The Oldest Known Films of Juggling 1895-1925

As a juggling historian, I’m always on the lookout for very old films of juggling. Many films of juggling greats have been lost to time, including those of Cinquevalli and Morris Cronin. However, we do have some very old juggling films. Here are the oldest that I’m aware of that are online and two that are being placed online for the first time for this article.

1895 – Paul Petras

The following film features several Vaudeville acts, including juggler Paul Petras.

 

1896 – Jongluer Javanais

This film, which you can view by clicking here. shows an Indonesian juggler manipulating a ball with his feet and other body parts.

1898 – The Agousts

The Agousts were early Restaurant Jugglers who were quite famous. The following film shows the rare feat of juggling furniture, along with some bowl spinning, plate juggling, and silverware juggling.

 

1901 – William Everhart

William Everhart was the inventor of hoop rolling and hoop juggling. The following film shows him performing part of his act.

 

1903 – J. N. Maskelyne

The following film shows J. N. Maskelyne performing some plate waltzing, a form of plate spinning done on a table.

 

1907 – The Maniac Juggler

This short film features a man who feels compelled to juggle just about everything he comes across, including balls, top hats, dogs,  plates, and a baby!

 

1912  – Max Juggles For Love

This short film is about a man, played by Max Linder, who is trying to woo a woman who treats him harshly. Finally, he gets her to agree to marry him if he can learn to juggle. Comedy ensues.

 

1915 – Pool Sharks

This short W.C. Fields film shows Fields briefly juggling four billiard balls on a Kara Box-like wall rack.

 

Kawana Trio

The Kawana Trio performed Risley and standard foot juggling, as you can see from the following video from 1919.

 

1920 – The Three Hearts

The Three Hearts were a hoop rolling and diabolo act. This film shows some very interesting diabolo work, including rope jumping, pirouettes, stick grinds, diabolo passing, two on one string, and a version of Max Soveriegn’s loop apparatus. This is the first time that this film has been shown publicly. It was found in the archives of the Museum of Juggling History.

 

1920 – Mayes and Roth

Another film from 1920 that hasn’t been shown publicly until now is of the duo of Mayes and Roth. It includes the earliest known footage of devil stick juggling, spindles used like cigar boxes, parasol and ball, plate spinning, rug spinning, and club juggling. It also includes diabolo work, but not nearly as technically as what was demonstrated by the Three Hearts.

 

1924 – The Gentle Juggler

This British Pathe film shows the juggler Stetson (Bert Elliott) juggling with a top hat, cane, and ball.

 

1924 – The Summertime Frolics

The British Pathe film shows juggler Willy Woltard performing some great hat manipulation.

 

1925 – Joe Cook

Joe Cook (1890-1959, born Joseph Lopez) was an American juggler, variety artist, comedian, actor, and musician from Evansville, Indiana. He got his start as a juggler, being one of the earliest five club jugglers. He went on to become a top star in Vaudeville, radio, Broadway, and movies. He was one of the best paid entertainers in the world. Below is a film from 1925 showing him doing a five ball force bounce and five club cascade. This is the earliest known film of either of these tricks.

 

1925 – The Jugglers

This British Pathe Film shows two jugglers dressed as devils stealing and passing clubs.

 

1925 – Varieté

This German film features Enrico Rastelli juggling six plates, some ball and mouth stick work, and balancing a ball on his nose. It also shows some plate spinning by Chinese jugglers.

There are at least two films that most likely fall into this time period that we don’t have dates for. The first is the British Pathe film Girl Jugglers, which features two women juggling with their feet.

The other is a collection of Vaudeville acts with includes another foot juggling act and an early example of spinning a ball on a parasol.

 

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

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