Clowns on Stilts

Have you ever been mesmerized by a person on stilts? They amaze me and receive my utmost admiration.

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This is a highly visible (pun intended) form of entertainment and can draw a large crowd when used for walk-arounds, but it takes practice, practice, practice to become comfortable not look awkward.

If the performer incorporates another talent, such as juggling or simple magic tricks, the crowd might even follow!

It is believed that jesters were using these 'leg extensions' as early as 300 BC and they were used by ancient armies to advance on the enemy quickly. The most recorded usage of them is from Europe as a method to travel across the wet, swampy countryside.

The following is excerpted from
Scientific American Supplement,
No. 821, Sep. 26, 1891:

Dornan Stilt Walker

"Sylvain Dornon, the stilt walker of Landes, started from Paris on the 12th of last March for Moscow, and reached the end of his journey at the end of a fifty-eight days' walk. This long journey upon stilts constitutes a genuine curiosity, not only to the Russians, to whom this sort of locomotion is unknown, but also to many Frenchmen.

"Walking on stilts, in fact, which was common twenty years ago in certain parts of France, is gradually tending to become a thing of the past. In the wastes of Gascony it was formerly a means of locomotion adapted to the nature of the country. The waste lands were then great level plains covered with stunted bushes and dry heath. Moreover, on account of the permeability of the subsoil, all the declivities were transformed into marshes after the slightest fall of rain."

In an 1886 poster for George H. Adams Humpty Dumpty Troupe, Joseph Grimaldi is acclaimed as the "King of Stilts."

Additional circus posters show the following: 1880, Freres Krone Mann Circus: a man dressed as a woman in a very long skirt (obviously on stilts); 1912, Circus Henry and 1925, Circus Strassburger and Circus Barum depict acrobats on stilts; 1961, Mills Circus includes a stiltwalker.

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