Letter from John Henry Anderson To His Son
By Harry Houdini
John Henry Anderson John Henry Anderson Jr.
The passing of Mrs. Angeline Anderson, the last of the line of the celebrated Anderson family, will perhaps render particular significance to a letter in my collection, herewith reproduced, written by John Henry Anderson, Wizard of the North, to his son John Henry Anderson, Jr., after he has learned the sad news of the death of his wife, Mrs. Anderson. It will interest the reader to learn of the pitiable plight of this famous magician and the sore straights into which he had teen reduced in his old age.
Dear old John Henry Anderson who worked so hard and gave away thousands of dollars to charity.
27th October, 1866.
My dear Son:
I am in receipt of your letter dated, 6th September, 1866. I had been apprised of your mother’s death by your sister Helen three weeks ago. God rest her Soul. The better that God took her from this earth in which there is nothing to live for. She was a good mother to you; sacrificed on earth for you. In doing what you have done you have only done your duty. If it had been a million times more you could not repay her for the love and the sacrifices she made for you.
I fear this will be the last letter you will ever receive from me. I am and have been for a long time in a very wretched state of health. My business is in a dreadful state. I am at present in a Court of Bankruptcy without a shilling in the world, of my own. Had it not been for my friend John Smith of Birmingham, I should have been in the work house. I have had all my debts of 1858 to pay over again. Mr. Vellma Cosgoine got ï¿½.0.0 out of me, as he said you supported Columbia and Oscar. In short, the difficulty I have had to encounter, I wonder I am not in my grave long ago. The scoundrel Sutton also got me into a frightful mess at St. James Hall and left me to go with a man I brought out, called “Maccabe” a mimic and ventriloquist. He cost me ï¿½00 and did not draw a shilling.
I suppose all will finish in the grad finale of all flesh. The property of your mother is not mine. All that I request is a piece of her hair. I hope Columbia is now able to take care of herself. The receipts from the payments of your mother’s policy on my life had better (be) taken care of or sent to me with certificate of her death, for her medical attendance; also the certificate of her burial.
I do not know if she has stated how the policy was to be disposed of. It will, under the circumstances, be as well for you to know its present history.
The policy was sent to Mr. Nimo to dispose of at any price. He tried to sell it to the office in London. They would not purchase it. He tried C. W. Dean, he would not have it. I paid the premium in 1854 before your mother left. Nimo, finding that nothing could be done with it, sent it to me. I sent Oscar out with my watch ring and other property and raised the money to pay the premium by 1865.
This year I had not the money to pay; it would have been lost if I had not got two gentlemen, partners in a firm in Birmingham Paper Match Co., Montgomery McCallan & Houdsay to whom I owed ï¿½0.00
I assigned the policy to them. They now hold it. They paid the last premium, ï¿½,10,8. In the result of my death, they of course will claim the money; they would have to deduct the money they have paid. It may be ï¿½0. If so, there would be 700 left, as the insurance was for 5,000 dollars or 1,000 pounds.
Now I can have no claim to this property as I will be dead. I have no right to make any order as to who is to receive this money. Who is her representative? I have in the deed name Columbia. It is therefore necessary that the office in London should duly (be) informed of her death and burial by certificates which you will send to Mr. McCallan & Houdsay, Paper Match Co., Montgomery Tannert Row, Birmingham. I have nothing further to say, but the will of God be done. My kind regards to all your family. Love to Columbia. God Bless you all.
Your ever affectionate father,
JOHN HENRY ANDERSON.
No photographs have arrived. Oscar is with a circus in Ireland.