Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Amazing Flying Arrow

The audience gripped their seats in fear and excitement as the slight young girl was shot through the air by a giant crossbow through a paper target.  They felt a collective sense of relief when she was caught by her sister who was swinging from a trapeze.  The 'Flying Arrow' then performed further amazing feats as she swung from the trapeze, sometimes hanging by her teeth.

Pansy Chinery was born in 1879 as Frances Murphy. She and her sisters formed an acrobatic group called 'The Flying Zedoras' when she was only 16 after having private lessons in singing and dancing.  They became famous in the U.K. and toured America with Barnum and Barnum.

This dangerous act rightly caused controversy because of Pansy's young age. Questions were raised in the House of Commons and a campaign began to ban junior performers. The Children's Dangerous Performances Act which was designed to prevent performances by children that could endanger their 'lives or limbs' only covered children under fourteen years old.  Many people thought that this age should be raised.

Their fears were justified.  Pansy only just avoided death or serious injury one night in Madison Square Garden in 1896.  She was doing an act fifty feet above the ground and knocked unconscious on a narrow platform.  Luckily her brother caught her before she fell, and she didn't sustain any serious injury.  The Dangerous Performances Act was passed in 1897, so that dangerous performances would not be performed by females under eighteen and males under sixteen.

Pansy had a long career and married twice.  She married Horace Osborne, a hosier, in 1904 when she was 25 and Hugh Chinery when she was 66.  She died at the great age of ninety.

You can find a newspaper illustration of Pansy's