Fred Pelot is a juggler that very few modern jugglers have heard of. Fred was born July 24th, 1878 in Houston, Texas (USA). He grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana until his family moved to New York City when he was 8. At the age of 6, he started practicing acrobatics and messed around with juggling a bit.
Fred Pelot, age 14
By the time he was 18, Fred was performing professionally as a clown and acrobat. He was booked as an acrobat by the Frank A Robbins Circus, based out of Jersey City, New Jersey, for the 1894 season. The following year, he worked again as an acrobat with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. It was during this season with Barnum and Bailey that he badly injured one of his legs, which left him with permanent scars and ended his acrobatic career. After his recovery, he focused on juggling. He performed as a solo comedy juggler for six years from 1896 to 1902.
Fred Pelot got married in 1900 and taught his wife Annie how to juggle. They started performing as a duo called Fred and Annie Pelot in 1902.
It was as a duo that they found the most fame, performing on the Vaudeville circuit. In the year 1920, they were earning $250 a week, which is equal to $3200 in 2020.
Annie retired from the act sometime in the 1930s, but Fred continued with a different partner as Pelot and Wilson. He retired from show business when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. At that point, he became a security guard the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, which he stayed with until 1958, when he retired to Atlantic City, New Jersey with Annie. She passed away in 1960. Fred passed away in the mid-1960s.
Fred was one of the earliest vaudeville jugglers to talk during his act, although Edwin George and Jim Harrigan also made such a claim. He was most famous for catching apples, thrown by audience members, on a fork held in his mouth. This was a fairly common trick of the time, but Fred made the most of it.
He usually opened his act with one cannon ball manipulation, rolling the ball on and around his neck and arms and doing neck catches with it. Following this, he would make a secret switch of the cannon ball for a rubber cannon ball in the footlights of the stage. He would toss it high into the air and let it crash onto his head as Annie shot off a 45-caliber blank gun offstage at the moment of impact. This would get screams of fright from the audience in those days. He provided comedic patter throughout this routine.
Following the cannon ball routine, Annie would come on stage and perform routines with 3 and 4 metal balls and three cigar boxes. Then Fred would juggle three apples and toss them to Annie in various ways, with her catching them on a fork in her mouth. From this, Fred would then toss apples out into the audience for him to catch on the fork mouth stick. He would toss apples further and further out into the audience until they were thrown from quite some distance. He was hurt often over the years with apples thrown too hard. He would end by having a plant throw a specially prepared apple, which would hit him in the forehead and split apart as Fred crashed to the floor.
All of these routines were filled with comedy patter. Fred and Annie Pelot were successful performers, but are all but forgotten today. If you know more about them, please feel free to contact me.