To my knowledge the first person to juggle three clubs was DeWitt Cook, and he trained his step son or foster son, Claude Bartram to juggle. I don't know much of Bartram's early life or partners except that he teamed up with Alburtus and the famous team of Alburtus and Bartram was the result. They were the first club juggling act by two people to create a big name for themselves and start a demand for double club jugglers. Claude Bartram went over to England and for years was Editor of the English theatrical paper "The Performer".
But they were not the first to do double club juggling, as that honor could be claimed by either the Devine Bros. of Lawrence, Mass. or Rogers and Rourke of Lowell, Mass. They were the first teams to pass six clubs and they were working about the same time and lived in cities only ten miles apart. I met one of the Devine Bros. and explaining, he said, "we did not know if it was possible to pass six clubs, and thought the best way for the audience to get a good view cf tne throws would be to stand side by side and face the audience (The man on the right side throws a high double to partners left hand; man on left throws a low club to partners left hand)". After getting it down they stood back to back and threw the clubs over their head to the other man. (Both of these tricks are difficult and don't get as much reaction from the audience as facing each other).
Although I've tried hard to get a trace of them, I've never heard of the Modoc Bros. or Murdock Bros. who an English Variety agent by the name of Fred Higham brought to England between 1885 - 1890 from St. Louis. Their lithograph that Higham had hanging on his wall showed two men on pedestals passing four clubs between them. My father saw this lithograph but never heard of the jugglers here in America and they were Americans.
Charles Hoey of Natick, Mass. was the first man to juggle four clubs. He could not finish with them and so they would close in the scenery and he would drop them on the floor. He worked with the Gus Hill show and his club juggling was quite a contrast to Gus Hill's club swinging. Hill, who owned the show, had a standing offer of one thousand dollars to anyone who could duplicate Hoey's feat with the four clubs.
The first to juggle five clubs was Ben Mowatt. He is the son of the man I mentioned before as having created the three and four club routines for troupes. I thought for quite awhile that Pat McBonn was the first with five, but a few of the old timers that knew both the boys corrected me on that and said Ben handled the five before John Whitfield put his newphew, Pat, in the Five Johnson's act.
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.
Johb Breen juggled the six clubs on the stage and also threw them over both shoulders. He was the only one I've ever heard of that juggled seven clubs. He practiced a lot with the seven and could do them about five times around and finish with them. Five times around would be about thirty-five throws from the right hand. Another trick he accomplished that no other juggler has done is a five club routine ending with a five club shower and he also balanced one club on his forehead and juggled five. he died in Brussels, Belgium on Nov. 30, 1912, at the age of twenty-one.
Harry and Joe Barrett were the first to do a six club shower. They saw the Tennis Trio pass six clubs, throwing every second club, and after copying it they asked the other act over to see them do it. Both acts were amazed as they were throwing every club instead of every second club.
Mistakes often make new tricks. One man catching all the clubs thrown by his partners was created by Alburtus who would always make mistakes on counting. If they were to throw six clubs Alburtus would stop on five or throw seven so he decided to catch all the clubs to finish without a drop. Alburtus also created the back hand catch that all jugglers use when catching shoulder throws.
Years ago club swinging and sliding and spinning was very popular and Rawson was the only juggler that did an act of this kind, and I don't believe it has ever been duplicated.
Derenda and Breen was the first act to do comedy with clubs and back in 1897. Every one tried to tell them that club juggling was too pretty to get any comedy out of them. But McIntyre & Heath saw the possibilities and made them do the comedy and gave them many gags that jugglers are still using today. This act (Derenda and Breen) was also the first act to throw fast shoulder throws with clubs (most acts call them "slap-overs" now) Breen claimed he saw a European act called the Juggling Johnstons that did a restaurant act and they threw oranges over their shoulders very fast, so he tried it with clubs. During a trip to Australia in 1902, they introduced Basket Ball in that country. They put it on the Tivoli in Melbourne and called it Net Ball and it was a sensational hit. Another first that could be credited to this act is that they were among the first to do talking while juggling. They were the first double act to talk but they gave Jim Harrigan the credit for being the first talking juggler. They did a talking act until they worked the Dewey Theatre in New York and one night while they were talking, Leo Derenda, the straight man, laughed and his false teeth fell out on the stage and he would never talk on the stage after that.
Jim Harrigan was also the first man to do the tramp juggler style that W.C. Fields later brought to great popularity. They both used practically the same props--cigar boxes and balls.
Ben Mowatt senior should be credited with doing more than any one else for club juggling. His main worry was getting a light club for his son to juggle and his search helped not only his boy but every club juggler since. If he only had the clubs in those days that Harry Lind is putting out he would have been more than satisfied. Remember in those days a twenty-two ounce club was light. Old Ben Mowatt was also the first man to figure out tricks for a three and four people act and the tricks that troupe acts are doing today are the same tricks that Mowatt created for his three-act back in 1895-6 when he worked with his son and John Whitfield. Mowatt,Whitfield, and Ben, Jr. were figuring out a four-people act when Whitfield left them. John Whitfield then put on the first four-act called the Juggling Johnsons. He also put on the first five-act. So the Three Mowatts were the first three-act, and Johnsons were the first four and five act. Whitfield later tried to put on an eight people act but did not use all jugglers. He had singers and comedians in the act but ended by doing the five-act. Jean Bedini put out an eleven person juggling act called the Juggling Jays but it did not last long enough for many to remember it. Mike Fitzgerald had about the only successful "big" act of over five people. (Willys had six people in their act for a time). The act was called Mike Fitzgerald and his Eight club juggling girls. He had the act together for about ten years.
Passing six clubs is not the limit in passing clubs as seven and eight clubs have been passed successfully on the stage. Seven clubs have been passed by many jugglers. First woman to pass seven was Rose Sheldon of the Tossing Tabors. She gives credit for the seven club routine to Kenyon Bros. (Cal & George) and Tom Allen. The Kenyons afterward taught the Jewels (Winnie and Bonnie Tucker) to juggle seven clubs. The first to pass eight clubs were Jack Greene and Joe Piche. Cal Kenyon and George Dewey both did the trick on the stage, each with Ian Mahoney as partner. George Kenyon is perhaps the easiest juggler I've ever seen and he was the first I ever saw do the three club kick-up. He has been doing it for thirty years. I also saw Kenyon Bros. and Allen pass ten and eleven clubs between the three people.
I believe Arthur Ward was the first person to juggle six hoops, but now Howard Nichols really holds the record by juggling seven hoops on the stage.
In ba11 juggling, Fielding was the first to juggle six balls and I believe Frank LeDent still has all jugglers stopped by juggling eleven balls. Some jugglers claim he only "flashed" them - that means throwing them all up just once and catching them but any one knows that jugglers have to be able to do a trick better in practice before trying it on the stage before a critical audience.
Kathie Gulitini is the only person I ever heard of bouncing eight balls. She used a drum and stood on the stage. Ball bouncers claim that to do over five you must stand on a chair or table, but Kathie stood right on the floor with a drum about four inches high in front of her and she really juggles them.
A FEW GAGS --- HELP YOURSELF
I just washed these clubs and can't do a thing with them.---You'll have to excuse me, I'm just at the awkward stage.---I studied juggling through the mail, I guess I must have lost a couple of lessons.---Shaved tonight and cut my jugular vein.---And this one will prove that talent and genius are not confined to the rich and powerful.
OUT OF MY SCRAPBOOK by JACK GREENE
They tell me that reminiscence is a sure sign of a person getting along in years. Well, that's me. And since I'm well over the fifty mark with a paunch as broad as a battleship, I feel as though I had that privilege.
Our good friend and Eastern Emissary of the Juggler's Bulletin, Larry Weeks, has asked me to write some short articles, so here goes---
While browsing through one of my scrapbooks of jugglers of the past and present, I cannot help mentioning The Kratons who were at their peak around 1908-09. The Kratons were not in the same category as Rastelli, Cinquevalli, or a host of other jugglers of world renown. They were primarily and exclusively, hoop rollers. They billed themselves as, "The Only Act Of Its Kind", and they certainly lived up to that billing. For originality they were in a class by themselves. I cannot recall any other act presented like theirs.
Imagine, if you can, a stage setting of a city with its stores, church, school, saloon, factory, and other buildings that a city boasts of. These buildings were busy places while The Kratons were doing their act.
Hoops represented people. Different colored hoops meant different people. The smaller ones were for the children. Hoops came out of a store and entered a dwelling. Some went into the church and others went into the factory. One hoop came out of the saloon, staggered around, and landed happily against a friendly lamppost. Some of them just sauntered down the street and disappeared. A bell rang, the school door opened, and out rushed the children headed in every direction. The factory whistle blew, and out came the workers. Some went down the street, others went into the various buildings, and a considerable group hightailed it for the saloon.
A couple of hoops came out onto the stage and did a dance. Another rushed out with a loud "Whoopee", picked up a handkerchief, and continued on its way. It didn't take too much imagination to picture a cowboy galloping along as he picked up that handkerchief.
Throughout the act, there wasn't one person to be seen on the stage, since all of the work was dore offstage. All sound effects were also handled offstage by The Kratons.
If my memory serves me correctly, the finish went something like this: The lights were dimmed slowly. The church bell rang and along came a couple of kids followed by mama and papa. They all went into the church. Then more and more families went in, until the church was just about full. A hymn was sung by the congregation, as the curtain lowered gently. Then all of the lights flashed on, and out came The Kratons for their well deserved bow.
The hours of practice and skill required to put this act together was undoubtedly lost to the layman, but all jugglers who saw the act realized the great effort, and perfect teamwork and timing that was necessary to make the routine run smoothly. While I never saw or heard of The Kratcns stopping a show with this act, it was nevertheless one of those good old standby acts that always worked. So my hat's off to them for their original "Hoops Are People" idea.
No doubt many of you readers, (if I may be flattered by thinking this will be read) have many old photos and articles about old time jugglers lying around getting mildewed. I'd appreciate it very much, if such is the case, if you would send them on to me. It will freshen up my memory to the extent of more of these articles. I would like more than anything else to get hold of some of Edward Van Wyck's booklets picturing "America and Europe's Greatest jugglers", or any books pertaining to the art.
Next issue-- (If I last that long ... THE BARRETTS ... Originators of Straw Hat juggling.
Welcome new subs.; Charlton Chute, 769 Paul Brown Bldg., St. Louis, Mo.; Richard Haldane, 444 Bannatyne Ave., Winnipeg, Canada; Vince Vernon, 912a N. Taylor, St. Louis, Mo.; Joe Cook, Candlewood Isle, RFD 13, Box 91, New Fairfield, Conn.
Looks like quite a jugglers convnetion brewing at the IBM assembly in St. Louis, June 16-19. We'll be at the Jefferson Hotel (unless they kick us out in the meantime) and we'll have something of interest to show you. Come on up if you can - if not, we'll try to give you the late dope in the next Bulletin.
Too late for insertion in last issue came the news of the death of Harry Pepper of Buffalo, April 15, 1946, of cancer. Pepper, a comedy juggler specializing with balls, hoops, clubs and hats was one of the "First Fifty" subscribers to the Bulletin. His suggestions on the Devil Sticks appear on page 16 of the Bulletin.
Tom Breen and the Elgins in the midst of lots of juggling activity as their show closes for the season--The Willys, Littlejohns, Hartleys, and the Gallagher Family all with the Barnes Circus. Also Bobby Jule playing the Detroit area. Then the Elgins, Jack Greene, Glen Phillips and Betty Gorham together for a grand juggle-fest.
A JUGGLER IN THE STIX by DOUG COUDEN
Cedars of Lebanon State Park,Tenn.: Season closed,vacash starts. Into Nashville for a collie. We lost Twinkle a short time ago and as we have had a female collie during our years as trailerites we were lonesome without one. New 15-monther is Lady (Lady Diana of Chippendale), first pedigreed dog we've had, with 30 some champion ancestors. And she's gonna have pups. Sold Oscar Doolittle down the river to Ellard Miller, Iowa State College vent and juggling tyro. Mattie donates set of the late Dick Ricton's juggling balls for Bert Hansen's collection. No letter from Bert. That's news as we've been corresponding regularly each month for over 10 years. Too busy moving, Bert? Bert has a broad knowledge of novelty acts and his many suggestions have helpedus in framing our various shows. Harry Pepper, 55, second Bulletin sub to pass on, was a comedy juggler of the old school. Jim Conway, doing act of ball and coin juggling around S.F., submits dope on perpendicular plate spinning. Interested? Jug Juggleson ran afoul the law-- Had to cut out his main trick of juggling three 48's while he fired blanks as the cops grabbed his gats. Cheer up, Jug, the cops know best. Everybody but your word juggler, it seems, sees Bobby May cavort on rollers. Jim Bevenger, Middletown 0. ads in The Billboard he wants to learn juggling. Yep, we wrote. Roger types of jugglers lining up for the St. Louis meet. Recollect Hal Griffin, St. L. clown tosser relating he slipped on match, landed on back, nearly blacked out but finished act. Geo. Bragg, 3-object- only juggleero, opened in Ga. under canvas with his family show (7). Hugh Shepley sends in good juggling reporting from his trek around Mass., too late for this issue. Betty Gorham scribes she is practicing to music and it helps. Larry Weeks framing civvie act. Eddie Johnson, now Penn State Frosh under G.I. set up, gives N.Y. stem the O.O.
In reply to inquiry as to what he'd like on this page, Geo. DeMott, the only present day manipulator doing a full hour show of juggling, writes 7 big pages, "Am busy as heck in Va. and N.C. for the South East School Assemblies. You wrote you'd seen the old time greats. I'd much rather read about Cinquevalli, Kara Salerno, etc. than anything you could write about me. I hope the Bulletin turns out to be a first class professional trade magazine and does not degenerate into a gillipin' sheet for amateurs. I have to go to a hospital this summer for an operation." We wish you luck on the op., Geo. We hope Larry's Broadway dope pleases you. Think last edition was Tops so far. Remember that from the present day amateurs, vets and students will emerge our future greats. They will be more juggling-wise, thanks to Roger and his bulletin than the old timers who had to learn the hard and impractical way, by actual experience. We hope the studes will stay in school as show biz of the future will hold little opportunity for performers with meagre educations. About great jugglers of yore, our editor has material on them which he will put out at cost to subscribers. Along that line and to encourage contributions from pros, most of whom clam up, we'll take an idea from Geo. Russell's reminiscences on p. 19, leading off with:
REMEMBER WHEN DEPT: Remember when Willie Hoppe, billiard champ, played vaude with a mirror over table so specs could see the shots? W.C. Fields, not to be outdone, carried a pool table, broke the balls, every one going into pockets. Come on, you oldies, give out on this.
Juggling is a natural medium for comedy. We've played to thousands of kids who had never seen a juggler before and found that just straight tossing tickled their risibilities. Many mispronounce juggling, tho, even ran across H.S. principals who called it "jewggling".
Along the physics line, Eric Johnson is in again, this time with an enlargement on the ball in hoop trick. This is an excellent illustration of centrifugal force applied to juggling. (Staff with hoop attached to top is balanced on forehead. Ball is caused to roll around inside of hoop with up and down movement of body) Eric caught Bob Hermin, doing this, spinning two batons at same time. But that aint all, brother-- As a grand finale Bob hopped off with 5 balls looping-the-loop in hoops on head, back, right leg, and one in each hand. Phew, what pep-- Must eat Grape Nut Flakes.
Spud Roberts comes through with an audience participation gag. Slide plate off arm, catch before it hits floor then have volunteer try it. Sweep up pieces into dustpan. Under pan hold irregular piece of paper plate which is dropped and swept up with china pieces. Ask audience what they're laughing at - then throw piece of paper plate out over their heads. Enamel paper plates white and cut with sharp knife.
We'll close with an original novelty for intimate type audience. Have several customers print names on slips of paper. Insert your photo in typewriter, fasten a slip on end of stick, balance stick on chin and auto- graph photo, copying from slip. (touch typing, see snapshot) Have cut of balancing-typing trick printed on paper as these handle better in machine. In photo shown herewith, short stick (?) is shadow showing paper on top. Stick is Mexican cane picked up last season over the border. Remember mail to Tulsa gets us.