Costume Worn by Pansy Chinery
Pansy Chinery (born Frances Murphy in 1879) was an ‘aerialist’ and variety performer. Her career began in the early 1890s when she joined her older sister Adele in a trapeze act called the Zedoras. In 1897 they were touring America with Barnum and Bailey’s famous Circus, ‘the Greatest Show on Earth’, and concluding their performance with a spectacular sequence billed as ‘the flight of Alar the Human Arrow’. Pansy, as Alar, was fired from a giant crossbow positioned high above the audience. She flew through a paper target and was caught by Adele who was hanging by her legs from a trapeze at ‘a distance of 40 feet from the bow’, according to the poster which billed the act, with justification, as ‘a startling novelty’.
Pansy Chinery went on to work in a number of variety acts: Ritz and Ritz (‘Funny and Refined’); Leighton and Lindford, billed as a ‘Teeth Trapeze and Dancing Act’; the Mars Trio (‘Military Gymnastics’); and the Uniques, who gave displays of ladder-balancing. Her speciality was ‘Teeth Spinning’. She would grip the end of a hook in her teeth and hang by it from a trapeze. The hook was designed to turn so that she could revolve above the stage. The publicity leaflets for Ritz and Ritz show a photograph of Pansy ‘teeth spinning’, dressed in a ‘sailor’ jacket and shorts, with dark tights and low-heeled dark shoes. She had several similar outfits. As well as this pink costume, the Theatre Collections has other sailor suits in white and yellow.