Rosani – The First “One Man Juggling Show” Juggler

 

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Rosani (Joseph Stadtmuller, 1868-1944) was a juggler who played the American Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits, performing up to a two-hour show for 40 years. He was born in Brooklyn, NY (USA) and called the New York City area his home his entire life. As a boy, he would spin a school book or slate on his finger. Rosani said that he could not recall a time when he could not do feats of juggling.  He saw billboards advertising a juggling act, which he had never seen before, and ran away from his family to see it. His devoutly religious parents “considered jugglery one of the black arts,” so he knew they wouldn’t approve. Joseph saw the show and thought it was wonderful, but was “in no way over-awed by the skill of the juggler.” Rosani went home and started spinning plates on his finger. He also copied other tricks he had seen the juggler perform. His juggling skill soon brought invitations to do amateur shows and before long “professional engagements came, unsolicited.”

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Rosani was sometimes partnered with magicians Al Baker or Edgar Hendrickson, but eventually became a solo performer. He is generally acknowledged to be the first juggler to do a full-length one man show of just juggling. Up until that point, jugglers typically just performed a reasonably short act as a part of a larger show and cast. Some earlier jugglers, such as Sylvester Schaeffer, did star in one man shows, but they performed many other types of entertainment in the show than just juggling. It should also be noted that Rosani billed himself as a “Juggler and Manipulator,” which sounds quite like a modern description of the juggling arts. This may be due to the fact that most of his tricks didn’t involve toss juggling.

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As you can imagine, Rosani possessed a wide variety of juggling skills, allowing him to hold an audience’s attention for such a long stretch of time. Rosani performed with whips, pipes, plates, balls, sticks, hats, lamps, cigar boxes, bowls, glasses, swords, tops, flags, pool cue sticks, hoops, bottles, fans, and other items. He was renowned as being the first person to juggle three large flags, which he did at least as early as 1900. He also balanced a stack of flags on his chin. When he retired in 1929, Rosani sold his props and act to George DeMott, an early IJA member and leader. Much of Rosani’s act is detailed in DeMott’s book, Want To Be A Juggler?, which was published in 1962.

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One trick Rosani performed involved holding the bowl of a smoking pipe in his teeth. Balanced on the other end of the pipe was the similar end of another pipe. In this pipe’s bowl was the end of a stick. On the other end of the stick spun a plate, which in turn spun the stick and the pipe below it. This trick (bottom left) and a somewhat similar trick are shown in the illustration below, which was found in correspondence between Rosani and DeMott.

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Eventually some of Rosani’s props passed into the hands of Vin Carey, who included them in his juggling collection that was on display at the Circus Hall of Fame Museum in Sarasota, Florida (USA) in the late 1970s. You can see a photo from this display below.

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Rosani was often billed as the “Prince of Jugglers,” a title also used by juggling superstar Paul Cinquevalli, whose career overlapped quite a bit with Rosani. Rosani married and had two daughters and a son. Rosani eventually added shadowgraphs (hand shadows) and chapeauography (hat impersonations) to his act. Below are a variety of photos showing Rosani. You can get a feel for what he performed in his shows from them. Just over half of the photos in this article were obtained through the great help of Michael Karas, who spent a day searching through boxes of documents in the New York Public Library on my behalf. Thanks Michael!!!

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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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