Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Draw your very own flee circus!

First, draw a circus tent boarder for your bugs to perform beneath. I've linked to some excellent examples of what this tent boarder could look like in your doodle:
Second, select the bugs you like best. Give them names and jobs in your doodle circus, then design the astounding acts your bugs will perform. I've linked to some creative cartoonists on the web who doodle bugs:
Below is a film of a real flee circus! Before television people would do almost anything for entertainment. Your circus is an imaginary one, however, so no bug will be harmed in order to maintain the performances!

       The first records of flea performances were from watch makers who were demonstrating their metal working skills. Mark Scaliot in 1578 produced a lock and chain which were attached to a flea. Flea performances were first advertised as early as 1833 in England, and were a main carnival attraction until 1930. Some flea circuses persisted in very small venues in the United States as late as the 1960s. The flea circus at Belle Vue amusement park, Manchester, England, was still operating in 1970. At least one genuine flea circus still performs (at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany) but most flea circuses are a sideline of magicians and clowns, they use electrical or mechanical effects instead of real fleas.
      Fleas typically live only for a few months and are not trained. They are also observed to see if they have a predisposition for jumping or walking. Once sorted, they are harnessed by carefully wrapping a thin gold wire around the neck of the flea. Once in the harness the fleas usually stay in it for life. The harnesses are attached to the props and the strong legs of the flea allows them to move objects significantly larger than themselves. Jumping fleas are used for kicking small lightweight balls. They are carefully given a ball; when they try to jump away (which is not possible because of the harness) they shoot the ball instead. Running fleas are used to pull small carts and vehicles or to rotate a Ferris wheel. There are historical reports of fleas glued to the base of the flea circus enclosure, instruments were then glued to the flea performers and the enclosure was heated. The fleas fought to escape giving the impression of fleas playing musical instruments.
      Some flea circuses may appear to use real fleas, but don't. A variety of electrical, magnetic, and mechanical devices have been used to augment exhibits. In some cases these mechanisms are responsible for all of the "acts," with loose fleas in the exhibit maintaining the illusion. Other "flea circuses" do not contain any fleas at all and the experience and skill of the performer convince the audience of their existence. In much the same way that viewers know that a woman won't really be cut in half, the magician's showmanship allows viewers to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the show.
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No "big top" for the Flea Circus! This is the way spectators watch the star actors of Prof. William Heckler's Trained Flea Circus in 1930.
Star Actors of the Flea Circus
      Professor William Heckler’s Trained Flea Circus at Hubert’s Museum on West 42nd St., New York City, proves a great spectacle for the skeptical to marvel at, and at the same time the professor shows that he has bridged one of the gaps between science and practical mechanics.
       Recently, in the throes of irresistible curiosity, I stood before the emblazoned billboards of Hubert’s Museum, which proclaimed the astounding feats of the flea, better known for its annoying qualities.
Flea pulls a merry-go-round.
      A ballyhoo gentleman roared through a megaphone that there was a flea hotel inside. That fleas would engage in a chariot race. That they could be seen playing football. Prince Henry, a blueblood among fleas, would juggle a ball. Flea Rudolph woujd operate a merry-go-round. Paddy, carrying a flag, would jump through a hoop.
      The program ended with the Dance of the Fleas, in costume. Greatest show on earth! Well, from one observer’s point of view Prof, Heckler can do anything with a flea he trains, and the chances are he could even send one down to the corner for a newspaper, if he had a mind to. At any rate, he has done almost as much.
      For over eighteen years Prof. Heckler has been making capital of the recent discoveries made by J. J. Ward, the famous English entomologist. The British scholar announced the other day that the earwig, a Samson among insects, is able to pull a toy railway car 530 times its own weight or to drag a load of pins twenty-seven times its weight.
      Scientists went further. They made computations and adduced that the average man, proportionately as strong as the earwig, would be able to haul two freight cars along the street, these weighing nearly twenty tons apiece.
      Prof. Heckler has studied all of the flea’s habits until he has been able to recruit a troupe for a circus, as it is called. This creation of his goes back to the days when he ran away from home, from his native Switzerland, to follow the adventures of the sea.
      “My first meeting with the fleas,” he related to me, “was while I was traveling on the Mediterranean. Many of the boats on which I shipped were infested with these tiny demons. To the amusement of the crew, I captured some of these fleas and had them doing stunts for them. As I had much leisure time in those days, I thought up various freak performances for the fleas. In time I gave up the life of the sailor for the flea as a career and opened my first Flea Circus at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Since then my company of trained flea artists has toured the globe, playing fairs and expositions everywhere.”
      He explained that of the 134 or more species, only the human flea, the so-called pulex irritans, getting its sustenance from human blood, is intellieent enough to be trained. He takes the insect at a very tender age and it is put through a rigid training for its life work.
Captive flea being trained.
      The performing flea is found in Europe. But those which have been imported by Prof. Heckler and bred become easily acclimated. They make their home in chambers inlaid in mother-of-pearl, with white downy cot-ton as their sleeping quarters. Everything quite cozy!
      Training fleas is very difficult and Prof. Heckler guards his secret conscientiously. For the first lesson the neophyte flea is put into a bottle which is almost airtight. This is quite possible as he requires little oxygen.
      In this small vessel, the flea, true to his nature, gets rambunctious and hits off to a jumping spree. And every time he jumps he bumps his head. Soon he learns that by ceasing to jump he avoids the bumps, and thereby he passes his first test.
      Next in his training course the flea is attached to an instrument which looks very much like a gibbet. Here he can hop or do any form of motion, but he is under restraint, of course. The shackles keep him in tow. It is in this section that the professor selects the dancers from the strong men, and classifies them. In turn they are garbed in miniature costumes, befitting their particular bit.
The fleas in this photo have been enlarged 700 times as
 compared with the human figure. They are shown in action
 posses from several of the stunts they perform in the circus.

More About Flea Circus:

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