ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Queen of the Air: Leitzel's Love & Tragedy

Updated on June 10, 2015
Leitzel - Queen of the Air
Leitzel - Queen of the Air | Source

A true circus story: Leitzel, love & tragedy

It was 1927 and the acknowledged queen of the circus, Leitzel, was performing her astonishing circus aerialist act high in the air at the new arena at Madison Square Garden. The vast and adoring crowd didn't notice the man dressed in worn circus workman's overalls who hovered below.

They hadn't noticed when, before the star had started her act, the same man had climbed to her domain in the sky and checked her equipment; her trapeze and her steel aerialists' rings.

He was invisible because to them, he was just another of the busy circus work drones who kept the wheels turning for the greatest show on earth. Wasn't he? No.

He was Alfredo Codona

His name, and that of Leitzel, might not be familiar to us today but had we been around in the first two decades of the twentieth century, we would definitely know them. Just as she was the queen of circus performers, Alfredo was the king. He was known as the greatest trapeze flyer of the day.

He was the only performer who could execute the most dangerous of all circus feats, known as the Triple or the Salto Morte.

But Leitzel meant more to him than life itself. Every time she did her performance, which can truly be described as 'death-defying' as she used no safety net, he prowled the ground below, determined that should she fall, he would catch her and save her life.


The couple had first fallen in love when they were young teenagers, appearing on the same circus bill in 1909. They had been forced by the circus life to go their own ways but now, all these years later, they were reunited in New York. The flame was still alive.

Not only were they the king and queen of the entertainment world of the day, they were also astonishingly attractive - what were once called 'pin-ups'. What did their future hold?

You'll love this book from the very first paragraph

Even without the story of Leitzel and Alfredo, this book would still be a fascinating account of world that is now forgotten - the world of the travelling circus, the freak shows, the astonishing lives and terrible tragedies.

The story starts with Leitzel's mother, then a twelve year old from Silesia, who was part of a raggedy circus touring the wilds of the Carpathian Mountains. But don't let the word 'circus' deceive you.

The little troupe was composed of the boss (a Scotsman in his thirties), two younger children, one wooden wagon and one horse.

As the tiny band travelled through Poland and Czechoslovakia the inevitable happened and the illegitimate Leiztel was born before her mother was thirteen years old...

The circus world

The world of entertainment has changed dramatically since the days of Leitzel.

In those days, the circus was something truly mystical and dangerous.People didn't have the entertainment options that we have today and a visit to the circus was indeed an exciting event.

It was dangerous for the performers in a way that we can't imagine today. Take for example the case of Nik Wallenda. From the famous circus family of high wire performers, in recent years he crossed the Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

The television company that was filming it insisted that he wear a safety harness. Nik was disgusted. His family had never used any sort of safety devices, including nets.

There had been several tragedies in the family when performers had fallen (including his famous great grandfather, Karl Wallenda) and had been killed.

But the traditional circus eschewed the use of anything that made their performances safer, as Leitzel's story shows.

Also recommended

See too these highly recommended books.

Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010
Circus and the City: New York, 1793-2010
I have always been fascinated by the circus. My grandfather travelled with funfairs so it's likely that the travelling entertainment world is in my blood.It's hard for us to understand today that at one time, the circus - and circus acts - were the most popular entertainment of the day. This book is a wonderful way of learning more.
Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line
Balance: A Story of Faith, Family, and Life on the Line
Although the popularity of the circus has declined considerably, there's one famous family that keeps up the traditional family business.Karl Wallenda was twenty three when he and his troupe were added to the same bill as Leitzel and Alfredo (to the latter's disgust). Today, Karl's great-grandson (and other members of the Wallenda family) maintain the tradition.

Amazingly, footage from the 1920s is still available of both Leitzel and Alfredo.

See genuine images

Click thumbnail to view full-size

© 2014 Jackie Jackson


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)