Friday, September 11, 2009

Sword Swallowing in Maine

In a random way I happened upon a great website, the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame. The page lists a wide range of sources and information about historic and current sword swallowers, and lists their purpose to exist as "the Internet's most comprehensive list of sword swallowers past and present." Looks good to me!

Among the sword swallowers listed is a certain Professor A.J. Pierce, a.k.a Albert J. Pierce, a Victorian-era sword swallower who appears to have lived in New York City, though he comes to our attention because of a show that occurred in 1905 on Harlow Street in Bangor, Maine:
Professor A.J. Pierce, Albert J. Pierce
Performed 1905, Died May 30, 1909?
Bangor, Maine / New York, NY (USA)

Professor A.J. Pierce was the star sword swallower of a show run for several days out of a vacant storefront on Harlow Street in Bangor Maine in 1905. "He runs swords and small saws and scissors and bayonets down his throat until it seems that it must slash his vitals; but he gets through all right and smiles at the frightened spectators."

"He chews and swallows glass, eats hot pitch and rosin and sealing wax, swallows tacks and does other stunts that cause the observer to wonder what his insides are composed of. ... He finished his stunt by swallowing about 16 inches of a snake," wrote a reporter for the Bangor Daily News on Nov. 11, 1905.

Pierce performed with two other colleagues who performed similar feats of daring. LaCrosse, the Human Stone Crusher, let people break stones on his stomach with a sledgehammer, while Madame LaMonte, the Hindoo rope juggler, freed herself after being bound in 50 feet of hemp. The show took place in East Market Square (near where City Hall is today) in what the reporter referred to facetiously as "the tenderloin," a reference to urban neighborhoods known for vice and graft.

The show was operated by Professor H.H. Perkins, a scholar of bizarre amusements like his partner Professor Pierce. An article in the New York Times dated May 30, 1909 states, "Albert J. Pierce of No. 2076 Lexington Avenue, a sword swallower, is in Harlem Hospital in serious condition. While doing his usual stunt in a Fourteenth-street show last night, the sword got too deep and cut the lining of his stomach. Dr. Cassini of the hospital says he is suffering from a gastric hemmorhage." Seeking photos and more information.

[Source, with link to 1909 article]
The Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame is seeking further information about this sword swallower, including photos, which you can e-mail to them via research[at] If you have any info for them, or would like to share any other info about performers in Maine history, please feel free to post a comment or contact us!


Anonymous said...

Shocking how he died.

Swords said...

I will never attempt to swallow a sword, too dangerous.

Stoned Magician said...

My name is Nicholas Penney know world wide as "The Stoned Magician". I am a sword swallower! So is my sister Lora Rae. We were born and raised here in Maine, the capitol city actually.
We are history's only full-blooded sword swallower's.