CeDora. Or Ce’Dora, or C’Dora.  Everyone on the Vaudeville circuit had a stage name, and young Greek immigrant Agnes Theodore chose a homophone of her given name as the character for her death-defying motorcycle act in the early 1900s.  CeDora rode into history as the first woman to perform in a Globe of Death, and her fame continued even after she retired, as her stage name was used for two generations, when another young woman, Eleanore Seufert, took over as CeDora, riding the Globe of Death through the 1930s.

Agnes Theodore in a charming publicity photo from 1917, with the 1908 Indian single she rode for most of her career, signed ‘Ce Dora – Girl in the Golden Globe’.  Apparently her theatrical costume of frilly shorts provided as much excitement for Edwardian audiences as her riding skills! [The Vintagent Archive]
The original Globe of Death riders were bicyclists, and a first patent for a ‘Bicyclist’s Globe’ was granted in 1904 to Arthur Rosenthal of Grand Rapids, Michigan. However, carnival historian A.W. Stencell (‘Seeing Is Believing: America’s Side Shows’) notes the first Globe of Death act was probably created by Thomas Eck in 1903, using a bicycle ridden at around 6mph within a 16′ sphere – that tilted as he rode.  Rosenthal’s 1904 patent claims “certain new and useful improvements in Bicyclists Globes”, which means they already existed, and were a sensation worth developing.  It was Rosenthal who designed the steel-latticed globe that has been the pattern of construction for Globes of Death ever since, and allows riders to reach sufficient speed for horizontal and loop-the-loop riding in relative safety, or at least stability.  Arthur Rosenthal had his own Globe act, and teamed up with Frank Lemon as “Rose and Lemon,” a trick bicycle and motorcycle duo, who performed in the globe as the climax of their act, as a display of skill and virtuosity that was viscerally thrilling to watch.

The 1904 patent drawing for “certain new and useful improvements in Bicyclists Globes”, by Arthur Rosenthal, half of the ‘Rose and Lemon’ bicycle/motorcycle stunt act.  This patent laid the pattern for all Globes to come, although it was quickly copied by acts in Europe. [US Patent Office]
News of the Globe of Death spread quickly, with several other performers adopting the novelty act, such as Italian daredevil Guido Consi, who rode his “Sphere of Fear” in Rome in 1913, and by 1915 a Brazilian crew rode in New York City as “Cedero and his Golden Globe.”  Cedero’s globe was used back in South America for decades, and was discovered around 1970 in El Salvador by the Urias brothers, (who had their own Globe since 1912), who use it to this day. The popularity of traveling stunt acts in a nationwide carnival circuit cannot be overestimated: there was no television or regular radio broadcasting at the time, so live performances were wildly popular, and profitable, and early stunt bicyclists and motorcyclists earned a reasonable income.  Carnival life was not for everyone, though, as plying the Vaudeville circuit meant a never-ending travel schedule, and risking one’s life several times per day.  The life of a ‘carny’ remains a unique lifestyle, as the obituary for the second CeDora attests.

Agnes Theodore began her Globe of Death career as a bicyclist sometime in the ‘Noughts, with her husband Charles Hadfield as a co-rider, stuntman, and manager.  Hadfield was a bicycle race promoter who saw the potential of this new act, which they originally called the Golden Globe, a 16’ diameter steel sphere made of woven strip steel and a tubular steel frame. The earliest CeDora exhibition posters (from 1905?) show her riding a bicycle exclusively, alongside a male rider, presumably her husband Charles.

Yet another variation on the name: Ce’Dora, ‘The Most Daring Girl on Earth’.  This time Agnes Theodore is pictured prominently with a motorcycle, that looks very much like a c.1903 Motosacoche, which according to The Motocycle News she brought with her from Europe. [The Vintagent Archive]
Later posters (from 1906/7?) show CeDora with a motorcycle, which according to The Motocycle News (April 1909) she had brought with her from Europe (presumably when she emigrated to the USA), which looks to be a c.1903 Motosacoche.  It was natural that experienced bicyclists should include the new motorized bicycles in their stunt acts.  So it seems with Agnes, who was originally depicted as C’Dora or CeDora on a bicycle in a Globe, but in 1908 she and her husband purchased a specially built Indian single-cylinder ‘motocycle’, which several sources claim was one of six built at the Hendee Manufacturing Co. specially for stunt riding.  Thus from 1909 onwards we see Agnes aboard a single-cylinder Indian of unique configuration, with a small ‘torpedo’ tank, similar to but smaller than on their first racing models. Also, the chassis uses an additional brace from the seat tube to the rear axle, for additional stability.

Agnes Theodore, the original CeDora, bought a special Indian single-cylinder motorcycle in 1908, as seen in this photo from ‘The Motocycle News’ of April 1909. Note the brace over the rear wheel, and the tiny ‘torpedo’ tank. [The Vintagent Archive]
The Indian ‘Motocycle’ company made considerable publicity from CeDora’s use of their product in her famous act, claiming in the April 1909 factory organ The Motocycle News that “there have been four performers in the world who have looped the Globe of Death on motocycles: all used Indians, and non have ever been injured.  C’Dora, whose picture appears [here], is now appearing at the New York Hippodrome.  She brought a foreign machine to this country with her, but got an Indian as soon as she could.  It never fails her.  Other performers have been using Indian for over two years, both in this country and abroad, and to its reliability they owe their lives.”

The 1908 Indian single used by CeDora still exists, and was recently exhibited at the QAGoMA in Melbourne during  ‘The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire’. [QAGoMA: ‘The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire’, Charles M. Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle, Phaidon 2020]
The use of Indian ‘motocycles’ (they switched to ‘motorcycles’ by 1929) became standard for stunt riders, and continues to the present day.  In 1914, the original Wall of Death riders used Indian twins, some taken directly off the board tracks for maximum speed around large diameter Walls (see our exclusive ‘Race for Life’ article).  And twenty years after Indian produced these six stunt cycles, the 101 Scout model proved to have perfect balance: with a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, low center of gravity, perfectly stable handling, modest weight, and utter reliability.  Most Walls of Death still include vintage 101s in their act as an homage to the many decades they were the standard for the industry: they’re certainly still the most stylish of stunt motorcycles.

CeDora the second: the vivacious 16-year old Eleanore Seufert in 1929.  Her father – a friend of Charles Hadfield through bicycle racing – ‘volunteered’ her to replace Agnes Theodore, despite the fact she’d never ridden a bicycle!  But she proved well up for the job, and carried on through the 1930s. [Christopher Seufert ]
Anges Theodore rode the Globe for over 20 years, and retired from carny life (or at least stunt performing) in 1929.  Her retirement left her husband Charles without a star attraction for his Golden Globe, so he sought a new girl to act as CeDora: enter 16-year old Eleanore Seufert. Eleanore “grew up in Newark NJ, and her older brother was a seven-day bicycle racer, managed by her father. In those days, the marathon bike races would take place in velodromes across the nation and venues like Madison Square Garden. Eleanore’s father knew a race promoter named Charles Hadfield, whose wife was the original CeDora. When she retired, Hadfield asked around for a new CeDora. Eleanore was volunteered by her father, even though she had never been on a bicycle. “The story she told – and maybe it was embellished over the years – was that her brother took her up to the top of Eagle Rock Avenue and sent her down with no brakes,” said Eleanore’s oldest daughter, Barbara Belanger. “That’s how she learned how to ride.” But it was her natural athleticism that helped her conquer the globe. “She would start in small circles and build up to where she was going fast enough to go upside down,” said Belanger. “I’m sure it took a lot of strength and endurance.” It was a stunt, but not without danger. She fell a number of times in the globe, and her best friend, an aerialist with the show, was killed in a fall.” [From ‘The Unconventional Life of a Supermom‘, 2008, NJ.com].  Wysocki traveled the East Coast as CeDora for 11 years, riding both bicycles and motorcycles, and apparently relished the freedom the life of a carny offered to a young woman.

CeDora and Charles Hatfield’s Globe of Death in 1909, in Brockton MA. Charles is standing in the globe as Agnes rides in vertical loops on her Indian. [David Gaylin, ‘The Wall of Death: Carnival Motordromes’, Arcadia Publishing, 2017]
Old Vaudeville props that make money have a forever life in the world of carnys.  The 3-ton steel globe built by Charles Hadfield passed through many hands: after WW2 it was used by ‘Speedy’ Wilson’s Globe of Death act right through the 1960s, and was later acquired by the Jordan Family, who use it to this day.  The design is almost identical to the vintage Globe currently used by the Urias family, which dates back to 1915, and was built by ‘Cederos’ of Brazil.  CeDora’s 1908 Indian, seen above, has passed through various collections, and is in beautifully restored condition.  It is the only survivor of this type of factory-special stunt motocycle, and was recently seen at the exhibit ‘The Motorcycle: Design/Art/Desire’ in Queensland.

The Urias Brothers’ Globe of Death, captured on ‘wet plate’ at Sears Point Raceway in August 2019, in a pair of tintypes, by the MotoTintype team of Susan McLaughlin and Paul d’Orleans. [MotoTintype]
The Globe of Death is still as death-defying and thrilling an act as it was in 1904, although safety is more of an issue today, as safety equipment has improved beyond all measure compared to the Edwardian-era satin theatrical costume with a pair of silk tights, and little else. The acts are wilder, faster, and more spectacular today, with hydraulic lifts, split globes, lighting effects, and a multitude of riders simultaneously spinning inside, to dizzying effect.  If you get the chance, go see for yourself … and remember CeDora.


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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