An Indian juggler

An Indian juggler

Numerous performers adopted the billing 'Indian juggler' during the nineteenth century. In the earlier part of the century, Kian Khan Kruse was billed as 'the King of the Indian Jugglers,' while 'the celebrated Indian Juggler' Ramee Samee, who used to swallow swords and cannon balls, also achieved some fame.

This portrait dates from the middle of the 1860s. The names of several different 'indian jugglers' appear in newspapers reports and advertisements during this period. Monsieur Eugene Dherang [sometimes d'Herang] was described as a 'bottle equilibrist and juggler' who 'executes some striking feats, the most noticeable being the playing with three lighted torches, in the same manner as he does with knives and balls' (Birmingham Daily Gazette, 25 December 1866). Another performer, Professor Douglas, was also mentioned quite regularly as a 'Balancer' and 'celebrated Indian Juggler' (The Era, 5 February 1865).

During the same period, Monsieur Langlois 'from the Imperial Cirque Napoleon' was sometimes billed as 'the Great French Juggler' but was just as often billed as an 'Indian juggler.' On 14 June 1864 the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported that 'Mons. Langlois the great Indian juggler will come expressly from the Crystal Palace to give his extraordinary and astonishing feats of dexterity.'

Judging by their names, it is more than possible that neither Eugene d'Herang nor Professor Douglas nor Monsieur Langlois were actually Indian. This suggests that the 'Indian' part of these billings referred more to the act of juggling itself than to the nationality of the performer, although other acts were billed as 'the Chinese jugglers,' the 'Japanese jugglers,' and 'Hassan the Chief, the great Arab Juggler.' What was important, it seems, was to have a gimmick, to hail from some foreign shore that audiences would perceive as 'exotic.'

The performer seen in this portrait, however, does indeed appear to have originated somewhere on the sub-continent of India.

Photographed at the Crystal Palace by Negretti and Zambra.

Code: 127061
© Paul Frecker 2022