The Whip Balance Trick

As I read old juggling books and look at early juggling catalogs, there are tricks that show up time and time again. One genre of these tricks involve balancing a stiff whip, which always has either a spinning plate or a lamp at the upright handle end. The cracking end of the whip is always bent and is balanced either on the jugglers head, or most often on the edge of a plate held in the juggler’s mouth. Sometimes the whip is made to turn due to the spinning of the plate (or lamp). Other versions have no spinning component to them at all. This trick can be found in juggling instruction books, performers’ advertisements, and in early juggling catalogs.


Edward Van Wyck included the best known version (plate, whip, plate) in his catalog from the early 1900s.

The lamp version of the trick was also sold by Van Wyck in the same catalog.

Both the spinning plate and lamp versions also appeared in the 1909 version of Stanyon’s juggling catalog. Below you can see illustrations of the tricks (far right) followed by descriptions of the tricks for sale.



Versions of the trick appear in a few books, included Anglo’s The Art of Modern Juggling, which was published in 1907 and show the lamp version.

Two interesting versions of the trick appear in Want To Be A Juggler? by George DeMott, which was published in 1962. The first version has the whip balanced on the juggler’s nose rather than on a plate.

The second version uses an umbrella in place of the whip, as you can see below.

Modern gentleman juggler Robert Dahlstrom has worked on this second version, as you can see below.



Joseph Rosani (1868-1944) performed both the classic plate / whip / plate version and the nose balance version, as you can see below.

Robert Gilfort is shown in the following illustration from around the turn of the century doing the trick on a plate held in his mouth.

The team of Mayes and Roth demonstrate a very basic version of the trick in the following film from 1920.

The standard rotating whip trick is shown at the end of the following video.

British juggler Joe Marsh performed the trick using a bent piece of wood. You can see the trick at the 5:19 point in the following video.

Ernest Montego performed a version of the trick with a piece of metal wire, which you can see below at 3:11 in following video.

I believe I’ve also seen a modern juggler do a version of the trick using a cane in place of the whip. The trick is similar to the whirligig, which you can read about by clicking here. The shape of the whip makes for a very visual display when it is spun. Perhaps a few modern jugglers will decide to add the whip balance trick to their repertoire as several have done so with the whirligig.

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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