The Days of Martini’s Buckjumping Show

© Chris Woodland

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Return to Queensland
Charters Towers, Townsville, Rockhampton, Barcaldine, Maryborough, Brisbane.

By mid-May Martini and a performer called Marlo were doing their acrobatic performances at Charters Towers, inland from Townsville in Queensland, at the Theatre Royal as members of the Lucifer Variety Company, and then in Townsville the week later.

About two weeks after Townsville Martini was still with Lucifer’s when they visited Rockhampton and performed there, then he appears much further west at Barcaldine with the Souquet Brother’s Circus in the first week of July. Barcaldine’s Western Champion reported:

The Souquet Brothers have with them Martini, the champion triple bar performer in Australia. His somersault of 20 feet from bar to bar must be seen to be realised.

In the fourth week of July the town of Maryborough hosted several evenings of entertainment from the Souquet Brothers and their attractive star Martini. A month later both Marlo and Martini – really wonderful horizontal bar performers – were highlighted when the press advertised a benefit evening for a Mr George Ward at Brisbane’s Opera House. The Telegraph also stated that Mr Martini is well known in Brisbane and that Marlo and the Brisbane Courier cites: they will be doing their wonderful triple somersault on [the bars].


The Days of Martini’s Buckjumping Show

© Chris Woodland

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Queensland – Ipswich – Cairns – Sydney – Melbourne

In February 1891 we learn that Martini, with Harmston’s Wild West Show, were performing in Ipswich. The Ipswich Herald noted that:
… one of the Martini brothers executed some exceedingly clever feats on the horizontal bar, for which he was deservedly applauded.

This is the first suggestion that Martini had a performing brother who possibly learnt the skills along with Martini.

Following their performances in Ipswich and possibly other areas, Harmston’s hired a special boat to take their circus – now called American Circus and Wild Life in the Far West – to Cairns to exhibit in May. Also aboard the SS Fitzroy were Martini and Texas Jack.


Sydney – Melbourne

It was not until July 1892 that Martini’s name next appeared, when he performed in Sydney at the Alhambra Music Hall which featured dancing and singing, with M F Spencer singing a treat, In Old Madrid, and Martini, Frances and Trevo appeared in new horizontal bar and acrobatic acts.

No doubt Martini was performing at many venues that have not been listed in the ever-developing press of the day. Advertising still had a long way to go before it expanded into the vociferous language and graphics it was to become.

In August 1893 Martini was listed as a performer in the Miss Aimie Moore’s Testimonial Entertainment in Melbourne. The Melbourne Punch stated that Mr Martini was a member of Fillis’ Circus”.


Western Australia – New South Wales – Brisbane – Sydney – Queensland.

It was three years later, in December 1896, that Martini appeared in Perth with the New Tivoli Variety Company at Perth’s Town Hall. The following week he was advertised as, the Rage of Perth. These and other accolades would continue to be lavished on him until the end.


Bathurst – NSW

Our acrobatic celebrity’s movements are not known until he was seen on the performers’ list of one Miss Kate Howarde who had formed a burlesque company. They are performing in Bathurst NSW in the November of 1897 where Martini was also giving boxing lessons. He was adding to his marketable talents.


From Newcastle to Brisbane – Return to Sydney

There is another gap in Martini’s activities during this period as he is not mentioned in the press again until the Newcastle Morning Herald informed its readers that, two days after Harmston’s completed their season at Newcastle, they sailed for Brisbane on 27 February 1898. In the Queensland capital, Martini, Bysuck and Aldean had met with warm approbation on their triple bar performance. Within days Mrs Harmston Love, (the circus’ proprietoress and sole manager) and her husband Robert Love, advertised that Harmston Circus would not perform in any other Queensland town other than Brisbane. There must have been a serious upset to the circus’ plans for them not to exploit the obvious potential of Queensland, as Martini would in the future. The circus would have shipped back to Sydney because the performers, along with Martini, were showing at Belmore Park in Sydney (across from Eddy Avenue at what was to become Sydney’s Central Railway station) by the last week in April.


 The Days of Martini’s Buckjumping Show

© Chris Woodland

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Singleton – Texas Jack

Martini, with Harmston’s, turned up in Singleton NSW as Harmston’s Circus and Wild West Show on Friday 23 January 1891. The show contained a trio of Japanese balancers, a Madame Minette, who possesses a jaw of iron, Madame Le Blonde performed as a rider and Martini and Barotta showed their skills on the bars with exceptionally clever feats. The local newspaper said that the streets of Singleton were almost deserted on the night of the performance and that there were fully 1500 who patronised the show. The attachment of the Wild West Show phrase to the circus’ name indicates a shift in such travelling shows and awakened possibilities in Martini’s mind. The inclusion of these Americans displaying wild west activities such as rough-riding, lassoing and revolver shooting no doubt explained the unusual high attendance for the evening.

Amongst the American contingent was a colourful character who went by the name of Texas Jack and possessed a fascinating background. He was named after the man who found him when droving cattle through Kansas where he found two small girls and a five-year old boy whose family had been killed by Native Americans. This boy took the name of Texas Jack Jr after his saviour Texas Jack. The latter received the nickname while droving cattle across the famed Chisholm Trail.

The older Texas Jack’s formal name was John Baker Omohundro. He was born in 1846 and developed into a larger than life character. During his relatively short life – dying in 1880 just before the age of 34 – he had been a frontier scout, served in the Confederacy during the American Civil War and became a legendary figure of the American Wild West. He also acted in numerous theatre productions. He was associated with well-know names like Ned Buntline, Wild Bill Hickok, President Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth and the ill-fated General George Custer.

When Texas Jack died in June 1880, Texas Jack Jr dropped the qualifying junior from his name. The young Texas Jack had understandably become familiar with the interests and lifestyle of his foster father and became a sharpshooter and stunt rider.

The Australian bard, Henry Lawson, wrote the poem A Word to Texas Jack as he was fed up with Americans visiting Australia and returning to America because:

They’ve left behind no larnin’ but they’ve carried off our tin.

Texas Jack (1860 – 1905) – the proprietor of Texas Jack’s Wild West Show & Circus.

A survivor of his family’s massacre by native Americans as a child, he emulated his saviour and mentor, the original Texas Jack, becoming a roughrider, sharpshooter, and theatrical showman. One of his productions was based on the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.