Juggling - its history and greatest performers by Francisco Alvarez

PART 3: Heyday of Cinquevalli and Others

Cinquevalli's strong teeth and juggling ability made this trick possible. After a photo in Strand magazine.
The twentieth century is almost upon us, and a number of fine new artists are soon to appear. They had been polishing their routines since the opening of the first truly magnificent vaudeville theater, the Colonial in Boston in 1894. But Paul Cinquevalli was still one of the greatest. His past successes had been impressive. In London, his name had been displayed in letters "ten cubits and a span" in length, and in 1886 he appeared before a "brilliant gathering" at Marlborough House, which included the Prince of Wales and other English nobility. Around this time, Cinquevalli offered advice to young jugglers:
The question is often asked me, how to become a juggler. There is only one way, and one rule. It applies to everything else equally well, and that is: Whatever you make up your mind to do, stick to it until it is done. I have found it works very well.

I generally practice several hours a day, particularly when I have a new trick to give. Pardon the word TRICK, as it scarcely expresses what I mean; for juggling, as you know, is distinct from conjuring. The one can be learned in a few days, at most a few months; whilst often a single act in juggling requires years of application and assiduous perseverance before it is perfect, and even then, it does not permit of a holiday. Ball juggling is the foundation of all; therefore practice diligently, and see that you keep yourself always fit and in good form, otherwise your show will be uncertain and unsuccessful. Balancing can only be acquired by finding the true center of gravity, and learning to keep it. In doing any act of this type, the eye must watch the extreme top of whatever you are performing with, otherwise you will be unable to retain the balance. Last, and most important of all - practice! practice! practice! PRACTICE! [1]

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. A number of artists were then working in this style, which the French called "jongleurs de force." The Germans called them "Kraftjongleure." Severus Schäffer is believed to have done this type of act, and Herr Holtum was a popular "heavyweight" juggler of that time. But the most outstanding "heavies" were Paul Spadoni and Paul Conchas. Both men were imported from abroad, and this is what the press had to say about them:

Paul Spadoni
Paul Spadoni about to catch the barrel of a cannon with his shoulders and back. Author's collection.
Paul Conchas
Paul Conchas, doing his spectacular cannon balance. Author's collection.


Paul Spadoni performs a new trick which consists of throwing a cannon [cannon is correct, not cannon ball] from a springboard which he works with his foot. Then he catches it upon his shoulders and back as it falls. Mr. Spadoni has been practicing this trick for months, and will show it for the first time in public during the opening week of Hammerstein's Roof Gardens, in this city. Mr. Spadoni has created a sensation in America during the season, and everywhere he has appeared his work has caused widespread comment. His strength, agility and grace have won his audience completely and his tour has been a series of ovations. He was imported to this country by Charles Bornhaupt, the well-known agent, who is to be congratulated on having brought over one of the biggest cards ever introduced to the United States.


The originator of many novel juggling feats as well as feats of strength, was brought to the United States last fall by Richard Pitrot, since which time he has been booked continuously. Upon his initial appearance in Boston he received a perfect whirlwind of praise from the press and public, no act in the same line ever having been accorded more pronounced or favorable recognition, and he at once jumped into public favor. That he has met with most remarkable success is evidenced by the fact that his time is fast filling for next season. [2]

As we continue to look behind the scenes around the turn of the century, we find that on October 14, 1900, Kara sailed for America with the Robert Fulgoras Vaudeville Company and, among other engagements, he is known to have appeared at the Orpheum Theater in Kansas City on January 12, 1902. Kara made another trip to the United States on December 16, 1909. At this time he sailed on the Kaiser Wilhelm II and did 25 weeks on the Morris Circuit, and 15 weeks for Alexander Pantages. His personal representative at this time was our old friend Richard Pitrot, who also managed Cinquevalli and Paul Conchas.

W. C. Fields
The young W. C. Fields as a tramp juggler. After a photo in the Kiralfo scrapbook.
On this side of the Atlantic, W. C. Fields was one of the early-century jugglers, but at that time he had chosen to perform abroad. In 1901 Fields left America and soon after found himself embroiled in the Boer War conflict in South Africa. But Fields was not alone; quite a few other jugglers were also caught in the turmoil. Among these were Valazzi, Frank LeDent, Selma Braatz, and Silvo.

Getting back to Cinquevalli, we note that the vast amount of publicity bestowed upon him was not enjoyed by other artists, though some of them certainly deserved it. Perhaps the reason is that Cinquevalli was not only a great juggler, but did not hesitate to "reward" a journalist who was willing to write a story about him. The following account attests to this:

Harry Daniels, who used to be on the Sunday staff of the Herald, but is now managing the Keith House in Cleveland, has been telling again the story of that pearl which Cinquevalli gave him in 1901 for "planting" a fine story in the Sunday Herald: - "I took the pin," he says, "and wore it occasionally, I knew it was a good pin, worth probably 25 dollars. But I had others. So I used to leave it sticking in hotel pin cushions and such. One day in Philadelphia I happened to read a newspaper story about pearls. It said a pearl of such a size was worth so much and so on.

"'Here Joe,' I said to my secretary, 'take this pin over to Bailey, Banks, and Biddle's and find out how much it's worth.' Joe came back after a while. 'They say this pin wasn't made in this country,' he said. 'Well, what's it worth?' 'They say they don't buy anything like it,' he said. 'Well, well. What's it worth?' I said. 'But if you want to put it up you ought to get $250 on it at any pawn shop,' he said. 'Great Scott! Give it here!' I said. Well, I wrapped it up in tissue paper and sent Joe out to buy a case to keep it in. I haven't worn it much since then, and nary a pin cushion do I stick it into. But I put it on yesterday and went over to the Hippodrome to call on Cinquevalli.

"I knocked on his dressing room door and he calls out, 'Come in.' I go in. He looked at me as much to say, 'What the deuce do you want?' I stand there like any dub, not saying a word, but just looking down on the pin. Then he looks at it too, and smiles and puts out his hand. 'I can't name your name, but I remember you all right,' he said. 'I'm the same fellow,' I said, 'and my name is still Daniels.'"[3]

As Cinquevalli's publicity continues, we read this in an old press clipping: "Paul Cinquevalli, the celebrated juggler, who is now on his tour around the world, is filling a successful engagement in Australia. Last season he played ten weeks consecutively at the Union Square Theater in New York, and subsequently the Orpheum Circuit. Richard Pitrot, his sole representative for America, is dealing with a prominent New York manager to have Cinquevalli at the head of a big production for an American tour for the season of 1904." And a critic, after seeing Cinquevalli perform in 1906, remarked, "The people stared in amazement at his tossing of light and heavy weights, his balancing of cumbersome objects and his display of other attainments that seemed marvelous, almost surpassing, in deed, the belief of one's eyes."

Chas. T. Aldrich
Tramp juggler Chas. T. Aldrich, who later did quick changes and magic. After a photo in the Kiralfo scrapbook.
Another press clipping, this one from October, 1907, states, "Cinquevalli On Farewell Tour - On the Teutonic, which arrived yesterday from Southampton, was Paul Cinquevalli, the vaudeville artist, who has come to America to make a farewell tour before retiring from the stage. His American contract winds up, he says, his theatrical career." Another famous name of that period was Chas. T. Aldrich. One of his newspaper clippings reads, "Chas. T. Aldrich, the tramp juggler, who lately returned from Europe, has played nineteen months all told in London. His engagements being at the best halls in that city, notably the Empire, Alhambra, and the Duke of York's Theater. He has also had long runs in the leading cities in America. Mr. Aldrich offers a most novel entertainment, which is really more than interesting. He has always opposed the claque, and the applause accorded him is invariably the real article." W. C. Fields' career at this time was described by the English press in these words: "W. C. Fields, eccentric juggler, who is now performing a star engagement at the London Hippodrome, is undoubtedly one of the most successful American artistes in Europe at the present time. Since he last played America, he has filled lengthy engagements at the following important European houses - Winter Garden, Berlin, twice; Orpheum, Vienna; Victoria Salon, Dresden; Theatre Variete, Prague; Palace, Manchester, and the best houses in Birmingham and Leeds. He returned to America in February to play the Keith and Orpheum Circuits, then follows an Australian tour, return engagements in England, and a season with the Orpheum show for 1904-5. The chief cause of Mr. Fields' success lies in his constant efforts to improve his act and originate new material."

Harry Lind
Harry Lind, as a young man. Harry Lind collection.
Club juggling was gaining great popularity, even though some jugglers were still working with tennis rackets, battle-axes, and banjos. The Howard Brothers were experts in passing banjos, which they handled with the same facility as today's jugglers exhibit in passing clubs. A young and promising juggler, Harry Lind, who had made his professional debut in 1900, had now joined with another juggler, Frank Gregory. Both lads were good enough to be booked into New York's prestigious Tony Pastor's. Harry Lind was a talented chap who as early as 1898 had been able to kick a club into a four-club juggle. Still a juvenile at the time, he had been inspired after seeing a performance by Ollie Young, a club juggler of the day, who later formed the act known as "Ollie Young and April." In addition to his success as a juggler, 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.

In tracing the evolution of the juggling club, we find a print in the American History Illustrated magazine which shows a physical culture exponent selling his wares through the streets of New York City, apparently in the 1870s. The peddler's cart advertises dumbbells at 5 cents per pound, and Indian clubs as well. 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.

Pat McBann
Pat McBann, early nineteenth century club juggling wiz. Harry Lind collection.
Pat McBann was an outstanding club juggler during the first part of the century. McBann and his twin brother had played Hammerstein's Victoria in 1904 in the well-known act, the Juggling Johnsons. 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 following program from around this time was picked at random. It's from the Walter Johnson scrapbook and, though most of these acts are forgotten today, the program is of some interest. We note that comic opera singer Mabel Berra appears some five years later at the Palace. Yes, at the famed New York's Palace, in an operetta called The Eternal Waltz. It was the very first show at the Palace in 1913. More about the Palace later.

Bayonne, New Jersey
Edward F. Kendall, manager

Week commencing Monday, June 8, 1908.
Matinee 2:15 - Evening 8:15

OVERTURE - Louis A. Lesure

JUSTO - Comedy Juggler

Singing and Dancing


The Famous Comic Opera Star

Comedy Sketch "The Masqueraders"

Character Impersonations

Singing Sketch


Courtesy New York Public Library

From the author's personal collection

From the Robinson Locke collection of dramatic scrapbooks. Courtesy New York Public Library.

Program courtesy New York Public Library

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Text and illustrations © 1984 Francisco Alvarez
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