On August 5, 1926, Harry Houdini successfully performed a variation the Buried Alive stunt that had nearly killed him 11 years earlier. Houdini was locked inside a coffin and lowered below the waters of the swimming pool at the Shelton Hotel in New York City where he remained submerged for an hour and a half. The stunt was performed in response to Rahman Bey’s claim to have channeled supernatural powers in order to survive in a sealed casket for one hour. Having survived the stunt himself, Houdini attributed his own success to controlled breathing. Houdini performed the stunt once more in the summer of 1926 and had planned to incorporate a stage version into his 1927 performance season. Unfortunately, Houdini died of a ruptured appendix on October 31, 1926.
Harry Houdini, 1926. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
You can find more images of Houdini and other American performers at Opening History.
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On July 5, 1937, the Hormel Foods canned meat product SPAM came on the market. While it remains the target of many jokes, SPAM has been enormously popular since its introduction. Because it was easy to ship, SPAM became common fare for World War II soldiers. After the war, a musical group of 60 women dubbed the “Hormel Girls” traveled the United States to perform and advertise SPAM. The meat remains enormously popular today in Hawaii and Guam, and in 1998 the SPAM packaging became part of the Smithsonian Institution collection.
The Factoria Supermarket in Bellevue, Washington, with a sign advertising SPAM in the window, ca. 1955. Image courtesy of the Eastside Heritage Center
Opening History includes items throughout its collections documenting the history and traditions of food in the United States. In particular, HEARTH (Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, and History) at Cornell University offers a large selection of home economics journals.
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