Historical accuracy...

The Amateur Operatic Society I’m part of is just embarking on rehearsals for “Barnum”. A few members brought unicycles along to the auditions (although the auditions were primarily about singing) and it got me wondering…

The show is set in the 19th century, and follws Barnum’s life until he joins up with Bailey to for the Barnum & Bailey circus. All the unicycles I saw at the audition were 20" wheels. Am I right in thinking such unis weren’t around in those days?


(Come to think of it, what were people juggling in the 19th Century - presumably not plastic moulded clubs!?)

[PS: yes, I did get a part!]

in theory there were no unicycles at all in those days. I think the point of having a uni at an audition would be to set yourself apart from the crowd as having different tallents.

Indeed, that’s what I thought. I’m sure we’re planning to use them in the show though!

I did a little bit of searching. There are plenty of links on the internet between Barnum and unicycles. Looks like unicycles ‘as we know them’ came in in the last 20 years of the 19th century. Chances are, there were some in some of his later shows.

fair enough

Mike - thanks for that, I’d searced a bit and not come up with anything.

Nevertheless, I bet we end up with them in the show from the beginning! We’ll call it “Theatrical Licence”

I’ve now established that the musical follows Barnum’s life from 1835 to 1880 - in which case, it doesn’t quite reach the “last 20 years” as mentioned above. Perhaps no unis at all if the director wants to strive for historical authenticity? (And juggling clubs ‘made up’ to look wooden etc…)