DETROIT —
Houdini, Ford, and
John Wilkes Booth

The following story about Harry Houdini is an account by Robert Lund, founder of the American Museum of Magic from his lecture, "Abracadabra: Magic in Michigan":

“Houdini's best friend in Detroit was a man named Fred Black, who was also a friend of mine. I retell the story of his friendship with Houdini as I heard it from Fred. Fred worked for Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company. Ford mistrusted employees who had been to college and Fred Black was one of the few executives of the company who had Mr. Ford's confidence, despite the handicap of a higher education. Ford came In Black's office one day with an unusual assignment. He wanted Black to find out everything he could about the death of John Wilkes Booth. Black spent the next year conducting interviews and collecting material on Booth. He became an authority on Booth. Ford lost Interest in the project along the way and transferred Black to another assignment. Black asked what he should do with the material he had accumulated on Booth. "Write something for the Independent," Ford replied. (The Dearborn Independent was Ford's personal newspaper.) The day the first article appeared, Black received a phone call. "Are you the Fred Black who wrote the story on John Wilkes Booth?” the caller asked. "I have an interest in Booth and I'd like to talk to you." The caller identified himself as Houdini the magician. At the time, the name meant nothing to Black. The men eventually became close friends and exchanged many letters and photographs. Two souvenirs of the friendship survive. One is a two-volume manuscript entitled Henry Ford and the Corpse of John Wilkes Booth by Fred Black. It is in the rare book collection at Oakland University. The second souvenir is a bound volume of the letters and photos Black received from Houdini. Fred gave this to me In March, 1961.”




Other Cities of Interest

Ann Arbor – Short Run Capital
Colon – Magic Get Together
Colon – Lakeside Cemetary
Detroit – Belle Isle Bridge
Detroit – The Death of Harry Houdini
Detroit –  Houdini, Ford and John Wilkes Booth
Marshall –  American Museum of Magic

 

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