Houdini first performed the Brick Wall on July 13, 1914 at Hammerstein’s Roof, a summer theatre located atop Willie Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre in New York City.
After the engagement at Hammerstein’s, Houdini never performed the illusion again. Instead he passed it along to his brother, Hardeen, who toured with it and enjoyed some success.
Below is an account of Hardeen performing the effect:
Hardeen, the man of mystery, whose engagement at Proctor’s has been extended for the entire week, again baffled the spectators last night by appearing to walk through a solid brick wall. How did he do it, you ask? Well ask Hardeen. All that those in front of the footlights know is that saw him on one side of the solid brick wall and the next minute he was on the other side without apparently having crawled under or over or gone around the barrier.
The wall was about 8 feet high and half again as long, built in an iron frame, so heavy that it required several men to wheel it on the stage. So as to make assurance doubly sure that he did not go through any trap doors, the theatre management laid a heavy mat on the floor and then Hardeen placed on top of this a large piece of linen. A committee of seven went on the stage, examined the floor covering both before and after it was laid and assured themselves that it was not a trick arrangement. The linen was held up in full view of the audience, the lights in the theatre were dimmed and reflectors were turned on behind the cloth to show it was all in one piece.
The wall was wheeled into place. Two green baize compartments, each about the size of an ordinary telephone booth were affixed in each side of the wall neither reaching quite to the top of the wall. Into one these Hardeen stepped. It was closed by an assistant. There was a full minute’s pause and then Hardeen made his appearance in the box on the opposite side of the wall. The committee tested the wall and found it still as solid as before.
The committeemen watched the act closely and were convinced that Hardeen didn’t crawl over the wall, the top of which was in plain view all the time, neither did he crawl underneath, which was a physical impossibility. It being less than four inches from the stage, and he didn’t walk around either end. The audience watched one end, while the committeemen kept their eyes on the other. Just how he got through that wall is a secret, of course.
[Mount Vernon NY Daily Argus 1915 Friday March 26 1915]