Bernard S. Bridge's 1926 membership card in the Society of American Magicians, signed by President Harry Houdini.

The estate of science fiction and film collector Forrest J. Ackerman is being auctioned off this week by LiveAuctioneers.Com, and among the items up for bid tomorrow is a 1926 membership card from the Society of American Magicians signed by Harry Houdini, the president of the organization. The group offered the following "hospital benefit":

If a MEMBER IN GOOD STANDING is compelled to undergo hospital treatment as a result of accident or disease (other than venereal or chronic and incurable) he shall notify the Secretary of the Parent Assembly in New York City; whereupon the society will pay any hospital for a period not exceeding five (5) weeks within one year, a total sum not to exceed thirty-five (35) dollars for such treatment. If any member is obliged to pay in advance for such hospital treatment, he may, by presenting the receipted bill, reclaim one (1) dollar for each day not exceeding thirty-five (35) days within one year, provided such payment has not been made direct to the hospital by the society. This card must bear the signature of the member and all vouchers for payment must be signed by the member and by the hospital physician in the presence of each other. Payments for treatment will be allowed from the date of the postmark on the envelope or card addressed to the Secretary at the New York Headquarters.

The same year this card was issued, Houdini died of perotinitis after his appendix ruptured. He "had apparently been suffering from appendicitis for several days prior and yet refused medical treatment," according to his Wikipedia entry. The society is still around and continues to offer some health assistance to magicians in financial need.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

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