Paul Spadoni was born Paul Krause in Berlin, Germany on October 3, 1870. He was the son of a restaurant owner. He learned to juggle at the age of 12 and often tossed around items from his father’s restaurant. He made his debut as a performing juggler at the age of 14, performing at a classmate’s birthday party. In addition to his juggling talents, young Paul was also gifted at drawing and was sent to the Royal Art College at the age of 16. While he did well there, he longed to perform on the stage or in a circus ring. While still in college, he secretly performed in small pubs in Berlin. At the age of 18, he finally left home and college and went to Hamburg, Germany to perform. His youth prevented him from getting work initially, so he got a job retouching paintings in an art studio. Finally, he obtained work in a small circus, working as a clown and juggler. He was then booked to tour with a magician named Agoston, who suggested that Paul work under the stage name Spadoni.
Spadoni often watched other performing artists and admired a strongman performer named Bernard Leitner. Spadoni decided to try to combine his juggling and balance skills with the feats of a strongman. As a result, the act that he would become famous for was born. Assisted by his sister Agnes, Paul Spadoni spent two years developing his act until he was ready for large theaters and well-known circuses. The act he created was a wonderful combination of skill, strength, and showmanship.
To begin his performance, Spadoni often rode onto the stage on a horse drawn two-wheeled chariot. After detaching the chariot from the horse, he would proceed to balance the small chariot, which weighed 450 pounds, on his chin.
When automobiles became popular, he incorporated one into his act, balancing one upright on his shoulders.
By the age of 20, he was able to catch 45 pound cannon balls on his neck. He would toss a torpedo weighing 200 pounds into the air and catch it on his neck and shoulders.
Another of his feats of strength was to jump on a teeter board, which launched a small torpedo and two cannon balls into the air. He caught a cannon ball in each hand and the torpedo on his neck and shoulders.
Spadoni could catch a large artillery shell with his hands and shoulders that had been dropped from twelve feet over his head. He was also famous for catching cannon balls and artillery shot at him from a cannon.
Paul Spadoni’s juggling talents were not limited to heavyweight juggling. He was also a talented gentleman juggler / salon juggler. He balanced a chair on his face with an assistant seated in it at a table.
He juggled 6 eggs and then broke them to show that they were indeed raw. Spadoni juggled a large assortment of kitchen and table wares and could juggle two chairs and a table at the same time.
He performed tricks with a lit cigarette and juggled a bicycle frame and the two wheels.
Spadoni varied the costuming and theme of his act over his career. At times he dressed in a suit and at other times a leotard. He sometimes dressed as a Roman centurion and at other times a caveman.
After becoming a star in his native Germany, Spadoni traveled to the United States, where he became quite well-known. He even became involved in a feud with fellow German strongman juggler Paul Conchas when they were both performing in New York City. You can read about their feud by clicking here.
Spadoni made multiple trips to the USA and also found fame in South Africa and across Europe. He married his wife Maria in 1900 and had two daughters who both went on to become performers and eventually theatrical agents.
When World War I broke out, Spadoni returned to Germany to serve in the army. He suffered wounds in the trenches during the war that made it impossible for him to return to performing, but his career in show business wasn’t over. After the war, he became one of the most successful theatrical booking agents in the world. The Paul Spadoni Artist Agency, founded in 1918, represented over 50,000 performing artists.
Paul Spadoni moved from Berlin to Rome, Italy in 1949. He passed away at the age of 81 in Rome in 1952.