770-476 B.C. – China
Various jugglers are mentioned in histories, usually warriors who would display their skill to their enemies, sometimes managing to end a conflict before they began. Some jugglers are named, including:
50-400 A.D. – Roman Empire
Juggling recorded in Rome. Tagatus Ursus, a Roman, claimed on his grave inscription to have been the first to juggle with glass balls, and Sidonius Apollinaris, an officer in a Roman legion, entertained his troops by performing juggling tricks with balls.
400-600 A.D. – Ireland
Irish hero Cuchulainn juggles nine apples. A few centuries later Tulchinne, the royal buffoon of king Conaire, is described as juggling nine swords, nine silver shields, and nine balls of gold.
500-1500 A.D – Europe
Juggling was an acceptable diversion until the decline of the Roman Empire, after which it fell into disgrace. Throughout the Middle Ages most histories were written by religious clerics who frowned upon the type of performers who juggled, called 'Gleemen', accusing them of base morals or even practicing witchcraft. Jugglers in this era would only perform in market places, streets, fairs or drinking houses. They would perform short, humorous and bawdy acts and pass a hat or bag among the audience for tips. Some king’s and noblemen’s bards, fools, or jesters would have been to juggle or perform acrobatics, though their main skills would have been oral (poetry, music, comedy and story telling).
1700s – France
The earliest known representation of juggling as a single arc of props over widely separated hands, from an 18th century French wood cut. Before this time, all images of jugglers show the hands close together with their props in columns above each hand.
1768 – England
Philip Astley opens the first modern circus. A few years later he employs jugglers to perform acts along with the horse and clown acts. From then until the modern day, jugglers have found work and have commonly been associated with circuses.
1774 – Pacific Islands
First record of hiko in Tonga, young girls throwing limes, gourds, or tui tui nuts in the shower pattern, by George Forster, aboard Captain Cook's second Pacific voyage.
1795 – China
Foot juggling/antipodism recorded at the Court of the Emperor of China.
1821 – England
William Hazlitt writes the essay "The Indian Juggler" describing a four ball juggling routine in detail, probably performed by Ramo Samee, considered to be the first modern professional juggler. In his day Ramo Samee was a well-known British celebrity.
Mid-Late1800s – Europe and North America
Variety and music hall theatres become more popular, and jugglers are in demand to fill time between music acts, performing in front of the curtain while sets are changed.
1883 – North America
In Boston a new style of variety show is born. The format is a continuous show, the same 8-10 acts repeated over and over, the audience coming and going when they had seen all the acts. This was later known as Vaudeville.
1885 – England
Paul Cinquevalli (1859 – 1918) made his debut at a circus in Covent Garden, London. Cinquevalli was the first juggling super-star, and was referred to by the British press as the world’s greatest juggler.
Late 1800s – Early 1900s – North America
In the USA the popularity of variety shows and vaudeville shows created great demand for professional jugglers. To distinguish them from other entertainers, jugglers were constantly developing new tricks, props, styles and characters, many of which survive to this day.
Here are some juggling "firsts" from America, based on anecdotal evidence.
1896 – Siberia
Enrico Rastelli is born. Rastelli (1896-1931) is considered to be one of the greatest jugglers who ever lived. He is recorded as juggling 10 balls (though never 9), 8 sticks (small clubs) and 8 plates. He was also one of the first jugglers to use footballs (soccer balls) and other large rubber balls.
1912 – North America
Glow-props are invented. Adolf Behrend, the German Gentleman juggler Salerno builds a set of clubs with electric lights inside which changed colors as he juggles them.
1947 – North America
The International Jugglers' Association is formed
Juggling Firsts by Tom Breen, http://www.conjuror.com/archives/club-juggling.history.html
Research in Juggling History by Prof. Arthur Lewbel, http://www2.bc.edu/~lewbel/jugweb/history-1.html
A Brief History of Juggling, http://www.juggling.org/books/artists/history.html
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