When New Yorkers paid their $1 admission price to enter St. John’s Hall swordon November 11, 1817, they were prepared to be amazed. And amazed they were, by an Indian juggler Ramo Sammee (also known as Senna Samma or Samaa because to Americans all Indian names sound alike).

What New Yorkers witnessed that day was not just another juggling act; no, Ramo stupefied the spectators by swallowing a sword. Now Indian street performers had been swallowing swords for centuries — along with climbing ropes into mid-air and staring down cobras –but this was a first for this continent. Sword swallowing in this country presented its own kind of danger as demonstrated later that month by the announcement that Ramo would be swallowing a new sword of American manufacture as “a substitute for the one lately stolen from him by some villain.”

Ramo continued to swallow that sword and others, gaining a certain fame, until his death in 1850. Live by the sword . . .

Those who followed Ramo, particularly in this country, sought to distinguish themselves with longer swords, multiple swords, hot swords, cutlasses, bayonets and even glowing neon Star-Wars swords.

The Sword Swallowers Association International (yes, there is one) reports that there are fewer than a dozen professional sword swallowers actively performing today. That led the association to create World Sword Swallowers Day (yes, there is one) “to honor and celebrate these courageous and daring performers” and to bring together dozens of amateurs and professional for a sword swallowing extravaganza. The celebrations help raise funds for the Injured Sword Swallowers Relief Fund (yes, there are injuries).

And occasional deaths. But — mea culpa for misleading you — Ramo Sammee did not die by the sword.

Inspiration for 11/11/16



4 thoughts on “November 11, 1817: If You Believe That You’ll Swallow Anything

  1. I presume they are a good source of iron, but how many calories are there in the typical sword?

    And when is World Sword Swallowers Day?

    Not that I am seriously considering joining the SSAI.

    1. Really low calorie, I’d guess. World Sword Swallowers Day is the last day in February (still plenty of time to make reservations). According to the SSAI, it is timed to coincide with the final day of National Swallowing Disorders Month.

  2. I had to reply that this photograph somehow was the perfect symbol for how I felt after this particular election. Congratulations on your timing.

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