Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Jul-Aug), 1958. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Not all illustrations are included. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.
Among the events for which the village was responsible was the launching of a fully equipped one-ring circus. About 1869 a man by the name of George Boss moved to the village with his family. He was formerly connected with a large circus as a clown. He brought with him a large quantity of circus material. For a year or two he gathered more until he had a fully equipped outfit including tents, bond wagons, instruments, uniforms and parade cars. He employed painters, sign writers and decorators all one winter, working on wagons and cars. He interested local capital, hired his troupe of actors and band, and in the spring of 1871 gave his first show in this village to a packed house under the name of "The Old G. Boss Circus."
The show started at once to tour other towns of the county. After a short time the local men who had helped him financially withdrew their money, compelling Boss to sell his circus. It was merged with other smaller shows and taken over by a large corporation.
The majority of readers of The Bandwagon, and circus fans I am sure have never seen a Billing Order, or Freight Tariff of Local Rates for movement of a circus. The exact copy on a letterhead of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad for movement of Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus over their line is shown below.
Note the number of cars that year was 95 (ninety-five), including 3 (three) Advertising Cars. The cost today would be far in excess of the figures shown here as freight rates for movement of circus trains were increased at least seven times since 1920.
Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co.
September 9, 1920
Billing Order No. A-6011
Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows.
You are authorized to bill from points shown below the above circus company composed of Forty-two flats, Twenty-four coaches, Twenty-six stock, and three Advertising Cars in advance of the circus, total ninety-five cars, to be furnished by the circus company, with, not to exceed 1200 persons, who will travel with the circus. All in excess of 1200 persons to pay regular passenger fare.
When cars used by the circus company occupy the railroad company's tracks at any point for a longer period than forty-eight (48) hours, a track rental charge will be assessed at the rate of ($1.00) per car per day or fraction thereof, plus 8 per cent war tax on all cars remaining at any exhibition point longer than forty-eight (48) hours following the first seven (7) AM after arrival, Sunday excluded. When rental charges accrue no further movement will be made until such charges are paid. Rental charges thus accruing should be reported to the Auditor of Receipts, and not to the Car Service Association. No mileage or per them will be allowed on these cars.
The track rental charge referred to above will apply on the Advertising Cars in advance of the circus, as well as on the cars in the circus train.
The movement to be made as follows:
To be received empty from the Missouri Pacific Railroad at Memphis, Tenn., October 9th, 1920.
Leave Memphis about mid-night, October 9th, and run to Nashville, Tenn. Leave Nashville about mid-night, October 11th, and run to Decatur, Ala.
Leave Decatur about mid-night, October 12th, and run to Birmingham, Ala., there, to be delivered to the Southern Railway.
For this service the railroad company will charge the following amounts, payment to be made to the Agents of the railroad company at points named below, before movement.
To the Agent at Memphis, Tenn., $2161.03 plus $64.83 war tax.
To the Agent at Nashville, Tenn., $1105.00 plus $33.15 war tax.
To the Agent at Decatur, Ala., $876.50 plus $26.30 war tax.
The above charges include transportation of not exceeding 1200 persons. This billing order expires with movement.
Please be governed accordingly.
Issued by E. A. deFuniak,
General Freight Agent, Louisville, Ky.
Circus has arrived. Everybody is a youngster this afternoon.
Big Sparks Shows make their first visit to Canada.. Canadian officials favorably impressed after inspecting the creditable aggregation at Tonawanda, N.Y. Two performances to be given on Recreation Park.
It's all here today, the circus with its red lemonade, toy balloons, fat girl and living skeleton, lions, tigers, barking seals, six big elephants, and everything.
The first section of the Sparks circus train reached the city early this morning and was detrained at the Grand Trunk depot.
Before even the early riser had enjoyed breakfast, the show was on the lot and the big tents were going up in the air in Recreation Park. First erected was the dining room and cook house where 300 employees were fed their first meal from 8 to 9 o'clock. Then the four stables were put up and filled with as fine specimens of work and draft horses ever seen here.
The side show with its' freaks and novelties, the menagerie where seals barked, lions roared and tigers snarled all day, with monkey family chattering from time to time, to be in the running, and the big main exhibition tent seating 3,500 people went up in order named.
The Sparks circus comes to Brantford an entire stranger, but the crowd out to the show grounds all day gained a very favorable impression of the show from not only the bright attractive looks of the outfit but from the conduct of every attache. The working men were orderly, indulged in no loud talk or profane language and answered questions civilly. Major Smith, the press agent of the show, states that while new to Canada the Sparks circus is one of the best known popular amusement institutions of the States, ranking third in size on the list of travelling shows. Its winter home is in North Carolina and it left winter quarters early in April. Since then it has visited seven states and will be in Canada 6 weeks. The circus performance is given in 2 rings and elevated platform, and the program is so arranged that the feature acts are worked singly giving all a chance to see and enjoy them.
The show is now in its thirty-sixth season and has played every section of the States during this time. Canadian officials, according to Major Smith, who saw the show at North Tonawanda and inspected the outfit pronounced it the neatest and cleanest circus they had ever seen. It is up to the show people today to make good with the public.
The Sparks Circus parade this morning has done much to establish the show as one of merit. It was on the main streets promptly on time, was of good length and as bright and attractive street display as one would wish to see.
It presented the usual display of gold and gilted dens, many of them open, giving the onlookers a fine view of the wild animals, a section of good looking young women, riding coal black horses and wearing becoming costumes of red. Three tandem teams attracted the most attention of any feature in the long line. The main band heading the parade neatly uniformed and riding atop a big red and gold tableau wagon playing real music and there was a colored band that jazzed jazzily farther down the line. The clowns also had a band that burlesqued the late popular airs. Elephants, camels and the calliope brought up the rear and the operator surprised everybody by his rendition of the Maple Leaf Forever. Wild West cowboys and cowgirls, spurred and chapped, struck terror to the youthful mind, and the seals that frollicked in a big tank of water, attracted more than passing notice.
The Sparks management was more than liberal with its use of the National colors, flags displayed on every cage and the outriders carrying handsome banners. The show has every indication of being worthwhile and if it is as good as the parade will be well worth seeing.
As I set here and go through my Circus album, of the days when I was with the Worlds Greatest Show, what memories it brings back. I was young then and always curious about show folks. I wondered what kind of people they were, where they came from, what became of them in the winter time, etc. Those were some of the questions I kept asking myself. I made up my mind that some day I would join the Circus and find out.
My chance came when I was in Minneapolis, Minn., back in 1911. I was looking for a job and as luck would have it, the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Wild West, was showing there. I joined up and stayed until we hit Fort Worth, Texas. It was fall and Ringling's were billed then for the following week, so I stayed over and joined them. I got a job with the side show. Besides helping to put up the side show top and hammering down stakes, at night two other fellows and I had to bed down three hugh snakes, each about 10 feet long. This was in a fancy glass tableau.
During the parades these snakes were exhibited with a pretty girl in tights and spangles. Being late in the season the snakes caught a bad cold and died. When the show closed, I went along to winter quarters at Baraboo, Wisconsin. I worked in the wagon shops that winter, painting and gilding those gaudy carvings on tableaus, cages, etc. A real nice experience.
In the spring of 1912 we pulled out for the summer tour, opening at the Coliseum in Chicago, Ill. As a wardrobe man from then on I began seeing and meeting the elite of the circus world.
Miss Lillian Lietzel was one of them, a very nice person to know. I had the honor of taking quite a few pictures of her. I especially remember how we would stand at the back door where we could get a glimpse of her, and watch and count as she did her great specialty, giant one hand body loops. We would count aloud as she tried to equal or better her record. Everything stopped, all we could hear was the roll and beat of the drum (and what an enormous drum it was).
Yes, I can se her now as she bowed to the thunderous applause. Her private prop man and a maid would escort her to the back door. The curtains would be drawn and the show would go on. I still can see her, out of sight of the audience, as she lay against any handy prop, immediately outside the back door, exhausted and limp. After a rest of perhaps 10 minutes, she would continue to her private tent on the arm of her maid.
Stars are known to be temperamental. Miss Lietzel had her moments, which brings to mind the time she posed for me along side of a horse that did tricks without saddle or bridle. To get the horse to look alert and prick up its ears, the cowboy owner put a large sock on a long stick and at the proper moment, as I snapped the picture, he waved the bag high in the air. The noise of the shutter on my Garflex camera caused the horse to slightly rise with his front feet and in alighting, partially stepped on one of Miss Lietzel's feet.
Feeling sympathetic, I asked her if it hurt. I guess it did, because she let loose in a burst of anger, calling me something not too pleasant, for asking such a foolish question. I walked away dismayed having a few thoughts of my own. However, about 20 minutes after she sent for me, and told me that she was sorry that she lost her temper, inquiring at the same time about how soon she could see the pictures. That was Lillian Lietzel, one of the worlds' grandest troupers.
Mr. George Hartzell, the Millionaire Clown (that's how he was billed), which I never found out if he was a real millionaire, was another famous personage. He used to get loads of publicity throughout the country. He was always in great demand at Masonic gatherings. His wife, Mrs. Hartzell, was in charge of the ladies' wardrobe department. A gracious, gray-haired, motherly lady, I recall how many of us used to have her keep our savings, so we would have a nest egg at the close of the season. She would do it on condition that we would not ask for any money until the season was over.
I used to stop and talk to the eldest of the little dwarfs in the evenings between shows. He told how he used to suffer from rheumatism. Andrew, who liked to smoke a big pipe, had a wife of normal size. We used to kid him about his 3 year old baby. The fellows used to tell him that his baby was bigger than he.
I also recall how someone got an idea of matching him to a boxing bout with another dwarf, who was in the same troupe. It was fixed to go on the fourth of July. All of this for the amusement of the show folks. Daily bulletins were posted in the dressing rooms by the opposing sides, and of course, the little wagers. They had the little fellows quite scared of each other as they were supposed to be training in secret, etc. However, as it turned out they didn't hurt each other, and it was a draw.
Yes, all during the season on the road, we would have a lot of interest stirred up in such things as our baseball team playing a town team; hundred yard dashes between the performers; cowboys who would apply for jobs would be tried out on a bucking broncho between the tents and wagons. Sometimes the bronchos and cowboys would keep on going, down some side road in a cloud of dust, with everybody after them trying to steer them back on the lot.
One of the things that comes to mind is how, as wardrobe men, there was always from seven to eleven of us (eleven was when we were fully staffed), as part of our duties we had to place banners on all the cages before parade. They had to be placed in position as soon as the cages were pulled out of the menagerie tent. If done so inside of the tent, the staffs would not clear the tent and would be broken off. Most of the time, once the wagons got in motion, those drivers seldom stopped for us.
It was a bit of acrobatic work to climb up on those rumbling monsters, while on the go on rough ground. It was the same thing over again when the wagons returned from parade. Go down the street and climb on, remove the banners from the sockets before the wagons reached the menagerie. It was a risky bit of work.
Each driver and helper of all parade wagons were furnished uniforms. These uniforms were delivered to each wagon from our wardrobe tent in time to line up for parade. Each wardrobe man was assigned to a certain number of wagons. It was our duty to see that the uniform got to those drivers and back again to the wardrobe department after each parade and in good condition. The drivers used to wear these over their other clothes. Also, there were fancy plumes, one to each horse that would adjust to the bridles. We couldn't get to each driver in time as they dismounted and unhooked the teams, most of the time we would have to locate the wagons, tableaus, etc., the uniforms and plumes would most likely be on the wagon tongues.
I recall that we had two sets of costumes for parade and spec. New costumes for good weather, and old costumes from the years before, in rain. If the weather was doubtful, rainy, murky, etc., in other words, we took no chances of getting the new wardrobe wet. Many times before spec. especially at evening shows, if it looked like a storm was coming up, we would wait until the proper moment, just before the bugle would sound, to give the signal to change to old wardrobe. What a headache that was. Since all new wardrobe was layed out on tables in the dressing rooms ready to be grabbed by the anxious wearer, we, the wardrobe staff, would automatically repack the wardrobe in trunks, remove the trunks full of old wardrobe from wagons, haul them in their places behind tables in the dressing room and unload them into the anxious hands of the wearers.
The spec. took an average time of about 40 minutes, those were the days when we had about 60 ballet girls, and the spec. Joan of Arc, Cinderella, etc. In the larger cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, etc. we would use the new wardrobe regardless.
However, many times we showed in downpours, either with old or new costumes. That's when we suffered for the next week waiting for a nice lot and sunny week-end so we could lay out those clothes to dry and clean. The ballet girls had change of clothes. These costumes generally was sent to the cleaner in the cities on our tour ahead, but the rest we had to clean and press, band uniforms, ticket sellers, etc.
Most of the time we carried a compliment of two tailors for keeping all clothes in good repair. Also for sewing patches on the big top each morning before the tents went up. I remember how tense everything was some mornings when several hundred men stood poised to raise the big top, while one or two, what looked so lonely, tailors (sailors as they were called), were out on the vast sea of canvas, all laced and ready to raise, stitching away, putting patches where they would do the most good. Suddenly there would be a chorus of shrill whistles from the several canvas bosses, loud shouting and cheering, and in no time up would rise that big hunk of cloth.
May I say here that being a wardrobe man was pretty well down on the payroll scale. So, to compensate for this lowly pay rate, I did many side chores about which I will tell you.
Of all the things it was washing tights and other clothes for a number of top flight performers. That is - men performers. All the equipment that was needed was a tub, washboard, soap, and some muscles. This went on for a couple of seasons, until some other character took this off my hands. (Being somewhat of an artist), I was asked many times by total strangers if there was a tatooer on the show? These strangers would first inquire at the front - the side show that is; and then would wander over the show-lot. That's when I was urged by my fellow worker's to try my hand at it. I started practicing with needles (No. 16 size) tied on a small stick, on guess who, my fellow workers.
I got to be quite proficient, just with initials and a 2 hearts, etc. Tatooing means puncturing the skin, and means drawing blood. That's the part I didn't like. However, I got up confidence especially when strangers came and begged me.
I eventually bought a professional outfit consisting of electric tatooing machine run by a six large dry cell batteries.
One experience was with another fellow who was taking care of horses. We both put in two winters in winter quarters at Baraboo, Wis. He was a room-mate of mine and he was determined to become a tatooed man and join a side show. So, I started by working on a battleship on his whole chest. Each time as the sections (lines and colors) would heal up, I would add more. That boy was a martyr-man how he would suffer. Butterflies on his knees, dancing girls on his arms, etc. One time while on the road, I used old No. 8 tab for my workshop; it was one of the wardrobe wagons. Two of the ballet girls insisted I tattoo their initials on their arms above the elbow. I tried to convince them that it was not lady-like but to no avail. An hour after, they came to me and wanted the work removed, because the costume they wore would not cover the tattooing up, and the Ballet Master was mad. Tattooing really wasn't for me. I haven't a tattoo mark on me.
I discovered that I could take and finish my own pictures, by a unique method, of my own camera.
I bought a Graflex camera and took pictures of anyone and everyone from Charley Ringling, to the clowns, to the horses.
Wagon No. 8, a tableau wagon, was my dark room - I developed my own pictures - was the photographer for all the people on the show.
While on the Ringling Show, I used the name of John Heck, but was nicknamed "101" by my pals because I came off the 101 Wild West Show.
Isaac A. Van Amburgh, was a native of Fishkill, N.Y., and as his name would indicate of German extraction. He made his first appearance as a “Lion King” at the Zoological Institute, nearly opposite the old Bowery Theatre, New York and at once achieved great notoriety, bring the intrepid beast-subduer abundant inducements to go abroad. Throughout Great Britain and France he made a marked triumph and was honored with imperial patronage. In London, Van Amburgh had several melodramas written for him, and he starred with his ferocious pets to remunerative financial results.
The second performance of Van Amburgh before Queen Victoria at the Drury Lane Theatre resulted in receipts amounting to 712 pounds, 17 shillings, 6 d, being the largest amount ever received at that establishment on any one occasion. Returning to America Van Amburgh toured his native country extensively many years. This brief sketch can do but scant justice to one whose adventures and experiences would fill a volume and live in legend and story as one of the foremost and long-to-be-remembered and honored American showmen. I. A. Van Amburgh died November 29, 1865.
1775 - Hachaliah Bailey, Somers, New York, born __.
1779 - Thaddeus Crane born Dec. 31.
1783 - John Titus born.
1784 - John Miller of Northampton County, Pa., born.
1785 - Jess Smith born September 5.
1790 - Aaron Turner born in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
1791 - Gerard Crane Born January 3. February 17, Lewis June born. He married Betsy Hunt. He was the uncle of John J., James M., and Stebbins B. June.
1796 - April 22, Nathan A. Howes born. April 13, Capt. Jacob Crowninshield imported a young female Indian elephant which was sold to __ Owen, who exhibited her from Massachusetts to South Carolina for many years.
1797 - Epenetus Howe born October 24.
1798 - April 4, Caleb Sutton Angevine born.
1800? - Dec. 11, Lewis B. Titus born.
1802 - Hachaliah Bailey licensed by Excise Commissioners of Stephentown, Westchester County, N. Y., to keep an inn or tavern.
1808 - (or before) Hachaliah Bailey acquired a young female African elephant (Old Bet) from his brother, a sea captain. Aug. 13, Hachaliah Bailey entered into an agreement with Andrew Brown and Benjamin Lent for "the use of the elephant for one year."
1809 - Aug. 15, Hachaliah Bailey entered into an agreement with Benjamin Lent for the use of "a certain beast or animal called an elephant." Dec. 9, Cyrus A. Cady and John E. Russell sold "Nero the Royal Tiger and Cage" to Benjamin Lent. James M. June, brother of John J. and Stebbins B. June, born.
1810 - Orrin Townsend born; he became an elephant trainer. (Albert Townsend, a cousin of Hyatt Frost, also was an elephant trainer.) July 5, P. T. Barnum born at Bethel, Connecticut.
1811 - Nathan A. Howes reputed to have walked a tight rope at Haviland Hollow, Westchester County, N. Y. __ Stebbins B. June born.
1814 - March 1, Richard Sands born. Sept. 18, Avery Smith, son of Jess Smith, born in North Salem, New York.
1815 - August 15, Seth Benedict Howes born.
1816 - June 1, Aaron Turner's son, Napoleon B., born in Kent, N.Y. July 26, the Bailey elephant, Old Bet, shot to death at Alfred, Maine.
1818 - Oct. 29, George Fox Bailey born. Became manager of Turner's circus and married Turner's daughter Ann.
1820 - Aaron Turner's son, Timothy V. born.
1821 - Feb. 12, John Miller sold wild animals, two wagons, horses, harness, two English organs, a bass drum, and Italian cymbal, advertising cuts, etc., to Thaddeus and Gerard Crane. Reputed date of Isaac A. Van Amburgh's first employment in a menagerie. He eventually become famous as a "Lion Tamer."
1823 - Beginning June 2, seven year old Napoleon Turner rode and vaulted in Price and Simpson's circus, New York City. This is presumably the date of his debut as a circus performer. The date of the entry of his father into the circus business has not been ascertained.
1825 - Hachaliah Bailey, reputedly erected the Elephant Hotel in Somers, New York.
1826 - Howes & Turner's Circus reputed to have begun exhibiting under a full top canvas or "Bigtop."
1827 - R e p u t e d date of Hachaliah Bailey's retirement from show business. Reputed date of erection of monument to Old Bet in front of Elephant Inn by Hachaliah Bailey. James E. Kelley born at Carmel, Putnam County, New York.
1830 - August 2, John Miller died in Hanover township, Northampton Co., Pa. "Our Borrough has lost in him one of the most enterprising improvers and citizens."
1831 - May 25, Robert B. Angevin (sic) applied for permission to erect a circus house and theatre in Detroit.
1831 - Nathan A. Howes, probably in partnership with others, is reputed to have crossed the Alleghanies with a menagerie and continued on to Mobile, Ala., where his brothers Malchus and Daniel had located and embarked in business. The route of the menagerie has not been ascertained.
1834 - March 5, Isaac A. Van Amburgh rented a building in New York City (probably 37 Bowery). June, Titus, Angevine & Co's. National Menagerie toured. Accompanying the menagerie was a side show containing "a large collection of wax figures and an Anaconda." The year when they first began business has not been ascertained. Oct. 4, Thaddeus and Gerard Crane, Jess Smith and Lewis B. Titus took a lease on New York property in behalf of a proposed joint stock company to be named the Zoological Institute. Oct. 31, in behalf of the Zoological Institute, Lewis B. Titus obtained an assignment of Van Amburgh's lease. Dec. 1, the Biological Institute, containing Van Amburgh's Menagerie, began exhibitions at 37 Bowery and continued until April 4, 1835.
1835 - Jan. 14, the Article of Association for the formation of the joint stock company entitled the Zoological Institute were signed at Somers, New York. The company was a consolidation of nine menageries, namely, those of June, Titus, Angevine & Co., Raymond and Ogden, Lewis Bailey & Co., Purdy, Welch & Co., J. R. and W. Howe Junior & Co., Rilley, Raymond & Co., Mead, Miller & Co., Kelley, Berry, and Waring, and Ganong and Strang & Co. The dates in which these menagerie firms were originally formed has not been ascertained. There were 128 signers of the Articles of Association. The animals owned by the joint stock company were allocated to various divisions and sent on tour. Some or all of these divisions presented performances as well as animals. This continued for an undetermined number of years. The date of dissolution of the company has not been ascertained.
1836 - P. T. Barnum was employed for about six months as treasurer of Aaron Turner's Circus.
1838 - Nov. 22, Titus, Angevine & Co., began circus performances in the Bowery Amphitheatre, 37 Bowery, New York City. Napoleon and Timothy Turner were among the riders. Isaac A. Van Amburgh exhibited his powers as a wild animal trainer in Great Britain.
1839 - Issac A. Van Amburgh continued his travels and exhibitions in Europe.
1840 - July 14, Sands & Howe applied for a circus license in Detroit.
1842 - Sands & Lent took a circus to England and toured there for five years. Enoch C. Yale was manager of the circus during the tour of South East, Putnam County, New York.
1845 - Sept. 2, Hachaliah Bailey died.
1849 - Oct. 16, Thaddeus Crane died.
1851 - Barnum's Asiatic caravan toured several years under Howes & Co's. management.
1853 - Seth B. Howes, Richard Sands, Avery Smith and others erected a hippodrome building in New York City, and brought Franconi's Hippodrome troupe from Paris to perform in the building. Enoch C. Yale was treasurer.
1857 - March 25, Howes & Cushing Circus sailed from New York for Liverpool, with forty-two cream-colored horses, the trained horse "Black Eagle," two trained mules, wagons (including the Apollonicon), performers with their horses, and a troupe of thirteen Indians, tents, etc.
1859 - Caleb S. Angevine died July 19.
1861 - John Titus died Sept. 20. Stebbins B. June died __. James M. June died __.
1864 - Epenetus Howe died on Christmas Day.
1870 - Lewis June died Sept. 20. Lewis B. Titus died Dec. 28.
Editor’s Note: This chronology was furnished us through the kindness of the late George Chindahl's grandson, David L. Greene, of Pass-A-Grille, Florida. This is apparently the last thing George Chindahl was working on, and is therefore incomplete.
When Fred Pfening asked me to do a series of stories on my past circus experiences, I'm sure Fred didn't realize how far back he was taking me in memory lane. As a teen-ager, in my home town of Goshen, Ind., one of my close friends was Chas. Gowing, clarinetist, who spent his summer vacations with Eugene Week's fine band on Gentry Bros.' Dog and Pony Show. It is needless to say Charles was the envy of every red blooded boy in town. Particularly me, for I had long cherished an ambition to eventually troupe with this wonderful show.
This ambition was furthered by my acquaintance with C. S. Primrose, General Agent of the show whom I had met when he was agent of the J. H. LaPearl Show.
I started trouping in 1897 and after I had four seasons behind me, including one with the original Neil Burgess' County Fair Co. in which I played the jockey role, the season of 1901 found me in Chicago, rehearsing in August, in the basement of the abandoned John Alexander Dowie Church on the west side. The show was Fitz & Webster's Eastern, "A Breezy Time," musical comedy and there was very little breeze in that basement in August.
One day I ran into my old friend Primrose on Madison St. and he offered me a position ahead of Gentry Bros.' No. 1 Show for the coming season. This offer was like "manna from heaven" to me and I accepted it hurriedly. I closed with "A Breezy Time" in March and joined Primrose in Little Rock, Ark. where the billing crew was being assembled, although the season opened in Pine Bluff.
At that time Gentry Bros. had four shows of five cars each and the winterquarters and general offices were located in Bloomington, Ind. and H. B. Gentry presided over them with the assistance of Harvey Bruner, accountant. Winterquarters were located on the large Gentry Farm at the edge of the city.
Having purchased the Sipe, Dolman & Blake Dog and Pony Show in 1900, we had only one opposing Dog and Pony Show, the Norris & Rowe which wintered in San Jose, Calif. and seldom invaded the real east. After the purchase of the Sipe, Dolman & Blake Show it was converted into the No. 4 Gentry Bros.' and Roy Feltus was made manager, Col. Frank Robertson, Treasurer, and as near as I can remember, Clint Finney was the agent. Each show carried 60 beautiful Shetlands, 40 dogs, three elephants, two camels, a zebra, and monkeys of all species. Our show (No. 1) even had a trained sheep and a cat. After the daily matinee all children were given free rides on the elephants and ponies in the menagerie which also featured the spacious dog kennel.
In addition to the animal acts, two circus acts that appealed to children were presented. The No. 1 show featured the Yoshami Troupe of Japs (all child performers but one) and the five juggling Normans, club jugglers (four boys and owner, Fred Norman). In lieu of clowns, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Davis were featured in their rube impersonations of "Uncle Hiram and Aunt Lucinda, Mrs. Davis was the only lady on the show. The concert was given by Fred Galletti and his Baboons in "The Monkey Barber Shop."
The staff consisted of W. W. Gentry, Manager; C. S. Primrose, General Agent; S. W. Brisbois, Local Contractor; Lon B. Williams, Press Representative; Lane Siebenthal, Treasurer; Beech Parrot, Band Director: Wink W. Weaver, Equestrian Director; Walter Allen, Asst. Eques. Dr.; Geo. "Pop" Coy, Supt. Big Top; Wm. Carpenter, Supt. Stock; Roy Rush, in charge of dogs; Henry Parker, Supt. of Elephants; and Geo. "Pacer" Tardy, in charge of cage animals. I was promoted to Local Contractor in 1903.
The street parade was five or six blocks in length and was headed by a beautiful band wagon drawn by eight Shetlands. In the parade lineup there were two Tableaux wagons, one carrying the Jap Troupe, and the other a Rube Band; mounted section of riders; many open carriages and traps filled with ribboned dogs; and the steam calliope bringing up the rear. It was presided over by the veteran show boat calliopist of the Ohio River, "Deacon" Albright.
In 1902 the show went west and covered the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and returned to Texas and Arkansas, closing the season in Paragould, Ark. on November 27th in a heavy snow storm.
All Gentry agents were of high calibre and when the shows were sold they went to the top rapidly. Chas. Davis joined Ringling Bros. as legal adjustor; J. D. Newman was General Agent of Barnum & Bailey for several years; Roy M. Feltus went to the Sells-Forepaugh Show and eventually he and Ed Shipp, Eques. Dir. for Sells-Forepaugh, took the Shipp & Feltus Circus to South America.
J. B. (Ben) Austin, managed the Al G. Barnes Show for Ringling Bros. and in partnership with J. D. Newman they purchased the Gentry Bros. title and show (The writer was Gen. Press Rep. in 1917); Lon B. Williams was General Agent for Vernon Seaver's Young Buffalo Show; Clint Finney was General Agent for Miller Bros. 101 Ranch and also was General Agent of the Col. Tim McCoy Wild West.
C. S. Primrose, always theatrically inclined, obtained the road rights for the following New York successes: "Paid in Full," "The Great Divide," and "The House of a Thousand Candles" which the writer managed.
In 1902 we had opposition with the following shows: Norris & Rowe in Helena, Mont.; B. E. Wallace, Ringling Bros. and Buffalo Bill in Des Moines, Iowa; Howe's Great London in Norfolk, Nebraska; Buffalo Bill in Greeley Colo.; Ringling Bros. and Buffalo Bill in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Buffalo Bill in Pueblo, Colo.; Buffalo Bill in Hutchinson in Kansas; Ringling Bros. and Buckskin Bill in McKinney, Texas; Buffalo Bill and Ringling Bros. in Fort Worth, Texas and Buffalo Bill in Waxahachie, Texas.
Walter Allen, Ass't. Equestrian Director and the most versatile man on the show (he could do anything on the show from playing cornet in the band to managing the show) lives in Bloomington, Ind. where he is the city's leading mortician.
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Last modified January 2006.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified January 2006.