George L Lefevre

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George Louis Lefevre (1865 - 1944)

Copyright 2007 by Will Johnson, Professional Genealogist


How I got interested

Tonight (13 Apr 2007) I was listening to George Noory on Coast to Coast AM and his guest was talking about the death of Harry Houdini the magician. Some of the things the guest was saying I'd never heard before, so I started reading the New York Times archives about Harry Houdini. As I was reading dozens of articles about him, I came across the one (New York Times, 27 Oct 1926, pg 27) which mentions this doctor Lefevre.

I'm fairly sure I heard the guest state that while Harry was in the hospital, a doctor Lefevre gave him an injection of something and that nobody is quite sure who this doctor was or what the injection was.

The article in the New York Times however, states "George L Lefevre of Muskegon, Mich, a noted surgeon" and "A new serum perfected in a Detroit laboratory was used for the first time on Harry Houdini, the magician, to check peritonitis..."


George Lefevre was born in Grand Island, Vermont, 22 Oct 1865, as the son of Mathias and Eleanor (LaBreck) LeFevre. His family moved to Muskegon in 1881 while he was young, where he attended school. He trained to be a doctor there, in Chicago and finally in New York. He married firstly on 14 Nov 1894, Alice T. Ducey, and their children were George Louis, William Mathias and Alice Louise LeFevre. His wife Alice died in 1928 and he married secondly in 1931 in New York to Eunice R. Sexton of Kansas City, Missouri.

He was Chief of Staff for many years at Mercy Hospital. He served in many civic and charitable positions and in 1942 he was made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius XII.

He died in March 1944 in Muskegon, Michigan (cf. his obit below).

His brief interaction with Houdini was in Oct 1926, just after Houdini, on what would become his death-bed, had been operated on for appendicitis. The Secret Life of Houdini pg 513 calls Dr Lefevre "...a post-operative specialist..." and also states that he "...was a homeopathist who had devised an experimental serum to combat the poisons circulating through Houdini's G.I. tract."

Houdini's condition was serious and doctors didn't hold out much hope — but just a little. However, he never really fully recovered, and died after a few days.

Primary documents

  • 1920 Census of Muskegon, Michigan showing "Le Fevre, George L, Head, 54, b VT/Canada/NY, Physician; Alice, wife, 54, b MI/Ireland/Ireland; George L Jr, son, 24 b MI; William M, son, 23, b MI; Alice L, daughter, 21, b MI"

Secondary sources

Further reading

  • BGMI entry "Encyclopedia of American Biography", "LeFevre, George L" 1865-1944. New series, Volume 23, American Historical Society.
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