Richard Risley Carlisle

Richard Risley Carlisle (1814–1874) was an American gymnast and acrobat who often performed as Professor Risley. He is known for developing a circus act of juggling with the feet known as the Risley act. He also notably brought a Japanese circus act briefly to America in the 1860s.

Risley and his two children, 1844

BiographyEdit

Richard Risley Carlisle was born in Burlington County, New Jersey in 1814.[1] On October 15, 1833, he married Rebecca C. Willits of Philadelphia, though her father sued him a year later for unknown reasons.[2] In 1835, he offered $2,000 to purchase 160 acres from Lazarus Bourissa, a Potowatami, to establish what is now New Carlisle, Indiana.[1] His first noted performance as a circus performer was in 1841; he came to be known professionally under the name "Professor Risley".[3] Some time before 1850, he teamed with John Rowson Smith to establish a traveling panorama display of the Mississippi River to compete with John Banvard. A minor rivalry between the two acts soon arose, with Banvard calling Smith and Carlisle imposters; they in turn referred to the "crude efforts of the uncultivated artist" Banvard.[4] Banvard issued a pamphlet in 1849 warning the public about the "incorrect imitations which have been hurriedly prepared by parties of unprincipled persons".[5] George Catlin accused Banvard of copying his own paintings, but Banvard responded that his panorama was copied by Catlin for use by Smith and Risley.[6]

 
"Professor Risley" performing with his children

As a circus performer, Carlisle is known for establishing the Risley act; he is noted as being the first to perform this act in the Guinness Book of World Records.[1] The act involves the performer lying on his or her back on a chair and juggling children with the feet, an act also used by the Hanlon-Lees and others.[7] It has alternatively been referred to as the "Risley business"[8] or the "Risley stunt".[9] Carlisle developed this act as early as 1840–1841.[3] The act has since come to refer to juggling anything with the feet while lying on one's back.

Carlisle moved to Japan in 1864 and is recognized as the first Western professional acrobat in that country. Two years later, financial concerns forced him to pursue the dairy business; he became the first seller of both milk and ice in Japan. He eventually returned to performing and moved back to the United States, bringing with him a troupe of professional Japanese acrobats who already mastered traditional Japanese acrobat acts. The Imperial Japanese Troupe, as they were called, had their east coast debut in Philadelphia and performed there for a month in 1867.[10] In April 1869 he and his company were the first to appear at the newly reopened Hippotheatron in New York.[11]

 
Handbill advertisement for The Imperial Japanese Troupe at the Academy of Music (1867 July 1)

Carlisle died May 25, 1874.[12] He was buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Philadelphia.[13]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Groves, Dana. Images of America: New Carlisle. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010: 7. ISBN 978-0-7385-7739-5
  2. ^ Schodt, Frederik L. Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan — and Japan to the West. Stone Bridge Press, 2012: 35. ISBN 9781611720099
  3. ^ a b Groves, Dana. Images of America: New Carlisle. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010: 52. ISBN 978-0-7385-7739-5
  4. ^ Huhtamo, Erkki. Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013: 187–188. ISBN 9780262018517
  5. ^ Hanners, John. "It was Play Or Starve": Acting in the Nineteenth Century American Popular Theatre. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993: 51. ISBN 0-87972-587-7
  6. ^ Hanners, John. "It was Play Or Starve": Acting in the Nineteenth Century American Popular Theatre. Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993: 51–52. ISBN 0-87972-587-7
  7. ^ Cosdon, Mark. The Hanlon Brothers: From Daredevil Acrobatics to Spectacle Pantomime, 1833-1931. Southern Illinois University Press, 2009: 10. ISBN 978-0-8093-2925-0
  8. ^ Picton, Col. Tom. Old Gotham Theatricals. San Bernardino, CA: The Borgo Press, 1995: 155. ISBN 0-89370-462-8
  9. ^ Law, Jonathan. The Methuen Drama Dictionary of the Theatre. London: Market House Books, 2011: 4. ISBN 978-1-4081-3147-3
  10. ^ Schodt, Frederik L. Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan — and Japan to the West. Stone Bridge Press, 2012: 152–153. ISBN 9781611720099
  11. ^ T. Allston Brown, A History of the New York Stage, Vol. 2, New York: Benjamin Bloom, Inc., 1903, pp. 353-356
  12. ^ Martin, John Hill (1877). Chester (and Its Vicinity,) Delaware County, in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: WM. H. Pile & Sons. p. 292. Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  13. ^ "Richard Risley Carlisle (1814-1874) - Circus Performer". www.friendsofmountmoriahcemetery.org. Retrieved 1 September 2019.

External linksEdit