Juggling Museum Road Trip Rescue: Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, I wrote about the ten hour round trip journey that my twin brother Scott and I took last year to rescue a giant pile of important old juggling props, most of which belonged to the Juggling Jacksons. These props dated from the 1950s to the 1970s. If you haven’t read Part 1, please do so first by clicking here.

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When we were loading the props into my car, Lois Jackson pointed out a huge green wooden box that many of the props were stored in. She told us that this box had belonged to the Juggling Jewels, a famed group of female jugglers from the UK. The Juggling Jewels originally consisted of five British female jugglers who began performing in 1912. The members were Gladys Tucker, Nellie Green, Denise Wathon, Bonnie Wathon, and Carrie Cliff. They performed an act of club passing, tennis racket juggling, hoop passing, and a solo tap dance done while juggling. They were perhaps best known for their finale of juggling lighted clubs in the dark. They were given these clubs by the famous Gentleman Juggler Salerno. They were originally known as the Four Clovelly Girls, then the Five Carlton Sisters, and finally as the Juggling Jewels. In 1943, they became the Four Juggling Jewels and were the Three Juggling Jewels by 1949. They continued performing until at least 1950. Here are some photos of the Juggling Jewels.

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Lois Jackson informed us that at some point in her youth, one of the members of the Juggling Jewels had given her parents some of the Jewels’ props in that green box. Lois was able to point out two wooden clubs and five hoops among the props that had belonged to the Juggling Jewels. They are pictured below.

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I was very excited, as I had written about the Juggling Jewels in an earlier article (click here to read) and recognized the hoops shown above from some of the Juggling Jewels photographs in my collection. You can see these below.

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The two clubs didn’t match the clubs in photos I had of the Juggling Jewels, but I did know of some other Juggling Jewels’ clubs in another collection. Fellow juggling historian Erik Aberg was able to provide me with photos of these clubs and they perfectly matched the two clubs we were given! I contacted Lee Jackson to see if he remembered anything else about these Juggling Jewels props. He confirmed that the hoops and clubs were indeed from the Juggling Jewels, but asked if we had grabbed the Juggling Jewels tennis rackets as well. I told him that a bunch of old tennis rackets were the only props we left behind. Lee informed me that those old tennis rackets were from the Juggling Jewels. I contacted Lois Jackson immediately and asked her if the tennis rackets were still around or not. She said that she was planning to throw them away, but that she would set them aside for us.

I then contacted the Knoxville, Tennessee Juggling Club to ask if anyone would retrieve them and mail them to us. Doug McCaughan responded that he would help us out and picked the rackets up from Lois. He was excited enough to ask permission to juggle three of them. I said that would be okay and the resulting photo was soon posted on Facebook.

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The nine rackets soon arrived. You can see them below.

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I was excited that the rackets matched those shown in some Juggling Jewels photos, which you can see below.

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The Juggling Jewels props are now on display at the Museum of Juggling History (click here to visit the museum website) for visitors to view and enjoy.

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While many jugglers are aware of the Juggling Jewels, virtually no one has seen any film or video of them. The only film of them of which I’m aware was filmed by Bobby Jule. We have been given permission to post that video online for the very first time. Below is that video, courtesy of 2015 IJA Historical Achievement Award Winner Bobby Jule. Thanks, Bobby!!

We have been fortunate to be able to rescue many props and be trusted with many more that we are now able to use to honor the jugglers of the past. We plan to continue to expand the museum collection with amazing props, photos, books, and videos, preserving the history of our art for future generations of jugglers.

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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