Circus Ring of Fame Wheel Plaque

The Zacchinis

Inducted into the Ring of Fame: 1990

Circus Profession: Human Cannonball

Zacchini Brothers Circus Ring Of Fame Foundation inductees

Zacchini brothers From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Edmondo and Hugo Zacchini circa 1960-1970


Edmondo Zacchini (1894–1981) and Hugo Zacchini (1898–1975) were circus
entertainers. They were the sons of Ildebrando Zacchini (1868–1948)
and came from a large Italian family residing primarily in Tampa , Florida .
Although they were not the first men to perform the human cannonball act, nor
the only, they quickly became well known for their doings. As well as being
human cannonballs, the brothers were also wire walkers, tumblers, trapeze
artists and riders. Throughout the years, the Zacchini Brothers worked with
various traveling circus companies including Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey Circus . Their show was often referred to as The Greatest Show on
Earth [1] and was considered to be a “continental sensation”. [2]

Both brothers played significant roles in the show. Hugo, the younger of the
two brothers, was deemed the ” human cannonball “; [3] he actively
participated in the act more regularly than his brother. Edmondo was the
brains behind the act. He had studied mechanical engineering [4] and worked
tirelessly to perfect the cannon and protect those using it. Calculations
were made to ensure the safety of those flying; sometimes, the cannon had to
be readjusted in the performance city. Much of the calculation testing
consisted of trial and error. Air pressure and windiness were factors that
effected the projectile of the cannon.

Although the cannon could be adjusted to account for these factors, there was no way to guarantee a safe flight.
Edmondo and Hugo both suffered various injuries throughout the years. Edmondo
broke his leg five times as a result of the act and had to have many
surgeries. After the fifth break, he resorted to becoming the guy to press
the button while Hugo shot out of the cannon. Hugo also suffered from a back
injury after nearly missing the landing net. [5] Being a human cannonball is
deemed the most dangerous profession. However, throughout all of their
performing years, no one ever fully missed the net. While performing such a
dangerous, yet thrilling, act, the Zacchini Brothers made considerable amount
of money during their shows. One of their reported earnings for a show was

[6] When the United States got involved in World War II , many of
the Zacchini’s were either drafted or signed up for volunteer work to help
the war effort. Neither brother could imagine a world without human
cannonballs. Edmondo and Hugo turned to their female family members and asked
them to continue their work. The girls began training in their backyard and
carried on the human cannonball act that the Zacchini’s were so famous for.
After the War, the Zacchini Brothers and their brothers all split up to
become a part of different shows. [7]