One treasure trove of information for juggling historians are old catalogs for juggling props. While many might think such catalogs are a modern invention, they have been around for well over a hundred years. They provide a great glimpse into what types of routines jugglers were performing at any given time in history. The very old catalogs are especially important to see what routines were like before the advent of motion pictures and high speed photography. In part one of this four part series, let’s take a look at the earliest retail juggling prop catalog.
Otto Maurer’s Catalogue Of Fine Juggler Goods
The oldest catalog of juggling props I’m aware of is the Catalogue Of Fine Juggler Goods Manufactured By Prof. Otto Maurer, which was published in New York City, NY (USA) in the late 1880s or 1890s. An exact date isn’t known. It contained 52 pages of products and is extremely rare. I’m only aware of one copy still in existence, owned by Alan Howard. The following photos from the catalog are from the Alan Howard Collection. (Thanks a ton, Alan.)
The following page is the most important to me. In earlier articles, I discussed the forgotten juggling props of cup sticks, bells, and pistols. Here all three are on one page! I’m delighted to learn that bells and cup sticks were actually manufactured and sold specifically for juggling.
The following props were used for a routine called the “silver bow and three balls,” which I recently learned about when writing an article about Rosani, who performed the routine.
Note below the very interesting prop, the “Juggler’s Cannon.”
Note that the list below includes fire devil sticks and the Japanese bottomless basket, here called the “Japanese Ball Basket.”
Note the interesting round version of cigar boxes shown below.
The image below shows juggling water pitchers as performed by Cinquevalli.
Note at the bottom of the following page that Maurer apparently sold juggling umbrellas endorsed by juggling star Kara. We know that Kara didn’t start using that stage name until the late 1880s, so this catalog can’t be any newer than that time.
As you can see, these props are very different from those used today. In the next three articles in the series, we’ll look at some other very old juggling prop catalogs.