2000 Convention - Bloomington-Normal, Illinois
The first session of the convention took place the following morning when Stuart Thayer led off with a fascinating illustrated lecture on "Early Circus Bandwagons." We were then directed to Bloomington's historic Grand Hotel (hostelry to the flyers), for a luncheon with famed aerialist Mickey King who proved to be delightful hostess, answering numerous questions and posing for photographs.
The delegation next moved to the Interstate Center where they were made welcome by Barbara Miller Byrd and Gary Byrd, owners of the Carson and Barnes Circus. Refreshments and souvenirs were distributed. Barbara gave a short talk on the history and management of the show. The open air menagerie with both Asiatic and African elephants, a giraffe and a pigmy hippopotamus. Following the performance the group assembled in the center ring for a group photograph taken by John Polacsek (below). Baby Jennie, the diminutive pachydermic star of the show, with trainer Tim Frisco joined in for the picture. Each conventioneer later received a print of the photo.
Friday was a full day of papers. The morning session featured Fred Dahlinger's paper, "Thundering through the Dawn, Circus Trains of Steel," followed by Linda Fisher with "Agnes Lake: Farmer's Daughter to Circus Star" and closed with Judy Griffin giving a report on her research on the life of James L. Hutchinson, the third partner in Barnum & London. The afternoon brought Bill Slout with "Two Rings and a Hippodrome Track" and Kristin Spangenberg's "The Key to Strobridge Lithographing Company Circus Posters," She showed a large number of slides of the Strobridge lithographs in the Cincinnati Art Museum collection. The group then moved next door to the Milner Library to view the extensive repository of lithographs, photographs, correspondence and other circus ephemera. A number of outstanding lithos and route books were displayed. Curator Steve Gossard guided the group through the collection. The last event of the day was the annual auction.
The final day began with David Brett Mizelle reading his "The Downfall of Taste and Genius -- Animal Exhibitions and the Struggle over Acceptable Leisure in the Early Nineteenth Century" and Elizabeth Frank with "Searching for Andrew Downs." The afternoon session began with Janet Davis presenting "The Life of Tiny Kline and the Evolution of Twentieth Century American Mass Culture." Next came Cherie Valentine with her personal tribute to her family, "The Flying Valentines of Bloomington, Illinois." A panel consisting of Steve Gossard, Jerry Polacek and William Jaeger presented a look at "Gamma Phi, the Original Collegiate Circus of America. Richard Reynolds closed with, "Orange Cars and Other Things," regarding the history and color of the Ringling-Barnum train. The evening banquet speaker was Nigel Rothfels on, "And the Lion will Lay down with the Lamb: Carl Hagenbeck's Dreams of Paradise." His reseach in the files of the Hagenbeck quarters in Hamburg, Germany provided new information on the extensive circus operations of Hagenbeck throughout the world in addition to the sale of wild animals to circuses in Europe and the United States. The happy crowd then dispersed into the night leaving behind only popcorn sacks and wagon tracks . . .