Ferry Mader: A Master Juggler With Cups, Saucers, Candles, And Hats

Very few jugglers have ever heard of Ferry Mader. This is true for even those who are fairly well read about the history of the art. However, most jugglers are aware of one of the tricks he invented and would be astounded at some of his other feats.

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Ferry Mader was born Ferry Xaver on May 29th 1884 in Augsburg, Germany, where he lived his entire life. He wasn’t born into a performing family, but from an early age he developed a strong desire to be a performing artist of some kind. Against his parents’ wishes, he left home at the age of 19 to pursue a career as a juggler. He developed quite a unique repertoire of tricks and quickly found success on the stage.

Ferry is famous for seven tricks or routines, at least three of which he invented. First was the kicking up of many cups and saucers onto his head. He debuted this act in 1906 and could do as many as ten saucers and ten cups. This routine was later, and more famously, performed by Rudy Horn. Rudy Horn’s father was friends with Ferry Mader, who apparently allowed the young Rudy to copy his trick. Rudy of course went on to perform it on a tall unicycle and become an international star. You can see Rudy Horn perform this trick by clicking here. Many other jugglers performed versions of Ferry Mader’s cups and saucers, including Dieter Tasso, Sicki, Nino Runio, Mimi Willey, and Alberto Sforzi. Llynda Nairn and Jeton are among those who still perform it today. It appears that Ferry Mader kicked all of the cups and saucers up in his younger days, but threw up the top several as he got older.

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Ferry’s other fairly well-known original trick was similar to the cups and saucers and but used candle sticks and candles. This was known as the Growing Candle Trick. Candle sticks and candles were thrown into an increasingly tall balance on his head, with the tower leaning more and more as it grew in height. Like his cups and saucers trick, this was copied by many later jugglers, including Herbert Lohse-Bertini, Helmet Gunthers, Sagitto, Eston, Caprice (Carlo Kerzano), and the Two Torres.

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A third original trick was Ferry’s version of the classic cups and spoons trick (click here to see this trick). Instead of flipping spoons into cups on a tray, Mader flipped ten knives up and caught them stuck into ten apples! Mader also did an original version of the classic trick of kicking a coin to catch it as a monocle in the juggler’s eye. Ferry did this, but caught five coins with one eye! He also juggled three umbrellas in his act.

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In addition to the tricks already mentioned, Ferry Mader was famous for two other types of juggling. One was the common juggling work with top hats, which you can see Ferry doing in the following photos. He did do one novel trick with them, balancing a stack of three of them in a tower on his nose.

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Finally, Ferry Mader was well known for a trick that was originally invented by Gentleman Juggler Charles Hera. This is the multiple candle stick flip and catch. Holding a candelabra with seven lit candles, Hera would flip the candles 360 degrees and catch them back in their holders. He would then flip them 180 degrees to catch them upside down and extinguish the candles. Felix Adanos did this with 8 candles, but Ferry Mader beat them all by doing it with up to 20 candles, as can be seen in the third picture below.

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Ferry Mader performed until he was 80 years old and passed away on April 15th, 1971 at the age of 86. Some of Ferry Mader’s props are now owned by juggling historian Hermann Sagemuller. While he is not well known but by a few juggling historians, Ferry Mader should be remembered as an innovator and performer with a long and successful career who’s most famous creation is still being performed today.

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David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of sixteen books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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