There are a number of people, like my brother David Cain, who are into collecting juggling related memorabilia in a big way. David is one of a dozen or so collectors who have roomfuls of vintage props (many belonging to juggling icons of the past), photographs (many autographed), books, magazines, and costumes that chronicle the history of our art form and skill. However, as I have witnessed first hand, a devotion to that level takes a lot of time, money, effort, contacts, work, and space. For those of you who may want to own a bit of juggling history and memorabilia without all that fuss, I suggest looking into souvenir programs.
Souvenir programs of various types of performances were mass produced and sold at the performances. They usually list the performer in the cast list or order of the show, and often have an accompanying photo of them in action. Best of all, most of these are available on ebay or etsy auction websites for a nominal price, and can be yours in just a matter of days.
There are two main ways you can find these. The first option is to do a bit of research to find out what jugglers were performing in what specific show and when, and then look for that specific item on ebay, etsy, or a similar online auction site. Or, you can look up a general category of item (like Moscow Circus Programs), and then look at the pictures and descriptions to identify the juggler. Both have their pros and cons. With knowing what you are looking for, it is easier, but you need to know that a performer was sometimes not featured in every edition of the program for the entire year in some cases. If you see a photo and listing for the performer in the auction listing, then you know what you are getting, but it may take more time to find it. The best version is when you find out what you are looking for, and then find an auction item with the performer listed and/or photographed.
Let’s look at a few of the performers and venues that you can find online for immediate purchase.
Most circuses have souvenir programs, and have for a long time. Ringling Brothers / Barnum and Bailey Circus has featured some of the world’s greatest jugglers, including Massamiliano Truzzi, Francis Brunn, and Lottie Brunn. Francis Brunn was listed in most copies of the 1949 and 1950 Souvenir Programs for Ringling Barnum & Bailey, both of which are usually available on ebay for around $10 plus shipping.
The Moscow Circus has featured many top jugglers, including Sergei Ignatov, Alexander Kiss and Violetta Kiss, Albert Petrovski, Evgeni Biljauer, Gregory Popovich, and The Two Miagkostoupovs, among others. Some of these programs can be quite expensive, while others can be won for less than $10. Two that seem to be most prevalent are the 1963/1964 debut US tour one featuring Alexander and Violetta Kiss (with the two horses and rider cover) and the 1972 US tour one featuring Sergei Ignatov (with the black, yellow, and red cover).
The 1979 Moscow Circus program below features Sergei Ignatov, as well as a aerial ball spinners/balancers Ludmilla Golovko and Peter Lubichenko, and strongman juggler Valeri Guryev.
Obviously, there have been numerous circuses around the world, with some of them offering similar programs which have featured jugglers.
From the 1940s through the 1980s, ice skating and roller skating revues were very popular, especially in the United States. Often, a juggling act was part of the show to provide a break for the other performers the chance to rest and to give some variety to the overall show. Early jugglers featured in shows such as Ice Capades, Ice Follies, Holiday on Ice, Skating Vanities, and similar shows included Serge Flash (1941 and 1942 Ice Capades), Boy Foy, Kay Farrelli, Lou Folds, and Tommy Curtin, but the most prolific were Trixie and Bobby May. Often, these programs can be won in auctions for less than $5 each.
Bobby May performed in both roller skating and ice skating shows. He juggled with Skating Vanities, a roller skating show, on and off from 1942 through 1948 (or 1947 according to some sources). Bobby then switched to juggling in ice shows – primarily Holiday on Ice. He appeared (again on and off) from 1949 – 1952, and again in 1956 and 1957. Programs I know of which he appeared in for sure include Skating Vanities of 1947 and 1948, and Holiday on Ice in 1952.
Trixie is featured in many of the Ice Capades programs from 1943 – 1957, though she did take some seasons off to give birth to some of her six children. Some of the programs she was featured in are 1943 – 1948, and 1951 – 1952. Each offered a different photo (or 2) of her, and 1951 and 1952 had two versions of the program (same cover each year) offering different photos.
Others who performed in skating shows, and are featured in similar programs include Albert Lucas, David Lee / Lucas, Daniel Rosen, and Bob Welz. You can find out more details about juggling on skates, including additional details on years and shows for specific performers by taking a look at my earlier article.
Playbills are handed out free at Broadway shows in New York City, and many jugglers have been featured in shows on the Great White Way. Larry Weeks was famous for starring in This Is The Army in the early 1940s. Walter Hull and Lew Folds both juggled in Carousel during its original Broadway run in the 1940s. Francis Brunn was a part of Judy Garland’s At Home At The Palace in the late 1960s. During the run of Sugar Babies during the 1980s, several jugglers starred in a featured spot including Michael Davis. Fred Garbo was an original cast member of the musical Barnum during the same time period.
Of course, there are many other types of shows that have offered programs as well, including from the Vaudeville era. I’ve personally been looking for one featuring Enrico Rastelli. What a find that would be!
Though some of the tips on specific editions of programs that I’ve supplied will prove helpful, there are many others that can be found on your own with some additional research. You can truly build a nice little collection for less than the cost of a set of clubs. Remember that jugglers sometimes took breaks or didn’t appear for the entire run of a season, so you may want to ask if a particular juggler is included if a description or photo is not available online. Good luck!