Old Juggling Act Descriptions: Part 2 – Henri French and Alfredo Marschall

Stanyon’s Magic magazine was published from 1900 to 1915 and 1919 to 1920. Issues often included descriptions of magic and juggling acts. In this series, we’ll examine some of these juggling act descriptions, focusing on jugglers about whom we know little. These synopses give us great insight into what juggling acts of that period looked like and may give some readers inspiration.


Programme, Empire, June 18th , 1901

Stage carpeted and furnished as drawing room, wings closed with curtain screens, small entrance to stage at rear. French attired in ridiculous costume, with red wig and dilapidated top hat, enters on one small bicycle wheel, running around the stage, hat falls off, and a large notice on his back reads “There’s hair.”

Right’s very large bell standing in centre of stage, attendant enters and enacts funny business while performer juggles a plate and balances same on nose. Juggles four odd objects, plate, etc.) two in each hand = dexterous dropping and catching of plate.

Throws hat, plate, small ball of paper: catches hat on head and paper ball under hat, lifting hat from behind.

Small table, 15 to 18 inches square laid with cloth and crockery – removes cloth with a quick jerk without disturbing crockery. Attendant attempts to do the same at table on opposite side of stage and smashes everything, exasperated goes to opposite table and proceeds to deliberately smash and pitch its contents at French.

Lights candle and pockets lighted match, jerks cigar from table into mouth, lights cigar at candle held in right hand, extinguishes candle by causing it to describe a half turn in air and to fall back into candle-stick. Juggles candle-stick on arm, and finally throws candle, candle-stick, and table.

Jerks top hat from seat of chair on to head, from head on to peg of hat stand. Throws hat from foot to head. Throws cigar, hat, and umbrella. Lays cigar on hat; throws hat – cigar goes in mouth and hat on head.

Holding umbrella at the centre with hat on ferrule end, jerks hat, causing it to roll along body of umbrella and right fore-arm and to fall on the handle of umbrella; throws hat from handle to head then jerks it on to peg of hat stand.

Throws egg, ball, and plate; then throws egg very high and catches on plate several times without breaking egg. Breaks egg on plate to show real. Attendant catches smell of egg makes grimace and lights a cigar. French also endeavors to light cigar at electric light which goes out, he then rubs it as he would a match on seat of trousers when it re-lights.

Keeps ringing bell to re-call attendant.

Puts large jar and quantity of plates on end of pole and attempts to balance on head, but all to ground when attendant shouts; French throws plates and etc. at the attendant who retires hurriedly. Rings bell again.

Throws three black wood balls, about five inches diameter, occasionally letting one bounce on floor, suddenly one hits him on the head and he appears stunned, but eventually goes on throwing the balls until struck again. When he throws all three one by one, violently on the stage – the two first are wood, the third i.e., the one that struck him turns out to be india rubber.

Throws iron wash-stand basin and jug and afterwards pours a quantity of water from jug into basin. (Applause).

Throws three revolvers firing them at same time, and eventually blowing off wig and revealing French.

End of review

Henri French





Stage set as a Naval Port – Sailor on “Sentry Go.”

JUGGLING WITH CARBINE, etc. – Performer appears and, taking carbine, bayonet, and case away from the sailor, juggles the three pieces (shuffle) finally handing them back again to the sailor who places them aside. Life-buoys, somewhat smaller and lighter than the ordinary article, and with which he proceeds to juggle, shower of two in each hand while standing side on to the auditorium for the purpose of displaying the “circles” to advantage; concluding by throwing the buoys, with great precision, over the head on to the shoulders of a sailor attendant standing in the rear-ground.

BALANCING SAILOR – Sailor places top of short pole (about three feet long) against his stomach, where is a small turn table; performer picks up the pole carrying the sailor and balances all on his forehead; sailor now turns on the pivot aforementioned. A small cannon (minus carriage) is next placed on the top of a short pole suitably shaped to receive it, sailor then lays prostrate on cannon while the performer picks up and balances the lot on his head; now, while the balance is maintained the sailor fires a pistol at an empty frame on the opposite side of the stage, when a portrait of His Majesty King Edward VII instantly appears in the frame.

BALANCE OF LARGE CANNON AND SAILOR – Attendants bring forward a large polished cannon (minus carriage) and, having attached the ends of a double rope to rear and front parts, a sailor gets astride the cannon, when the whole is pulled into the air by the main rope passing over a pulley wheel in the “flies”. The performer now comes forward with a special pedestal, the upper end of which he passes right into and through the cannon at about the centre, then places the other padded end on his head. The attendants now slack the rope so that the performer receives the whole of the weight which he then maintains in perfect equilibrium for some seconds. In conclusion the performer takes the pedestal away from the cannon which is then lowered on to the floor of the stage.

BALANCING A SMALL PIECE OF TISSUE PAPER ON NOSE – This is not a very important feat in itself, it is, moreover, comparatively easy to do so; It was no doubt introduced for the purpose of striking the greatest possible contrast between the weights to which the skillful juggler must accustom himself.

CANNON BALL, TENNIS BALL, AND PIECE OF PAPER – Juggles the three objects in the form known as “the shuffle”, a feat, owing to the dissimilarity of the several objects, usually considered very difficult. It is not, however, so difficult to the expert as it appears to be to the spectators.

WITH ONE POLISHED CANNON BALL – Passing the ball from the bend of one elbow to the other; rolling it rapidly round the head; rolling it down the back and catching it between the legs; passing it from one hand down the arm across the body (back and front of head), and up the arm into the opposite hand; throwing it high in the air and catching it on the nape of the neck, etc..

BALANCING SHELL ON PEDESTAL – The shell is laid on its side on the top of the pedestal suitably shaped to receive it, the opposite end being balanced on the chin. The pedestal is then knocked away and the shell is caught on the nape of the neck.

Four men here lift full-sized cannon, mounted on carriage on wheels, on to the base of a sloping track, all in readiness for the concluding feat.

CANNON BALLS ON SEE-SAW – Three polished cannon balls are now placed in cups arranged in the form of a triangle and situated at one end of a board pivoted at the centre on a stand raised about a foot from the floor. The performer now places one foot on the opposite end of this see-saw and presses it down sharply, the result being that the balls are thrown upwards and towards him and he catches them one in each hand and one on his back; He then throws the one from his back over his head and juggles the three, concluding by throwing them in succession over his head on to the nape of his neck and jerking them thence right off the stage.

WITH EIGHT CANNON BALLS – These are arranged in a row in a trough like stand placed on the floor of the stage. An attendant picks them up one at a time and throws them in the direction of the performer, standing in the centre of the stage, who, ducking his head, catches them on the back of his neck, jerking them thence right off the stage, following those used in the previous trick.

SHELL AND SEE-SAW – A large polished shell with copper bands is laid on suitable supports on the end of the see-saw, as in the case of the balls above described; the performer presses his foot sharply on the raised end of the board with the result that the shell is thrown up and over his head and caught on his shoulders.

CANNON ON SLOPING TRACK – A rope is now attached to the REAR of the cannon by means of which it is drawn to the top of the sloping track aforementioned, and in which position it is fired, doubtless to prove its strength and solidity. The performer now takes up his position immediately in front of and facing the base of the track which finishes with a sharp curve in an upward direction. When all is ready he gives the word “let go”. Then like a flash the Cannon rushes down the steep incline, when the curve at the base causes it to jump into the air over the performer’s head and to alight on his back and shoulders, he ducking his head to receive it in such position. The under side of the carriage, doubtless padded, comes to rest on the performer’s back, the wheels, by virtue of the rotation imparted by the rapid run down the track, continuing to spin with great velocity.

End of review

Alfredo Marschall was born Alfred Pieper in 1877 in Berlin, Germany.

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-six books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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