As I stated in the first two parts of this series, in 1946 Vaudeville juggler Tommy Breen wrote a now well-known article for Roger Montandon’s Jugglers’ Bulletin on “Juggling Firsts,” listing the first jugglers to accomplish various feats, to the best of his considerable knowledge. This list has been an invaluable resource to juggling historians ever since, but it is now 68 years old. Therefore, I’m now endeavoring to compile an updated and modern list that uses resources beyond what Breen had at his disposal. This is not to say that Breen was wrong in his list. On the contrary, without his vast knowledge, much of the information we have of the early development of modern juggling might have been completely lost. Only in one or two cases do I believe that he was misinformed. He also didn’t have a global perspective, which is still a problem today. We have very few names and little information on jugglers from Asia and Africa from the past, but the list reflects the earliest known examples of the skills listed.
The lists included in this series of articles contain the best information I’ve been able to obtain through my research. New discoveries are being made every week. I welcome feedback regarding the statements made here and fully expect and hope that new information arises from readers. Besides the Breen list and my own research, the primary other sources are Roger Montandon’s Jugglers’ Bulletins (read them here), the books of Karl-Heinz Ziethen, and Juggling: Its History and Greatest Performers by Francisco Alvarez (read it here). I’ve also consulted the various IJA publications from throughout its history and many other juggling books. In addition, I’ve discussed and debated things with fellow juggling historian Erik Åberg. While juggling historians may never fully agree on the originator of every trick, I hope that these lists can be a starting point for future research and discussion.
I have decided to not include references to where I found each piece of information in these articles as they are intended for general readership. I hope to include such references when this list is included in a future juggling history book that I plan to publish in a few years. Questions regarding references are welcome. I’ve included the dates of the accomplishments when known and include the symbol ≈ to represent approximate dates. When a juggler’s name is followed by another name in parentheses, this is the juggler’s real / birth name. I’ve also tried to clarify if someone performed the feat (in a show), qualified it, or just flashed it. For many of the early records, we have incomplete information, so I’m stating our best guess. I’ve also decided to organize records by the number of objects juggled, from least to most. Pictures or video of the juggler follow the record listed when available and appropriate. These lists are also not intended to be anywhere close to complete and comprehensive. An almost infinite list of tricks could be added if the proper information was known. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with comments, corrections, and additions for me to consider. I should also point out that for modern records, I’ve chosen to go with records proven with video evidence. This is not meant to discount the achievements of those who achieved firsts privately, but the general agreement in the juggling world is that modern achievements need video evidence or witnesses to count.
RINGS / HOOPS
First to perform a hoop rolling act – William Everhart (≈1885)
First to body roll 4 hoops – Howard Nichols
First to juggle 5 hoops – Gene Adams (1908) Gene was the youngest member and star of the very early hoop rolling and juggling group the Alpha Troupe.
First to bounce juggle 5 rings – George Sollveno (1979) Click here to see video.
First to juggle 6 hoops – Arthur Ward (≈1930)
First to juggle 7 hoops – Howard Nichols (1930s)
First to perform a 7 ring pirouette – Sergei Ignatov (≈1975)
First to qualify 7 ring pancakes – Tony Pezzo (2013)
First to flash 9 rings – Francis Brunn (1942)
First to perform 9 rings with a head pedestal balance – Italo Medini (1943)
First to flash 10 rings – Francis Brunn (1947)
First to qualify 10 rings – Anthony Gatto
First to flash 11 rings – Albert Petrowski (1963)
First to flash 12 rings – Anthony Gatto 1993 (While Albert Lucas was credited with a 12 ring flash in 1984, no video was recorded of him achieving this feat until after Gatto’s 1993 recording.)
First to flash 13 rings – Albert Lucas (2002)
First duo to pass 15 rings – Tony Pezzo and Partik Elmnert (2010)
First to pass 18 rings (flash) – Rudolf Levitskiy and Victor Teslenko (2008) Click here to see video.
MISCELLANEOUS JUGGLING FIRSTS
First to do a blind / scorpion kick – Gene Adams (1908)
First tramp juggler – Jim Harrigan (1890s)
First talking juggler – Jim Harrigan (1890s)
First talking juggling duo – Derenda and Breen (1897)
First to mouth juggle table tennis balls – Willi Ballidini (1940)
First to mouth juggle 5 table tennis balls – Gran Picaso (Francisco Tebar Saez) (1967)
First to do five diabolos high – Tony Frebourg (2007)
First to do five diabolos low – Robin Spinelli (2011) Click here to see video.
First to do a pirouette with five diabolos – Tony Frebourg (2010)
First to do eat the apple – Charles Carson (1920s) It has been estimated that he ate around 60,000 apples on stage during his career.
First to do bouncing hats – Paul La Croix (Paul Murphy) (≈1895)
First to do a half pirouette while juggling 3 clubs – Edward Van Wyck (≈1890)
First to do boomerang hats – Harry Barrett (≈1900)
First to do single pirouettes with cigar boxes – Woodrow (Peter Elliott ) (1950)
First to do multiple pirouettes with cigar boxes – Rudy Schweitzer (1960)
First to do a triple pirouette with three cigar boxes – Kris Kremo (≈1977)
First to do a quadruple pirouette with three cigar boxes – Kristian Kristoff (1994)
First equestrian juggler – Thomas Price (≈1770)
First Singing jugglers – Morton and Jewell Troupe (1908)
First Dancing Juggler – H.M. Lorette (Horace C. Layre) (1895)
First Strongman juggling act – Karl Rappo (Karl von Rapp) (≈1825) Others had done similar feats of strength, but Rappo was the first to put together an entire juggling act as a strongman.
First Restaurant Jugglers – Price Brothers (1850s) They were quickly followed by Henri Agoust, who copied them and became much more famous.
First juggler to use billiard equipment – Cinquevalli (1885) He was also the first to use the belt of billiard pockets to catch balls. He even took out a patent on this invention.
First Billiard Table juggling act – Asra (Waldemar Paetzold) (1905)
First Gentleman Juggler – Kara (Michael Steiner) (1892) While Cinquevalli debuted many aspects of gentleman juggling, he also did some strongman juggling. Kara only used common items found in a salon or household while dressed elegantly.
First to perform the Salerno ring trick – Salerno (Adolf Behrend) (1890s) He was also the first to do the picture frame slide trick. To see Jeton perform the picture frame slide trick, click here.
First To Juggle On a Freestanding Ladder – Rapoli (Adam Rudolf Randerath) (1880s)
First to use a holster to help in throwing props – Enrico Rastelli He used a holster to hold 2 plates in order for him to juggle 8 plates.
First to do shaker cup juggling – Meneses (Juventino R, Meneses) (1920s)
First to do a curl with a 2 ball spinning stack – Adrian Sullivan (1960s)
First to do a triple ball spin back roll (one on each hand and one on a mouth stick) – Rudy Cardenas (late 1940s) Click here to see video.