Europe's Eclipsing Sensation
A Look at One Houdini Poster
Almost anyone interested in Houdini has seen this poster. It has widely been reproduced as a metal sign. About a dozen copies are for sale on the Ebay auction site at any time. It shows several artist renditions of handcuffs in use plus central drawing of Houdini himself posing with a collection of manacles. So how accurate are the drawings? How many of the specific handcuffs shown on this poster can we identify? Let us examine them individually, some are easy, some may exhibit a little too much artistic license.
The Central Houdini Drawing.
The Houdini drawing is an artists rendering of a famous Houdini photograph used widely by Houdini in his advertising. Shown on the right hand side is the cover of a 1908 publicity booklet sold by Houdini during his shows. This photograph still does not show things very clearly, but another photograph taken at the same time is much better.
In this photograph it appears that Houdini is wearing seven pairs of handcuffs. The outermost pair, closest to Houdini's hands, is the famous Russian manacle. This cuff is also illustrated at the bottom left hand corner of the poster. Modern reproductions have been made by Ian McColl.
Next to the Russian manacle are two pairs of Darby handcuffs. The manufacture is difficult to assess, but they may likely be classic English Darby handcuffs made by Hiatt. A Darby is also pictured at the upper left of the poster.
The fourth and six pairs of handcuffs are Bean Cobb handcuffs. Bean was a popular American handcuff manufacture from about 1880-1920. Between the two Bean Cobb handcuffs are a pair of classic Romer handcuffs. Romer handcuffs were American and sold from the 1880s to 1900.
The second pair of Bean Cobb handcuffs is locked to Houdini's right wrist, but not to his left. Instead it is locked to the seventh and last handcuff, a Berliner handcuff, locked around Houdini's right arm. The Berliners were popular German handcuffs made in many different variations.
The Side Handcuff Drawings.
A pair of English Darby handcuffs, likely Hiatts.
A German transport chain.
A collection of three German Berliner handcuffs plus a couple of unknowns.
The Russian Manacle.
Unknown for sure. Perhaps a Plug 8 handcuff.
A different view of the third picture. Three German Berliners plus a couple of unknowns.
The Houdini Seance handcuff. A custom made handcuff. Modern copies have been made by Ian McColl.
The front handcuff looks interesting, but is an unknown. The three other handcuffs appear to be Darbies, although their chains are drawn a bit strange.
If you have more information about any of the handcuffs shown on the poster, particularly if you can identify the unknowns, please send me an email or visit the forum and leave a message.
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