As I stated in part one 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’m especially interested in ring passing firsts and diabolo firsts. A future article will include firsts with rings / hoops and miscellaneous juggling firsts. 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.
First to juggle / perform 3 clubs – James DeWitt Cook (≈1870) The picture below is the only known photo of him during his performing career, from David Cain’s collection.
First to do / perform 3 club albert throws – Morris Cronin He was also the first to juggle 3 clubs to one side (one arm wrapped around the back).
First to do / perform kick ups with clubs – Ollie Young (1890s)
First to kick up 3 clubs at the same time – George Kenyon (1916)
First to juggle 4 clubs – Charles Hoey He couldn’t end by catching the clubs, so the curtain had to be closed while he was still juggling the clubs.
First to do a kick up from 3 to 4 clubs – Harry Lind (1898) He went on to become the world’s foremost maker of juggling clubs.
First to kick up 4 clubs into a juggle –Steve Mills (1980)
First to do 4 club scissors – Steve Mils (1975)
First to juggle 5 clubs – Ben Mowatt Jr. or Will Hanvarr
First to do 5 club back crosses – Alexander Kiss (1950s) Click here to see video.
First to qualify 5 club Albert throws – David Ferman (2011)
First to flash 5 clubs while lying down – David Cain (2012)
First to perform a 5 club shower – John Breen (≈1910)
First to do 5 clubs with a club balance – John Breen (≈1910)
First to do and perform a 5 club, 5 up pirouette – Evgeni Biljauer
First to perform a 5 club, 3 up front roll – Evgeni Biljauer Click here to see him do it in practice.
First to do a 5 club, 5 up front roll – Evgeni Biljauer
First to juggle 6 clubs – Pat McBann (Pat McGreevey) He juggled 4 in one hand and 2 in the other.
First to perform 6 clubs – John Breen (1910)
First to qualify 6 club back crosses – Wes Peden (2006) Click here to see video.
First to qualify 6 club singles – Wes Peden (2007) Click here to see video.
First to juggle 7 clubs – John Breen (≈1910)
First to perform 7 clubs – Mitica Virjoago / Jack Bremlov (1973) Virjoaga trained Bremlov and it’s believed that they performed it in a circus at the same time.
First to perform 7 clubs with a forehead balance – Sorin Monteanu (1975)
First to do a 7 club 7 up pirouette – Anthony Gatto (2008)
First to flash 7 clubs in singles – Jack Denger (2012) Click here to see video.
First to flash 8 clubs – Anthony Gatto (1991)
First to perform an 8 club flash – Nikolai Gerasimov (2001) Click here to see video.
First to qualify 8 clubs – Anthony Gatto (2006) Click here to see video.
First to flash 9 clubs – Emil Dahl (2013)
CLUB PASSING RECORDS
First duo to pass 6 clubs – Devine Brothers or Rogers and Rourke (≈1886)
First duo to pass 6 clubs back to back – Devine Brothers (≈1886) They did this before they passed face to face.
First duo to do shoulder throws with 6 club passing – Derenda and Breen (1897)
First duo to do kick up passing with clubs – Cal Kenyon and George Kenyon (≈1907)
First duo to pass 7 clubs – Cal Kenyon and George Kenyon (≈1907, although this is counter intuitive considering the date for the first duo to pass eight clubs)
First duo to pass 7 clubs back to back (one count) – Jay Gilligan and David Cain (1994) Click here to see video.
First duo to pass 8 clubs – Ben Mowatt and Ben Mowatt Jr. (1903) Tommy Breen believed that Jack Greene and Joe Piche were the first to achieve this, but my research has shown that the Mowatt’s were the first.
First duo to pass 10 clubs – The Gratschewi Trio (1951) (Two members passed 10 clubs)
First duo to do a 10 club passing pirouette (all 10 up) – Daniel Ledel and Dominik Harant (2012) Click here to see video.
First duo to pass 11 clubs – Owen Morse and Jon Wee (1993)
First duo to do an 11 club passing pirouette (7 up) – Daniel Ledel and Dominik Harant (2013) Click here to see video.
First duo to pass 12 clubs (flash) – David Cain and Scott Sorensen (1993)
First duo to pass 13 clubs (flash) – Darin Marriott and Peter Kaseman (2004)
First duo to pass 13 clubs (qualify) – Wes Peden and Patrik Elmnert (2009)
First duo to pass 14 clubs (flash) – Darin Marriott and Peter Kaseman (2004)
STICKS / RACKETS
First to perform 7 sticks on horseback – Eugene Shvartsman
First to flash 8 sticks – Enrico Rastelli
First to flash 8 sticks in performance – David Cain (2003) Click here to see video.
First to flash 8 badminton rackets – Jian Ping Qian (1989)
First to flash 9 sticks – Bruce Tiemann (1996)