Happy Birthday, Houdini!
Magic is an art in which a magician performs seemingly impossible tricks for entertainment. When it began, people used to associate magic with evil and so the industry faced several hiccups. However, as a result of constant effort of many magicians of that era, people slowly became interested in magic, and came to accept it as a legitimate art in the 18th century. In this post, I will introduce a legend, who was not just a prominent magician, but also an inventor. It is none other than Harry Houdini – the “Great Escape Artist”.
Harry began his magic career in 1891 with traditional card tricks and later moved to escape acts, which brought him his fame. Harry’s life changed when his “Handcuff Escape Act” caught attention of manager Martin Beck, who then arranged many shows for Harry, including a European tour. Harry was widely known as “Handcuff King”. He constantly tried to improve viewer experience by performing the escape act in different ways i.e. by freeing himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes and straitjackets. Later, as more people started practicing the handcuff trick, Harry started a new trick in which he would escape from a locked, water filled milk can. In 1912, Harry introduced one of his most famous acts “The Chinese Water Torture Cell”, which he performed for rest of his career.
Now, let’s get to know Harry Houdini, the Inventor. On the 30th of June, 1917, Harry filed a patent application titled “Diver’s Suit”, which would allow a diver get out of his suit while underwater, in any emergency situation. The suit was designed comprised an upper half and a lower half, with a locking joint in the middle. It is interesting to note that Harry’s invention is based on the skill he is renowned for, Escapology, and is intended to aid those less skilled in the art, while performing an underwater escape act or deep diving. This suit was also meant to counteract underwater pressure, thus preventing death by the pressure caused by the weight of water in certain situations. This invention was granted a patent on the 1st of March, 1921 and was assigned a patent number 1370316 (US).
Incidentally, yesterday, the 24th of March was Harry’s 140th birth anniversary and this blog post is a humble effort from the Sinapse blog Team to pay its tribute to this legend who, without a doubt, is one of the greatest magicians of all time.