“Damn everything but the circus!”*…
Once she has lowered herself into the mouth of the cannon and slid down to the base of the barrel, Gemma “The Jet” Kirby performs a series of breath-synchronized movements that seem more suited to yoga or lamaze than to one of the deadliest stunts in circus history. This sequence is the culmination of hours of preparation, the final item on a human cannonball’s pre-flight checklist…
* e.e. cummings
As we lock and load, we might spare a thought for Charles W. Fish; he died on this date in 1895. A bareback rider, he was one of the most famous circus performers of his time.
It is eminently fitting that Charles W. Fish, whose death occurred in Chicago on May 5, 1895, should have a place on these pages. For three seasons he was a feature of this show, and had he lived would have been with the show during the season of 1895. [Ringling Bros.] Mr. Fish was one of the most widely known circus performers in the world. He had during his long career visited every civilized country, and his marvelous ability as a somersault equestrian won him the well-deserved title of champion wherever he appeared. He was especially proud of the fact that he had appeared before Queen Victoria and the royal family at Windsor by the Queen’s especial command, and though he was intensely American in spirit, he always recalled his visit to the English sovereign with pleasure. He also appeared before many of the continental crowned heads, and received many marks of royal and imperial favor. He was a fine linguist, and an artist of considerable ability. A number of his sketches appeared in Ringling Brothers’ Route Book for 1894. As a literary man, Mr. Fish would have taken prominence if his life work had not been directed into a more active channel. His clever little poem, “A Light House by the Sea,” which appeared in the Route Book in 1893, was always much admired. Mr. Fish was buried at Troy, New York.
– With the Circus. A Route Book of Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Railroad Shows, Seasons of 1895 and 1896, St. Louis: Great Western Printing Co. By Alf T. Ringling.