Anglo was the stage name of Australian juggler Thomas Horton, who was born in 1879 in North Adelaide, South Australia. He learned to juggle as a boy and created many original routines. He was also trained as a boot maker and employed his craftsmanship in the creation of his unique props. He was eventually billed as Australia’s Greatest Juggler.
Anglo’s success was all the more remarkable considering that he had a difficult childhood. As a boy he suffered from heat stroke and sustained head injuries after falling out of a 13 foot high tree when he was 10 years old. He also had a bad stutter. On top of those difficulties, his father had died at the Parkside Lunatic Asylum, and his mother had been detained there at one point as well.
Despite these challenges, Anglo became quite talented as a juggler. He specialized in combination tricks. When Anglo traveled to London, England in 1903, magician and juggler Ellis Stanyon saw him perform and reported that Anglo’s act was one of the most original that he had seen.
While Anglo was in London, he met with the Hamley Brothers, owners of the world’s oldest toy store and toy company. The Hamley Brothers agreed to published the world’s first full length book about juggling, written by Anglo, titled The Art of Modern Juggling. Anglo was quite happy that Hamley Brothers Ltd. were going to publish his book, which included instruction on a wide variety of juggling tricks. The book was published in 1907 and is one of the rarest juggling books in existence.
After performing in London and making arrangements for his book to be published, Anglo sailed back to Australia. This is where Anglo’s story takes a sad and dark turn. Thomas Horton was married to a woman named Julia Chaplin,, who was a cousin to the famed actor and director Charlie Chaplin. Julia and Thomas had three children. Julia, however, died two days before Anglo arrived back in Australia from London. Two of his children were adopted by his step-sister. His youngest daughter was taken in by Anglo’s mother. Thomas then married Florence Lovell just a few months later, in November 1903, when he was 24 years old. Florence had an illegitimate child from a previous relationship, but she remained close friends with the father of the child. Thomas was reportedly very jealous of this friendship and was convinced that the two were still involved romantically. This led to Thomas being quite abusive toward Florence. After just three months of marriage, Florence feared for her life to the extent that she wrote a long letter that began with the following statements.
“I am writing this letter in case of anything happening to me (Mrs. Horton). If ever such a thing happens me it will be by no other hand than Mr. Horton. He has threatened my life times out of number for no just cause. We were married on November 5, 1903. The same night he accused me of adultery with his mate , who was at the wedding. I am admitting I had a child before marriage, but he knew everything before hand. He wanted me to give her away, and I did not think it was a right thing to do. I told him I would not get married on those conditions, so he decided to take her.”
By the time she wrote the letter, Florence had left Thomas and gone back to live with her parents. Two weeks after Florence left him, on the evening of February 27, 1904, Anglo happened upon Florence and two female companions on the street. Enraged at the sight of his estranged wife, Anglo took out a pistol and shot Florence three times in the back, killing her. He fled the scene and escaped, but was captured two days later. He was put on trial for murder and was found guilty.
On May 11, 1904, Anglo wrote the following letter to the Hamley Brothers.
“Dear Messrs. Hamley:
I thought that I would just drop you a line to tell you of my misfortune. Since I left London, I have had varied luck. The first thing on landing at Adelaide I was greeted with the news of my wife’s death, which took place two days before. A few months after I married again, and then my troubles commenced afresh.
My second marriage was in every way a complete failure. I had no idea what sort of a woman I was taking for my wife. Everything that I could do to try and live with her in happiness was futile. She so worried me that I hardly knew what I was doing. She left me after we had been married 3-1/2 months and went home to her people. Had she been satisfied and contented with leaving me, all would have been well, but unfortunately for me such was not the case.
She used to carry on with other men and one Saturday night I met her in the street. I got wild and shot her dead. You may quite imagine my position then. I, of course, was put on trial and the jury brought in a verdict against me. So tomorrow, the 12th, I die. I do not think that I have any more to write about, so will thank you in anticipation and wishing you all success and a long farewell, I am,
Yours Sincerely, T. Horton.”
Thomas Horton was hanged the next day. Three years later, his book, The Art of Modern Juggling, was finally published by Hamley Brothers Ltd.. It was the first full length book about juggling and was a popular book for jugglers to learn from in the first decades for the twentieth century. It gives us a glimpse into what jugglers performed at the time, and is, therefore, of great historical value. There was even a review of the book in Harry Houdini’s Conjurer’s Monthly Magazine in 1908. It is shown below and was provided by juggling historian Erik Aberg.
While Thomas “Anglo” Horton is mainly remembered in history as a murderer, jugglers can at least be thankful for the book that he wrote.