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By Francisco Alvarez (condenced by Jeremy Johnson)

Juggling come from the Latin word Jaculator, meaning: a thrower (of anything).

The first graphic representations of jugglers appear in paintings on the walls of Egyptian tombs, particularly in those on the east bank of the Nile. Greek vases of early period also represented juggling.

The Ancient Chinese were skillful crafstmen and they created one of the oldest props in juggling. Known as le diable in France, in America it is known as the diabolo. The diabolo was originally made from bamboo and was smaller than modern day diabolos.

China and Japan influenced juggling. The spinning of plates on slender rods, and some contortionsim combined with juggling has been popular with the Chinese for centuries and the tossing of little sticks and balancing, rolling, and bouncing a medium-sized ball on various parts of the body is preferred by the Japanese. This style in which a ball was bounced and otherwise worked on various part of the body, is very ancient and was widespread. There is evidence in old manuscripts and prints that this style was practiced, either as sport or entertainment, in the darkest parts of India, Burma, and Indonesia. But today, the style is generally accepted as Japanese.

Throughout the Middle Ages the working juggler remained emphatically the servant of the marketplace, the travelling fair, or the dusty road where he would perform for a few coins in exchange for food or clothing. At the time of Newton's breakthrough in scientific research, Itinerant entertainers were common and jugglers traveled from city to city carrying their equipment in small bags tied to their belts. Very few names of jugglers from that period exist. The kind of work then poular was cannonballs, devil sticks, and ball tossing. During this time jugglers were viewed with suspicion and not without reason. Juggling was often practiced by vagabonds, rogues, and outlaws. To compound the problem, jugglers had no way of leaving their accomplishments for posterity. Whereas other men could leave documents, paintings, and musical manuscripts, jugglers could do nothing of the sort. To illustrate the ignominious light in which jugglers were viewed, I quote:

"Qual mestiers es plus aontos, deser joglar o laire?"
"Which is a more shameful calling, to be a jongleur or a thief?"

 

On April 3, 1793, the Ricketts Circus had its grand opening in Philadelphia. George Washington, who was present, witnessed, among other things, a performance by John Bill Ricketts. Ricketts is best remembered as the circus owner, but he was also a performer who could do some juggling on horseback.

In 1836 P.T. Barnum returned from an unsuccessful tour and part of the failure was blamed on the juggler,a Signor Antonio. Signore spun plates and balanced guns and bayonets on his nose. He performed some of these tricks while walking on stilts. Barnum,, finally became successful with the help from his promotional genius. Barnum was the founder the biggest museum in the united States and his connection with circus history is legendary.

Shows were now better organized and the printed program became popular. This made it easier for future researchers to pinpoint names and dates. One of the first names to appear is that of Carl Rappo (1800-1854). Rappo is said to have been a great juggler and the teacher of one Karl Johann Schaffer. Schaffer had two sons that followed in his footsteps and this family became one of the first and greatest in juggling history.

January 29, 1880 is believed to be when William Claude Dukenfield was born in West Philadelphia. In 1889 William Claude walked into a vaudeville theater and saw a juggling act, the Byrne Brothers. He liked their cigar box routine and decided to practice juggling. The vaudeville show that had inspired W.C. was a comparatively new form of entertainment. It had started in Boston in 1883.

In 1885 a 26-year-old juggler made his debut in a London circus. The juggler was Paul Cinquevalli. At a very early age Cinquevalli had ventured into the entertainment world as an acrobat, but he had an unfortunat accident. Durring his acrobats he had been exposed to juggling and after his accident he started to pursue juggling.

Since the Civil War, gun spinning and balancing had been popular. But the guns and bayonets were soon replaced by clubs. The Indian Club is probably older than vaudeville, though in the beginning it was mainly used for twirling and swinging. A popular club swinger of the day was Gus Hill, who had been a producer of burlesque shows. Some of Hill's clubs were very large, with huge bellies and short handles. A club 30 inches long was not unusual.

As if strength and skill were related and inextricable qualities, the juggling of heavy objects was in vogue at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. Herr Holtum was a popular "heavyweight" juggler of that time. But the most outstanding "heavies" were Paul Spadoni and Paul Conchas.

On October, 1907 Cinquevalli went on tour and then retired from the stage.

Harry Lind made his professional debut in 1900. Harry Lind in his late years became the leading manufacturer of clubs and co-founder of the International Jugglers' Association. Edward Van Wyck, who had preceded Lind in the manufacture of clubs, is said to have sold his patterns and manufacturing ideas to Lind, who continued to make the best wooden juggling clubs until his death in 1967.

Dumbbells and Indian clubs were the main props. Some time after this, sporting goods shops began selling an "exhibition" club, for those more interested in swinging than exercise. These were the forerunners of the club specially made for jugglers as we know it today. Edward Van Wyck seems to have been the first to make these clubs, but quite possibly someone preceded Van Wyck.

The most outstanding names are Pierre Amoros, Rapoli, Selma Braatz, Kara, and Salerno were very distinguished. Pierre Amoros juggled nine balls, a trick which prompted Rastelli (in later years) to juggle ten in order to surpass him. Lodo Leo Rapoli was a great manipulator of small balls; he performed such complex tricks with six and seven balls, that most jugglers found them impossible to do with four and five balls. Regarding Kara and Salerno, it seems that Kara was the better technician, Salerno the better showman. Essentially, though, these men were object jugglers who displayed a great deal of polish, and were the founder of a style to be known as "gentlemen jugglers."

In the summer of 1918 word came from London - Paul Cinquevalli was dead.

Late 1923, Elly, Willfred DuBois, Paul Nolan were some of the juggler of that time.

Rastelli made his New York debut on November 18, 1923 at the Hippodrome theater.

It became clear at the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s that, Rastelli had made the most memorable contribution to the art of juggling.

Kara and Salerno, It is no disparagement to place these men above the others. Indeed other great - perhaps much greater - jugglers had existed such as Pat McBann, the Shaffers, Rapoli, Pierre Amoros, James E. Darmody

On Sunday afternoon, March 24, 1929, Nat S. Green reviewed a young juggler at the New Palace in Chicago: "Bobby May, a youthful newcomer, was one of the cleverest jugglers seen here this season and went over great. Less talk and more pantomime would help this young man reach the top." Bobby May died on November 7, 1981.

Rastelli received a small but deep cut on his gum accidentally inflickted by his mouthstick and it became infected, and on December 13, 1931 he died as a result of that infection.

Despite the popularity of stick-and-ball, other styles of juggling were also flourishing. Indian clubs were extremely popular. The outstanding club-passing acts were the Three Swifts, the Five Elgins and the Juggling Jewels. The outstanding single people doing clubs was Bobby May, and the most comical of the club jugglers were Stan Kavanaugh, and Bob DuPont. The best foot juggler, doing his entire act while lying on his back, was James Evans. The best hoop-rolling act - Howard Nichols. Other artist of that period were: Charles Carrer, Davey, Gaston Palmer, Ivanoff, Piletto, Felovis, the Littlejohns, Moran and Wiser.


The death of vaudeville did not come about suddenly. Vaudeville remained in a moribund state from about 1929 to 1950. The variety form of entertainment might have survived one severe blow. But there were three! Radio,sound motion pictures, and television.

Juggler Dies - Kara, the gentleman juggler, died in Munich on April 9, 1939.

Adolf Behrend Salerno died on December 10, 1945. He was the last of "the three" who left their brilliant mark at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

The International Jugglers Association was formed in June, 1947. The founder of this organization are: Harry Lind, Bernard Joyce, George Barvinchak, Jack Greene, F.R. Dunham, Eddie Johnson, Roger Montandon, and Art Jennings.

In 1948, Francis Brunn made his New York debut at the old Madison Square Garden.

2001, juggling has gained popularity and there are many who juggle as a hobby, also there are many who perform professionaly as well.

 

Historically Speaking

Phillip Astely is thought to have originated the circus as we know it today. Astley's 1768 London circus featured trick horseback riding, acrobats, clowns and a band.

John Ricketts opened America's first circus in philadelphia in 1793, a show frequented by President George Washington.

The first elephant arrived in the U.S. in 1796.

 

Tent Tidbits

The circus tent used by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1921 to 1924 still holds the record for the largest circus ten in history. This magnificent canopy covered 91,415 square feet with a round top 200 feet across.

Circus tents built for the barnum circus in 1871 were big enough to hold 10,00 people.

 

Under the Big Top

The word "circus" comes from the Latin word for "circle" or "oval," based on the circular structures where circuses have been held since their beginnings.

New Orleans' Superdome hosted the recordholding circus audience in
September of 1975; 52,385 people gathered there to watch the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. A 1924 circus boasted the greatest attendance in a tent; 16,702 folks from the area surrounding Concordia, Kansas, flocked to the circus to set a record that still endures 77 years later.

The circus calliope takes its name from Calliope, the ancient Greek goddess of poetry. This "organ on wheels," patented in 1855 by an American inventor, contains its own boiler that produces the steam necessary for producing the music.

 

Barnum Bits

Before he was the owner of his own successful circus, Phineas Taylor Barnum worked the ticket booth and performed as a clown in a small circus. In 1871, he started his "Grand and Traveling Circus, Menagerie, Caravan and Circus." P.T. Barnum grossed $400,000 his first year. He wasn't afraid to use a little deception to bring in customers, and featured fake mermaids and bearded ladies, earning him the title "an all-American huckster." one of Barnum's promotions featured a "6-foot man-eating chicken," which was in actuality nothing but a 6-foot-tall man munching on a chicken leg.

At age 25, P.T. Barnum opened his first show which featured a black slave named Joyce Heth, reputed to be 161 years old, who claimed to have been George Washington's nurse. Barnum featured the original Siamese tweins, Chang and Eng, in his New York City museum of oddities. Chang and Eng, identical twins joined at the sternum, were born in Siam (now Thailand), hence, the term Siamese twins.

P.T. Barnum took on a partner named James A. Bailey in 1881, and the Barnum & Bailey Circus became known as the "Greatest Show on Earth." The circus began using the railroad to transport the business from town to town, revolutionizing the industry. It took between 60 and 70 railroad cars to convey Barnum's show on tour.

 

Five Brothers from Wisconsin

A German-born harnessmaker named August Rungeling instilled the love of the circus in his seven sons. Five of the boys--Al, Otto, Charles, John, and Alf --changed their surname to Ringling and went into the circus business. Brothers Henry and Gus joined them later. In 1887, spectators could watch the Ringling Brothers United Monster Shows, Great Couble Circus, Royal European Menagerie, Museum, Caravan and Congress of Trained Animals--quite a mouthful for their new exhibition.

The first Ringling performance came about with the effort of the five brothers and 17 employees, who together sewed the tent, sold the tickets, provided the band music, as well as performed all the acts.

Both Barnum and Bailey had passed on by 1906, and in 1907, the Ringling Brothers purchased the Barnum & Bailey circus for $400,000. The two shows operated separately until 1919 when they combined to become the now-famous Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The family sold the circus in 1967, but it still operates under the same name.

Baraboo, Wisconsin is home of the Ringling brothers and a winter home of their circus. It is also home to the Circus World Museum, housing 200 vintage circus wagons.

 

Those Great Wallendas

In 1947, the Flying Wallendas perfected the world's first seven-person, three-tier pyramid on a tightrope. Fifteen years later, while performing the stunt in a Detroit arena, one man lost his footing, sending the pyramid plummeting, killing two members of the family and paralyzing another. Over the next 36 years, the pyramid was performed only twice. In 1998, the stunt was accomplished in the same arena where the accident occurred.

The seven-person pyramid was performed 25 feet above the ground without a safety net. Family patriarch Karl Wallenda nixed safety nets since he felt the net gave the performers a sense of security and caused "lapses in concentration."

German-born Karl Wallenda joined the Ringling Brothers circus in 1928. Karl perished in a 1978 fall at the age of 73 while attempting to walk a 123-foot wire strun between two hotel buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

 

No Bigger Than a Minute

Although you may not recognize his name, Charles S. Stratton was a very famous circus personality. perhaps, you know him by his stage name, Tom Thumb. Born of normal-sized parents, Charles seemed to be an average child until the age of about seven months. Charles was only four years old when P.T. Barnum coaxed his parents into allowing the boy to join Barnum's museum of oddities. At age six, he was delighting European royalty, including Queen Victoria, and making a fortune for Barnum.

The young Tom Thumb was 24-inches tall and weighed 15 pounds. His maximum adult height was 40 inches, and his wight was 70 pounds.

At age 25, Tom Thumb married a fellow circus personality, "The Little Queen of Beauty," Lavinia Warren. At the time of her marriage, Lavinia was 32-inches tall and weighed 29 pounds. Their nuptials were dubbed "The Fairy Wedding" by the public.

P.T. Barnum received more than 15,000 requests at attend the wedding reception of Mr. And Mrs. Charles Stratton, with a ticket price of $75 each.

The original wedding photograph of the Strattons, taken by famed Civil War Photographer Matthew Brady, can be seen in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institute.

 

Final Barnum Bits

Because P.T. Barnum wanted to know what folks would say about him after he was dead, the New York Sun published his obituary two weeks prior to his death. The tune Auld Lang Syne was sung at Barnum's funeral.

On the day of P.T. Barnum's death, the circus was performing at New York City's Madison Square Garden. Barnum's last words were, "Ask Bailey what the box office was at the Garden last night."

The university of Bridgeport, Connecticut is located on the estate of P.T. Barnum where a dormitory bears his name.

Although Barnum is credited with saying, "There's a sucker born every minute," there is no proof that he actually said it. The quote has also been attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

About 12 million people watch the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus every year.

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