Archive for the ‘1910’ Category

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?

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.


Juggling at the Theatre

Friday, April 30th, 2010

We’re used to seeing jugglers performing in theatres, but there seems to have been a short period of popularity of plays (or maybe just one play) about them.

In April 1873 two plays featuring juggling where showing in the north east of England. The New Gaiety Theatre of Varieties in West Hartlepool is showing Life of a Showman on the 4th and 5th April:

Life of a Showman 4 April 1873 - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

And the Theatre at Choppington is showing Juggler of Paris on 4th and 10th April:

Juggler of Paris 4 April 1873 - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

This poses a bit of a problem when you look at the details. Despite the plays having different names the characters are the same and so are the cast; we have to assume that it’s essentially the same play. So how are the same people acting in the same play on the same day in towns that are 40 miles apart? Even in those days where a single trip to the theatre would include two or three different full length shows the simply wouldn’t be time to make the journey by horse in the course of an evening.

The answer may be in the source of the posters. These are part of the Wood Collection in the Tyne and Wear archive, and is a collection saved from a printer’s in Hartlepool when they went out of business. As you delve through the old posters you often come across corrections and markings on the posters that show that they’re proofs. So maybe only one of these performances went ahead – maybe neither did.

Whatever the actual occurrence in April, things have moved on by October, and on both the 3rd and 6th Jocrisse the Juggler is showing at the Theatre Royal in West Hartlepool:

Jocrisse the Juggler 6 October 1873 - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

In this close up from the poster for 3rd October we can see that the same characters appear as they did in Life of a Showman and Juggler of Paris back in April, but the cast are different this time.

Jocrisse the Juggler 3 October 1873 (detail) - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Finally we see what may be another revival on 21st March 1921 – though the only detail we have is that The Juggler is a “Story full of pathos…admirably acted…which cannot fail to interest” – so it may be a completely different show.

The Juggler 21 March 1910 - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

Of course none of this tells us if there was actually any juggling in the play, and whether either the juggling or the play are any good. An internet search doesn’t really shed any new light on that point, but the list of new plays licenced in England in 1961 suggests that that Jocrisse the Juggler was originally called Magloire the Prestigiater and was written by Thomas William Robertson. Back then the word ‘juggler’ applied to the object manipulators that we know now, but also to magicians.  The word ‘Prestigiater’ implies a sleight-of-hand artiste to me, so this whole article might have been a wild goose chase – but the text is available from, so I’ll add it to my wishlist!