[Houdini and President Roosevelt, full-length portrait, both standing, aboard the Imperator]
Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz, March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was a Hungarian-American illusionist began his career in 1891, focused initially on traditional card tricks, but had little success. In 1893, while performing with his brother as "The Brothers Houdini," Houdini met a fellow performer, Wilhelmina Beatrice "Bess" Rahner and married her in 1894. For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess worked as his stage assistant. Houdini's big success came in 1899 when he met Martin Beck in St. Paul, Minnesota. Impressed by Houdini's handcuffs act, Beck advised him to concentrate on escape acts. In 1900 Houdini started to tour Europe and gave a demonstration of escape from handcuffs and became widely known as "The Handcuff King." He toured England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Russia. In each city, Houdini challenged local police to restrain him with shackles and lock him in their jails. In many of these challenge escapes, he was first stripped nude and searched. In Moscow, he escaped from a Siberian prison transport van, claiming that, had he been unable to free himself, he would have had to travel to Siberia, where the only key was kept. In 1904, thousands watched as he tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London's Daily Mirror, keeping them in suspense for an hour. Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface, emerging in a state of near-breakdown. While many suspected that these escapes were faked, Houdini presented himself as the scourge of fake spiritualists. As President of the Society of American Magicians, he was keen to uphold professional standards and expose fraudulent artists. He was also quick to sue anyone who imitated his escape stunts. Houdini made several movies, but quit acting when it failed to bring in money. He was also a keen aviator, and aimed to become the first man to fly a plane in Australia.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr., (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919) was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. With the assassination of President William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the 26th President (1901-1909). He brought new excitement and power to the office, vigorously leading Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. He established many new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation's natural resources. In foreign policy, he focused on Central America, where he began construction of the Panama Canal. He greatly expanded the United States Navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to project the United States' naval power around the globe. His successful efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. Elected in 1904 to a full term, Roosevelt continued to promote progressive policies. After leaving office, Roosevelt went on safari in Africa and toured Europe. Returning to the USA, he became frustrated with Taft's approach as his successor. Roosevelt founded his own party, the Progressive, so-called "Bull Moose" Party, and called for wide-ranging progressive reforms. The split among Republicans enabled the Democrats to win both the White House and a majority in the Congress in 1912 fatally weakening the Republican Party. Frustrated at home, Roosevelt led a two-year expedition in the Amazon Basin, nearly dying of a tropical disease. During World War I, he opposed President Woodrow Wilson for keeping the U.S. out of the war against Germany, and offered his military services, which were never summoned. Although planning to run again for president in 1920, Roosevelt suffered deteriorating health and died in early 1919. Roosevelt has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. presidents. His face was carved into Mount Rushmore alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. "Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell 'em, 'Certainly I can!' Then get busy and find out how to do it."