Rare, original, Fernand Martin The Mysterious Ball, mechanical tin lithographed windup toy from 1906. This toy was inspired by a real life act (La Sphere Mysterieuse) performed by Leon LaRoche on a 30 foot spiral track at the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1905.
The legendary circus impresario P.T. Barnum built his reputation by trumpeting unusual acts. Famed circus performer Leon LaRoche, prominently featured in the poster (right), promised just such a spectacle. Leon LaRoche performed with Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1895 through the early 1900s. Hidden inside a human-sized sphere, LaRoche scaled a 30-foot-high spiral track. Billing him as the "La Sphere Mysterieuse" ("The Mysterious Ball"), the Barnum and Bailey Circus capitalized on LaRoche's French connection to highlight the exotic quality of the "audacious triumph."
Martin toys are very rare and this is
certainly the most complex toy produced by Martin.
The toy works well and when the string in pulled, the ball rolls down the spiral to the bottom. The string is then released and the ball slowly travels back up the spiral to the top where it opens to reveal the performer inside. This is a unique and complex action, especially for a 106 year old toy. Watch it in action here. Measures 13.5" high. This will make a wonderful addition to your collection.
Condition: Very good to excellent (wear to ball exterior)
References: Automata and Mechanical Toys, Mary Hillier