Juggler's World: Vol. 39, No. 2

Internationally Speaking

Membership from outside the United States has continued as a steady four to seven percent of the IJA's membership.

At the founding of the IJA in 1947, several names were bandied about. The final designation as an "international" juggler's association was premised on the hope that the organization would attract a geographically broad following to its goals. Some European jugglers had already expressed an interest in joining the proposed organization.

England was the first to be represented as Joe Marsh joined in 1947. He shared his secrets with cartoon tips so well drawn and so informative they are still reprinted in "Juggler's World" 40 years later. The same year, Topper Martyn of Belsey-on-Sea, Sussex, joined. By 1955 there were members writing in from Saskatoon, Toronto, Manchester, London, Berlin, Mexico City and Belmont in Australia.

The addition of Berlin members Selma Braatz and Max Koch were high points in the IJA's overseas membership. Selma Braatz was a world famous artist who had traveled widely, crossing the Atlantic a dozen times before the war. She toured extensively in America and, after the death of her husband in Berlin during the war, settled in the states. Virtually penniless, she was buried without a suitable headstone until years later Dennis Soldati led an IJA fundraising effort to supply one.

Non-American members added much to the IJA through their correspondence in the "Bulletin" and "Newsletter." They were the eyes on a juggling scene few American jugglers knew. In return, the IJA provided the only organized juggling publication in the world, often waiving membership fees for those where the export of money was restricted by postwar prohibitions.

Max Koch was the foremost correspondent of the 1950s. His collection of juggling memorabilia, which Karl-Heinz Ziethen later acquired, was the most formidable in the world at that time. He personally met many of the legends in juggling, including Rastelli and Cinquevalli. For 50 years he traded photographs and promotional items with jugglers from around the world and amassed some 25 albums of material.

Although he was a banker and not a professional juggler, he was accomplished with difficult tricks.

Before his death in 1961, Koch contributed nearly 40 European reports to the "Bulletin" and "Newsletter," including an early and extensive history of juggling. The writings of other contributors often mentioned him as a prime reason for reading the publications.

The address, "108 Eisenstrasse, Berlin," became synonymous with juggling scholarship. The house was a mecca for American jugglers overseas on tour or serving in the Army.

Jugglers from outside of the United States have continued to comprise four to seven percent of the IJA's membership. That rate is stronger than might be expected considering the high foreign exchange rate on American money and the difference in languages. English-speaking countries account for the largest percentage, but such countries as Germany, Singapore, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, China and Israel continue to demonstrate the IJA's attraction to devotees of the art throughout the world.

Dateline - Overseas:

Here are some excerpts from the "Bulletin" and "Newsletter" from foreign correspondents through the years.

A Dutchman crazy for juggling:

Hello, American Jugs, here is a new guy in your ranks. I am a Dutch jug fan, and absolutely possessed, mad and crazy about juggling. I hope to add something from Europe to interest you. Here is the first: General difference between European and American juggling styles is that Europe puts the strong accents on technique and skill; U.S.A. on showmanship and fun. Here in Europe almost all great jugglers of today follow the so-called school of Rastelli. That is, they work with the classic objects - balls, rings, clubs, mouthstick and balance cigar boxes, hats, canes and small balls. They wear the equally classic silk suit and hate smoking and tails. They are silent workers and would prefer to change their profession to speaking during their act. They all perform the same classics: catching a ball on a mouthstick, juggling six and more rings, juggling four clubs, spinning balls on fingertips. They made juggling famous and beloved here.
(Dick Harris, Bulletin, October 1948)

Selma Braatz sneaks a dollar through hard times from the U.S. zone of occupied Germany:

Many thanks for your lovely letter and new membership card, and if possible I would like to pay the dollar for it myself (which she did through indirect channels) as it makes me feel better. We are in Hamburg now, still with the Musical Revue. We spent quite a nice Christmas. Food is plentiful and not too high. Salaries are not big, and there is always something to get for the stage, new shoes, costumes, etc.
(Newsletter, February 1950)

Sobbing in the Auld Sod:

Since I joined the IJA I've been putting my whole heart into the business. My one ambition is to do the head bouncing. It's spectacular and showy and has a great effect on an audience. Practicing two hours every day, I can bounce it fast and down low, but the duration of the bouncing is brief. I'm not satisfied. I've come to the conclusion that there is a knack of throwing the ball to the head at the start. It will break my heart if I cannot do it - I hope I'm not going about it in the wrong way. If only I knew the secret! I want the IJA to help me. All of us need counsel and help at some time. I need it now, because I've reached a very difficult stage of juggling and my happiness is at stake. I'm very lonesome, have nobody to take into my confidence or make my road easier. You people have your conventions, get-togethers, books and movies. I have nothing - only my hands and brains. I've exhausted all my own ideas.
(Thomas Wright, Ireland, Newsletter, October 1952)

Even the strippers are losing their shirts:

IJAers Billy Gray and Olive Austin, who keep us informed of doings across the sea, send us this clipping, headlined: Six top variety theatres close, some temporarily, others indefinitely.

"With operating costs soaring and attendance dropping, theatres cannot show a profit. Rock and roll shows have lost their lure, strip-tease shows have skidded down, and pop singers now have a pull only when they have a record hit. Theatre managers complain that nearly all the top liners go into seaside shows for the summer.

(Newsletter, August 1958)

Max Koch, whether reporting on the latest feats of circus jugglers, cabaret performers, or dipping into his wealth of historical knowledge, was the premier foreign correspondent for the IJA. Witness this "Newsletter" entry from March 1959:

Today I have not to announce a new juggler, but looking through my scrapbook I think one or the other of you is interesting in the old time. And so I am thinking we will have a little chat perhaps about some of the old heavyweight jugglers.

A copy of an old program of Aug. 21, 1841, tells of a juggling act with 25, 30 and 40 pound cannon balls. The juggler was Karl Rappo (born May 14, 1800, in Innsbruck, Austria; died 1854 in Moscow, Russia). He toured Germany and Russia and I read that he tossed the shower with six five-pound cannon balls. His son, Francois (born Aug. 22, 1826 in Luebeck, Germany; died Oct. 31, 1874, in Hamburg Germany), was also a heavyweight juggler.

In the above mentioned programme you can read also a certain Carl Schaeffer was in the troupe. This Carl Schaeffer was the father of the famous Johann Carl Schaeffer (born Feb. 18, 1824, in Prague; died 1917). His son, Sylvester Schaeffer (born Dec. 31, 1859, in Levenz, Hungary; died 1931 in Starnberg, Bavaria) was a student of acrobatism and juggling. His son was Sylvester Jr. (born Jan. 22, 1885 in Berlin; died June 1949 in Hollywood). The latter, an all-round artist, finished his show after a complete variety performance (magician, oil painting, Japanese juggler, gentlemen juggler, Icarian plays, sharpshooter with living hares on the stage, master of the violin, English minstrel, Olympic plays) with a Roman gladiator act.

He drove with an old Roman cart with two horses on the stage. Juggled one cart with his feet, then followed the cannon balls routine, and at last he produced the giant Atlas, carrying an immense globe on his shoulders that five people get out of, representing the five parts of the world.

Paul Conchas (Paul Huett, died July 19, 1916, in New York) wore the uniform of a German Imperial Guard officer. He balanced a cannon on his forehead. His very comic assistant was Julius Newmann, the brother of our dear Selma Braatz. I think about 1905 he had a feud in the U.S. with his great competitor, Paul Spadoni (born Oct. 3, 1870, in Berlin; died July 1959 in Rome).

Spadoni balanced a dog cart on his forehead. He began his act as a gentleman juggler and in the second part he was the "Inimitable Hercules." A beam fitted with sharp knives was caught with the neck. Also a torpedo of two hundredweight.

Alfredo Marschall (Alfred Pieper, born 1877 in Berlin) showed a navy act. A man-of-war shot with its cannons and Alfredo caught the iron balls with his neck. His most attractive trick was catching a real cannon which was rolling down a four meter long road with his hands and neck (the cannon weighed 3-1/2 hundredweight). I regret very much that today these heavyweight acts are very rare or not at all to see.

Kindest regards, Max Koch

Internationally Speaking / Index, Vol. 39, No. 2 / jis@juggling.org
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