Okabis Japanese Troupe [Cabinet Card]. Charles Eisenmann, photographer.
Okabis Japanese Troupe [Cabinet Card]

1890s Image of a Japanese Circus Act in America

Okabis Japanese Troupe [Cabinet Card]

Notes: During the 1890s, the Okabis Japanese Troupe toured the United States as a Vaudeville act, performing in resorts, and as featured attractions in larger circuses. The group, frequently reported in the press as 12 in number, was known for tumbling, rope walking, dancing, and aerial acrobatics, and most especially for its child performers, pictured here. Based on press reports, the three children shown here are likely "Myosha", "Hanna", and "Oero", the star of the show, who performed death-defying aerial stunts.

According to the newspapers of the era, the Okabis Troupe toured the US starting in 1892, with consistent notices of their performances to at least 1899. They were likely seen by more Americans than any other Japanese people at the time. Whether they stayed in the US or ultimately returned to Japan is not clear.

Eisenmann, the leading photographer of circus acts in New York, took at least three photographs of the Okabis and these images were probably sold as souvenirs at their performances. The correct name of the troupe is somewhat in doubt. There are cabinet cards on Eisenman mounts labeled both Okabis and Okabe's. Some newspapers even Irished the name to O'Kabe. They were also referred to as Prince Okabe's Circus, the Royal Japanese Troupe, and the Japanese Circus.

This albumen silver print measures 5-7/16 by 3-11/16 inches, on a stiff mount, printed in gilt, with gilt edges and a sculpted left side. The verso (back) of the mount is blank.

A note on names: The Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle (2 July 1892), states that the troupe had two boys, Myosha and Ero, and one girl, Hanna. Advertising in 1893 consistently mentions a girl, Oero, and her acrobatics. The similarity of Ero and Oero suggests that the newspaper got the gender of one of the performers wrong. Myosha is not a Japanese name, nor is Hanna.

Edition + Condition: Minor foxing to image, else a nice, high contrast photograph on a fine mount.

Publication: New York: Eisenmann Photo Artist, (ca. 1892).

Item No: #307179

Price: $500