“Dime Store Harry”
Houdini was not an overnight success.
This record of his early struggles and how everything unfolded for him, is a great reminder to us all to never give up on our dreams, to keep moving forward, to continue forward, focus on the good and maintain high expectations for all the right doors to open in their season.
After 8 difficult years working cheap venues, beer halls and dime museums, Houdini was beat down and ready to give up. Houdini was completely and utterly discouraged, disappointed in himself, felt like he had tried everything and thought the best decision was to throw in the towel and go in a totally different direction to earn a living and provide for his wife and mother.
Houdini launched his career as a professional magician in 1891 and now eight years later, he had not made a worthy name for himself and was not really going anywhere playing all lowly venues to make a living.
Houdini was working these cheap venues so much, when people talked about him they referred to him as “Dime Museum Harry.”
He struggled to earn money, lived below poverty and was just dead broke.
He made a serious attempt at one point to sell his entire act, including his early handcuff act. No one was interested in the purchase.
( Those shackles are priceless today)
Here is what basically took place that began the snowball.
He started off the new year of 1899 by walking into a Chicago police station and amazing the officers for over an hour by entertaining them all and actually escaping from their handcuffs. But there is a strange melancholy that hangs over there newspaper account of this exploit by the “strolling magician”.
It appears Houdini had no real purpose behind the stunt, except to exercise his escape muscles. Omitted from the article was that he was working at Middleton’s Clark St. Dime Museum. But the article made the front page of the Chicago Journal, a city that housed some important people in show business, including the all powerful Martin Beck.
Martin Beck booked all the acts in prestigious theaters nation wide, had international influence and oversaw the entertainment in the vaudeville circuit.
Martin saw his act at the Palm Garden Beer Hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, while traveling with a party of sightseeing theater managers. Beck even sent a pair of handcuffs to the stage to test Houdini.
On March 14th Houdini received a telegraph from Martin Beck that gave Houdini his shot at the big time, changed his life with that break and the history of magic forever.
Timing is everything.
Never give up