Harry Houdini's famous mail bag—a personal prop from the prolific escape artist's collection
Harry Houdini's personally-owned large black-and-white striped canvas mail bag, measuring approximately 52″ x 58″, with a worn leather band at the top containing brass ring grommets for cinching. The bag exhibits substantial wear and soiling, with various holes, rips, and repair work throughout. Includes a large lighted display box from the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, reading: "Houdini regarded the mail bag escape as the most genuine challenge he ever had to accept. In 1907 Houdini made his first mail bag escape in Los Angeles. There was an element of officialdom introduced with the escape, having the superintendent of mail lock him in a U.S. government mail bag. To complete the effect a rotary lock belonging to the U.S Government was used."
Renowned as an escape artist extraordinaire, Houdini's dramatic mail bag escape was one of his greatest stunts. In an article entitled 'Houdini the Enigma,' the great writer Arthur Conan Doyle makes mention of the trick in a list of his most famous escapes: 'On December 2nd, 1906, he leaped from the Old Belle Isle Bridge at Detroit heavily handcuffed, and released himself under icy water, which would paralyse any man's limbs. On August 26th, 1907, he was thrown into San Francisco Bay with his hands tied behind his back and seventy-five pounds of ball and chain attached to his body. He was none the worse. He escaped from a padlocked United States mail-bag, as many a parcel has done before him. Finally, he was manacled, tied up in a box, and dropped into the East River at New York, but lived to tell the tale.'
Provenance: Houdini Magical Hall of Fame, Lot 439, Butterfield & Butterfield, November 15, 1999.