Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: Equipment from Aerialist Pansy Chinnery, 1900

Hook from an Acrobatic Act
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here we see a rather fierce-looking hook with a leather mouthpiece.
  This odd item was once used by the aerialist and variety performer Pansy Chinnery (1879-1969).  Chinnery dutifully collected a wide range of items from her illustrious career--including posters, playbills, newspaper cuttings, hooks and pulleys, printing blocks and costumes.

Chinnery was born in Suffolk, England, beginning her theatrical career with The Zedora Sisters, when she was billed as “Alar the Flying Arrow.”  Together, they went on tour with Barnum and Bailey's Circus for their 1897 tour.  During these performances, she was shot from a giant crossbow above the circus ring.

This iron hook, now rusty, still shows remnants of cream paint.
  It is attached with a bolt and nut to an iron plate which allowed the hook to rotate. The plate attaches to a mouthpiece which still shows the indentions of her teeth-marks. Used in her act around 1900, Chinnery would hang from this hook (attached to a rope) by her mouth.

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