Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire

Franco Piper, “The Maestre of the spinning, tossing, juggling, and swinging banjos” was on the bill at the Sunderland Empire for the week of 26 September 1910:

Franco Piper at Sunderland Empire Poster - From the Tyne & Wear Archives

From the Tyne & Wear Archives

I described the Howard Brothers doing something similar a couple of weeks ago, so it appears there was a fad for this kind of act at the time – but fortunately the Royal Magazine ran a four page article on Franco Piper in 1901 – it’s a really interesting read.

We can see that Franco was performing at Hammerstein’s Roof Garden in New York from this June 1903 article in the New York Times – though he admits to still struggling with the 4-banjo part of his act. The 6 banjos shown in the Royal magazine article in 1901 must have been a little further away then he admitted back then.

There’s also a copy of his promo material from 1925 in both ‘Juggling the Art and its Artists’ and ‘4000 Years of Juggling’ by Karl-Heinz Ziethen:

Franco Piper - Promo from 1925 - Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Scan from K-H Zeithen's Juggling: The Art and its Artists

Unfortunately his story doesn’t end well – his listing in Michael Kilgarriff ‘Grace Beauty and Banjos’ states rather baldly that in 1933 he, “depressed at wife’s illness and lack of bookings killed himself”.

RIP Franco.

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