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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.

2 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.

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