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  • J. Jensen-Kohl
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    Post count: 2

    When was the first Flying Trapeze act (big rig) performed in Australia?

    Mark St Leon
    Participant
    Post count: 13

    Hi Jesse

    A very good question.

    All evidence appear to point to the Wieland Brothers who performed what sounds like ‘big rig’ trapeze in the Cremorne Gardens (a Melbourne pleasure resort) in February 1863. A report in The Age, 24 February 1863, stated:

    “… The efforts of these … artists are deserving of more than passing notice. In tho courso of tho
    afternoon and evening they appeared no less than five times. Their last appearance upon the flying trapeze was, undoubtedly, the chef d’uovre, as it was the conclusion, of the entertainment.This performance by M. Leotard, in London, has created sensation there only inferior to that of Blondin. Bartine, it will be recollected, tried it some time since at Cremorne, and fell several times in the attempt. The brothers Wieland appear to have thoroughly mastered the art, and they went through the triple flying leaps, eighty feet, fifty feet, and fifty feet successively, with the utmost
    precision and success, passing from trapeze to trapeze, and back again to the original starting place with great facility, in some cases turning somersaults, and performing other extraordinary feats, whilst passing from one leap to the other. When it is recollected that the utmost precision and calculation are requisite in timing the arrival and departure of the ropes, and that an error amounting to the fraction of a second in turning this somersault would leave
    the adventurer in empty space, forty or fifty feet above the level of the stage on which the performance takes place, some idea may be formed of the nerve and and precision necessary to carry the artist through his various evolutions. The artists on this occasion were, of course, loudly applauded by the audience …”

    *****

    So, this seems to have been the first example of the flying trapeze ‘big rig’ presented in Australia. An American, Bartine’ had performed at Cremorne a few months earlier on what was called a flying trapeze but he was a solo act and I don’t anything like the Wielands.

    Apart from all that, we really don’t see solid mention of ‘big rig’ trapeze acts in circus in Australia until the late 1890s/early 1900s. The Flying Jordans visited here from the USA in 1897. One of their number, Lena Jordan, went down in history as the first person to turn a triple somersault, which did in Sydney. In the early 1900s, the gig Australian circuses imported some fine trapeze acts such The Flying Moultons (1900), The Flying Herberts (1905) and the Flying Codonas (1913)

    Hope this helps.

    Happy to answer any further questions you may have.

    Fly straight!

    Mark St Leon
    http://www.pennygaff.com.au

    WilliamG
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Regarding the Wieland Family Troupe: I just discovered that John B. Wieland died (suicide) in March 1871, aged about 30, in Castlemaine, Victoria, after an argument with Henry Burton, his employer. It appears that other family members continued working with Burton after that.

    Mark St Leon
    Participant
    Post count: 13

    I did not know about John’s suicide. From trapeze artist to clown sounds like a climb down. It sounds as though John Wieland had some personal problems (maybe alcoholism) that may have caused Burton to off-load him thereby precipitating his suicide. Burton was all about keeping up appearances for the public. From memory, “Wieland” was a stage name. I forget their original name. They were active in circus here in the 60s and 70s but I think must have returned to England after that.

    WilliamG
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    The news item appeared in the Adelaide Observer on 1 April 1871.
    “A Sorrowful Ending. – There will be general regret at hearing that Wieland, one of the clowns in Mr. Burton’s travelling circus, who was well known in Adelaide, committed suicide at Castlemaine after having quarrelled with the proprietor of the circus and been discharged.”

    I found a death record in Ancestry.com in the Death Index for Australia. It indicates that John B. Wieland was about 30 at the time of his death. Victoria registration #571.

    WilliamG
    Participant
    Post count: 3

    Henry Burton’s National Circus played Castlemaine on 22 February 1871, so it’s possible that John Wieland killed himself on around that date. Surviving area newspapers started reporting the death on 1 April 1871.

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