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The Globe of Death – Going Round and Round and Up and Down

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  • The Mendoza’s Globe of Fate motorcycle and bicycle act

A little over a week ago we featured a Wall of Death thrill show film. Geoff, a reader from Australia commented on it and told us of the Durkin Brothers Globe of Death show that traveled the Down Under entertainment circuit for over 20 years. In many of these acts as seen above, riders loop vertically as well as horizontally in a globe while traveling at speed on motorcycles.

We decided to investigate a little further and found that in March of 1904, Arthur Rosenthal, a bicycle stuntman of Grand Rapids, Michigan, filed a patent application for certain new and useful improvements in bicyclists globes. His patent for a Bicyclist’s Globe was granted quickly on May 3, 1904, and the patent drawing for it can be seen below.

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  • Arthur Rosenthal’s 1904 patent drawing for a Bicyclist’s Globe

From what we were able to piece together from period bicycle magazines and other sources, Rosenthal and his partner, Frank Lemon, performed routines of skill and nerve guaranteed to deliver laughs and roars at fairs, amusement parks, and in shows across the land. The pair soon turned to motorcycles and the act became known as the Globe of Death. 

We found references to many other performers with similar globes and acts starting in the early teens including Guido Consi, an Italian daredevil, who introduced his Sphere of Fear in 1913 during a circus performance in Rome. An German engineer, also built and operated a globe act prior to World War I.

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  • Two early Globe of Death acts can be seen on the left and center above. The Durkin Brothers act of Australia can be seen above right in the mid-1940s

Cedero and his Golden Globe arrived in New York City in 1915, the first of several Brazilian globes and globe riders to travel to the United States. His act was performed at carnivals and circuses here in the U.S. until leaving for a tour of Central and South America in 1940. Between the two World Wars, the popular Globe of Death shows enjoyed the greatest popularity in Brazil.

Below is a more recent 1950s video of a news film clip of a Globe of Death act, filmed at Palisades Park in New Jersey, courtesy of Buyout Footage. This short presentation will show you just how exciting one of these acts can be. The photos above are courtesy of The Globe of Death Chronicles, and The McWhirters Project.

18 responses to “The Globe of Death – Going Round and Round and Up and Down

  1. I remember seeing a globe of death in Baltimore in the ’80’s, the rider, dressed in a suit, had only one arm and smoked a cigarette while riding an Indian Scout 101, which had a hand shift.

  2. My twin brother and I currently perform in the same globe pictured on the left. It’s a little shakey but it’s cool to know that globe is still in use.

  3. Hi. Would love to see the Australian Circus five bikes in a sphere today or a U-tube clip of just that.Saw three in globe at Sun City and love the noise , smell of castrol 2-strokers and the adrenelin. kev, C Town

  4. I rode the globe of death in the1940s when I was 15 years old with the people I worked for which were speedy Barham and Vicky sherry . In Manchester England.

  5. My great great great aunt Noreen is none other than Noreen Durkin , Herbs wife. Noreen lived in Newcastle nsw Australia until her passing in the late 90’s. I never really knew of her fame until after this 🙁

  6. Vicky Sherry taught me to ride the Globe of Death in 1967, at Manchester. This was with a view to performing in a night club in the Middle East, a position I never accepted, although a few of my contemporaries did and had some memorable experiences.

    • My mum did the wall of death at bell vuecwith the Australian air aces in the 1957 and in the 1960;s I was looking at her photos today she has to leave becase she kept blacking out on the tripeeze and think she said the lady was called Vicky who she was with and the man name speedy

  7. I remember as a small boy seeing the globe of death here in Albany, Western Australia at the local agricultural show. It featured a guy on a motorcycle and a young lady in a miniature racing car both doing their tricks both separately and together in the globe. This would have been about 1954-55.

  8. The photo MENDOZA IN THE GLOBE OF FATE is my father LEONARD MENDOZA and I to know where you got this photo along with where you got your information. I OWN the negative to this photo.

  9. Re,! My note march 6th 2016 regarding speedy barham and Vickie sherry ” I worked for them in the 1940s” but of course it was the. 50s . I met speedy and vicki when I was 15 years old and they were living in a caravan on land belonging to the Devonshire street pup on Stockport road near ardwick green. In 1960 I went to Scotland with speedy to buy the globe and I worked the air aces for 4 years with him and vicki also riding the globe I also did a solo trapeze act with speedy until I left the show in 1961 to go and work in belgium and later with a French circus. I last saw vicki in 1978 before she went back to live in the isle of white where she was born. I have tried to trace them both many times but it is a long shot now because if they are still alive they would be in there 90s. They were great times. I would love to hear from anybody that knew them.

    • Then you almost certainly knew my late father – Laurie Staig who owned the Globe of death and sold one to Vicky and Speedy. My father toook the Globe of Death to Battersea Park in London in the late 50’s. I knew Vicky and Speedy very well of course. They also worked with my father’s Australian Air Aces – a motorcyle trapeze act.

      Vicky died several years ago on the IOW after many years of running an Ice Cream Van and I guess Speedy is probably not with us anymore. I last saaw him in London in 1977 – he was touring with his scandinavian wife with a knife throwing act.

      I have many photos – happy to post them here if I am able

  10. I recently scanned a bunch of old newspaper clippings of the Kurchhoff Brothers of Buffalo, New York who in 1907 performed in a steel cage together on Indian Camel Back motorcycles while blindfolded. Their premiere was at the Hippodrome Theater in New York City. The brothers were Rudolph and Herman Kurchhoff. Herman was my maternal great grandfather, hence our possession of the memorabilia. I’ve posted the images and a tiny bit of known data on my personal blog.

  11. Hi. I’m sure this is the circus that Judy Westwater, author of ‘Street Kid’ worked at. Does anyone have any pictures please?

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