The Development Of The Juggling Club (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the transition from solid Indian clubs to hollow wooden clubs, followed by basket clubs and upholstered clubs. In this article, I’ll discuss skeleton clubs, cork clubs, and hollow plastic clubs.

Skeleton Clubs

A little known, but very important type of clubs are what I call skeleton clubs. This term refers to clubs that feature wooden handle, an internal dowel that was either just a continuation of the handle or, more often, a thinner dowel inserted into the end of the handle. This dowel is surrounded by one or more disks (usually wooden) that help define the shape of the body. The outside of the body is then surrounded by either bamboo ribs with a flexible covering or by a harder shell of either papier mache, or fiberglass.

Here are some examples of ribbed skeleton clubs, both with and without the coverings.

HarryParkerClubsThese are three Harry Parker (Chicago, Illinois) ribbed skeleton clubs owned by Paul Bachman. You can see the internal construction on the left club. The outside covering is tape and foil.

TwineClubs SkeletonTwineClub

These are twine wrapped, five sided skeleton clubs that I recently obtained for the Historical Juggling Props Exhibit.

Hovey2 Hovey1

These are Russian skeleton clubs from the 1960s that were donated by Hovey Burgess to the IJA archives.

FudiClubThis is a foil wrapped skeleton club formerly owned and used by Fudi (Zsilak Gyorgy). It was made by Fudi’s father, based on the clubs used by the Bremlovs.

60sMagicShopClubThis is a ribbed club made by Homer Stack. It has a shrink wrapped plastic covering.

PierreBalPierre Bal performing with unwrapped ribbed skeleton clubs.

The earliest known examples of the ribbed version of skeleton clubs were used by the Bremlov Family jugglers from Czechoslovakia. Below is a video of the Bremlovs from 1954.

Here are some examples of non-ribbed skeleton clubs.

Mann-Clubs1These are the only two known examples of Arthur Mann papier mache covered skeleton clubs in existence. Made in the 1940s.

CrumleyClubs-1024x691These are fiberglass covered skeleton clubs made by Claude Crumley of Chicago, Illinois (USA) in 1976. The feature wooden dowels, plastic disks, and a cork ends.

ClayClubThis is a Zooted skeleton club with a wicker body made by Andy Clay of the UK.


Cork Clubs

While American jugglers were primarily juggling hollow wooden clubs for the first sixty years of the twentieth century, Europeans were tending to use clubs with hardwood handles / dowels and cork bodies. The dowels would have the handle end lathed and then the other end would be inserted and glued into a block of cork. This cork would then be lathed into the proper shape, creating a solid, but light weight club. Sometimes balsa wood would be used instead of cork. The body would usually then be painted or decorated with tape. In more recent times, Russian jugglers have used similar clubs with bodies made from blocks of dense foam, which are then cut into the proper shape and decorated.

Below are some cork, balsa wood, and dense foam bodied clubs from my collection. All feature hardwood handles / dowels.

OldMontegoClubThis is one of Ernest Montego’s large bodied cork clubs from the 1960s. It has a painted body and taped wrapped handle.

CarelloJrClubThis is a cork club used by Eddy Carello Jr. in the early 1980s. It was made by his father and is painted and has foil decorations.

UrsulaClub1This is a cork club used by Ursula Hill Lauppe and made by Paul Bachman.

CarelloSr.Clubs_These are balsa wood clubs from the 1940s. They were  made and used by Eddy Carello Sr.. Two of them are decorated with colored tape.

PopovichClubThis is one of Gregory Popovich’s dense foam bodied clubs, decorated with mylar.

AnatoliClubThis is one of the dense foam bodied clubs used by the Two Miagkostoupovs. Made by Anatoli Miagkostoupov.

VladikClubThis is one of Vladik Miagkostoupov’s dense foam bodied clubs, decorated with mylar. Made by Anatoli Miagkostoupov.


Hollow Plastic Clubs

So far in this series I’ve been discussing clubs as they developed chronologically, although upholstered club, skeleton clubs, and cork clubs all started around the same time. So you might be surprised seeing “Hollow Plastic Clubs” listed before “Fiberglass Clubs.” Perhaps you are under the same assumption that I was long under that hollow plastic clubs appeared in the middle of the 1970s, when Dube and JuggleBug first released their American clubs. However, I’ve recently obtained hollow plastic clubs going back to the 1950s and 1960s.

The first hollow plastic clubs were part of a children’s juggling set made my the Irwin Corporation of New York City in the late 1950s. This “You Can Learn To Juggle” set contained three hollow plastic balls, three plastic plates, and three red, 12.25 inch long hollow plastic clubs. I was told about the existence of this extremely rare set about 6 weeks ago by Alan Howard and I’ve been very fortunate to recently purchase two of them, both is excellent condition, on ebay. You can see them below.



About a year ago I heard rumors that the Bartl magic company of Hamburg, Germany sold hollow plastic juggling clubs in the 1960s. I was sent a picture of a set of these, but was unable to learn anything more. In November of 2013, I was given a set of these clubs that was purchased in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1961. The sticker on the clubs is marked “Havemann” and the clerk that sold them told the buyer that they were made in Italy. Below is a picture of these clubs, which are 17 inches long.


The next hollow plastic clubs appeared in the second half of the 1970s. In 1976, Brian Dube released his hollow plastic American clubs, one of which can be seen below.


The next year JuggleBug released their very similar American club. Also in 1977, Rob Leith of Gemini Juggling released hollow plastic European clubs. The next year he released an octagonal European club. Below are examples of both of these rare types of Gemini clubs.

GeminiClubs GeminiOctagonClubs1

A rare European club was the K-Style hollow plastic club designed by Kit Summers and Brian Dube and released by Dube around 1980. Below is an example of one. It was later replaced by Dube’s popular Airflite clubs.


Ever since this surge of hollow plastic clubs in the late 1970s, hollow plastic clubs have been one of the two standard choices for jugglers around the world.

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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