It’s Danish Constitution Day! To date I’ve done several posts on performers with origins in Denmark, including The Barrison Sisters, Rasmus Nielsen the Danish Strong Man, Karl Dane, and Johann Petursson the Viking Giant.
Today we would like to add to the small pile by making you aware of the juggler Carl Baggesen (1858-1931) and his wife Sophia, billed as Sapphira (1864-1943). I learned about them while researching my upcoming book on Rose’s Royal Midgets; Ike Rose handled the Baggesens as well for a time.
Carl was from Odense, Denmark; Sophie was from Hamburg, Germany. Their act was legendary; they played all the European capitals and American vaudeville starting in the 1870s. It was as much a clown act as a juggling act. The wife, dressed in a maid’s costume, would come onto a kitchen or dining room set and juggle fruit. Then Baggesen would come out and just get gales of laughter by not doing anything. He would seem not to notice her and people would wait for something to happen, but he wouldn’t bite. THAT is a magical performer. I know clowns who can do that. They get a light in their eyes, and you’re cued to find it funny.
Then the act would shift gears. The wife would juggle plates and eventually drop one. He would hear the crash, go to help her, and in helping her, cause all manner of chaos, dropping and breaking every prop on the set. Not anarchistically of course. Baggesen was a skilled professional. He had been a contortionist prior to developing this act. At any rate, the act was much loved wherever they went, in both America and Europe. Learn much more about them here on Juggle.org, including a rave review from 1907 of their performance at the Los Angeles Orpheum.
To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,