Gaston Palmer - Jongleur

This page about the famous French juggler, Gaston Palmer sprung from the continuing journeys into the past that sprung from "A Postcard's Story". This page was put together by Anastasia Andronova, of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, with help from Oliver Caignart, of France, and Hartmuth Branz, of Germany. 

Anastasia writes:

Although there is no surname of Gaston on this postcard, I supposed, that this postcard was written by Gaston Palmer, the famous French juggler, because I found a mention about Gaston Palmer in internet while searching Justin and Olive Palmer. After that I found a French juggler Olivier Caignart in facebook, who was interested in history of juggling, and he supported my thoughts with facts, which are below.

This photo of Gaston Palmer with his autograph and his family tree were sent by Olivier Caignart.

Also Olivier sent Anastasis a translation of an article about Gaston Palmer from a French publication, which is can be read by clicking here.

We can see from this family tree that Gaston, Justin and Olive Palmers were siblings!

The famous trick of Gaston Palmer

The photo from Olivier Caignart’s exhibition about juggling

The photo from Olivier Caignart’s exhibition about juggling 

Several videos
with Gaston Palmer

Gaston Palmer – The Laugh Gentleman
From Dominique Denis, rewritten and added to by Olivier Caignart 

With the spoons' in the glasses trick and other balancing tricks, Gaston Palmer made three generations of audience laugh in the biggest circus and music-halls in the world.

Son of Jeanne of Arc,

Gaston Palmer was born in Marseille on March, 4th 1886. He began his career in the Theodore Rancy Circus, aged 6, in the pantomime Jeanne d'Arc.

His grandfather Alfred, an Englishman, was a horse juggler. Hired in 1875 in the Theodore Rancy Circus, he stayed there until 1903. With his wife Caroline Constance, born Cotrel, he had 3 children : George, Sarah and Lisa. The elder, George became too, very early, an excellent horse juggler, specialized in plates juggling.

George married Adèle Blanche Emilie Rancy, the daughter of Théodore et d'Olive Rancy, born Loyal. When his children Justin, Gaston, Jeanne and Marcelle were old enough to work, Palmer created a juggling act, costumed as Pierrots, under the name of Piroscoffis. In 1904, the Palmer family left Europe for America. They stayed there for 10 years.

Gaston Palmer performed in the greatest music halls of Great Britain, such as The Alhambra, The Empire, and The Coliseum in London, or The Hippodrome of New-York in the United States. And it was always a success. His name was on top of the bill like in Medrano, January 1935.
Having earned very well his life, Gaston looked for retirement. In 1937, with his cousin Henry Rnacy, he opened a cinema theater in Dunkerque. Alas, in 1940, the theater was destroyed in the bombing driving him to come back on stage in circuses and variety. He performed till an old age. When he performed in 1958 in Astoria of Bremen, he was 72.

He also appeared in 6 movies between 1935 and 1969 in France, Germany and the United States, as well as several times on frnech and english television shows. He was liked everywhere both for his manners and his fine words.

He retired in Juan les Pins, in a beautiful house called « La Villa du Jongleur ». He died thee in 1969. He had three children, Marie, Annie and Gaston. His son Gaston got married in 1950, October, with the acrobatic dancer Alys Danels, the daughter of the famous Auguste E.P. Loyal.


After getting married to Joyce Colleano, the sister of the famous corddancer Con Colleano, one of the few acrobats on top of the bill, Gaston Palmer finally started his solo career as a serious juggler.

One night, somewhere in an American music hall of the Pantago Circuit, tired from a party the day before, his act was a following of drops. Instead of going on quickly, he could stop talking and cursing to himself. The outcome was bursts of laugh from the audience. Pantago encouraged him to go on this way, not the party, but this way to do his act.

From Fréjaville to Legrand Chabrier

When Gaston Palmer performed in Alhambra of Paris, Gustave Fréjaville wrote in Comoedia, September, 13th 1923 :

« … Gaston Palmer is neither clumsy nor bragging. He is a good juggler whose technical science shines from the start through some better than honorable excess of (vélocimanie) swiftness ; he is also a charming comedian who knows perfectly the audience psychology and uses it to liven up wittily his act... »

The next year, this great critic wrote :

« One can say that Gaston Palmer created a new genre amongst the diversity of variete entertainment : there was the clumsy juggler, the sleeping juggler, the burlesque juggler... He created the humoristic and philosopher who make sure from the bad jokes of his nerves and chance.

In 1925, Legrand-Chabrier, an other great critic wrote himself :

« If he succeeds, that's for the best ; if he misses that's better, he'll try it again. This selflessness gives off a liking feeling, all the more so because one notices soon, in the middle of the general cheerfulness, his too, that what he succeeds was not that easy.

The virtuosos

Elegant in his tuxedo, an opened and pleasant face, Gaston Palmer drove a liking feeling. Without loosing a second, he started his act with a brilliant juggling display with three billiard balls. From the start he won the trust of the audience. He would go on with a highly difficult routine with a cigar, a hat and an umbrella. All the way, he would comment his exercises … « See, I am going to do this, and then this.... well, maybe... »

Gaston would bring his audience in a new dimension. The traditional juggler was no longer what we thought he was, no longer a juggling machine, but an artist, facing his most difficult art.

He performed a trick with a billiard ball and a cue. He would have a talk with the ball, telling her what to do, or rather not to not do, the most important, do not fall! He had in his repertoire, a trick amazingly difficult. A billiard cue balancing on his chin, he threw a bottle nestling on the top of the cue. He would say, this is a good trick … if I do it ! ». Wily, later on, he would precise « If I miss, this is on purpose ». If the audience didn't react after a miss, he would hush « this is weird, some jugglers are angry when the get applause after a miss. I don't mind. »

He performed his act with affability, without a break, and a crescending tempo. He was a gentleman who didn't want to loose his time, and even less the audience's time. His tricks were full of chiqués and successes in a most subtle balance. He would pinch his tricks with jokes hitting every time.

And, in a running-gag, the spoons trick. The trick was to throw at once, eight spoons in eight glasses on a tray. But every time he missed ! He created a true suspense. A connivance existed between the audience and the artist. At last, when he succeed in the trick, that was a triumph. Gaston Palmer is a virtuosos of juggling.

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