Fame has always been shaped by new technologies and changing conceptions of the self. Houdini was the last of the steam-age celebrities, whose fame grew from many of the same developments – transcontinental railroads, teeming cities, and an industrialized press – that transformed American life in the industrial age.
Yet even as he thrilled crowds, the kind of stardom Houdini enjoyed, was rooted in highly-publicized live performances, which was eclipsed by new forms of mass-mediated celebrity: the screen idol, the pop star, the television personality, and the viral sensation. Join Rick Popp, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies at UWM, to explore how the notion of celebrity has evolved between Harry Houdini’s time and today.
About Rick Popp
Richard K. Popp is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research focuses on the cultural history of American media. He is the author of the 2012 book The Holiday Makers: Magazines, Advertising, and Mass Tourism in Postwar America and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American History, Technology & Culture, and other leading publications in history and communication. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, he and his family live on the East Side of Milwaukee.
Offered in connection with Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, an exhibit on display at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, September 26, 2019 – January 5, 2020.
Image: Portrait of Houdini. Image courtesy of the McCord Museum. M2014.128.703.61