The World’s Greatest Cyclist: Frances Dainty & Co.
A 1926 advertisement described the Frances Dainty & Co. act as “the World’s Greatest Cyclists in Extraordinary Feats of Cycle Riding and Balancing. Whirling, twirling, twisting, turning, circling, cyclists in a whirlwind of thrills, quicker than shots from a rapid fire gun.” Three generations — Albert, Cyril, and Francis Geer — traveled throughout the United States, Europe and Asia performing daring feats, “defying all power of gravitation,” with bicycles and ladders atop a slack wire. (Slack wire differs from tight wire in that the stretched wire is “slack” or tension-less.)
Albert Geer started the touring act; Cyril was born to Albert and wife Hannah in 1895. Cyril continued the act after Albert’s death in 1922, traveling with his first wife Fern [Keesling], and later performing with his second wife Lyda. Cyril and Fern’s son Francis was born on tour in 1917. Cyril retired from performing in 1960 at the age of 65, and died in 1981. In the early years, Cyril often dressed as a girl during the act, but later his costume consisted of full top hat and tails.
When not on tour, the adventurous family resided in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood, where they occupied the same residence at 795 Coe from 1886 until 1999. When the family home was put up for sale, Francis Geer’s daughter donated a large collection of the Frances Dainty & Co. material that was housed in the attic and basement, including the traveling bicycle trunk, juggling clubs, banners, costumes, promotional photographs and fliers, and film of Cyril Geer performing his slack wire act at his Victorian family home.
Several weeks after the collection was donated, a museum volunteer happened to spot more Frances Dainty material at an antique shop in San Carlos. These additional items included another trunk, banners, sheet music to accompany the act, rolls of admission tickets, and more promotional material. A portion of the collection is displayed below, along with the film of Cyril Geer.