Carnival High Striker


The High Striker has been a staple of the traveling Circus and Carnival Midway since the later part of the 19th century. Operators of this Midway attraction would entice potential "marks" by shouting phrases such as: "Step right up!", "Test your strength!", and "Are you a real man or merely a boy?". The Carnies who ran the High Striker knew that the attraction had a strong appeal to individuals in their youth because it offered a display of strength. Young boys and men would (and do) use the High Striker to determine who among them is the strongest.


In the late 19th and early 20th century, some High Striker operators preyed on young men and rigged (or fixed) the High Striker unit to prevent anyone, no matter how strong, from striking the bell. They usually picked a small man (like the operatorís young son pictured in this Tintype) to demonstrate how easy it was to swing the mallet and impact the arm, ringing the bell. Then, when a stronger person (usually a young man in his late teens and early 20s) attempted, they failed. Players attempted the game repeatedly to avoid humiliation - each time paying a fee to the operator. Eventually, the operator would allow that player to ring the bell so as to not discourage others from attempting.


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