Wednesday evening I heard translator & author Frederik Schodt give a slide lecture at the Mechanics' Institute about Professor Risley, a 19th century circus impresario. Though Mr. Schodt called this a "lost history," he claimed that Professor Risley was once a household name & "the Michael Jackson of his day." To set the mood for his talk, Mr. Schodt donned a fancy hat & performed a magic trick in which he made drawings appear on the pages of a blank book. He then led us through Professor Risley's colorful life, which involved, among other things, touring an American circus through Asia, introducing ice cream into Japan, & meeting history's most handsome samurai. He brought a Japanese acrobatic troupe to San Francisco in 1867, on the 1st stop of a world-wide tour. I was fascinated to see photos of the Japanese acrobats taken in New York & Paris. Risley's own circus act involved him juggling small children high in the air with his feet. The presentation was informative & entertaining. Many of Mr. Schodt's friends seemed to be in attendance.
§ Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: A Lost History, and a Lost Page from San Francisco’s History
Frederik L. Schodt
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 6:00 PM