m proud to report that the National Council unanimously voted to maintain Houdini’s final resting place.”[101]

The Houdini Gravesite Restoration Committee under the Chairmanship of National President David Bowers, is working closely with National President Kenrick “Ice” McDonald to see this project to completion. Bowers said it is a foregone conclusion that the Society will approve the funding request, because “Houdini is responsible for the Society of American Magicians being what it is today. We owe a debt of gratitude to him.” Like Bowers, McDonald said the motivation behind the repairs is to properly honor the grave of the “Babe Ruth of magicians”. “This is hallowed ground,” he said. “When you ask people about magicians, the first thing they say is Harry Houdini.” While the actual plot will remain under the control of Machpelah Cemetery management, the Society of American Magicians, with the help of the Houdini Museum in Pennsylvania, will be in charge of the restoration.[102]

Magicians Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz have been caring for the escape artist’s Queens grave over the years. “This is a monument where people go and visit on a daily basis,” said Dietrich who is spearheading restoration efforts. “The nearly 80-year-old popular plot at the Machpelah Cemetery has fallen into disrepair over the years.” “The Houdini Museum has teamed with The Society of American Magicians, one of the oldest fraternal magic organizations in the world, to give the beloved site a facelift.” The organization has a specific Houdini gravesite committee made up of nine members headed up by President elect David Bowers who brought this project to the Society’s attention. Kenrick “Ice” McDonald, the current president of the Society of American Magicians said “You have to know the history. Houdini served as President from 1917 until his death in 1926. Houdini’s burial site needs an infusion of cash to restore it to its former glory.” Magician Dietrich said the repairs could cost “tens of thousands of dollars”, after consulting with glass experts and grave artisans. “It’s a wonderful project, but it’s taken a lifetime to get people interested,” she said. “It’s long overdue, and it’s great that it’s happening.” Houdini was a living superhero,” Dietrich said. “He wasn’t just a magician and escape artist, he was a great humanitarian.” To this day, the Society holds a broken wand ceremony at the grave every November.

Houdini’s widow, Bess, died of a heart attack on February 11, 1943, aged 67, in Needles, California while on a train en route from Los Angeles to New York City. She had expressed a wish to be buried next to her husband, but instead was interred 35 miles due north at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester County, New York, as her Catholic family refused to allow her to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.[103]

Proposed exhumation

On March 22, 2007, Houdini’s grand-nephew (the grandson of his brother Theo), George Hardeen, announced that the courts would be asked to allow exhumation of Houdini’s body, to investigate the possibility of Houdini being murdered by spiritualists, as suggested in the biography The Secret Life of Houdini.[104] In a statement given to the Houdini Museum in Scranton, the family of Bess Houdini opposed the application and suggested it was a publicity ploy for the book.[105] The Washington Post stated that the press conference was not arranged by the family of Houdini. Instead, the Post reported, it was orchestrated by authors Kalush and Sloman, who hired the PR firm Dan Klores Communications to promote their book.[106]

In 2008, it was revealed the parties involved never filed legal papers to perform an exhumation.[107]


Houdini’s brother, Theodore Hardeen, who returned to performing after Houdini’s death, inherited his brother’s effects and props. Houdini’s will stipulated that all the effects should be “burned and destroyed” upon Hardeen’s death. Hardeen sold much of the collection to magician and Houdini enthusiast Sidney Hollis Radner during the 1940s, including the water torture cell.[108] Radner allowed choice pieces of the collection to be displayed at The Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Ontario. In 1995, a fire destroyed the museum. The water torture cell’s metal frame remained, and it was restored by illusion builder John Gaughan.[109] Many of the props contained in the museum such as the mirror handcuffs, Houdini’s original packing crate, a milk can, and a straitjacket, survived the fire and were auctioned in 1999 and 2008.

Radner loaned the bulk of his collection for archiving to the Outagamie Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin but reclaimed it in 2003 and auctioned it in Las Vegas, on October 30, 2004.[110]

Houdini was a “formidable collector”, and bequeathed many of his holdings and paper archives on magic and spiritualism to the Library of Congress, which became the basis for the Houdini collection in cyberspace.[111]

In 1934, the bulk of Houdini’s collection of American and British theatrical material, along with a significant portion of his business and personal papers, and some of his collections of other magicians were sold to pay off estate debts to theatre magnate Messmore Kendall. In 1958, Kendall donated his collection to the Hoblitzelle Theatre Library at the University of Texas at Austin.[112] In the 1960s, the Hoblitzelle Library became part of the Harry Ransom Center. The extensive Houdini collection includes a 1584 first edition of Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft and David Garrick’s travel diary to Paris from 1751.[113][114] Some of the scrapbooks in the Houdini collection have been digitized.[115] The collection was exclusively paper-based until April 2016, when the Ransom Center acquired one of Houdini’s ball weights with chain and ankle cuff. In October 2016, in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the death of Houdini, the Ransom Center embarked on a major re-cataloging of the Houdini collection to make it more visible and accessible to researchers.[116] The collection reopened in 2018, with its finding aids posted online.[117]

A large portion of Houdini’s estate holdings and memorabilia was willed to his fellow magician and friend, John Mulholland (1898–1970). In 1991, illusionist and television performer David Copperfield purchased all of Mulholland’s Houdini holdings from Mulholland’s estate. These are now archived and preserved in Copperfield’s warehouse at his headquarters in Las Vegas. It contains the world’s largest collection of Houdini memorabilia, and preserves approximately 80,000 items of memorabilia of Houdini and other magicians, including Houdini’s stage props and material, his rebuilt water torture cabinet and his metamorphosis trunk. It is not open to the public, but tours are available by invitation to magicians, scholars, researchers, journalists and serious collectors.

In a posthumous ceremony on October 31, 1975, Houdini was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7001 Hollywood Blvd.[118]

The Houdini Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, bills itself as “the only building in the world entirely dedicated to Houdini”. It is open to the public year-round by reservation. It includes Houdini films, a guided tour about Houdini’s life and a stage magic show. Magicians Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz opened the facility in 1991.

The Magic Castle in Los Angeles, California, a nightclub for magicians and magic enthusiasts, as well as the clubhouse for the Academy of Magical Arts, features Houdini séances performed by magician Misty Lee.

The House of Houdini is a museum and performance venue located at 11, Dísz square in the Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary. It claims to house the largest collection of original Houdini artifacts in Europe.[119]

The Houdini Museum of New York is located at Fantasma Magic, a retail magic manufacturer and seller located in Manhattan. The museum contains several hundred pieces of ephemera, most of which belonged to Harry Houdini.



  1. Jump up^ Schiller, Gerald. (2010). It Happened in Hollywood: Remarkable Events That Shaped History. Globe Pequot Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-7627-5449-6
  2. Jump up^ Harry HoudiniEncyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  3. Jump up^ “137 years ago in Budapest …” Wild About Harry. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
  4. Jump up^ “Hardeen Dead, 69. Houdini’s Brother. Illusionist, Escape Artist, a Founder of Magician’s Guild. Gave Last Show May 29”. The New York Times. June 13, 1945. Theodore Hardeen, a brother of the late Harry Houdini, illusionist and a prominent magician in his own right, died yesterday in the Doctors Hospital. His age was 69.
  5. Jump up^ Meyer, Bernard C. (1976), Houdini: A Mind in ChainsE.P. Dutton & Co.Chapter 1, p. 5ISBN 0-8415-0448-2.
  6. Jump up^ “The mystery of Carrie Gladys Weiss”. Wild About Harry. Retrieved September 30,2011.
  7. Jump up^ US National Archives Microfilm serial: M237; Microfilm roll: 413; Line: 38; List number: 684.
  8. Jump up^ 1880 US Census with Samuel M. Weiss, Cecelia (wife), Armin M., Nathan J., Ehrich, Theodore, and Leopold.
  9. Jump up^
  10. Jump up^ “Harry Houdini” (PDF). American Decades. December 16, 1998. Retrieved February 4, 2016. Also at Biography In Context.
  11. Jump up^ Loxton, Daniel (January 30, 2013). “The Remarkable Mr. Rinn”Skeptic Magazine. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  12. Jump up^ “Famous Masons”. MWGLNY. January 2014. Archived from the original on November 10, 2013.
  13. Jump up^ “Notable Registrants of the World War I Draft: Harry Houdini”National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  14. Jump up^ Rocha, Guy. “MYTH #56 – No Disappearing Act for Harry Houdini at Piper’s Opera House”. Nevada State Library and Archives. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
  15. Jump up^ Immerso, Michael. (2002). Coney Island: The People’s Playground. Rutgers University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0813531380
  16. Jump up^ “Harry Houdini: Famous magician, master of escapes, Houdini metamorphosis”. Houdini Magic. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  17. Jump up^
  18. Jump up^ Johnson, Karl (2005). The Magician and the Cardsharp.
  19. Jump up^ Gresham, William Lindsay. (1959). Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls. Holt. pp. 82-83
  20. Jump up^ Price, David. (1985). Magic: A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theater. Cornwall Books. p. 191. ISBN 0-8453-4738-1
  21. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 81.
  22. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 109.
  23. Jump up to:a b Steinmeyer, Jim. (2004). Hiding The Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible. Da Capo Press. pp. 152-153. ISBN 0-7867-1401-8
  24. Jump up^ Jones, Graham Matthew. (2007). Trades of the Trick: Conjuring Culture in Modern France. New York University. pp. 96-98
  25. Jump up^ Gresham, William Lindsay. (1959). Houdini: The Man Who Walked Through Walls. Holt. p. 136
  26. Jump up^ Steinmeyer, Jim. (2006). The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, Aka Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer. Da Capo Press. p. 291. ISBN 0-78671-770-X
  27. Jump up^ Cannell, J. C. (1973). The Secrets of Houdini. New York: Dover Publications. pp. 36–41. ISBN 978-0486229133. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  28. Jump up^ “Houdini’s escapes and magic – Houdini’s unique challenges in Scranton, PA. during the vaudeville era”. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  29. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Kalush, William; Sloman, Larry (October 2006). The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First SuperheroSimon & SchusterISBN 978-0-7432-7207-0. Retrieved November 9, 2015(Subscription required (help)).
  30. Jump up^ Steinmeyer, Jim. (2004). Hiding The Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible. Da Capo Press. pp. 154-155. ISBN 0-7867-1401-8 “He decided to portray Robert-Houdin as a liar and thief who was completely incompetent as a magician. Houdini had developed a hatred for his spiritual father. In 1908 his collection of articles was gathered together, expanded and sold to a London publisher. By comparing the original articles with the finished book, it’s clear that Houdini employed a ghost writer to polish the language and clarify his points. Other surviving manuscripts from Houdini demonstrate that most of Houdini’s writing depended on ghostwriters. The theme of his book on Robert-Houdin was sharpened to a razor’s edge, and was now titled The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin.”
  31. Jump up^ Goto-Jones, Chris. (2016). Conjuring Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-107-07659-4
  32. Jump up^ Inge, M. Thomas; Hall, Dennis. (2002). The Greenwood Guide to American Popular Culture, Volume 3. Greenwood Press. p. 1037. ISBN 978-0313323690 “Stung by the refusal of the widow of Robert-Houdin’s son Emile to receive him in 1901, Houdini launched a literary vendetta against his former hero in the form of a book, The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, published seven years later. While the book did not achieve its aim, it remains of considerable historical interest as the first sustained attempt to mine Houdini’s large and growing collection for historical information. Its errors and oversights became the subject of two extensive rebuttals. The first was Maurice Sardina’s Les Erreurs de Harry Houdini, translated and edited by Victor Farelli as Where Houdini Was Wrong. The second was Jean Hugard’s Houdini’s “Unmasking”: Fact vs Fiction.
  33. Jump up^ Steinmeyer, Jim. (2004). Hiding The Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible. Da Capo Press. p. 156. ISBN 0-7867-1401-8 “A number of researchers and authors have dismissed his claims and defended Robert-Houdin’s reputation.”
  34. Jump up^ Jones, Graham M. (2011). Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician’s Craft. University of California Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-520-27046-6 “The publication ultimately did more to tarnish Houdini’s reputation than to refute Robert-Houdin’s claims to originality and distinction especially in France, where magicians rallied to defend their spiritual progenitor against aspersions cast by an American parvenu.”
  35. Jump up^ “The Vanishing Elephant”. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  36. Jump up^ Christopher, Milbourne. (1990 edition, originally published in 1962). Magic: A Picture History. Dover Publications. p. 160. ISBN 0-486-26373-8 “Morritt invented a “Disappearing Donkey”. When he expanded the idea so that an elephant could be whisked away in a box, Houdini bought the full rights to the spectacular illusion.”
  37. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 224.
  38. Jump up^ “The Yorkshire man who taught Houdini to make an elephant disappear”. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  39. Jump up^ Silverman, Kenneth (September 1996). Houdini! The Career of Ehrich Weiss: American Self-Liberator, Europe’s Eclipsing Sensation, World’s Handcuff King & Prison Breaker. HarperCollins. p. 544. ISBN 978-0060169787.
  40. Jump up^ John Cox (2017) [2011]. “Houdini: A Biography”Wild About Harry. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  41. Jump up^ The Secret Life of Houdini, Kaulush & Sloman, 2006.
  42. Jump up^ Hanzlik, Mick (2007). “Houdini’s Mirror Handcuff Challenge, Getting Closer to the Truth”reproduction in full of Daily Mirror article “Houdini’s Great Victory” March 18, 1904
  43. Jump up^ Silverman, pp. 59–62.
  44. Jump up^ “Keys To Houdini’s Secrets”Mysteries at the MuseumTravel Channel. November 23, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  45. Jump up^ “Mirror Cuffs”. Genii Magazine. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  46. Jump up^ “Travel Channel Dorothy Dietrich Promo Houdini Mirror Cuffs”. Mysteries At The Museum. Travel Channel. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  47. Jump up^ Hanzlik, Mick (March 16, 2013). “The Replica Mirror Cuffs”. Wild About Harry.
  48. Jump up^ Randi, pp. 175–178.
  49. Jump up^ Randi, Milk Can poster on page 177.
  50. Jump up^ Christopher, Milbourne (October 1976). Houdini: A Pictorial Life. Ty Crowell Co. p. 54. ISBN 978-0690011524.
  51. Jump up^ “American Museum of Magic”. Marshall area Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved April 20, 2008.
  52. Jump up^ Thousands see Harry Houdini escape from a straitjacket while hanging in mid-air, Chicago, Ill.“, International news [1923 or 1924?]
  53. Jump up^ Henning, Doug (December 1, 1977). Houdini His Legend and His MagicTimes Books. p. 1960. (Subscription required (help)).
  54. Jump up^ Christopher, Milbourne (1969). Houdini: The Untold Story. Ty Crowell Co. p. 140. ISBN 978-0891909811.
  55. Jump up^ “Digging into Houdini’s Buried Alive”. Retrieved January 6, 2011.
  56. Jump up^ Silverman, pp. 397–403.
  57. Jump up^ “Uncovering Houdini’s second underwater test”. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  58. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 406.
  59. Jump up^ “Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt and other revelations from Disappearing Tricks”. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  60. Jump up^ Disappearing Tricks by Matthew Solomon, 2010, p. 95.
  61. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 205.
  62. Jump up^ Stedman, Eric (2010). The Mysteries of Myra. p. 8.
  63. Jump up^ “Adroit Harry and ancient hokum”. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  64. Jump up^ “Turner Classic Movies to Host World Premiere Screening of Long Lost Harry Houdini Classic The Grim Game at 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival”. TCM. January 23, 2015. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  65. Jump up^ “Houdini Museum in Scranton PA Reveals the Secrets of Uncovering Houdini’s 1919 Lost Silent Film The Grim Game”. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  66. Jump up^ Silverman, pp. 226–249.
  67. Jump up^ “Houdini The Movie Star DVD collection released”. Retrieved April 8, 2008.
  68. Jump up^ “AERIAL FLIGHT IN AUSTRALIA”The Evening Post. LXXIX (66). Wellington. Press Association. March 19, 1910. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  69. Jump up to:a b Prisk, Max (May 10, 2008). “Houdini’s Australian dream: one for the record books”Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  70. Jump up^ “Australian National Aviation Museum – Early Australian Aviation”. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  71. Jump up^ “The Art and Magic of Harry Houdini”CBS News. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  72. Jump up^ Entertainment Houdini’s flight into history. Weekly Times Now (March 18, 2010). Retrieved February 28, 2012. Archived April 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  73. Jump up^ While this was possibly the first flight in Australia, the first flight in the Southern Hemisphere was probably made by Richard Pearse in New Zealand several years earlier, either in 1903 or 1904.
  74. Jump up^ The Powerhouse Museum is the major branch of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney. First Powered Flight in Australia- Episode 4 « Inside the collection – Powerhouse Museum. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  75. Jump up^ “Richard Pearse”New Zealand History. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  76. Jump up^ Australia Post – Harry Houdini can’t escape being part of Australia’s history. Retrieved February 28, 2012. Archived September 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  77. Jump up^ Silverman, pp. 137–154.
  78. Jump up^ “Notes to Houdini and the ghost of Abraham LincolnLibrary of Congress. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  79. Jump up^ Jay, Ricky (March 3, 2011). “Conjuring”Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  80. Jump up^ Margery” the Medium Exposed”American ExperiencePBS. 2011. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  81. Jump up^ Nickell, Joe (2007). Adventures in Paranormal Investigation. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 213–215. ISBN 978-0-8131-2467-4
  82. Jump up^ Polidoro, Massimo. (2001). Final Séance: The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle. Prometheus Books. pp. 127-128. ISBN 1-57392-896-8
  83. Jump up to:a b Williams, Michael (October 29, 2014). “Annual Houdini Séance to be held on Halloween”Tennessee Star Journal. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  84. Jump up^ see Conan Doyle’s The Edge of The Unknown, published in 1931.
  85. Jump up^ Spragget, Allen; Rauscher, William V. (1974). Arthur Ford: The Man Who Talked with the DeadNew American Library. p. 246.
  86. Jump up^ Berthiaume, Ed (October 31, 2014). “Boldt CEO spends Halloween in search of Houdini”The Post-CrescentAppleton, Wisconsin. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  87. Jump up^ Houdini Facts [1].
  88. Jump up^ “Houdini’s Halloween”WGN-TV and Red Eye. October 28, 2005. Archived from the original on March 10, 2007. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  89. Jump up^ Joshi, S.T., ed. (May 31, 2005). Collected Essays of H. P. Lovecraft: Science3. New York: Hippocampus Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0974878980.
  90. Jump up^ Silverman, p. 31.
  91. Jump up^ “Houdini speaks in 1970”. Retrieved November 13, 2010.
  92. Jump up to:a b c d e Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. (September 2, 2014). “Punched Out”
  93. Jump up^ Conan Doyle, Arthur (1930). Edge of the UnknownISBN 978-1409235149(Subscription required (help)).
  94. Jump up to:a b Bell, Don (September 28, 2005). The Man Who Killed HoudiniVéhicule PressISBN 978-1550651874.
  95. Jump up^ Benoit, Tod (May 2003). Where Are They Buried? How Did They Die?Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. p. 469. ISBN 978-0739465585(Subscription required (help)).
  96. Jump up^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (March 24, 2007). “Final Escape for the Master of Illusion? Houdini’s Family Press for Exhumation”The Guardian. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  97. Jump up^ Dunlap, David W. (October 24, 2011). “Houdini Returns”The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  98. Jump up^ Kilgannon, Corey (October 31, 2008). “Houdini’s Final Trick, a Tidy Grave”The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2008.
  99. Jump up^ LeDuff, Charlie (November 24, 1996). “Houdinis’ Plot Is Cleared Up, and Then Thickens”The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  100. Jump up^ Sanders, Dal (December 15, 2013). “From the President’s Desk Dal Sanders”(PDF)MUM Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2014. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
  101. Jump up^ Barca, Christopher (October 9, 2014). “Houdini’s grave to get a facelift”Queens Chronicle. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  102. Jump up^ Rosenberg, Eli (October 27, 2014). “Houdini’s gravesite to get a magic fix in Queens”New York Daily News. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  103. Jump up^ “Bess Houdini dies in 1943”. Retrieved April 1, 2011.
  104. Jump up^ “Grandnephew seeks to ‘set record straight’ about Houdini’s death”CBC News. March 23, 2007. Retrieved March 23, 2007.
  105. Jump up^ “Family Statement re: exhumation”. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
  106. Jump up^ Segal, David (March 24, 2007). “Why Not Just Hold a Seance?”The Washington Post. Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  107. Jump up^ “Time to bury the Houdini exhumation”. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  108. Jump up^ “In Sadness, Prime Houdini Artifact Collector Puts Items on Auction Block”. The New York Times. October 29, 2004. … Mr. Radner, aka Rendar the Magician, owns one of the world’s biggest and most valuable collections of Harry Houdini artifacts, including the Chinese Water Torture Cell, one of Houdini’s signature props from 1912 until his death in 1926. Most of the items were given to Mr. Radner in the 1940s by Houdini’s brother, Theodore Hardeen. Hardeen considered Radner, then a student at Yale with a reputation for jumping from diving boards in handcuffs, as his protégé. Until early this year, the collection was on display at the Outagamie Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin, where Houdini’s father was the town rabbi in the 1870s. But after a rancorous falling out between Mr. Radner and museum officials, the 1,000-piece collection was packed-up and shipped here, where it will be auctioned on Saturday in the windowless back room at the Liberace Museum and on eBay.
  109. Jump up^ “The Mystery of the Two Torture Cells”Wild About Harry. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
  110. Jump up^ “Houdini’s Magic Shop | Easy Tricks | Illusions | Gags | Novelties”. Archived from the original on May 15, 2006. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  111. Jump up^ Higbee, Joan. “Great Escapes”American Memory Web Site, Hosts Houdini CollectionLibrary of Congress. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
  112. Jump up^ “The Performing Arts Collection” Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  113. Jump up^ Scot, Reginald (January 1, 1584). The discouerie of witchcraft,: wherein the lewde dealings of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected, the knauerie of coniurors, the impietie of inchantors, thefollie of soothsaiers, the impudent falshood of cousenors, the infidelitie of atheists, the pestilent practices of Pythonists, the curiositie of figure casters, the vanitie of dreamers, the beggerlie art of alcumystrie, the abhomination of idolatrie, the horrible art of poisoning, the vertue and power of naturall magike, and all the conueiances of legierdemaine and iuggling are deciphered and many other things opened which have long lien hidden, howbeit verie necessarie to be knowne. Heerevnto is added a treatise vpon the nature and substance of spirits and diuels, &c. Imprinted at London: By William Brome.
  114. Jump up^ “Harry Ransom Center on Twitter”Twitter. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  115. Jump up^ “Harry Houdini Scrapbook Collection” Retrieved March 15,2017.
  116. Jump up^ “Houdini: Illusionist and collector”Cultural Compass. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  117. Jump up^ “Harry Houdini: An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center” Evanion, Henry, 1831?-1905., Hardeen, 1876-1945., Houdini, Beatrice, 1876-1943., Houdini, Harry, 1974-1926., Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899., Northcote, James, 1746-1831. Retrieved 2018-09-08.
  118. Jump up^ “Harry Houdini” Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved May 13, 2015Address: 7001 Hollywood Blvd. Ceremony: October 31, 1975.
  119. Jump up^ “House of Houdini Official website”. The House of Houdini. Retrieved January 22,2017.
  120. Jump up^ “The Magician’s Ghostwriters” in The Thing’s Incredible! The Secret Origins of Weird Tales (Off-Trail Publications, 2018).
  121. Jump up^ “IT’S ON! History greenlights Houdini miniseries”. Wild About Harry. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  122. Jump up^ “James Randi’s Swift”. July 14, 2006.


Further reading

  • An Interview with Harry Houdini” by Marcet Haldeman-JuliusHaldeman-Julius Monthly Vol. 2.5 (October 1925), pp. 387–397.
  • Houdini’s Escapes and Magic by Walter B. GibsonPrepared from Houdini’s private notebooks Blue Ribbon Books, Inc., 1930. Reveals some of Houdini’s magic and escape methods (also released in two separate volumes: Houdini’s Magic and Houdini’s Escapes).
  • The Secrets of Houdini by J.C. Cannell, Hutchinson & Co., London, 1931. Reveals some of Houdini’s escape methods.
  • Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship by Bernard M. L. Ernst, Albert & Charles Boni, Inc., NY, 1932.
  • Sixty Years of Psychical Research by Joseph Rinn, Truth Seeker Co., 1950, Rinn was a long time close friend of Houdini. Contains detailed information about the last Houdini message (there are 3) and its disclosure.
  • Houdini’s Fabulous Magic by Walter B. Gibson and Morris N. Young Chilton, NY, 1960. Excellent reference for Houdini’s escapes and some methods (includes the Water Torture Cell).
  • The Houdini Birth Research Committee’s Report, Magico Magazine (reprint of report by The Society of American Magicians), 1972. Concludes Houdini was born March 24, 1874, in Budapest.
  • Mediums, Mystics and the Occult by Milbourne Christopher, Thomas T. Crowell Co., 1975, pp. 122–145, Arthur Ford-Messages from the Dead, contains detailed information about the Houdini messages and their disclosure.
  • Arthur Ford: The Man Who Talked with the Dead by Allen Spraggett with William V. Rauscher, 1973, pp. 152–165, Chapter 7, The Houdini Affair contains detailed information about the Houdini messages and their disclosure.
  • Believe by William Shatner and Michael Charles Tobias, Berkeley Books, NY 1992.
  • Houdini: Escape into Legend, The Early Years: 1862–1900 by Manny Weltman, Finders/Seekers Enterprises, Los Angeles, 1993. Examination of Houdini’s childhood and early career.
  • Houdini Comes to America by Ronald J. Hilgert, The Houdini Historical Center, 1996. Documents the Weiss family’s immigration to the United States on July 3, 1878 (when Ehrich was 4).
  • Houdini Unlocked by Patrick Culliton, Two volume box set: The Tao of Houdini and The Secret Confessions of Houdini, Kieran Press, 1997.
  • The Houdini Code Mystery: A Spirit Secret Solved by William V. Rauscher, Magic Words, 2000.
  • Final Séance. The Strange Friendship Between Houdini and Conan Doyle by Massimo Polidoro, Prometheus Books, 2001.
  • The Man Who Killed Houdini by Don Bell, Vehicle Press, 2004. Investigates J. Gordon Whitehead and the events surrounding Houdini’s death.
  • Disappearing Tricks: Silent Film, Houdini, and the New Magic of the Twentieth Century by Matthew Solomon, University of Illinois Press, 2010. Contains new information about Houdini’s early movie career.
  • Houdini Art and Magic by Brooke Kamin Rapaport, Jewish Museum, 2010. Essays on Houdini’s life and work are accompanied by interviews with novelist E.L. Doctorow, Teller, Kenneth Silverman, and more.
  • Houdini The Key by Patrick Culliton, Kieran Press, 2010. Reveals the authentic working methods of many of Houdini effects, including the Milk Can and Water Torture Cell. Limited to 278 copies.

This Day in History: Bridge Spans the Bosphorus to Connect Europe and Asia

Bridge Spans the Bosphorus to Connect Europe and Asia (1973)


Bosphorus Bridge

The Bosphorus Bridge, also called the First Bosphorus Bridge (Turkish: Boğaziçi Köprüsü or 1. Boğaziçi Köprüsü) is one of two suspension bridges spanning the Bosphorus strait (Turkish: Boğaziçi) in Istanbul, Turkey; thus connecting Europe and Asia (the other one is the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, which is called the Second Bosphorus Bridge.) The bridge is located between Ortaköy (on the European side) and Beylerbeyi (on the Asian side).

It is a gravity anchored suspension bridge with steel towers and inclined hangers.[1] The aerodynamic deck hangs on zigzag steel cables. It is 1,560 m (5,118 ft)[1] long with a deck width of 33.40 m (110 ft).[1] The distance between the towers (main span) is 1,074 m (3,524 ft)[1] and the total height of the towers is 165 m (541 ft).[1] The clearance of the bridge from sea level is 64 m (210 ft).[1]

The Bosphorus Bridge had the 4th longest suspension bridge span in the world when it was completed in 1973, and the longest outside the United States. At present, it is the 21st longest suspension bridge span in the world.

The idea of a bridge crossing the Bosphorus dates back to antiquity. For Emperor Darius I The Great of Persia (522 BC – 485 BC), as recorded by the Greek writer Herodotus in his Histories, Mandrocles of Samos once engineered a pontoon bridge that stretched across the Bosphorus, linking Asia to Europe, so that Darius could pursue the fleeing Scythians as well as move his army into position in the Balkans to overwhelm Macedon.[3] The first project for a permanent bridge across the Bosphorus was proposed to Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II by the Bosphorus Railroad Company in 1900, which included a rail link between the continents.[4]

The decision to build a bridge across the Bosphorus was taken in 1957 by Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. For the structural engineering work, a contract was signed with the British firm Freeman Fox & Partners in 1968. The bridge was designed by the renowned British civil engineers Sir Gilbert Roberts and William Brown who also designed the Humber Bridge, Severn Bridge, Forth Road Bridge, Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Volta River Bridge. The construction started in February 1970, the ceremonies were attended by President Cevdet Sunay and Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel and was carried out by the Turkish firm Enka Construction & Industry Co. along with the co-contractors Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company. (England) and Hochtief AG (Germany). Thirty-five engineers and 400 men worked on the project.

The bridge was completed on 30 October 1973, one day after the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey, and opened by President Fahri Korutürk and Prime Minister Naim Talu. The cost of the bridge amounted to USD 200 million ($1.03 billion in 2013 dollars[5]) .

At the time the bridge was opened, much was made of its being the first bridge between Europe and Asia since the pontoon bridge of Xerxes in 480 BCE. That bridge, however, spanned the Hellespont (Dardanelles), some distance away from the Bosphorus.

In June 2013, the country’s riot police were pictured securing access to the bridge.[6]

Current status

The bridge highway has a total width of six lanes (eight including the emergency lanes.)[1] Each direction has three lanes for vehicular traffic plus one emergency lane and one sidewalk.[1] On weekday mornings, commuter traffic flows mostly westbound to the European part, so four of the six lanes run westbound and only two eastbound. Conversely, on weekday evenings, four lanes are dedicated to eastbound traffic and two lanes only to westbound.

In the first four years, pedestrians could walk over the bridge, reaching it with elevators inside the towers on both sides. No pedestrians or commercial vehicles like trucks are allowed to use the bridge today.

Nowadays, around 180,000 vehicles pass daily in both directions, almost 85% being automobiles. On 29 December 1997, the one-billionth vehicle passed the bridge. Fully loaded, the bridge sags about 90 cm (35 in) in the middle of the span.

The Bosphorus Bridge is a toll bridge, and a toll plaza with 13 toll booths is situated near the bridge on the Asian side. A toll is charged for passing from Europe to Asia, but not for passing in the reverse direction. Since 1999, some of the toll booths (#9 – #13), located to the far left as motorists approach them, are unmanned and equipped only with a remote payment system (Turkish: OGS) in order to speed up traffic. In addition to OGS, another toll pay system with special contactless smart cards (Turkish: KGS) was put in service for use at specific toll booths in 2005. Since April 3, 2006, toll booths accept no cash but only OGS or KGS. OGS device or KGS card can be obtained at various stations before toll plaza of highways and bridges. In 2006 the toll was 3.00 TL or about $2.00.

Since April 2007, a fully computerized LED lighting system of changing colours and patterns, developed by Philips, illuminates the bridge at night.

Other uses

The Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon, organized annually in October, starts from the Anatolian part of Istanbul, crosses the Bosphorus on the bridge and ends in the European part during which the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic.

Visitors to Istanbul in October can sign up for the ‘fun run’ at many points round the city and take the opportunity to cross the bridge on foot. Many take picnics to enjoy the view.

The bridge was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 1000 lira banknotes of 1978-1986.[7]

On 15 May 2005 at 7.00 a.m. local time, U.S. tennis star Venus Williams played a show game with Turkish standout İpek Şenoğlu on the bridge, the first tennis match ever to be played on two continents.[8][9] The event was organized as a promotion ahead of the 2005 WTA Istanbul Cup and lasted five minutes.[8] After the exhibition, they both threw a tennis ball into the Bosphorus.[8][9]

On 17 July 2005 at 10.30 a.m. local time, British Formula One driver David Coulthard drove his Red Bull racing car on the bridge first from the European side to the Asian side, and then, after turning with a spectacular powerslide at the toll plaza, back to the European side for show.[10][11] He parked his car in the garden of Dolmabahçe Palace where his ride had started.[10][12] While crossing the bridge with his Formula 1 car, Coulthard was picked up by the automatic surveillance system and charged with a fine of 20 Euros because he passed through the toll booths without payment.[11] His team accepted to pay for him.[11]


See also

  • Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the second bridge spanning the strait, located about 5 km north of the Bosphorus Bridge
  • Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, also called the Third Bosphorus Bridge, under construction
  • Marmaray, the Bosphorus undersea railway tunnel under construction
  • Turkish Straits

Notes and references

  1. a b c d e f g h i j k l m General Directorate of Highways: Project information about the Bosphorus Bridge (Turkish)
  2. ^ Erste Bosporusbrücke
  3. ^ Project Gutenberg. The History of Herodotus — Volume 2 – Retrieved on 19 March 2010.
  4. ^ 1900’deki köprü projesinde raylı sistem de vardı. Sabah. 2009-07-17 – Retrieved on 19 March 2010. (Turkish)
  5. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2013. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved March 31, 2013.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Banknote Museum: 6. Emission Group – One Thousand Turkish Lira – I. SeriesII. SeriesIII. Series. – Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  8. a b c “Venus Williams’ match stretches two continents”. Hürriyet. 2005-05-15. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  9. a b “Venus Williams Plays Tennis on Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul”. Argus Photo Ltd. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  10. a b “Coulthard smokes ’em over Bosphorus”. Motoring. 2005-07-18. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  11. a b c “Bridge too far for Coulthard”. BBC. 2005-07-26. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  12. ^ “F1: 2005 Turkish GP”. Motorsport. 2005-07-17. Retrieved 2009-06-25.

This Day in History, October 29: Sir Walter Raleigh Is Executed for Treason (1618)

Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh ( c. 1552 (or 1554) – 29 October 1618), also spelled Ralegh,[2] was an English landed gentleman, writer, poet, soldier, politician, courtier, spy and explorer. He was cousin to Sir Richard Grenville and younger half-brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert. He is also well known for popularising tobacco in England.

Raleigh was born to a Protestant family in Devon, the son of Walter Raleigh and Catherine Champernowne. Little is known of his early life, though he spent some time in Ireland, in Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath, taking part in the suppression of rebellions and participating in the Siege of Smerwick. Later, he became a landlord of property confiscated from the native Irish. He rose rapidly in the favour of Queen Elizabeth I and was knighted in 1585. Raleigh was instrumental in the English colonisation of North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, paving the way for future English settlements. In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen’s permission, for which he and his wife were sent to the Tower of London. After his release, they retired to his estate at Sherborne, Dorset.

In 1594, Raleigh heard of a “City of Gold” in South America and sailed to find it, publishing an exaggerated account of his experiences in a book that contributed to the legend of “El Dorado”. After Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, Raleigh was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for being involved in the Main Plot against King James I, who was not favourably disposed towards him. In 1616, he was released to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. During the expedition, men led by his top commander ransacked a Spanish outpost, in violation of both the terms of his pardon and the 1604 peace treaty with Spain. Raleigh returned to England and, to appease the Spanish, he was arrested and executed in 1618.

Raleigh was one of the most notable figures of the Elizabethan era. In 2002, he was featured in the BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.[3]


Early Life

Little is known about Raleigh’s birth.[4] Some historians believe that he was born on 22 January 1552, although the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography currently favours a date of 1554.[5] He grew up in the house of Hayes Barton,[6] a farmhouse near the village of East Budleigh, not far from Budleigh Salterton in Devon. He was the youngest of five sons born to Walter Raleigh or Rawleigh (1510–1581) of Fardel Manor, South Hams, Devon, and Catherine Champernowne in the second of both of their marriages. His half-brothers John Gilbert, Humphrey Gilbert, and Adrian Gilbert, and his full brother Carew Raleigh were also prominent during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. Catherine Champernowne was a niece of Kat Ashley, Elizabeth’s governess, who introduced the young men at court.[7]

Raleigh’s family was highly Protestant in religious orientation and had a number of near escapes during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary I of England. In the most notable of these, his father had to hide in a tower to avoid execution. As a result, Raleigh developed a hatred of Roman Catholicism during his childhood, and proved himself quick to express it after Protestant Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558. In matters of religion, Elizabeth was more moderate than her half sister Mary.[8]

In 1569, Raleigh left for France to serve with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars.[4] In 1572, Raleigh was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, but he left a year later without a degree. Raleigh proceeded to finish his education in the Inns of Court.[4] In 1575, he was registered at the Middle Temple. At his trial in 1603, he stated that he had never studied law. His life is uncertain between 1569 and 1575, but in his History of the World he claimed to have been an eyewitness at the Battle of Moncontour (3 October 1569) in France. In 1575 or 1576, Raleigh returned to England.[9]



Between 1579 and 1583, Raleigh took part in the suppression of the Desmond Rebellions. He was present at the Siege of Smerwick, where he led the party that beheaded some 600 Spanish and Italian soldiers.[11][12] Raleigh received 40,000 acres (16,000 ha)(approx. 0.2% of Ireland) upon the seizure and distribution of land following the attainders arising from the rebellion, including the coastal walled towns of Youghal and Lismore. This made him one of the principal landowners in Munster, but he had limited success inducing English tenants to settle on his estates.

Raleigh made the town of Youghal his occasional home during his 17 years as an Irish landlord, frequently being domiciled at Killua Castle, Clonmellon, County Westmeath. He was mayor there from 1588 to 1589. His town mansion of Myrtle Grove is assumed to be the setting for the story that his servant doused him with a bucket of water after seeing clouds of smoke coming from Raleigh’s pipe, in the belief that he had been set alight. But this story is also told of other places associated with Raleigh: the Virginia Ash Inn in Henstridge near Sherborne, Sherborne Castle, and South Wraxall Manor in Wiltshire, home of Raleigh’s friend Sir Walter Long.

Amongst Raleigh’s acquaintances in Munster was another Englishman who had been granted land there, poet Edmund Spenser. In the 1590s, he and Raleigh travelled together from Ireland to the court at London, where Spenser presented part of his allegorical poem The Faerie Queene to Elizabeth I.

Raleigh’s management of his Irish estates ran into difficulties which contributed to a decline in his fortunes. In 1602, he sold the lands to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork, who subsequently prospered under kings James I and Charles I.[13] Following Raleigh’s death, members of his family approached Boyle for compensation on the ground that Raleigh had struck an improvident bargain.


New World

In 1584, Queen Elizabeth granted Raleigh a royal charter authorising him to explore, colonise and rule any “remote, heathen and barbarous lands, countries and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian Prince or inhabited by Christian People,” in return for one-fifth of all the gold and silver that might be mined there.[14] This charter specified that Raleigh had seven years in which to establish a settlement, or else lose his right to do so. Raleigh and Elizabeth intended that the venture should provide riches from the New World and a base from which to send privateers on raids against the treasure fleets of Spain. Raleigh himself never visited North America, although he led expeditions in 1595 and 1617 to the Orinoco River basin in South America in search of the golden city of El Dorado. Instead, he sent others in 1585 to found the Roanoke Colony, later known as the “Lost Colony”.[15]

These expeditions were funded primarily by Raleigh and his friends but never provided the steady stream of revenue necessary to maintain a colony in America. (Subsequent colonisation attempts in the early 17th century were made under the joint-stock Virginia Company, which was able to raise the capital necessary to create successful colonies.)

In 1587, Raleigh attempted a second expedition, again establishing a settlement on Roanoke Island. This time, a more diverse group of settlers was sent, including some entire families,[16] under the governance of John White.[17] After a short while in America, White returned to England to obtain more supplies for the colony, planning to return in a year. Unfortunately for the colonists at Roanoke, one year became three. The first delay came when Queen Elizabeth I ordered all vessels to remain at port for potential use against the Spanish Armada. After England’s 1588 victory over the Spanish Armada, the ships were given permission to sail.[18]:125–126

The second delay came after White’s small fleet set sail for Roanoke and his crew insisted on sailing first towards Cuba in hopes of capturing treasure-laden Spanish merchant ships. Enormous riches described by their pilot, an experienced Portuguese navigator hired by Raleigh, outweighed White’s objections to the delay.[18]:125–126

When the supply ship arrived in Roanoke, three years later than planned, the colonists had disappeared.[18]:130–33 The only clue to their fate was the word “CROATOAN” and letters “CRO” carved into tree trunks. White had arranged with the settlers that if they should move, the name of their destination be carved into a tree or corner post. This suggested the possibilities that they had moved to Croatoan Island, but a hurricane prevented John White from investigating the island for survivors.[18]:130–33 Other speculation includes their having starved, or been swept away or lost at sea during the stormy weather of 1588. No further attempts at contact were recorded for some years. Whatever the fate of the settlers, the settlement is now remembered as the “Lost Colony of Roanoke Island”.


In December 1581, Raleigh returned to England from Ireland as his company had been disbanded. He took part in court life and became a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I because of his efforts at increasing the Protestant Church in Ireland.[19] In 1585, Raleigh was knighted and was appointed warden of the stannaries, that is of the tin mines of Cornwall and Devon, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, and vice-admiral of the two counties. He sat in parliament as member for Devonshire in 1585 and 1586.[20] He was also granted the right to colonise America.[19]

Raleigh commissioned shipbuilder R. Chapman of Deptford to build a ship for him. It was originally called Ark but became Ark Raleigh, following the convention at the time by which the ship bore the name of its owner. The Crown (in the person of Queen Elizabeth I) purchased the ship from Raleigh in January 1587 for £5,000 (£1,100,000 as of 2015).[21] This took the form of a reduction in the sum that Sir Walter owed the queen; he received Exchequer tallies but no money. As a result, the ship was renamed Ark Royal.[22]



In 1592, Raleigh was given many rewards by the Queen, including Durham House in the Strand and the estate of Sherborne, Dorset. He was appointed Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. However, he had not been given any of the great offices of state. In the Armada year of 1588, Raleigh had some involvement with defence against the Spanish at Devon. His ship, the Ark Raleigh, was Lord High Admiral Howard’s flagship.[23]

In 1591, Raleigh was secretly married to Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton (or Throgmorton). She was one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, 11 years his junior, and was pregnant at the time. She gave birth to a son, believed to be named Damerei, who was given to a wet nurse at Durham House, but he died in October 1592 of plague. Bess resumed her duties to the queen. The following year, the unauthorised marriage was discovered and the Queen ordered Raleigh to be imprisoned and Bess dismissed from court. Both were imprisoned in the Tower of London in June 1592. He was released from prison in August 1592 to manage a recently returned expedition and attack on the Spanish coast. The fleet was recalled by the Queen, but not before it captured an incredibly rich prize— a merchant ship (carrack) named Madre de Deus (Mother of God) off Flores. Raleigh was sent to organise and divide the spoils of the ship. He was sent back to the Tower, but by early 1593 had been released and become a member of Parliament.[24]

It was several years before Raleigh returned to favour, and he travelled extensively in this time. Raleigh and his wife remained devoted to each other. They had two more sons, Walter (known as Wat) and Carew.[25]

Raleigh was elected a burgess of Mitchell, Cornwall, in the parliament of 1593.[5] He retired to his estate at Sherborne, where he built a new house, completed in 1594, known then as Sherborne Lodge. Since extended, it is now known as Sherborne (new) Castle. He made friends with the local gentry, such as Sir Ralph Horsey of Clifton Maybank and Charles Thynne of Longleat. During this period at a dinner party at Horsey’s, Raleigh had a heated discussion about religion with Reverend Ralph Ironsides. The argument later gave rise to charges of atheism against Raleigh, though the charges were dismissed. He was elected to Parliament, speaking on religious and naval matters.[26]


First voyage to Guiana

Republic of Guyana, 100-dollar gold coin 1976 Commemorating the book Discovery of Guiana 1596 and 10 Years of Independence from British Rule

In 1594, he came into possession of a Spanish account of a great golden city at the headwaters of the Caroní River. A year later, he explored what is now Guyana and eastern Venezuela in search of Lake Parime and Manoa, the legendary city. Once back in England, he published The Discovery of Guiana[27] (1596), an account of his voyage which made exaggerated claims as to what had been discovered. The book can be seen as a contribution to the El Dorado legend. Venezuela has gold deposits, but no evidence indicates that Raleigh found any mines. He is sometimes said to have discovered Angel Falls, but these claims are considered far-fetched.[28]00000000000000000



In 1596, Raleigh took part in the Capture of Cadiz, where he was wounded. He also served as the rear admiral (a principal command) of the Islands Voyage to the Azores in 1597.[29] On his return from the Azores, Raleigh faced the major threat of the 3rd Spanish Armada during the autumn of 1597. The Armada was dispersed by a storm, but Lord Howard of Effingham and Raleigh were able to organise a fleet that resulted in the capture of a Spanish ship in retreat carrying vital information regarding the Spanish plans.

In 1597 Raleigh was chosen member of parliament for Dorset, and in 1601 for Cornwall.[20] He was unique in the Elizabethan period in sitting for three counties.[5]

From 1600 to 1603, as governor of the Channel Island of Jersey, Raleigh modernised its defences. This included construction of a new fort protecting the approaches to Saint Helier, Fort Isabella Bellissima, or Elizabeth Castle.


Trial and imprisonment

Royal favour with Queen Elizabeth had been restored by this time, but his good fortune did not last; the Queen died on 24 March 1603. Raleigh was arrested on 19 July 1603, charged with treason for his involvement in the Main Plot against Elizabeth’s successor, James I, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.[30]

Raleigh’s trial began on 17 November in the converted Great Hall of Winchester Castle. Raleigh conducted his own defence. The chief evidence against him was the signed and sworn confession of his friend Henry Brooke, 11th Baron Cobham. Raleigh repeatedly requested that Cobham be called to testify. “[Let] my accuser come face to face, and be deposed. Were the case but for a small copyhold, you would have witnesses or good proof to lead the jury to a verdict; and I am here for my life!” Raleigh argued that the evidence against him was “hearsay”, but the tribunal refused to allow Cobham to testify and be cross-examined.[31][32] Raleigh was found guilty, but King James spared his life.[33]

He remained imprisoned in the Tower until 1616. While there, he wrote many treatises and the first volume of The Historie of the World (first edition published 1614)[34] about the ancient history of Greece and Rome. His son, Carew, was conceived and born (1604) while Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower.


Second voyage to Guiana

In 1617, Raleigh was pardoned by the King and granted permission to conduct a second expedition to Venezuela in search of El Dorado. During the expedition, a detachment of Raleigh’s men under the command of his long-time friend Lawrence Keymis attacked the Spanish outpost of Santo Tomé de Guayana on the Orinoco River, in violation of peace treaties with Spain, and against Raleigh’s orders. A condition of Raleigh’s pardon was avoidance of any hostility against Spanish colonies or shipping. In the initial attack on the settlement, Raleigh’s son, Walter, was fatally shot. Keymis informed Raleigh of his son’s death and begged for forgiveness, but did not receive it, and at once committed suicide. On Raleigh’s return to England, an outraged Count Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, demanded that Raleigh’s death sentence be reinstated by King James, who had little choice but to do so. Raleigh was brought to London from Plymouth by Sir Lewis Stukeley, where he passed up numerous opportunities to make an effective escape.[35][36]


Execution and aftermath

Raleigh was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster on 29 October 1618. “Let us dispatch”, he said to his executioner. “At this hour my ague comes upon me. I would not have my enemies think I quaked from fear.” After he was allowed to see the axe that would be used to behead him, he mused: “This is a sharp Medicine, but it is a Physician for all diseases and miseries.” According to biographers, Raleigh’s last words (as he lay ready for the axe to fall) were: “Strike, man, strike!”[37]

Thomas Hariot may have introduced him to tobacco.[38] Having been one of the people to popularise tobacco smoking in England, he left a small tobacco pouch, found in his cell shortly after his execution. Engraved upon the pouch was a Latin inscription: Comes meus fuit in illo miserrimo tempore (“It was my companion at that most miserable time”).[39][40]

Raleigh’s head was embalmed and presented to his wife. His body was to be buried in the local church in Beddington, Surrey, the home of Lady Raleigh, but was finally laid to rest in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where his tomb may still be visited today.[41] “The Lords”, she wrote, “have given me his dead body, though they have denied me his life. God hold me in my wits.”[42] It has been said that Lady Raleigh kept her husband’s head in a velvet bag until her death.[43] After Raleigh’s wife’s death 29 years later, his head was returned to his tomb and interred at St. Margaret’s Church.[44]

Although Raleigh’s popularity had waned considerably since his Elizabethan heyday, his execution was seen by many, both at the time and since, as unnecessary and unjust, as for many years his involvement in the Main Plot seemed to have been limited to a meeting with Lord Cobham.[45] One of the judges at his trial later said: “The justice of England has never been so degraded and injured as by the condemnation of the honourable Sir Walter Raleigh.”[46]


History book

While imprisoned in the Tower Raleigh wrote his incomplete “The Historie of the World.” Using a wide array of sources in six languages, Raleigh was fully abreast of the latest continental scholarship. He wrote not about England, but of the ancient world with a heavy emphasis on geography. Despite his intention of providing current advice to the King of England, King James I complained that it was “too sawcie in censuring Princes.”[47][48]



Raleigh’s poetry is written in the relatively straightforward, unornamented mode known as the plain style. C. S. Lewis considered Raleigh one of the era’s “silver poets”, a group of writers who resisted the Italian Renaissance influence of dense classical reference and elaborate poetic devices. His writing contains strong personal treatments of themes such as love, loss, beauty, and time. Most of his poems are short lyrics that were inspired by actual events.[4]

In poems such as What is Our Life and The Lie, Raleigh expresses a contemptus mundi (contempt of the world) attitude more characteristic of the Middle Ages than of the dawning era of humanistic optimism. But his lesser-known long poem The Ocean’s Love to Cynthia combines this vein with the more elaborate conceits associated with his contemporaries Edmund Spenser and John Donne, expressing a melancholy sense of history. The poem was written during his imprisonment in the Tower of London.[4]

Raleigh wrote a poetic response to Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love of 1592, entitled The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd. Both were written in the style of traditional pastoral poetry and follow the structure of six four-line stanzas employing a rhyme scheme of AABB, with Raleigh’s an almost line-for-line refutation of Marlowe’s sentiments.[49] Years later, the 20th-century poet William Carlos Williams would join the poetic “argument” with his Raleigh was Right.

List of poems

Among all finished, and some unfinished, poems written by, or plausibly attributed to, Raleigh: As ye came from the holy land is often attributed to Raleigh, but in the words of Gerald Bullett “it certainly existed before Ralegh arrived on the scene; Ralegh’s connexion with it is largely a matter of conjecture”.[50]

  • “The Advice”
  • “Another of the Same”
  • “Conceit begotten by the Eyes”
  • “Epitaph on Sir Philip Sidney”
  • “Epitaph on the Earl of Leicester”
  • “Even such is Time”
  • “The Excuse”
  • “False Love”
  • “Farewell to the Court”
  • “His Petition to Queen Anne of Denmark”
  • “If Cynthia be a Queen”
  • “In Commendation of George Gascoigne’s Steel Glass”
  • The Lie
  • “Like Hermit Poor”
  • “Lines from Catullus”
  • “Love and Time”
  • “My Body in the Walls captive”
  • The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd
  • “Of Spenser’s Faery Queen”
  • “On the Snuff of a Candle”
  • “The Ocean’s Love to Cynthia”
  • “A Poem entreating of Sorrow”
  • “A Poem put into my Lady Laiton’s Pocket”
  • “The Pilgrimage”
  • “A Prognistication upon Cards and Dice”
  • “The Shepherd’s Praise of Diana”
  • “Sweet Unsure”
  • “To His Mistress”
  • “To the Translator of Lucan’s Pharsalia”
  • “What is Our Life?”
  • “The Wood, the Weed, the Wag”



  1. Jump up^ “Sir Walter Raleigh”. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  2. Jump up^ Many alternative spellings of his surname exist, including RawleyRaleghRalagh, and Rawleigh. “Raleigh” appears most commonly today, though he used that spelling only once, as far as is known. His most consistent preference was for “Ralegh”. His full name is /ˈwɔːltər ˈrɔːli/, though in practice /ˈræli/RAL-ee, or even /ˈrɑːli/ RAH-lee are the usual modern pronunciations in England.
  3. Jump up^ “BBC – Great Britons – Top 100”Internet Archive. Archived from the original on 2002-12-04. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  4. Jump up to:a b c d e The Broadview Anthology of British Literature. (2011) Broadview Press, Canada, 978-1-55481-048-2. p. 724
  5. Jump up to:a b c Nicholls, Mark; Williams, Penry (September 2004). “Ralegh, Sir Walter (1554–1618)”Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyOxford University Press. Retrieved 20 May 2008. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  6. Jump up^ Hayes Barton, Woodbury Common.
  7. Jump up^ Ronald, Susan (2007) The Pirate Queen: Queen Elizabeth I, her Pirate Adventurers, and the Dawn of Empire Harper Collins Publishers, New York. ISBN 0-06-082066-7. p. 249.
  8. Jump up^ Bremer, Francis J.; Webster, Tom (2006). Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc. p. 454.
  9. Jump up^ Edwards, Edward (1868) The Life of Sir Walter Ralegh. Volume I. London: Macmillan, pp. 26, 33.
  10. Jump up^ Fairholt, Frederick William (1859) Tobacco, Its History and Associations. London, Chapman and Hall
  11. Jump up^ Saint-John, James Augustus. “Perpetrates the Massacre of Del Oro”. Life of Sir Walter Raleigh: 1552 – 1618 : in two volumes, Volume 1. pp. 52–77.
  12. Jump up^ Nicholls, Mark; Williams, Penry. “The Devon Man”. Sir Walter Raleigh: In Life and Legend. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4411-1209-5.
  13. Jump up^ Concise Dictionary of National Biography, founded 1882 by George Smith, part 1 – to 1900. p. 133
  14. Jump up^ “Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh: 1584”The Avalon Project. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  15. Jump up^ David B. Quinn, Set fair for Roanoke: voyages and colonies, 1584–1606 (1985)
  16. Jump up^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 1 November 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  17. Jump up^ Blacker, Irwin (1965). Hakluyt’s Voyages: The Principle Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries of the English Nation. New York: The Viking Press. p. 522.
  18. Jump up to:a b c d Quinn, David B. (February 1985). Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584–1606. UNC Press Books. ISBN 978-0-8078-4123-5. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  19. Jump up to:a b Walter Raleigh Biography. The Biography Channel website. 2014. 12 March 2014.
  20. Jump up to:a b Laughton, J. K. and Lee, Sidney (1896) Ralegh, Sir Walter (1552?–1618), military and naval commander and author
  21. Jump up^ UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). “The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)”MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  22. Jump up^ Archaeologia, p. 151
  23. Jump up^ May, Steven W. (1989). Sir Walter Ralegh. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co. p. 8. ISBN 9780805769838.
  24. Jump up^ May 1989, p. 13
  25. Jump up^ May 1989, p. 21
  26. Jump up^ May 1989, p. 14
  27. Jump up^ Sir Walter Raleigh. The Discovery of Guiana Project Gutenberg.
  28. Jump up^ “Walter Raleigh – Delusions of Guiana”The Lost World: The Gran Sabana, Canaima National Park and Angel Falls – Venezuela. Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  29. Jump up^ May 1989, p. 16
  30. Jump up^ May 1989, p. 19
  31. Jump up^ 1 Criminal Trials 400, 400–511, 1850.
  32. Jump up^ Note on the trial under commission of Oyer and Terminer with a jury, at a court of assizes [1]
  33. Jump up^ Rowse, A. L. Ralegh and the Throckmortons Macmillan and Co 1962 p.241
  34. Jump up^ Raleigh, Walter. “The Historie of the World”. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  35. Jump up^ Wolffe, Mary. “Stucley, Sir Lewis”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26740. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  36. Jump up^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). “Stucley, Lewis“. Dictionary of National Biography55. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  37. Jump up^ Trevelyan, Raleigh Sir Walter Raleigh, Henry Holt & Co. (2002). ISBN 978-0-7139-9326-4. p. 552
  38. Jump up^ Ley, Willy (December 1965). “The Healthfull Aromatick Herbe”. For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 88–98.
  39. Jump up^ Gene Borio. “Tobacco Timeline: The Seventeenth Century-The Great Age of the Pipe”. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  40. Jump up^ “Sir Walter Raleigh’s tobacco pouch”. Wallace Collection. Retrieved 1 November2012.
  41. Jump up^ Williams, Norman Lloyd (1962). “Sir Walter Raleigh” in Cassell Biographies
  42. Jump up^ Durant, Will and Durant, Ariel (1961) The Story of Civilization, vol. VII, Chap. VI, p. 158. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1567310238
  43. Jump up^ Brushfield, Thomas Nadauld (1896). Raleghana8.
  44. Jump up^ Lloyd, J and Mitchinson, J (2006) The Book of General Ignorance. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-307-39491-3
  45. Jump up^ Christenson, Ronald (ed.) (1991) Political Trials in History: From Antiquity to the Present. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-0-88738-406-6. pp. 385–7
  46. Jump up^ “Crawford v. Washington” (PDF). p. 44. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  47. Jump up^ Nicholas Popper, Walter Ralegh’s “History of the World” and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (2012) p 18.
  48. Jump up^ J. Racin, Sir Walter Raleigh as Historian (1974).
  49. Jump up^ “Notes for The Passionate Shepherd to His Love. Dr. Bruce Magee, Louisiana Tech University. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  50. Jump up^ Bullett, Gerald (1947). Silver Poets of the 16th CenturyEveryman’s Library1985. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. p. 280.
  51. Jump up^ “Mathew Holmes lute books: Sir Walter Raleigh’s galliard”. Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  52. Jump up^ “The Lost Colony pageant”
  53. Jump up^ “Raleigh County history sources”. West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  54. Jump up^ “Mount Raleigh”. BC Names/GeoBC
  55. Jump up^ “Raleigh Glacier”. BC Names/GeoBC
  56. Jump up^ “Raleigh Creek”. BC Names/GeoBC
  57. Jump up^ “Mount Gilbert”. BC Names/GeoBC
  58. Jump up^ Salaman, Redcliffe N (1985). Burton, William Glynn; Hawkes, J. G., eds. The History and Social Influence of the Potato. Cambridge University Press Library Editions. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-5213-1623-1.
  59. Jump up^ The Beatles (The White Album) “I’m So Tired” website. Retrieved 11 December 2014
  60. Jump up^ Naunton, Robert Fragmenta Regalia 1694, reprinted 1824.
  61. Jump up^ Fuller, Thomas (1684) Anglorum Speculum or the Worthies of England
  62. Jump up^ 10 Historical MisconceptionsHowStuffWorks