Bandwagon, Vol. 5, No. 5 (Sep-Oct-Nov), 1961. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Not all illustrations are included. Scroll down for the article you are looking for in this issue. 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.
He was a master at drawing grinning clowns, yet he preferred taking the role of a Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang for himself. He gave us the word Ubangi and made everyone aware of Gargantua. He was skilled in drawing the full, open style of lettering and pictorials that leaped out from newspaper pages or proved readable even when viewed in 12-sheet size from a speeding car at half a block. His art might be wreathed in scrollwork and sesquipedalianism, yet it never was subdued, never unnoticed. Neither was Roland Butler.
Photo: Roland Butler
The son of a Massachusetts newspaper man, Butler worked around the New Bedford Standard-Times when he was 14. At 18 in 1905, he moved to Boston and The Globe. Taking on outside work as well, he provided the portrait that adorned the label of a patent medicine produced by a doctor who also operated a burlesque theater that was the sort of wry twist he loved. He moved among the several Boston papers and put in a short stint with a St. Louis newspaper. On that trip he met his wife-to-be, but before long they were back in Boston. He worked for the papers as an artist and had side accounts with Klaw & Erlanger to do the publicity material for their road companies in vaudeville. Then Charlie Sparks hired him to do a herald for the Sparks Circus.
That was 1919. His newspaper career was about at an end. He had not quite completed his patent medicine phase, since he still was to do the artwork on the box for Father John's Medicine. But his circus era was underway. He did another herald job for Sparks in 1920 and the next season he left Boston and the newsrooms to take full-time work as press agent of the Sparks Circus. Ads of that time reflect the Butler style that continued more than 30 years. And he launched early into the art of helping pictures along. If they don't show things right, fix them up until they do. Thus it was that when Butler saw some girls peeking under the canvas wall at a tennis match, he took their picture and later "converted" that tennis canvas into circus sidewall. It made a dandy shot that was used in Sparks program booklets and publicity for years.
Although the picture and other art stayed, Butler didn't. In 1923 he moved to the Ringling-Barnum show as contracting press agent. He held that post until 1926, when Charles Ringling's death caused a lot of upset. Butler returned to Sparks for a couple of seasons. By 1929 John Ringling had made his point, that Butler had been Brother Charlie's man before, and now John could hire him on his own. Butler came to Ringling for John in 1929. Sparks had been sold out from under the press agent and everyone else on the show, so changes were in order. This time with Ringling he became head of the press department. Working with him most of the time were such top-notch men as Dexter Follows and Frank Butler.
These were years of great Ringling importations and features. Butler's art and his department's copy served to make the Great Wallendas a household name, made the country conscious of human cannonballs named Zacchini, and let no one overlook the presence of Tom Mix on Ringling's Sells Floto unit. Newspaper ads of Ringling shows took on the familiar eye-catching and readable style of art that Butler perfected. His work graced the covers of Ringling-Barnum program booklets, and he drew a cover for Hagenbeck-Wallace that showed Clyde Beatty in action. More Butler art became circus posters. Among his creations was a classy window card used in 1933 and another for 1936. These had portraits of the Ringlings and in the latter year include Barnum and Bailey. The card was a beauty and was done with the dignity that won it places in windows of banks, jewelry stores and other tough spots for circus bills to make.
It was Butler who named the Ubangi platter-lip women, although they apparently came from some other part of Africa and no one had heard of Ubangi until then. When the circus got giraffe-necked women, it was Butler who named them and drew their pictures. He had a hand in publicizing Goliath the sea elephant, and that served as a warm-up for the Gargantua matter.
Ringling got the gorilla when it was in bad need of a new feature. Butler took over and made Gargantua the second-best ballyhooed circus animal - second only to Jumbo. There was a teaser campaign with bills reading only "The Terror Is Coming." There were excellent stories about the gorilla. But no one thing did more to publicize Gargantua than Butler's masterful poster showing the giant gorilla roaring through the high grass and tossing natives left and right. "The world's most terrifying living creature," as Butler's department called the ape, also became the best promoted feature of years.
Butler's skill in sketching clowns gave us a series of beautiful covers on Ringling programs, but none of this mirth seemed to rub off on the artist. He was known on bill cars, in newsrooms and back on the show for fantastic ability and predisposition to swear. Anyone who stands out above printers, billposters, editors, and roustabouts for his skillful cussing is bound to be among the most proficient. Butler's vocabulary came full scale in all of the categories - obscene, profane, or what-have-you.
With this went a temper that was likely to flare any time. He didn't hesitate to dress down a city editor from whom he would next ask for favors in publicity. He was cynical and cutting to the point that he apparently knew how Gargantua must feel along such lines, too. Yet he could sideline the cynicism long enough to carry off pixie-like publicity stunts on behalf of the circus. There were those who suspected that Butler's gruff ways at least began as an act, a role he played to the limit, perhaps to the point that it became his natural way.
Butler and some other long-time Ringling people left the show for the seasons of 1945, 1946 and 1947. In that time he was on Russell Bros. Pan-Pacific Circus, and then stalled with a publicity firm in Florida until the call came for him to return to Ringling-Barnum in 1948. These were times of stormy Ringling wrangling. Staffers came and went with increasing rapidity. Butler stayed until 1954. It was a good time to leave. Dissension mounted and it culminated in the closing of the Ringling circus as a tented attraction. Butler looked in on the old job one time, but didn't like what he saw and went back home to Palmetto, Florida.
Through the years Butler had admired the work of predecessor press agents. He thrilled at nothing so much as a rip-roaring rat sheet done by an old-timer like Charles H. Day. Over the years, Butler was always an artist but he liked to fancy himself as a bill-writer, the man who wrote the circus ads and heralds. And he acquired a mass of old circus bills. In retirement he began selling these items to collectors.
Since his early newspaper days, Butler had been accustomed to taking on free-lance work. Through the years he did many such art assignments, several of them for circuses, he said. But in late years he complained that it was Ringling - only Ringling - that never paid him for extra-duty art chores. The show counted this as part of his regular job; Butler considered it extra, and not necessarily gratis.
This skill with the sketch-pad, airbrush and tiger-drawing was not to be left idle. Now many show people came to him for art work. He did a letterhead for Woodcock's Elephants, another for the Circus Historical Society, then some for Beers-Barnes Circus. Soon he was doing letter-paper, tickets, and new posters for the Clyde Beatty Circus. Carson & Barnes has a Butler letterhead. And there are more.
Considering his Sparks heralds, his multiplicity of circus program covers, his array of lithographs for several shows, his series of letterheads and similar work, it may be that he has left a greater mark, a wider trail across the mass of circus printed matter than any other individual. No student of show history can ever be unaware that Roland Butler was in the field.
Once I suggested to him that The Billboard would like to do a feature about his creations for shows in the past three or four years. Butler roared back that he'd go along with the idea but that it would have to be faked in order to mean much. I disagreed, but the story idea was dropped.
Later, about the time Wallace Bros. Circus came out with a new Butler letterhead, I wrote again, saying now the story was a natural and Amusement Business wanted it. Butler reacted like his Gargantua. He would have no part of it and declared we were poking fun at what he felt was inferior artwork done since his eyesight began to fail. That wasn't the case, of course. The art was typical Butler and sure-enough circus. Though the story idea was dead again, it was a treat to see Butler in his hey-rube character again, full of fight and profanity.
But that was the last of the Butler roar we heard. He died October 27.
B. L. "Bernie" Wallace, long identified with the Hagenback-Wallace Show, accepted the position of Treasurer in the 1918 Coop & Lent Circus. As one of the very earliest motorized shows, the Coop & Lent Circus offered a fine opportunity to Mr. Wallace of observing the operation of a circus moved by motor truck.
Moving a show the size of Coop & Lent by truck created many problems and, actually, was, without question, the reason the show closed at an early date. It came to a halt on August 2, 1918, in Dover, Ohio. Owners, R. M. Harvey and the Horne Bros., of Kansas City, Missouri, reportedly planned to reframe the show in order to move it. The Billboard, at that time, reported that it might be called "Wallace Circus" when it reopened. The article further stated that B. L. "Bernie" Wallace had purchased part of the equipment, leading to the speculation of using the Wallace title. (Further reference on the Coop & Lent Circus may be found in Joe Bradbury's article in the May-June, 1959, issue of the Bandwagon.)
It is not known where Mr. Wallace was employed during the 1919 or 1920 seasons. However, on August 1, 1920, the B. L. Wallace Greater Shows incorporated under the State laws of Indiana for a total of $100,000 capital. The officers were B. L. Wallace, President, of Peru, Indiana; J. Howell, Treasurer, of Indianapolis, Indiana; C. W. Rollinson, Secretary, of Indianapolis, Indiana, and the corporate office was in Indianapolis. The organization issued a 6-page prospectus outlining plans for operating what would be an old-fashioned, one-ring circus, The prospectus stated that the show planned to use 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 ton trucks. All trucks were to be underloaded and no trailers were to be used. One truck would be equipped as an up-to-date machine shop and one to carry duplicate parts to repairs could be made easily on the grounds or in transit.
The prospectus continued, "So in offering the stock to the public, Mr. Wallace is not only offering a good, safe investment, but is offering his unparalleled experience as a circus man for something over 27 years with the best and most successful circus on the road."
The first notice of the new show to appear in the Billboard was in the issue of February 19, 1921, under the heading "New Circus Chooses Indiana Quarters." The article stated: "B. L. Wallace Greater Shows Company was lately incorporated for $100,000.00. Several prominent citizens of Kokomo are announced as being interested in the company. Mr. Wallace stated that the new show will be of the old-time, one-ring circus variety, fully equipped and will travel by motor trucks, which are to have sufficient power to assist into town any of the other trucks which might become disabled in route. No trailers are to be carried. Feature will be trained animals, equal to any seen on the larger shows. Mr. Wallace is well known from his coast-to-coast long connection with the Hagenback-Wallace Show during the time it was under the management of his uncle, B. E. Wallace of Peru, Indiana."
The March 12th Billboard stated, in reference to the Wallace Greater Shows: "The No. 2 advance wagon is out of the paint shop. It is a 1 ½ on truck with heavy carved mirrors. The show will use No. 1 and No. 2 trucks for the advance. Additions signed for the Big Show are Clark Boynton and his Canine Circus; Suzenette and Clark, cannonball juggling and contortion act. The Big Show will also feature a 6-brother act."
"Ray Dick will have the No. 1 and No. 2 side shows. Chief William Barnett and wife in a zulu act, with a museum of zulu warrior relics, will be a feature of the side show. The Wallace Show will be new from stake bands up. An innovation in lighting has been perfected whereby the trucks will generate the current to light the show. Two of the principal stockholders of this show are Mr. J. W. and E. W. Graham who have had daughters in show business for a number of years."
On March 19 the Billboard reported: "The B. L. Wallace Show is taking definite shape. All baggage trucks are under construction. People now contracted include: Alton Troupe of aerialists; Bill Cadle, Pit Show Manager; George L. Evans, banner soliciter; G. E. Maudlin, Wagonmaster; Prof. Bronson will have an 18-piece big show band. Side show will have 10-piece colored band and minstrel company. Ed Hines is the steward."
The April 9 Billboard stated that the B. L. Wallace Show would open in its winterquarters town of Kokomo, Indiana, on May 6 and 7. Additional people signed for the show included Robert McDaniels, contracting agent; Glen Golding, driver of the advertising car No. 2; W. O. Tarkington, General Agent; F. M. Farrell, Assistant Side Show Manager.
Actually, Mr. Farrell had been contracted in March. It is interesting to note that much of the material that appears in this article originated with Mr. Farrell. Frank M. Farrell, a former member of the Circus Historical Society, had been identified throughout his life as a well known magician and side show lecturer. He also did a Punch and Judy act and has appeared with many, many shows. Mr. Farrell was an active camera fan and recorded his stays with many of the shows throughout the years. The photographs that appear with this article were taken by Mr. Farrell.
The May 4 issue of the Kokomo Daily Tribune stated: "The motor circus is ready, will open season here Friday. Gives list of performers."
"The B. L. Wallace Greater Shows, the motor truck circus which has been organized and equipped here in Kokomo, will open its season Friday. Its big top is up on the north city's grounds, west of Washington Street and just north of Wildcat Creek. All of the equipment is new, bright and attractive.
"The management today announced the following list of performers: Suzette and Clark, cannonball performance and wire acts; the Clacks, combination of aerialists; the Bell Bros., acrobats and sensationalists in hand balancing; Boynton's troupe of dogs, remarkable collection of canine performers; the McMillauans, equilibrists, late of Barnum & Bailey; Jerry, the Dog with the human brain; Harris and Reed, horizontal bar performers; Sam Rooney Bennett, Fred Delmar, John Lancaster and the Four Comiquers, a stellar aggregation of clowns."
"The show will exhibit here Friday and Saturday and will start their road season. All of the equipment will be moved from city to city by motor trucks - specially constructed for the purpose. For the next two weeks or more, the Show will be in cities in the Northeastern part of the state."
The May 7 issue of the Kokomo Daily Tribune reported as follows: "Wallace Shows please two big crowds Friday, novel motorized amusement enterprises condenses 3-ring circus into one, has 15 varied acts." Continuing, the Kokomo paper stated: "Expanding the old-fashioned, one-ring circus into a 3-ring circus with the aim of making it three times better works out much the same principle as controls the operation of these new-fangled carburetors which are supposed to save 1/3 the gasoline - put three on your car and you won't need gas at all. It just doesn't work, that's all."
"This rule, as far as applies to the circus, was exemplified when the Wallace Greater Shows gave their premiere and second performance in this city yesterday afternoon and evening, respectively. Aside from the fact that the show is a Kokomo institution, folks went toward the big top with the sole aim of finding that kind of amusement which children of all ages expect to find when they hear the magic announcement 'There's a circus in town.’ “ There are any number of shows that they might have gone to and been disappointed. If anyone was disappointed by the Wallace Greater Shows, he hasn't made himself known yet." The article continues reviewing the show and commenting on the various acts, favorably in all cases.
The article continues to say: "Eugene and James W. Graham are two well known Kokomo men who are closely identified with the Wallace Greater Shows."
Although the early route cards state 40 trucks were carried, later on the No. 8 route card, it was reduced to 30 trucks. However, it is very doubtful that this number of units were with the show. More likely than not, actually there were probably about 20 units. However, it must be remembered that they were all straight trucks and no trailers were used. The May 21 issue of the Billboard stated that the show had opened in Kokomo to two pleasing crowds and that it would travel on 20 big auto trucks. The June 1 issue of the Billboard stated that the show was using a 90' round top with one 30' middle and one 40' middle. This same Billboard note advised that the Lathans, aerial novelty artists, were new in the big show program, but there was no comment about the size of the crowds or the general financial condition of the show after five weeks of operation.
On May 30 the show played Fulton, Indiana, and the after notice in the Fulton paper was very favorable. It stated as follows: "A fair house was had in the afternoon, due to a baseball game called at 3:00, but, at night, a splendid crowd attended and had a jolly evening. The show is clean and good and pleased all. The children were enthusiastic over trained dogs and both big and little laughed at the clowns and their antics. The aerialist artist did fine work and all the trapeze performances were applauded frequently. Messrs. B. L. Wallace and Graham are giving the public a good, clean one-ring show and setting the pace for this kind of amusement. They are courteous gentlemen, fair and square and honorable in their dealings." The article continued to say that Bernie Wallace appeared at the front door taking tickets and, for a moment, carried the town people back to the days of the Great Wallace Shows and saw again "Uncle Ben" saying "Howdy" to his many friends and acquaintances.
The July 9 issue of the Billboard advises that the B. L. Wallace Show was now in its 8th week and had experienced several wind and rain storms, but did not lose a stand. The Alton family joined at Washington, Indiana, and Fred Belmont continues as the press representative.
After opening May 6 in Kokomo, the show played a number of stands in the northern part of Indiana and swung over for a few days in the latter part of June to Illinois. The show returned to Indiana at Owensville on July 5.
Trouble began to develop for the Show early in July. The No. 8 route card states that the show would play Mt. Vernon, Indiana, July 11; Howell, July 12; Newburg, July 13; Booneville, July 14; Rockport, July 15, and Lincoln City, July 16. However, the route obviously was changed as the Billboard of July 23 advised that a receiver had been appointed in Evansville, Indiana, on July 13. In checking with Karl Knecht, who contacted Evansville Attorney, Henry B. Walker, who acted as receiver for the Wallace Shows, the writer was advised that the B. L. Wallace Show did go into receivership in Evansville, Indiana. The July 21 Billboard note continues to say that: Judge Robert J. Tracewell of Vanderburg County Superior Court on Monday appointed Mr. Walker, a local attorney, as receiver of the Greater B. L. Wallace Shows that are stationed this week at a local park. The suit for receivership was brought by John Lancaster, a clown, employed by the show. The receiver will continue operation of the show at the park for the week."
Although a number of years have past, when recently contacted Judge Tracewell advised that as best he could remember his decision was not to close the show, but to allow it to operate on the road in order to pay at least part of the debts.
However, there is no record indicating that the show did continue after closing in Evansville on approximately July 11, 12 or 13. The only known full route on record indicates Evansville as the last stand on July 11.
The writer is unable to locate any information concerning the disposition of the equipment on the show. It is not believed that any of the equipment used initially on the B. L. Wallace Circus came from another show and there is no evidence to indicate that it was, in turn, sold to be used on another truck show of the early 1920's.
Newspaper ads or lithographs from this show are not in any known collections. However, a souvenir program issued for the opening stand in Kokomo, Indiana, was located in the Chalmers Condon collection. The prospectus mentioned earlier in this article also is from the Condon collection. The program was principally advertising and was a promotion for the opening stand. It would not appear to have been used at any of the other stands throughout the season.
Although there is no definite reference as to why the B. L. Wallace Show closed, it is assumed that, as yet, the theory of properly operating a truck show had not yet been perfected.
The R. T. Richards show, organized and operated in 1917 by Richard T. Ringling, was short lived, as was the previously mentioned Coop & Lent Show in 1918. It will be remembered, however, that the R. T. Richards Show was actually a combination overland mud show and trucks, as very large railroad wagons were pulled overland by the trucks. The records do indicate that the R. T. Richards Show lasted longer and played a greater number of days than either the Coop & Lent Show or certainly the B. L. Wallace Show.
There is not too much in the records concerning the activities of Bernie Wallace following the close of the show. He was the son of John, brother of Ben. He had been with his Uncle for many years as Treasurer and in other staff positions on the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Greater Wallace Shows. B. L. Wallace was born in 1869 and died in 1931. He lived most of his life in Peru, Indiana.
The writer is particularly appreciative of the help from Joe Bradbury, Chalmer Condon and Dick Conover in preparing this article. If any Bandwagon readers have additional information on the B. L. Wallace Show, particularly concerning the disposition of the equipment or the later activities of Mr. Wallace, please communicate with the writer.
Route of B. L. Wallace Year 1921
May 6 - Kokomo, Indiana
May 7 - Kokomo, Indiana
May 9 - Greentown
May 10 - Converse
May 11 - Wabash
May 12 - No. Manchester
May 13 - S. Whitley
May 14 - Columbia City
May 16 - Churubusco
May 17 - Auburn
May 18 - Kendallville
May 19 - Albion
May 20 - Ligonier
May 21 - Syracuse
May 23 - Bremen
May 24 - Walkerton
May 25 - Knox
May 26 - No. Judson
May 27 - Culver
May 28 - Winamac
May 30 - Fulton
May 31 - Royal Center
June 1 - Montecello
June 2 - Remington
June 3 - Goodland
June 4 - Kentland
June 6 - Oxford
June 7 - Attica
June 8 - Covington
June 9 - Veedersburg
June 10 - Montezuma
June 13 - Ladoga
June 14 - Greencastle
June 15 - Cloverdale
June 16 - Gosport
June 17 - Spencer
June 18 - Worthington
June 20 - Linton
June 21 - Bloomfield
June 22 - Elnora
June 23 - Odon
June 24 - Loogoote
June 25 - Washington
June 27 - Bicknell
June 28 - Wheatland
June 29 - Lawrenceville, Ill.
June 30 - Bridgeport
July 1 - St. Francisville
July 2 - Mt. Carmel
July 4 - Grayville
July 5 - Owensville, Indiana
July 6 - Princeton
July 7 - Ft. Branch
July 8 - Poseyville
July 9 - New Harmony
July 11 - Evansville
The wagon pictured in the following photos is one of the famous old parade wagons associated with many of the better known circuses of the past. During its long history it was remodeled on several occasions, however, its basic appearance remained the same. The origin of the wagon is somewhat obscure. Richard E. Conover has accumulated the most data on its early history that is available and I would strongly recommend his publication, The Telescoping Tableaus, and his article "The European Influence on the American Circus Parade" in the July-August issue of Bandwagon this year for the early history of this wagon. Conover refers to an 1879 issue of the N. Y. Clipper which mentions Adam Forepaugh importing two more British parade wagons. Conover has well documented earlier wagons Forepaugh imported and he is of the opinion that the wagon covered in this article could very well have been one of the two wagons mentioned in the Clipper story. I fully agree with his theory because certainly the wagon construction, wheels, gears, etc., are similar to other wagons known to have come from England. In its original form this wagon was a three tiered vehicle with four oval mirrors in the lower deck. (See Photo No. 1). In the above mentioned Conover article in the last issue of Bandwagon, Photo No. 9 shows the wagon in the Adam Forepaugh parade of 1888.
The three decker wagon was on the Forepaugh show until it was sold, along with another tableau wagon commonly called the Lion and Mirror, to Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows in the fall of 1890. It was then rebuilt by Moeller Bros. of Baraboo. The top deck was removed and heavier wheels with outside type sunbursts were added, however it is possible the wheels could have been added earlier. The wagon then served on Ringling Bros. through the 90's and until about 1902. Photo No. 2 from the Trimpey Collection shows the wagon on the Ringling show in 1901.
The wagon next appears on Gollmar Bros. Greatest of American Shows and it is believed the wagon went to that show at the time of, or shortly thereafter, Gollmar went on rails for the 1903 season. It was now rebuilt again, presumably either by Moeller or by Gollmar's own forces. Gollmar did rebuild some of the equipment themselves that they obtained from their cousins, the Ringlings, to convert their show to railroad operation. Anyway the mirrors on the lower deck were somewhat rearranged with one mirror being eliminated so that now the wagon had only 3 mirrors instead of 4 on the lower deck. (See Photo No. 3). Inside type sunburst wheels also appeared on the rebuilt wagon. The wagon then remained on the Gollmar show through the 1916 season where it was used as the No. 2 Bandwagon in parade, and then was sold along with the rest of the show to James Patterson, well known operator of carnivals of that day.
In 1917 Patterson put out the James Patterson and Gollmar Bros. Combined Circus using the Gollmar equipment. The two decker wagon was used by Patterson as the sideshow bandwagon as per Photo No. 4. The show was on the road only one season. Just what use if any Patterson made of the wagon in 1918 is not known. Some Gollmar equipment was used on the Great Patterson Shows, his well known carnival of that day, but it is doubtful this particular wagon was put on the show.
In 1919 James Patterson sold the wagon, along with a three diamond mirror tableau (See Photo 2, Page 13, Circus Wagon History File, Nov.-Dec., 1959, issue of Bandwagon) a seal den, and the hippo, Lotus, and her den, to Al G. Barnes, who put it on the circus bearing his name.
Just how long this particular wagon lasted on the Barnes show is not known to this reporter. In the early 20's Barnes was constantly adding and discarding parade equipment. Barnes continued his street parade until mid-season 1924 and conceivably the wagon could have lasted on the show that long. Not too many photos are available that picture this wagon on the Barnes show and it was not until last year that I saw one. Chet Slusser of Porterfield, Calif., well known circus model builder and photo collector who has a knack of digging around old photo shops, etc., and coming up with rarities, provided me with a print showing this wagon on the Barnes show in the early 20's. It was No. 76 and is shown carrying the clown band in parade.
Information on the wagon is now clouded until it definitely appears in 1927 on the short lived Cook & Cole's 3 Ring Circus. This was a 15 car railroad show, traveling on 1 advance, 4 stocks, 6 flats, and 4 sleepers, that was owned by Arthur Hoffman and Leo E. Crook. The show was framed at Omaha, Neb., opened May 21 at Manning, Iowa, and closed June 1 at Fairmont, Minn. The bulk of the equipment used to launch the show came from the ten car, F. J. Taylor Circus of 1925. Other property was leased from Fred Buchanan, Col. W. P. Hall, and the Venice Transportation Co., and Billboard stories of the time say that the owners had also acquired property from other sources. Just how the ex Barnes two decker tableau, plus a Barnes ticket wagon got to the show is not definitely known, however the best guess is that it came either from the Beggs Wagon Co. or the Horne's Zoological Garden Co., both of Kansas City and dealers in circus equipment of that day. It is not believed this particular wagon was on the F. J. Taylor Circus of 1925 but I am unable to prove definitely whether it was or was not there. A lot of old property was renovated to get the Cook & Cole show to rolling and in the show's obituary, Leo Crook states that he dropped 30 G's of his own money, the bulk of which was used to renovate the Taylor equipment in Omaha causing the show to start out with no bankroll.
Photo No. 5 is an interesting one and the only photo I know of in existence anyplace of the Cook & Cole Circus. This photo from the Hertzberg Circus Collection of the San Antonio Public Library was evidently taken sometime after the show closed and it is my opinion was taken of wagons parked at Fairmont. The ten cars of Taylor property went back to Omaha and for years was advertised for sale in the Billboard by the Taylor family. Just recently the Circus World Museum of Baraboo picked up an old Taylor bandwagon which proved the old, old rumor of many years that Taylor wagons were in the Omaha area. An equally old rumor has had it for years that old Cook & Cole wagons were stored in Fairmont, Minn., but to date none have turned up. I think it is safe to assume that those at Fairmont have rotted away including the old tableau wagon that had turned so many parade miles on the Forepaugh, Ringling, Gollmar, Patterson-Gollmar, Al G. Barnes, and Cook & Cole Shows.
My thanks go to Dick Conover and Col. W. H. Woodcock for their help in preparing this article, however, let me point out that some of my conclusions do not necessarily reflect their own opinions, however, I think on most points we are in complete agreement.
Following my visit to RBBB at Madison Square Garden in April of this year and taking notes on the wagons still being used (The Bandwagon, May-June, 1961), 1 wasn't content until I could visit the Bob Dietch Kiddie Zoo in Fairlawn, N.J., to find out first hand just what wagons and cages were still in existence. This story is a report of that visit.
Located on N.J. Route No. 208 and only about two miles from the N.J. Parkway is probably the most varied collection of animals, both wild and domestic, that I have ever seen in a privately owned zoo. Located on several acres of ground, this enterprise is fronted by a park full of kiddie rides and concession stands. To get to the zoo, the customers must pay a small fee but what they get for their money is really something worthwhile. Here is a conglomeration of pens, stalls, barns, cages and ponds filled with just about any type of animal worth seeing. Following the paths toward the back end, you finally emerge in a grove of trees where the Ringling cages are on display. Surrounding the whole area is a train with reproduction of old cars that carry passengers for a small fee.
Mr. Dietch has surrounded himself with quite a staff that includes two former Ringling hands, Chas. Ackerman and L. M. "Red" Harsh, formerly with the train department. Also home based here are two wild life units that take to the road in semi units and are extremely well painted. I'm sorry to say that the same can't be said of the Ringling wagons.
Following the demise of the rail show in 1956, the Ringling management evidently felt that the menagerie and sideshow were a must in New York and so a part of the menagerie was sent to the Pawtucket, R.I., Zoo where it remained for two years. Since that time they have been located at their present location which is only a matter of minutes from downtown New York. Each Spring for the Garden engagement the wagons are loaded on lowboy trailers and trucked across the Hudson River to 47th St. and 8th Ave. The following listing has every piece of Ringling equipment that is based here at the present time.
No. 10 - 14' baggage wagon that is now used to store the sideshow props and stages used in N.Y. This wagon is painted red but has no number or title and is beginning to deteriorate badly. Here is one that should be saved for it dates back to the early 1930's, having been built on the Barnes show by Red Forbes. This is one of the very few remaining Barnes wagons.
No. .. - Baggage wagon painted aluminum. Red Harsh said that this one was numbered No. 40 at one time but I find no record of that number being used in recent seasons. I feel that this was one of the Miller Bros. concession dept. wagons, possibly No. 49, the popcorn wagon.
No. 83 - Giraffe den, 18', lowboy painted green and still has pens mounted on side brackets.
No. 82 - Rhino den, 21', painted green.
No. 85 - Hippo den, 21', tank type cage, containing small hippo bought recently by the show to replace the one that died.
No. .. - Cat act cage, 23', painted green, low boy profile. This is either No. 92 or No. 94 and is still used in the Garden for one of the cage acts.
No. 71 - Cage, 12', monkeys and kangaroo; originally a monkey cage.
No. 72 - Cage, 12', lioness with cubs and leopard; originally a tiger cage.
No. 73 - Cage, 12', wolf and tiger; originally jaguar cage.
No. 75 - Cage, 12', lion and lioness; originally lion den.
No. 76 - Cage, 12', baboons and monkeys; originally baboon cage.
No. 78 - Cage, 12', brown bear and three black bears; originally polar bear cage.
No. 79 - Cage, 12', guanaco and kangaroo; originally lion cage.
No. 80 - Cage, 12', lion; originally orangutang cage.
No. 81 - Cage, 12', 2 tigers; originally leopard cage.
This completes the lineup of wagons now being stored here. I say being stored here as I believe that the Show still owns the wagons as when I asked Mr. Dietch as to the ownership he replied that some were his and some were show owned. However, I have recently learned that an agent of the show visited the premises to inventory the equipment.
To get back to the 12' cages for a minute, they are still painted green with the jungle motif still being used on the sky boards and side boards. Joe Bradbury gave me a little background on these particular wagons recently. According to Joe, Bill Yeske built twelve of these short cages during the winter of 1948-49 at Sarasota quarters from war surplus army ordnance 4 wheel trailers. When they first appeared on the show in 1949 they were painted red with the same jungle motif on the boards, but with no trim on the wagon bodies. As you can probably see from this list, only nine of the original twelve are listed. Missing are numbers 70, 74 and 77. Number 70 was converted into the sideshow calliope wagon and at a later date into the sideshow ticket wagon. Just what years these changes were effected is not known to me. No. 74 was a glass enclosed cage and carried chimps for many seasons and No. 77 was either built or rebuilt with a small tank and carried the pygmy hippo. Joe further states that one of these wagons is now in The Circus Hall of Fame but did not recall which one it was.
As to the future of these wagons, we can only hope that somehow, someone will be able to preserve them so that when the time comes for their disposal, they will be able to be removed to a museum and saved for future generations to gaze upon as we today look with admiration at the vehicles of bygone eras.
As to the ownership of the animals, Mr. Dietch stated that Ringling owns the two giraffes, the small hippo and the okapi, all based here, but that the other animals were his property.
The zoo is open on weekends all winter and I would highly recommend to all fans a visit to this last outpost of the rail show era in this section of the country.
Despite rumors, all of the Hugo shows are back in quarters there. They include Kelly-Miller, Famous Cole and Carson & Barnes . . . Barbette, who has produced aerial numbers for Ringling, Cole, Beatty, Polack and Clyde Bros., now is in Hollywood for an assignment on the new movie "Jumbo." . . . The Zoppi-Zavatta Family, which has been working rodeos most of the time in recent seasons, will return to the circus field for full time in 1962.
Vance Hurley, former equestrian director of Kelly-Miller and Famous Cole, now is at the Seminary, 225 Chandler Avenue, Johnstown, Pa., for training to be a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church . . . Circus World Museum's elephant, Bertha, was on the Ed Sullivan TV show, using the new revolving pedestal mechanical prop . . . Pat Anthony will be with Polack again next season.
Dallas Snow's seal act is being offered for winter dates. It finished the season with Wallace Bros. Circus. Jack Smith, who owns the act, was in the Wallace wagon . . . Walter Kernan has signed a number of European acts for use in this country next season . . . Bill Griffith promoted a series of appearances by George Jessell in the Middle West.
Bill English will manage Sells & Gray as a tented circus next season. It will be the third unit with McClosky-Kernan affiliations. The others are Beatty-Cole and King Bros. Sells now seems likely that the King show, & Gray's agent will be Art Miller. It managed by Bob Snowden, and the new Sells & Gray show will combine to play the Palisades Amusement Park date April 13-29 in New Jersey.
Another new one will be Sells Bros. Circus, on about four trucks, and operated by Little Bob Stevens and Bill Griffith. Agent is Vera Himes. The show will be framed at Alamo, Texas, and will open in South Texas . . . Californian Bob Orth, who had a circus some years ago, says he plans to put one together for fair dates in 1962 . . . Wallace Bros. Circuit adopted the Kelly-Miller system of requiring visitors to buy a general admission ticket in order to qualify for a backyard pass.
There will be a major realignment of clown alley on the Polack show . . . The Woodcock Elephants are scheduled to be with the Little Bob Stevens Sells show ... Hines Rucker and Patti Couls were to be married November 18. They and the Raymond Dukes, Satniagos and Silverlakes will play a route of Christmas dates, November 24 to December 17 . . . Ex-elephant man George Emerson, lately of MGM, toured the U.S. and Europe to see elephant acts in connection with planning for the movie, "Jumbo." Finally, three former Cole elephants, Sidney, Anna Mae and Hattie, were acquired for the filming . . . Kelly-Miller is reported to be offering a number of acts and some equipment for sale.
Recent changes in GAC's subsidiary, GAC-Hamid, and changes in Freedomland management to include members of the Hamid family, will have no affect on the Hamid-Morton Circus, which always has been a separate company. George Hamid Sr. is busy with the circus and with setting its winter route.
Slim Lewis, who wrote "Elephant Tramp" some seasons ago, is author of a new book called "The Ape I Knew." . . . Dover Publications has published "Barnum's Own Story," P.T.'s autobiography, as a paperback. Dover also has plans for another circus paperback reprint ... Kissimmee, Fla., staged a Milt Hinkle Day November 18 to honor the veteran cowboy, circus man and rodeo promoter. The county historical society was the sponsor.
The line-up of winter contracts continues to change. The Gus Sun office won the St. Louis Police Circus for next April. Al Dobritch had played it several years and was counted a shoo-in for 1962. But the change was made. Since the Sun office was the only other one bidding, it won the contract. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Dobritch won the Shrine Circus contract away from Hubert Castle.
Carson & Barnes recently did well in Canada again. It stayed in Ontario until September, then made a quick series of jumps through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri to get South again . . . Ringling plays the new Pittsburgh Auditorium November 21-25, then Philadelphia Convention Hall Nov. 28-December 8, the first time the show has played Philadelphia at this time of year. Final stand of the season is to be the newly opened arena at Knoxville, Tenn., December 6-10.
To understand some of the reasons why the Sterling & Wallace Circus was on the road in 1959 for such a short time, one must first know something of why it was formed.
In 1959, the Famous Cole Wild Animal Circus of Hugo, Oklahoma, closed early and a few of the personnel got together to put out the Sterling & Wallace Circus in an effort to get in little more work before they called it a season.
On the Cole Circus, John Frazier and his wife had acted as general agents; Floyd Bradbury was the organist, and his wife, Marlene, worked in the show; and Charles Rex, who is Herb Walter's son-in-law, was superintendent. His wife, Shirley, also was on the show. These three groups joined to put out the Sterling & Wallace Circus, which proved a success even during its short run. They acquired the title from Jack Gagne, Advertising Manager of the Famous Cole show, and Jack invested sufficient funds to obtain a financial interest in the new venture.
The Cole show had closed at Hollis, Oklahoma, on September 7th and went into its quarters at Hugo. Immediately, Messrs. Bradbury and Frazier started to frame this new unit with which they planned to play in buildings and ball parks. Rex previously had planned to take out the Cole animals on a shopping center show, and had no intention of trouping with the unit.
Bradbury and Frazier rented a couple of buildings on the west side of Hugo while they put the show together. Original plans included the use of two candy-striped poles and a sidewall backdrop. They obtained free use of a four-wheel trailer from the James Christy show, provided they would feed the animals in it. Also, Jack Moore, owner of the Carson & Barnes Circus loaned them some sidewall.
The big top was an 80' with one 40' middle. The new showmen had 10 lengths of four-high seats of their own, besides 300 chairs which they planned to plane around for reserved seats. These went for $1.00 for adults and 50c for children, plus 50c for reserves.
The side show tent was a 20, by 30, with no bannerline. Bradbury had the platforms of Magic, Punch and Judy, and Vent. The animals also were exhibited in the tent. Side Show tickets were 25c.
Opposite the side show on the midway, a Snake Pit show was located.
Program for the big show was as follows:
1. Rolling Globe - Hines Rucker, Marlene Bradbury
2. Magic - Floyd Bradbury
3. Trapeze - Hines Rucker
4. Vent - Floyd Bradbury
5. Monkey and Dog - Vance Hurly
6. Cloud Swing - Marlene Bradbury
7. Comedy Knock-a-bout - Hines Rucker
8. Clown Gag - Floyd Bradbury, Vance Hurly
9. Juggling - Hines Rucker
10. Web - Marlene Bradbury
11. Trampoline - Hines Rucker, Vance Hurly
John Frazier became general agent and Jack Gagne was the billposter. Stock paper was used throughout the season. The show opened in Moon, Okla., on Sat., Oct. 10th; then went to Foreman, Ark., for a Sunday matinee on the 11th; and to Omaha, Texas, on the 12th.
About four days before the show hit the road, Herb Walters made the new group a really good deal, leasing them two elephants, Jesse and Norma; a 4-pony drill; a dog act; a llama; a camel; and another four-wheel cage, plus the big top and other equipment for six weeks.
Rolling stock for the show is listed below:
1. Semi power plant, 2 elephants, camel and llama.
2. Straight bed truck for poles, seats and water wagon.
3. Four-wheel trailer with 2 bears and 5 monkeys (hauled by No. 2).
4. Straight bed truck which was Bradbury's house car.
5. Two-wheel trailer for bandstand and props (hauled by No. 4).
6. Straight bed truck which housed the snake show and four ponies.
7. Frazier's house trailer (hauled by No. 6).
8. Panel truck -concessions.
9. Two-wheel trailer - power plant (hauled by No. 8).
10. Straight bed truck for canvas spool.
11. Four-wheel trailer, contained a lion, bear and a white deer (hauled by No. 10).
12. Straight Bed Truck - tickets and office.
13. Rex's house trailer (hauled by No. 12).
14. Hines Rucker's car and house trailer.
Most of the rolling stock was painted white, since three of the units were from Herb Walter's Cole Circus and the show did not retitle them Sterling & Wallace Circus. Instead, they left the Cole title on them. The four-wheel cage they got from Vernon Pratt's Christy Circus was red, and they repainted it white along with their own Snake Show truck. These two units were the only ones lettered Sterling & Wallace beside the two-wheel Bandstand and prop trailer.
Unfortunately, the elephants and other animals didn't make it to the first two towns, but joined on the third day at Omaha. On the opening stand at Moon, the Big Top was not used, but at Foreman, they managed to get it into the air. They had a canvas spool there, but never had a Stake Driver, so it was rather rough going, only having Bradbury, Rucker, Frazier, and Gagne to get the Big Top tip. That afternoon, Rex arrived with the animals and 6 workmen, so there was no further trouble in getting it down at night.
When Rex arrived, he was put in charge of getting the show up and down and over the road; Bradbury was put in charge of the office and performance; and Frazier remained on advance.
Their troubles of putting up and tearing down the Big Top were soon ironed out, although at first they just weren't getting it up until 2 or 3 p.m. each day.
About this time, the Carson and Barnes show closed and they got much help from Morris Horn. Also coming over from Kelly-Miller show was Bob Bullock, press agent, who handled the banners for Sterling & Wallace. There was also a candy butcher named Jimmy Alred.
John Frazier did a great job putting out the show. Other members of the show included Willie Rawls, Snake Show; David Price, lithographer and Pie Car; Hazel Frazier, Concessions and Cookhouse; Shirley Rex, Performer and Concessions; Jack Gagne, Billposter and Agent; and Marlene Bradbury, Performer and Cookhouse. Raymond Duke was also on the show for a week. Besides performing, Hines Rucker also had the Pony Ride on the Midway.
Route for the season was as follows:
Sat., Oct. 10-Moon, Okla.
Sun., Oct. 11-Foreman, Ark.
Mon., Oct. 12-Omaha, Texas
Tues., Oct. 13-Marietta, Texas
Wed., Oct. 14-Avinger, Texas
Thur., Oct. 15-Ore City, Texas
Fri., Oct. 16-Cason, Texas
Sat., Oct. 17-Quitman, Texas
Sun., Oct. 18-Mt. Vernon, Texas
Mon., Oct. 19-Talco, Texas
Tues., Oct. 20-Bogata, Texas
Wed., Oct. 21-Honey Grove, Texas
Thur., Oct. 22-Roxton, Texas
Fri., Oct. 23-Pecan Gap, Texas
Sat., Oct. 24-Ladonia, Texas
Sun., Oct. 25-Gober, Texas
Mon., Oct. 26-Wolfe City, Texas
Tues., Oct. 27-Royse City, Texas
Wed., Oct. 28-Quinlan, Texas
Thur., Oct. 29-Emory, Texas
Fri., Oct. 30-Van, Texas
Sat., Oct. 31-Ben Wheeler, Texas
Sun., Nov. 1-Trinidad, Texas
Mon., Nov. 2-Kerens, Texas
Tues., Nov. 3-Frankston, Texas
Wed., Nov. 4-Enterprise, Texas
Thur., Nov. 5-Logansport, La.
Fri., Nov. 6-Zwolle, La.
Sat., Nov. 7-Orange, Texas
Sun., Nov. 8-Zimmerman, La.
Mon., Nov. 9-Forest Hill, La.
Tues., Nov. 10-Moreauville, La.
Wed., Nov. 11-Marksville, La.
Thur., Nov, 12-Melville, La.
Fri., Nov. 13-(OPEN)
Sat., Nov. 14-Baker, La.
Sun., Nov. 15-Scotslandville, La.
Mon., Nov. 16-St. Francisville, La.
Tues., Nov. 17-Norwood, La.
Wed., Nov. 18-Clinton, La.
Thur., Nov, 19-Walker, La.
Fri., Nov. 20-Port Vincent, La.
Sat., Nov. 21-Sorrento, La.
Sun., Nov. 22-Lutcher, La.
The six week lease from Herb Walters was not renewed and the show closed at Lutcher, La.
Floyd Bradbury now has the title on the road as Sterling & Wallace Presents Dr. Karloff and His Cavalcade of Mystery. This is a small indoor magic show, and is just for the winter.
The author would like to express his sincere thanks to "Arizona" Jack Gagne, of the Famous Cole Circus, who as the owner of the Sterling & Wallace Title, supplied most of the information for the article. He would also like to thank Everett M. Smith for his help.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified January 2006.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified January 2006.