In Search Of Lost Juggling Treasures

The Vin Carey Collection

Vin Carey (1898 -1975) was a founding member of the IJA and a former president of the organization. In addition to being a professional magician, clown, and juggler, he was an early collector of juggling props and memorabilia. He owned an incredible collection of props from the early days of vaudeville. The February 1952 IJA Newsletter reports the following. “Vin Carey, the West Franklin street juggling collector, just received a very old and revered Indian club from Joe Cook, the veteran comedian, and Vin is particularly impressed by the fact that it weighs 17 ounces. Joe juggled the silver-foiled pin in a number of long-run musical comedies from 1932 on, Vin tells us. Nowadays performers scream for 10-ounce clubs, he says. Vin’s collection of ancient clubs now numbers 20 and most of them are heavier than the effete modern apparatus. Included are a Morris Cronin Troupe club, vintage 1910 – 23 ounces, a Juggling Johnsons club, 1898 – 18 ounces; two Juggling Breen Family basket weave clubs, 1910 – 20 ounces each, and a Juggling Tierney Family club, c. 1930 – 19 ounces.”

Vin’s collection grew greatly from 1947 to 1974 and was on display in the basement of Vin’s home. The April-June 1974 IJA Newsletter reported some important news regarding Vin’s collection. “Several circus and magic museums were contacted with regards to showing this jugglers collection. The first one to show interest in having and showing the collection was the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota , Fla. On January 15th, Vin loaded the collection into his car and drove to Sarasota and delivered the collection to the Hall of Fame. He stayed long enough to see it arranged as a permanent display there. The inventory shows that there are 124 pieces in the collection of juggling props plus a number of pictures of greats from the past and present. It occupies a space about ten foot square and is most artistically displayed covering the walls and floor of the special cubicle built for the display… Each prop has a name of the original owner showing the approximate time of its use. The Hall of Fame considers it one of the best displays they have and believe it will be of interest to all visitors especially to those who have an interest in juggling.”

Below you can see three photos of the Vin Carey collection on display in the Circus Hall Of Fame in Sarasota, FL. Although most of the signs are impossible to read, I can make out signs for Bill Talent, Rosani, the Tierney Family, and Vin Carey, himself. The third photo shows Breenos (click here to learn about these props) at the top. Many of the props look extremely interesting and unique.CareyCollection2

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In 1980, the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota closed. Some sources had told me that some of the collections, including Vin’s collection, were sold off to private collectors. I’ve been told that a hotel developer in Orlando may have bought the collection. However, there was another possibility. In 1981, the town of Peru, Indiana bought much of the collection from the Sarasota Hall of Fame and opened their own International Circus Hall of Fame there. It still remains open to this day. On May 8, 2016,  I traveled to Peru, Indiana to investigate whether the Vin Carey Collection is indeed there.

There, I met with Hall of Fame President Jack Rhinaman. I explained that my research said that his organization may have the Vin Carey Collection. Mr. Rhinaman said that he was unaware of such props and that he highly doubted that they were in Peru. The only juggling props he was aware of at the Hall of Fame were a club and three torches on display, which you can see below.

He said that if the Hall of Fame did indeed have the Vin Carey Collection props, that they would be in storage in an out building on the property. We went to this storage building and started looking through stacks of boxes. We eventually found two cardboard boxes labeled Juggling Props.

Inside were indeed props from the Vin Carey Collection, including clubs from Morris Cronin, the inventor of Albert Throws, and props from Joseph Rosani, whom you can read about here.

Below are photos of the props in the two boxes.

Two Morris Cronin clubs

Ed Tierney’s axes

Joseph Rosani tube

Joseph Rosani bottle

Joseph Rosani fork mouth stick

As you can see, this is but a very small number of the props from the Vin Carey Collection. Many more boxes may be stored in any one of a number of barns and out buildings. Following my visit four years ago, I wrote to the board of directors of the International Circus Hall of Fame about doing more research and about the possibility of purchasing the props we did find. The props could be on display in the Museum of Juggling History rather than forgotten and collecting dust in storage. However, I never received any reply. I recently contacted the new president of the Hall of Fame, but was told that they weren’t interested in working with me. This is such a shame, knowing that the treasures shown above, and likely much more, such as Breenos and the clubs that John Breen used to become the first person to juggle 7 clubs, are sitting in storage, unseen by anyone.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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