Contact: Jill D. Brett (202) 707-2905, Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

October 25, 1996

New Collections Debut From the National Digital Library Program

Collections Include Photographs and Documents of Houdini

Exactly 70 years after the death of the modern world's most famous illusionist, photographs and documents from Houdini's legendary life will appear Oct. 31 on the World Wide Web site of the Library of Congress.

The Houdini Collection is included in the American Variety Stage, one of two new collections available on the Library's World Wide Web site. The other new collection is "Inside an American Factory: The Westinghouse Works."

Houdini, known during his life as the "Genius of Escape Who Will Startle and Amaze," bequeathed his collection of rare books and manuscripts on the history of magic and personal documents to the Library of Congress. Highlights from these collections will be made available on-line as part of the National Digital Library Program, available at

The American Variety Stage Collection is a multimedia anthology of materials that illustrate the vibrant and diverse forms of popular entertainment, especially vaudeville, that thrived during the period 1870-1920. These materials were drawn from many Library of Congress special collections and include English- and Yiddish-language playscripts, souvenir playbills and programs, and paper print films. Theater posters and sound recordings will be added in the near future.

Early motion pictures of American factories produced from the Library's collections of rare paper prints will also soon be available on-line. (Before the amendment of the copyright law in 1912, motion pictures were registered for copyright protection following the procedure for still photographs. Motion picture producers were required to deposit with the Library paper contact prints made directly from the film negatives. These prints ranged in length from a few frames to the entire motion picture.)

The other collection, "Inside an American Factory: The Westinghouse Works" provides a glimpse of turn-of-the-century industrial life, including footage of working machinery and scenes of male and female workers performing their various duties. The Library's web site will include background information about working conditions in these plants and other projects of the time, such as the New York subway system and the conversion into electrical power of Niagara Falls.

The National Digital Library Program is a major initiative of the Library of Congress to bring direct and unrestricted access to unique historical collections that document the creativity and ingenuity of America. Through this initiative, the most interesting and important original items of American history and culture are being brought into schools, libraries and homes everywhere. The program, which began in 1994, is being funded by public and private funds.

Already on-line are photographs by Mathew Brady, William Henry Jackson and Carl Van Vechten; documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention; manuscripts relating to slavery and the civil rights movement; political speeches; early motion pictures; and daguerreotype photographs.

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PR 96-155
ISSN 0731-3527

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