photo by James Van Der Zee, 1924
Tommy Davis, aka the Great Bromo, was escaping from a water torture cell of sorts as early as 1916. As The Great Bromo (king of mystery) Handcuff Expert – Prison Breaker. “The Greatest Colored Performer In Vaudeville”
BTW there is an anecdote that black magician Wilmont Barclay, born in Jamaica, used the term “escape artist” prior to Houdini, and allegedly taught Houdini his first handcuff escapes in 1895.