Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Early French Wall of Death acts

A small collection of French daredevils. The early years saw a good deal of experimentation before the Wall of Death was generally decided upon as the best way forward. The big advantage of the Wall for the showman being of course that it is easy to control spectators. An ideal sideshow, there is something fantastic and raucous going on inside that cannot be seen from the out. Performers can exit the Wall, come out front, and set up a ballyhoo to encourage punters in.

The motorcycle sideshow developed naturally enough from bicycle shows, check the Vintage Bicycle blog for a couple of good examples. The snag with the bicycle stunt shows was that space was needed to gain velocity to perform the loop stunt. Bicycle walls existed but the energy needed to remain on the wall means that even the fittest can only stay up for a few laps. The coming of powered two wheelers enabled a whole new range of shows.

Equally interesting (at least for a nerd like me!) is the development of terminology. The early French shows had a penchant for using 'Infernal' rather than 'Of Death' and it took some time to standardise 'Wall' and 'Globe' as the norm. Check the captions below for enlightenment....

The Sckramson's Troupe must surely have been one of the
earliest Wall acts. I would date the bikes as c1903/4.
Apparently the Sckramsons were creators of the 'Ronde
Infernale' (which can be translated as 'The Infernal Dance' or
 'Round' or indeed 'Ronde' itself does appear in the English dictionary.
Here the Sckramsons are on the 'Circle of Death' which was a
bowl at something like 70 degrees rather than a full perpendicular
Wall. Note that they had sponsorship from Michelin.

Walson and Antonio on the Wall with their Monet Goyons.

Lucien, Louisette and Robert Altis
with 'The 'Infernal Ball'.

Nothing more of a caption on this one than
'Basket of Death'.

The Abbins' 'Infernal Lattice'. Sponsored
by both Monet Goyon motorcycles and
Hutchinson Tyres.

Madgray and Klinger on the Wall.

Mlle Louisette and Pilar, 'The Kings of the Stayers' A nice
twist on the Wall act.

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