Above, Harry Houdini, George Granham Bain Collection, Library of Congress
Hedda Burgemeister, July 1912
July 5, 1912
My dearest Emmy,
The fireworks were unbelievably spectacular last night, but the throngs of spectators pushing and shoving against me in the heat were unbearable. While the Statue of Liberty is welcoming, New York City is more a holding pen for the “huddled masses” than a place one can actually “breathe free.”
Forty-eight stars now fly on the American flag; yet I have only experienced one state, more accurately only one city. Your invitation to join you will change that tomorrow. The government’s announcement that the goddess of liberty, who has long reigned over the nickel coin, is to be replaced by a buffalo and an Indian head seems symbolic of my impending journey.
My escape from this city to the Wild West seems almost as miraculous to me as that of Harry Houdini’s yesterday. Handcuffed and securely locked in a box lowered into the harbor, the master magician managed to bob safely to the surface less than two minutes later.
My trunks are packed, and I have assembled a carpetbag full of books for the journey. Its weight is unmanageable, but I will lighten my load en route by bestowing novels I have completed upon fellow travelers.
A week from Thursday, I will see you at the train station. I only wish I had heeded your advice and departed sooner so we would have more time to enjoy each other in San Antonio before you travel with the Koehlers to Germany.
What an adventure lies ahead! Thank you for insisting I abandon my lonely life here for the companionship of a friend so true as you.
Until then, my fondest wishes,
Hedda’s first journey from New York to San Antonio actually occurred earlier.