From Aesop's Fables there is a tale about an Abbot and a flea.
From Aesopica - Aesop's Fables in English, Latin and Greek
From Aesop's Fables there is a tale about an Abbot and a flea.
Thanks to a rather silly kids TV programme, "Barney's Latin America" I now know about the sea fire fleas or Photeros annecohenae a type of Ostracode Crustaceans.
These tiny creatures make vivid light by mixing two chemicals which is used to attract mates and to scare off predators.
Insect Behavioral Ecology '85
Discover the beauty and complexity of Photeros annecohenae
A water flea (Daphnia magna) has made it into the top 10 of Nikon International Small World Competition with some help from photographer Joan Röhl.
This fantastic image is 100x magnified and was created with Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) Microscopy at the Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, University of Potsdam, Germany.
Other flea entries include a 20x magnified mouse flea by Dr. Jerzy Gubernator from the University of Wroclaw, Poland and another water flea with grean algae by Dr. Ralf Wagner of Düsseldorf, Germany
I occasionally check Ebay for interesting flea items and today I spotted this one.
"This modern postcard features a reproduction of a work by American artist Edward "Ted" McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954). Montana born McKnight Kauffer was one of Europe's most prolific and influential advertising poster artists during the Twenties and Thirties
The original poster titled The Flea ( Natural History Museum) was created by the artist in 1926 for the British Natural History Museum in South Kensington. London."
Flea Circus Tonga now has it's own circus tent and hence can provide shows whatever the weather or if you've only a small venue he's also available in a portable table top variation of the show.
"Betty LaBelle" is back from Australia and has brought more artists! Overall, six fleas their arts! Experience "Hannibal" the daring stuntman, "David Copperflea" and "Professor Fips" as a magician, as well as the Grand Dame "Mme Flohrentine" as a prima ballerina and many others more.
Chuck Caputo from the USA has announced his new "out of the box" flea circus that has no suitcase but still has plenty of contents. The acts contain some of the standards such as a high wire, diving board, strong flea but also some new ideas such as a bowling flea and Annie Oakly flea. The stage also has spot lights and a magician flea who makes a card rise from a pack.
The circus platform "integrates sophisticated electronics, electronic pad control, pull bar and magnetic operations."
The latest from Lee and the Victorian London website is a searchable index of literature.
Of course the first thing I did with it was to search for fleas. This returned an interesting selection of books with flea references. Here's a sample of the results at the time the query was run
Middlemarch, by George Eliot - "I should stick to it like a flea to a fleece for my own sake"
The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope - "'With a flea in her lug,' suggested the farmer."
Martin Chuzzlewit, by Charles Dickens - "I looks at him tolerable hard. 'Fleas?' says I. 'And more,' says he. 'Wampires?' says I. 'And more,' says he."
"Astonishment making him surly, he preferred the latter, and sent her into the toll-house with a flea in her ear."
Antonina, by Wilkie Collins - "It is easier to make a drinking-vessel of the skull of a flea than to make an honest man of such a villainous night-walker as thou art!"
The Mysteries of London, by G.W.M.Reynolds - Chapter 246 - The Party at Ravensworth Hall - "And bid smart onions rise To churn me in my mantling path and give A flea to nerve the thought that I may live To bask in thy blear'd eyes!"
Cometh up as a Flower, by Rhoda Broughton - "I vault from the sofa, as if the spirit of a flea had passed into me, and walk across the room; my legs feel stiff and sore"
After Dark, by Wilkie Collins - "he is among my men and here am I ready to look for a flea or two in his bedstead"
The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley - "the Queen of all the Fairies, who makes the clouds thunder and the fleas bite"
Adam Bede, by George Eliot - "Aye, it's ill livin' in a hen-roost for them as doesn't like fleas"
Felix Holt, by George Eliot - "the utmost stretch of their ideas will not place them on a level with the intelligent fleas"
Michael Pettersen has transcribed one of Sammy Nestico's tunes as played by Freddie Green Master of the Rhythm Guitar.
Magic Flea is very rapid piece with a tempo of 306 beats per minute. Freddie had a special technique called the "one note chord" which allowed the music to be simplified so it could be played. More details of this on the Freddie Green website.
Flea Circus is Jack Davies' latest small group project, inspired by Dave Douglas' Charms of the Night Sky group, the French Bal-Musette, and Ivo Papasov's incredible Bulgarian band.
In stark contrast to much of the electrified music being made today, Flea Circus is an entirely acoustic chamber group.
Drawing on the canon of European jazz and contemporary music, Flea Circus juxtaposes lyrical melodies and exuberant improvisation.
The line up
Many have wondered just how you would connect a flea to a chariot or wagon. Well the answer is simply that you tie them by forming a loop with thin wire and pulling it tight as the flea passes through. This is not an easy task and even those who are well practiced might take between 10 minutes and an hour to complete the task.
You can purchase a harnessed flea from Walt Noon.
In Episodes of insect life by Acheta Domestica 1851, people question if the fleas were glued but Bertolotto insists that his are tied.
These and all other such recorded feats have ceased to be marvels to the patrons of those "industrious fleas" who still, we believe, continue to ply their daily labours in Regent Street or the Strand; but they serve to show, that amongst the grand discoveries and inventions of this our 19th century, the art of breaking in fleas to harness is not one. Bertolotti asserts that the saddles, etc, on his flea company were really fastened by girths, not by gum, as the incredulous have thought, the corslets of the pygmy wearers being too highly polished for anything to stick upon them.
Latest flea find on google books, is some Industrious fleas and also our friend Bertolotto. Given that the book is in the public domain, I'll quote the whole section.
Records of real life in the palace and the cottage, by Harriet Henriette Pigott revised by J. Galt, 1839, Page 234 - 237
Close on the steps of these royal visitors from Belgium, arrives Signor Bertolotti, in pompous terms announcing " Les puces travailleuses," and himself, as having been the charm, " the enthusiastic enjouement" of the brilliant receptions in stirring high-life, during the London season. Well I recollect these sea lions engrossing the conversation alternately with the agitating question of the Reform-bill; il Signor Bertolotti, et ses enfans cheris, following close after the reforming senatorial elders and their aspiring eleves, as they mounted to the drawing-room, from the convivial banquet below; the groom of the chambers in the rear, carrying hot Mocha coffee. The wise men from the east, north, south and west, assembled with intellectual aspects round the table, and eventually held out their hands for the fleas to crawl thereon, " with what appetite they may;"—the signal recompense awarded by il Signor for industry in actively mounting their little ladders, carrying buckets. Oh! it was a pleasant sight, to see the senators of Great Britain thus amused ; whose hands had wielded the pen that signed a reform and emancipation bill, that have placed all England, and her church, in a pleasant chaos of thoughts, actions and creed; making time pass too rapidly, fraught with inteli lectual experiments.
But this charming little caravan of amusing parvenus,—(because before the rapidity of intellect these animals were disdained, chased away by vulgar, uneducated chamber-maidens;) —are now, like many a youth, who by dint of pretending liberal principles and manoeuvres, obtains introduction into drawing-room circles, and dubbed by us conservatives " illiberals," (Oh! howunjustly !) "Parvenus."
Before the front of the Bourse of Grecian architecture, they now stand in competition with a spurious race of fleas—an opposition! But like thorough-bred tories, they valiantly face the enemy; for tories are fearless, having naught to conceal; and few of them ought to gain,—being high in their country's annals, for patriotism; rich by commerce or husbandry, or by ancestral descent; and some of them in valourous deeds, displayed in rightful causes on the battle-field. Thus, in France, we have usurpers even amongst the insect tribe. There they stand, in contact with cracked fiacres, deltas, venders of tribunal discourses, and of attempts to assassinate the reigning King of the French:—for in life, the little will imitate the great.
This classic edifice, which is of pure white stone, in the Grecian style of architecture, is a strange contrast, — a potent satire, on the ostensible purpose for which it was erected. French taste has not, in this instance, united the appropriate with the beautiful, by selecting the model of a classic Grecian temple, for the mercenary assignations of money-changers, and Jews' speculations; and amidst incongruous buildings.—They play a high game, amassing enormous riches by the credulity and ruin of others less adroit; sustaining or lowering, by false intelligence, (per telegraph,) les emprunts of revolutionary governments; their ignoble figures and hurried gait, their countenance inflated, convulsed with the avaricious agitations of their minds; while without, every adventurer is playing his game, by exhibiting his Punchinello, his industrious fleas, his games of hazard, and many inventive twopenny traffic, before the august elegance, before the pure colouring of its finely chiselled columns.
"Meister Floh - A fairy tale in seven adventures of two friends is a story by ETA Hoffmann. Although conceived as an art fairy tale, the first version appeared in 1822 censored and truncated to two chapters, since it satirical allusions to a case containing the Hoffman previously served as a member of the "Immediate-Commission to determine hochverräterischer compounds and other dangerous machinations" in Prussia to investigate had."
"From 1803, Kirby’s Wonderful and Scientific Museum is a collection of curious and unusual stories from the time when medical philosophers roamed the land and the libraries, and people took mammoth teeth home after a trip to the cliffs."
says Tinker Girl from the Steam Punk Forum Brass Goggles.
Kirby's was the predecessor to Ripley and along with the museum they published a series of books, Volume 1 of this amazing book mentions the watch maker "Boverick" and his tiny ivory carved creations
"Sir, Knowing that many very minute objects have been performed by art, I transmit you the following handbill, as-it was actually published by Mr. Boverick, in the Strand, in the year 1745, and another nearly of the same date. -Yours, &c;—J: J. B,"
To be seen at Mr. Boverick's, Watchmaker, at the Dial, facing Old Round Court, near the New Exchange in the Strand, at One Shilling each Person,
The little furniture of a dining- room; consisting of a dining-table, with a cloth laid, two figures seated as at dinner; a footman waiting; a card-table, which opens with a drawer in it; frame and castors; looking glass; two dozen of dishes, twenty dozen of plates, thirty dozen of spoons; and twelve skeleton-back chairs with claw feet.—All the above particulars are contained in a cherry-stone.
A landau, which opens and shuts by springs, hanging on braces, with four persons sitting therein; a crane-neck carriage, the wheels turning on their axles, coachman's box, &.C of ivory; together with six horses and their furniture; a coachman on the box, a dog between his legs, the reins in one hand, and whip in the other; two footmeil behind, and a postillion on the leading horse, in their proper liveries: all so minute as to be drawn along by a flea.—It has been shewn to the Royal Society, and several persons of distinction.'
The curious little four-wheel open chaise, with the figure of a man in it; all made of ivory, drawn by a flea, which, performs all the oltices of a large chaise, as running of the wheels, locking, &c. ; weighing but one grain. Shewn to the Royal. Family, and several of the Nobility and Gentry. '
A flea, chained-by a chain of 200 links, with a padlock and key, curiously wrought; the chain and flea, padlock, ^ud key, wcigiung but one-third of a grain,
A camel, that passes through the eye of a middle-sized needle..
And a curious pair of steel scissars, so minute, as six pair may be wrapped up in the wing of a fly.—The said scissars cut a large horse-hair.
To be seen from nine in the morning till eight at night; and those that please to see tlicrn at their house, may be waited upon, on Thursdays, at the same hours.
We can inform our Correspondent, that the particulars here asserted of the flea, are confirmed by the authority of the ingenious and indefatigable author of minimal Biography, see vol. iii. page 489"
It sounds like Hubert's was taken over by a bunch of Scrabble Enthusiasts.
"Primarily a New York phenomenon, gaming parlors like The International Chess Community of New York and the massive Chess City offered the chance to play chess, checkers, bridge, go, backgammon, dominoes, and, increasingly, SCRABBLE® .While SCRABBLE® took a backseat to chess and bridge, there were a growing number of players who took the game seriously.
The best of them converged at the Chess and Checker Club of New York, better known as the Flea House (supposedly because of flea circus that once existed downstairs)."
Show History - Huberts
Hubert's Freaks: The Rare-Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus
In "Batman: Shadow of the Bat" #11, there is a story "The Human Flea", Batman visits Kemp's Flea Circus in Gotham City as a part of his investigations, the story concludes in edition #12.
"Mortimer Kadaver escapes from incarceration along with animal rights activist Jan Brodie. Meanwhile, Batman encounters the Human Flea, who has been committing robberies in order to fund his grandfather's unsuccessful flea circus. Kadaver arranges for Brodie and his collegues to raid a laboratory in order to make sure thatin his exit from this world, he takes as many people along with him as possible.
Kadaver plans to destroy Gotham by plague, stealing both fleas and a sample of the pleague baccilus. He is stopped by Batman and the Human Flea, whose grandfather he murdered to secure the fleas, and is prevented from committing suicide as well."
Ref: Unofficial History of the DC Universe
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #11 (April 1993): "The Flea, part 1"
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #12 (May 1993): "The Flea, part 2"
America Museum and Gardens Corner of Broadway and Ann Street. P. T. Barnum, Manager
"THE INDUSTRIOUS FLEAS - These insects have been trained by Mr. G. Weiss, from Germany who has learned them to be harnessed to carriages and other vehicles, which they will draw with as much docility aad precision as common cart horses."
Ref: New York NY Evening Post 1842 May-Oct 1842
The Caledonian Mercury on Saturday March 29th 1834 reports of Giuseppe Pariss moving his show from Regent Street to 63 Prince Street, Edinburgh.
The timing of this is interesting as it could mean that Pariss was the rival next door to L. Bertolotto on Regent Street.
Giuseppe also appeared at the Theatre Royal in Perth as mentioned in the Story of the Scots Stage.
Guiseppe Pariss from Regent Street, London, with his Industrious
Living-Fleas, showing what "educated fleas" could do.
Ten years later the Industrious Fleas are back at 63 Prince Street, Edinburgh with a variety of other acts, it is not know if this is the same performer.
Also, the INDUSTRIOUS FLEAS will Perform a Variety of Feats too numerous to mention.
Caledonian Mercury (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Saturday March 29 1834; Issue 17585
Saturday, March 2, 1844; Issue 19336
Saturday, March 9, 1844; Issue 19339
There is a known example of a Guisepe Pariss flier that has the same words as the above news paper clipping above but with large fonts for the titles, held in a collection in Scotland.
In the classified section of The Era for 1895, is a double hit for flea research.
Like L.Bertolotto and Heckler, Prof English wrote his own book on the topic of fleas, "All about Fleas", more on that in a separate article.
Ref: The Era (London, England), Saturday, February 16, 1895; Issue 2943. Classified Advertising.
Another 19th Century British Library Newspapers search for the Industrious Fleas performance has produced the following from the Morning Post.
It is still not know if this was one of L.Bertolotto's performances or one of his rivals.
ref: The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, April 29, 1851; pg. ; Issue 24144.
Magic Puk Old Exhibition in London.
I've written before about early flea performances but my latest research has been into trying to discover when the first use of the phrase "Flea Circus" was used. My dictionary search had already determined that it was before 1934 when the Hecklers first used the phrase.
Thanks to the Wellcome Library I've managed to remotely access "19th Century British Library Newspapers" and the "17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers".
Not only has that resulted in some definative dates for Boverick, Bertolotto and the Industrious Fleas but it's also turned up an early example of the phrase "Flea Circus".
Back in 1886 the Manchester Times ran a section caled the Childrens Corner, on the 22nd May they published the following:
For reseachers into fleas what more could you need than an International Flea Database
The project from Brigham Young University has two main aims:
"It is our intent to not only summarize the wide spread available data, but also provide a platform for the constant renewal and updating of different data"
"extensive evaluation of taxonomic characters, and their distribution across taxa, including the outgroup will lead to a feasible datamatrix"
Anatoly Konenko has built the world's smallest aquarium.
Anatoly's other creations include writing on a grain of rice, a flea shod with horseshoes and a grass hopper playing a violin. Following the work of early miniaturists he's also chained up a beetle and fastened a lock to an ant.
He's also created over 200 books, most of them around the size of a coin and a supermini book that was less than a mm.
The discussion on the Discovery News Podcast about dictionaries got me thinking as to if this would answer the question of when the term "flea circus" was first used.
We know that back in Bertolotto's time the performances were not described as a circus but as an exhibit. We also know that Egon Erwin Kisch who was a fan of Charles Dicken's "Sketches by Boz" used the term "Flea Theatre" in his 1920s book "Die Abenteuer in Prag". In approximately 1901 strong man William Heckler took over an Orlando, Florida "Flea Theater" and John C. Ruhl also ran a "Flea Theater" at Hubert's. By 1925, the Heckler's had taken over with their "Trained Fleas", according to a show flier they were using the term "Trained Flea Circus" for their show in Time Square by 1934.
My initial searches brought up nothing, flea circus is not in the dictionary. I'm guessing that this is because it's a "phrase" not a "word". It's also not in the official list of scrabble words.
However a trip to Westminster reference library in my lunch break found the phrase in the 2007 6th Edition Oxford English Dictionary, the 2nd Edition Oxford English Dictionary and Chambers 11th Editionary Dictionary. The OED also suggested that the phrase was from US origins. Although the librarian did offer to search online for me, I did not have time on this visit. The librarian was also skeptical that the early editions of the dictionary would contain the phrase.
The chaps over at Discovery News have been discussing the jumping flea research from the researchers at the University of Cambridge.
This naturally lead to a discussion of flea circuses and if they really used fleas.
The producer got in contact with me to clarify some points so hopefully tomorrow's pod cast will have some more flea circus facts.
You can listen for free on Itunes or on their podcast.
There are many places named after fleas around the world.
View Flea Places in a larger map
In the USA, fleas are popular for placenames.
Fleaville, Shasta County (which unfortunately no longer exists)
Flea Creek, Montana
Flea Hill, Delaware
Flea Hop, Elmore County, Alabama
In the south there are places also named after the Spanish word for fleas, "Las Pulgas", and a good few flea places in Spain too.
Las Pulgas Canyon and Las Pulgas Road in Camp Pendleton
"Rancheria de las Pulgas", San Diego
The mystery of how fleas jump resolved thanks to Professor Malcolm Burrows and Dr Gregory Sutton from the University of Cambridge Department of Zoology.
Back 1967, Henry Bennet-Clark made the discovered of resilin, the 'elastic' protein that fleas use to store the energy for jumping, however since then flea scientists have been debating how that energy was transferred into the ground to allow the flea to reach such speeds and hights.
The Cambridge scientists used low light conditions which kept the fleas calm whilst they setup the cameras then turned up the lighting to see them jump. The videos were analysed and mathermatical models were used to predict the results.
Sutton and Burrows suspected that the insects push down through the tibia (shin) onto the tarsus (toe). Using a mathematical model that could reproduce the flea's trajectory, the scientists were able to confirm that the insects transmit the force from the spring in the thorax through leg segments acting as levers to push down on the tarsus (toe), solving the 44 year old mystery.
The latest from Michael & Maria of the Flying Starts is a big top and a side show of flea oddities such as the Flea Mason and Vivaldi and his four flea sons.
The Flying Starts
Eric from the Svenson's flea circus has a new style of Flea Circus, the Roman Circus Minimus.
The fleas live in a little Roman villa (the door opens when they come out to do a show).
"Bigus Bitus" pulls a chariot around the ring, there are a selection of Roman themed acts such as the highwire and trapeze. Bitus the strong flea also rolls tiny a barrel of wine up a ramp and off the end.
Fleasar kicks a ball (Pila) into a goal, yes roman football (Harpastum), and Jumpus does the high dive into a pool of icy cold water.
There is also have a flea that lifts a little pole/standard into the upright position.
The grand finale is Jumpus being fired from a Ballista (large roman crossbow) and he hits a little target in the shape of a roman shield.
Eric's armour is historically correct (and VERY heavy) and Eric is learning Latin incase there are questions from the audience.
For more information visit Svenson's Roman Flea Circus.
For a few more nights you can see the The Fantastical Flea Circus at the The Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf in Durban.
Fleologist Dr Dhaveshan (Dhaveshan Govender) and world famous opera singing sensation, Duchess de Budhoo (Shika Budhoo).
Latoya Newman reports:
"After having written his award winning two-page fleasis on everything you need to know about fleas, Dr Dhaveshan (Dhaveshan Govender) is now travelling about town to bring children The Fantastical Flea Circus which has now stopped for a run at The Catalina Theatre.
Catch Flea-Anne on the trapeze; Bruce-flea the world’s strongest flea, Flearoy and his cannonball stunt and the great Fleadini and his disappearing act.
Clinton Marius (writer/director) has put together a funny and entertaining show for his first-time kiddies production."