Many hoop rolling troupes were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s after William Everhart (click here to read about him) invented the genre. Two successful – but mostly forgotten – troupes from the United States were the Alpha Troupe and the Gregory Troupe. They were active at the same time. While not a huge amount of information still exists about either troupe, a number of photos of each are still around and are shared below with the information we do have.
The Alpha Troupe
The Alpha Troupe was originally known as the Alpha Trio, which consisted of the family of George Adams, his wife Alice, and their son Gene. Gene was the star of the act, as he is the first juggler known to juggle five wooden hoops. He was also the inventor of the scorpion kick, where one hoop was thrown back over his head, where he performed a blind kick of the hoop, sending it back over his head where it was caught back in a juggle. You can see this trick highlighted in the following illustration.
In April of 1909, a fourth member of the group was added and the trio became a troupe.
The above photo shows the best known formation of the troupe, consisting, from top to bottom, of founder George Adams, his wife Alice Adams, Walter Hull, and Gene Adams.
The following illustration shows the troupe being composed of the three Adams’ plus Joe Hicks.
The next photo shows a different composition of the troupe, with George and Gene Adams being joined by John Ford and Tom Donigan. The back of the photo says that famed hoop roller Howard Nichols and his brother Clyde Nichols were once members of the Alpha Troupe as well.
As you can see in the following photo, the troupe expanded to five members at one point, at least by 1912. Notice in most of the photos and illustrations that George dressed as a clown and provided the comic relief in the act.
Alice Adams died May 30th, 1914.
George Adams, the founder of the Alpha Troupe
The Alpha Trio / Troupe performed from 1900 to 1916. Their act lasted 10 to 16 minutes and they were known for their brightly painted hoops, as well as for Gene Adams’ top notch skills.
The Gregory Troupe
Frank L. Gregory was a well-known club and hoop juggler at the turn of the century.
Around 1906, Frank decided to form a hoop rolling troupe and the Frank L. Gregory Troupe was born. It was originally a five person group, but later expanded to seven members.
Unfortunately, no detailed descriptions of the Gregory Troupe’s act have been found. Nevertheless, they were often billed as the “World’s Greatest Hoop Rollers.”
The last mention of the troupe that I can find is from 1919. Eventually Frank left show business and went into the military. Following his military career, he went into the fragrance business. He passed away in 1949 at the age of 83.