Circus Historical Society
Bandwagon, Vol. 7, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1963. 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.
Walter L. Main surely shot a hole in many imaginations when he stated, on a west coast visit shortly after World War II, that his 1897 feature, the "Mighty Bovalapus, the rarest, strangest, awfulest of all the mighty monsters of the great deep," was nothing more than a common carabao, a water buffalo, from the Philippines. A disastrous 1896 tour had prevented the purchase of a giraffe and hippopotamus, according to Main, so he featured the Bovalapus in their place.
"This particular relic of a nearly extinct species is a corpulent, yellow animal with irregular features and a mild, cud-chewing expression," reported The Los Angeles Times in an attempt to go along with the deception, or in an effort to aid and abet the creation of a new species. It is not a matter of record whether Main coined the name of this new zoological specimen, but he claimed it brought in business the minute the menagerie doors were opened. Lemen Bros., also thought it a worthwhile exhibit for, during their tour of the Northwest in 1898, they also advertised a "mighty Bovalapus" as part of their menagerie.
Walter L. Main was not the first to use a coined term, or a semi-zoological name, to impress the uninitiated circus fans of the West Coast with the awesomeness and rarity of the wild creatures displayed in the menagerie. S. H. Barrett featured "a gigantic Cynocephalus monster" in 1885; "guzerats" were a common exhibit displayed on many shows; "coal-black" tigers appeared often; as did "horned horses." It remained for the Sells Floto Circus of 1911 to state that it exhibited "specimens of nearly every animal with the possible exception of a dinosauris and ichtydon of the Eiocenan and Pleo cenian periods." However, to avoid any concern about this omission, the show promised "to have a herd or two next season." This challenging disclosure appeared in The Pasadena Daily News, April 21, of that year.
Photo: One of the elephants born in the Denver quarters of the Sells-Floto show was "Little Miracle," shown in this poster during the 1916 season. Lucia Zora Collection.
Much glamour was added to the menagerie when the copy writers spoke in glowing terms of the exhibits. One of the best pieces of such writing is this statement from the Barrett show in 1885: "These new additions (to the menagerie) embrace the rarest animals and inanimate bipeds and quadruped wonders to be found under the sun. There will be the largest and only living White Nile Hippopotamus in captivity. This huge shambling creature is the enigma of scientists and the greatest amphibious animal, claimed by many to be the identical Behemoth of Holy Writ spoken of by Job in the Bible; a drove of majestic giraffe captured during the winter in the Mimosa Forest of Senegambia; an Abyssinian Babiroussa, an animal never found in America . . .,” or Abyssinia, but the writing was wonderful. The only omission was the hyphenated "blood-sweating" in relation to the hippo.
What is the real meaning of the menagerie? Obviously any animal is a curiosity when the observer witnesses it for the first time and many second and third generation residents of the Pacific states had never seen an elephant, a lion, tiger, hippopotamus or rhinoceros until the circus brought these specimens west of the Rockies. The migrations to the far west created an unusual situation in that the older members of the family had seen menagerie specimens in the east while their descendants could live for many years on the Pacific slope without such an opportunity. In fact, few foreign wild animals were exhibited west of the Rockies until the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Thus, when the John Robinson Circus first exhibited in Pasadena in 1887, The Daily Union reported that the menagerie contained "many specimens of the zoological world and is well worth visiting by those who are fond of studying this branch of natural history." In this menagerie were "California mountain lions, a pair of African lions, a pair of black African tigers, a royal Bengal tiger, leopards, hyenas, gazelles, an ostrich, a large giraffe, emus from Australia, an alligator from Florida, buffalo, sacred cattle, giant horse, camel, monkeys, ant-eaters, and a great variety of other natural curiosities." Added to the above were five elephants, the herd headed by the heavily-chained Prince, a White Nile hippopotamus, and a rhinoceros. Most, if not all, of the hippos exhibited in the menageries of the period were advertised as "White Nile" specimens, thus reflecting the interest in the African explorations then being conducted.
The menagerie specimens exhibited by the John Robinson Circus are typical of the species and quantities displayed on the Pacific Coast during the score of years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Some circuses featured a greater number of elephants and camels, but, in general, the large displays of menagerie animals did not come west until after the turn of the century and the arrival on the Pacific shores of the Ringling Bros. Circus and the Barnum & Bailey show. The west coast tour of the Great Wallace Circus in 1895 included a menagerie which exhibited five elephants, five camels, two yaks, two llamas, four ostriches, one sacred ox, three zebras, and twenty cages. These specimens were housed in a top composed of an 80 ft. round with five 40 ft. middle pieces.
During this period before 1900, circuses advertised large quantities of cages which included the small cross cages, as well as the larger, compartmented vehicles. John Robinson's advertising in 1887 boasted of "60 cages and dens;" S. H. Barrett in 1885 quoted "50 cages;" Forepaugh in 1878 stated "40;" Ben Wallace shouted "50 Cages and 15 Open Dens" in 1895; and Sells and Renfrow summed it up with "myriad cages, dens and lairs." The "50 Cages and 15 Open Dens" advertised by Wallace in 1895 contrast sharply with the twenty cages under "Patsy" Forepaugh's care reported by the route book for that season.
Growth of the menagerie from wagon show days to railroad enterprise is illustrated by a comparison of the 1883 Walter L. Main Circus of ten cages, two camels, and one elephant with Main's 1894 show which included sixteen cages, three bulls, three camels, a water buffalo (the Bovalapus?) and pairs of deer, yaks and llamas. In 1892, its second year on rails, the Ringling brothers featured eighteen cages, four bulls, and five camels under a 75 ft. round top with four 30 ft. middles. Within four years this menagerie top had nearly doubled in size and contained a zoological exhibition of sixteen elephants, twenty-four cages, eight camels, two reindeer, six sacred cattle, two elk, and a water buffalo. Truly, the railroad made a difference, not only in the ability of a circus proprietor to make a route into new territory, but also in the amount of equipment and number of menagerie specimens which could be carried. The Ringling menagerie continued to grow until it was of mammoth size compared to that of other circuses.
For the next forty years the Ringling wild animal display contained approximately thirty cages a season. During this period the number of elephants averaged more than thirty; the camels about sixteen in number; and zebras a dozen each season. In addition the show exhibited giraffes, llamas, rhinos, hippos, and other stock including such rare specimens as the gorilla, Grevy zebra, Asiatic rhinoceros, white elephant, and the sea elephant. In the early years of World War II, the Ringling menagerie suffered two heavy blows - one at Atlanta, Georgia, where eleven elephants were lost due to poisoning, and the second at Cleveland, Ohio, where a menagerie fire eliminated ten camels, eight zebras, two pongurs, two giraffes, two gnus, three deer, four lions, two tigers, a puma and two elephants. In addition to the menagerie displayed under the Ringling banner, the owners also operated, from 1908 through 1918, the Barnum & Bailey Circus as a separate unit. This circus also included a large menagerie which averaged about thirty cages a season, with nearly two dozen elephants, fourteen camels, and a respectable number of zebras, yaks, sacred cattle and giraffes.
The other circuses of the period carried much smaller menageries, although they duplicated many of the animals placed on display by the Ringling brothers. Sells Floto averaged nearly fourteen cages a year and usually carried from twelve to fourteen bulls. It had giraffes on occasion, a hippo, several camels and zebras. This was also the only circus in this century to exhibit baby elephants which were born on the show. This show became the largest of those owned by the American Circus Corporation although two others in that corporation nearly equalled the size of the Sells Floto Circus menagerie during the 1920's. One, the John Robinson Circus, left the road in 1930 after one year of Ringling ownership, and the other, Hagenbeck-Wallace, bloomed into a larger show. At this time, however, it, too, was under Ringling ownership and management, and carried nearly twenty cages of animals, over thirty elephants, about fifteen camels, nearly a dozen zebras. as well as a giraffe, hippopotamus and llamas.
Independent circuses of the first half of the Twentieth Century exhibited a much smaller collection of animals. The Sparks show usually had about ten cages, from six to nine bulls, four or five camels, a couple of zebras and llamas. The Walter L. Main Circus of 1926 provided six cages, six bulls, three camels, four zebras, and a llama for zoological fare. Before World War I, Andrew Downie hauled about a dozen cages, one or two bulls, and three or four camels on his railroad circuses. His Walter L. Main Circus in the early twenties had about the same size menagerie with a few more elephants. Later, when Downie took out his truck show, he exhibited only a handful of cages with three bulls. Under Sparks' ownership, the Downie truck show increased the number of cages and elephants and added other stock.
The menagerie of Cole Bros. Circus, which began to tour under Jess Adkins and Zack Terrell leadership in 1935, grew to large proportions by 1937. That season it consisted of twenty-one cages, twenty-six elephants, as well as the usual camels and zebras. However, a disappointing 1938 season, shared by the entire circus world, brought the show on the road for 1939 with less than a third of the cages carried the year before. In succeeding seasons the menagerie enlarged to some extent but never did live up to the promise of the early years. Many factors contributed to this disappointment not the least of which was a bad fire in quarters and the war-time difficulties which restricted transportation and manpower.
In recent years, the finest traveling menagerie has been included with the Al G. Kelly-Miller Circus. This was especially true in the years after mid-century when a large number of elephants and camels were carried. The show featured a wide variety of caged stock and, while the quantity of individual animals was not large, the number of species was very large for a motorized show. This circus again proved the point that a traveling menagerie is of value in areas where large zoological collections are absent, although this is not as true as it was in the days before freeways, turnpikes and rapid motor transport.
From the first menagerie advertisements, huge affairs with row upon row of woodcut illustrations, to the multi-colored lithographs of the Twentieth Century, advertising has always played a great role in the popularity of menagerie exhibits. In fact, more illustrations, headlines and more lines of copy seem to have been composed concerning menagerie features than for any other aspect of the circus - except, perhaps, for the clowns. Some extremely popular animals have established themselves on the American scene because of this magnificent effort by the circus management. Jumbo, the white elephants (Toung Taloung, Keddah, and PaWah), Gargantua and M'Toto, Goliath and Tusko, as well as the features of countless unnamed lions, tigers, elephants and other exotic animals have covered the billboards, fences, barns and sheds of America. Woodcuts and photographs of animals have appeared for years in the newspapers for animal subjects have wide appeal to the public in general.
No doubt the two specimens which have received the greatest acclaim and are the best remembered are Jumbo and Gargantua. However, the best known of the really rare animals are Goliath, the sea elephant and Bill, the rhino from Asia. Advertisements before the turn of the century indicate that these two species may have been exhibited in the first menageries. However, circus advertising has always indicated a tendency to vary from that which is actually exhibited in the animal line. A cut, or photo, on hand is less expensive than making a new one, and if the animal which it advertises doesn't match it no one with the circus really cares. Thus, a cut of an Asian rhino might advertise an animal from Africa, or the picture of a famous elephant, long since dead, might be used to promote a very live animal in the current menagerie.
Gorillas at any time are a rare exhibit for a circus although they have been more common in the zoological garden since 1930. Several circuses have advertised gorilla-like specimens; one of the first being "Jorg" on the Walter L. Main Circus of 1894. In 1918, the Sells Floto Circus featured "Colossus, the War Tank of the Jungle," during its tour of the Pacific Coast. Before 1900 several specimens were unclassified or referred to as chimpanzee-gorilla hybrids by the authorities in natural history. One of the most noteworthy of these was the animal Johanna, on the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Although hybridization has never been established, some specimens, especially young individuals, have been difficult to classify. The Walter L. Main and Sells Floto exhibits may or may not have fallen into this category.
In 1921, the Ringling-Barnum organization featured John Daniel, a true gorilla which did not live longer than the Madison Square Garden engagement. This was possibly the first exhibition of a gorilla by an American circus. Three years later, in 1924, the Ringling circus again exhibited a gorilla. This one, Sultan, was billed as John Daniel II. Miss Alyce Cunningham of London, England, brought both of these animals to the Ringling show. The first John Daniel lived from 1918 until mid-April, 1921. The second, obtained by Miss Cunningham in 1923, was exhibited with the Ringling circus for the 1924 season and returned to England in the fall of that year. Sultan died in 1927.
The first circus-owned specimen of the mountain gorilla was kept at Sarasota, Florida, by John Ringling from March, 1927, to April, 1928. This animal, Congo, was brought to the United States in October, 1925, by the American hunter, Ben Burbridge and was kept at Jacksonville, Florida, until sent to the Ringlings. There is no record of its being exhibited with the circus. Apparently the fourth Ringling gorilla arrived in 1931 and was exhibited as a sideshow attraction during the late summer. This animal had the distinction of making the Atlantic crossing aboard the Zeppelin.
By the mid-thirties, zoo directors were at last solving the health problems of gorillas in captivity and so - with the lengthy exhibition of Gargantua - did the circus. The solution seemed to lie in obtaining a specimen well beyond infancy and keeping it in a cage where humidity and temperature could be controlled. The huge cage in which Gargantua was housed for the 1938 season provided a healthy environment that kept the animal alive until the end of the 1949 season. A duplicate cage was provided for Toto when she was brought on the circus in 1941. This female gorilla, still on tour when the Ringling show returned to quarters in the spring of 1956, proved that the formula would work. She was beyond infancy when obtained, and survived the hardships of daily movement in the specially designed cage. The last two gorillas exhibited by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus were young animals placed before the public in the spring of 1950.
Photo: Sudan, Pourquois (Puqua) hitched to Queen, on Ringling-Barnum in Los Angeles, Sept., 1941. These are the "pygmy" elephants from Africa. Photo by the author.
Many rare exhibits have passed unnoticed due to the lack of promotion or because of public indifference. One of the great features of recent years - a performing African elephant - drew less notice than was his due. This animal was Diamond, originally Louie, in the Ringling-Barnum herd. Of course, the greatest elephant of all time, Jumbo, was an African. In the mid-thirties the Ringling show carried three young bulls from Africa that were billed as pygmy elephants. One of these died soon after arrival; a second was poisoned in the group at Atlanta; and the third was dead within a dozen years after its arrival in the United States. There have been several other African elephants with the circus but none of them has ever received the notice awarded to Jumbo and the "pygmies."
Bill, the Great Indian Rhinoceros, never drew many rave notices although he traveled country-wide with the Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1907 to 1918 and with the Ringling brothers from 1919 to 1926. A specimen of the Sumatran (Asiatic two-horned) rhinoceros, Mary, was exhibited on the Ringling Bros. Circus from 1903 to 1917. Richard Reynolds III, who has made an intensive study of the captive rhinos, states "by today's standards, the female Sumatran rhino on Ringling Bros. was the greatest rarity on a circus in this century." His excellent paper, Asian Rhinos In Captivity, lists in detail the number of these animals kept in zoos and circuses.
Several rather rare antelopes have been exhibited by circuses, but since one antelope is much like another, no publicity has attended the display. The Grevy zebras exhibited by the Ringling Circus in the 1930's were most unusual, but were not publicized, since they looked much like any other "striped donkey" to the untrained eye. The Grevy zebra receiving the most publicity, a veteran of the Sells Floto Circus, was reported to be the sire of the donkey-zebra hybrids on that show during World War I. The public seems indifferent to animals that do not "sweat blood," boast a "killer instinct," or attain "the biggest brute that breathes," size. The representatives of the hippopotamus family, however, have attained much recognition as indicated by a review of circus advertising materials. Lotus was probably the best known with Victor and Miss Oklahoma well known to most circus fans.
Infants of the animal world do draw attention and the circus menagerie has on occasion made a hit with baby giraffes, monkeys, elephants or camels. Press notices of bygone days often mentioned the birth of an animal with the statement that the youngster was named after the town in which it was born. A baby lion, born on the Sells Bros. & Barrett Circus, in Pasadena on April 3, 1889, was named after the city according to The Daily Union. In 1896 the Forepaugh-Sells Circus moved through the northwest with the arrival of a baby hippopotamus expected at any moment. It was announced by the show that the hippo would be "a $25,000 blessed event." Bridgeport, an elephant punk, reportedly born at the Bridgeport, Conn., quarters in 1882, is another example of this naming device. One of the better known elephants to have this choice of name was Boo, a baby bull on the Ringling show when the quarters were in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This female was featured with Venita as the mother for a few years after 1900. When Big Burma of the Mills Bros. Circus was a punk she was a feature with her "mother" on the Sells Floto Circus of 1922. Her name at the time was Virginia and Tillie was the mother. The trials and tribulations of this circus to breed and exhibit baby elephants with their famous parents, Snyder and Alice, are well known. The arrival of Young America (Columbia) on the Cooper and Bailey Circus in 1880 is also well documented. There have been numerous infant pachyderms imported to impress the public; some featured with "mothers." Many of these have become well-known as youngsters, but have lost their identity as they matured. Kas and Mo of the Sells Floto show are an example of this loss of identity. Billed as twin babies before the first World War, they attracted much attention. However, when Mo (for Missouri) died in 1928 few identified her as the 1911 "twin," and as Kas (for Kansas) traveled from Sells Floto to Al G. Barnes to the Ringling show only the experienced elephant trainers knew her history. Billy Sunday, Charley-Ed, and many another baby elephant were "cute" to thousands of fans until they grew up and lost themselves in the herd of adult bulls; or maintained their personality and became headaches to their owners.
The menagerie, originally an exhibit by itself was gradually combined with the circus to form a great exhibition of animal life both wild and domestic. In recent years it has been eliminated, relegated to a minor attraction, divided into pit shows, or combined with the side show. It has had a magnificent and varied history. Will it survive at all as part of the circus attraction of the future? As the modern type of zoo construction spreads to more cities in the United States, the circus menagerie will certainly not be necessary as an educational feature, and definitely will not be needed as a location for rare specimens. The one feature of the menagerie that will survive, however not as an exhibit, will be the lead stock department - the elephants, llamas, camels and zebras, which are used as performers.
The circus which began its life in this country without a menagerie has undoubtedly almost reached the point in its history where it can operate without the benefit of a wild animal exhibit. Those of us who have seen the big animal displays of the past can relate to our children and grandchildren a glowing description of the cages and their contents. They in turn can point out to us the benefits of the zoological garden of today. We have the nostalgia, the color, the smell, the sound. They have a scientific, cold presentation viewed over yards of moat and cement walls.
Information for writing this article has come from my notes made over the years as I visited circus menageries to draw the animals. These notes have been supported by information from the collection of Gordon Borders and Don Marcks, and from conversations with Olga Celeste, Frank Phillips, Fritz Bruner, and other animal trainers and attendants whom I have known. Research in newspapers of the past has provided some information from which generalizations have been drawn. Files of White Tops and the Clarion have many notes on menageries. A great deal of thanks is due Richard Reynolds III for his research on the rhinos and other menagerie animals. Gorillas in captivity before 1930 are best summarized in The Great Apes by R. W. and A. W. Yerkes.
America likes to sing songs. A popular television program has us all "singing along with Mitch." Twenty years ago we sang with the bouncing ball on the movie screen. But one hundred years ago the singing clowns lead the audience in group singing when they attended the circus.
Circuses in America during the Civil War era were of the one ring variety, with seats all around the ring in a circular tent, much like European shows today. The singing clown was a popular feature at that time because of the intimacy of the arena. A clown with a good voice was much higher paid than other joeys. All clowns at that time talked and told jokes, but the singers were the elite.
Many of these clowns composed their own songs, and they were featured in the advertising of the shows with which they traveled. As a part of their routine some clowns lead the audience in the singing of songs. This gave the clown the opportunity to sell pamphlets with the words to his songs, to the crowds. These booklets became known as songsters.
But the songs printed in the booklets were not limited to those written by the clown, they mainly included popular songs of the day, much like the song sheets sold on newsstands today.
The songster concession was as lucrative as the popcorn or lemonade sales in the early days. Some clowns did not receive a salary and depended upon their commissions from the sale of songsters as their only pay.
Dan Rice was the most famous and best known of the singing clowns. It is said that he received $25,000 for a single season, an unbelievable salary at any time. Rice was very clever in altering the words of his songs to fit the locality of his appearance. Often he would use the names of people in the community in his comic verses. He also composed lyrics dealing with the national affairs of the day. As the "Will Rogers" of his day Rice became known and loved across the United States, and finally operated his own circus. The title was so strong that Adam. Forepaugh used it for his first two seasons, before using his own name.
Photo: This Barnum & London 1882 booklet contains a biographical sketch of the famous clown, Billy Burke. He is the father of stage star, Billie Burke, who was married to the producer, Florenz Ziegfeld.
Another well known singing clown of the Civil War period was William Elhelbert Burke. Burke was born in Ohio, on October 23, 1845. His fun-making began, of all places, while working as an apprentice to a druggist in Frederickstown, Ohio. Billy became the center of a mirth loving group that headquartered at the drug store.
Though only sixteen years of age he joined the Union Army. At the battle of Arkansas Post, Burke was seriously wounded, and so disabled received an honorable discharge from the Army.
In 1865 his first professional mirth-making began when he joined a minstrel troupe. This association was short lived and he left soon for employment with the J. M. Nixon Circus. He was to join the show in Galveston, Texas, and fate nearly cut short his life when the steamship carrying him to the Nixon show was wrecked at sea, and after being lost he was picked up and brought to New Orleans. In this city he was quickly secured by the Thayer and Noyes' circus. While with this company he again had a bout with the water elements when the steamer carrying the troupe was wrecked on the Red River. In this case Mr. Burke escaped with only the loss of his handsome and expensive wardrobe. He remained with Thayer and Noyes for two seasons and then signed with the Mike Lipman show. He then moved to the great Forepaugh show for two seasons. From that show he went to the Lewis B. Lent Circus, that was appearing in New York City. He met with brilliant success there. His next engagement was with the James Robinson show, and it was while he was with the show that it merged into the "Great Chicago Show." Following this he was with the Trans Atlantic show and then returned to Lent, and then moved to the Great Eastern and on to Montgomery Queen. He was with various other shows before becoming a feature with the Barnum and Great London Circus in 1882.
One of the very early clowns published a booklet on the history of his life, that also included some of his original songs. This man, Sam Lathrop, included in his book, "Songs, Stump-Speeches, Remarkable Sayings, Buncomb Harrangues, and Fools' Arguments." The booklet was published and copyrighted in 1855, while Lathrop was featured with the Sands, Nathans & Co. American Circus.
A similar book was the "carefully revised and corrected" song book Dan Rice published in 1869. Rice reprinted his famous "4th of July Speech" here.
Other well known clowns of the day included Matt Gebler with Roston, Springer, Henderson & Co. Circus and Menagerie in 1871; Harrigan & Hart on the John H. Murray Pony Circus in 1880; John N. Russell with Walter L. Main in 1891 and George M. Clark with J. M. French's oriental Circus & Egyptian Caravan in 1869. In 1872 Clark was featured with the F. G. Bailey & Co. Quadilateral Show. Ben Maginley offered copies of his songs while on the Great Consolidation shows in 1866. Tom Barry sang with Stone & Murray's circus in 1869.
Photo: This song book, published in 1879, is 4 x 5 inches and is printed in blue, red, yellow, green and black.
T. B. McIntyre presented his songs with W. W. Cole's New York & New Orleans show in 1879, but the English clown, Ernest, was featured with W. W. Cole's Circus in 1880. Bob Hunting, who later toured his own show, offered a songster with the G. G. Gradey Circus & Menagerie in 1873. W. Fred Aymar, principal clown with the H. H. Barrett & Co. in 1883, offered a book that was larger in size than most used prior to that time. This book was 6 1/2 x 10 inches, while most were about 4 x 5 1/2 inches.
Johnny Patterson was featured with the Great London Circus in 1877 and 1879, while Nat Austin held that spot with the London show in 1880 and 1881. The cover designs for these songsters were different each year.
The Barnum & London show featured Bonnie Runnell singing in 1881, Burke in 1882, a woman, Mlle. Margerald in 1883 and in 1886 listed four men and two women as singing in their concert, with a book listing the songs printed for the occasion. John Foster's picture was on the cover of the Barnum & London 1887 book and Dick Sands was with them in 1888. The Barnum & Bailey song books for 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1894 did not feature any individuals.
Most of the booklets published during the "golden age of the circus" from 1880 to 1900 were of the songster type, however during this period some sheet music was sold at the performances also. The W. W. Cole Great New York & New Orleans Circus, Menagerie and Congress of Living Wonders offered the music for the "W. W. Cole's Grand Zoological March" in 1877. This was published by the F. W. Helmick music publishing house in Columbus, Ohio. It is 10 x 13 1/2 inches in size and has a fine engraving on the cover showing the parade, sideshow, performance and wild animals. That same year the Helmick Company also published "Forepaugh's Grand Zoological March." It contained a different composition, by a different composer. The Forepaugh music was eight pages in length and also had an engraving on the cover as well as reproduction of a famous Forepaugh lithograph on the back. The back cover is illustrated with this article. A full color original lithograph of this design is in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was viewed by the author in June of this year.
The first sheet music known is "Les Gymniasts" a group of five waltzes a la Strauss. This was composed for the pianoforte and respectfully dedicated to Richard Sands by E. K. Eaton and copyrighted in 1847. The cover on this piece is illustrated with an interesting engraving showing vignettes of balancers and a dancing horse with troubadour in the center. This is one of the more prized pieces in our circus musical collection.
Circuses continued to sell songster from 1900 on, but they no longer featured individuals as was the case with most of those prior to that time.
Will Rossiter called himself the largest song book publisher in the world in an advertisement that appeared in the October 1, 1904, Clipper. We have a book merely called "Will Rossiter's Circus Song Book" that was sold on an unknown show in 1900. It was priced at 25c according to the cover. This indicated the profit in selling the books, as Mr. Rossiter offered them at 90c per hundred in his Clipper ad. During that same period Charles K. Harris offered song books for $1.00 per hundred for the small size and $1.50 for the larger edition. Wehman Bros. charged 75c a hundred and $6.00 a thousand for theirs. The American Songster Co. priced their volumes at 75c a hundred but charged $7.00 a thousand. All of these concerns were located in New York City and advertised their books in the Clipper and the Billboard. The New York Popular Publishing Co. of New York had published a booklet called "The Great Circus Royal Songster" earlier and offered it to several smaller circuses that did not publish a book of their own. The "Royal" we have is dated 1881.
However Rossiter also published song books for individual shows. A few of those in our collection published by this firm are Forepaugh-Sells in 1899, 1904, 1905; Campbell Bros., 1906 and 1907; Buffalo Bill & Pawnee Bill, 1912; Great Wallace in 1897, and Hummel, Hamilton & Co. in 1899.
Rossiter's brother, Harold, located in Chicago, published books for Pawnee Bill in 1904, Walter L. Main in 1904, Sig Sautelle in 1904, La Tena in 1914, Robinson's Big Shows in 1915, Hagenbeck Wallace in 1919, Howes Great London in 1920, Gollmar Bros. in 1922 and Walter L. Main in 1925.
The Gollmar 1922 book contains the program of the performance of the show as well as some advertising. The Gentry Bros.-James Patterson booklet of 1923 is similar and contains a program. The Sells-Floto program for the 1912 season was titled "Clown's Song Book and the Story of Wild Animals." This edition is more program than songster but does contain music and lyrics for two songs.
The song book faded from the circus scene in the 1920's. The Main 1925 book is the last known to have been published. But lo and behold John Ringling North in 1956 authorized the Frank Music Corporation to publish a souvenir album of songs by Frank Loesser that were played by the band during the performance during that final season under canvas. This was sold for $1 at the circus.
Many serious collectors of circusiana have a place for songsters, but as Morton Smith said in his article on songsters in the January, 1947, issue of Hobbies, "they are among the scarcer items." Despite the fact that they were sold in large quantities of many thousands annually over a long period of years, few turn up. Smith suggested that the poor quality of newsprint used in the little books may have caused them to deteriorate rapidly, but those we have in our collection, have stayed in good condition. But we must agree with the late Mr. Smith they are definitely in the rare classification of circus items.
The late Harry Hertzberg accumulated a fair quantity of the little booklets. In February, 1962, Leonard V. Farley issued a bibliography of the 35 books in the Hertzberg collection. In the January-February, 1951, issue of the Hobby Bandwagon, the late George L. Chindahl listed the books in the Hertzberg group, and also referred to some additional books listed by Smith in Hobbies. In researching this article we attempted to make a list of all books known to have been published or actually now in a collection. Many old sale lists were checked from both Spencer Chambers and Morton Smith. Perhaps a dozen or more new ones turned up in this way. We have cataloged these with those in ours and the Hertzberg collections.
Over the years we have located a number of these unusual pieces of circusiana and now have a total of 69 different books. But the one we would like most to have has not turned up. It was listed for sale by Spencer Chambers in the 1940's. The book is the first circus song book to be published. It was sold at the Philip Astley Circus in England in 1780, and was 7 x 9 inches in size with 8 pages and had one illustration.
The subject of this photo story is Hagenbeck-Wallace, season of 1933, and the 13 street parades given that year. Photographs are furnished by member Tom Scaperlanda and were taken at San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 16, 1933, by Tom and his brother, Pasco.
Hagenbeck-Wallace, which for several years had been on 30 cars, was enlarged to 35 for the 1931 season and then was further enlarged for the 1933 season by the addition of equipment and animals from the Sells-Floto Circus, which the Ringling interests decided to shelve following the 1932 season. Most observers, as well as numerous Billboard accounts, put the 1933 show on 40 cars, however, the Marcks notes taken at the North Adams, Mass., stand on July 15 list 22 flats, 6 stocks, 8 sleepers and 1 advance for a total of 37. The appearance in the Scaperlanda photos of an unlettered sleeper and a stock car, lettered, but with an earlier color scheme may indicate that additional cars may have been added after the North Adams stand. Of course this is just speculation, but in any event, the show has long been considered by historians as being on 40 cars in 1933.
New color scheme for the flats and stocks was aluminum with red lettering while the coaches remained the usual red with white lettering. The 1932 big top, a 160 ft. round with three 50's, and menagerie top, about a 90 ft. round but having eight 40 ft. middle pieces was also used again in 1933. The sideshow was housed in a 60 ft. top with two 40's and had a 220 ft. canvas bannerline.
The Marcks notes list 65 wagons, 29 elephants, 17 camels, 10 zebras, 2 llamas, and 25 cages of which 10 were used for performing cats. Features of the menagerie included a giraffe, hippo, polar bears, birds, anteater and sea lions. Baggage wagons were red with yellow lettering and numbering.
Major staffers in 1933 included Jess Adkins, manager; Ira Watts, asst. manager; J. C. Donahue, general agent; Wm. Lester, contracting agent; James Albanese, treasurer; Jack Biggers, trainmaster; Al Dean, steward; Chas. Young, supt. canvas; Chas. Rooney, supt. stock; Emery Stiles, supt. menagerie; Cheerful Gardner, supt. elephants; Duke Drukenbroad, sideshow manager; Eddie Woeckener, bandmaster; W. H. McFarlan, equestrian director, and Rex de Rosselli, producer of the opening spectacle, "Buy America" used that year but reviewers stated the general motif of it was Cleopatra, the spec used in 1932 and the advertising read that.
Manager Adkins conceived the idea of reviving the street parade for selected stands and the march was put on at Chicago, St. Louis, Westfield, N.J.; North Adams, Mass.; Cleveland, Little Rock, Waco, Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Galveston, Texas; New Orleans and Nashville, Tenn.
The old Sells-Floto steam calliope, commonly called the Two Jesters, was carried for parade and concert duty. It had also been on the show in 1932 for lot concerts. The parade consisted of the big show band split into two sections, a clown band, sideshow band, about a dozen or more cages, including several beautiful dens with corner and center statues, various mounted people, lead stock, elephants, and the steamer bringing up the rear. An advertising tie in that year had a 1933 model Pontiac in the lead with a sign "Pontiac Leads Them All."
The No. 1 band rode the No. 71 wagon whose sides were decorated with colorful paintings of animals, clowns and performers. The No. 2 band rode wagon No. 33, the old Sells-Floto Elephant Bandwagon. (Note this wagon was covered in Circus Wagon History File, Nov., 1957, Bandwagon and it is currently housed at the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota). Sideshow band used No. 41, the grandstand ticket wagon which had bust paintings of Carl Hagenbeck and B. E. Wallace on the sides, and the clown band used No. 46, a ticket wagon formerly on Sells-Floto. This one was lettered on one side and had paintings of animals including a tiger on a ball on the other. In 1934 it had a painting of Popeye and his friends. Another large ticket dept. wagon was No. 91 which was highly decorated and lettered and could have been used for parade purposes.
With Sells-Floto no longer on the road, Hagenbeck-Wallace took over many of the former's big city stands in the mid-west and east, including the annual spring opening at the Coliseum in Chicago.
For the Chicago stand, April 15-30, a giant torchlight parade was staged, the first in that city since 1899, to kick it off. The performance was beefed up for this date to compensate for Clyde Beatty's wild animal act which played the Madison Square Garden stand with Ringling-Barnum and then rejoined Hagenbeck-Wallace at Cincinnati for the rest of the season. The big menagerie feature of the 1932 Sells-Floto show, Goliath, the sea elephant, was sent to Chicago for the indoor stand but did not go on the canvas tour but instead was sent to the Cincinnati Zoo with other surplus animals. Chicago business started slow but built up somewhat later.
The canvas tour began May 1 at Peru, Ind., winterquarters after which the show moved to St. Louis for a four-day stand.
The Billboard reviewed the program of the canvas tour at Cincinnati, May 15-17, as follows:
"A beautiful and colorful spec, "Buy America," with songs, dances and music ending with a display of fireworks, gives the performance a great start. Rex de Rosselli, w-k, producer of spectacles, deserves a word of praise for his latest presentation. Peggy King, Elaine de Lano and Alice Sohn are the women singers in spec. Cheerful Gardner, carried down the track with his head in an elephant's mouth, brought him much applause. The big outstanding feature is Clyde Beatty with his large group of lions and tigers, who joined the show here after being with Ringling-Barnum for the New York and Boston engagements. His act is indeed a thriller and Beatty certainly displays showmanship in "selling" it to the audience. Three exceptionally good seal acts are presented by Gordon Orton, Roland Thiebor and Dewey Butler; also three good "bull" acts, elephants trained by Gardner and presented by Misses Lewis, Wentz and Johnson. The Riding Hanneford Family, featuring "Poodles," acrobatic comedy rider, registered solidly. "Poodles" is, as always, a wow. Always an interesting act is that of the Liberty Horses. Horses are put thru their paces by Dewey Butler, Rudy Rudynoff and Gordon Orton. Funny Ford Act, worked by Paul Jerome, Earl Shipley and Joe Lewis, is a scream. Seems to be better than ever. Bombayo, bounding rope act that was one of the features with R-B last season, is going big on this show. Among his feats is a backward double somersault. Act has been built up with Rex de Rosselli using 14 girls from the ballet. Another thriller is that of the Billetti Troup of high wire performers, their concluding feat being a three-high. The Clarkonians and the Hills are two of the best flying return acts in the business. They perform difficult tricks in a flawless manner. Races and high jumps conclude the performance."
The 1933 tour took the show into the eastern seaboard states and New England with a June 19-25 stand in New York City. The last two weeks in July were in New York and Pennsylvania, and then came a couple days in Baltimore, a couple in Washington, D.C., and then back into the mid-western states of Ohio and Indiana. The show went for the tobacco market money in North Carolina and was there Sept. 18-23 and then made a swing down thru Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas. The Lone Star State saw the show for two and a half weeks and then it made its way home to Peru thru La., Ala. and closed the season, Nov. 6, at Nashville, Tenn. The total mileage was 13,321 and Jess Adkins pronounced the season to have been one of the best in years, claiming 64 straw houses and 15 turnaways.
The street parades were a tremendous success and brought the show floods of newspaper publicity and favorable comment and in turn a vast upturn in business from that experienced for the past three depression seasons. Manager Adkins was so pleased with the great business enjoyed as a result of the street parade that he was able to convince Sam Gumpertz, general manager of the Ringling interests, that for 1934 Hagenbeck-Wallace should be greatly enlarged and feature a daily street parade.
Our thanks go to Tom Scarperlanda for sharing these photos with us. Other shots from Tom will be used in similar type articles later.
Next morning we arrived at Alton, Illinois. I was glad to get out of Missouri, the "show me state," for I felt that I had been shown enough. Everything went along fine the two weeks we were in Illinois, with the exception of one night upon arriving at the stock cars, I discovered that I had lost one of my spurs somewhere between the picket line of the show lot and the stock cars. I thought a whole lot of those spurs as I had gotten them from my friend, Wild Jim Lynch, so before unsaddling I asked Hank if he would ride back to the lot with me and look for the spur.
When we arrived at the lot, everything with the exception of a few wagons, had gone and there were the usual few town people standing around, possibly a half-dozen in all, watching the wagons being pulled off the lot.
Riding up to the place where the picket line had been, a funny sight greeted us. A man was running just as fast as he could right toward us with nothing on but his socks and B.V.D.'s. Well, I was sure surprised. The man rushed up to where Hank and I were sitting on our horses, shouting "Oh mercy! Oh mercy! Cowboys! One of those rude drivers stole my clothes."
At this Hank drew his gun and said, "Now look here, Clara, get going some more," and with that he busted his forty-five right behind the poor man, who took Hank at his word and the last I saw of him, he was still running.
I asked Hank what it was all about.
"Nothing," said he. "Only Shorty Harris, the boss hostler, is dressing himself up. It is one of his old tricks. Harris always dresses up when a sissy comes on the lot."
Then he picked up my spur. Well, Hank and I had things easy at our post in the connection every day just watching the short-change artist at work.
During this time, I had become very popular with the cowboys and the other show folks and I was riding old Windmill every show. Things began to get monotonous. Same old routine, up in the morning at six and out of my third-story stuffy berth to the stock cars, unload the stock, then to the circus lot, to the cook tent for breakfast and back to the dressing tent to wash and shave and clean up in a hurry so as not to be late for the parade.
After a long parade, back to the show lot and rush to lunch. After lunch back to the dressing-room in time to hear Henry say, "Old Windmill, Hinkle." Then to the connection and from the connection to the arena to help rescue the stage coach, drive the Indians away from the prairie schooner and to ride Windmill. Then to the stock cars, load the stock, and on to the privilege car for a bite to eat before going to my berth.
Sometimes I would watch the crap games and card games and listen to the grifters tell how they had clipped the "town monkeys" to day; meaning how they had short-changed the people out of their money.
This was the everyday routine on the Kit Carson show now, and I was getting tired of the monotony and decided that I would head back to the Kansas City Stock Yards, but after the show the mailman came around with the new Route Cards, which showed that we would be in Kentucky for one week and then in West Virginia, I changed my mind.
The day after I purchased the Route Card, we were in Henderson, Kentucky, and it was here that some more excitement started in the connection. But this time both Hank and I were amused instead of getting all messed up.
We were at our post, when I looked up and saw a little man with a funny walk and with his hands behind his back, coming through the connection. The man had all the earmarks of a Jew, one who had not been long in the United States.
Lum and Chester, another connection man, made a grand rush for the little Jew and Chester beat Lum to him.
Chester stopped the man by saying, "Mister, I'm selling reserved seats to the big show and have just a few more left. Unless you buy a reserved seat, you will have to stand up." The man started off saying he would stand, but Chester stopped him once more saying, "I need some paper money. Have too much silver." He then opened the leather bag that was hung from his shoulder and proceeded to rattle some silver, complaining that the bag was getting too heavy to carry. "Relieve me of ten or twenty dollars worth of silver for paper money," begged Chester, "and I will give you the best seat in the house."
The little man looked at Chester and said, "Sure, I will do dot." He put his hand to his left hip pocket, unbuttoned the flap and pulled out a roll of green backs that would have choked a horse. He took out a ten-spot, put it in his own vest pocket, rolled his money up and put it back in his hip pocket and very carefully buttoned the flap. He then took the ten-dollar bill from his vest pocket and said to Chester, "Give to me the money and the ticket."
Chester then laid the ten silver dollars in his hand and stuck the ticket in the man's outside coat pocket. Chester then told the man that he would have to hurry if he wanted to see all the show.
Just then Henry, the boss cowboy, came riding through the connection at a gallop and Lum grabbed the little Jew, pulling him out of the way and telling him that he would have to keep his eyes open or he would get run over. Patting the Jew on the arm, Lum said, "Now hurry along," and pointed toward the show which was just starting. As Lum pointed, the little Jew looked up and Lum took the ticket from his pocket. As the man hurried away, I noticed that his hip pocket had been cut away and that he was minus his roll of money.
Well, I guess that this fellow was like me. Every time I have a roll of money in my pocket, I feel for it about every five minutes to see if it is still there. That is just what this gentleman did. He felt for his money and both money and pocket were gone.
Here he came back, running and wringing his hands and hollering, "I've been robbed! They got mine money! They got mine money!"
He was acting just like a crazy man and I sure did feel sorry for him. In the meantime Lum had disappeared under the sidewall, but Chester was still there and the little man ran up to him and demanded his money back.
The show's legal adjuster came over and asked what the trouble was. The little Jew, still wringing his hands and trying to talk with them all at the same time, was so excited that he could not be understood. Chester told the legal adjuster that the man was crazy.
Just then the female impersonator who worked the "Come-in" at the show, came out of the big top and started through the connection. He had just finished working the "come-in." I am sure that when you have been to the circus, that you have seen the female impersonator, a man dressed up as a woman, who always walks up, grabs some man by the arm and escorts him to his seat, or even goes so far as to run up to some man and kiss him, much to the amusement of the crowd. All of this taking place before the big show starts.
Chester stopped the impersonator and said, "You had better take care of your husband, lady. He is having some kind of a crazy spell."
Peggy, as we called the impersonator, immediately took hold of the man and Chester continued, "Just touched. A-stayity-way. All-stay."
The reply was "Es-yay." These words had meant, "Just got his money, stay with him and stall him." The answer had meant "all right."
Peggy, tugging at the little Jew, said, "Come on, you will be all right in a minute, dear - just another one of those old spells." He then started dragging the poor Jew toward the seats in the big top, right while the show was going on.
While they got into the main tent and in front of the seats "Peggy" looked up at the crowd and said, in a feminine voice, "Don't pay any attention to him. He is my husband and is subject to these crazy spells."
The Jew kept trying to pull away from Peggy and was hollering, "You are not mine vife! Let me go! I lost mine money!"
The audience nearly tore the house down laughing; they thought that this was part of the show. However, the man finally broke away from Peggy and ran back to the connection where the legal adjuster caught hold of him and promised him that he would help him get his money back after the show was over. He took the man to the dressing tent and told him to stay there, and that when the man who he thought got his money came in, for him to tell the clown policeman. (Just more future fun.)
But the show had ten to twelve Russian Cossacks working, doing Russian riding in the show, and when the Jew started rattling off in Russian, telling the Cossacks all that had happened, they sided in with him. After a lot of Russian conversation, the Jew left the lot and we did not see him anymore that night. However, upon our arrival in the next town, the first person I saw was the Jew and he was with the Cossacks.
We were ready to leave the lot for parade when I saw the Jew and the Cossacks once more and this time they were talking with the legal adjuster. I rode up just in time to hear the leader of the Cossacks say, "We refuse to work unless you give his back his money. Eight hundred dollars. And we will tell the cops all about what is going on."
The legal adjuster took a piece of paper from his pocket and had the Jew sign his name to it. He then handed the Jew five one-hundred-dollar bills, and the Jew was satisfied. He admitted later that he had lost only four hundred dollars and said the experience was worth it.
The next day found us in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The same daily routine. Business here was bad because the people were having some kind of a tobacco war and some of their big tobacco barns had been burned. I don't exactly understand what it was all about, but I do know that at good dark that night, about fifty mounted men, each wearing a white robe similar to those worn by the K.K.K. and each one carrying a gun across his saddle, rode by the show grounds. These men were known as "Night Riders" in Kentucky.
Several of the show folks started to run, but the leader of the robed figures told them not to be alarmed and to go on with the show. Then they rode on. The Negroes with the show left in a hurry. So did a number of the "rough necks" and to tell the truth, I was on the verge of leaving, myself, but everything eventually quieted down and the show went on as usual.
The only trouble we had that night was getting the tents down because none of the Negroes or "rough necks" returned to help. It was up to the performers and the grifters to get the show off the lot. However, the next day found all the working men back on the job again.
About three days later we were in Corbin, Kentucky, and while the trick roping was going on in the show, some mountaineer stood up and filled one of his neighbors full of lead. The dead man dropped down between the seats and the show was stopped long enough to get the body outside. The sheriff placed the killer under arrest and the show went on as if nothing had happened.
The grifters worked the connection just as usual, but that night I refused to go to my post in the connection, for I had seen more guns being "toted" than I had ever seen in all my life.
Talk about the Wild and Woolly West; it was nothing at all to compare with the hills of Kentucky. Those mountaineers shot first and argued afterwards. They shoot straight, too.
Well, for the next week everything went along pretty smoothly and then we were in Williamson, West Virginia. This is in the hills among the miners. I thought that West Virginia would be a pretty peaceful state, but I soon found out different. It was tougher than Kentucky.
Since I had refused to work in the connection, the boss had given me the job of taking tickets on the front door until the show started and then the regular ticket-taker could handle it by himself.
The doors had just opened for the night show when up walked the show's legal adjuster, accompanied by two men. One of the men was the ex-sheriff and the owner of the lot that the show was using. The other man was the sheriff and had come to the show lot to collect the license money from the manager.
Suddenly, the ex-sheriff pushed the legal adjuster out of the way and, without saying a word, both the ex-sheriff and the sheriff drew guns and started shooting. I was in the direct line of one of the guns, so I dropped to the ground, just as the sheriff fell dead with four bullets in and around his heart. But before he dropped, two of his bullets found their mark in the left shoulder of the ex-sheriff and one bullet hit a miner just as he handed his ticket to the ticket-taker.
I found out later that the trouble was an old grudge and that the ex-sheriff had told the new sheriff never to come to his property. So when the sheriff came on the lot to collect the license money, he disregarded the warning. I was far from being bullet proof and I had no desire to become a target for those mountaineers. So after seeing these killings, I felt that I had had enough action and excitement for awhile. And if I wanted to live to be a good healthy old man, I had better remove myself to a more peaceful country and pretty quick at that. So a few days later I left the famous Kit Carson Show, old Windmill, and all. My guess is that is the reason I am now 81 years young.
The human mind sometimes begins to fade as a person moves into the later years of life, but there are exceptions. A man who lived in Baraboo, Wisconsin, was as alert at 90 as most of us are at the prime of life. He had a dream and he lived to see its fulfillment. But this satisfaction came only with imagination, diligence and a driving desire to see his idea of a circus museum come into being as a final resting place for the relics and treasures of a great, and somewhat passing, phase of Americana.
This man drove so hard to sell his idea to the townpeople of Baraboo, that they sometimes would avoid him on the street to keep him from talking and selling them on his dream. He persisted and gradually the key business men of that city lent their encouragement. The Wisconsin State Historical Society and the Milwaukee Journal became interested and things began to happen.
It was he who gave it its name, incorporated it and was on hand not only to see it open its doors on July 1, 1959, but to watch it and enjoy its development in the years since. Those who knew him found such a satisfying feeling when he was able to see his dream come true and blossom beyond expectations. His "finest hour" came as he rode at the head of the old time circus parade in Milwaukee last July 4. As he wended his way around Milwaukee streets with 500,000 people watching the parade that followed his carriage, he had, and rightly so, a marvelous feeling of pride, knowing the great pleasures that his idea, that had been frequently laughed at, could give so much pleasure to so many people of Wisconsin.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1903, and came to the Ringling home town of Baraboo in that year. He began his long association with the Ringling interests in 1905. This association lasted over three decades, without a contract or a written agreement. During this period he also was attorney for movie cowboy and circus owner, Tom Mix, as well as for Tex Rickard, of Madison Square Garden fame.
He traveled nearly the entire season of 1909 with the Ringling show observing every facet of its detailed inner workings. The circus became his life, even after his retirement his circus interest did not diminish. Only recently did he complete the manuscript to his book, "Circus Lawyer."
The Circus World Museum exists because of the foresight of this old circus veteran.
John M. Kelley lived a great and, full life and left a memorial to the greatest of American Amusement Institutions and to himself when he died on November 4, 1963.
Photo: An early photo of Allen King with a hippo on the Sells-Floto Circus in 1924.. Photo taken by Toby Tyler, from the Bert Wilson Collection.
Allen King, who later became a well known wild animal trainer, had little experience when he joined the Al G. Barnes Circus at Dallas, Texas, in 1922. He was 25 years old at the time and went to work under Louis Roth, chief trainer of the Barnes Show.
Roth gave Allen an act with a group of twelve lionesses which he had been working with other animal acts on the show. Roth gave a rehearsal of the act to show King what was to be done, while Allen stood by. The act had hardly gotten underway before three of the lionesses were in a fight. No sooner had the trouble started than King was fighting beside Roth. After fifteen minutes of savage battling with the jungle beasts, Allen King had helped save the life of the Barnes chief.
King worked on the Barnes show for some time before he started an animal act of his own working on eastern shows, where he met with great success.
During the World's Fair at Chicago in 1934, the late Zack Terrill operated a circus for The Standard Oil Co. Allen King presented the cat act, that was known as The Red Crown Cage of Fury. Spencer Huntley had the elephant act of The Standard Oil attraction, called the Live Power Show.
This was the start of The Cole Brothers Circus as the above animals and steel arena were used on that show in 1935 and Allen King was featured as Sensation of World's Fair Live Power Exhibit.
King left the Cole show early in the 1935 season, joining with Ray Marsh Bryden to reopen the Bays Bros. motorized circus. This was the former Gentry truck equipment. This show was called Rice Bros.
While the Cole Show acts and animals were being used at the Detroit Shrine Circus, Allen King made connections which were later to place him in the employ of the Ford Motor Car Co. as chief of police at the Ford Factory.
After being away from show life for a time he became restless and decided to take out a show of his own. In the spring of 1942, King framed a small truck show to take out that season. He contracted for the use of the Haag elephants or Fisher elephants as they were known at that time. Mr. Fisher, father-in-law of Harry Haag, financed the elephant act after the death of Earnest Haag and the Mighty Haag Show went off the road.
The original Haag elephants were "Tip" and "Alice." For more than 30 years they tramped the roads of this country from Florida to Maine via any and all roads east of the Mississippi and back south for the winter. Tip died in 1937 and the Haag Show bought "Judy" to replace "Tip" that same year. She was very small at that time, maybe three years old. These two, Alice and Judy, were the elephants on the King Show in 1942.
The Billboard Magazine for Jan. 3 announced the winter quarters at 121 Selden Ave., Detroit, Mich., and the opening date as May 1. It also stated the show would carry 25 truck units and about 25 additional units belonging to individual acts, etc. Big top was a 110 ft. round with one 50 ft. middle. Ten trucks and trailer units have been completed. (I believe that is as many units as were ever carried by the show). The color scheme was red, white and blue. It stated the show would use a single ring and hippodrome track.
On Feb. 14 Billboard said Allen King had announced C. W. (Clint) Finney as general agent. All canvas had arrived except big top and menagerie which will be delivered by U.S. Tent and Awning in April. Seats completed with grandstand on both sides.
April 18 it was announced staff of show as follows: Allen King, owner and general manager; Walter Baird, assistant manager; C. W. Finney, general agent and traffic manager; Chester Espy, treasurer; W. Parello, auditor; Claude Myers, director of music; Frank Stout, equestrian director; Harry Haag, assistant director; Frank Heistond, mgr. annex; E. B. Crawford, concessions mgr.; Jackie Andrews, announcer; Willard Holt, chief electrician; Broxton Grady, chief of property dept.; Cliff Monnetl, charge of front door; Harry Gordon, general press representative; Fred Crowthiers, adv. mgr.; C. R. Regor, adv. and program mgr.
The program as follows: Grand entry, comedy ocelots, head balancing, Zavatta Troupe (5 people), Clowns, Shorty Sylvester & Co., dog act presented by Harry Haag, swinging ladders, menage horses, presented by Frank Stout, Jinks Hooglan and Tye McChesney, clown number, single traps, Caroline Hodgson, riding dogs, monkeys and goats, presented by Frank Stout, contortion, Erny Stewart, Zoppes, unsupported ladders (9 people), Margoret Pettis and Co., iron jaw, football mule, rings, Earnest Stewart. Pickout horse, presented by Frank Stout, elephant act, Zoppes riding act (9 people), cloud swing Margoret Pettis, clown number, wire act, presented by the Hodgsons, high jumping horses, presented by Jinks Hoogland, Tye McChesney and Frank Murphey, clown number, Mickey King, featured aerialist, riding school, exit march by L. Myers and his band.
The Billboard Magazine of May 23 stated that the show had a fair matinee and capacity night at Plymouth, Mich., opening stand. Then a week of rain and cold had a bad effect on business. At Adrian, Mich., May 11, weather cleared and gave show fair matinee and full house at night.
The June 20 issue of Billboard said King doing excellent business in Ohio with straw houses the rule. Show seats 2700 but was not enough at Nelsonville, Ohio. Then in the June 27 issue stated, Ohio business spotty for King. Only fair business at Newcomerstown, picked up at New Philadelphia, big at Uhrichsville and Carrollton gave light matinee and heavy rain resulted in poor night house. Semi hauling canvas wrecked at Ira, Ohio, June 18, killing 1 and injuring 4, truck badly damaged. Jack Raum, rodeo and thrill show operator, in Akron, loaned show a semi truck.
On Aug. 1 it was announced that King Show, which ran into unfavorable weather during its first two months on the road, was heading south after a number of stands in Michigan. Reports that the show was closing was branded as false. The show had laid off for 5 days in Indiana during the latter part of July to reorganize and the show was cut down and was being transported on 7 trucks. They had an ad in Aug. 15 Billboard (on account of reorganizing) for sideshow people, two dancers, ticket sellers, colored musicians, clowns for big show, etc. Guy Smuck was then manager of the sideshow. It was announced on Aug. 22 that he had built up the sideshow since taking over. Clint Finney closed Aug. 16 as general agent.
Different acts closed during the season and I have been told that before the show closed some of the people were buying their own meals.
This was the first and last season for this show. They closed at Jonesboro, Arkansas, cancelling an entire week. This was a very disastrous season for this disorganized show. It was too small and had too weak a performance to play two days in a town. The towns selected at the latter part of the season were too small to support the show.
(I want to thank Joseph T. Bradbury and Donald R. Carson for their help on this story).
(Ed. Note: The King title was first used in 1937 on a show owned by the Snake King of Brownsville, Texas. It featured his son, Manual King, the boy lion trainer. The most famous King show started in 1946. It was operated until 1956 by Floyd King, later by Benny and Remo Cristiani and finally as currently used by Bob Snowden and Frank McClosky.)
King Bros. Circus Route for 1942 Season
1 F. Plymouth, Mich.
1 M. Lancaster, Ohio
1 W. Muncie, Indiana
1 S. Seymour, Indiana
1 T. Dexter, Missouri
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified February 2006.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified February 2006.