Houdini: The Ultimate Spellbinder
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by Tom Lalicki
Category: General Nonfiction
Description: Originally published as: SPELLBINDER: The Life of Harry Houdini. He was born Ehrich Weiss but, at an early age, he chose another name for himself. He wanted a name to suit his career of magic and entertainment and he chose a name that paid homage to one of the legendary magicians of all time: Robert Houdin. His illusions and escapes were more astonishing and more challenging than anyone had ever done before and he eclipsed the names of all other magicians as his fame reached around the world, made him famous and made him the most famous illusionist ever. Houdini disappeared through brick walls. He escaped from straitjackets and then straitjackets immersed in water. He performed escapes in public places and from jail cells in major cities--and the crowds flocked to his performances. Tom Lalicki tells Houdini's story with a fascinating mix of text and images, revealing the facts and juxtaposing them with startling images of a master entertainer performing masterfully and mysteriously, mesmerizing his audiences and mystifying experts with his skill and his invention.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 2000
eBookwise Release Date: October 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [600 KB]
Reading time: 52-74 min.
The Greatest Novelty Mystery Act in the World!
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In 1876, when Mayer Samuel Weiss sailed to seek his fortune in the New World, his hopes for the future must have been mingled with sad, ness and regret.
Trained as a lawyer, he could not practice law in his native city of Budapest because he was a Jew. He became a biblical scholar and a rabbi but could not find a congregation in Hungary. To make a life for his wife and five sons, Rabbi Weiss came to the United States alone. It took him two years to find a position.
Most Americans were Christians in 1876. The massive immigration of Eastern European Jews (and southern European Christians) started in the 1880s. Between 1880 and 1925, over 25 million people came to the United States --"The Golden Land"--to escape poverty and persecution. Not all the immigrants intended to stay. Called Birds of Passage, many intended to make their fortunes and go home rich. Over one,third of all those immigrants did return to Europe, but almost none of them had become rich. They went back because making a life in America was just too hard for them.
In 1878, the Weiss family was reunited. The rabbi's wife, Cecilia, who was twelve years younger than Mayer, brought their four sons: Nathan, William, Ehrich, and Theodore. Herman, Weiss's oldest son from a previous marriage, came with them. Herman's mother, Mayer's first wife, had died years earlier. Two more children would be born in the United States: Leopold and Gladys.
Rabbi Weiss shepherded a small congregation in Appleton, Wisconsin, that worshiped in a room borrowed from a local club. Appleton was a beautiful, prosperous town. Its farmers grew wheat and its loggers cut trees to make paper. Appleton had a college, public parks, open, air concerts, and a welcoming attitude. The synagogue's members were German immigrants. Many of them had been encouraged to settle in Appleton after the Civil War, when Wisconsin and other Midwestern states had sent recruiters to Germany.