Bandwagon, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Jan-Feb), 1969. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Many illustrations are not 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.
50 Elephant Photo Sept.-Oct. 1968
Maybe I can throw some light on the 50 elephant mystery picture. The night before it was made Atwell called me and told me about the plans and asked me about the plans and asked me to come on the lot. I was late getting there and several pictures had been made. All the elephant men were nervous because they were afraid the elephants would stampede into Lake Michigan. They had objected to the whole idea, but Roland Butler insisted.
That stretch of sidewall was between the elephants and Lake Michigan, and the depression you talk about was actually the edge of the lake where waves washed up on a breezy day. Butler could never keep his deft hands off photos; he loved to retouch them and make composites. I remember watching him "skive" or sandpaper the edges of prints he intented to paste over other prints.
The camera lens did not face the banner line, but faced east towards the lake.
Now as I look at these pics in Bandwagon the shadows puzzle me, as they seem to be different in the vertical and horizontal shots. Butler used parts of several pictures to make up the 50 bulls, and used a shot of the banner line and tops which he had on hand. During a discussion with Atwell, Butler and Braden somebody said that "40 elephants" would be a good advertising phrase, but Butler laughed and said - "Hell, man we actually have 40 - we will advertise 50."
My guess is that the vertical picture was flopped, which may account for the difference in shadows. Butler was an absolute master in working over pictures, as you undoubtedly know. I remember one picture he used often of a sitting elephant with part of the top in the background. The sitting elephant's head was as high as the side-wall top. What Butler could do with a razor blade was nobody's business! - Gene Whitmore, Lockhart, Texas
More on 50
About the great elephant photo mystery, Bandwagon Sept.-Oct. I would say your conclusion is correct.
White Tops 1932 Nov., page 9, column 3, Harry Atwell snapped the entire herd of forthy-three Ringling elephants in Grant Park while the show played there. - E. Soubier, Toledo, Ohio
Ringling Barnum Goodwill
In an early issue of Bandwagon, would like a question answered, which many of your other readers no doubt would ilke to know.
Question: Of the $8,000,000 paid by the Astrodome owner for the RB-BB show, what part of the purchase price was for title and good will and how much for physical property?
In view of the recent write-ups in Bandwagon on the subject of good will and circus titles, this should be of interest to all of your readers. - John Eggleston
Ringling-Barnum Wagon at Dietch Farm
Thought this photo might interest you. I relettered this former Ringling Barnum wagon #145 last summer for Bob Deitch of Fairlawn, N. J. Just this afternoon I went over to retouch the scrolls which had faded. Some fellow took this with a polaroid camera, and I do not have the negative. If you care to use it, why go right ahead. If not, I would appreciate return of print. The body color is dark green, aluminum wheels with lettering and scrolls yellow. New number is 115. I put #145 Woody CHS in small script on one corner of wagon. - Regards, Warren Wood
Clyde Beatty Biography July-August 1965
I often read through many of the back issues of Bandwagon, which I thoroughly enjoy and highly value, and upon reading one I noticed an error which I should like to set straight. The issue to which I refer is the July-August, 1965, and the article in it was entitled "Forty Years in the Center Ring" and dealt with the life of Clyde Beatty.
What I find in error is this. The article states (2nd column, page 6) that Beatty had made a serial for Republic Pictures sometime in either early 1935 or late 1934, before Beatty's tour with the Cole show in 1935. Although it doesn't give a date, this is implied in the wording which I won't go into here. The name of this serial was supposedly "The Lost Jungle." However, since Republic Pictures formed in 1935, they did not start producing serials until 1936. According to film authority Alan G. Barbour in his nice little book entitled The Serials of Republic, in which he lists all of Republic's 66 serials from 1936 to 1955, there is no mention anywhere of a serial called "The Lost Jungle." Further, the article of Beatty states that he made a movie in 1936 called "Darkest Africa." True, he did appear in a serial, not a movie in the usual sense of the word, entitled "Darkest Africa." This I think is also the film that the article referred to as "The Lost Jungle." In this serial, "Darkest Africa," Clyde Beatty played himself. Now, here's an interesting fact which may have some significance. Also appearing with Beatty was a Manuel King as the character Baru. Could someone tell me if this was the same Manuel King who later was animal trainer and connected with "Snake" King, owner of a reptile farm and supplier to many zoos and shows?
Well, just thought you might be interested in the information about Mr. Beatty and also the mention of Manuel King. - William H. Schreiber
Editor's Note Manuel King, the boy lion trainer, is the youngest son of Snake King, of Brownsville, Texas. Manuel King appeared with his Father's King Bros. Circus (using Schell Bros. Circus equipment), as well as James M. Cole, Rice Bros, and other truck shows of the 1930s.
Author's preface: One of the highlights of my youth occurred on the day I was driven on an 80-mile round trip to Rochester, N.Y., to see the 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show. As a farm youngster I had enjoyed the western books of Zane Grey, B. M. Bower, Peter B. Kyne, and, of course, the classic of them all, The Virginian. There were magazines and an occasional film that also depicted the life of the western rider but nothing that contained the drama that was guaranteed by cowboys and Indians in person. This I anticipated with eagerness that cannot be described. At last on that hot summer day, after a long drive over a two-lane highway upon which we reached speeds up to and including thirty miles per hour, I saw cowboys in the flesh - and Indians, too - and witnessed their hard-riding, fancy roping, and marvelous shooting. Nostalgia for sure, but the stuff from which dreams are made. Now this was the second edition of the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Show - the one that existed from 1925 to 1931. What I want to discuss in this article, however, is the first Wild West Show put out by the Miller Brothers and Edward Arlington - the one that started touring the country and making daily stands in 1908, The emphasis will be upon the early years until it reached a point where it could compete with the big circus organizations of that period. But, before I discuss the events of 1908, it is necessary to drop back a few years and relate how the 101 Ranch got started. In writing this history I will probably puncture a few myths, for example : many persons have related the exciting tale of Will Rogers roping a wild steer in the seats of Madison Square Garden as an event that occurred on the 101 Ranch Show. It, in fact, occurred in 1905 on the Zack Mulhall show in the Garden, not on the 101 Ranch Show. It is also generally believed that the 101 Ranch Show was ended when the English government confiscated its horses after World War I began in August 1914. It is true that a 101 Ranch Show folded in England at the beginning of World War I but it was a second unit. The main show was touring the United States at the time and continued to do so for two more years. The personnel and stock of the second unit had been in South America during the winter 1913-14, came back to the United States for the Madison Square Garden opening, and then were sent on to England. After the stock was lost in September, the personnel began to return to the United States in any way they could. Transportation was not easily available due to war conditions and many came home by freighter. But, I am years ahead of the story and a return to the origin of the 101 Ranch is in order.
Colonel George W. Miller railed his first herd of longhorns out of Texas in 1871 and with this drive began a prosperous cattle business that continued until he, like many another cattleman, succumbed to the great economic depression of the first few years of the 1890s. This business collapse, usually identified with the year 1893, forced Miller to shift his activities from ranching and cattle herding, to a more diversified production. In addition to changing from the lean, rangy longhorn to a higher grade of beef cattle, the ranch began to concentrate on wheat, corn, and alfalfa. Hogs and poultry in great quantity were added to the production schedule of the ranch. In spite of this wide diversification, cattle (Shorthorn and Hereford) were the principal market product. Miller, and other ranchers, were trying to meet the demands of the eastern markets and they had found out long before that the only remaining sale for longhorn beef was the government issue to the Indian reservations. The Eastern public certainly did not intend to wreck their molars on those tough, stringy longhorn steaks any longer.
Colonel George W. Miller, father of the three Miller brothers of 101 Ranch Wild West Show fame, was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, on February 22, 1841. He inherited land from his father, married, and settled down to raise a family. The first son, Joseph Carson Miller, was born on March 12, 1868. Two years later, George Miller, decided to leave Kentucky and move west with his wife and two-year old boy. The family had reached Newtonia, Missouri, by the following winter and at this point Miller halted and began his first ranching activities. The Miller's second child and only daughter (Alma Miller) was born there on June 21, 1875. Zachary Taylor Miller, the second son, was also born at Newtonia on April 26, 1878. Two years after this son's birth Miller sold this home, and other property that he owned in Newtonia, and moved to Baxter Springs, Kansas. Here, George Lee Miller, the third son, arrived on September 9, 1881.
Miller's connection with the famous numerals "101" was initiated in 1879 when he leased 60,000 acres from the United States government. Although the brand was not used until two years later, the land, located in the famous Cherokee Strip, provided the impetus for increased cattle raising activities and launched Miller into big-time operation. In 1881 he moved his family to Winfield, Kansas, to be nearer his work and also began to brand with the 101 numerals. This brand was used on the left horn of the cattle which also carried a large NO on the left side. A JK brand was used on the horses' gleft shoulder. Several other brands and combinations of marks were used on both horses and cattle until 1888 when the brand on the horn was eliminated and all cattle and horses were burned with 101 on the left hip. The JK and the NO were not used after this time and the other markings were also dropped.
One of the famous landmarks of the region, the ranch headquarters known as the "White House," began with a dugout excavation on the Salt Fork River in 1892. The "White House," a most imposing and complete set of ranch buildings, was constructed on the opposite side of the river from the dugout. It was completed in time for the family to move into it for the Christmas holiday season, 1903. However, Colonel George W. Miller did not live to enjoy this fine building. He died on April 25, 1903, while it was still under construction.
In its way the "White House" was as famous as any of the imposing residences of the circus owners of the same period. Probably as many great and near-great personages of the early 20th century visited it, and were entertained at this location, as were ever hosted at any of the urban locations of the more traditional circus owners. On January 14, 1909, it burned to the ground but it was rebuilt on the same site within a year.
Although many guests visited the ranch to take part in its various activities - agricultural, cattle raising, and social - no one event received as much publicity as did the 1905 convention of the National Editor's Association. After the ranch show went on tour in 1908 this event of three years earlier was still referred to as the "buffalo killing" at which the "Millers entertained 100,000 persons." Most accounts would settle for approximately 65,000 people who arrived at the ranch for three days in June to witness Geronimo (released under guard from Fort Sill), the wagon train drawn by oxen, the buffalo hunt, bronco busting, and Indian dances. The old Apache chief was a fine attraction, but Lucille Mulhall, one of the finest western riders of all time, easily outdrew him. Only one bison was killed and he provided steaks for the editors - not the sixty thousand. But, the newsmen spread the word about the Miller brothers and the 101 Ranch when they returned east and that was the purpose of the whole thing.
A little more than a year later, September 16, 1906, another fifty thousand people descended upon the Ranch for the Thirteenth Anniversary of the opening of the Cherokee Strip. This event was also a western affair with roping, bulldogging, bronco busting, and races. These two celebrations are mentioned to illustrate that the Millers showed no reluctance when it came to exhibitions. In fact, they knew how to stage an excellent show. When the opportunity came in 1907 at Jamestown, Virginia, and Brighton Beach, New York, they were well-prepared to stage a crowd-pleasing exhibition.
Before discussing that eventful year, however, the activities of the men and women in the arena should be mentioned. The present-day rodeo fan would scarcely recognize the techniques used by the participants in the sport at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Just as the circus has changed, so has the rodeo and wild west exhibition. Sixty years ago both men and women rode bucking horses and steers. Women, as well as men, were excellent ropers and riders. At the present time bulls and horses are mounted while in a chute and turned loose when the rider is ready to begin his bone-jangling, gut-jerking ride. During the period under discussion chutes were unknown. The bronco to be busted was snubbed to another horse in the arena, blindfolded, and saddled. When the rider mounted, the blind was jerked away and the bronc hit the roof. This method not only involved risk for the rider, it also provided some hair-raising experiences for the horse and rider to which the bronc was snubbed. Photos exist which show the wild, angry bronc climbing right into the saddle with the rider who is snubbing him. Jack McCracken describes the scene in these words, "In those days they did not ride bareback broncs. It was all saddle bronc riding and a pick-up man led a bronc out to the front of the grandstand and he then snubbed the bronc and earred him down (that is he got one of the bronc's ears in each hand and held him by also biting his ear with his teeth) while the cowboy who was to ride the bronc got his saddle on the horse, then mounted, and called to the snubber to turn him loose. No chutes were used in those days; all broncs were saddled out in the open arena, and many of the boys got kicked, jumped on, etc. while getting the saddle on the horse."
Steers were roped and ridden and bulldogged on the run without the use of a chute to contain them. A rodeo fan does not see steers roped anymore the way they used to be. In those days the cowboy began the event with his rope tied to the saddle. When the steer took off at a dead run, the rider took down his rope, made a loop, roped the steer - all at terrific speed. He then threw the steer and tied its legs just as calf roping is performed at the present time. In conclusion, it should be stated that the riding and wrestling were probably no more dangerous than today, but the preliminary activities were more exciting and hazardous. Injuries, superficial and severe, were common and some riders died as a result of them.
The 101 Ranch Wild West Show opened the 1907 season with a two-week engagement at the Coliseum in Chicago, Illinois. It was under the direction of the C. W. Rex Company who were also to manage its operation at the Jamestown Exposition. According to the review of the show there were "110 cowboys, 300 horses and herds of buffalo and long horned steers." Note: Those last three words of the previous sentence indicate that an eastern writer was at work. In the Southwest the animals are "longhorn," never "long horned."
Although reports indicated that J. C. Miller, George L. Miller, and Zack T. Miller were with the organization in Chicago, only two of the brothers were listed as members of the Executive Staff. O. J. Cathcart was President. Zack T. Miller was Show Manager and J. C. Miller was Acting Manager. Ed Botsford was the Arena Director with John Schaefer, Boss Hostler, and Joe Westheimer, Master of Transportation. Despite some exaggeration in the quantity of performing personnel mentioned in the review it was a large outfit. There were about seventy Indians, and ninety cowboys and cowgirls with the show - if the band was included.
The performance opened with the usual grand entry characteristic of wild west shows and the report indicates that the arena was quite crowded with men and women on horseback by the time they were all introduced. The events included the usual stage coach attack, Indian war dances, the attack on the emigrant train, the capture of a horse thief, and the wild pony express ride. Where the 101 Ranch Show excelled, however, was in the roping and riding of wild steers and outlaw horses. In addition to the bull riders and bronc busters, individual performances by Burns (trick roper), George Elser (trick rider), and Bill Pickett (bulldogger) drew acclaim. Much has been written about Pickett, the great Negro bulldogger, and little can be added here except to state that he first attracted attention at the shows held at the ranch in 1905 and 1906 and continued his great career on the traveling show.
Two additional acts presented in Chicago were not wild west in nature but were of high calibre according to the reviewer. The first of these was high school riding presented by Miss Amelia Summerville. The second was "Uncle Dan" Boyington with a group of trained buffalo, ponies and mules. Boyington was billed as a "Professor" in 1907, but he was "Uncle Dan" with his mule act on the 1908 touring show. He continued to work the mules in the Ranch performance for several years. A photo of the "Professor" and his act listed one of the animals as an "African Yak." It was a water buffalo.
A list of the cowboys working in the performance will not be included but many of the 1907 personnel became well-known during the following years. The one man who gained the greatest fame in show business (circus and film) was Tom Mix. He worked in the show during the 1907 season and for part of 1908, as well as other years. Buffalo Vernon was another famous western performer who made the trip to Chicago and Jamestown. Others who gained fame with the 101 Ranch Show in the early years, and who were on the 1907 production, were George Elser, Vester Pegg, Howard Compton, Lon Seeley, and Dan Dix.
The 101 Ranch Show ran for two weeks in Chicago after the May 2 opening and then moved to Virginia for the Jamestown Exposition. It opened there on May 20. In addition to the personnel included at the Chicago date there were Lucille Mulhall and Wenona, the champion rifle shot. Wenona was to be a feature of the show in the years to follow. At Jamestown the Ranch Show was a feature of the War Path. This unusual name was affixed to the amusement section of the Exposition and the reader will pardon a digression while the author gives a brief run-down of the major displays located on the War Path.
Probably the greatest feature, at least the one that was the most discussed in later years, was a replay of the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac. In similar vein, was the battle of Gettysburg and Manasses. Then there was Old Jamestown, a production which featured Pocahontas and John Smith. In addition, on this same theme, there was Colonial Virginia and the Burning of Jamestown. To include some historical events from the north there was Paul Revere's Ride; or further west - the San Francisco Disaster (the earthquake in that city had occurred the year before.) Then, if the visitor desired some ancient history he could visit Ben Hur which featured chariot races.
The planners of the War Path knew that all the thousands of visitors would not be avid historians so they included Pair Japan and the Imperial Japanese Tea Garden (40 Geisha girls and 40 Japanese maidens); Beautiful Orient and Streets of Cairo; Pharaoh's Daughter (illusion); Ferdinand Akoun's Crystal Palace; the Swiss Village; the International Beauty Show (25 young maidens of all nations); Chute-the-Chutes; Streets of Seville; Spanish Theatre; Revolving Tower and Parachute; Figure Eight and Toboggan Slide; and Hell's Gate (like End of the World at Coney Island during those years).
There were also the Miracle Painting, "In the Shadow of the Cross," Captain Sorcho and His Deep Sea Divers; Colonel Francis Ferrari’s Trained Wild Animals: and, of course, the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. That was the War Path!
The Ranch program ran an hour and a half and consisted of sixteen western acts. In addition to this exhibition the Millers were also producing a second show at Brighton Beach, New York, during part of the summer. The show closed at Jamestown on October 12 and then moved to Richmond, Virginia, for a two-day engagement. It then played a nine-day stand at the Georgia State Fair at Atlanta and a seven-day engagement at Louisville, Kentucky. This was the closing stand of the season. It arrived back at Bliss, Oklahoma, on the morning of November 7. Bliss, later named Marland, was the nearest town or railroad center to the ranch headquarters which lay five miles distant.
At this time Billboard reported that the Miller Brothers were unsure of their future plans. However, by February, 1908, it was able to report that "Wild West Show . . . will move onto railroad cars for a tour of the country in April."
There were probably several closely related events which caused the Millers to arrive at this decision during the winter months of 1907-08. The first of these, perhaps, was the decision of Major Gordon W. Lillie (Pawnee Bill) to forsake the rigors of traveling and to keep his wild west show in one location, Boston, for the entire 1908 season. This meant that there would be only one large wild west outfit on the road that year - that of Buffalo Bill Cody. Closely tied in with this decision of Lillie was the departure of Edward Arlington from the Pawnee Bill organization. Arlington was an extremely skilled circus man and had served for years with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He had spent the season of 1907 with Pawnee Bill and apparently the move to settle down in Boston for a season was not to his liking.
The Miller Brothers were well aware of the publicity they had gained at Jamestown. They wanted to capitalize on it, so with Arlington at liberty and the Pawnee Bill outfit off the road, it seemed that 1908 was the year. What arrangements were made between Arlington and the Miller Brothers have not been publicized. However, in general, the Millers were to provide the personnel and the animals and produce the performance. In all probability, Arlington had full charge of all the business affairs. It is known that he did have entire control of the route and the advance crews and also that he made visits each week during the season to the show from his headquarters. On these weekly visits he often directed his three advance agents to be present. George Arlington (Edward's father) was also on the show in 1908, and, in later years, he was the General Manager, while Edward Arlington was listed as General Agent and Railroad Contractor. The latter was also named as Proprietor in conjunction with the Miller Brothers beginning in 1910.
There was a great deal of traveling to and from the show during 1908 by the men in charge. In addition to Arlington's weekly visits, Joseph C. Miller made repeated trips to the ranch. It must be remembered that the brothers were not only trying to operate a wild west show, but were also conducting a huge ranch enterprise at the same time. George L. Miller remained at the ranch and did not tour while Zack T. Miller, who was in charge of the arena, was usually with the show.
Producing the arena display was easy for the Millers. In fact, they already had the talent available at the ranch. The one arena feature that was not western was Prince Lucca and his Cossack riders. This equestrian display, from the Pawnee Bill Show, was chosen to oppose the riding of the cowboys and the audiences were left to decide which were the better horsemen.
However, they had no show train, tents, seats, wagons, poles, nor any of the other items so necessary to a touring show. Edward Arlington was busy solving this problem, and while they waited for his activities to culminate a spur track was built out of Bliss. It was only a half-mile long, but it would hold the railroad cars when they arrived.
Meanwhile, some of the management posts were filled. H. G. Wilson was given the side show and concert privileges. W. C. Thompson was selected to be the general press representative. James C. Stuart became contracting agent and Joseph Rohenthal was advance agent. Tom Mix was appointed as assistant to Zack Miller. William Atterberry, band leader who had been with the show in Jamestown, was brought on to instruct a cowgirls' band. One of the biggest problems lay in replacing the longhorns. Although the Miller Ranch owned about forty of these animals, more than a dozen had been killed or crippled at Jamestown and Brighton Beach in 1907. The cowboys were not going to "bust" them any harder in 1908 than they had in earlier years, but the problems of loading and unloading them each day would cause added casualties. A similar problem faced the organization in regard to the bison. The Ranch owned fifty head and planned to carry a dozen with the show. The loading and unloading and the buffalo chase in the arena took its toll of these animals and by the 16th week of the season several had been lost.
Many of the performers contracted had been with the show at Jamestown. One newcomer, Guy "Cheyenne Bill" Weadick, was to become very famous in the Wild West Show business. He left the show when it reached Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, in July, and began a business venture. During the next few seasons he worked on the show and also toured in vaudeville. Later, he was on the unit in England and still later he became the successful manager of the Calgary Stampede. Instead of burning just any emigrant train to conclude the program the Miller Brothers decided to represent the attack on Pat Hennessy's train in July 1874. This was a sad incident from the history of Oklahoma but the Millers probably felt that it should be authentic since they had been exposed to all that history in Jamestown. Consequently they signed Bull Bear, the Cheyenne who had supposedly led the historic charge, to make the daily attacks in the arena during the summer of 1908.
Edward Arlington sent the first section of railroad cars from New York City on March 15. The twenty-two cars had been rebuilt and overhauled by the Pennsylvania Railroad in their Jersey City shops. The train made stops at Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, and Kansas City picking up men and material that had been collected at those points. It arrived in Ponca City, Oklahoma, on March 21. The working force was quartered in Ponca City while the performing personnel were located at the Ranch where the rehearsals were held.
At the sale of Pawnee Bill stock and equipment in early May, Mr. Joseph Miller purchased four flat cars and one advertising car as well as four water buffalo (carabo). This is not to be confused with the big sale of 26 December 1908 when a great amount of Pawnee Bill equipment was sold to Haag. Additional purchasers of stock in May were Co. W. T. Cummins, Col. Zack Mulhall, and the Campbell Brothers.
The nature of the wagon equipment on the 101 Ranch Wild West Show in 1908 is shrouded in mystery at this point. Thus far no photographs, parade descriptions, nor other positive clues have come to the writer's attention. Most historians date the acquisition by the Millers of three famous Barnum & Bailey wagons as the winter of 1909-10. Certainly a second group of three fine wagons, formerly on the Norris & Rowe Circus, arrived on the Ranch Show for the 1913 season. These came from William P. Hall. With the exception of the calliope there are no clues to the purchase of the wagons that are associated with the show in 1908. Ricky Pfening writes that an "old Forepaugh calliope" 'was on the show in 1909. Jack McCracken, who drove six and eight-horse teams on the show during portions of the 1911 and 1912 seasons and for all of 1913 and 1914, also reports that the first calliope "was an old Forepaugh-Sells relic." This piece of equipment was probably replaced in 1910 when Edward Arlington purchased the calliope at the Norris & Rowe sale. It was listed as a Kratz steam calliope, 37 whistles, and sold for $680. Arlington's total purchases at this sale in Peru were twenty pieces of hickory for single trees, one set of new six-horse harness, and a ticket wagon, in addition to the calliope. It must have been this calliope that was demolished in a wreck in Wisconsin in 1912 According to McCracken this was replaced at once by another old calliope which later was overhauled and repaired at Hot Springs, Arkansas, during the winter. He reports that he last saw the 101 Ranch Show in 1915 and this calliope was still in use at that time. Ricky Pfening, who has studied the calliope situation on the Ranch Show, states that the 1913 version "is the most famous" of those owned by the Ranch Show. It was used on this show until 1916 and then was on the Jess Willard property. Later it was owned by the Horne Company of Kansas City who sold it to the Veal Bros. Carnival in 1919. According to Jack McCracken the Ranch Show never had a new calliope. They were all old pieces of equipment that were rebuilt and overhauled by the show mechanics.
The 1908 season was a great learning experience for the Miller Brothers and their ranch personnel. The show encountered rain, mud, floods, wrecks, injuries, poor business, excellent business, and opposition from established circuses but after reading some accounts of the season's tour the guiding hand of Edward Airlngton is very evident. The reports from the show indicate that his skillful maneuvering of the route made it a paying venture. Printed financial records (Collings, Ellsworth, The 101 Ranch, University of Oklahoma Press, 1937) indicate that the 1908-1916 years were a rewarding venture for the Miller Brothers. The same source reports that the 1925-1931 show was a loser. The difference, it would seem, was the lack of Edward Arlington, or someone of his stature, during the later years.
The 101 Ranch opened the 1908 season in Ponca City, Oklahoma, on April 14, and played two weeks through Kansas and Illinois before returning to Chicago for an extended stand, April 27-May 9. A week of one-day stands in Illinois and Iowa preceded a six-day exhibition in St. Louis. Then came two weeks of dates in Missouri and Oklahoma. During the first fifty days of the tour it rained continually. The inclement weather played havoc with the lots and the patronage. Parades were late and afternoon performances started as the patrons were beginning to think of preparing supper. The soft ground of the arena spoiled the performance and caused injuries as the horses slipped and fell. Business at the St. Louis stand was only fair and fell off badly at other points along the route. Finally, during the second week of June, the organization moved north into Iowa and the show was able to get the parade out on time and the afternoon performances were opened at the scheduled tour. The sick list was lowered with the improvement in the weather and the attitude of the performers picked up so that the riding again displayed the skill and zest for which the Ranch Show was known. Two days were spent in St. Paul and two days in Minneapolis with St. Cloud and Fergus Falls the last stands before entering Canada.
Business was great in Minnesota. Not all the business was done at the gate, however. The cowboys on the show, notably Dan Dix and Howard Compton, "busted" any outlaw horse that was brought to the show along the route. This was a side endeavor that continued throughout much of the season and any wild or vicious horse that was brought onto the lot was given a ride.
A half-dozen miles from St. Joseph, Mo., the show ran afoul of the 16-hour railroad law; the engine crew pulled the show train onto a side track to get their prescribed rest. The show lost several hours while it waited for another crew to be assembled and brought out from St. Joseph. Vern Tantlinger came down with typhoid fever; Vester Pegg and Oscar Rixson were out for several days when the broncos they were riding hit the guy ropes; Rose Scott broke her arm when the bucking horse she was riding also hit the guy ropes and cleaned itself of both rider and saddle; Charles Tipton became ill; and Tom Mix was transferred back to the ranch to look after a shipment of several thousand head of cattle.
Accidents, caused by the bucking horses running into the guy ropes, were quite common on the show and recall to this author the comments of a friend who saw the 101 Ranch Show in Pasadena in 1911. He was amazed at the number of ropes used in guying out the show and to this day his most vivid recollection of the Ranch Show is of guy ropes all over the place. "Far more than Sells-Floto or Al G. Barnes ever used," he states.
On June 22 the Ranch Show opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for ten days of Canadian dates. It returned to the States at Great Falls, Montana, on July 3. The short Canadian tour was successful even though it followed a tour by Campbell Bros. Circus. Three performances were given at Calgary on Dominion Day where the organization played in conjunction with the Dominion Fair.
High water delayed the movement in Montana and the afternoon show was lost at Great Falls. The same conditions slowed the move to Butte and it did not arrive in that city until four P.M. This same flooding had stranded the Norris & Rowe Circus in Butte where they had exhibited on July 3. It could not get out of town, and, since the 101 Ranch had the lot contracted, the circus had to move to another location in the city. Norris & Rowe did very poor business in Butte with four performances, but the Ranch show had a "turn away" with their one performance. The Millers probably would not have made that single exhibition if it had not been for Norris & Rowe assistance. The circus sent over their baggage stock and drivers and canvasmen to help the Ranch Show get up in time for an evening performance. The Billboard correspondent from the wild west show was lavish in his praise for the assistance given by the circus, but the Norris & Rowe writer did not even mention the incident.
A bad wreck was encountered at Dickinson, North Dakota, when the switching crew telescoped the sleeper, "Bliss," and another sleeper into a dead train. Two men from the Ranch Show died as a result of the accident and several others were injured. The materials in the two sleepers were placed in box cars and sent to Bismark where the Northern Pacific furnished the show with two replacements. The "Bliss" and the second damaged car were sent to St. Paul for rebuilding. In addition to "Bliss," some of the other coaches during the first years of the show were named "Mister Eddie," "The Arlington," Col. Joe," "New York," and "Oklahoma." The "New York" was the canvasmen's sleeper during his time on the show reports Jack McCracken.
From July 3 through 23 the Ranch Show played dates in Montana and the Dakotas. It then began a tour of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. It left Michigan the last week of August and moved into Indiana for nine dates. Louisville, Kentucky, on September 7 began a southern tour which took the 101 Ranch Wild West into Tennessee, Georgia, Albania, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. This southern route lasted for over two and a half months and concluded at Brownsville, Texas, on December 3.
A few additional highlights of the 1908 season should be included at this point. The stock was wearing out at a great rate, and, in the middle of July, Vester Pegg brought a carload of fresh animals to the show from the ranch. Another carload of horses and a few bison arrived on the show at Chicago Heights on July 30. Several trips were made to the ranch during July and August by Joseph C. Miller. He was working with his brother to purchase several thousand head of cattle for fall feeding. Tom Mix was still in charge of cattle shipments at the ranch and Charles Tipton had been appointed chief of cowboys and assistant arena director under Zack Miller. Injuries to the bronc "busters" continued to occur. Julia Allen broke her arm when "Old Chainfoot" hit the guy ropes; Dan Dix dislocated a shoulder; George Hoker dislocated a hip, fractured two ribs, and suffered internal injuries when a bucking horse fell on him at Howell, Michigan; and Charles Tipton and George Elser were hospitalized for various periods. Business fell off in Kentucky due to opposition from numerous fairs and the show day-and-dated for the second time during the season when it opposed the Ringling Circus at Nashville, Tennessee.
Rumors had persisted for the last few weeks of the season that the Ranch Show would follow the regular season's tour with a run into Mexico. This was verified in the November 14 issue of Billboard which issued a call for "A few more first-class people in all departments for present Winter Season in Mexico. Including a long engagement in City of Mexico."
The regular season closed on December 3 and on December 6 the show entered Mexico at Monterrey. The 9th and 10th included stands at San Luis Patosi and on the evening of the 11th a parade was scheduled in Mexico City. The engagement in that city extended from December 12 to 26. The most exciting event of an otherwise uneventful tour was a contest between Bill Pickett and a Spanish bull in the bull ring of this fabled city on Christmas Day. Somehow Pickett was induced to bulldog this animal and Pathe-Freres recorded the exciting event on film and it was shown in the United States during 1909. The events in that brief battle - ages long to Pickett - began with the bull goring the rider's horse. Since this is the usual procedure in a bull ring it was to be expected. Then the cowboy got the bull by the horns and nose and began to twist its head in an attempt to throw the animal in the approved western fashion. It is not clear from the reports if he bulldogged the steer before some accurate arm from the stands laid Pickett low with a well-directed missile. In any event, Pickett was stunned by the blow and the bull was still pretty angry about the abuse he was getting. To conclude the exercises, and to rescue the great cowboy from an extremely dangerous situation, a couple of the Ranch hands roped the bull. Pickett had clung to the animal for much longer than the required period of time according to all Yankees reports of the event. He hung on to the lip and horns for seven minutes and the 101 Ranch hands were greeted with jeers and a barrage of garbage and rocks as they escorted their battered contestant from the arena.
The show train had barely returned to Bliss, Oklahoma, when the beautiful Miller residence, the "White House," burned to the ground. This tragic event occurred during the night of January 12, 1909. Just previous to this disaster, the train had been robbed while on its way back from the tour of Mexico. Between San Antonio and Fort Worth, two men, employees of the show, had blown open the safe in the ticket wagon. Both were apprehended almost immediately and neither the fire nor the robbery delayed plans for the 1909 tour.
These plans for the second season on rails included the retention of the same leadership as for 1908. Joseph C., Zack T., and George L. Miller and Edward Arlington were equal owners. Arlington was again to be in exclusive charge of routing and advance. Joseph C. Miller was the manager of the show and Zack T. Miller was to direct the performance. He was also given a part in the program - a number in which he could display his marksmanship while riding full-speed around the arena. George L. Miller was scheduled to direct the ranch activities which, as usual, were exacting. George Arlington was listed as General Director and Fred Beckman was his assistant.
Other staff members for the 1909 Ranch Show included Charles W. Hayes, contracting agent; Joseph Rosenthal, assistant to Edward Arlington; Paul W. Harrell who managed Advance Car No. 1 and Al Riel who was in charge of Advance Car No. 2. Owen Doud was legal adjuster. D. V. Tantlinger headed the cowboy personnel; A. B. Eastman was Band Director; Henry "Apples" Welch was boss hostler; and Herbert H. Warner had charge of the cookhouse. Kid McKenna was train master until mid-July when Harry Parrish took over.
In the early spring of 1909 the Millers and Arlington planned for the first time to use the word "Real" in the title. It was designed to read Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show. However, the added adjective did not appear too often in the review or advertising until a few years later. In spite of this wild west emphasis a wild animal show became an important addition for the 1909 season. In December of the previous year, Harry G. Wilson, privilege manager, engaged the George M. Rollins' Trained Animal Exhibition, the Mason & Dixon's Minstrels and Jubilee Singers, and "Uncle Dan" Boyington's troupe of trained mules as the basic part of the annex for the 1909 tour. The Rollins' animals featured performing bears, tigers, and leopards with Lydia Wilmouth's five lions as the main attraction. The staff of this organization included George M. Rollins, Proprietor; William Gaylor, Manager; Edward McIlroy, Treasurer; Thomas Wilmouth, Equestrian Director; Will Hienke, Supt. of Canvas; Alex Kenox, Supt. of Animals; and Capt. Tom Wilmouth, Lydia Wilmouth, Wm. Desdrach (or Dresbach), and Otto Fischer, trainers. Later in the season the annex included, in addition to the animals, the Three Davises; the Barooty Troupe; Capt. George Devere (tattooed man); Professor Allen (Punch); Casibanka (Singalese conjurer); the Ramons (jugglers and battle axe throwers); and Holdena's Southland Minstrel Show of fifteen people in place of the Mason & Dixon outfit. William Carroll's small horse was also an attraction.
The strongest effect made by the Rollins' Animal Show, however, was felt in the parade. The Ranch would not have had much of a procession in 1909 without the five cages of animals that were used. Three dens of lions, one den each of leopards and bears were located near the center of the parade. Aside from those five cages there were only eight other vehicles presented. Of these eight, one was a stage coach, and another was the emigrant wagon, or "prairie schooner." Before further discussion of the equipment is presented a few comments should be noted concerning the baggage stock.
During 1908 and 1909 the Ranch Show used mules and oxen rather than horses for baggage stock. In fact, the horses on the show were used only during the performance except for one team used in parade. Apparently the oxen were not included in parade during these first years but they were employed for that purpose at a later date when they were used in parade, performance, and to haul the "schooner wagon" from the train to the lot and back. During the earlier tours the oxen pulled the emigrant wagon from the train to the lot, around the arena during its display, and returned it to the train at night. This was not always the safest of tasks. In 1908 the wagon was not braked effectively and ran up onto the wheelers on a down grade on the way to the lot at Sedalia, Missouri. One of the oxen was injured so severely it had to be killed and the other could not work after the accident and was sold. During the 1909 tour it was reported that sixteen yoke of oxen were used on the show.
Jack McCracken, describing the oxen used in 1913, states that there were "eight working oxen. They pulled the schooner wagon in the show and in parade and also hauled the wagon from the train to the lot and back. The team was driven by James E. Smedley, better known as "Curbstone Willie," or "Curby." He never used a brake going down hill. He always made the wheelers crowd the curbstone and rub the front wheel as a brake. The team's names were: Logan and Blaze, the leaders; Mike and Frosty, the six body team; Red and George, the four body team; Nig and Buck, the wheelers."
More than sixty mules were used in the parade witnessed and recorded by Isaac Marcks at Pittsfield, Mass., on June 10, 1909. This eye-witness also recorded the equipment used in the parade on that date and, as has been indicated, it leaves the impression that the Ranch Show parade was very meager indeed at that time. The parade leader was followed by a flag bearer and behind the flag came a drum corps of eight people. Zack T. Miller (not yet a Colonel) rode after the drummers. He was followed by four more flag bearers. Then came the first vehicle, the "cowboy band chariot" pulled by eight mules. This band wagon is illustrated in Photo No. 1. While there is no direct evidence that it was on the Ranch Show before 1910 some items of advertising indicate that, in all probability, it was there before that date. Wagon historians do agree that it was one of the oldest vehicles owned by the Ranch. Following this band wagon and preceding the stage coach came a half-dozen cowboys and seven Indians.
The stage, supposedly used on the run from Atchison, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado, shortly after the close of the Civil War, was pulled by eight mules. This a slightly unusual hitch for a stage coach in that four or six animals were more often employed. However, eight mules or horses were sometimes used, especially on difficult stretches of the road. After this vehicle rode sixteen cowgirls and one lone Indian maiden.
Behind the ladies came another "band chariot" pulled by eight mules. The only reproduction this author has seen of a vehicle that might be this bandwagon is a very poor illustration in the Billboard May 15, 1909. In this reproduction, which is almost a silhouette, the carvings on the sides and sky-boards are almost too weak to be classified. It is, however, pulled by an eight-mule hitch. There is a driver on the seat, but the rest of the seats are empty. According to the notes made by Mr. Marcks these two band wagons and the stage coach were the only three vehicles hauled by teams made up of eight mules. None of the other photographs examined by this author has revealed another view of this band wagon and its destiny remains a mystery at this writing.
A return to the 1909 parade and the review of the procession reveals that the second bandwagon was followed by twenty riders - and outrider, five cowboys, eight Indians, two more cowboys, and four Indians. Behind this mounted contingent came a coach pulled by two horses - the only team of horses in the parade when Mr. Marcks saw it. The design of this coach has not been revealed by my study. Perhaps he referred to another stage, a two-wheeled vehicle of some type, or still another kind of carriage. It rolled immediately in front of an outrider who preced the Rollins' animal dens. These consisted of an open den of lions pulled by six mules, a second open den of lions pulled by six mules, an open den of bears pulled by four mules, an open den of leopards pulled by two mules, then a third open den of lions pulled by two mules. The trainers, Captain Tom Wilmouth, Lydia Wilmouth, Wm. Dresdrach, and Otto Fischer may have ridden on, or in, the cages. One of them was injured during the parade in Boston when a bear attacked him through the bars.
The minstrel band from the annex was transported on a bandwagon which rumbled along the pavements behind the cages. It may well have been the wagon illustrated in Photo No. 2, although this photograph was taken some years later. No date for the arrival of this bandwagon on the Ranch Show has been discovered but it could have been present in 1909. It was followed by five cowboys and five Indian riders. These mounted men were directly in front of a tableau pulled by six mules. Behind this unidentified tableau rode six Cossacks and a half-dozen Indians followed by the emigrant wagon pulled by two mules. This is a very small number of mules for this type of wagon and the greater number of oxen used at a later date seems more realistic. Seven vaqueros from Old Mexico came next and then the two bison. Mr. Marcks did not mention the method of transportation for the bison although at a later date as many as three were carried on a wagon in parade. It can be assumed that this same method was used in 1909. The last unit behind the bison, was the calliope - probably the "Forepaugh-Sells relic" mentioned by Jack McCracken.
Mr. Marcks noted twenty-two cars at Pittsfield in 1909 and it will be remembered that this was the number sent to Ponca City by Mr. Arlington in March, 1908. The train at Pittsfield was composed of "9 flats, 7 horse cars, 6 sleepers." Marcks also noted 36 wagons, 16 steers, the big top, side show tent, horse top, dining tent, and cook tent. The sixteen steers no doubt were in reference to the oxen carried on the show.
The 1909 program opened with a grand review which featured the Wells Fargo stage coach, the overland freight wagon, and Indian squaws using travois - three methods of transportation associated with life on the western frontier. The second display consisted of seventeen introductions. As each group or individual was announced the dust flew high in the arena as the horseman, or company of riders, took their places before the assembled audience. Among the groups introduced were various Indian contingents, cowboys, cowgirls, Cossacks, vaqueros, and rurales. Individual performers who were presented to the patrons were Prince Lucca, chief of the Cossacks; Chief Eagle Feather, Sioux; D. V. Tantlinger; and Zack Miller. After this large assembly rode out of the arena, Display No. 3 featured a recreation of the short-lived pony express which transported the mail during 1860 and 1861.
The expert ropers of the 101 Ranch demonstrated their proficiency in Display No. 4. These star performers, some of whom later held world titles in the field, were Sammy Garrett, Chester Byers, Mable Miller, Esteven Clemento, Otto Klein, Guy Weadick, Florence La Due (Mrs. Weadick), John Franz, Vern and Edith Tantlinger, Pat Christman, and John Mullens. Frank Maish also joined for part of the season. Some of these performers also starred with other skills, and in fact, became better known for their ability with these other techniques. Not all of them remained on the show during the entire season. One of the characteristics of the 101 Ranch Show at this period was the amazing amount of traffic between the touring show and the home ranch at Bliss.
Display No. 5 featured the expert driving of Rocky Mountain Hank Walker as he piloted the overland stage around the arena while pursued by bandits. The highwaymen succeeded, at each performance, in overtaking the vehicle and robbing the passengers and blowing the Wells Fargo strong box. The cowboys from the ranch, however, returned the valuables to the passengers and the gold to the box and pursued the bandits from the arena amid a flurry of pistol and rifle shots. "Eagle," one of the equines engaged in the battle, fell wounded and limped from the field. The program never failed to draw the attention of the patrons to this remarkable feat of animal training. Walker drove the entire season and only overturned the coach one time. That accident occurred at Camden, Arkansas, on October 19.
Indian dances came next on the program and comprised Display No. 6, while Display No. 7 brought on cowboy sports as performed at the home ranch. This interlude consisted of picking up objects from the turf while riding past them at full speed on some of the fleetest horses from the corrals.
The 101 Ranch high school horses entertained the patrons in Display No. 8. Miss Amelia Sommerville and her horse, "Columbus," was the feature of this act, but by mid-summer Zack Miller was also busy training his Arabian stallion, "Ben Hur," to perform in this manner. When Zack Miller was absent from the show, Dr. Webber worked the animal. Miss Sommerville and "Columbus" left after the New Haven stand and joined California Frank's Wild West Show. Maude Burbank and "Dynamo" joined at Metidan, Conn., to replace Miss Sommerville. Another, well-trained high school horse, "Skyrocket," was purchased later in the season.
Military tactics, drills, and Roman Riding followed the high school act in Display No. 9. John Ray and W. Weideman were the Roman Standing Riders while Melvin Saunders vaulted over four horses and landed on a fifth horse as part of this display.
Next came the big act - the one for which the 101 Ranch had gained its fame in show business. This was the bulldogging, or steer wrestling, which was first presented to the public by the ranch hands on June 5, 1905, at the Convention of the National Editorial Association. The techniques for this exhibition of strength and agility were rudimentary. A steer was driven away from the herd, and allowed to return to it at a dead run. The cowboy rode his horse beside the steer and leaped from the horse onto the head and nrho sof [sic] the running bovine. The man then dug his heels into the ground to stop the thoroughly frightened and angry steer and twisted its head up by the leverage he exerted on its neck when he pushed the near horn down and away and pulled up on the animal's nose with his other hand. With his head twisted and unable to see before him, the steer usually was stopped although occasionally he smashed blindly into the protective fencing. Sometimes the sudden weight of the cowboy on the steer's head would cause the animal's horn to be thrust into the ground while racing at full tilt, or just the weight of the man's body produced the same result. The steer's head hit the dirt and his entire body - tail end first - arched through the sky, and heaven help the man if he was underneath when that amount of meat and bone came crashing down. This is called a "houlihan" and is not allowed in rodeo. If it happens, the bulldogger and steer stagger to their feet, if they can, and the steer is thrown with the approved technique.
In modern bulldogging the man's success depends a great deal upon the ability of his horse to put him in the correct position beside the lunging steer. It would be correct to assume that this must have been true in the days when Bill Pickett gained his fame for developing bulldogging. This author can never study the much published photo of Pickett sitting on his mount without wondering just how much that horse had to do with the man's success. A bit of fiction associated with Bill Pickett was his supposed ability to throw a steer by taking the animal's upper lip in his teeth while he avoided any use of his hands. Indeed, at one period, many a bull-dogger did use his teeth in the event - after the steer was thrown. In fact, the rules of the game were that after the steer was flat the bulldogger was required to hold back the animal's head from the ground by grasping its upper lip in his teeth. This held the steer flat and the cowboy released all handholds and extended his arms away from the animal. He was required to hold the steer in this position for four seconds.
Pickett may have been injured seriously in the bullring in Mexico City on Christmas Day, 1908, since he did not perform his specialty during most of the 1909 tour. He is reported to have been ready to rejoin the show sometime in early September. His place was taken by Dell Blancett who did a fine job of bulldogging until August when Cupid's arrows waylaid him. After a trip to the altar, he and his wife left the Ranch Show for the competition at Cheyenne. He was a star rodeo performer until the outbreak of the war in Europe whereupon he enlisted in the Canadian armed forces. He died on the western front. Blancett, during his short career on the 101 Ranch Show, provided some exciting entertainment for the patrons. His leap to the head of the racing steer was successful but he did not stop the animal before it had leaped the netting that separated the crowd from the arena. In a cloud of dust, flying turf, and scrambling spectators, the steer jumped back into the arena where Blancett throw him. At Bridgeport, Conn., he was injured while bulldogging, and John Ray, Esteven Clemento, and Vester Pegg took over the task of wrestling the steers. Blancett returned to action after his shoulder mended and remained with the show until August when he left for the rodeo circuit. Clemento did most of the bulldogging for the rest of the season. However, he was badly gored at Kalamazoo, Mich., and Pegg and Ray had another opportunity to brush up on their skills.
Display No. 11 featured the roping and riding of the longhorns. The technique for this demonstration involved turning the cattle into the arena where the steer to be ridden was cut from the herd and driven to the front of the stands. Here, two riders, a "header" and "heeler" roped the animal. After the steer got to its feet, the rider mounted, and he was turned loose by the ropers to buck his way back to the herd. Various members of the cowgirl and cowboy personnel did this riding. In the rodeos of the period the steer was often saddled for this event. The writer has not been able to find out if this was done on the 101 Ranch Show. However, bareback riding of either steers or broncs was most unusual at the time and did not become a rodeo feature until much later.
D. V. Tantlinger, for many seasons the Chief of Cowboys on the Ranch Show, displayed his skill at boomerang throwing in Display No. 12. He and his wife, Edith, were also skilled trick and fancy ropers but the boomerang display was his special event on this show for several seasons. Tantlinger was assisted by Zu-Rah (billed as an Australian aborigine) who caught the returning implement.
"The Quadrille on Horseback, one of the sports and pastimes on the 101 Ranch" was featured as Display No. 13. Ladies participating in this activity were Bertha Ross, Maude Jameson, Florence La Due, Dolly Mullens, Edyth Christman, Mary Fitzpatrick, Marie Morrison, and Marie Killinger. An equal number of men also rode as their partners.
The Oklahoma Indian girl, Chan-Tu-Ka-Wea, and Edith Tantlinger were the featured stars in Display No. 14. These performers were the well-known fancy and trap shots of the ranch personnel.
The theft of a cowboy's mount, the discovery of the loss, the pursuit of the thief, and the capture of the villain was depicted in Display No. 15. Patrons of the 101 Ranch Show, after witnessing this incident, were inclined to believe that the hold-up men who robbed the stage were in a healthier profession than the "hoss-thief."
In Display No. 16, Prince Lucca and his Cossacks put on a riding exhibition that was intended to prove that the cowboys could command only second place as far as achievements on horseback were concerned. As in 1908, it was left to the patrons to decide the question of supremacy. One of the Cossacks was nearly dragged to death at Davenport, Iowa, when his horse stumbled. The Cossack was hanging from the saddle by one foot as the horse sped around the arena at full speed. Then the horse fell. The unfortunate man was underneath the animal, and when the equine rose and resumed his mad charge, he was dragged along the ground for many yards before the horse could be pulled down. The rider was unconscious and his leg was twisted, torn, and broken. Prince Lucca, the Cossack Chief, fractured his shoulder in a fall on the slippery, rain-swept ground at Fort Worth later in the season.
Display No. 17 brought on the trick and fancy riders. These performers included Vester Pegg (who leaped from the back of one running horse to that of another which was neither saddled nor bridled), George Hooker, Otto Kreinbeck, W. Weideman, "Bridle Bill" Selman, and Dan Dix. An event used on all western shows was projected next in Display No. 18. It consisted of shooting from the back of a horse which was running at full speed. Objects thrown in the air by another rider were the targets. Princess Wenona and Vern Tantlinger were the stars of this event.
Possibly the most exciting event preceded the concluding display. It was designed to bring the audience to its feet with yells and cheers as men and women riders contested outlaw horses in the bucking contests. This and the bulldogging and steer riding were probably the most thrilling spectacles of the 101 Ranch performance and marked it as a "Real" wild west show. The outlaw horses were snubbed down, blindfolded, and saddled in the arena in full view of the audience. The saddle was secured to the bronc's back amid a flurry of squeals, kicks, and jumps. The rider mounted. The blind was jerked from the bronc's eyes and the "buster" was off on a bone-jarring, muscle-jerking, spine-twisting ride. At the beginning of the season the bucking horse riders were Vester Pegg, Johnnie Mullens, Johnnie Frantz, Duke Lee, Bernie St. Clair, Neil Hart, Charlie Killinger, Otto Kreinbeck, and George Hooker. Women who participated in this exciting event were Bertha Ross, Goldie St. Clair, and Marie Killinger. A report from the show in July indicated that Duke Lee rode "Scarface" bareback. This must have been one of the earliest official announcements of bucking bareback riding.
The program concluded as it did in 1908 with the massacre of the Pat Hennessey party. It was the 20th Display.
The advent of the 1909 touring season was signaled by major activity at the ranch near Bliss. Not only were the exhaustive preparations for a long tour occupying the forces there, but also, a shipment of over 15,000 heard of cattle arrived from various points for the summer grazing. Most of the riders who worked on the show were also employed by the Millers at the ranch and certainly all of the riding stock was put to work. In these early years the mules used as baggage stock earned their keep at Bliss, and after 1910, when horses replaced the mules, they too worked at the ranch during the winter months. In addition to handling the cattle the cowpokes and their activities were used as atmosphere for three films made by the Selig Polyscope Company in the early spring of 1909. The featured actors in the western dramas produced by this company were John Kenyon and wife, Van E. Barrett, George L. Graves, Miss Laura Roth, and Carroll McFarland.
The show opened at Ponca City on April 14 and a series of Oklahoma dates followed. These two and a half weeks of daily stands provided the "shake-down" for the big Kansas City, Mo., two-day date on May 3 and 4. An otherwise smooth operation was slowed down a bit about five o'clock in the morning on April 20 while making the run to Enid. The brake rigging fell from beneath one of the cars near the rear of the train and five cars left the tracks in one grand swoop. Two of them overturned and plowed up the prairie as they scooted across the sod on their side. The other three remained upright. One of the overturned cars contained ninety-two working men all of whom were asleep at the time of the accident. Fortunately, or miraculously, no one was killed as the men were hurled from their bunks. Not one bone was broken. A half-dozen very painful bruises were the result of the disaster. The people in the five cars gathered their gear and moved onto the flat cars for the rest of the jaunt to Guthrie. A coach was picked up at that point and many rode in that vehicle while the train puffed over the tracks to Enid.
A decision made early in the spring, or even during 1908, by Arlington to take the 101 Ranch Wild West Show to the big population centers of the eastern states was carried out very successfully in 1909. The show had not been east since its successful ventures at Jamestown and Brighton Beach two years earlier. Arlington surely desired to make this eastern tour in 1908 when there was no great competition from either Cody or Lillie. However, he refrained and used that season to solve the problems that he knew would be met with a new show in a time of financial distress. Now, in 1909, despite the merger of Cody and Lillie into one big show, he was ready to take the 101 Ranch Show to the Atlantic Coast.
At the end of the first week in May the show was in Indianapolis, Ind. A two-day stand at Cincinnati opened the week of May 10 and additional Ohio cities followed. Two days in Pittsburgh, Pa., opened the next week and the fourth week in May began with a two-day stand in Cleveland, Ohio. Thus, the weekly routing pattern for the month included an opening date of two days in a large city followed by one-day stands in large towns in the immediate vicinity. Most of the dates were in Ohio and Pennsylvania during the month of May. This brought the show's first real test against strong opposition because the struggles with Norris & Rowe, Campbell, and Ringling in 1908 had, in a way, been only occasional brushes of a day or so.
Here, in 1909, the 101 Ranch Show bumped into Barnum & Bailey, which had opened in Chicago for the first and only time. It's stand in that city was from April 1-23 and, during the second week of May it was touring Ohio. The week after the Ranch left Cincinnati, Barnum & Bailey opened the week with a two day stand in that same city. The Greatest Show on Earth was in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, on the 19th and 20th of May while the Ranch Show spent the 12th and 14th of the month in the same towns. Hagenbeck-Wallace, which had opened in at Peru, Indiana, on April 24, played Dayton on May 3rd; Springfield, 4; and Columbus 5. The fans of Ohio, in other words, were having a field day. The Wild West Show was in Wheeling, West Virginia, on a Saturday and Hagenbeck-Wallace came to the same city two days later on Monday. Barnum & Bailey rolled into Wheeling on the Saturday following - a week after the Miller-Arlington show left.
In New England during June there was some competition with the Frank A. Robbins Show and a minor skirmish with the Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill combination in New York during the summer. However, the real tangle between the two large western productions did not occur until mid-October in Kansas and Oklahoma. Campbell Bros, was in that territory also, and so was the Ringling Brothers' World's Greatest Show. The Baraboo outfit especially provided close opposition in Texas, but the efforts of Arlington to move into territory which had been the province of large circuses and the Buffalo Bill Show proved, for the most part, to be successful. Business held up at nearly all of the stands and weakness was noted only in the smaller towns. Especially encouraging from a financial standpoint were the New England stands. On Sunday, June 13, the tents were erected on the Boston College grounds before a large crowd of spectators. This successful stand of one week was followed by equally great business during the eleventh and twelfth weeks of the season in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
However, there were other problems that confronted the ownership. After the wreck near Guthrie, Okla., in April, the train gave no further trouble until Columbus, Ohio, when one of the flats jumped a switch frog and over-turned. Four wagons were demolished. A hot-box on a flat car caused the train to arrive late at Norwich, Conn., on July 1. The haul to the lot was three miles and the parade and afternoon performance were both delayed. Late in September, near Wichita Falls, Texas, one of the baggage stock cars was wrecked. Several mules were injured so badly that they had to be sent to the ranch at Bliss. Injuries to key performers continued to be a problem. For the most part the serious accidents were confined to the bulldoggers, steer riders, and bronco busters. However, Dan Dix, clown, was out of action for a week as a result of a well-directed blow from the rear hoof of his mule, "Virgil." Several residents of Port Huron, Michigan, were injured while watching the parade when the longhorn steers migrated in a hurry. Apparently about two dozen head of cattle were being driven at the rear of the parade when the local canine population decided to chase them out of town. This maneuver by the dogs almost worked since the steers stampeded the length of the parade, over the sidewalks, and between the wagons and cages. The riders were not able to stop them until some distance had been covered and several of the townsfolk had been knocked down.
About the first of October arrangements were made to winter in East St. Louis, Ill. Two large buildings, the former National Iron Works, a foundry, and a structure (58 feet x 175 feet) located at the Southern Railroad and Terminal tracks were secured to house the equipment. When the show closed all the stock was shipped to Bliss, Oklahoma, and the rest of the equipment went to East St. Louis.
Pleased with their successes while competing with the big circuses during the 1909 tour, the Miller-Arlington forces planned an even more elaborate eastern route for 1910. Boston was omitted, but St. Louis, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Chicago were added. Even though Boston was left out, the New England states were not to be overlooked. In, fact, thirty-four stands were scheduled in that area, with eight of these in the state of Maine. From May to mid-August the 101 Ranch Wild West Show was scheduled to play eastern territory.
This venture was not undertaken without some strengthening of the equipment. A third advance car was added. It was under the direction of John D. Carey. Al Riel and Paul Harrell still remained in charge of the other two advance cars. The mules that had been used as baggage stock were eliminated and horses replaced them. "The reason for getting rid of them," says Jack McCracken, "was that they were no good in the mud. They would balk, lie down, and refuse to pull when the mud got deep." Henry (Apples) Welch returned to the Forepaugh-Sells Show and Charles Rigby replaced him as Boss Hostler.
Some additions were made to the program, but in general it remained the same as it had been with major emphasis on the bulldogging and bronco busting. Chief additions in performing personnel were Stack Lee, famous rifle shot; Pearl King, lady Roman rider and steer rider; and Lulu Parr, an outstanding bucking horse rider. The parade was strengthened by the addition of the new equipment. As the reader will no doubt have noted a short string of animal cages was not an adequate parade for the big cities of the east. After all the Millers and Arlington were about to compete with the Greatest Show on Earth (Barnum & Bailey), the resurrected Forepaugh-Sells Circus, and, for part of the season, the World's Greatest Show (Ringling Brothers).
Somehow Arlington was able to procure during the winter three pieces of equipment that enabled the Ranch Show to put on a fairly presentable parade. The three vehicles were the old Barnum & Bailey organ tableau, an old Sells Bros, tableau, and a float named "Our Country" which was new on Barnum & Bailey in 1903. The last wagon (Photo No. 5) originally had two pedestals and a railing mounted on a deck and carried six people in parade. Five of these were dressed in costumes significant to the history of the United States. The sixth person was a lady, dressed in flowing robes, who sat on the rear pedestal. Behind her, and perhaps part of her costume, were two huge wings. The wagon box carried a large plaque on the side with the words "Our Country" on it and series of raised, wood ribbons upon which were carved the names of the states.
The pedestals and railing were no longer a part of this float on the Ranch Show but the reliefs on the sides remained as they had been on Barnum & Bailey. Instead of the people who had been carried in its early days, the wild west show loaded long-horn steers or bison on top. How often they were switched, or which animals rode there most often is not known. Jack McCracken states, "Two longhorn steers rode on top of this wagon in parade when he opened at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 5, 1913. Later on when we left St. Louis, Shorty Phillips, the boss hostler, changed the two steers and put the two buffalo, Nip and Mary, on this wagon as there was more room on top. He also switched teams, putting the checkerboard eight on this wagon. George O'Brien was the driver." At another date, when questioned which shows three bison on this wagon, McCracken wrote, "The driver sitting in the center is George O'Brien and the cowboy on his right is "Frenchy" who handled the buffalo on the show along with Bill Pickett. The other fellow on O'Brien's left is his helper holding the brake. The buffalo behind Frenchy is old "Nip" and the other is "Mary" up front. The one at the rear was named "Tommy." (Photo No. 6)
The Barnum & Bailey organ wagon, or orchestmelchoir wagon, had been in service for many years before the 101 Ranch Show obtained it. The carvings dated back forty years to the 1870s, according to Historian Richard Conover. The Ranch Show was using only a portion of the original wagon since the organ pipes which arrayed the top level and the roof that covered them had long since been removed. Also gone were the corner statues of four female figures with stringed musical instruments. Only the mirror section and the base with its elaborate carving remained in 1910. It will be noted that a sky-board with carved scrolls was in use at some time during the period in which this vehicle was in use on the Ranch Show. Jack McCracken reports, "An Indian family rode this wagon in parade . . . the Sunshine Family in 1913." An undated photo from the Pfening collection shows another group, obviously not an Indian family, riding the orchestmelchoir. (Photo No. 7). This photo shows the wagon without the sky-boards. However, a photo taken in 1915 does show the wagon with sky-boards and with an Indian family as passengers. (Photo No. 8). The Sells Tableau was built about 1895 and was used on Sells and Forepaugh-Sells until 1907 when it was sent to Bridgeport for Barnum & Bailey productions. This wagon was decorated with very elaborate carvings among which were two well-designed figures with reptilian heads and bird-like bodies. Three mirrors dominated each side. (Photo No. 9). Jack McCracken has written to the author that this was the "side show trunk wagon in 1913. "Dynamite" Jack Lundy drove this wagon with the "Nip" and "Tuck" six-horse team. He had a black stallion in the wheel, whose name was "King." Photo No. 10 shows this wagon outside the Annex waiting to make parade in 1910. The band is aboard and ready to roll. In this same photo is an excellent view of another fine parade wagon used throughout the rest of the life of the 101 Ranch Show. It had carved sky-boards, two large reliefs of Indian heads on each side, and a painting of a bearded colonist kneeling before an Indian maiden. Behind these two figures are a scattering of Indians and tepees. This 1910 photo in which the wagon is waiting for parade shows an Indian group as passengers. A parade photo taken in Wisconsin in 1912 also shows an Indian family as passengers. (Photo No. 11).
An additional parade wagon, used by the Ranch Show at this time, bears a similarity to the one just discussed. It, too, had a carved sky-board, and a large painting, and two bas-relief heads on each side of the art. However, the painting depicted an Indian attack on a stage coach and the two heads were those of bison. (Photo No. 12). Two later photographs of this wagon show it transporting a Scotch band with drums and pipes in the parade. The painting has been changed in these photos and no longer depicts the attack on the stage. (Photo No. 13).
Also appearing in the parade was another box-type wagon that was used to carry a longhorn steer. This wagon has a changed appearance in the several photos in which it appears but the longhorn towering over the driver and his assistant is always the same animal. (Photo No. 14 and Photo No. 15). In 1913 this wagon had a scroll near each end, a large, elaborate sky-board, and a painting depicting a cowboy riding a bison with other cowboys in the background. The reader will remember that this wagon at one time carried the bison. It also was pulled by the checkerboard eight team before the switch to "Our Country."
Most of the leadership continued to be the same as in previous years. However, there were some changes and some additional superintendents appointed. George V. Connor became Manager of the Side Show and Donato La Banca started the first of several seasons as Musical Director. Other appointments included Arthur Davis, Supt. of the Commissary Dept.; "Shanty" Raymond, Supt. of Lights; Harlin Hall, Supt. of Side Show Canvas; Blackie Williams, Boss Carpenter and Master Mechanic; Mike Welsh, Blacksmith; Roy Hacket, Master of Transportation; James Jackson, Properties; and John Thrasher, Wardrobe. Ed Lacy was Supt. of Canvas with Mike Quinlan and John Nugent as his assistants.
Several key members of the 101 Ranch performing personnel had left for South America in November, 1909, with the I X L Ranch Wild West Show. The first stand was in Buenos Aires on December 18. D. V. Tantlinger and his wife, Edith; Vester Pegg, Johnnie Frantz; Frank Maish, George Hooker, Jim Garrett, Chester Byers, and Ethel and Juanita Perry were among those making the tour. This show arrived in New York City on April 4, 1910, and the Ranch personnel who arrived with it left at once for St. Louis where the show was scheduled to open on April 16.
After a week in St. Louis the 101 Ranch moved into Ohio for four stands at Dayton, Springfield, Columbus, and Cambridge. The Columbus date proved to be an interesting exercise in circus opposition techniques. Although the 101 Ranch had signed for the lot the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was able to obtain part of it for the same date. Therefore, on April 29 both the circus and the wild west show unloaded on tracks within ten feet of each other. According to Billboard, May 7, 1910, "Each show took turns running the wagons from the chutes and letting them down." There was no friction. The Ranch parade went out first, at ten o'clock, and the circus parade was presented an hour later. The main entrance of each outfit faced a street and were located at right angles to each other. Both circus and wild west came in on the same railroad and left on the same, but different, line. Attendance was spotty due to a strike of the Columbus Street Railway Company and no cars were running to the lot which lay two and one-half miles from the center of the city. Visits were exchanged between personnel and happiest of all were the two Davis brothers. Arthur Davis was in charge of the commissary on the Ranch and his brother James had the cookhouse on Hagenbeck-Wallace.
The Forepaugh-Sells Circus had opened its touring season at Springfield, Ohio, on April 23 and the Ranch was in that town on the 28th of the same month. These two shows battled each other most of the season with close contests developing in Philadelphia, New York, several stands in Maine, and later on in Iowa. The Sparks Circus and the Dode Fisk Show were also slightly involved in this mid-west billing fracas.
Competition developed with Barnum & Bailey. The Greatest Show on Earth was in Philadelphia from May 2-7 and the Miller-Arlington outfit played there May 9-14. Barnum & Bailey scheduled Washington, D. C. for May 9-10 with the 101 Ranch there on May 16-17. Baltimore was more of the same and both were fighting each other in New England and parts of New York State. The Greatest Show on Earth toured all the way to the Pacific Coast but both were in Mississippi at the end of the season - the Barnum Show during the first week of November and the Ranch Show two weeks later.
The World's Greatest Show (Ringling Bros.) succeeded in getting into the act also during many weeks of the season. It came into St. Louis May 2-7 and the Ranch had completed a week's stand just eight days earlier. Ringling moved into the mid-west ahead of the Ranch Show, but both were close together in Tennessee in early fall. The wild west show was ten days behind the Baraboo outfit at Montgomery, Alabama, in November and both ended the season at West Point, Miss.; Ringling closed there on November 9 and Miller-Arlington on November 19. A brief review of the season's route depicts how thoroughly the 101 Ranch Show played through the eastern states in 1910. After the Ohio contests with Forepaugh-Sells, three stands were made in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. On May 9 the week-long Philadelphia engagement began and it was followed by two days at Washington, D. C., and two days at Baltimore. May 23 was the first day of the week-long Brooklyn stand. The lot was located at 5th Avenue and 3rd street. In the middle of the week the show moved to Halsey and Saratoga Avenue. On June 7 the show crossed from Albany, N. Y. into New England. Mr. Marcks described the train as "23 cars - 6 sleepers, 9 flats, 8 horse cars, with 34 wagons." Dates were played in all of the New England states during the tour that lasted until July 16 when the Miller-Arlington show erected its tops in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. It then moved south through New Jersey and Maryland and turned west to West Virginia and Ohio. It was scheduled to play the Riverview Exposition in Chicago from August 21-28. Its next week-long stand was at the Minnesota State Fair, September 5-10. Within two weeks it had crossed Iowa, and Nebraska, and was beginning another week-long stand at the Interstate Live Stock Show, St. Joseph, Missouri. This was followed by two days at Kansas City, Mo., several days in Illinois, and a Saturday and Sunday at St. Louis. The fall swing through the south began during mid-October and in this section New Orleans was a two-day stand; Atlanta was two days; and Macon was four. The show left Macon on November 5 and made four Georgia, three Alabama, one Florida, and four Mississippi dates before it closed on the 19th.
The usual casualties to bulldoggers, steer riders, and bronco busters occurred during the season. Bill Pickett had returned to the performance and was the star bulldogger. Dan Dix and Bill Caress, rube clowns with the mule, continued to provide comedy. The six mules that pulled the stage mistook the sidewalks of Gloversville, N.Y., for the Deadwood Trail and bolted while Rocky Mountain Hank Walter frantically tried to stop them before anyone was run down. A flat car left the track between Clarksburg and Sistersville, West Virginia, but otherwise the train was remarkably free from accidents. Charles Rigby, Boss Hostler, left the show October 5 and "Uncle Billie" Fauklner from the Young Buffalo Wild West Show took his place. Faulkner was a former Forepaugh-Sells hostler. Eastern winter quarters were established at Passaic, New Jersey, and the equipment was sent to that location while the stock was returned to Bliss.
The opening date for 1911 was April and the location was the Boston Arena. The program remained essentially the same as during the previous seasons with the exception of the addition of Madame Marantette, one of the outstanding high-school riders of that period. A Col. Harris worked with her and the horses used were "Chief Geronimo" and "Sun Flower." She closed the act on a jumper named "Saint Patrick," who cleared an obstacle six feet four inches in height. Goldie St. Clair and Virgil Barnett rode brideless broncos and one of the cowboys attempted the same feat on a bison. The cowboys were D. V. Tantlinger, Vester Pegg, Stack Lee, Hank Durnell, Scout Maish, Wayne Beasley, Burney St. Clair, Chester Byers, Sammy Garrett, Lou Stack, Oscar Rixen, Tommy Grimes, Pat Christman, George Hokoer, Ed Botsford, Esteven Clemento, Doc Weber, Bud Osborne, Virgil Barnett, T. W. Simmons, Bill Pickett, and Tommy Kernan. The cowgirls were Edith Tantlinger, Goldie St. Clair, Ethel Christman, Alice Lee, Stella Vonderheide, Beatrice Brosseau, Victoria Allen, Ethel and Juanita Parry, Dora and Gertie David, Babe Christman, Cookie Clemento, Bessie Worley, and Rose Wenger.
After closing at the arena on April 15 the show moved to Philadelphia where it opened under canvas on the 17th. It played until the 22nd in that city. The arena tent was 390 feet in width by 550 feet in length. Three horse tents measured 200 x 40, 80 x 40, and 60 x 35. The five-pole cookhouse measured 60x180. A Weyer-Bolte light system was used.
Baltimore was a two-day stand on April 24-25; Trenton and New Brunswick, New Jersey, were each a single day; and Newark closed the third week with two days. Then the Ranch Show opened in Brooklyn on May 1 for six days. The Barnum & Bailey Circus had opened in New York as usual and had followed that long stand with a week in Brooklyn. It left the lot in that city on April 29, the evening before the 101 Ranch Show moved into town from Newark. Ringling Bros, was in Washington, D.C., on May 1-2; Baltimore the next two days; and was preparing for a week in Philadelphia beginning on May 8. This was two weeks after the Ranch Show had vacated that town.
The Miller-Arlington show stayed in New England for two weeks after closing in Brooklyn and then headed west across New York state. As they passed through Pittsfield, Mass., Mr. Marcks noted, "one train of 24 cars: 9 horse cars; 9 flats; 6 sleepers, and 34 wagons." The cars and wagons were painted yellow, according to this observer, except the last one which was white. It carried Miss Marantette's horses.
The Ranch Show turned into Pennsylvania on June 5 for sixteen stands. Ringling had played Harrisburg on May 27 and 101 Ranch was there on June 12. Ringling played Scranton on June 1; Forepaugh-Sells played it on May 30, and 101 Ranch was in that town on June 5. Forepaugh-Sells played Pottsville on June 3 and the Ranch Show came in on the 8th. It continued in this manner throughout the summer. Forepaugh-Sells spent nearly all of the month of July in Michigan. Barnum & Bailey spent the last half of July in Ohio and Illinois. Ringling Bros, moved through Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota in July. The 101 Ranch Show spent July in the same area - Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Eight days were spent in Chicago on four different lots, and the show stayed in the North Central States until the last week of August.
As it moved south it ran into opposition again. The Miller-Arlington aggregation played Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 20 and the Ringling Show was scheduled there on the 24th. In October it bumped into Barnum & Bailey on their return from the west coast. The wild west show played Dallas, Texas, on September 29 and the Greatest Show on Earth came there on October 1. In many towns the two outfits played within a week, or less, of each other. However, by the end of the month the Ranch Show pulled away as it headed west for California. It reached that state at Barstow on November 8 and closed its season with a dozen stands in the area south and east of Los Angeles. Its only opposition there was the small Al G. Barnes Wild Animal Show which was finishing its tour with late November and December dates and preparing to go into quarters at Venice.
The Ranch Show selected Venice also for its winter activities and the equipment and stock were kept in the Los Angeles area. The choice of this site for the winter months was to bring the personnel and stock close to a film studio. A contract had been signed with the Bison Moving Picture Company and film production began that winter. McCracken reports that on at least two other occasions the Millers sent people and stock to Inceville to make films for the Thomas H. Ince studio on the Malibu coast. This location was near the point where Santa Monica Blvd. joins the Pacific Coast Hwy. but, of course, the ever-present gasoline stations have replaced the entrance to Inceville and the studio has long since vanished.
The 1912 season was remarkable in that almost all of the Ranch Show dates were played in western territory. No time was spent east of Ohio, a Canadian tour was included, and all large metropolitan centers were avoided. Just previous to the show's tour a rodeo was produced on the Lucky Baldwin Ranch in Arcadia and Miss Lulu Parr won the top prize in the bucking horse event for women. It opened in Santa Monica on March 23 and included thirteen cities in the southland before moving across the Tehachapi Mountains into the San Joaquin Valley. Added to the wild west show for the three-day stand in Los Angeles was a contest of Olympic track stars. The purpose of this event at Praeger Park was to raise funds to send the southern California athletes to the Games at Stockholm, Sweden. The Olympic Games Committee was given a percentage of the advance sale of tickets and had a ticket wagon on the show grounds. The Committee also handled the advertising.
The Miller-Arlington wild west show exhibited every day from April 8 (Bakersfield, Calif.) through May 11 (Idaho Falls) in 1912. San Francisco was a five-day stand and Oakland was played for two days. Otherwise, all were one-day stands as the show left the Bay area, moved into Nevada from Auburn and played three dates, before picking up Ogden, Salt Lake City, Prove, and Logan, Utah.
Performances in fourteen towns in Montana and Washington temporarily completed the tour of the western United States. After a brief tour into British Columbia, the Ranch Show returned to the States with a Tacoma, Washington, date in June. Portland, Oregon, was a four-day visit and another fourteen stands in the northwest followed. The Ranch Show went into Canada again at Cranbrook, B.C., on June 27 and left it at Wayburn, Sask., after the July 8 date. The rest of July was spent in the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Iowa. Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio were covered in August and on September 1-2 it had returned to Davenport, Iowa for two days. It finished the season by playing eighteen Texas dates, an equal number in Arkansas, and six Louisiana stands. This part of the tour occupied the last seven weeks of the season, from September 30 to November 16. The season closed at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on the last date mentioned.
Opposition with the big outfits was avoided for the most part in 1912. The Ranch Show was close to Ringling Bros, in July and August and near the Greatest Show on Earth in Texas. However, nothing like the competition of 1911 developed for any period. By leaving California when it did, the Miller-Arlington forces had made its tour of that region before the Sells-Floto Circus entered the state.
Two incidents involving damage to equipment occurred in 1912. On the run to the Milwaukee stand a fire broke out in the wagons in which the horse tents were stored. It was discovered and extinguished before a great amount of damage was done. Within a few days a more serious accident occurred when the show had four cars wrecked on the run between Platteville and Lancaster, Wisconsin. Jack McCracken has written that his recollection is that five head of baggage stock and the same number of arena horses were killed. About twenty-five additional horses were injured, and four cars were smashed; the calliope was among the wagons demolished. "Blackie Williams, the wagon builder, repaired the wagons along with Mike Welsh, the blacksmith and horse shoer. They got some horses out of Chicago that were delivered at Evanston, Ill., on Sunday and we had them in parade on Monday. They got a calliope at the same time, but I don't remember where it came from. And this calliope was old, and was overhauled at Hot Springs that winter and was still on the show in 1915. There was no new calliope. They were all old ones, overhauled."
The 1913 season opened at Hot Springs, Arkansas, on April 5, and after showing a week in that state the Ranch Show moved to St. Louis where it played ten days. In many ways the 1913 season was a repeat of 1911 since Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore (all two-day stands) were spring dates before the two-week Brooklyn stand. The first week in the New York city was spent on a lot on Fifth Avenue, and the second week on a lot at Myrtle and Wyckoff. The show followed this with two weeks of daily stands in New England and then moved into Boston for a week. Two more weeks were spent in New England and then one week of dates while crossing New York state to Buffalo where the show jumped over Sunday to Detroit. The rest of the summer was spent in the mid-west and on October 1 it entered Texas at Dallas. The show closed on Tuesday, October 28 at Houston, Texas. Quarters for the stock were at Bliss and the equipment was sent to Lakeview, New Jersey, for an eastern opening in 1914.
During the winter months of 1912-13 three former Norris and Rowe tableau wagons were purchased from W. P. Hall. That collector of circus properties had obtained a large portion of the Norris and Rowe equipment and stock in the sale which took place in Peru, Ind., on August 6, 1910. These wagons were of recent construction and added a great deal to the parade. McCracken has made this comment about them: "The 101 Ranch Show brought three of the Norris and Rowe Show tableau wagons. One was painted white; one was red; and the other was blue. The white wagon was used as a first band wagon on the 101 Show. The red one was used for the side show band, and the blue one was the second white band in parade. They were all loaded at night with trunks, etc. They were not numbered; they were alphabetically lettered. The white wagon was "A"; the blue wagon was "B"; and the red wagon was "C."
"I drove a dapple gray eight," McCracken continues. The horses were Manny and Dan, the leaders; Rocks and Barney, the six-horse body team; Snap and Tinker, the four-horse body team; and Brigham and Shorty were the wheelers ... a really flashy team, and I hauled the Blue Tableau (second band) in parade. The first band team was ten blacks; Florence and Pansy, the leaders. Smiley Brown drove them in 1914. Henry "Blocks" Brown drove them in 1913."
On August 12, 1915, the show paraded in Pittsfield, Mass., and Mr. Isaac Marcks was able to make notes of the order in which it moved. The line-up is presented here so that the reader will be able to picture the location of the Norris & Rowe tableuas and compare this parade with the 1909 edition. It will be noted that this parade was much more attractive than the 1910 version and colossal compared to the 1909 attraction. It led off with four Indian riders who were followed by Joseph C. Miller in a two-horse coach. In the past this vehicle had been pulled by a pair of pintos, Ponca and Bliss, and driven (in 191o) by Ralph Beckman. An outrider, a cowboy, and clown, Bill Caress, followed.
Then came the first of the former Norris & Rowe tableaus with the big show band. Jack McCracken (writing about 1913) relates, "Henry "Blocks" Brown, old-time Ringling driver (not the Boss Hostler, Henry Brown) drove the first band team which worked eight in baggage and ten in parade. A train team, Rock and Rye, were added to the baggage team. They were all blacks." (Photo No. 21)
After the bandwagon rolled past the crowd saw three more cowboys and four Indians and then a tableaus upon which there was a burlesque boxing match. (Jess Willard was a feature of the Annex this 1915 season.) The tab was pulled by six horses. Five Indians rode past and the wagon with the steer on it followed them. Five more cowboys and then another tableau pulled by a six-horse team rolled along the route. Then, four Indians and a second Norris & Rowe tableaus with its band. Photo No. 22. This bandwagon was the elaborately carved vehicle with two lionesses or panthers flanking a single carved figure.
Eleven cowgirls, the stage pulled by six mules, and four cowboys were next in line. After them came the wagon with the bison heads and the Scotch band. It was pulled by eight horses. Then there were four Indians, a wagon pulled by four horses, the Indian camp on a float, five squaws, an outrider, and a cowboy. All of these were in advance of the "Our Country" wagon with a live bison on it and pulled by an eight-horse hitch. Four cowboys rode behind it and immediately after them rolled the third Norris & Rowe tableau with the sideshow band. It too was pulled by an eight-horse hitch as were all the bandwagons.
A tandem hauled by three horses, three cowgirls, an outrider, and a cowboy rode ahead of the Prairie Wagon which was hauled by four horses in the parade of 1915. At the end of the parade was a group of four Cossacks and the calliope.
Jack McCracken's letters about the Ranch Show in 1913 heavily favor the baggage stock department but since little is usually written about this department it will be presented as McCracken recalled it. It has been mentioned in this article that Brown, who drove the Number One bandwagon had gained years of experience of the Ring-ling Show. The same is true of Hughie Corrigan who drove a dapple gray eight (Mamie and Dan, the leaders). Jim Nolan was a former Barnum Show driven who handled a black eight-horse team on the Ranch Show, (Ponto and Plato, leaders). "Spot" Flynn drove a gray eight-horse team with Maude and Jim, leaders, and George O'Brien handled the checkerboard team - four blacks and four whites alternated - with Dave and Webber, leaders, and Diamond and Harry, wheelers. During part of the season, McCracken reports, that he drove the black six-horse team that pulled the float which the Indian family rode in parade. This float was the jack wagon for the greater part of each day. McCracken's team was composed of Dina and Trouper, leaders; Minnie (she was blind) and Topey, four-horse body team; and Bert and Fred, wheelers.
Six buckskin mules were used in parade, hauled baggage wagons to the lot, and also pulled the stage coach in the arena. Buck and Bob were the leaders of this team. The mules were driven by Bill Bush.
There were five gray six-horse teams used in 1913. The calliope was hauled by one of these teams. Cap and Pilot were the leaders and "Tulsa" Eddie Moore was the driver. A second gray six was driven by Roy Taylor. It had Sally and George as the leaders. A third gray hitch was driven by Billy Rutledge. Zack and Lucy were the leaders. Dick and Billy were the leaders of the fourth gray six-horse team and Ole Berg drove it. "Blackie" Harrison drove the fifth gray team. Shamrock and Mike were the leaders; Judy and Gypsy were the four-horse body team; and Irene and Lil were the wheelers.
The pull-up team (Rome and Saginaw) was driven by Eddie Clark. Ralph Duval drove Rock and Rye, the black train team that was added to the Number One bandwagon eight for the parade. Another train team (Nig and Jim) was driven by Roy Lumsden.
Others who were involved with the baggage stock that year were Jim Howard, a former Barnum & Bailey driver, who had the feed pile; Bill Tinker, who took care of the bosses' saddle horses and did light veterinarian work; and "Whitie" Donnelly who drove the gilly team (mules). Shorty Phillips, the Boss Hostler, rode a gray horse named Eagle and Johnnie Feeney, his assistant, rode a bay named Otoe.
In summary, there were 132 head of horses and mules in the baggage stock department. This included five 8-horse teams; eight 6-horse teams; eight 4-horse teams; three 2-horse teams; and one team of mules for the gilly wagon. The bosses had two saddle horses and the two front door buggy teams are included in this total by McCracken who adds, "We were using the old wooden cars at that time and loaded 28 head to a car. One car was used for part baggage horses and part arena horses.'
Jack McCracken's comments about additional features of the 1913 show include references to the personnel - both performing and those behind the scenes. Ropers and riders were Chester Byers, Tommy Kirnan, Hank Durnell, Montana Jack Ray, Clarence Shultz, Grover Shultz, Eadie and Ed Lindsey, Bill Pickett, Lafe Lewman, Bee-Ho Gray and his wife, Ida Sommerville, Milt Hinkle, George Hubert, Tommy Grimes, Willie George, Pascale Perry, Joe Rodriguez, Billy and Tony Binder, Tom Eckhardt, Weaver and Juanita Gray, Harry Smith, Buck Stewart, Ethel and Juanita Perry, Beatrice Brosseau, Mabel Kline, Lulu Parr, Blanch McGaughey, Jane Fuller, Vera McGuiness, O'Dell Osborn, and Martha Allen.
The six, spotted high-school mules that had been worked by "Uncle Dan" Boyington were presented by Dan Dix in 1913. During that season Dix, Bill Caress, Billy Lorette, and Joe Lewis were the clowns. It was a twenty-eight car show with six sleepers, eight stock cars, fourteen flats - all wood.
In 1914 the Miller Bros, and Arlington 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show opened its season in Madison Square Garden. The stand extended from April 20 to May 9. Barnum & Bailey had closed its operation in the Garden on April 18. The Ranch Show was nine days behind the Greatest Show on Earth in Philadelphia and made a week-long stand in Boston ahead of the Ringling-owned organization. All but one week of 1914 was spent east of the Mississippi River as the wild west show saturated eighteen states in the east and south with stands during the months from April to November. The last week, November 16-21, was spent in Arkansas, the only stands west of the Mississippi. Winter quarters were located at Hot Springs in that state. It was during this season that the ill-fated adventure in England took place. According to McCracken, "It was made up mostly of the people who had gone to South America in the fall of 1913. They were in South America all winter 1913 and returned to New York to open the 1914 season in Madison Square Garden. After the Garden engagement, the Millers & Arlington decided to send a show to England. The show went along until September when the English government took all the horses for their army and the people came back on freighters and other ships as best they could . . ."
Mr. Marcks describes the 1914 train as follows: "First Section: 15 cars; six flats, five horse cars, four sleepers, and twenty wagons. Second Section: 17 cars; seven flats, five horse cars, four sleepers, Madame Marentette's horse car, forty-one wagons, one carriage, and two autos."
The 101 Ranch Show toured for two more seasons, 1915-16, and then the Millers dropped out of the operation when they sold to Arlington. Without much doubt the show reached its largest size during the seasons from 1913 through 1915. However, in the last two years of Miller brothers ownership it came up with two men of national reputation as attractions. In 1915, Jess Willard, champion heavyweight boxer, was a feature of the concert and in the following year William Cody, the famed Buffalo Bill, was the headliner. In 1915 the train used fewer cars than it had a year earlier. Mr. Marcks described its arrival at Pittsfield as "one train of 24 cars: ten flats, seven horse cars, seven sleepers, and thirty-four wagons and one auto." At the close of the season the cars, wagons, and equipment were housed at quarters located at Ponca City. For several months during the season the show had a unit outside the grounds of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition at San Francisco, Calif.
The writer has for some time felt that the Miller brothers dropped their wild west show activities for three sound reasons. It was becoming obvious that the United States could no longer avoid participating in the war in Europe. The declaration of a state of war would surely increase the difficulties with which the show was transported. An even more important reason for abandoning show business was the increased financial success of their ranching activities. The prolonged war accelerated the demand for beef as well as increasing the need for horses and mules. The Millers were aware of these opportunities and were, no doubt, eager to take advantage of them since they owned large ranch lands. The United States was also furnishing most of the oil for the conflict and many new fields were being explored. For this reason, too, the Millers lost interest in show business and turned their attention to supporting the war effort.
The writer is deeply indebted to Jack McCracken for providing the stimulus, and a great amount of information, for this paper. While completing a series of articles for Bandwagon concerning the activities of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, the author received a letter from Mr. McCracken calling attention to an error regarding a baggage stock team. This comment resulted in a series of communications from which the writer renewed a dormant interest in wild west shows. A great deal of appreciation is expressed also to Don Marcks for making the notes made by his father available and to Gordon Borders for the many hours of discussion about this topic. The resources of Richard Conover, Ricky Pfening, and Joseph Bradbury were probed for information regarding the wagons used by the 101 Ranch Show. Needles to say, the files of Billboard were consulted to obtain additional material.
In the early 1940's if one was traveling through south-eastern Oklahoma and came across the town of Hugo he would consider it to be like any other city of less than 10,000 people in the area. It was 8 miles from the Red River and was the county seat of Choctaw County, a shipping and trading center for a cattle raising, farming, and lumber region. But a new industry was to arise in this locality and bring the hinterland areas circus entertainment of a new breed.
The main stays of the Kelly Miller Circus over its great years were Dory "D. R." and his father Obert Miller. Photo taken in 1950 by Bob Raupfer.
The first show we shall consider will be the Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros. Circus. This is the strong base from which all the others grew, copied, and prospered. It all starts with a showman of the grand style Obert Miller. As a young man in Smith Center, Kansas he worked tickets and hawked popcorn in the Grand Opera House owned by his father. Then Miller moved to the country and spent nine years as a farmer. Moving back to the city he took jobs as a house painter and hung wallpaper. By the early '20's he was eager to go into show business and booked a pony act into the silent movie theaters the nights that they were dark.
In a few years the act had expanded into quite a dog and pony revue and he booked it onto the Isler carnival. This did not last long and he set out on his own. He continued to troupe until the Fall of 1928 when illness of his first wife forced him to close. Her death led him to give up show business for a while. But by the winter of 1929 he had ponies on the Alfredo Codona Circus in Mexico. The season of 1930 found him booking a pony ride on the fair circuit. In 1931 he launched a small dog and pony show trading on the established Gentry name as Gentries as Dog & Pony Show. He decided it was better to book his act on other shows so in 1932 and '33 he was on Fletcher Fowler's Circus and 1934 opened with the Ferris & Short show and closed with Beers-Barnes. The 1935 season was on Atterbury Bros, and 1936 was spent on the Bud Hawkins Show.
That winter he landed in Springfield, Mo. with a truck, 4 ponies and no money. His son Dores had been on Seils Sterling and closed with $125. He booked the act into a department store for the Christmas season. Soon they were joined by his other son Kelly and they began that winter to frame there own little show. They made their own tents and it can't be imagined how they scrapped and put together that first winter. How the Kelly-Miller name was decided upon is interesting itself. "Kelly" came from the son's first name. The "Al G." came from the time that Miller had briefly been a partner with Al G. Campbell of Fairbury, Nebraska. Apparently there was no thought of trading on the names of Al G. Barnes or Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Shows which had been popular throughout the areas they planned to play.
Obert with his sons Kelly and Dores Miller launched their small dog and pony show in the Spring of 1937. Their route adhered to the strictly "high grass" area of Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Dakota. During this period the show was never very large in size. In 1939 for example the outfit was carried on 7 trucks and semi trailers. The Big Top was a 70 ft. round with three 30 ft. middles with two rings and a stage. They were always rather heavy for a show of this size in the equine line with 16 horses and ponies being carried.
Millers did not put up permanent base in any spot during these years and located quarters at Springfield, Mo. for three years, Joplin, Mo. for two, and Mena, Ark. for one before they set up home base at Hugo, Okla. for the winter of 1942-43. In 1940 the show acquired its first elephant and the herd eventually grew into pretentious size. Rather than involve the reader in numerous purchases and trades of the K-M elephant herd over the years a table is provided with this story to show the bull herd transfers.
The show liked Hugo and the town seemed proud to be the home of traveling shows and brought much propriety to the local merchants and banking facilities. The first few years out of Hugo the show traveled its usual area and remained much the same size. H. V. Darr was general agent of the show from 1941-1946 and it was in 1946 that growth and innovation first became apparent.
A huge spool was mounted crosswise in a truck and as the truck moves slowly across the lot the canvas is unreeled mechanically off the spool. For loading operations the process is reversed with the truck backing towards the canvas as the spool takes it up. This canvas spool device was designed by Kelly Miller and Wayne Sanguin, Hugo, Okla. machine shop operator. K-M was the first modern show to use spools and has had one or two each year since 1946. To illustrate the popularity of the design it was in use on the following shows by 1951 in addition to K-M itself. Stevens Bros, had been using one for about 4 years. K-M had equipped its Cole & Walters Circus with a Miller-Sanguin spool. Wallace & Clark went out with a Miller-Sanguin model. Ben Davenport bought one for his new Campa Bros. Circus. Kelly & Morris came up with one of its own design, and in midyear King Bros, added a Miller-Sanguin model. It might be a little rough on the canvas, but it certainly proved a fast and efficient way of getting the canvas down and off the lot each day.
In 1947 Art Miller took over as general agent to begin a long relationship. Extensive routing that year took the show into Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. In August they began to expand the menagerie with addition of a zebra and when the tour was over it was chalked up as one of the most successful up to that date.
In 1948 further strides were taken forward, with some that were entirely new to the truck show field. This was the year that the giraffe pit show was added. Heretofore no giraffes had been successfully carried on a truck show. Soon however, King Bros. Circus, was to add one also. Lots of new trucks and trailers were added and 1948 was another big year.
The year 1949 found the show moving on 33 show-owned trucks, of which 27 were semis. The menagerie was blown up into fantastic size. Outstanding animals added were a hippo (Miss Oklahoma a 2-year old from the Memphis Zoo), polar bears, and a black rhino.
Without going into great detail it is almost impossible to list the growth of the K-M show during this era. Kelly-Miller went into expansive standards that had never before been seen on a truck circus. In 1950 for example here is a list of the show's all new canvas: Big Top: 100 ft. round with four 30's and three 40 ft. middles (8 center poles). Menagerie Top: 60 ft. round with five 20 ft. middles (6 center poles) (Under this top was housed 83 head of horses, ponies, and mules, 14 elephants, and three cage units of monkeys, chimps, and working animals). Side Show Top: 70 ft. round with three 20's and two 30 ft. middles (6 center poles). (It housed all the other animal dens: hippo, rhino, tapirs, ostrich, llamas, bears, and lions). There were also marquees for the Big Top and Side Show. To complete the layout there was a new double deck bannerline and three pit shows including the giraffe special attraction.
This impressive layout moved on 35 trucks. The route moved the show further eastward than ever before across Indiana into Ohio and Michigan and back south into familiar territory staying out in Louisiana and Texas until Dec. 3rd. By the time the caravan returned to Hugo it had transversed 10,195 miles and the red wagon was full of the green stuff.
This was the year that the Dailey show closed and K-M picked up 7 camels. Mr. and Mrs. Dores Miller bought a new home across from the K-M quarters. That winter a unit made up largely of K-M and Cole & Walters personnel made a winter tour under the Royal Circus title.
For the 1951 season all the previous year's spread of canvas was utilized except for the Side Show top. New trailers were added to carry a built-in grandstand and another to load spec carts and a pony-sized cage. The sensational business again held with the show and it set its usual spring route and then headed east once more. From June 25 to Sept. 12 the show was in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. It then dropped into Kentucky and Tennessee with a closing Oct. 29th at Idabel, Okla.
This winter Kelly Miller built himself a new home at Hugo. A new special elephant act was framed featuring Col. Bill Woodcock to tour on its own route. A new 8-pole Big Top was erected for this year's (1952) tour over the old familiar "high grass country" north to the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and return.
In Nov. and Dec. Royale Bros. was sent out on a string of indoor dates. During the winter a new truck shop was built and an addition was put onto the elephant barn at the quarters. Special loading chutes were built to facilitate movement of animals from cages to the winter barns.
For 1953 the show moved eastward across Kentucky and as far east as Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania before moving up into Michigan for one month. That fall a labor shortage hit the show and the menagerie top was not put up the last several weeks. The take for the season was off 20% from prior years.
That winter it was announced that Terrell Jacobs was booked to handle the wild animal acts as a featured attraction. On March 10, 1954 the giraffe died in quarters. It had been a featured pit show for the last six years (1948-1953). The 1954 route found the show back into its regular territory across Wyoming and into Montana and the Dakotas. New canvas for the show arrived before the season was over, but they finished up with the old canvas. Again this year the profit was below other recent years. The show closed Oct. 31 and the elephant act and the Miller-Woodcock elephants finished out the season on the King Bros. Circus.
The 1955 season found the show completely revamped. The Big Top was an 118 ft. round with three 50 ft. middles, making it shorter, but wider. All new seats were built. A new giraffe arrived for the opening and in late May they took delivery of a baby female rhino. The route confined itself to Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin with a late August swing eastward to Michigan and Indiana. The season was finished out with a tour of Mississippi and Louisiana.
Nineteen fifty-six was the year of the Ringling under canvas closing, Beatty and King failures, but things were not so on the K-M show. The usual western territory was adhered to and the show moved eastward in August to Ohio and wonderful business. That fall was good in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas with either full or straw houses at almost every night show. The season was termed strong and above the previous year and one of the best in the show's history. Yes, the Millers had won their niche in American circus history!
Late in the fall the show experimented with a portable drop side grandstand mounted on a semi trailer designed by Wayne Sanguin. That winter three more were built to remold the show's seating arrangement. These were very easy to set up with the side folding up so that the interior could be used to great advantage for storage space. New canvas was purchased and the Big Top was an 100 ft round with one 40 ft. and two 60 ft. middles. The top was a 6-center poled affair (therefore one pole was inserted in the middle of each of the 60 ft. middle sections). K-M must have used more varieties in tent sizes than any other show on record. Always fearsome of the blowdown a bale ring top was never used on any of the Hugo shows and one could truly say that the pushpole top was utilized to the utmost on K-M and its various affiliated tented organizations.
For the 1957 tour Col. Tim McCoy and his Wild West Show were the concert feature. The show had another terrific season with many turnaway crowds throughout its old familiar Kansas and Nebraska territory. That fall the show moved south thru Tennessee and they closed a week early in Arkansas due to the Asian flu epidemic.
In 1958 a decision was made to take the show on an entirely new route to the West Coast into a vast new area for the show. After opening at Paris, Texas in 11 days the show was across Texas and into New Mexico and Arizona. In 38 stands they moved up the Central Valley route of California on Highway 99 and then into Oregon and Washington. After a swing through Idaho the show reversed itself back through Oregon and California on the Coastal route. In all 60 stands were played in California and the show returned home with another winning tour.
That winter Kelly Miller sold out his share to Dores Miller to make him sole owner of the K-M show. Kelly retired to slow down and enjoy life's rewards. The 1959 tour took the show over its usual mid-western territory, however the rewards were not as great as had been the record in prior years. This show was fully reviewed in the special Bandwagon issue of Jan.-Feb., 1960 and the reader is referred to that issue for complete details of that season's tour.
On August 10th Glen J. James rejoined K-M after his ill-fated sojourn on the Famous Cole show (details of which appear later in this article) to finish out the season as an assistant to Miller. February 20, 1960 Kelly Miller passed away at Hugo after a bout with cancer and the show people at Hugo greatly mourned and missed the guiding hand of a man who worked as hard as any of his employees. He was the mechanical wizard of the show and as was pointed out helped in the development of the spool truck and other labor saving devices in the movement of the show.
The 1960 tour was set to be a repeat of the 1958 one but events proved otherwise. After a mid-March opening in Texas the show found satisfactory business but made the mistake of pulling into the populous areas of Southern California and met with all sorts of fire and police regulations and general harrassment. After making it up the Coast business got better and the show moved onto Vancouver Island for its first Canadian Tour into the province of British Columbia. The return was made through Washington, Idaho, a portion of western Wyoming, Utah, and across Nevada and was set to re-enter California at Placerville on August 16th. A fiery truck wreck on mountain grades took the lives of two show people including equestrian director Col. Harry Thomas and caused all the trucks to be tied up until they could pass the inspection of the California Highway Patrol. More than a week's route was lost and much money was expended to get the trucks back in shape. The show had fairly good business on its way back to Hugo except for losing a couple of shows to winds and blizzards. A total of 22 performances were lost on the 12,345 mile route.
The season of 1961 was to mark the Silver Jubilee 25th anniversary tour and all the trucks were painted silver for the event. Replacing the traditional marquee tent for the first time was the new mechanical marquee walkthrough semi. The Big Top was 100 ft. round with a length of 360 ft. In one end of the top was located the 12 elephants, caged animals for the arena, and the rhino, and hippo. The show dipped into Texas and headed north through Arkansas and Missouri. A month was spent in Illinois and then the show proceeded further eastward than ever before going into upstate New York and then southward along the Seaboard to Florida and back across the south to Louisiana and Texas and return home. This was all new area for K-M.
In 1982 Joe McMahon came on the show as manager. He had spent a number of years on the Hagen Bros, show as agent. This year's Big Top was another strange one as it was 110 ft. round at the ends with three 40 ft. middle pieces. However, the center middle was 120 ft. wide with the other middle pieces tapering out 5 ft. on both sides to make it appear football-like in shape. This enlarged middle section was made to allow for erection of the arena on one side and that it could be left up during the performance. Henry & Sandra Thompson had the Side Show and painted the pictorial bannerline. The usual mid-west route through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri were played and then up into Wisconsin and Michigan before heading down through Kentucky and playing 4 days at the Tennessee State Fair at Nashville. Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana were played before closing at Orange, Texas Nov. 4th.
Part of the show shipped down into the Carribean and played Jamaica during the winter months. A winter unit opened in the Rio Grande Valley at Harlingen, Texas Feb. 9, 1963 and played Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas before being enlarged by the rest of the show April 16th at Sherman, Texas. The staff was much the same as the prior season and the show headed eastward again into upstate New York playing as far east as Vermont and return. The route swung as far west as New Mexico and then headed eastward again closing at Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Oct. 31 after traveling 15,849 miles for the season.
At Ocean Springs a winter zoo tourist attraction was set up along the main highway at this Gulf Coast location. This was the first year since 1942 that the show hadn't wintered at Hugo.
The 1964 season took the show upon an entirely different route than ever before. It opened March 30th at Robertsdale, Alabama, dipped into Florida and cut across Georgia and Alabama and northward to West Virginia with Pennsylvania and New York being played extensively before a New England tour. After this they moved quickly westward into familiar Wisconsin territory by late August and then eased back to close at Chickasha, Oklahoma Oct. 7th and then going back into Hugo quarters.
The 1965 season found a very different cut-down type of show making the tour. Obert Miller was back on the show after selling his Fairyland Circus. Freddie Logan and his family put on most of the performance. This outfit didn't open until May llth at Gainesville, Texas and played Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska closing August 28th at Durant, Okla. It laid off 6 days and reopened at Mena, Ark. Sept. 4th until finally calling it a season at Camden, Ark. on Sept. 18th and returning once again to Hugo.
In 1966 Joe McMahon came back on the show as general manager and D. R. Miller moved over to handle the concessions. The season opened March 12th at El Campo, Texas and remained in that state until April 18th before moving through familiar territory to Wisconsin, Chicago suburbs, and Michigan. Soon they were eastward to New York by late July. Then it was down the eastern Seaboard to Georgia and across the Gulf areas closing at New Iberia, Louisiana October 16th and going to the Ocean Spring, Miss. quarters. 17 shows were lost during the season to storms, flooded lots, or lateness due to truck breakdowns.
The 1967 season was handled in much the same manner as the prior one. The show was on 15 trucks and opened March 9th at Laurel, Miss. It quickly moved westward and then north through the old familiar territory hitting some bad weather in Nebraska and Iowa. June 15th at Fort Dodge 20 minutes after the evening show had begun the tent was cleared just before wind and rain leveled it. The June 20 through 24th dates were cancelled to make repairs on the Big Top and the show re-opened at Milan, Illinois for a matinee only. The route was resumed through Wisconsin and Michigan and then back into the south by late August. Southern areas were played until closing at Bunkie, Louisiana October 23rd and putting back into quarters at Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
McMahon after toying with using the Krona Imperial title stuck with the old reliable K-M tag and the opera opened March 18th at Ocean Springs under new canvas. The route was repeat in some respects to the 1967 version. 24 shows were lost due to various difficulties with lots, trucks, and sponsors and the show even laid over three days in Indiana in July. Finally the show closed early August 10th at Lexington, Tennessee due to continued bad business and inability to get the show booked far enough ahead for the phone promotions to work. This time the equipment and animals were returned to the old barn at Hugo. At this writing new plans were being laid for the coming season. I know that there is many adult and child in the high grass areas that will always remember the Kelly-Miller show and the happiness that the Miller form of entertainment brought them.
Kelly -Miller and Affiliates Circus Elephants
Name; Source; Date; Show Career; (Disposition
HATTIE; Goebels Farm, 1000 Oaks; 1/1/40; K-M 1940-1941; 10/29/41 Died Grandfield, Okla.
MENA; E. E. Coleman; 10/41; K-M 1942-1943; 1/25/43 Died Waurika, Okla.
TENA; Russell Hall; 2/42; K-M 1942-1963; Sold Mexico
BONNIE; Owner -Laura Anderson; Leased; K-M 1943; -
INDIA; Owner -Laura Anderson; Leased; K-M 1943; -
MARY ANN; Polack Bros.; - ; K-M 1944-1945; Sold W. C. Richards
MONA; Polack Bros.; - ; K-M 1944-1945; Sold King Bros. Circus
ELSIE; Russell Bros.; - ; K-M 1946-1954; Sold Hagen Bros. Circus
MARGARET; Russell Bros.; - ; K-M 1946-1963; Sold Mexico
DIXIE; Russell Bros.; - ; K-M 1946-1954; Died
MYRTLE; Russell Bros.; - ; K-M 1946-1952, COLE 1953-1965, C & W 1966-1968; -
DAISY; Russell Bros.; - ; K-M 1946-1949, COLE 1950-1952, K-M 1953-1955; 1/5/56 Sold Circo Union
JESSIE; RB-B&B; - ; K-M 1948-1949, COLE 1950-1965, C & W 1966-1968; -
VICTORIA; RB-B&B; - ; K-M 1948-1949, COLE 150-1952; 9/16/52 Shot.
EMMA; RB-B&B; - ; K-M 1948; Sold Jungle Compound.
CROSS COUNTRY BABE; RB-B & B; - ; - ; Resold Spencer Huntley.
SALLY; Louie Goebels, 1000 Oaks; Import; K-M 1949-1957; -
BARBARA; Meems & Ward; Import; K-M 1949-1968; -
JENNY; Meems & Ward; Import; K-M 1949-1957, C & B 1958-1964; Sold Mexico
KAY; Meems & Ward; Import; K-M 1949-1967, C & B 1968; -
ANNA MAY; Polack Bros. Western; 2/50; K-M 1950-1951, Woodcock 1952-1968; -
HATTIE; Polack Bros. Western; 2/50; K-M 1950-1967, C & B 1968; -
NORMA; Polack Bros. Western; 2/50; COLE 1950-1964; Sold L. McNeese
JUNO; Hamid-Morton; 2/50; K-M 1950-1952; 2/53 sold Circo Union
MABEL; Hamid-Morton; 2/50; K-M 1950-19525; 2/53 Sold Capell Bros.
MONA; Hamid-Morton; 2/50; K-M 1950-1952, COLE 1953, C & B 1954-1968; -
LYDIA; Henry Trefflich Import; 7/51; K-M 1951, Woodcock 1952-1964, C & B 1965-1968; -
FANNY; Henry Trefflich Import; 7/51; K-M 1951, Woodcock 1952-1956; 10/56 Died.
HAZEL; Frank Ketrow; - ; K-M 1952; 11/15/52 Sold Beers-Barnes
MARIE; Biller Bros.; - ; K-M 1952-1966; Sold
COLONEL (African); Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1963; Died
IONE; Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1965; Sold Mexico
MARY; Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1968; -
MINNIE; Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1968; -
SHIRLEY; Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1965; Sold Mexico
VIRGINIA; Atlantic Fertilizer Import; 9/55; K-M 1955-1968; -
SADIE; Norman Anderson; - ; Woodcock 1957-1964, C & B 1965-1968; -
SUSIE; - ; - ; C & B 1957-1968; -
JOSKY; RB-B&B; - ; C & B 1959-1968; -
WANDA; Louie Goebels, 1000 Oaks Import; - ; C & B 1962; -
TOPSY; - ; - ; Fairyland 1962-1964; -
PRINCE OBERT; - ; - ; Fairyland 1963-1964; -
DIXIE; Sport Matthews; - ; C & W 1964-1968; -
Abbreviations: K-M Kelly-Miller; COLE Famous Cole, etc.; C & B Carson & Barnes; C & W Clark & Walters; RB-B & B Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey.
Vernon Pratt and His Circus Ventures
The second circus to find quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma was the dream of a local business man. Vernon Pratt was born in Commerce, Texas and had always been interested in circuses and had spent many of his vacations with them. For 18 years he had been a successful Hugo grocer, civic leader, bank director, and rancher. He was always known for his keen interest in raising good stock on his 500 acre ranch 2 ˝ miles south of Hugo where he lived with his wife Jewel and daughters Betty Jean and Rita Jo.
In 1944 Pratt teamed up with Tom Ewalt of Geneva, Nebraska to launch Hugo Brothers Circus. The title was inspired by the name of the town and had no relationship to the original Hugo show. The story is related by retired showman O. Lee Carlstrom that he was having dinner with Harry Hugo (one of the original Hugo Bros, along with George, Victor, and Chester) when he received news of the new Hugo show going out. Harry Hugo had been for years in the dramatic show business and had no further use of the title and wired an okay to the new operators to use the title. By also coincidence I have heard that the town of Hugo, Okla. was named after the father of the Hugo Bros., but have not been able to verify this.
For the new show some of the stock was quartered at Hugo, but most was at Ewalt's quarters in Nebraska in a steam heated building. An elephant, Ena, was purchased from Bob Morton during the Hamid-Morton Kansas City engagement. The newly framed show moved on 9 trucks and opened May 1-2 at Camp Maxey, Texas, just across the river from Hugo. After this date the show toured Oklahoma and after being on the road nearly two months closed at Marietta June 25th. Business was splendid despite considerable rainy weather and one blowdown which slightly damaged the Big Top. The main problem that closed the show was a lack of labor.
Tom Ewalt took the bull, Ena, and his stock back to Nebraska and was to later launch Bell Bros. Circus. Pratt re-opened Hugo Bros, on his own in July and played Arkansas and Oklahoma towns with a somewhat cut-down show featuring the Fuller Family and Chief Keys as Side Show manager. This show carried 35 people and gave an 1 hour and 35 minute performance. Animals carried were a 4-horse Liberty act, midget cow, camel, 4 Shetland ponies, and a monkey family.
Globe Bros. Circus owned and managed by Don Brasher using a rented Big Top from the Gainesville Community Circus had been touring Texas and Oklahoma since early spring was enlarged Sept. 10-11 at Gainesville, Texas by the joining of the Pratt family with 4 trucks and all their animals. This combination was not out much longer, but did play out the season in East and Southwest Texas for the next two months.
In 1945 Pratt and Herb Walters (background on Herb will be found in the Cole section of this article) formed a partnership and operated Hugo Bros. Ted Edlin was general agent and this show opened April 16th at Antlers, Oklahoma and moved north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, 1 date in South Dakota, and back through Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma to close at Walters, Oklahoma Sept. 29th after traveling 3,869 miles. The performance featured the Pratt girls, Fuller Family, Arnessen Bros., Dolores Wicks, and others. Apparently the bull, Mary Ann, was leased from Kelly-Miller.
In 1946 Pratt at first was going on his own, but decided to join Stevens Bros, in South Dakota. He was in and out of many shows after this. In 1948 he started the season on Capell Bros. Shows, but joined Stevens Bros, in mid-season. Only once again did really field a show of his own, but acted in an executive capacity or booker of acts on other shows.
Robert A. (Little Bob) Stevens
One of the hardest workers of all the Hugo showmen was probably "Little Bob" Stevens. Dubbed "Little Bob" to differentiate from "Big Bob" Stevens long-time legal adjuster and owner of Bailey Bros. Circus, there was little else than a similar name and the circus business to compare the two.
"Little Bob" graduated from high school in Coffeyville, Kansas and his first circus connection was on Monahan's Gollmar Bros. Later he handled concessions on Christy Bros. and Ringling-Barnum. Bob framed his own little show titled Stevens Bros. Circus in 1933 in Oklahoma, but due to the times and a lot of adverse conditions it did not remain out long. During the late 1930's he was on Haag Bros., Sam B. Dill, and the Tom Mix Circus. At Joplin, Mo. he joined Kelly-Miller as concession manager and remained with them until he was drafted into the army in World War II. He returned to K-M, but in October, 1945 purchased 4 semi-trailers from Russell Bros. Circus which had switched to rails that season. Among these were an elephant van, cookhouse, and pole truck. A new top, a 60 ft. round with three 30 ft. middles was purchased in Des Moines, Iowa. Bob picked up the acts from the closed Hugo Bros. Circus (the Pratts, Fuller Family and Wicks) and hit the road from Hugo with his own new show titled Stevens Bros. Circus. Vernon Pratt served as the general agent for the tour which lasted about a month in southern Oklahoma. This outfit closed November 18th and put back into Hugo.
For the season of 1946 Bob had a nicely framed little show that opened April 27th with Raymond Duke as general agent. Bob Taber, CHS member of Riverside, Calif., had the Side Show in a 50 ft. top with one 30 ft. middle. The route took the opera from Oklahoma through Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, and return back through Kansas and Oklahoma. The season closed October 3rd after traveling 5,125 miles. It was a tough one with polio epidemics and lots of headaches.
In 1947 Duke was again the agent and the route was similar to the previous year although not as far north and Missouri and Illinois were added to the territory. Featured that season were the Dolly Jacobs 3 elephants.
Early in 1948 Bud E. Anderson purchased a half-interest in Stevens Bros., but later withdrew to launch his own new show Seal Bros. Tom McLaughlin came on to be the agent. An elephant was leased from W. C. Richards of Pensacola, Florida and later Dolly Jacobs had her 3 elephants again on the show. The Big Top was a 70 ft. round with two 30 and one 40 ft. middle. The route extended from April 9th to November 7th north from Oklahoma through Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Missouri, and Arkansas.
The season of 1949 found McLaughlin shifting the route somewhat further to the west. Opening April 8th the show moved quickly in Kansas and Nebraska to South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana into Idaho for 35 dates then back into Montana and Wyoming and south through Colorado and New Mexico with the last five weeks being spent in Texas. The last week of June Dolly Jacobs again joined with her bulls.
Nineteen fifty was undoubtedly the most successful tour undertaken by the Stevens Bros. Circus. The tour lasted from March 16th until December 6th traveling 10,398 miles. The show had a new Big Top and marquee. In October Vernon Pratt joined as general manager with his stock. In mid-season the three elephants from the closed Dales Bros. Circus were acquired.
February, 1951 Sparks Babe, one of the ex-Dales elephants knocked down a barn at Hugo and died in the cold. The elephant Palm was retained and the third bull was sold. The season was a rough one beginning with a March 23rd opening. Several dates were lost in Kansas and the show cancelled 8 days in Iowa and eastern Nebraska because of floods and they wildcatted into South Dakota. The route took them as far west as Oregon and Idaho and closed in early November. In December the elephant, Palm, 2 trucks, and a trailer were sold to Norm Anderson's Wallace & Clark Circus.
During the winter C. C. Smith acquired a financial interest and came on the show. The 1952 season opened March 15th and carried Woodcocks' elephant act. Business was not good and Smith left in late May in Iowa. The finish for the Stevens Bros. Circus came at Banard, Missouri the last week in June.
Industrious "Little Bob" went to work for others and finished the season on Wallace Bros., King Bros., and Polack Bros. Circuses. For the seasons of 1953 through 1959 he was concession manager on Hagen Bros. Circus. Never again did Bob winter a show at Hugo but he utilized much equipment and personnel from Hugo shows.
He framed his own show again and took out Sterling Bros. Circus in 1960 and 1961. For 1962 and 1963 he formed a partnership with Bill Griffith to operate Sells Bros. Circus. This show was quite successful and made lots of money in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas and up in the wheat belt of North Dakota. The partnership was split with Bob taking out Sterling & Wallace in 1964. Bob spent the season of 1965 with pit shows on carnivals and operated a gorilla show in 1966. 1967 found him with his last connection on the Sells Sterling Circus. January 10, 1968 Robert A. Stevens died at his home in Alamo, Texas. This writer certainly never met a friendlier circus owner and one more deserving of a respected position in circus history.
The Cole Title out of Hugo
Herbert Walter Canannell was born December 25, 1887 in Providence, Kentucky. He spent most of his life in dramatic show business, vaudeville, minstrels, and musicals. Early in his career he adopted the name Herb Walters. An excellent biography of his life was written in collaboration with Velma Lowry entitled "Fifty Years Under Canvas" and is highly recommended. I will try to touch on some of the subjects not mentioned in the book.
In 1944 Herb had his first chance to own a circus. He teamed up with Ted LaVelda and they operated Monroe Bros. Circus. Herb acted as agent in advance with his wife back on the show handling the office. The Big Top was a 50 ft. round with two 30 ft. middles which seated about 400 people. For the season of 1945 Herb partnered with Vernon Pratt of Hugo, Oklahoma to operate Hugo Bros. Circus as previously detailed in this article. For the seasons of 1946 thru 1949 Herb went back into operating traveling motion picture shows.
In January, 1950 there were reports that Obert Miller and Herb Walters were organizing a mid-west truck circus to operate as the second unit of Kelly Miller. Three elephants were to be used from the K-M herd and a hippo was to be the midway attraction. The title chosen was Cole & Walters Circus. George W. Cole, who had been connected with rodeos and Walters motion picture circuit, combined his name with that of Herb Walters for the title. It doesn't appear there was any thought of trading on the name "Cole" at this time. Winter quarters were established on Kirk Road, east of Hugo. This show was framed from the ground up as a smaller version of Kelly-Miller.
There was a good spread of canvas including a Big Top that was 80 ft. round with three 40 ft. middles and a combination Side Show-menagerie with two 20's and two 30 ft. middles. Besides the bulls there were 11 cages of animals, a zebra, llama, buffalo, camel, and 17 head of horses, mules, and ponies. This show was heavily mechanized with 2 air driven stake drivers and hydraulic powered canvas spools.
Herb Walters had exclusive managership on the show with Tom McLaughlin as general agent. Frank Ellis and Laura Anderson had the concessions with Chuck Gammon and Charles Roark managing the Side Show. The performance had 26 well-rounded displays and a concert. The 1950 season opened 58 miles out of Hugo at Clarksville, Texas on March 31st and struck out for east Texas oil and lumber towns. Then the show moved up through the Panhandle and hit lots of spring rains and muddy lots in western Kansas and Nebraska. Then there was a blowdown at Parkston, South Dakota, but over all the business was good. The route took them as far north as Ryder, North Dakota with a swing east to Minnesota and then back through South Dakota and Nebraska. After this southward moves were made through Colorado and west Kansas to the Panhandle playing county seat towns in Texas from Sept. 19th until the close Nov. 25th at Quitman and return to Hugo.
The elephants returned to the K-M barn and the remainder of the show set up quarters at the fairgrounds. During the winter Frank Ellis acquired full operation of the concessions. Operation of the show itself remained the same with Obert, Dores, and Kelly Miller holding the controlling interest with Herb Walters and Tom McLaughlin holding the other shares.
Cole & Walters opened March 23, 1951 at Coalgate, Oklahoma with new canvas which consisted of a Big Top 70 ft. round with one 40 and two 30 ft. middles and Side Show 50 ft. round with three 20 ft. middles. There were three additional cages over the previous season. Wally Ross was animal supt. and elephant boss. On the midway was chimp and snake pit shows. The performance was presented in 22 displays on two rings and a stage. Shortly after opening Victor, the pigmy hippo died and a chimp killed one of the performing dogs. The show swung west north of the Red River in Oklahoma and hit rain and mud in Kansas during May as they had in the previous year. The show circled across Nebraska and South Dakota, played a couple of towns in Wyoming, spent a month in North Dakota, and headed down through east South Dakota and toured Iowa. By then it was August and there had been 53 days of rain, but only two days had been lost. With a few dates in the corner of Nebraska and Kansas the show worked its way home through Missouri and Arkansas with a closing Nov. 1 at Haskell, Okla. 4 days ahead of its billing and went into quarters at the Choctaw County Fairgrounds at Hugo.
That winter new bible back seats 6 high were built in quarters. A hippo was delivered and died in quarters. In March, 1952 the 1/5th share held by Obert Miller was transferred to Lydia Miller. The other shares remained the same being held by Herb Walters (manager), Tom McLaughlin (general agent), and D. R. & Kelly Miller. The new season opened March 27th at Bogata, Texas. They moved on 13 show-owned trucks and 2 advance trucks. Last year's tents were in use once again. George and Jack Bell had the concessions with Jack fronting a 5-piece band. Little Joe Wright had the Side Show and Chief Clarence Keys the concert.
The route looped through northeast Texas and then onto the usual Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota route reaching Minnesota by the first week in June. A hurried move was made across the northern section of South Dakota and the southwestern corner of North Dakota to enter Montana July 5th for a trip westward to Idaho and Washington. At Clark Ford, Idaho a truck was wrecked killing a llama and freeing 2 elephants, 2 camels, and 2 horses. The show played as far west as Ephrata, Washington August 9th and returned east playing three weeks across the southern part of Idaho and Wyoming and into Colorado. At Rifle, Colorado Vic, the elephant escaped and was shot and killed. (The reader is referred to "Elephant Tramp" by George Lewis and "Fifty Years Under Canvas" for full details of this episode.) After this the show moved south through Colorado and the Texas Panhandle closing a profitable season October 26th.
In November, Tom McLaughlin sold his 1/5th share to the other four owners and resigned the agent's post. Then Lydia Miller sold her share leaving Herb Walters, Kelly Miller, and Dores Miller the owners.
Cole & Walters Wild Animal Circus opened the 1953 season April 2nd at Antlers, Oklahoma, 20 miles from Hugo. Pete Lindemann (former Seils Sterling owner) took over as general agent. The show opened with 7 elephants including the Miller & Woodcock baby elephant act. Lee Bradley was Side Show manager. The Big Top was a 70 ft. round with two 20's, two 30's, and a 36 ft. middle. The Side Show was an olive drab 40 x 120 ft. square end top.
The season was spent roughly as follows: 4 weeks in Oklahoma, 1 in Arkansas, 4 in Missouri, 4 in Iowa, 10 days in South Dakota, and 6 weeks in North Dakota. In mid-June the Woodcocks closed and laid over in Ottumwa, Iowa. In July Pete Lindemann left and by mid-August John Foss had become the general agent. Business had not been good for the show at all. The southward return was made through South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma with an early closing at Dierks, Arkansas on October 4th and returning to Hugo. The season as a whole was considered to be a heavy loser.
In November Dory Miller purchased the interest of Kelly Miller and resold part of his interest to Herb Walters to make them equal owners. It was at this point that the show considered auspices planned promotion for the first time.
By late February, 1954 a new title had been decided upon. It was to be the "George W. Cole Wild Animal Circus." In March a new staff had been signed on. Norman (Luke) Anderson and Laura Anderson were to have the concessions and hippo pit show and Jack Turner was to be the new general agent. A new line of paper was ordered from Neal Walters of Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The 1954 show utilized last years canvas, but was freshly painted throughout. Lee Bradley again had the Side Show and Chief Keys the concert. The show opened at Coalgate, Oklahoma on April 15th. The route was shifted drastically for entirely new territory moving eastward for the first time through Missouri spending a month in Kentucky and western Ohio with business proving better than the previous spring. May 31st through July 16th were spent in the state of Michigan with some of the best business of the season developing in that area.
July 20th at Rockford, Ohio the Side Show was blown down and the Big Top ripped with the evening performance being lost. The opera moved into the south for the first time playing Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and closing early in the latter state at Morton on September 22nd. The show returned to Hugo, but Walters took 3 elephants, camels, and lead stock and joined the Hagen Bros. Circus for a winter tour. It is interesting to note that on the Hagen show at this time were the following prominent Hugo show operators; besides Walters, Bob Couls was manager, Joe McMahon was agent, and Little Bob Sevens was concession manager. By mid-December Walters had returned with the stock for quarters.
The George W. Cole Circus opened he season of 1955 at Clarksville, Texas March 31st. Floyd Hill was general agent with Bill Wilcox manager of advance and Jackie Wilcox on conracting press. W. J. (Bill) English was concession manager and legal adjuster. Ted LaVelda was Side Show manager with a new top and banner-line. The performance featured the Rawls, Campa, Grubbs, Hazelwoods, and Rex families. Frank Ellis opened with his pit shows but switched to K-M when they opened. The route made its usual loop of Texas, then north through Oklahoma and Kansas, and across Missouri into Iowa where a newly imported rhino joined as a pit show attraction. Then the show swung east to pickup some of the area that had proved to be so profitable the year before, swinging through Illinois, Indiana, part of Ohio, and into Michigan for 24 stands, and then back to Illinois. Several days were spent on long jumps Sept. 25, 150 miles from Rockport, Ind. to Dover, Tenn. and Oct. 15 from Stephens, Ark. to Kirbyvile, Texas 250 miles. After an extensive tour of Texas the show closed November 20h at Kaufman and headed 122 miles back to Hugo closing the wraps on a most successful season.
The 1956 season saw much the same staff with the show as in the previous year. The tour began at Wright City, Oklahoma April 11th under a new Central Canvas Co. top slightly larger than the one used the prior season (an 80 with two 40's and a 30). Animals carried this year included 3 elephants, 2 camels, chimp, leopard, 4 lions, 7 monkeys, 5 bears, and the rhino. The route was set for new spring territory heading east through Oklahoma, across a corner of Arkansas and southern Missouri and into Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. By June they were across Ohio and into Michigan once again where 28 stands were played across the state and upper peninsula into Wisconsin. 43 stands were played in Minnesota in August and September before a hurried journey southward brought the show into east Texas and Louisiana closing at Trinity on November 10th and moving into new quarters on Highway 75 10 miles south of Conroe, Texas. At this spot various barns and corrals were built to house the animals. People were admitted to the grounds under a 10 and 25c admission on Sundays.
By February, 1957 it was decided to drop the "George W." title and change the name to "Famous Cole Circus." Some of last year's paper had used this title. The season opened April 1st at Crosby, Texas under last year's Big Top and much the same staff. The show moved on 11 trucks, consisting of: canvas spool, elephant, cage, rhino, office, pole, seat, kitchen & power plant, organ and seat straight bed trucks; sleeper trailer, and 4-wheel cage trailer. They decided to try it eastward once again and moved into Louisiana, Mississippi, a corner of Alabama, north across Tennessee with a big jump April 28th from Guthrie, Kentucky into Huntingburg, Indiana. It hit terrible weather and blew 2 stands. After circling Indiana and Illinois the route took them into Michigan for 58 stands and then into Wisconsin for 24 stands.
Business had picked up considerably as they cut south through Illinois and across Missouri and Kansas into northwestern Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. The tour closed suddenly at Rising Star, Texas October 26th due to a crackdown by the Texas Highway Patrol on the operating condition of the trucks and poor business due to a influenza epidemic. The show put back into the Choctaw County Fairgrounds at Hugo after a one winter hiatus.
The 1958 season found the Famous Cole Circus back into its old territory once again. The opening was April 14th at Bogata, Texas with a swing through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and reverse. The season closed after 7,373 miles at Atoka, Oklahoma October 5th. The rolling stock was increased by 3 units to 14. Harry Rawls had a new top and banners for the Side Show. Featured again was the rhino pit show. The performance featured the Rawls Family, Frazier Family, Bantas, Charlie Rexes, Ted LaVelda, and the Grubbs.
Nineteen fifty-nine is one of those years that started out one way and ended up another. Glen J. Jarmes of Iowa with the backing of a local Hugo, Okla. dentist purchased a half interest in the show. John Frazier was general agent and Floyd Bradbury was Side Show manager and bandleader. The season opened at Cooper, Texas on April 8th. The route dipped south and then set out across the Texas plains and into the Panhandle and then north through Colorado playing the usual smaller towns. The route clipped through a corner of Nebraska and Wyoming, played 5 South Dakota dates and then back into Wyoming and up into Montana to cross the state in 21 stands. At Shelby on June 21st announcement was made that Jarmes had become full owner and that the title was to be Jarmes & Bailey Circus. However, I don't believe any official switch was made for as far as I can ascertain all billing and contracting was done under the Famous Cole name. I personally saw some of the billing in eastern Washington and all that I saw featured the "Cole" title. The show hop-scotched the Washington-Idaho line and then went as far west as Yakima, Washington on July 24th-25th before making a big jump back to Payete, Idaho on July 27th.
The show hurriedly played across southern Idaho and reached Smithfield, Utah on August 6th. The show laid over for 6 days at Farmington, Utah to re-route home to winter quarters when Glen J. Jarmes pulled out of the partnership and the entire advance left without notice. The show re-opened at Mountainview, Wyoming August 13th and blew Rawlins on the 15th due to not getting any billing up. Then they moved into Colorado, 2 days in Kansas, 3 in the Texas Panhandle and closed at Hollis, Oklahoma on September 7th. The show was back in Hugo after a 7,165 mile hectic tour.
In 1960 Herb Walters once again took the show out. Bob Couls came on as general agent and Ted LaVelda once again had the Side Show. The show took the usual spring loop through Texas and north into Illinois and up into Michigan for 44 days and then back south into Louisiana and Texas returning to Hugo after traveling 6,449 miles. The rhino was taken off the show and transferred to K-M this year.
Bob Couls was taken in as a partner for the 1961 season. The staff was practically the same as in the previous year. One notable exception was Gene Christian becoming the general agent. The route was similar to the year before with the exception of a number of dates being played in Wisconsin. An excellent route book was published at the close of the season.
Famous Cole went out again in 1962 with the same co-partners. This year John Frazier was general agent. The size and performance remained along the same general lines as set up in prior years. The route went north into Wisconsin and Michigan again and closed September 16th in Arkansas.
In 1963 the co-partners opened the last day in March in Oklahoma and moved north into Nebraska for a 4-week tour of Minnesota, and south through Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. August 30th was spent en route to Tennessee. After a 3 week tour of that state a week was spent in Mississippi and then 16 days in Louisiana. The close came at Lewisville, Arkansas October 16th. At the close of the tour Herb Walters sold his share to Bob Couls.
Bob Couls took Famous Cole on the road in 1964 and 1965. The show did not make it successfully through the season of 1965 closing July 24th at Lamar, Missouri. Herb Walters took back the equipment and animals for the portion still due him.
Jack Moore and Carson & Barnes
Jack B. Moore was born at Marshall, Texas and Served in the U. S. Navy during World War II. After the war's end he launched a small 2-reeler motion picture show under canvas. The first mention I find of his show is in the Billboard for June 21, 1952 which gives the show's title as Jack Moore & Kelly Bros. Show. This was a combination circus, movie, and hillbilly performance. The show had opened April 15th in Texas and moved on 5 trucks. There was a 60 ft. top with two 30's for the main show and a 50 ft. with one 20 for the Side Show and menagerie. Tickets went for 30 and 50c. The program consisted of a Clyde Beatty jungle picture, pony drill, wrestling bear, trained chimp, dogs, trained mule, Wanda Moore (Jack's daughter) singing and dancing, and Happy Hanks hillbilly show being given in one ring and on a stage.
In March, 1953 it was told that his show which had formerly wintered at Marshall and Jefferson, Texas had moved its quarters to Hugo, Oklahoma and changed its title to Banner Bros.
By November, 1953 the show was known as Jack Moore's Tex Carson Jamboree and the Woodcocks were with it until bad weather forced the show into quarters.
In January, 1954 Jack Moore and D. R. Miller combined forces to launch a brand new show with the title Tex Carson Wild Animal Circus. The large bull Mable, was added from the K-M herd and the operation was molded into a regular circus. It opened at Roxton, Texas April 14th on 8 trucks with a 90-minute program. The banner day of the season was spent September 13th at Terral, Oklahoma.
In 1955 the little show traveled 10,838 miles and was the first Hugo based show to make the west coast areas playing Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona returning in November to Hugo. The entire show consisted of animal acts except for two. It was announced that the quarters property of the Strong Amusement Company had been purchased for quarters and renamed the Carson Ranch.
For 1956 Tom McLaughlin purchased an interest and took over the general agent's duties. The show played north through Nebraska and into the Dakotas. There was a blow-down at Gettysburg, South Dakota with $6,000 worth of damage. A new top came on from Rogers Tent and Awning. In late June Ed Widaman's 3 bulls were added and later the 3 Miller-Woodcock bulls joined making a herd of 7 on the show. The banner stand that season was Rushville, Nebraska on September 1st.
In 1957 the title was altered to read "Carson & Barnes Circus." "Tex was eliminated from the title due to confusion with wild west shows. For the season Norm Anderson had on his concessions and hippo pit show. The Woodcock elephants were also on the show. Another westerly route was adhered to with Montana, Idaho, and eastern Washington being played with the show jumping to Casa Grande, Arizona winter quarters instead of returning to Hugo. An innovation this season was the painting of the pictorial banners on the side of the cage trucks instead of using a cloth banner-line.
The year of 1958 turned out to be the best season yet. For a feature attraction Col. Tim McCoy came on the show with its wild west features. After opening at Casa Grande, Arizona in early April the show played the west coast extensively. However Moore's adroit route kept the show out of the big cities and confined itself to the outlying areas that were starved for entertainment. It played up the coast and then across Montana and the Dakotas to drop the fall into Arkansas and Louisiana before returning to Hugo. The Andersons had their concessions and hippo pit show on once again this season.
That winter Moore purchased his prize pet from the Ringlings, the venerable old bull Joskey. In 1959 the show again featured Col. Tim McCoy and headed up into Eastern Canada for 5 weeks in Ontario and spent a good deal of time in Michigan before returning back to quarters.
During the winter the show purchased Anderson's hippo and has since carried it as a pit show attraction. In 1960 with McCoy again featured it moved into Western Canada for the first time playing Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta for 13 weeks and ended up with another profitable tour.
The 1961 tour found Carson & Barnes headed eastward through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan into Canada with 13 weeks being spent in Ontario and Quebec. Col. Tim McCoy was on the show again for the last time.
For 1962 the show looked to the West Coast once again and played all the way up the coast with a month being spent in British Columbia before dropping down through the Rocky Mountain territory to Hugo. By this time the show had reached its fairly standard size with about 20 trucks, 5 elephants, moderate sized menagerie, and a Big Top that was 100 ft. round with three 40 ft. middles. A new walkthrough type marquee semi was added, built on the same plans as K-M's.
In 1963 Chuck Fuller was cut into the Carson & Barnes partnership and the show headed for Western Canada once again. The season was prosperous but that fall instead of returning to Hugo the show set up quarters at the Third District Fairgrounds at Hope, Arkansas.
For the 1964 season a decision was made to change the title to read Barnes & Bailey Circus. This tour found the show playing extensively in Iowa, and laying off a week setting the route before entering Western Canada territory again. The season as a whole was not as good as prior ones and they decided after returning to Hugo that winter to revert back to the Carson & Barnes name.
The season of 1965 found the show featuring Sky King (Kirby Grant) for the moppet trade and Frank Ellis had his gorilla pit show on the Carson & Barnes midway for the first time. The route took them on a westerly course and they played north through Utah, Idaho, and Montana, then back southward through Washington, Oregon, and California to spend the winter at the Imperial County Fairgrounds at Imperial, California.
For 1966 they opened early at Imperial and played some successful Southern California dates before moving north through Nevada, Idaho, and Washington into Western Canada for a lengthy tour. A hurried trip was made back to Hugo.
In 1967 the show played a more easterly route through the smaller towns of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and then back through Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky to Louisiana and return to Hugo. As a whole this season was not as successful as prior ones had been.
The 1968 tour again found the show on the West Coast and up into Western Canada. The show had all new canvas and three Kelly-Miller bulls added to the herd. The midway had two trailer mounted pit shows hauled by panel trucks and was more compactly framed than in prior years. This is truly one of the last of the old-time flavor shows still hitting the sawdust trail.
Shorter Lived Hugo Shows
In 1959 Vernon Pratt and Marlin (Corky) Plunkett teamed up to launch the James Christy Combined Circus. Mrs. June Plunkett was general agent and the Chuck Fullers conducted the Side Show. Norman Anderson had his concessions and hippo pit show on the midway. This opera was in the 10 truck class and opened the season at Boswell, Oklahoma on April 25th. They carried the Plunkett elephant, Hank or Henrietta, formerly on the Dailey show.
The route took them north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota to North Dakota. Some time was spent in August in Wisconsin. By mid-October they were back in Hugo after a very mediocre season.
Pratt and Plunkett again had James Christy out in 1960. This year Tom McLaughlin was general agent. This season the route was much like the prior year. However, Wisconsin was not played and some time in the fall was played in Missouri. Again by mid-October they were back in Hugo and this time they decided to call it quits and the title did not tour again.
In the fall and early winter of 1959 two shows were taken out of Hugo that were more or less combinations of equipment rounded up from other shows. John Frazier, Floyd Bradbury, and Charles Rex took out the Sterling & Wallace Circus. Doug Lyon had an excellent article on this show in Bandwagon Sept.-Oct.-Nov., 1961 and the reader is referred to that issue for further information.
Another hastily put together show was the Don E. Kerr European Circus (note the title) headed by Lee Bradley, Billy Griffin, and Dick Loter. These seem to have been successful ventures, but I would guess their main purpose was just an additional way to bring a few extra bucks to tide the showmen over the winter months.
The Fairyland Circus
In 1962 Obert Miller framed a new show of his own. This one was not planned to be pretentious, but in many ways it was truly unique. The Big Top was a 60 ft. round with a 30 ft. and two 15 ft. middles under which was given a one ring performance. Miller's old friend Tom McLaughlin was general agent and routed the show through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota and return from April 23rd to Sept. 6th. They traveled 4,964 miles and 5 days were lost to rain and cold including the last 3 days. It was a nicely framed show based on the old dog and pony type operation of year's ago.
In 1963 Fairyland went out again with the same size show and approximately the same operating staff. This year's route extended from April 18th to Sept. 8th and extended from Texas up through Oklahoma, Kansas, a corner of Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa and then back south through Missouri and Oklahoma. 7 matinees were lost due to no crowds showing up on the lot.
In 1964 the show swung eastward through Arkansas and Missouri. 24 dates were played in Kentucky and then they moved into Illinois and Missouri. The closing came at Anita, Iowa on July 18th. This season was beset with many problems, but the biggest one was getting the show booked.
That winter Obert Miller sold the show to Sonny Noel. Tom McLaughlin came back as the agent in 1965. The season opened March 6th at La Grange, Texas. This was to be a season beset with problems. 41 different shows were lost to there being no crowds, bad weather, legal entanglements, or trouble with auspices. 60 dates were set in Texas, then there was a hurried trip through Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. They looped through North Dakota and Montana and dropped back into South Dakota and Wyoming closing at Chappell, Nebraska on July 23rd. A week ahead in Nebraska was cancelled when they closed to re-organize and re-route laying over at Curtis, Nebraska until August 1st. After 4 days in Nebraska, 3 days were set in Kansas, but they were cancelled so that permits would not have to be purchased for the trucks. The show then jumped to Booker, Texas for August 9th but never opened due to trouble with the auspices. That was it and the show closed suddenly due to poor business and lack of route and put into quarters at San Antonio, Texas. Thus ended the life of one of Hugo's most interesting little shows.
The Clark & Walters Circus
Meanwhile, Herb Walters after turning the Famous Cole Circus over to Bob Couls decided to frame a new circus of his own. This 8 truck show was given the title Clark & Walters Circus after an old title he had used in his rep show days. Joe Wright and Charlie Campbell were the agents for the 1964 tour. Lee Bradley had the Side Show. They opened with a new Big Top 70 ft. round with one 30 and two 20 ft. middles. The route followed extensive tour over Walters 'old territory up in Michigan and made it back to Hugo after traveling 5,276 miles.
In 1965 Clark & Walters opened with a slightly revised staff. Corky Plunkett was superintendent, Ted La Velda the general agent, and Harry Rawls handled the performance and Side Show. The show played north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota to 44 dates in North Dakota and back to Hugo on a reverse route through the same states. It closed early, September 5th at Trenton, Texas.
In 1966 the show went out under a lease basis to Gus Bell. Many of the Plunkett Family were on the show and Ted La Velda once again conducted the Side Show. The route was north through Missouri and Iowa to play 40 dates in Wisconsin before a hurried trip home closing August 4th at Checotah, Oklahoma.
Early in 1967 Herb Walters took Clark & Walters south for a few dates but before the season was very old sold out to the Silverlake Family who successfully finished out that season and conducted the show during the 1968 season. For the purposes of this article this ends the story of this title as a Hugo, Oklahoma based show.
In 1968 Herb Walters went out in an advisory capacity with Kelly-Miller but did not finish out the season. He passed away August 4th in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after a three week illness. I'm sure he felt happy in his heart that he was still on the road trouping down his beloved sawdust trail.
Certainly it is almost an impossibility in an article of this nature to cover all the details on all these shows for all the seasons that they were out. I hope that most of the interesting events have been touched upon and that some of the glory of the Hugo shows and showmanship has reached print. I wish to thank many individuals that have helped me with this story. Among them are Bob Taber, O. Lee Carlstrom, Doug Lyon, Chang Reynolds, Frank Ellis, Harry Dann, Fred Pfening (for photos), and most of all to Ted Bowman who supplied all the missing routes that I did not have. A great deal of the information came from The Billboard, the route sheets published by A. Morton Smith and the wonderful route books issued by the Kelly-Miller Circus.
Hetzer's European Circus played tent theaters during the summer. The date on July 4th at the Colonie Tent Theater, Latham, N.Y., used an unusual layout. The first half was presented in the tent, the rest outside in the open. The Hamid Morton elephants are shown with spectators standing background at this date. Photo by Gene Baxter.
Reports of Ringling's plans for a second, duplicate unit held attention of circusdom as the main event for the year. It all began with first accounts in February and March, and it reached a crescendo by year's end as the elements of the new show arrived on the scene and 1969 opening dates grew near.
Plans for the new and major circus comprised the biggest creative step forward for circus business in decades - perhaps since the creation of Cole Bros. Circus nearly 35 years ago. In the interim, other shows have made news as they folded, others have made good news by expanding, but perhaps none has come up with such a vote of confidence in the future or such a start-at-the-top creation as Ringling-Barnum Blue.
The new show emphasized the dearth of top titles - only the RBBB name was powerful enough to support an all-new major circus. The big step also came on as a boost for straight promotion as opposed to auspices and phones, for indoor arena operation as opposed to tenting and even for railroading as opposed to trucks.
The 1968 season was notable for maintaing the status quo in other elements of circus business. The indoor shows appearing largely under Shrine auspices continued about as usual. The tented phase of the business could count nine or ten shows making full seasons and three or four more than played part of the season.
Garden Signs R-B
As 1967 ended, Madison Square Garden and Ringling-Barnum signed a new contract, probably for a longer term than usual. Until then, there had been speculation that Art Concello would put together a new circus for the Garden. But the signing indicated that the Garden took another look, and, by signing, signaled that it had dropped plans to frame its own circus. Further speculation would note that the Garden probably had been told of Ringling's expansion plans, and therefore didn't see the potential for a route on which to send any show it had in mind.
Ringling dropped the other shoe in January when it pocketed a ten-year contract with the new Forum at Los Angeles.
Tommy Hanneford announced he'd ride a baby elephant in his rosinback turn, and soon Rex Williams would be riding a horse in his elephant act. Big John Strong Circus opened its indoor route on January 18. The Circus Hall of Fame named Poddles Hanneford, William Heyer Jr., Elly Ardelty and Earnest Millette to its Hall of Fame. By late January Kelly-Miller was stirring a bit under the temporary tag of Imperial Krona Circus.
Howard Suesz's Clyde Bros. Circus ended a 12-weeks stay in Mexico that had featured a five weeks' run in Mexico City. Bill Garden came forth as the man who would book acts at the Hall of Fame for the season. Hoxie Tucker took his Hoxie Bros. Circus out for a month's winter tour that included the Florida Keys and proved to be a break-even venture.
Red, Blue Twins
When news of a second Ringling unit began to break, there was speculation about who would be with it, where the elephants would come from and what railroad equipment would be used. There was much guess-work as well about whether the whole shooting match would be moved to Houston. And initially there was public question about the title. Over the ensuing three months the answers began to take shape.
Irving Feld was much aware of the array of titles which his combine had acquired in the circus deal. He also was knowledgeable about the way ice shows utilize twin units. More to the point, he knew how the Ringling brothers had used their namesake show and the Barnum & Bailey outfit as twin units on two-year routing and production cycles. After all, it was the circus business, as far back as the Flatfoots and Van Amburgh, which pioneered the second-unit concept.
So the decisions made earlier began to come out. The title would be the same - Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey - the units would be called Red and Blue. The Red unit was sure to play about four specific towns - New York, Washington, Baltimore and Los Angeles - and after that any city, large or small, could be assigned to either unit.
Equality was the key word which the Feld-Hofheinz management stressed. The units would have about the same number of cars, the same number of elephants, the same production numbers.
Buy 20th Century
Railroad sources began to report that Ringling-Barnum was in the market buying up cars. The show acquired 13 cars from the Penn Central; most of them had been used on the old New York Central's Twentieth Century Limited, giving rise and reason to the show's subsequent statement that it had "bought the Century." In fact someone bought a lot of cars - some-think like 79 passenger cars were shipped to the Hofheinz spread in Houston, reportedly for use around the Astrodome and Astroworld to accommodate people in hotel fashion.
And R-B also "bought the Rock Island Rocket" - getting the baggage cars for the circus.
Soon it was known that Lloyd Morgan would be general manager of the Blue unit. But how to fill several other posts was a problem. For the better part of a hundred years the Ringling-Barnum complex has had one or more cadres of staff men on tap. When it needed recruits it either trained its own or went to favored shows such as Sparks and Gentry for them. In later years there were more people than jobs and the show sometimes was overstaffed just to be sure of having the necessary talent around. But now it was different; there were new jobs to fill but not enough Ringling people and no railshow training grounds. Already this new era had brought to the show some products of a different age in circusdom; now those men recommended associates from mud show days. Now Ringling-Barnum was turning to truck show graduates for the kind of experience it needed. Big Show leaders asked fellow staffers from Mills Bros, and Dailey Bros, and Russell Bros, who they had known on the truck shows who could cut it on Big Bertha Blue.
Florida Tenters Start
On April 2 news of the present season was made when the Ringling show opened its first run in the new and fourth Madison Square Garden. It gave great advantages, such as having all the backyard on one level instead of several as in the past. And there were problems, such as having no space for a side show. They did use a menagerie again, but the ceiling was too low for the giraffe, and the bulls soon discovered they could pull the tile and pipes apart. Business was good and top tickets sold at $7.50 a clatter. On the third day of the run news came that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot; Ringling cancelled its performances for the next day.
In New York Ringling-Barnum added a 25th car to its train. It was the first departure from the World War II hospital cars the show has been using since the 1940s and was needed for hauling more horses. It also carried automobiles and carried its own runs. Included in the consist was another car owned by Rudy Bundy.
Elsewhere, tented circuses were getting underway. On April 1 the Beatty-Cole trucks left Florida quarters; for April 8-21 the show was at Commack, N.Y., its annual indoor run on Long Island. This time it was four days longer than before and the top was $5. The Flying Alexanders were added to the regulars for this and the later Philadelphia stands.
Easter weekend found Florida tenters rolling northward into Georgia - King Bros., Hoxie Bros., Sells & Gray. Also playing the state was tiny Royson Bros., launching its second season and sporting six trucks, one elephant and a 50 x 70 top, all under the aegis of Red Lunsford, out of Douglas, Ga. In late April, Ringling was in New York, Wallenda in Connecticut, Bartok in Maryland, Castle in Indiana, Clyde Bros, in Ontario, Hamid-Morton in Pennsylvania, King in North Carolina, Kelly-Miller in Tennessee, Polack in Spokane.
Dobritch in Trouble
Al Dobritch was having it rough in California. His date at the Los Angeles Sports Arena was not good in the Wagon. He had a big program that included an appearance by TV's Ed Sullivan, Emmett Kelly, and a circus first featuring four Zacchini human cannonballs and two double cannons for a bang-up finale. Since New York's new Garden had no space for a side show, Dobritch booked Ward Hall's side show for Los Angeles instead. It used a tent and banners outside of the Sports Arena. Show opened okay but then business fell sharply, probably because of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the building's proximity to the Watts area.
He had 155,000 pepole but that's not good enough for 18 days at big city prices. So Dobritch wanted to cut the nut by trimming salaries. AGVA said you can't do that; Dobritch claimed that as long as he was still paying scale or better the union had no kick. So at Long Beach the union closed the show. Performers got together in a co-op to continue for three more days, April 6-7-8 and that gave them get-away money.
Jimmy Hetzer announced plans for an eastern unit to play tent theaters; his western unit was playing California tent theaters. Clyde Bros, had one unit in Florida and Georgia while another played the title's first pilgrimage to the Chicago Shrine date, Clyde furnished the performance, and promotion was handled by the Shrine, which delegated the chore to Sam Ward. Business was big for the March 18-24 stand.
The Silverlake family launched their Clark & Walters Circus March 30 at Sulphur, La., March 30-31, then moved out on six new trucks. April 6 saw Big John Strong Circus open its outdoor tour.
Late spring brought word of Ringling-Barnum's unique clown college, seen as a joke by some observers but by others as a signal that Ringling Bros., Feld & Hofheinz plans to build right for the future.
California Circus Action
Mel Miller left the state of Florida's circus museum management to become R-B's director of special promotions, a post which includes the clown school and also development of the winter quarters site as an elaborate tourist attraction. Sarasota and Venice buzzed with reports first that the show might move to Houston (which seems never to have been in the works) and then that the show would move back to Sarasota and build a huge showplace a la Astroworld.
Kay Bros, did six dates in California and Arizona. Al Kayda closed it May 5 at Chandler, Ariz. Rudy Bros, opened at Albuquerque and had 12 weeks to go. Garden Bros.' Peter Kinosh was hurt in a fall at Toronto. Back in California, Ken Jenson completed his spring tour in May, and the Gatti-Charles Circus opened its 15-week tour. James Bros, closed its spring route May 24 at San Francisco and would launch a route to the East and back in mid-July.
The San Francisco Bay area played host to no less than ten circuses during April and May. Included were DeWayne Bros., Polack, John Strong, Gatti-Charles, James Bros., Rudy Bros., Kaye Bros., Ken Jenson, Happy-time and a store promotional show.
Carson & Barnes came out of Hugo quarters to start its tour at Paris, Texas. Early route took it to the Coast to spend 14 days in California en route to Canada. Wilson Storey was managing Sells & Grey. Famous Bartok rolled on ten trucks. Ringling-Barnum signed a three-year pact with AGVA, providing for pretty stiff commitments to acts. Fifty percent of the roster will be made up of American acts. Polack was jumping all around the West - from Tucson to Tacoma once and a little later from Sacramento to Denver and back to Long Beach. If Ringling is planning to print route cards in red for the red unit and blue for the new unit, it's old hat; Clyde Bros, route cards handled two-unit routes in just that way during April, May and June of 1968.
Carson in Canada
Old circus hands wise in the ways of big top financing knowingly look for the stencils and the iron plates on wagons or cars to indicate names of lessees, corporate structures for owning and operating and angels. One descended upon the Ringling equipment expecting to see the likes as a result of the Feld-Hofheinz entry. But there was nothing to be found. Another checked out the Kelly-Miller show and found that the Miller Equipment Co. held title to five trucks - apes, bulls, lions, concessions cookhouse and slum joint rigs - while the McDee Rental Co. held two seat wagons, light plant, spool wagon, side show, stake driver, and pit shows, among others. Kelly-Miller, with Joe McMahon at the helm, showed four elephants, lions, four ex-RB horses, pony drill, the Jacksons, Escalantes and Fred Logan.
Meanwhile, Carson & Barnes was journeying through the west with D. R. Miller as manager. Dory said he was there as an employee, but others guessed he might also own some stock in it again. After playing the Seattle area in late July, the outfit went into Canada for a long stay. Once there had been talk of a big leap to Alaska for August, but that "Sunday run" never came off. Charles Mason routed it through Western Canada. The show had Sky King, seven bulls worked by Dick Shipley, and canvas that included a 90 with three 40s and a 60 with two 30s. Carson & Barnes seemed to be using less advertising than in past years. Owner Jack Moore was ill much of the time, accounting for Miller's presence, and Ted Bowman represented Miller on Kelly-Miller.
Jim Harkins, veteran executive from Ice Capades, signed up with the new owners of the Harlem Globetrotters and remnants of the Dobritch Circus to book a new indoor show. Plan was to promote it like an ice show rather than by phones. Globetrotter generalissimo George Gillette was carded to announce plans for the new show at the July convention of the auditorium-arena managers in Houston, but such word was delayed. That convention, however, was stood on its ear by the bash party which the Judge Et Al gave at the Astrodome for the building managers. Best acrobatic act ever was in progress but unseen then as the original Brothers revolved rapidly in their graves at the thought of a circus picking up the tab on such a costly chivaree for a few towners who own the lots.
In early June the eastern shows congregated around Philly. On top of each other were Ringling, Beatty-Cole, King and Bartok. Beatty-Cole was at the Liberty Bell trotting track under Shrine auspices May 20 - June 2. Advance was good but rains were long. But then the weekend weather cleared and crowds were big. Ringling was on the opposite side of town at the new Spectrum arena May 29 - June 9. On Saturday, June 1, Beatty-Cole played to more people than did R-B. The next day King Bros, was only six miles from its parent show and visits were exchanged. The Eddie Hendricks troupe closed with King about that time and joined the nearby Bartok. The latter also had Jan Perz Bears, recorded music, elephants and a one-ring format.
K-M in Rough Going
The Hanneford Circus toured Ontario behind Bill English's promotion. Big John Strong played ten weeks of fairs and outdoor dates. Ringling-Barnum announced that its business was up by 38 percent for the first half of the season. Included was a 20 percent climb for New York.
King Bros, was finding business off. So was Sells & Grey. Hoxie Bros, in New Jersey was reportedly doing okay. In Illinois Kelly-Miller was running into trouble. At East Moline, Ill., it blew the matinee because the spool wagon broke down en route. Then only a handful caught the night show. The eagle didn't fly on schedule, but three days of better business rectified that. Then the show was plumb out of route and had to sit by the side of the road for three days at Princeton, Ill.
Beatty-Cole had some set-backs as well. It blew Bedford, Mass., to mud. The next day at Hyannis a passel of Kennedy kids waded through the mud, but for the first time since 1944 the fire department failed to show up on watch duty and that was because of the mud. Then Beatty-Cole sustained a blowdown at Auburn, N.Y., July 9. As in most such cases, the news coverage was enormous and the actual injuries and damage were slight. The show did blow two days and lose its top, however. It substituted first an old top and then, prematurely, a new one that normally would not have been put into service until the New Orleans late-season stand.
Big John Strong had a blowdown June 25 at Winnemucca, Nev. Tom Packs Circus garnered big business for the St. Louis Shrine Circus June 28 -July 3.
Dave Whaton's circus tried it again but found trouble and then found a way out. It seems the Sliverlake family's Clark & Walter opera had just burned up its power plant when along came Wharton, who rented his at $100 a day. He also helped transport the C & W affair for several days. Then both shows got back on their own feet. For Wharton it was brief respite; he soon folded.
James Routes A Jar
James Bros, reached as far east as Ohio in some routing that set others to gasping at the long jumps. The show's five imported elephants were down to three and Buckles Woodcock had them broken to a nice act.
The Circus World Museum & Schlitz Combine had to cancel its grand march because of racial heat in Milwaukee, but the Lakefront lot came to life better than ever to create another solid success.
AGVA made demands on indoor circus producers that rocked them enough to form the Circus Producers' Association and fight back. George Hamid spoke for the others, who included Sam Polack, Howard Suesz, Hubert Castle, Jim Hetzer, Jack Leontini and even Art Concello, who had a circus in New York's Shea Stadium August 2-11.
For Kelly-Miller the end came at Somerville, Tenn. On August 10 it gave up the gallant ghost and folded flat. The equipment was sent back to Hugo, except some on which Uncle Sam held a lien. The spool wagon was sold almost at once to Bartok Circus. This seemed to spell the end for a show and title that had been one of the greatest.
In late summer Ringling-Barnum revealed it had bought the Circus Williams of Germany and that its Gunther Gabel would come over to work its bulls and tigers on Ringling Red, while Hugo Schmidt, the Althoffs and Baumann would move to Barnum Blue. The show also had bought a Spanish lion act.
Myrna Earl Silverlake was booking the Clark & Walters Circus, since Gene Christian left there to become Floyd King's assistant ahead of the Beatty-Cole, King and Sells & Grey.
Election Season Hurts
Al Dobritch turned up as a top dog around the new Las Vegas casino called Circus Circus and featuring circus acts. Gatti-Charles Circus closed its tour September 2 and the owners planned a talent search in Europe. The Globetrotters' circus was named Circus Maximum and it opened at Portland, Ore., September 25-29. Gil Gray Circus again played the State fair of Texas at Dallas. James Bros, was using blues all around, no reserves, but planned to change that next year.
Misgivings that show business holds for public support in election years were noted this time around. Business in the fall was only fair, although Bartok and Hoxie Bros, seemed to have done well. Sells & Gray closed on Labor Day, September 3, for lack of any acceptable route. King Bros. shuttered September 14 in Illinois. Both shows headed for a new home at Riverside, Fla., where Frank McClosky had acquired the Cristiani Bros, quarters from Pete Cristiani. Bartok was in quarters at Oneco, Fla., by early October, after closing in Ohio.
Hoxie Bros, put a final fillip on its good season by sailing eight truck-loads of show plunder to the Bahamas as present six performances October 18-20. Business was so good that three extra performances were added. Rudy Bros, closed October 6 at San Francisco. Clark & Walters closed October 27 at Rison, Ark., and went to quarters at Medora, Ind. Art Miller had booked this show after the King Bros. Circus had closed.
More Ringling Blue details came to light in September. Jack Joyce was to be named personnel director. Merle Evans was to set the music for both shows, but who would be the Blue bandmaster was not yet revealed. It looked as if the new unit would be on 20 cars, probably including leased piggy back cars. Already the wagons used by Ringling's Barnum & Bailey in Europe a few seasons ago were due to arrive at a Florida port for use on the new show. Five elephants also would be brought back to join those coming from the Circus Williams.
The Red unit was expected to stay at 25 cars for some time, since railroads now have changed their tariff tables. It used to be that 26 cars cost as much to move as 30, but now 26 costs as much as 50.
Henry Ringling North's commitment to the new show owners was to stay on for six months in a consultive position. That time was completed while the show was in Chicago, and Buddy stepped off the show.
The Circus Hall of Fame announced elaborate plans for constructing a new arena and exhibit building on the site of the present museum. The word came shortly after the Hall of Fame reportedly received a couple of offers to buy it out.
On November 4 the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus closed its season and went to the DeLand barns. Of major interest was the announcement that Joe McMahon would be general agent and Floyd King would continue with the show as routing consultant.
McMahon will route Beatty-Cole and Sells & Gray shows. Robert Couls will be agent for King Bros. Both are products of the Hagen Bros. Circus of the early 1950s.
D. R. and Dale Madden opened their Toby's Circus on four trucks. Tom Packs Circus was booking acts for fall dates at Wichita and New Orleans. Circus Maximus, owned by Globetrotter people, folded at Louisville on November 17 after a disappointing tour.
The Circus Williams animals and personnel embarked from Bremerhaven, Germany, aboard the Atlantic Saga for what was described in Germany as a five-year tour of the U.S. On this side, the ship arrived in New York and the acts and animals were transported to Venice. Meanwhile, the Ringling show closed its 98th tour at Macon, Ga., proving to be one of the rare profit-makers in the opening season of a new arena there. The season ended November 17.
At Venice the makings the Red and Blue troupes converged on quarters, where the European wagons, Rock Island and New York Central railroad cars, and personnel were waiting. The traffic and the chores were so great that the quarters were closed to the public. On December 5 rehearsals began for the Big Red One. It was to open January 6, after which the Blue unit would be put together and rehearsed for a March start.
Beatty-Cole circus, already building tents in its own big top plant, took another step toward self-sufficiency by buying its own printing shop and new press. It will do much of the printing required for the company's three circuses. Meanwhile, the three shows were all assembled at DeLand, two departing the Riverview spot where they had stopped first.
Bartok Circus had closed in late September and was on the outskirts of Sarasota for the winter. Hoxie Bros, had Swede Johnson breaking eight lions, two tigers and two jaguars for a featured animals act for next season.
Carson & Barnes Circus closed at the end of September after what D. R. Miller called a pleasant season. Not a single performance was lost all year, and business was fairly good. Sky King was featured again and successfully. The show used phones at several spring stands and in California. In Canada a five-weeks strike by the postal works hurt the show since neither circus heralds nor local newspapers were delivered to farm areas and farm families often did not know the show was around.
In December D. R. Miller revealed major enlargement and new plans for the Carson & Barnes Circus. It would be enlarged to about 30 trucks and present a five-ring performance, he said. A free wild animal menagerie will be available to ticket purchasers. An agent already had been hired and was in the field, he added.
From other sources it was learned that Miller had Howard Ahrhart Jr., formerly of Mills Bros., as agent, and that they would take Carson & Barnes on an invasion of Eastern territory that closely followed the old Mills route. Guesses put the circus into Chicago suburbs early in the season. Reports had it that Carson & Barnes would use a contract calling for a substantial guarantee and that Ahrhart, expert at booking shows on this basis, was to get a heavy chunk of that guarantee. The change for Carson & Barnes indicated that this last outpost of old time circus promotional methods for playing one-day stands without auspices might switch to stronger use of phones.
Among the circus people who died during the year were:
Bob Thornton, Aldo Cristiani, Sam Stratton, Billy Bryant, Col. Caspar Balsam, Little Bob Stevens, Harry LeBreque, Whitey Lehrter, Mrs. Frank Tammen, Deacon Macintosh, Roland Hebeler, Otto Killian, Bob Hickey, James H. VanCleef, Mickey Sullivan, Mabel Stark, Billy Lorette, Arky Scott, Simone Loyal Pedrero, Leonard Aylesworth, Charles Katz, Al Moss, Walter Clark, Francis Hogan, William Wallet, Clif Wilson, Bill Menke, Roy Jones, J. C. Harlacker, Paulette Pyle Beloat, and Chubby Guilfoyle.
Thanks to Bill Hall, Don Marcks, and a long list of others who helped.
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.