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Forty horses pulled the “Golden Swan Chariot” as the Yankee Robinson Circus pulled out of Winter quarters at Decatur, Illinois, on May 1st 1866. And Fayette Lodawick “Yankee” Robinson proudly led his cavalcade astride a speckled horse and carrying a gold headed cane.
The favorite mid-wester show had spent the winter in what is now Fairview Park and on that date opened the tenth season since Robinson first erected his tent - one he made himself - in nearby Quincy.
The procession moved down West Main street towards the center of town after a slight delay when the elephant refused to set foot on a rickety little bridge. The circus was not leaving all of Decatur behind for during its stay in the central Illinois city it had recruited the services of local twins by the name of Evans who were to be billed for the coming season as the Wild Australian Albinos.
Two weeks later Yankee Robinson Circus had made its way to Quincy and after the performance there on May 14th, the Quincy Herald reported “The Great Yankee Robinson Circus has at last arrive and our big ones and little ones will now rest content having seen the great High-Yankke-Dank. Besides many cages, chariots, wagons, etc., the procession was headed by the magnificent forty-horse-band-car, which in itself was a sight worth seeing.”
By June 12 the show had made its way to Chicago and great crowds filled the tents located on the Lake Shore at the foot of Randolf St. The Tribune, Republican News, Times and Journal commented on the show saying “The cry is still they come. They enter half eager, half expectant. Their anxiety is relieved, their expectations fully gratified.” The great exhibitions of the veteran showman still continue to attract large crowds.” A Mr. Dingess was mentioned as General Agent, George Cole was Treasurer, and Charley Parker as Clown.
The circus was in Wisconsin during July of 1866 and the Milwaukee Press had this to say in part, “Yankee Robinson’s great show came tody. The procession was a mile in length. . . . Yank knows how to run a circus and will be in full blast today and tomorrow at the Second Ward Park. Yankee Robinson appears July 9th at Green Bay and from there is steering for the states of Iowa and Minnesota.”
Robinson had one dromedary and one elephant - a small one - and according to the Milwaukee paper the bull’s act was “excellent, showing great agility.” A newspaper article of two years later tells that this show displayed about twenty cages so the number was probably near that during the season of 1866 as well.
Six years after receiving such high praise from mid-western newspapers, Old Yankee Robinson was broke and his show had disappeared. His name was nearly forgotten. It was next heard in 1884 when the Yankee Robinson Great Show, Ringling Bros., Carnival of Novelties, and DeNar’s Museum of Living Wonders began to post its bills in Yankee’s old territory. In September of that year the famous and favorite old circus man died and was buried at Jefferson, Iowa.
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Last modified November 2005.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified November 2005.