Harry “Pop” Kramer: Big Wheel in Small Towns

I’ve completely forgotten who tipped me off about the existence of Harry “Pop” Kramer (1875-1959), or if I stumbled over him somewhere — like one trips over a bicycle in the dark. Kramer was a trick cyclist of both the bi and uni varities. He could stand on his head while riding, or skip rope. And he also made use of trick breakaway bikes like Joe Jackson. Kramer grew up on a Virginia farm and developed his act in secret as a teenager after seeing a trick cyclist in a circus. He brought his act to circuses (including Ringling Brothers), vaudeville, theaters, carnivals, and fairs through the Southeast. But it also seems he did a fair amount of busking — most of the photos I’ve seen depict him performing for sidewalk crowds on small town streets, his long beard flowing in the breeze. At various times he was based in Asheville and Hendersonville, North Carolina and Chick Springs and Travelers Rest, South Carolina, operating a repair garage and bike shop to supplement his income. Appropriately, it was a bike accident that finally took him out of commission. For much more about Pop Kramer, read this excellent article here.

And for more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,