Archive for the ‘Uncategorised’ Category

Break time

Friday, June 24th, 2011

I’m going to take a break for a while to work on another project – have a look back here towards the end of the year…I might start again.

In the meantime if any of you would like to publish some articles for your area let me know in the comments or via the contact page. I’m happy to host them here or even help you set up a site of your own.

See you around


Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Franco Piper, “The Maestre of the spinning, tossing, juggling, and swinging banjos” was on the bill at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 26 September 1910:

Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

I described the Howard Brothers doing something similar a couple of weeks ago, so it appears there was a fad for this kind of act at the time – but fortunately the Royal Magazine ran a four page article on Franco Piper in 1901 – it’s a really interesting read.

We can see that Franco was performing at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden in New York from this June 1903 article in the New York Times – though he admits to still struggling with the 4-banjo part of his act. The 6 banjos shown in the Royal magazine article in 1901 must have been a little further away then he admitted back then.

There’s also a copy of his promo material from 1925 in both ‘Juggling the Art and its Artists’ and ‘4000 Years of Juggling’ by Karl-Heinz Ziethen:

Franco Piper - Promo from 1925 - Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Unfortunately his story doesn’t end well – his listing in Michael Kilgarriff ‘Grace Beauty and Banjos’ states rather baldly that in 1933 he, “depressed at wife’s illness and lack of bookings killed himself”.

RIP Franco.

Enzer at the Sunderland Empire

Friday, June 10th, 2011

For the week of 1 August 1910 Enzer “Late Sergt. Major Instructor H.M. Army Gymnastic Staff, the Soldier Juggler, Sword Expert, Etc.” appeared at Sunderland Empire “assisted by Miss Clarice the Lady Ju-Jitsu Expert”:

Enzer at Sunderland Empire Poster - From Tyne & Wear Archives

From Tyne & Wear Archives

There’s no other reference that I can find to Enzer apart from this (unfortunately undated) article from the Scarborough Evening News –  it seems that five boys were accused of breaking into a shop over the weekend and Enzer’s son Leonard was there for at least part of the time, helping himself to some chocolates.

Mr Whitfield for Enzer pointed out that he was a lad of some ability, having passed, although only 13 now, the 7th standard last summer. He was not the originator of the mischief, and that had to be considered. He was not in the shop till the Sunday. He was the son of respectable people, his father having been a sergeant major in the Army on the gymnastic training staff, and he was at present on the music hall stage, a brother of the defendant being with him. The father intended to take the defendant, who had been training as a juggler, with him, and although, unfortunately, the lad had been in some trouble before, he submitted that under his father’s control he would be all right, and that it would be better than sending him to a reformatory.

Unfortunately the magistrates seemed to think that handing a thief (with previous) over to the care of a music hall juggler wasn’t “suitable for the lad”, and sent him to reformatory for 5 years. Who can blame them?

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant of 27 February 1909 describes a performance by the Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire:

Howard Brothers at Newcastle Empire article from Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant 27 February 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

In the 1996 Andrew Conway posted an extract from Variety Magazine of 23 December 1911 in this rec.juggling post. It describes the routine beautifully:


There are many players of banjo touring the vaudeville circuits, and banjo playing acts must posess exceptional features in order to be classed among the Novelties. The exacting demands of modern vaudeville fall most heavily
upon acts of this sort. The Howard Brothers are far in advance of all other exponents of this form of entertainment, and the musical possibilities of the banjo have never been shown to greater advantage than by these young men who play classical and popular airs, and give pleasing imitations, and cap their performance by juggling the banjos like Indian clubs between them, and at the same time playing popular airs with wonderful precision and real art.

Andrew adds “The illustration shows the two brothers standing back to back and passing
eight banjos. Now that’s what I call entertainment…”

The Great Weiland at Sunderland Empire

Friday, May 20th, 2011

The Great Weiland, “America’s Funniest Juggler” performed at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 15 March 1909:

The Great Weiland at Sunderland Empire Poster - From Tyne & Wear Archives

From Tyne & Wear Archives

My brain is playing tricks on me – I’m sure I’ve seen references to him all over the place, but all I can find is this 6 April 1912 article from the New York Clipper (towards the bottom of the final column) were we see The Great Weiland appearing in Birmingham at the Grand alongside the great magician Chung Ling Soo.

There are poster prints of a cartoon of Weiland available form lots of sources around the internet – you can see an example at Can you help my faulty memory?




Professor Renniff, circa 1873

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Professor Valentine was a mystery when I blogged about him on March 18 this year, and so is Professor Reniff now:

Professor Renniff Poster, around 1873 - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This seems to be a draft version of the poster as it features alterations and a very PostIt-like note, but details of the venue or the date don’t survive. It’s believed to be from around 1873.

Has anyone out there heard of him? Let me know in the comments. I can’t find another reference to him anywhere.

Cornalla & Eddie at Sunderland Empire

Friday, May 6th, 2011

For the week of 5 June 1911 Cornalla and Eddie, “Toss ’em and Miss ’em”, perform “their funny and clever juggling and acrobatic act”:

Cornalla & Eddie at Sunderland Empire 5 June 1911 Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Before they appeared in Sunderland the only online references come from the USA – in 1906 they performed in Newark as described in the Cranford Chronicle of 9 August 1906 (third column, where the description says they are “a pair of comedy acrobats whose feats are unparalleled…and doubtless will be one of the hits of the bill”) and in 1909 in Washington DC as the Washington Times of  16 May 1909 (in the third column) shows.

If they’re American performers then they seem to have settled in Britain. The Bristol Hippodrome’s website shows them appearing there every year from 1912 to 1922 (although in 1921 it’s Knapp and Cornalla) and again in 1924, 1925 and 1928 and 1930, so we can assume that they’re regulars on the variety circuit.

We know from the poster above that they added juggling to their acrobatics by 1911 but unfortunately it’s rare to find a description of a juggling routine, and we’re in that situation again. We know that they were still concentrating on the comedy from the listings in Barcelona’s Mirador from 30 October 1930 (see the advert in column four at the bottom of page 5) La Vangardia for the next day, 31 October (half way down column 5) for their appearance at the Principal Palace Theatre. They’re described as “champions of laughter” in Catalan in the Mirador (“campions de riallo”) and promise “continuous laughter” in Spanish (“risa continua”) in La Vanguardia. Perhaps we can also assume that it was a non-verbal routine as they’d performed in the English speaking world for so long and then went to Spain towards the end of their careers?

The Juggling McBanns at the Pavillion Theatre, Newcastle

Friday, April 8th, 2011

The Newcastle Weekly Journal and Courant of 6 Feb 1909 gives a longer than usual description of a juggling routine when The Juggling McBanns appear:

The Juggling McBanns at the Pavillion, Newcastle Weekly Journal & Courant Article 6 Feb 1909 - From Newcastle City Library

From Newcastle City Library

They “gave an exhibition of club swinging in which they showed themselves to be highly proficient, and the variety and dexterity of their manoeuvres in this line were apparently very highly appreciated, as they concluded their performance amid a very hearty round of applause”.

The Juggler’s Bulletin of May 1946 gives a little biography and history: “The McBann name is a contraction of the two names – Pat McGreevey and Tommy Bannahan. They were the original McBanns and afterward Pat put his brother Henry in the act and the act really made a big name for itself. They were known as the fastest double act of their time (1908 – 1912). When Pat died in Lucerne, Switzerland, Henry continued the act with Jerry Buckley. Pat McBann was the first juggler to attempt six clubs. I’ve been told he juggled four in one hand and two in the other but he passed away before he could get it perfected to put on the stage.”

There are a couple of sources that show Pat and Tommy performing together before Henry joined in 1908. The New York Times article from 16 July 1905 mentions them as performing at as far back of 1904 at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden alongside, amongst others, legendary trick-roper Will Rogers. That must have been early in the partnership as Franciso Alverez’s book, Juggling – its history and greatest performers says “McBann and his twin brother had played Hammerstein’s Victoria in 1904 in the well-known act, the Juggling Johnsons.” It adds “Pat McBann was an outstanding club juggler during the first part of the century…Some old-timers used to say that Pat could juggle four clubs in one hand. Harry Lind, who had seen this trick, had this to say, “Pat kept the four clubs going with an underthrow, all the time turning his body to the left as he made the passes.” Many believe that, while Cinquevalli may have been more spectacular, McBann was the better juggler. Pat’s sudden death came as he was performing on the stage of Berlin’s Wintergarten. He is said to be buried in the Alps in Switzerland.”

The act was still going strong in 1912 (whether this was Pat and Henry or Henry and Jerry Buckley isn’t clear), by which time they had added  hat throwing and electrical illusions to the club swinging as you can see from this advertisement for their performance at the Theatre Royal in the Brisbane Courier from 24 April 1912.

The Gascoignes at Sunderland Empire

Friday, April 1st, 2011

I’ve just got a short article for you this week – during the week of 3 November 1913 The Gascoignes were at the Sunderland Empire:

The Gasgoignes at Sunderland Empire 3 November 1913 Poster - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

They weren’t very high on the bill and I can’t find many references to them elsewhere – but have a look at the detail of their bill matter:

The Gasgoignes at Sunderland Empire 3 November 1913 Poster (Close Up) - From the Tyne and Wear Archives

From the Tyne and Wear Archives

…they’ve got a dog that does double somersaults! Who could ask for more!

Seven Perezoffs at Sunderland Empire

Friday, March 25th, 2011

The Seven Perezoffs aren’t as renowned as they should be – although there’s a fantastic lithograph that appears in several books, their restaurant themed act isn’t well known these days. The Price Brothers and the Ramblers Troupe also did dining room routines, but they only had four members each.

They appeared at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 29 August 1910:

Seven Perezoffs at Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This poster from the collection shows the members juggling plates, parasols, lamps and furniture amongst other things. There’s a more stylised poster from the same collection that shows similar feats. Have a Google to see them travelling the world – they were in New York in 1909 and Australia in 1911, and the family is still working in the circus to this day – Youtube has footage of their descendents’ unicycle act.