Fernand Martin 1906 “La Boule Mystérieuse”

This very ingenious toy is a reproduction of reality, it was a circus act from the late 1800s and early 1900s

A piece of history :

This act was performed by an Austrian artist Leon Rauche with his artist name La Roche or LaRoche
LaRoche started at Barnum & Bailey in 1895
The world famous circus Barnum & Bailey had this act in its program from 1895 to 1903.
In 1897, James A. Bailey, as Director of the Barnum and Bailey show, decided to organize a multi-year tour in Europe.
In October of that year, he arrived in England with his complete circus company and began his performance at the Olympia Hall in London.
He traveled throughout England to cross the mainland of Europe.
After visit many cities in Central Europe, the circus returned to America in 1903.

Original circus poster “LaRoche and His Mysterious Ball”
Picture with approval of: Poster Auctions International Inc. NYC

This poster is dated 1897 and that is because almost all images for this European tour were pre-produced in 1897 in America at: “THE STROBRIDGE LITHO CO. “In Cincinnati; Ohio.
In countries where the circus stayed for a long time, the text was adapted to the national language.
The amount of posters taken for this tour was more than 100,000 sheets.
Should a certain stock run out, then according to the American design, sheets were printed in Europe.
In exceptional cases, local designers and printers were sometimes called upon.

The show was in Paris in the period of November 1901 – March 1902
Housed in the Salle des Fêtes of the Galerie des Machines at the foot of the Eifel tower, a remnant of the 1900 exhibition in the Champ-de-Mars.
Barnum & Bailey presented its show consisting of a large number of first-class attractions.
The first show took place on November 30, 1901.
Barnum & Bailey was sold out until March 23, 1902.
The shows took place every day at 8:15 pm, with matinee at 2:00 pm, Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday and public holidays.

I think Fernand Martin also visited this show in Paris, but he didn’t come up with the La Boule Mystérieuse at that time, why?? read more…..

German postcard from the European tour 1897 – 1903

The invention of the act :

Leon Rauche (Laroche) has designed this act himself.
Legend has it that circus contortionist Leon LeRoche got his inspiration for ‘La Boule Mysterieuse’ from a popular gambling game that took place outside the tent of a show in Romania.
After bettors bet on one of multiple numbers, the showman rolled a ball from the top of a 1 foot high spiral, screaming as the ball rolled its way to the winning number.
LaRoche’s had a 12-foot spiral built for his own act.
While he was locked up in a metal ball of 2 ½ feet in diameter, he slowly and mysteriously rolled up and down on a spiral track without railing, and without the help anything visible or a motor.
The mystery of its progress is supposed to be explained when the man comes out, but it is more mysterious than ever, for the man has to tie himself in a knot to get into the sphere and certainly does not appear to have room to budge an inch , and the reason why the ball goes up and down slowly is just as inexplicable as ever! “.

The trick was considered “an inscrutable mystery,” a sudden genius.
Everywhere the show agents arranged performances of this wonderful man and his company.
LaRoche doubled the height of the spiral to 24 feet and by the time he started touring with Barnum and Bailey in 1896, the course was already 30 feet high.
After the circus went back to America in 1903, La Roche left Barnum & Bailey and presumably continued with his act to the “Strassburger” circus.
This circus existed from 1892 to 1963

Postcard from 1914

The toy :

Fernand Martin came on the market in 1906 with his “La Boule Mystérieuse” and it was a great success.

But Fernand Martin was not the original designer/inventor of this toy.
On 6 December 1905, a French inventor Mr M Celestin Gasselin applied for a patent under patent number 360440.
It was granted on February 23, 1906, and on April 21, 1906, this patent was published.

This is a part of the original published patent

Fernand Martin purchased this patent directly from Mr. Gasselin and put it on the market in 1906.
This toy was registered in Germany under a patent number D.R.G.M. 269277
The “Martin” number of this toy is 204

Original “Martin” box label


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