In previous articles, I’ve written about juggling props that were once popular but now are more or less completely forgotten. This has included cup sticks, hand bells, firearms, and the Kara Box. In this article, I want to discuss perhaps the most unlikely of juggling props, the table lamp. Believe it or not, table lamps were once extremely common and popular props in jugglers’ acts. Let’s take a look at some examples of this and how they were used.
Most of the earliest juggling prop catalogs featured table lamps for sale. The earliest known juggling prop catalog, the Catalogue of Fine Juggler Goods Manufactured by Prof. Otto Maurer, published around 1890, featured the following lamp for sale with the caption of “Nickel plated lamp with stick. No glass, but chimney. Useful for the large sized blocks, sword, etc.”.
Two other images from Maurer’s catalog also show lamps being used.
The next catalogs to feature table lamps were published by Edward Van Wyck, who started his business in 1895. Below are several sets of props that he offered for sale that included lamps.
The third oldest catalog, published by Charles De Vere in Paris in the early 1900s, included a table lamp juggling prop for sale as well.
Ellis Stanyon’s juggling prop catalogs from 1903-1909 features lamps as well.
As you can see, the use of lamps in juggling acts was popular enough that the four earliest juggling prop catalogs included them for sale. They were a standard prop for turn of the century jugglers.
The use of table lamps for juggling was featured in some instructional books. Let’s take a look at these.
Anglo’s The Art of Modern Juggling
Anglo’s The Art of Modern Juggling, written around 1903, was the first full-length juggling instruction book and included a number of tricks that used table lamps. Below are descriptions and illustrations of the lamp tricks included in the book.
Juggling Secrets by Will Goldston
Juggling Secrets by Will Goldston was published in 1911 and included a chapter describing the act of Australian juggler Fred Velasco. Velasco had seen Cinquevalli when the legend had visited Australia and he decided to pursue juggling as a career. The act that he developed included a variety of interesting balance tricks, including several that utilized lamps. You can see illustrations of these tricks below.
Juggling Made Easy
Juggling Made Easy was published in 1948 and includes the following illustration, showing a balance that includes a table lamp.
Want To Be A Juggler? by George DeMott
Want To Be A Juggler? by George DeMott was published in 1962 by Roger Montandon Magic of Bixby, Oklahoma (USA). This 81 page book contains 134 drawings as well as 7 photos. DeMott (1907-1986) was a well-known American juggler who was an early IJA member and helped organize the 1949 IJA Convention. He was also a well known collector of juggling memorabilia and props. He states in the introduction of the book that the book contains instructions on learning and performing all that DeMott had learned in his 37 year performing career. Below are some illustrations of some of his tricks that used table lamps.
We also know from early photographs of jugglers and descriptions of their acts that table lamps were popular juggling props. Let’s take a look at some of the jugglers who used them.
William Everhart (1868-1948) is best known as the inventor of hoop rolling and hoop juggling, but early in his career he did a more standard juggling act, which included the trick of bounce juggling rubber balls while balancing a lamp on the back of the head. You can see this trick performed by Everhart below.
D’Alvini (1847-1891) was born William Peppercorn in England. He was a famous magician and juggler. As the illustration below shows, he included the use of a table lamp in his repertoire of 150 juggling tricks.
Joseph Rosani (1868-1944) is best known as the first juggler to perform a full-length one man juggling show. He included lamps in his act in various ways, as you can see in the following photos.
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. He wrote the first ever full-length juggling instruction book, which was discussed earlier in this article. He was hanged for murdering his wife in 1904. Below is a rare photo of Anglo performing a trick that included the use of a table lamp.
In 1910, Charles Perezoff formed his restaurant juggling troupe with his brothers Jose and Franzisco and four other jugglers. Eventually, his company consisted of 14 jugglers, making this by far the largest and most complex restaurant juggling act. As you can see in the following images, table lamps were one of the props they toss juggled.
George Moore was a popular juggler during the first half of the twentieth century. He often performed while ice skating and also often juggled as a chef. He specialized in juggling odd, large objects. The following photo from early in his career shows him juggling a table, a lamp, and feather duster.
Tom Hearn (1879-1954), known as “The Laziest Juggler On Earth,” would balance a large lamp on his forehead and would let the elaborate lamp fall from the balance. Although it would fall head first, i.e. onto its glass chimney, it would not break, as it is was a beautiful imitation of china and glass made of India rubber.
Rupert Ingalese (Paul Wingrave) was famed for balancing four lamps at one time, as you can see below in an image from 1921.
Rudy Horn (born 1933) was one of the top acts of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In his amazing act, he balanced a tall lamp on his head while juggling seven rings for 35 catches.
Many other turn of the century performers also used table lamps in their acts. Below are photos and illustrations of some of these jugglers using or with these props.
As you can see, table lamps were very popular, even among some of the most famous jugglers in the world. However, today they are almost completely forgotten as having ever belonged to the juggler’s prop case. There are a few jugglers who are working on bringing back the use of lamps in juggling. As you can see below, Jeff Taveggia is working on a routine that merges this old school prop with modern technology.
I’m aware of at least two other jugglers who are working on adding old school juggling routines using table lamps to their acts. Maybe one day, lamps will be a common prop seen at juggling festivals. But I kind of doubt it!