Saturday, December 19, 2015

WC Fields again!

A rather fetching picture of W C Fields from an Australian theatre magazine of 1903.

Here he is without makeup, looking young, dapper and very much the gentleman.

Sydney Town Hall 1892

I was going to vacuum the lounge room, but I got distracted and found this...

It seemed appropriate for the season...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gintaro- A Juggler not a Spy.

In 1908, the famous Maskelyne and Devant company of England sent a touring troupe to Australia and New Zealand. One member of the group was the famous Japanese juggler, Gintaro.

Variously referred to as  Gintaro Nizuhara,( by New Zealand newspapers in 1909)  or Gintaro Mizuhara , he was a Japanese man who had lived in England for 21 years. He was married to an English woman called Isabella and originally worked as a merchant.

Around 1900 Gintaro began working for Maskelyne and Devant, giving drawing room entertainments. He was a keen jiu jitsu practitioner and a very skillful juggler and balancer.

In Australia in 1908, Gintaro opened the Maskelyne and Devant Mysteries show. He spun a silver ring around an umbrella,  spun and balanced tops and balanced a tub on top of a pole . However, the highlight of his act was balancing a glass of water on top of 28 bricks and catching the glass as the bricks tumbled to the floor.

There is a 1930s video of Gintaro performing this feat on youtube, and you can see some of Gintaro's juggling props here

After a successful tour of Australia, the company, with Gintaro, travelled to New Zealand in early 1909. Whilst they were there a scandal erupted in Australia regarding some Japanese showmen.

The Australian Defence minister was travelling in Queensland when he was accosted by some stock men and told a tale about a group of suspicious Japanese itinerant performers who had been asking very detailed questions whilst they entertained at stations in the top end.

Apparently the men had toured with a cinematograph and not only took pictures, but asked several questions about the location of stations, waterholes, tracks and other landmarks. The showman were accused by squatters, the minister, the stock men and the newspapers of being spies in the pay of the Japanese government.

At this time, insular Australia had experienced little contact with Asian cultures and anybody who was even a little different in looks, language or attitude was suspect.  There was a completely unjustified fear of an 'Asian invasion' of Australia and  a type of hysteria over everyday acts was common throughout the land.

The undoubtedly racist attitude was also common in New Zealand, and this particular incident sparked a complaint about Gintaro's activity in that country.

Gintaro kept a diary, and he supplemented it with pictures of all the places he played. Thus it was when the Maskelyne and Devant company arrived in Gisborne, a port in New Zealand, he, accompanied by company manager Mr McDonald, had taken photos of the port and some of the ships in it.

To his surprise, his innocent photography expedition  led to a letter being sent to a local paper.
The author, anonymous of course, accused Gintaro of being a spy. The newspaper breathlessly reported that half an hour after the arrival of the SS Tuatea, Gintaro was spotted, 'perched on the small crane on the breakwater, taking photographs, up and down and across the river.'

Gintaro, a man who had lived most of his life in England, was forced to give an interview to defend his actions.

'I think it is a most childish thing to say' he told a newspaper. He added  that pictures of the port and town were readily available at local shops. Gintaro asserted that his business was that of a juggler and if he was spy he wouldn't be using a camera where everybody could see it.

The newspaper asked him about an 'Asiatic invasion' and Gintaro replied that Japan was England's 'great friend' and would most certainly aid New Zealand if such a thing occurred.

Gintaro concluded the interview with a broad smile and stated that

20 pound a week for entertaining was far ahead of what the Japanese Government would give any person for travelling round taking photographs...and that they (English speaking people) could rest assured that he would do or say nothing that would offer them the slightest insult.

Gintaro completed his tour of New Zealand without any further accusations of spying. But the incident was an example of attitudes which he must have encountered throughout his long and successful juggling career. 

Picture Reference

 Japanese juggler, M Gintaro, and his wife Isabella. Cox, Irene:Portraits of theatrical personalities. Ref: PA1-q-235-120A. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

They toured Australia....Jugglers of the 1940s and Anthony Gatto from the 1980s.

 I don't study much theatre history beyond the 1920s, but today I was looking through some theatre programmes for a friend, and discovered some here they are.

Feel free to comment ...

Firstly from the early 1940s- Anita Martell

Anita Martell with her attractive personality, in addition to doing amazing juggling tricks with top hats and balls, delights with some lilting numbers- 
  Sydney Tivoli Theatre Programme 1942.

Next also from the 1940s but I think around 1947- Also from a Tivoli Theatre Programme

The Myrons are from the same era.

The tradition of importing 'exotic' Asian acts continued into the 1940s. This is a Chinese circus troupe.

There is some specific information about their juggler included in the publicity.
Shung Shu Win, another young member of the company , assures us that in learning his specialty act he ran no little risk of personal hurt. This novel act consists of juggling a number of Chinese devil forks. On seeing him spinning and twirling these dangerous implements, one is easily persuaded that he still requires considerable care. Tivoli Theatre Programme Melbourne

And of course there were balancers....

This is Rih Aruso, 'King of Balance'
Acrobatic cyclist, Rih Aruso can lay more claims to fame than his distinctly unusual name. Before the war- and before he began the stage career that brings him to Australia, he was six times cycling champion of Austria.Rih Aruso, born in Trieste, won his first championship at the age of 14. He developed his stage act after the war and has toured Europe and England, appearing at the London Palladium and on television.

Finally a young Anthony Gatto in Australia in 1983.

The accompanying blurb states.
Anthony Gatto, 9 is one of the world's great young jugglers. In January this year he was awarded one of the five gold medals at an international competition for young performers in Paris.
His father, Nick, who is his coach, a juggler and former vaudevillian, has helped develop his sons unique talent.'He's uncanny', says his father. 'His biggest forte is when things go wrong, which mind you, is rarely,he is able to reconstruct. He's like a peacock with a thousand eyes.'
After the eyes, you see his hands,. The rough surface of the juggling balls consistently nick his small soft hands, the hands of a child, sometimes limiting his practice time.
His major problem, as a juggler , is not keeping the implements in the air, but catching them when he is finished- in large part because his hands are so small. 
Gatto senior believes his son's main problem is that he should learn to smile more often during a performance, but his mother, Barbara , a circus flyer  for a time until she was injured says its virtually impossible to demand so much concentration and smile as well.
Anthony Gatto  is a juggling prodigy. What the sporting world might call a phenomenon , a gifted athlete. He is also an unassuming, nonchalant tireless polite young man , the owner of a pet chicken and a pet dog.

Anthony performed with ' The World's Greatest Circus Spectacular' in Australia in 1983/4 and the above pictures and blurb come from a programme.

Please comment if you wish...


Monday, December 7, 2015

Jugglers? Murderers? or Both? The case of the Indian Jugglers

 An account of the Indian Jugglers Cassim and Abdallah, who were convicted of murder in 1863

In January 1863, James Lane, an employee of station owner James Fagan made an odd discovery at White Sawpit Creek, near Queanbeyan in New South Wales.

Hanging on a twig he found a battered coat, inside of which was a piece of chalk, two empty gold bags, a pack of cards and a play bill advertising Madhoul and Co of Bombay and Madras. Leaving the coat on the tree,  James took his finds back to one of his fellow employees. They returned to the creek, and James' odd discovery soon became a gruesome one. Upon further investigation, they found a heavily blood stained shirt, several human bones, which had been  eaten by feral animals, a skull with several deep cuts on it, spurs , trousers and a hat.  It seemed clear from these discoveries that an evil deed had been committed at Sawpit Creek.

Suspicion soon fell upon two Indian Jugglers, Mahomet Cassim and Mahomet Abdallah. They were brothers from India who in August to October 1861 had been performing with Burton's circus. Advertised  as "renowned Indian performers from the Court of the Rajah of Mysore', they had performed acrobatic tricks with knives attached to their bodies, cut apples on their hands with swords and probably juggled knives, hence their appellation as jugglers. In November of 1861, they were seen in the Queanbeyan area accompanied by a third man whose name was unknown.

Cassim and Abdallah were quickly arrested for murder of their unnamed Indian companion.
They had been in Australia for several years. They tumbled and juggled their way across the country, until on reaching Lambing Flat in New South Wales, they met a compatriot, who promised that he could increase their earnings by hiring halls for them to perform in. They were interested in this proposal because their English was so poor they were having difficulty in obtaining employment. Soon their new friend was acting as their manager and interpreter as the three travelled around the countryside.

In October 1861 they were working with Burton's Circus in Goulburn as headliners. So it was that the trio arrived in the area around Sawpit Creek. In November, according to witnesses, they had asked to perform for the shearers who worked in the area.  They did so  and  stayed in a hut on a nearby property.

According to witnesses at their trial, one day the three men headed out to look for their lost horses.  Apparently they walked towards the creek, but only two men returned.

Further witnesses stated that Cassim and Abdallah had left the area by horse drawn carrier. During the journey towards Queanbeyan, Cassim had stated that they had been robbed by their friend who had disappeared. Another witness said that Cassim  stated that he would 'cut off the man's head' if he found him.

The trial failed to produced conclusive evidence that the bones, the hat and the coat had belonged to the man accompanying the Indian jugglers. A doctor testified that the cuts on the skull probably came from an Indian broadsword and other witnesses declared that the coat and hat discovered resembled that worn by their companion.

Despite the paucity of evidence, Cassim and Abdallah were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging for murder.

The case caused some controversy. The lack of solid evidence was noted by the press and a letter was written to parliament requesting a review of the trial. The men's lack of English skills, their inability to testify or question those who accused them was cited as  causes for the review. One doctor stated that the skull was too weathered and old to be that of the missing man. Furthermore, a fellow prisoner with Indian experience wrote a letter to the newspapers citing Cassim's claims of innocence and pointing out the flaws in the trial.

Due to these protestations, Abdallah's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but Cassim, deemed to be the leader of the two, was still condemned to death.

Cassim wrote a letter to the governor protesting his innocence. He also requested that he be shot instead of hanged because this was a more appropriate end according to  his religious beliefs. He further asked that his remains be taken care of by a man of his own religion from Sydney, as there were no Imams available in Goulburn Gaol.

On the day before his death in June 1863, Cassim and Abdallah sewed traditional clothing for the occasion. When the day dawned, Cassim donned the simple robe and a hat He embraced his brother tearfully and bravely walked towards the gallows. After the drop, his body twitched for three minutes or more, the unusual length of time was said to be due to his acrobatic profession.

Were the brothers guilty of murder? The circumstantial evidence certainly pointed towards it, but they would probably have been exonerated if they hadn't been jugglers of a different race. Their real crime was their itinerant employment, their shady occupation and their cultural difference. 

Surprisingly, some of the press supported their innocence. However, the government, the law and the conservative society of squatters could not overcome their prejudice. Even in death Cassim was not permitted the dignity of his own religion, his body was carted off and buried in the Church of England cemetery near Goulburn. His brother remained in prison and his fate was not recorded.

In 1867 a young boy minding sheep  found some items of Indian silver lying in the gravel and dirt of Sawpit Creek. The tokens were identified as belonging to the man who had accompanied the Indian jugglers. This find was said to be conclusive proof that he had been murdered by Cassim and Abdallah.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Treasures of Paris

So I was having a bit of a sulk that I won't be going to Paris until July next year- and then I remembered that I had purchased some beautiful postcards whilst there in February this year...

So here they are.

Firstly my old favourite Saharet...lurking in a Parisian post card shop...

This card is from the Folies Bergere, so it confirms that she performed there.


The beautiful colour postcard above is of Sarah Bernhardt, who had a very successful tour of Australia.

I'm not sure who  Mereilli was...but it's a nice postcard.


Finally this beautiful postcard of Paris L'Opera. Ahh Paris! I'll see you soon...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mathematics and juggling

Some light reading for mathematically inclined jugglers..

My eyes started to glaze when it got technical...Let me know if the  links don't work.

Mathematics and juggling

Juggling Drops and Descents

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another trip to the postcard fair.

Every two months the NSW postcards collectors society have a fair where they lure poor unsuspecting theatre historians into buying beautiful postcards which date back to the early part of the 20th century or earlier.

So this is what I found today.

Firstly, a uni-cyclist whose name is Leo Leo. Possibly French, but I have no idea of the date. Below Leo is the English Pierrots, a musical group which played in Australia in the early 20th Century. The postcard is from Melbourne.

Next we have Annie Reid on the left who was one of the "Mitzi Girls' in the Girls of Gotenberg. This is a card from Newcastle NSW, so it could be from an amateur production, It's dated 1913

Next to Annie is Ella Caspers, a very famous Australian singer. Below Annie is the duo of Diamond and Beatrice or Beatrice and Diamond, they were musicians at the Tivoli theatre around the turn of the last century. This card is another in the Tivoli series which showcases regulars from the theatre in Sydney. Next to them is Nellie Wilson, one of the JC Williamson's Royal Comic Opera Company.

Below is one of the world's most famous theatrical couples, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. This postcard is from London Films and is advertising their movie, Fire Over England..Aren't they gorgeous? Next to the golden couple is Andrew Mack, a singer. Below them is a wonderful comic postcard which references juggling, which I was thrilled to find. Next to that is a postcard of Maisie Rowlands, a monologue entertainer who worked at the National Amphitheatre in Sydney in 1909

Below we have another Williamson performer, Dolly Castles. Next to Dolly is a photo from Happy Harry Salmon's company. Below her is another Williamson star, Madge Crichton, and next to her the comic duo of George Lauri and William Percy, both stars of the Royal Comic Opera Company. 

More Williamson stars below with Florence Young and Margaret Thomas, pictured from the Royal Comic Opera Company's production of Veronique.

And finally, pictures from the Williamson 1908 production of the Merry Widow, which starred Carrie Moore, who is looking quite pensive in the top photo.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Images, postcards, photos and more

Just a reminder that my complete collection of postcards can be browsed, downloaded and looked at for free at Flicker. Just click the link to the side of this page.

There's about 800 postcards there...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More postcards

Above is Tod Calloway, a comedian and fixture on the Tivoli circuit. The post card is addressed to Eileen Capel, a fellow performer on the Clay's circuit. It's signed on both sides.

Arthur Foldesy, Hungarian Cellist who toured Australia in 1905. Also signed.

Another postcard of my mate George Lauri, a JCW comedian who met a tragic end.

Connie Milne, a regular for JCW's Royal Comic Opera Company.

Advertising card for the Percy Hutchison tour of 1928.

You can search the HAT collection of photos, postcards and other memorabilia at flickr.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lennon, Hyman and Lennon- Australian Jugglers

I'm posting this because I really just wanted to post the photo. 

Albert Lennon, Ted Lennon and Frank Hyman were an Australian acrobatic juggling trio who were very well known in Australia during the early 20th Century.

Burt was the best known of the three. His real name was Albert Spinks and he was a Sydney man. He and his 'brother' Ted began their career as the Lennon Brothers, working in an amateur group called the Electric Minstrels in Sydney.

Ted and Burt then toured Australia with a troupe which included a very famous former minstrel performer, Irving Sayles. Sayles was an African American man who had arrived in Australia with an American minstrel touring group and never left. He was a mainstay of the Tivoli circuit for many years.

Being associated with Irving gave Ted and Burt some cache with managers and audiences. Irving was very well regarded by both. It was during this time that they met Frank Hyman, a contortionist, and formed a trio, becoming Lennon, Hyman and Lennon. It was as this trio that they gained fame at home and abroad.

Around  1901 the three left Australia and visited England. Whilst there they created a short skit focusing on an Australian outback bush theme. The skit included tumbling and acrobatics and was presented as a novelty act. It was a very popular turn in England.

Their fame overseas led to them being recruited for pantomimes in Australia . And in 1906 they had a feature role in the Sinbad the Sailor pantomime, staged by William Anderson .
This role featured the trio doing comedic juggling, and this aspect of their work was included in all their future vaudeville performances.

Their act seemed to be primarily a club passing act. A review of their vaudeville turn described it as follows.
'The first turn was a display of juggling with Indian clubs which they handled with remarkable proficiency, exchanging flying clubs with one another and sometimes surrendering three clubs in mid air with an air of perfect nonchalance.'

Their juggling was characterised by very fast passing and deft catching that had onlookers seeing the clubs as a blur.
"the varied manipulations were really astounding, the concluding turn in which the nine clubs were kept twirling in the air created the greatest enthusiasm.'

After several pantomime performances, the three men created their own vaudeville touring troupe, which apparently included their wives. The troupe, known as the Lennon, Hyman, Lennon troupe, toured country towns in Australia. During 1908 they visited Rockhampton, the Darling Downs, Lismore and Mackay. In each place they demonstrated their excellent juggling and acrobatic skills.

By 1910, the trio had made enough money to settle down, and they invested in their own theatre, The Empire in Adelaide. They soon became respectable citizens of the city. Originally the Empire showed vaudeville shows, but gradually the theatre changed from a mixture of vaudeville and movies to showing exclusively movies.

They were in partnership for some time, however, during the War years, references to Ted and Frank become scarce and it seems that the partnership dissolved shortly after the end of the war.

Burt, however, continued to be an entrepreneur. He invested with the Fullers in the Majestic Theatre in Adelaide and remained a prominent member of the Adelaide theatrical community for some time.

Burt died in 1954, but I have yet to discover what happened to Frank and Ted. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Selma Braatz juggling in Australia 1914.

1914 was a big year for juggling in Australia. Cinquevalli toured and W C Fields returned. The year began with the arrival of a very talented 'lady juggler' called Selma Braatz in January.

Selma arrived in 1913 aged 25 and was accompanied by Clara and Fritz Braatz. Clara has been described variously as Selma's aunt or mother. In Australia she was referred to as the juggler's mother, whilst Fritz was referred to as her father.

The juggler was described as 'a young and trimly built lady from Germany who juggled with any old thing in the way of light articles'. On stage she wore a type of short suit, which was demure, but daring, in that it revealed her legs.

Selma started her tour of Australia in January, in Melbourne. It was pantomime season so her appearance at the Opera House in that city was not much remarked upon . She toured the Tivoli in Sydney, where her appearance was overshadowed by the newest dance craze, the Tango, and went to provincial areas in Victoria such as Ballarat, where the open air nature of the theatre interfered with her juggling. She also visited Perth and Kalgoorlie, a mining town. Her itinerary, particularly the visits to the country areas, suggested that she and her family were quite adventurous. 

Her act consisted of balancing and juggling of unusual household objects. Selma started her act juggling a tennis racquet, she then proceeded to use a bell topper and stick and manipulated both to the  audience's surprise and delight. She  juggled billiard  balls and balanced things on a cue stick. She had difficulty with some of the balancing tricks in the open air Britannia Theatre at Ballarat, but they were performed successfully in the bigger theatres of Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.

The trick that won her the most applause was balancing a tray, a wine glass, another tray,  and an egg on a billiard cue held upright on her chin. The trays were knocked away and the egg fell into the wine glass without breaking.

As a finale, Selma juggled some carriage lamps. The house lights were dimmed and as the lamps were thrown into the air they became luminous, changing colour from white to red and on to violet.
Selma was assisted on stage by Clara who juggled soap bubbles. Charles Waller described these as 'stiff bubbles, (which) may be blown either from film cement or from a special soap solution, into the composition of which enters a little gum arabic.' According to Waller, Selma was responsible for introducing the juggling of soap bubbles into Australia.

 Selma was apparently  on good terms with Cinquevalli, whose name always arose when jugglers were discussed in this country. Apparently, they exchanged letters, and Cinq called Selma, 'Pauline', a reference to his own name Paul.

Selma toured the whole country, and stayed for several months, before returning overseas where she continued her juggling career.

She died in New York in 1973, reportedly aged 89.

Arrival information about Clara, Fritz and Selma, from Victorian Shipping records.
Description of Selma from The Adelaide Register, 4/03/1914
Description of Selma's act from The Adelaide Register. 4/03/1914,and The Argus (Melbourne)5/01/1914.
The description of soap bubble juggling comes from Magical Nights in the Theatre by Charles Waller. Edited by Gerald Taylor.
The relationship between Selma and Cinquevalli is discussed in The Referee newspaper.11/2/1914
Pictures of Selma come from 1. The Australasian, 10/01/1914, 2. The World News, Sydney, 14/2/1914
Information about Selma's death comes from

New Postcards

My visit to the postcard fair today was very profitable. Well profitable for the stall owners, but very interesting for me.

Upper left is Pansy Montague. Pansy, also known as La Milo, was a human statue performer.She was born in Sydney and started her career with the Tivoli Circuit in the early 20th Century. In this postcard she is posing as the Water Nymph.

Upper right is Little Baby Watson, another Tivoli performer. Little baby Watson was a favorite of Tivoli owner Harry Rickards in the early 20th century.

Lower left is Teresa Carreno, who toured Australia in 1907. She was a Venezuelan pianist, singer and composer.

Lower Right is Margaret Thomas, one of JC Williamson's Royal Comic Opera Company.

Above to the left is a lovely postcard of the 'red headed spark' Daisy Jerome. I have something about her elsewhere on this blog. Next to her is one of my favorites, Carrie Moore. On the bottom is a very interesting advertising postcard for a Bland Holt production. Bland Holt was one of Australia's premier producers of melodrama. This particular postcard is advertising a 1904 production at the Theatre Royal in Sydney. It features a caricature of the man himself staring out a window.

These three postcards feature at the top left, a 1950s Australian magician named Tommy Parer. Next to Tommy is Annette Kellerman, the famous Australian swimmer who made a name for herself in the movies. Below is a picture of Miss Valli Valli an English Edwardian actress.

Finally, two wonderful postcards. The first is of Vivien Leigh during her contract with London Films. This probably dates from the mid 1930s, just before Gone with the Wind.

The second is an intriguing picture postcard of a parade in Sydney to advertise the Criterion Theatre's production of 'A Beggar on Horseback'. A quick internet search dates this to 1908. If anybody can tell where this was taken, I would appreciate it. I'm guessing Hyde Park because it was the closest park to the Criterion.

Alas, No Jugglers!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

W C Fields juggling in Australia 1903

In the early 20th Century, Cinquevalli popularized juggling in Australia and due to this, Harry Rickards, the owner of the Tivoli circuit, looked for other jugglers to entertain his audiences.

In 1903, Rickards succeeded in persuading the American 'eccentric juggler' W C Fields to tour Australia.

At the time of his arrival, Fields was 23 years old. The local version of Theatre Magazine described him as 'A comparatively good looking , fair coloured youngster. ...a good revolver shot and a capital horseman.'

Fields began his tour in Melbourne in June, traveled to Adelaide for about a week in July and then had a two month stint at the Tivoli in Sydney.

His act was most notable for its comedy.

Fields dressed as a tramp, said little and let his antics and dumb show provide the laughs.

For a ten minute turn in Adelaide, he used a battered old  grey belltopper (hat) and twisted it around his feet, hands and head. He then placed a cigar on the hat, placed both on his toe and whipped them up so that the hat fell onto his head and the cigar into his mouth.

He followed this with feats of three ball juggling. (He used tennis balls)  The Adelaide Advertiser said that 'under his control the balls were made to bound from place to place with lightning speed.'

In Sydney and Melbourne, Fields did the  billiard ball trick. Apparently this involved the use of a trick pool table. Field would bounce balls off parts of his body and they would rebound into the pockets. This trick was very well received by audiences.

The juggler was very popular in Sydney in particular.The Referee newspaper described the encore demands from the audience on his opening night as 'unreasonable.' Most reviews commented on his humour. The same newspaper said 'he does the most difficult feats with a drollness which is irresistibly funny.' 

Fields returned to Australia in 1914 for another tour. Of course he followed up his juggling career with star turns as a comedian in the Ziegfeld follies and in movies. Field gave up juggling, partly because he wanted to drink, and partly because he wanted a more rewarding occupation. Nonetheless, he did gain his initial fame through juggling and was one of the most successful acts on the Tivoli circuit in Australia in 1903.

If you are interested in contemporary juggling in Australia try Sydney Juggling.

notes on sources.

Fields' description from Theatre Magazine is quoted in Tivoli by Frank Van Straten

The picture of Fields comes from Melbourne Punch, 25/06/1903

The description of his act in Adelaide comes from The Adelaide Advertiser, 13/07/1903

The description of the billiard ball trick is based upon a description found at

Finally, quotations about his performance in Sydney come from The Referee, 29/03/1903

Sunday, August 9, 2015


This is my original article about Cinquevalli,the most famous juggler to grace a stage.

Juggler Paul Cinquevalli made four visits to Australia between 1899 and 1914. His act was a rousing success on each occasion. Cinquevalli was a skilled showman who perfected the art of juggling to a degree seldom seen. He travelled the world and one of his favourite places was the Tivoli circuit in Australia.

‘I like Australia’ said the juggler during his 1909 visit.
‘Who could not like a country like this-not only the place and the climate- but look at the audiences and how do they treat me’
Cinq was Polish born but his birth name is disputed. It could have been Emile Otto Lehmann Braun or Paul Braun Lehmann or alternatively Paul Kestner. What is not disputed is the accident that transformed him from trapeze artist to juggler.

Cinquevalli called it ‘the fluke of my life’.
When performing in St Petersburg from the flying trapeze, one of the assistants forgot to wipe the bar of one of the trapeze, and when I swung across space and gripped, my hands slipped. I knew how to fall, that was a part of our training then, but in the downward course I struck one of the wires supporting the poles and this upset my balance and I fell in a heap.'
Cinquevalli broke his arm, his leg and crushed his chest. The accident left him with a permanently weakened and slightly misshapen left wrist. The weakness prevented him from continuing a trapeze career.

Cinq had always been a juggler and sleight of hand artist in private company and his friends urged him to take it up as a profession. He began juggling ordinary items like matches, cigars and umbrellas and worked his way up to specialty items. He soon became one of the foremost jugglers of his generation.

He was a charming conversationalist with a down to earth manner. Theatre Magazine in Sydney called him ‘unassuming and brilliant.’ He was a small man standing a mere five feet six inches, and weighing only eleven stone. As was expected of a former aerialist, he was graceful and fluid in his movements. He was also a vaudeville artist with a wide variety of skills. He was a formidable weight lifter, an expert mandolinist, an accomplished linguist and had a phenomenal memory. For example he could repeat long columns of figures after one hearing.

The juggler was also a skilled raconteur. In 1909 he was telling people a story of how he escaped a murderous lunatic who had wanted to throw him from an enormous building. Theatre Magazine assured it’s readers that the story was a ‘thrilling and blood curdling’ tale. For the same magazine, Cinquevalli wrote a long article called "Some Juggling Tales." The article detailed his adventures in the juggling trade and showed a self deprecating sense of humour and ability to amuse which must have been part of the man’s character.

His juggling ability was one of the most unusual ever seen. He made up most of his own routines. He would juggle with billiard balls whilst he held in his teeth, a table, a chair and Walter Burford, his assistant. One year he had a pony cart driven on stage. He then balanced the cart expertly on his chin. In another trick he balanced a top hat on an umbrella. On top of the hat was placed a half crown and a cigar. He tossed the whole bundle into the air and caught the cigar in his mouth, the half crown in his right eye and the hat on his head.

Cinquevalli had two famous feats, both of which he performed in Australia. The first was the cannon ball trick. He allowed a cannon ball, said to weigh 50 pound, suspended about six or eight feet above the stage, to drop, and he would catch it on his spine. He got the idea by accident when practising one day

When I was balancing a large wooden ball on top of a stick one day just for practice, the ball slipped and fell on the back of my neck without hurting me in the least. It then at once occurred to me that if I could catch a ball by accident on the back of my neck without hurting myself, I ought to be able to do the same thing at any time I wanted to. So I threw the ball up in the air, tried to catch it on the same place, did not quite succeed and was knocked senseless on the floor.'

Cinq said that it had taken him a year to perfect the trick. It was one of his most audacious feats and astounded audiences around the world. The juggler considered it one of his most popular deeds, but not his most dangerous.

However, according to Edward Maas, the Tivoli Theatre’s stage manager, Cinq was well aware that he was risking his life every time he performed it. One night in Sydney a member of the audience approached the juggler and concluded.

‘Well it seems to me that the game is not worth the candle. If you miscalculated the ball by half an inch it would probably kill you’.

‘Dare say’ replied Cinquevalli, ‘but you see, I never miscalculate’

His other famous feat was the billiard ball trick. The juggler considered this one of his most difficult tasks and said that it had taken him eight years to perfect it. To perform it he wore a tunic with several pockets. He balanced two billiard balls on the thick end of a cue, which was in turn poised on top of a third ball, balanced on a wine glass which was standing on his forehead. With a flick of his body, the tower collapsed and the three balls found their way into the pockets of the tunic. The expert juggler performed many versions of this trick during his 1909 tour of Australia.
In Sydney that year, Cinquevalli charmed large Tivoli audiences. He was accompanied on stage by an energetic and comical assistant called Walter Burford. Burford had been with Cinq for ten years and knew every nuance of the act. His antics amused audience and critics and were much commented upon. Walter was often balanced in awkward positions by the skilled juggler. Unfortunately he died during the Melbourne part of the tour later in 1909.

Cinq and Burford received a generous reception in Sydney. Cinquevalli had replaced his traditional all black tights with pink fleshings. The alteration was considered ‘frivolous’ by Theatre Magazine. However it did not affect his performance. On the first night, billiard balls travelled down one of Cinquevalli’s arms, across his chest to the other arm. They were balanced and manipulated in all manner of combinations. In another feat, which caused the audience to gasp in amazement, he used a pyramid triangle and a glass of water. The glass of water was placed on the base of the triangle. The triangle in turn was spun quickly above the head on the tip of a cue, not a drop of water spilt to the stage. The juggler had made a specialty of manipulating ordinary objects. He juggled a piece of paper, a billiard ball and a cannon ball with ease. As a finale he manipulated a hat, an umbrella and a portmanteau.

The Referee newspaper called him mystifying and dazzling. It referred to him as ‘the great Paul Cinquevalli.’ It was his third tour of Australia and every performance was well attended. Cinquevalli’s managers had asked him to refrain from introducing new tricks to the act. The attraction was the familiarity of the performance and the skill with which it was done. The public lined up to witness the famous billiard ball and cannon ball feats. Cinq was therefore forced to perform these wherever he went or risk alienating his audience.

Cinq performed before royalty in every country. He entertained Queen Victoria and appeared many times before Edward the Seventh. He was popularly acclaimed as the world’s greatest juggler. Due to this almost universal popularity, he had no need to continue performing. He apparently attempted to retire at least twice. Once when he was thirty four and again when he was forty five. Yet he became miserable after each attempt. Cinq thrived on the thrill of performing before an audience. He could not live happily without the joy of performing on stage.

Cinquevalli made another trip to Australia in 1914, but his career was to be permanently affected by the First World War. He was a man of Polish and German extraction and as such was ostracised by press and public, who were anxious to show their patriotism. Although Cinq had been entertaining audiences for over 20 years, he was now considered an enemy. The man who could not give up the stage lights had them dimmed by racial prejudice. Cinquevalli died broken hearted in 1918.

He was a man of many talents, an intelligent, humorous, individual who entertained audiences all around the world. He was a brilliant juggler, a funny raconteur and a man who lived for his profession. Jugglers and theatre lovers everywhere honour Cinquevalli’s name.

Some pictures of Cinquevalli during his tours .

Cinquevalli 1899 including juggling some beer barrels.

55 year old Cinquevalli at home and juggling

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Juggler Lucy Gillet's tour of Australia 1913

What follows is a brief summary of a very quick look at Lucy Gillet's tour of Australia in 1913.

Early 20th Century Juggling was dominated in the Western World by the amazing Cinquevalli.  Many people were inspired by him to take up the art and most of them were men. However, many women also responded to Cinquevalli's  example, including the mysterious, and relatively unknown, Lucy Gillet.

Berlin born Lucy arrived in Australia on June 4 1913 for a three month tour on the Tivoli circuit. She was just 18 years old and was accompanied by her parents, Zelma and Fred. Both were 'dumb show' performers who had retired 18 months earlier to support their daughter's career.

The family travelled from Southampton, and apparently the tour of Australia was part of a longer world tour for Lucy. However, it seems that England had long been their base, as there were reports of Lucy performing in English provincial theatres as early as 1908, when she was described as a child acrobat and juggler. Lucy told the Australian press that she had been juggling since she was 10 years old, so it seems safe to assume that Mr and Mrs Gillet may have been an early 20th Century version of stage parents.

At 18, Lucy was, according to Charles Waller,  'a pretty girl, pleasantly plump and fair'. She was also a fan of Zeppelins and longed for the day when everybody travelled on dirigibles. She had resented the long sea voyage to Australia because she couldn't practice juggling on a steamer.

Lucy opened at Sydney's Tivoli Theatre in June 1913. Her act was part of a long line up of vaudeville fare which included the flying Banvards, an acrobatic troupe. Lucy was unfortunately competing against some huge names in the legitimate theatre during her stay, including ballerina Adeline Genee and contralto Clara Butt, who was very popular with the locals because of her Australian husband.

However, Lucy was considered a unique performer in vaudeville circles, primarily because of her high skill level and her gender. Her balancing and juggling was often compared favourably to her male peers , and in Adelaide she was described as a 'lady Cinquevalli'

Her act in Australia was carefully constructed to emphasise her femininity. The set was a kitchen and the props were primarily domestic utensils and equipment, including plates, chairs, tables, lamps and pot plants.

A typical performance began when the curtain parted to reveal Lucy sitting on a chair in a Dutch themed blue setting, then she quickly blew out a lamp and began to juggle. Lucy was a skilled foot and hand juggler. She balanced a candle on her foot and threw it to her forehead. She juggled three chairs and in a particularly clever trick she perched a table on her forehead while juggling five balls in two hands and then in one, she then tossed the balls into receptacles sitting on the balanced table. The finale of her act in Adelaide was balancing a round table on two poles, letting it fall to her feet and juggling it.

One of her most astonishing feats was almost destroyed by a wit in a Sydney audience. Lucy was balancing a pot plant on her forehead, supporting revolving plates with her mouth, juggling other plates with both hands and holding a reading lamp on her left foot. This left her with only the right foot to balance on. Suddenly a sarcastic young man in the audience yelled, 'What about your other foot Miss?" drawing much laughter from the crowd and probably some angst from the juggler.

And Lucy was a very serious juggler. Her attitude was approvingly commented upon in Adelaide where a reviewer said that 'she gives the impression that the only thing that matters on earth to her is juggling.' In Sydney she arrived promptly on the Tivoli stage every day at  10 am for a two hour practice session. Lucy was passionately devoted to her craft and was adamant that 'people who juggle cannot afford to be nervous.'

Lucy performed in Sydney , Melbourne and Adelaide and left Australia in August 1913.

Although she did not make a lasting impression on Australian audiences, her feats were incredible  for the day.  There were a number of female jugglers at the time but few displayed the skill level and artistic appeal of Lucy Gillet.

Note on sources;
Details of Lucy's age and her parents names come from shipping records in Victoria. I assume the Fred and Zelma mentioned are her parents, who the press stated were accompanying her on the tour.

The physical description comes from Charles Waller as quoted in Magical Nights in the Theatre. Waller was so impressed with her that he only devoted a sentence to her act in his scrapbooks. His remarks may have been representative of the typical male spectator at the time.  He described her turn dismissively as 'a nice little show.' In contrast his scrapbooks devote copious space and detailed attention to Cinquevalli.

The Zeppelin story comes from the Adelaide Mail. There was more coverage of Lucy in Adelaide than anywhere else. The paper seems to have interviewed her, about Zeppelins of all things! The same source also provided information about her practice sessions and details about her act.

The story of the wit in the Sydney audience comes from the Referee, June 1913.

There's also a really badly aged  photo of Lucy in a Sydney newspaper which I haven't included here. I will be investigating other sources for a photo.

There are some suggestions on line that Lucy went to the US in the 1920s. I looked at the records on Ancestry and I'm not sure if it is the same Lucy, it's possible, but I haven't really looked at much else other than the Australian tour. 

Further correspondence about Lucy is welcomed. Drop me an email