Excerpt from Dmagic by Bart Whaley :
Box Trick; box trick
1.n. Classic stage illusion where a prisoner in a large box, packing crate, or trunk escapes or exchanges places with another performer. Mainly British usage, the preferred American one being Metamorphosis. [fairly common]
Invented by J.N. Maskelyne and premiered by him on 19 June 1865 at Jessop's Aviary Gardens in Cheltenham. On that occasion Maskelyne was imprisoned in a locked and corded wooden box. Two bells were placed on top and the whole contraption enclosed within a spirit medium's cabinet. Moments later the bells were heard to ring and then seen to be tossed over the open top of the cabinet. The doors were then thrown open to disclose Maskelyne seated on the box that on inspection was found to be still locked and bound. This startling effect proved he could outdo the spirit "manifestations" of those currently popular spiritualistic frauds, the Davenport Brothers. Then, on 19 August at Cheltenham town hall, Maskelyne and his partner, George Cooke, were separately confined inside the cabinet yet were found to have exchanged places. Both effects, although not necessarily the exact methods, were widely copied: the first version by Dr. H.S. Lynn at the Egyptian Hall in London in 1873 and the second by Houdini in 1893 in his Substitution Trunk trick. Maskelyne & Cooke's second version also inspired their elaborate magical sketch, Will, the Witch, and the Watch, which they premiered in 1873. REF: Birmingham Gazette, 24 Jun 1865, as quoted by Clarke in Magic Wand (1927), 86-89; Lamb (1976), 76, 69, 87.
"Houdini concludes his show with an exceptionally smart Box Trick in which he is ably assisted by Mrs. Houdini, whose untiring efforts to secure the maximum effect are very apparent."
- Ellis Stanyon in Magic (Jan 1901), 25