Posted on 07/16/2015

Photo taken on July  1, 1916

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Luella Wells
Al Wells
Husband and wife act
African Americans
Vintage Costumes
Appeared in vaudeville
Wire Walkers
'Comedy' Acrobats
Trapeze Artists
Performed in the Mamie Smith Revue

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Photo replaced on July 25, 2015
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Wells and Wells

Wells and Wells
Indianapolis Freeman Newspaper (July 1, 1916), publicity photo of Wells and Wells in costume as they appeared in the theater; George W Brown, Photographer

Al Wells, was a pioneer African American aerialist, he was among a score of blacks trouping with circuses in the 1920s. He was born in West Virginia and was taught the art of walking the tight wire by members of a circus troupe, who became interested in him. The young Wells was an apt pupil and soon received a regular job. His first appearances were with Connie Calls and Sutton and Jackson's 10 and 20 Cent Wagon Circus that trouped the Ohio Valley, covering the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. No longer an amateur, he performed nightly on the horizontal bar and trapeze like a veteran. Later he joined the Rich Brothers, a white group, with which he performed a clown act. About this time, he decided to take on a partner who later became his wife.

While working in a hotel in New York City, Mr. Wells taught his wife acrobatics at the St. Cyprian's Gymnasium during his off-duty hours. For about a year and a half, she was put through an intense course of training. At the end of this time, she was ready and the couple began performing together. On January 11, 1910, the act received an engagement in Madison Square Garden, New York, and made history by being the first black aerial act to work in New York City. Mrs. Luella Wells was at the time the first black woman to do a "flying break-away" with a 25 ft. drop without a net.

Al Wells was also a manager for Alexander Tolliver's Big Show and Smart Set Co. The couple also appeared in stage plays in the theater.

Info: Blacks in Blackface: A Sourcebook on Early Black Musical Shows, Vol. 2 by Henry T. Sampson