Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dime Museum Harry - Huber's NYC

I think it was Kenneth Silverman who first pointed out that Houdini didn't care for his days in the Dime Museums and even hated being called 'Dime Museum Harry'. Unfortunately, we all have to start somewhere and Houdini got his start in the Dime Museums. One of the first was a place in NYC called Hubers. It was located on 106 East 14st Street and remained open until 1910, when the owner sold the location to a restaurant.

Hubers Dime Museum was a mixture of arcade, freak show, lecture hall, showplace, wax figures, and actual museum housing various curiosities and historical memorabilia. For the beginning performer, this kind of venue is gold, well not in the monetary way, but in gaining valuable performing experience. Houdini first performed there with his partner Jacob Hyman doing fairly simple magic, card tricks and their sub-trunk. They didn't just do one show per day or two, sometimes it was up to 20 shows in a day. Now, keep in mind, 'show' probably meant only a few minutes of material. But doing multiple shows back to back like that is going to make you good really fast.

Another bonus for Houdini was meeting George Dexter, who was managing Huber's and was also a magician. According to The Secret Life of Houdini, it was Dexter who taught Houdini the techniques of rope ties. There is no telling what unusual techniques he picked up from other performers that would later come in handy in his work as an escape artist.

Eventually, the Houdinis (Harry & Bess now) moved up and out of the Dime Museum's and into other venues. But there is no mistaking the value of the time spent in front of live audiences perfecting his craft that was obtained during the Dime Museum days.

Incidentally, in 1910 when Hubers was closing, Houdini attended the auction and purchased a couple items from the vast amount of curios. It was more to have a memento of the place that he first got started in show business.

The location of Hubers today. Nothing remains of the once popular Dime Museum


1 comment:

  1. Great post. So weird. I was just thinking about Hubers the other day. Love that you got a pic of the location. Don't think we've ever seen this before.

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