Sunday on the Show Staff Day-by-Day Details Ringling Brothers
From: The Circus Annual. Route Book of Ringling Brothers World’s Greatest Shows, Season of 1897, Buffalo, NY: Courier Co., 1894. Compiled by S. Alexander. Lists of staff in all departments, performers, program, and detailed day-by-day route. Permission to place the information from this route book on the Circus Historical Society website has been provided by Feld Entertainment, Inc., Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Circus World Museum's Parkinson Library provided the photocopy of this route book. All information should be checked with additional sources. There will be spelling and typographical errors.
“Hey, Jimmie!” The cry, cautiously uttered by a diminutive specimen of humanity of the male persuasion, as he stood beneath the window of a cottage in a Nebraska town, caused a head of tangled hair to emerge from an open door, at the head of a stairway and a small, piping voice, in guarded tones, replied, “All right; I’ll be wid you in a minute. Is she in yet?”
It was circus day in a Western town and the small boy was awake before the first gray glimmerings of dawn had cast long shadows from the village steeple athwart the street. Cautiously the little, unshod feet crept down the creaking stairs and the two boys, thrilled with that peculiar delight of anticipation that can come to small boys only on circus day, darted swiftly away toward the railroad yards, there to perform their all-important function of welcoming the big show to town and seeing that it was properly unloaded and made ready for public inspection. What small boy who has since attained maturer years will ever forget the circus day of his childhood? What other event ever impressed his memory as that day did? What other day was so filled with perfect enjoyment?
Swiftly the pattering feet sped onward, fearful lest they be too late, only to reach the yards and find them still wrapt in the silence of the night. The blinking lights on the switches were the only signs of the presence of any human beings, and the lonely watchman who was gathering them up the only person visible when the boys reached the depot. Soon others of their years arrived, and later, a few adults who had complained of sleeplessness, but who, of course, would not admit that the approach of circus day caused it, came in groups of half a dozen. By five o’clock there was a large crowd on hand to see the big trains arrive.
The fame of Ringling Brothers’ World’s Greatest Shows had traveled far in advance of its coming. The entire town was awake before six o’clock and half the population, at least, was at the depot when the first shrill whistle in the distance announced the approach of one of the circus trains.
Half a mile away, around a curve, a column of smoke was seen, trailing away toward the horizon, and, a few minutes later, the powerful locomotive, snorting and puffing like a spirited horse, came into view. Behind it followed a long line of yellow cars, and far off, at the rear end, glimmered the lights of the caboose, which had not yet been extinguished.
“Here she comes, Jimmie!” exclaimed the delighted youngster, who, with a clan of his fellows, stood with open eyes and mouths, yelling out to one another now and again, all eager for the unusual scenes which they well knew were about to be enacted in their quiet town. The engine has now reached the crossing of the main street of the town. It drags its line of big stock cars across it until the flat cars come in sight with their burdens of heavily laden wagons, carrying the canvas, stakes, stable tents and countless paraphernalia usually carried on the first section of the great show’s trains. Gang planks, or runs, were quickly placed in position and teams of sleek, fat horses, which had already issued from the stock cars, took place at the runs to unload the wagons. A sleepy-eyed lot of sturdy-looking men emerged from one of the yellow sleepers on the end of the train and started off toward the show grounds, where, within an hour or two, would arise a magic city of tents, the like of which the towns-people had never seen before, or even dreamed of.
“They’re unloading the big wagons!” cried the delighted boy, who now, with a hundred others, crowded around the runs. The gigantic pole-wagon, which requires no less than ten horses to draw it, was slowly coming down the runs. Gangs of men, known to the public as trainmen and to their fellow-laborers as “razor-backs,” were as busy as bees, skurrying hither and thither, apparently getting in each other’s way, but, nevertheless, each attending to some specific duty which marked a part of the absolutely perfect business system which pervades everything in connection with the World’s Greatest Shows. Wagon after wagon came off the train with almost military precision, each being taken out of the way of the following one as soon as it reached the street. Two, four and even ten-horse teams were coming from the direction of the stock cars, with clock-like regularity, each in charge of its own driver, and each arriving at the runs just in the nick of time to pick up the wagon it was intended it should have. Off toward the town, half a block, half a dozen heavy trucks, laden almost to the breaking point with show trappings, were grouped, ready to take the road to the “lot.” Their teams and drivers were all in place and they were ready to start as soon as the “layer-out” should show them the way. The towns-people had never seen such sights before. When Jezebel Jones’ new threshing engine had arrived a few days before, it required almost an entire day for them to unload it from the train, and if they had undertaken to unload the pole-wagon, or one of the heavy trucks used to transport the ranges and property of the cooking department, the show’s season would have been compelled to close right there.
The steady stream of wagons coming down the runs soon filled all available space around the railroad crossing. The well-trained horses picked their way carefully through the fast-gathering crowd, and almost before any one realized that the train was ready to be switched into a siding, the thing was done. A train of yellow wagons had taken up its way to the lot and silence again reigned in the railroad yards.
Meantime, away out on a bit of rolling land toward the east, a faint cloud of dust had arisen. Toward the south a similar cloud was seen; and toward the west were others. The thrifty farmers, coming from far-distant points, many of them having been en route all night, began to come in and look for suitable camping places for their families and their teams. The dust cloud grew heavier and heavier as each moment passed, until by the time the warning whistle of the locomotive drawing the second train was heard, gray streaks lined out toward the horizon in every direction.
Two trains had been unloaded and the eyes of the multitudinous small boy were fairly bulging from their sockets. Where was it all to end? Who ever heard of such a tremendous show? There seemed to have arrived already more than enough paraphernalia to fit out a dozen of the shows such as had been seen in that town in former years, yet there had come no animals and no performers. The second train was unloaded as speedily as the first and was out of the way in a comparatively brief space of time. The townspeople had now all awakened to the fact that it was circus day and almost to a unit had come to see the show arrive. The next section, or the “cage train,” as it is called, soon pulled in and then the assembled throng had a feast of sight-seeing. Big “Baldy,” the largest elephant in captivity, was first to emerge from the huge, sixty-foot box cars in which the elephants travel. He is so large that he cannot walk through a twelve-foot door and down the gang plank, but has to get down upon his knees on the car floor and wriggle his huge body out, very much as a dog squirms under a low gate. The planks were then placed in position at each of the six huge cars and a herd of elephants, big and little, came waddling down to terra firma and ranged up in military line alongside the railroad track. The small boy was jubilant by this time, for no such number of elephants had he ever seen, nor such monsters in size. Twenty-four of them, with swaying trunks and gleaming tusks, stood stolidly in line, and waited for their keepers to take them to the lot. Keddah, the Royal White Elephant, does not herd with common elephants, but travels in a great white wagon, built for his especial comfort, and softly padded on all sides. He is the twenty-fifth member of the great herd and is by far the most attractive and most valuable of them all.
“Hey, Jimmie, here comes de hippotamus! Come on - quick!” and the horde of youngsters darted off, at the imminent risk of being run over, to see the tremendous cage come down the runs, bearing its gigantic tenant, “ Pete,” the largest hippopotamus in the known world. An eight-horse team of dapple grays, as splendid specimens of horseflesh as were ever seen, were soon toiling up the hill toward the town, drawing the heavy den after them. The band chariots, tableau wagons, parade floats and the tiny animals of the children’s menagerie in special cages built for the use of baby animals, came in rapid succession and the mind of the town boy was in a kaleidoscopic whirl. He had seen so much already that he didn’t really know what he had seen, and was about to go to the lot to see more, when some one called out, “Dere’s a wagon load o’ polar bears!” and then there was a rush to see what was in a tremendous wagon that was coming off the train. It was completely covered with tarpaulins, to be sure, and nothing that might be in it could by any possible means be visible; nevertheless it possessed just as much attraction in the eyes of the town boys as if it had been covered with bears in plain view. Imagination goes a long way, sometimes. It wasn’t even a menagerie den, at all, but simply a band wagon, covered up to protect the gilding and paint.
Around the curve, away toward the east, another train was now heard approaching and soon the fourth section of the big show pulled up at the depot. A solid train of standard Pullman sleeping cars, with dining car and private car, in which the members of the firm live en route, deposited its burden of humanity on the platform. Three hundred show people, all performers or heads of departments, came on this train and all had breakfasted before the town was reached. Some with little grips, others with small bundles and packages, departed quickly from the cars and went at once toward the show grounds. Every one knew his or her place and the exact time he or she had to be at a certain place and no one ever thought of such a thing as being late. It was a long, dusty walk to the lot, but no further for the people to walk than it had been for the horses and all other members of the big family, therefore, no matter if it was a greater distance than usual, everything would move throughout the day with the same absolute precision that would characterize it were the train landed beside the show grounds, as is sometimes, but not often, the case.
Breakfast for the small boy, as well as for many of his elders, however, was never to be thought of. How could the show people take time to eat? When did they ever sleep? Ask a show man this latter question and he will invariably reply, “We sleep in the winter.” So perfectly is the work of the big show arranged, however, that each gang or section of men has its work to do at certain hours. Those who go to work at six o’clock in the evening and get to bed at midnight, have to be up at five o’clock and work until seven or eight, But, after that is done, they are at liberty to sleep all day if they like, and have comfortable, commodious cars to sleep in, with well-aired and well-clad beds, as comfortable as are to be found in most hotels. With other departments the work is similarly conducted and there is no one with the big show’s company who has need to grumble for want of rest.
Off toward the show ground goes the morning crowd. Surely they will be in time to see all the tents put up, for has not the last train just come in? To their surprise, however, the menagerie tent, with its six great center poles, is up and finished. The horse tents, housing six hundred head of superb horses, is in position, the mangers are all filled and the horses munching away at that breakfast which the towns-people forgot to get. The cook tents, one large tent for the working men and another of similar size for the performers, have been erected and the choicest of steaks are broiling on the ranges, whilst the fumes of steaming coffee and hot biscuits, wafted upon the morning breeze, smell sweet and savory to the hungry throng now filling the vacant spaces around the tents. The camp cooks have already lighted their fires and the great cauldrons are sizzling upon the cranes. This means preparation for the mid-day meal, which, even now, has all been arranged and is bound to be ready for everyone, shortly after return from parade. Over in front of the menagerie tent, where the front door of the big show is always pitched, the sledge gang is busy driving stakes. The rat-a-tat-tat of the sixteen-pound hammers, swung by sinewy, muscular arms, is heard on every side and it seems that a thousand men are driving stakes, each gang vieing with the other to see who can get through in the least space of time.
The candy stands are all up and already the sonorous voices of the “candy butchers” are heard, crying their wares and using every effort to allay the sufferings of a thirsty crowd. The crowd is gathering faster every hour as the time approaches for the street parade. Before nine o’clock - and the pageant does not start from the grounds until ten - hundreds of people gather in groups and stare at the gaudy banners in front of the side show, marveling at what they see pictured there. If anyone is incautious enough to insinuate that some of the wonders portrayed upon the canvas are not to be seen inside, he will be quickly stopped by some such remark as, “What do you know about it? Isn’t the reputation of Ringling Brothers a guaranty for what they advertise, wherever they go?” So much for having left a good name behind on former visits to the same section.
While some of the crowd are admiring the stables and the fine horses contained therein, the ticket seller at the “Black Top,” or black tent where the Edison kinetoscope is exhibited, determines to do a little business. He mounts his box and regales the small assemblage with descriptions of the great Corbett fight, life-size, living pictures of which are shown inside. “Here you are! See the Corbett fight!” he cries, as he extols the merits of the marvelous projectoscope, the like of which has never been seen in that section of the country. And, before they know it, the little crowd has bought tickets to a man and gone into the black tent, there to witness just what the sporting men who attended the fight witnessed at the ring-side. The projectoscope man gives many other shows during the day and evening, to be sure, but it is upon his “ opening” that he judges what the day is to bring forth.
When the fight pictures and some others, provided more for the entertainment of ladies, have been properly shown, and the small crowd comes out, the great canvas amphitheatre, known to showmen as the “big top,” has arisen and inside its canvas walls a ceaseless din goes on. The rattle of sledges, driving stakes, the clanking of seat planks, the cracking of whips as teams of horses are plowing the rings, baggage wagons going and coming - everything seems a perfect bedlam, yet all is perfectly in order and not a man of the entire army of employees is doing anything except that which he has been directed and trained to do. Whatever he does, he does well, and within a wonderfully short space of time the interior of the great amphitheatre is completed, the aerial paraphernalia is all in place, the rings are made and saw-dusted, the seats are all in place and everything is in apple-pie order from end to end.
Everything in the vicinity of the stable tents, wardrobe tents and dressing-rooms is in a state of bustle shortly before ten o’clock every morning. The water carriers are on hand, getting water from the tank wagons for stock and people, and the performers are getting ready for parade. No man or woman can afford to be late. The perfect system of the big show will not tolerate tardiness in any one. When the parade leaves the grounds, its leader never looks behind him to see if the others are starting. He knows that each and every wagon, carriage and horse will be in its proper place, and right on time, no matter what happens. The wagons, chariots, band and tableau wagons issue from every portion of the grounds, coming toward a common center, which marks the exit. The mounted band forms in the road, and not far away, on a level bit of meadow, stand a group of a dozen or more elephants, awaiting their turn to form in the line of procession. In still another portion of the grounds, several huge pachyderms are swaying to and fro, bearing immense howdahs, in which are seated riders dressed in oriental costumes. The rear walls of the pad-rom, which comprises half the dressing-tent, are partly raised, and inside is a throng of gaily caparisoned horses, tied to lines of rope. Their riders are putting on the finishing touches in the dressing-rooms and in a few minutes will issue forth like a small army of cavalry to take possession of their steeds. Outside the tent, peering under the walls, a crowd of idlers and sight-seers gaze with facination upon the strange sights they see and the marvels of richness displayed before their eyes. The grand military band strikes up a lively air, away over toward the front of the lot, and everyone knows that the street pageant has started. A prancing team of white and bay spotted horses, as perfect as any horses in the world, driven to a swell private equipage, heads the parade, followed by the big band chariot. Then come the lines of open cages, the dens from the menagerie, the wonderful Derby-day section, with its rich traps, spiders, drags, coaches and tally-hos and countless thoroughbred horses of finest strain; the massive war elephants, dragging the heaviest ordnace, the superb mounted artillery band, the complete separate children’s menagerie, the funniest of all parade features, the clown band - a thousand and one features, in fact, that go to make up the richest and swellest street pageant ever presented under circus management in the civilized world.
The calliope, played by a master hand, brings up the rear. As its last musical toot is heard leaving the grounds, that portion of the crowd that has remained to see the pageant start, breaks away from the enchantment of the show grounds and hurries to the streets of the town, there to see the glories of the parade, stretched out in panoramic splendor.
But what of the streets in town, during this interval? Excursion trains have been coming in from every point within fifty miles of the show town. Every train has been crowded to the very steps with eager, expectant people. Their tickets are in their hat-bands, where they will remain until the conductor demands them at night, for who has time to think of tickets when there is a big show in town? Thousands upon thousands of farmers have come in from the surrounding country. Their teams, unhitched, line the side streets upon every side. Vacant lots are filled with them and the alleys and lanes of the town are impassable. The sidewalks and store doors are sought as places of vantage, and an hour before the band struck up at the show grounds, there was a solid line of humanity from one end of the town to the other. As the crowds kept increasing, upper windows came into demand and were soon filled. Awnings, if strong enough to bear any weight, were dangerously packed and every outside stairway held its quota to the throng. At the down-town ticket office of the big show, where admission tickets and reserved seats are sold without additional cost over the advertised price, there was a perfect throng. Wagons, carts, buggies, store boxes, barrels - everything, in fact, that men and women can stand or sit upon was pressed into service. Every other woman in town had a child or two, for of course the little ones had to see the big show. The street curb was lined with small boys, eager to be in the front row and bound not to miss seeing all that was to be seen. Some of them had carried water on the show grounds in the morning and clutched their little slips of white paper firmly in their begrimed hands, fearful lest they lose the open sesame to the world of marvels which they are to see at two o’clock.
The crowd has reached the dimensions of a multitude. At the corners of the principal streets the roadways are packed so that it would appear impossible for the parade to get through. But the people will crowd back when the time comes and there will be no difficulty on that score when the gilded chariots approach. Thicker and thicker grows the throng. Each individual vies with the other for a place in front. The sidewalks, curbs, gutters and streets are a packed, surging mass of humanity when the first of the chariots appears around the corner. The jostling, good-natured crowd parts in the center, packing up closer within itself and a space is made for the wagons to pass through. The enlivening strains of the superb band start the enthusiasm and the people begin a round of applause, which develops into a salvo of greeting, as den after den of the grand menagerie pass in review, all open to public gaze, presenting such a myriad of animal rarities as the people of the town have never seen before. The side-show band, in glaring uniforms of red, richly emblazoned and decorated with heavy gold lace, strikes up a merry air as the chariot turns into the principal street. The small boy is in the seventh heaven of delight. No one pair of eyes can take it all in. The famous English Derby-day section, with its swell, costly private equipages, drags, traps, spiders, T-carts and nobby private equipages, all of the most expensive sort and each drawn by teams of superbly matched thoroughbred horses, properly accoutred, calls forth unstinted praise and commendation from the older heads. The ponderous war elephants, illustrating the advance of the British into upper Burmah, in the ’70’s, when history in the Orient was making at a rapid rate, demonstrated how the heavy ordnance of the English army was transported over seemingly impassable country. The children’s parade, a separate pageant designed solely for the delectation of the little ones, presenting a score of dainty cages, carrying the baby animals of the menagerie, and displaying as well, in allegorical form, the jingles of Mother Goose and the famous Brownies, proved a cap-sheaf to the delight of the rising generation. The Arabian Caravan, the hippodrome riders, the representatives of the standing armies of the world - all these, as well as each of the thirty separate sections of the grand spectacular street pageant bewildered the eyes of the throng with their very magnificence. Then came the mounted band, as fine a musical organization as ever played in the public streets, affording the most entrancing music, playing as they rode along. Thirty matched white horses, whose snowy coats served as a fitting ground above which to display the rich artillery uniforms of the United States Army, presented a picture at once rich in coloring and perfect in ensemble.
A mile and a half of marvels! It was more than the townspeople or their country neighbors had ever dreamed of, and their faces expressed the bewilderment they doubtless felt, after the last toot of the calliope had died away in the distance. Then there was a combined rush for the show grounds, where a free exhibition was to be given. Free! That magic word will draw a thousand people in a minute. Late comers have but little chance to get a point of vantage, for the crowd covers acres of ground, packed in as densely as humanity can pack itself. Half an hour the throng squeezed and surged, and then the free show began. The lesser attractions presented had their interest, to be sure, but every face was upturned when a little Japanese contortionist and equillibrist performed upon the top of the ticket wagon. Ten thousand pairs of eyes watched him, and noted every difficult trick he performed. Then the side show ticket sellers began to work, and for half an hour sold tickets at a furious rate. Then the rush for the side show set in, and it seemed as if the very tent that contained it would be carried away by the rush of eager patrons. They came in families of from two to a dozen, and fairly clambered over each other in their frantic efforts to be first inside the canvas walls.
But why dwell upon the scene? Every one, who was ever a boy, recalls a circus crowd, and knows exactly what it does, ever day. Show people become so used to it that they do not even note its fancies nor its foibles. They take it as a matter of course and of every-day routine. It is as much a part of circus life as the circus itself and without it there would be no circus. Again, what would any circus be without its side show?
The side show properly seen and its myriad of curios and freaks explained, the tide turns toward the ticket wagon, where big show tickets are on sale. Another pandemonium, in which each individual in the vast throng imagines he must get his ticket first or be forever debarred. A struggling, surging mass of humanity, with hands and arms high in air, clutching tightly to the money which is to be invested in the magical pasteboards that will admit them to the wonders of the big show. The crowd carries itself along until each of its component parts has reached the goal. The money is snatched from the uplifted fingers and tickets placed in its stead, so quickly yet so accurately that the bewildered, perspiring purchaser scarcely knows how it was done. Yet he has his tickets and then begins a battle for exit from the crowd. There is no relief, however, until the doorway to the menagerie is passed, and then the crowd spreads out, within its spacious area and begins the real enjoyment of the day. No such complete collection of animals has ever been seen in the West. More lions, tigers, panthers, pumas, leopards, hyenas, bears, zebras, llamas, alpacas, deer, antelope of every species, sea lions, seals, - everything, in fact, than were ever brought together in one menagerie before. Then the monster herd of elephants, twenty-four black ones and the only Keddah, the sacred white elephant of Siam - not one amongst all that throng ever imagined he would live to see so many monster pachyderms in one herd and under one management. “Pete,” the gigantic hippopotamus, was an object of wonder to every patron. Tons of peanuts during the season went down the throats of the elephants, fed by eager childish hands, and rivers of lemonade quenched the thirst of the perspiring throngs. Once within the walls of the menagerie tent enjoyment began and there was no halt nor cessation until the last strains of the concert orchestra had died away, late in the afternoon.
The clatter of seat boards in the “big top” tells us that the advance brigade of the crowd is seeking seats. The small army of ushers is busy placing them as compactly as comfort will allow, in order that those who come later may find room. Ringling Brothers’ grand military concert band, under the personal direction of George Ganweiler, renders a series of aptly selected music, during the hour immediately preceding the circus performance. No more perfect band than this has ever been heard with any traveling show, and few, if any, of the grand concert organizations touring the country, excel it in point of merit. The ushers work like beavers. Twelve thousand eager people must be seated and the hippodrome track must be kept clear for the grand entry which comprises a hundred horses and three hundred men and women. The hour of two o’clock is at hand. It is time for the performance to begin.
Photo: Edward Shipp, Asst. Equestrian Director
Mr. Al Ringling, who personally directs all and everything pertaining to the performance, takes his station at the left of the dressing-room connection and sounds his whistle. Three trumpeters, clad in neat uniforms of blue, emerge from the connection and sound the opening notes of the grand carnival. The entire military band follows, and soon the tent is filled with sweetest strains of martial music. The curtained wings of the dressing-room disgorge an endless array of picturesque and resplendent novelties. Ladies and gentlemen, superbly clad and mounted upon the most magnificent horses ever seen in a circus, file out and take up the jaunt around the great amphitheatre. The seats are black with humanity, and every eye is strained to its utmost in a vain endeavor to see it all. A panoramic procession, that completely fills not only the hippodrome track but all the rings and stages, is soon disclosed, and every figure in motion. It is a picture at once dazzling, bewildering and indescribable. Everything moves with mathematical precision. Every man and every horse, every elephant and every camel, every performer and every supernumerary are in exactly the right place at the right time. There is everything in knowing how to present a circus programme, and Mr. Al. Ringling is an adept in this art. The ringmasters are Edw. Shipp, John Tyler, John Rooney and Daniel Leon; terpsichorean director, Mons. Peri. Everything is color and life and motion. The effect is a succession of rapid surprises, and when the grand pageant melts away and apparently disappears in a dozen different directions, no one knows exactly what did become of it. It leaves a brilliant, yet dream-like, impression upon the mind, yet so vivid and lasting that it can never be forgotten.
Our small boy of the early morning is there. He is high up, on the topmost row of “blues“ with ears, eyes and mouth wide open. He is entirely oblivious to all around him, and now and again shouts out his delight in expressions that fit his own conception of the show, utterly unconscious that there is another person within miles of him. He is completely wrapt up in his enjoyment of the clowns and the acrobats. He will see everything in the entire programme if there is any such thing as one pair of human eyes seeing it all.
The routine of the big show, monotonous though it may be to the employees who are forced to see it through twice every day, is always new, bewildering and dazzling to the casual visitor. But he needs additional perceptive powers if he hopes to see it all. In the first number of the programme appear a troupe of Royal Japanese artists, clad in richest robes, embroidered lavishly in burnished gold, who do all sorts of thrilling things. The thrilling slide for life, from the dome of the big tent to the ground, upon a slender rope, is always awe-inspiring. The agile performances of other Japs upon lofty ladders, swinging perches, suspended far above the earth, the slack and tight-wire balancing, barrel and tub spinning, juggling, and the thousand and one things that Japs do in their peculiar Japanese style are difficult to understand, yet more than pleasing to the eye. The marvelous gyrations, leaps and forward and backward somersaulting of Johnnie Rooney, upon a tight rope in the middle ring, delight all beholders, and prove him an artist very high in this class of performances.
Photo: Julia Lowande
Alvo, Boyce and Vannerson, the kings of the aerial bars, fairly capture the audience. Their extremely difficult, daring and finished aerial performances are marvelous and simply unapproachable. The excruciatingly funny pranks of the short Dutch clown who works with this trio, can never be forgotten, once they have been seen. Mlle. Irwin, known as the human aerial top, hangs suspended by her teeth, swaying to and fro, entirely across the dome of the big tent, spinning like a top, at a terrific rate of speed. Thrills of fear give way to thunderous bursts of applause for her intrepidity, when she lands safely upon the stage, caught by the muscular arms of her husband. At the same time, and while these two highly sensational acts are going on, two comical clowns, who are as skilled performers as any with the great company, are presenting a grotesque entertainment upon a revolving ladder, suspended from a trapeze bar, in the further ring. They are Messrs. King and Nelson, and their act is one of the funniest as well as one of the most applauded in the big show. Bewilderment and wonderment begin anew with the next programme number. Three rings are filled with the premier equestriennes of the profession. In the center ring two superb riders, in dainty silken tights, matched as to color, are seen, Miss Elena Ryland and Miss Julia Lowande. Their principal bareback riding act possesses that finish and artistic perfection that characterize only the very best. To watch them both all the time is impossible. To add to the confusion and multiplicity of the number, there are seen in one of the other rings the petite, graceful and accomplished little equestrienne, Miss Rose Dockrill, and in still another ring that perfect mistress of the bareback steed. Miss Lizzie Rooney. They are riders of the highest class, and their principal acts are presented with that dash and vim that comes only from long practice and thorough mastery of the art. The rings and hippodrome track are filled with merry Joeys all this time. Amongst the more popular clowns, whose reputations are national, and some of them international, are Spader Johnson, Jules Turnour, Frank Jones, George Zammert, George Bickel, Harry Watson, Jr., Louis Sunlin, James West, Carl Mayo, Mons. Natalie, F. O. Oakley, Charles E. Nelson, and a score of other merry-makers. Fun reigns supreme during the rests in the riding acts, and the small boy and his legion of chums scream with delight.
Faster grows the fun, and the maze of circus stars and specialists grows more bewildering every moment. The four Leandors, unquestionably the most artistic and finished statuesque acrobats in the profession, occupy two rings, and present a series of living statuary most pleasing to the eye. In the interval between them appear the marvelous Foy Family of acrobats. The ladies and gentlemen, numbering five in all, who comprise this wonderful family, are all clad in full evening dress. Double backward and forward somersaults are presented by ladies in long skirts, with as much precision and grace as usually go with such feats when performed by male artists in tights. The famous Willetts, another acrobatic quintette, perform in an opposite arena. Another troupe of Japanese, in their eccentric specialties, occupy the rings, and present a dozen acts at one time, while Jules Turnour, in plate spinning and expert juggling, attracts not a small share of the audience’s attention. Bickel and Watson form respectively the hind and front legs of a comical giraffe, performed by George Zammert, while on the opposite side of the tent two other clowns form another giraffe, performed by Spader Johnson. Laughter at the antics of these ungainly beasts is incessant, and tumultuous applause closes the number when the giraffes break in twain.
Photo: Mons. Natalie and his educated pigs
Trick donkeys are always welcome, particularly if they are thoroughly well trained, as are those performed by the jolly clown, Louis Sunlin. The magnificent stallion Silver King, performed by Edward Shipp, the squealing, comical educated pigs of Mons Natalie, and the kingly, statuesque performance of the grand Arabian horse Sultan form another enjoyable number in the programme.
Then come the leaps. No such company of leapers have ever been engaged by circus management before, as that seen with Ringling Brothers’ World’s Greatest Shows this season. Albert Howe, acknowledged to be the champion long distance, high double somersaulting leaper of the world, heads the list. He turns twice, over two camels, two elephants, and a canvas banner, alighting squarely upon his feet, as easily as most leapers turn singles. His high leaps are marvelous and daring in the extreme. William Cook, John Rooney, Charles Leandor, Cecil Lowande, Eddie Devan, William Harrison, Harry Boyce, John Judge, Messrs. Millette, William Vannerson, Ernest Alvo, Ernest Leandor, William Leandor, James West, Spader Johnson, George Bickel, Harry Watson, Jr., Frank Jones, Jules Turnour, F. O. Oakley, James Lewis, Phil. King, Charles E. Nelson, and a score or more of other noted leapers, take part in this lively number. The high school manege acts present three of the most perfectly trained manege horses in the circus world. Their performances are directed by Miss Minnie Johnson and Miss Allie Jackson, two of the most accomplished equestriennes in the profession, and by Mr. Rhoda Royal, who, as a gentleman manege rider, has few equals and no superiors. The retrieving horse Mizpah, ridden by Miss Jackson, is a particular favorite with the patrons of the big show.
Then come the famous Lockhart elephant comedians. They occupy the center ring, while each of the other rings are filled with herds of educated performing pachyderms. Lockhart and his big pets are the great features however, and no such performance as he gives can ever be seen elsewhere. The five monsters take part in elephantine pantomime, play parts, dance to music furnished by one of their number, dine at table, drink wine, get tipsy and are arrested, tried and fined in police court, for all the world like human beings. They do everything, in fact, but speak, and even make ludicrous attempts at that, when called upon to do so. Prof. Lockhart, their trainer, performs them in person, and their work is a monument to the patience, ability and ingenuity of one who is, without question, the greatest elephant trainer of the century.
A pleasing vaudeville number follows the elephant exposition. Such artists as Paul Brachard, whose contortion act is admittedly the cleverest yet seen in this country, and who is the closest bender ever seen; Joseph Lewis, whose work in similar lines is equally pleasing and artistic; Delma Pascatel, in unique, difficult and original conceptions of contortionist’s work upon a high, slender pedestal and swinging trapeze; Jessie Leon, in pleasing divertisements upon the high tight wire, in which are introduced a flock of beautiful trained white pigeons; Little All Right, and Ando, Japanese experts, presenting specialties of their own devising, and other noteworthy and pleasing stars of the vaudeville world.
Photo: William Demott
The greatest equestrian display ever presented to a circus audience comes next. The acknowledged champion bareback somersault rider of America, Mr. William Demott, occupies the center ring. His dashing, unapproachable style of equestrianism is indescribable. It can only be fully appreciated when actually seen. His jump-ups, leaps, pirouettes, and marvelous somersaulting upon the back of a running horse, are examples of the perfection which can only be attained by a lifetime of hard work. He comes of a circus family and his art is inborn. Demott’s somersaults are always sure, and they look so easy to the uninitiated. William Cook, the champion bareback rider of England, displays his masterly skill in one of the end rings, and Cecil Lowande, the champion of Spain, in the other. Their work is upon the lines followed by Demott and they are the finest riders before the public to-day, with this single exception. They are graceful, finished and perfect artists, as good as the very best. The salaries paid to this trio of equestrians would bankrupt many of the smaller circuses now traveling.
Photo: Minnie Fisher, Trapezist
Minnie Fisher’s intrepid aerial act upon the flying trapeze, and William Irwin’s up-side-down swinging trapeze performance are of the highest order of merit. These performers are artists of the best possible class. Miss Fisher’s work is new, unique and original, as well as skillful and daring. Mr. Irwin stands upon his head upon a flying trapeze bar, changes his costume, eats and drinks in an inverted posture and concludes his act by spinning around with great velocity, firing pistols as he whirls. It is a highly sensational and popular act. Japanese artists take part in this number also. Little All Right and Otamia add to their already glowing record with the show. But the star of the number is unquestionably Joseph LaFluer, the high vaulter and backward diver. From the top of a ladder forty feet high, he dives headlong to the stage, alighting upon his feet and instantly throwing a series of somersaults, flip-flaps and twisters, so swift and so startling as to be positively thrilling. Mr. LaFluer is without a rival in his line of work, much less a peer. The marvel of it all is that he does not break his neck.
Of all the ridiculously funny features ever presented in a circus, Spader Johnson’s Clown Band is the funniest. The band comprises ten clowns, all of whom are excellent musicians. Their leader, dressed to burlesque the great conductor, John Philip Sousa, is a comedian of unusual merit and his inimitable bows and poses, in response to applause, are side-splitting. The band has been the hit of the season and is received with shrieks of laughter everywhere. It requires expert musicians to burlesque good music, yet carry the air in such a manner that it may be recognized throughout.
The aerial numbers on the Ringling Brothers’ programme are unqualifiedly the best yet produced. The Fishers, four in number, in novel and dashing aerial return acts are without peers in the line of work they have elected to follow. The Dacomas, who occupy similar paraphernalia at the other end of the amphitheatre, are equally perfect in everything they attempt. The aerial acts occupy more time than any other act or set of acts in the big show, yet the daring performers are hard at work every minute of the time. Miss Dockrill, Senor Domingo, the Mexican champion bareback rider, and Daniel Leon, trick jockey rider, close the long programme, with superb examples of daring horsemanship and equestrian novelties. Miss Dockrill’s act, dressed in a rich costume after the time of Napoleon, is one of the rare treats of the entertainment.
Weary with trying to see everything, or the half of it, the audience now turns its attention to the thrilling contests of speed and endurance, sports and pastimes, which make up the hippodrome portion of the programme. Gentlemen’s jockey races, ladies’ races, man against horse, whippet hound races, pony chariot races, standing Roman races, clown sulky races, pony against horse, and four-horse Roman chariot races are all seen in this department. The horses are all thoroughbred running stock and the jockeys and drivers the most efficient that money can procure. And when it is all finished and the throng arises, to move toward the exits, or, such as have determined to see more, to occupy the reserved seats and remain to the grand concert entertainment, no one who has witnessed the performance can fail to say that it is the largest, the most comprehensive, the most attractive and the grandest circus ever afforded the public at any price.
It is night. Through the interstices of the great amphitheatre gleam the myriad of lights that make the big arena as bright as noon-day; the large audience is again seated; the sweet strains of the perfect band enliven the scene; the circus acts are passing in review before thousands of pairs of eyes, just as they did in the afternoon; the same programme is followed; the same acts given. But outside, on the lot, a different scene presents itself. A few minutes after the performance began, hundreds of hurrying men attacked the menagerie tent. Its side walls came down with a rush, its poles were carried out in a steady line, its cages picked up by waiting teams, who, at a trot, started the procession of canvas-covered dens toward the railroad yards. The great top came down with a run and was unlaced into sections, rolled into huge bundles and loaded into waiting wagons, almost before the last cage had disappeared in the gloom around an adjacent corner. The great herd of elephants had stalked off into the night, majestically and silently, following a man who carried a lantern half a square ahead. The cook house, stable tents, blacksmith shop, barber shop, band tent, side-show and black top, together with the numberless other smaller tents, had been expeditiously, yet silently, packed and taken to the cars. In three-quarters of an hour the “big top” stood alone, its gaunt flag poles, reaching far up into the darkness of the sky, like silent sentinels, guarding the waving, billowy mass of canvas beneath. At the railroad yards long lines of flat cars were lined up on the sidings; upon each car glimmered a beacon light. A steady stream of dens and wagons proceeded up the runs, only to be whisked off into the distance to the further ends of the trains. The trainmen were working like beavers, and everything, as fast as received at the crossing, went upon the cars, yet with perfect order, system and precision. The night show is out; the concert is finished, and the last of the performers skurries toward his trunk, which has been left upon the open space where the dressing-tent once stood; a quick change of costume, a banging trunk lid, and the last member of the company takes his way to the Pullman train, whence all the others have preceded him. All are soon in comfortable beds, fast asleep, and within half an hour the last lumbering wagon from the lot, bearing the final portion of “big top” trappings reaches the runs. There is just space for it on the last car. It is quickly loaded, and the last beacon is extinguished; the tired trainmen seek their berths, and, with a warning whistle, the first section of the great show trains pulls out. Twenty minutes later another goes, then another, and another, until the last red lamp on the rear of the Pullman train flickers out in the distance, and the big show has departed.
Little Jimmie and his chum, who have been on hand from dawn until after midnight, watch the last fading train light with as much interest as they saw the first switch light in the gray dawn of the morning. The day has been an epoch in their young lives, and as the end is reached Jimmie remarks, with a heavy sigh: “ Well, she was bully all de way trou.” - W. J. Rouse.
The premier bareback equestrians who are with the Ringling Brothers’ World’s, Greatest Shows are interesting aside from their skill as riders, from the fact that they are the present generation of well-known, old-time circus performers. With the advance of the modern circus new material had of course to be made use of, with the result that within the past ten years performers who followed the various other lines of work, and some who were not in the circus profession as long ago as that, have learned equestrianism as an art, and, owing to the great demand for good riders nowadays, have no difficulty in finding almost permanent employment. Some of the newer members of the profession, too, are fully as capable riders as some of the old-timers, and of really elderly people, none are now to be found in the equestrian ranks of the circus profession. Young blood, sprightly activity and thorough up-to-date acts are demanded and must be afforded.
Perhaps the most petite, most vivacious and winsome young circus rider in the profession to-day - at least she is so declared by circus managers everywhere - is little Rosa Dockrill. Miss Dockrill is not yet twenty years of age and comes from an old and well-known family of circus people. Her father, William Dockrill, is now and has been for a decade known as one of the most accomplished and successful equestrian directors who ever made a bow to a metropolitan audience or directed a modern circus performance. Her mother, Madame Dockrill, a decade ago, was the peerless queen of the sawdust arena, and a bareback equestrienne who knew no rivals in the class of work demanded in her day.
Miss Dockrill presents the most attractive jockey act yet seen in the line of difficult work she follows. She is clad in a rich costume of satin, fashioned after the style of Napoleonic days. The long tails of her dress-coat and her French chapeau, of course, catch the wind, but she manages them admirably and is as graceful upon her horse, executing all the difficult feats she has to perform, with the ease of other performers who work upon the stage or ground. She is a feature with the Ringling Brothers’ Shows and her like can be found nowhere else.
The acknowledged champion bareback rider of America, William Demott, also comes from an old-time family of circus folk. Demott in former days, and not so long, ago as that, made a reputation for himself and competed for championship honors in Chicago in the winter of 1894-5 and was accorded the palm of supremacy over all others - the late Charles Fish being his only rival. As a somersault artist on a running bareback horse, Demott never had a rival worthy of consideration. His specialties are all his own, and he executes them all - as well as everything done by other riders, which he presents by way of preamble to his own act - in a full dress suit, silk hat and all.
Julia Lowande and Elena Ryland, who have ridden this season in the center ring of the big show, presenting a double principal bareback act, are deserving of special mention, as they are, without doubt, highest in rank in their line of work in the sawdust arena. Other double acts have been presented by other shows, perhaps, but not one has ever been seen anywhere thatr has the dash, vim and piquance of their admirable act. Both are attractive, both finished in their art and thoroughly first-class. No better equestriennes can be found in the profession than they.
In the end ring Miss Lizzie Rooney has earned for herself a full share of the honors of the season by her careful and artistic work. She is a petite rider, who, although young in the profession, will make her mark before many years roll by. Her principal act is finished and intrepid and whatever she attempts she performs well.
Photo: Cecil Lowande, Principal Equestrian
Cecil Lowande is another youngster in the arena, having ridden but a few seasons. He has, however, set a pace that will be extremely hot for others to follow, when he has attained the years of experience of his fellow-riders. He is an excellent somersaultist, and his sprightly, quick, active style are pleasing to all who see him. Cecil is a sure winner in the profession he has chosen.
Willie Cook, England’s champion rider, has been riding at a great pace all season. He is a somersault rider of the hurricane sort, and rarely, if ever, misses his footing. He is also a young man, but is ambitious and hard working. He stands first in rank of the riders of the world.
Daniel Leon, a veteran jockey and trick rider, has worked steadily and faithfully. He is an excellent artist in his line of work, and whatever he does, does well. His trick riding and specialties are always pleasing, and he never fails to come in for a generous share of the audience’s applause. All in all, the equestrian department of the Ringling Brothers’ Shows this season has been the most complete and the most satisfactory of any season in the show’s history.
The merry circus clown! What circus would be complete without him, or an army of him, as circuses go nowadays? What recollections of good times in boyhood would be worth remembering, were it not for the excruciatingly funny clown, with his grinning white face, who burst upon the youthful vision of every man who was once a boy, when he saw his first circus. And clowns have such a lot of fun! They haven’t a thing to do in the wide, wide world but eat, and sleep, and have fun, and travel around the country in a Pullman train. At least that’s what the small boy of the present thinks, and if he could only join a circus and become a clown, he’d be the funniest as well as the happiest mortal on earth. Clowns? Why, of course they don’t call it work, just to go around making people laugh.
But, alas, for his own peace of mind and his own satisfaction, the modern circus clown is perhaps the least known and least understood member of a big circus company. There is such a bewildering lot of these Knights of Momus with the big Ringling Brothers’ Shows, that spectators seldom see the same one in more than two acts; therefore there is ground for the belief that he is a jolly fellow all the time, and has no troubles of his own.
As a matter of fact, however, there isn’t a harder-worked set of men in a circus company than the clowns. They are “on ” almost from the beginning to the end of the performance. They are divided into groups, and while one of these groups is seen at one end of the great amphitheater, another is in the middle stage or ring, and still another is in the furthermost ring, while on the hippodrome track still another party of merry-makers are at work making fun or creating surprises.
To set down in print all that each of these performers do twice every day except Sunday, would require columns of space, but by generalizing some of their work, some interesting facts may be brought out. In the first place, a clown of the first rank must possess peculiar qualifications for his calling. He must, first of all, be a natural-born comedian, with quick perception, an instant appreciation of the funny side of things, and must be prepared at all times to take instant advantage of whatever occurrences may be turned to his advantage and create a laugh. He must be a tumbler, for the acrobatic clown is a positive necessity. In his tumbling he must be grotesque, for he mixes in with artists who do “straight” work, and it is necessary for him to “clown” their acts, or burlesque them to the best of his ability. He must be a leaper, and be able to take place with the best of them, for the leaps, as one of the programme numbers is known, would be tame and incomplete without him. In this work he does the most difficult work of them all. Who has not seen a clown, with outlandish rig and stuffed abdomen, strike a spring-board, fly high into the air and land squarely on top of his head, apparently, on the tick? But just there is the skill of it, for if he landed on his head he’d break his neck. He knows how to do the trick, and a clown’s “dive” is the funniest thing in the leaping contest. He must be a trained acrobat, gymnast, boxer, runner - every branch of athletic training must be mastered. Then, if he wants a few specialties of his own, he must master every instrument in the band, and be able to play perfectly. Of course he clowns his musical work, but it takes an expert to strike the false notes, just at the right time to make them funny.
Josh Billings wrote more wisely than he knew when he paraphrased an old saying thus: “Music hath charms to soothe a savage, to rend a rock, or split a cabbage.” But “Josh” never heard the Ringling Brothers’ Clown Band, consequently must have taken his “cue” from some wandering son of “Sunny Italy,” whose inspired afflations emanated from the bellows of a barrel organ and breathed out upon defenseless Nature the soul-soothing melody of “Silver threads amongst the gold,” while concomitantly “de monk ” danced the variations.
But the “Real Thing” really never happened until the year of grace, 1897, when Spader Johnson and his musical coadjutors established that now famous musical organization known as the “Clown Band.” When its organization was completed Euterpe smiled, for the sweet-faced muse knew that the divine art of music, over which she had presided so many centuries, was to rise to heights hitherto unattained, and that the soul of Spader and his symphonious swallows — or, in other words, Johnson and his jabbers of wind would scale the very peaks of the mountains of melody, and from the dizzy heights roll down upon a breathless and expectant world an avalanche of melody and engulf all mankind in an ocean of music. Did the glorious muse divine aright? Well, rather, and why not? Was not this collateral company composed of the very crem de la crem of the musical world? and had they not as director and cornet virtuoso that greatest of all living leaders, Spaderowski Johnsonicola, whom the vulgar once called Spader Johnson? Was the baton ever held in a hand that could so direct the impulses of his players and sway the multitude? When he waved his magic wand with the majesty of an emperor, were not the hearts of his musicians touched like when the winds of a tropical evening awaken into life the responsive chords of an aeolian?
But Johnsonicola was not only great as a director. He had but to breathe into the small end of his cornet, and lo, from the large end canaries seemed to flutter, filling the air with melody so sweet the thousands listened in mute wonder, for the sounds were such as had never been heard on this prosaic earth before, and a poet, who one day heard them, with beautiful sentiment, called them “unearthly.” But the great Johnsonicola could not only soothe his hearers with the sweetness of his playing; he could play so as to make their hearts as light and gay as a May morning, and then again he could touch the hidden depths of human passions and parade before the listener the more somber hues of melody. A man of deep feeling, he could display among the lighter tints the shadows of sadness and make the audience melancholy, so that many of them shed tears, and all agreed that it was very painful indeed. Such was Johnsonicola.
Those whose souls breathed through their various instruments at his supreme command were equally eminent in the musical world. Great among these great ones was Signer Spaghetti Natalie. A native of Greece, he learned as a child to worship art. Beneath that soft southern sky he listened to the native musicians, and on many a moonlit night drank in the melody of the boatmen’s songs that floated o’er the waters to his island home.
The musical nature thus fostered in the land of art was intensified by a residence in later years on Halstead street, Chicago. His instrument was the flageolet. Upon it he was never known to play a tune, but someone — I forget who — said he was h— on after-beats. An ardent worshiper of Nature, Signer Spaghetti Natalie found his greatest pleasure, musically, in reproducing her sounds. Patti could sing like a canary, Jenny Lind acquired the title of the Swedish Nightingale, but no one yet had learned to warble like the great American hog. But Natalie did it with the help of his yellow flageolet and thereby won the name of — but why bestow titles which the great musician’s inborn modesty would cause him to disclaim? Besides the memory of that euphonious squeek will always live with those who heard it. How can it be explained? Imagine a grand symphony played at twilight at the entrance of the stock yards and the porcine plaudits of the inmates blending with the music. Such were Natalie’s after-beats as they marched out in solid columns and vanished in the ozone, gone but not forgotten.
Signer Bickeloni was a fiery musician, if the term may be used. In fact, he was regarded as a warm member — of the band. He could make his cornet talk a language all its own. Signer Bickeloni played with that style and grace characteristic of great musicians. He never had to hunt through the whole scale for a tone, but took the most convenient of the register offered and made the most of it. He was always noted for going right after a tone and hitting it hard. If the tone “sassed back,” which was very seldom, he hit it again and sent it “bing-bang” until lost in the bale ring. His methods seemed to differ somewhat from Ole Bull’s. The latter rather coaxed his tones from his instrument. Bickeloni “never coaxed nothin’,” but, with uncompromising majesty and musical pre-eminence, went at a tone in a manner to make it wail. His methods were best adapted to the somewhat vigorous Wagnerian school. The glory of Bickeloni’s playing was in his trill. Who that ever heard that trill can forget it? It was most conspicuous in the andante passage of Watsonalli’s trombone solo, “Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep” in Q minor. The following bars exemplify the beautiful effect:
Watsonalli — Da rah de rah r-r-r rah da d’ deep,
Bickeloni — Un-tilly-lilly-lilly-tilly-lilly leap.
Watsonalli — De re ruh r-r-row de de duh week,
Bickeloni — Um-tilly-lilly-tilly-lilly tr-r-r-r-r-reap.
The beautiful blending of these two parts can only be imagined by the “way-up-uns” among musical critics. If you are not one of us don’t try; it’s too deep for you. Signer Watsonalli, the world-famous trombone soloist, to whose soul-stirring, omnium-moving genius Bickeloni’s obligate was played, is as original as he is effective. He could make the painful and tearful effects in music even more painful and more tearful than the author intended. In fact, he could depict misery to such perfection that the audience were always miserable during his “effort.” He had that masterful power of reaching out with his music and getting close to everyone within the big tent and compelling attention. No one could escape his magic power. His breath no sooner passed through his trombone than everyone knew it. It was a kind of knowing, too, that left no doubts. Whether the tones were split out in great sheets, stamped out in big chunks, or rolled out in rafts, there was always that positive quality about his music that removed all doubt as to his being all there and getting there too. He was, compared to all other trombone players, like a ripe pumpkin to “yaller” cucumbers.
Signor Lewis Sunlinasco is the name of the famous bass of all basses. Few are aware of the fact that when the Signor arrayed himself under the baton of Johnsonicola a dispute relative to certain technical points in music arose between the two. Sunlinasco believes in the motto, “ Be sure you’re right then go ahead.” He had struck a note on his tuba which he judged was right and refused to vary it, and “ on this line,” said he, “ I propose to fight it out if it takes all summer.” Johnsonicola was forced at last to acknowledge that Sunlinasco could get as great a variety of effects with that one tone as many another could on the whole register.
Signor Zammerti was another famous musician. His performances were remarkable for the great range of his playing. His range was unparalleled. It extended from pedal C to high E and from the bell of his tenor horn to almost anywhere within the confines of creation. Heiser used to listen for it in the stand ahead to know whether the show had started on time or not. The canvasmen claimed that it tore holes in the side wall of the big top as, like a bird uncaged, it burst from confinement and made its unfettered way over the prairies. So much for Zammerti and his range.
This account would be incomplete without a brief mention of the drummers of this wonderful band. Signor Tenori Drumanzi Jonezie was the great solo tenor drummer of the organization. He had, as few know, a most deliciously delicate touch in handling the ebony sticks. Of course no one would dare to criticise such a great artist, but if a suggestion were in order here, it might perhaps be said that his playing was just a shade too classical for the imperfect musical standard of most audiences. He avoided all pyrotechnical displays, which are the usual stock in trade of snare drummers, and confined himself to the music as it was “wrote.”
Signor Jimminie Westo Hitterhardo needs no mention here. His beating of the big bass drum is without a parallel in the history of this most tuneful instrument. He always struck out from the shoulder, and while he was on the strike all season he never once seemed displeased with his job. His crescendos were beautiful, his andantes perfection, and his diminuendos a revelation to musicians and a source of never-ending delight to all who heard him.
Signor Majorbatoni Turnouri, the marvelous manipulator of the drum major’s baton, added to the musically perfect organization a certain degree of finish and imposing grandeur that could not otherwise have been attained. He dropped his baton during the entire season only 12,047,963 times, a most remarkable record. Such was the Clown Band. Will its like ever be heard in this land again? The chances are it may, but hope whispers maybe “ nit.”
Did you ever see a circus dressing-room? It is one of the sights upon which the public eye seldom rests, but is nevertheless one of the most interesting subjects or places about a big show. Whether under canvas, in the summer-time, or in-doors at the beginning of the season, the arrangements differ so materially from theatrical dressing-rooms, that the two are totally unlike.
The dressing-tent with a circus is a large, circular tent, divided into two equal parts, by a cross partition of canvas. The half of the big room next to the entrance of the circus tent is used as a green-room is used in a theater. The call-boys are here, and in this room assemble all the various features and acts that are next to follow on the programme. Behind the cross-wall of canvas are the dressing-rooms, the men occupying one and the women the other. The rear half of the space under the circular canvas roof is divided by another partition wall into two equal parts, each part representing the half of the rear half of the tent, or a quarter of the whole. At the right, as you enter the door or passage-way to the men’s dressing-room, will be found, first, the principal equestrians’ trunks, ranged in even rows, one after another, following the line of the large partition wall, until the short or cross partition is met. Then the line, following again the curtain wall, occupies the entire long side of the room, all the way to the rear wall of the big tent. In the angle, marked by the junction of the two walls, sits the equestrian director, who is in charge of the dressing-room, and who is responsible for decorum and good order of its inmates. An additional row of trunks faces the two rows described, leaving a passage about six feet wide, through which the various performers can pass to and from their places. In front of each trunk is a little folding camp-stool, upon which the owner sits while he is dressing for his various acts.
There is a stringent rule in every circus dressing-room, based upon circus custom, which is circus law. The clowns, of which a modern circus must have at least a score or more, have their trunks at the extreme left of the line, and to get at them must pass all the way through the aisle. As this is necessary it is permitted, but circus custom has decreed that it is never necessary for an acrobat or a bareback rider, whose trunk is located near the entrance, to pass through the aisle between the trunks at the end of the line. Therefore, “Clown Alley,” as it is known to every performer, is sacred to clowns, contortionists, comedians, etc., and woe betide the gymnast or rider who walks through it. There is no warning whatever, but every clown in the “alley” jumps upon the intruder and throws him out bodily. It is one of the bits of digression that is tolerated, and the equestrian director winks at it, but if he didn’t, it would be all the same, for “Clown Alley” is a sacred place to the clowns, and must not be profaned by gymnasts and their ilk.
The circus barber is a factor of every dressing-room. The artist who prides himself at all upon dressing his act properly, and they all do this, would not think of going into the arena with a stubble of beard upon his face. The barber has a portable chair, which folds up and packs away into his trunk when on the move, and in this trunk, also, is carried all the paraphernalia of his calling. The barber is in almost every instance a wig-maker, and deals in grease paints, make-up requisites, and the like. He is a good man at his trade, and does a thriving business. He is rarely paid cash after a shave, but in most cases is “given the laugh” by his customer, who tells him that he will pay him for it when he meets him in Paris, or some other place. The barber does a credit business, however, with the assurance that his bills are all collectable, for the performer who forgets to settle with him on pay-day will be a sorry man. He is a good workman, but he possesses a faculty for taking the skin off a delinquent debtor’s face with a neatness and dispatch that are refreshing. Consequently, the barber always gets his money. He and the postmaster, who is usually one of the clowns, are the closest friends. The postmaster has his trunk near the barber’s chair, and as everyone has to venture through the dangerous “Clown Alley” to get their letters — which, by the way, is about the only permissible infraction of the rules — the debtor has to face the barber every time he asks for mail, and the barber isn’t at all backward about asking his due.
Circus riders and performers are all well versed in practical home surgery, and attend each other’s sprains and hurts effectively, although sometimes rather heroically. No matter how painful a hurt may be, there is not one performer in a hundred who will emit even a groan when his companions are carrying him into the dressing-room, or attending to his injuries. They are a hardy, muscular, finely trained lot of athletes, to whom hard knocks come as a matter of course, and they take the bitter with the sweet, heroically and unflinchingly.
One of the funniest scenes about the big show is the clowns’ make-up table. There merry Knights of Momus gather about the table, with their make-up boxes before them, and after putting on the ground-work of white, begin to line their faces in fantastic designs. It is artistic work, too, for they know just where to touch a bit of red or a line of black. Then they contemplate their faces in the mirror for a minute to observe the effect. Next they call the attention of a brother clown to their face, and, making all sorts of ludicrous grimaces, at which the other looks with the solemnity of a judge, ask how it looks. They rarely make up twice alike, but are always studying for some new effect that “will make a hit.”
The ladies’ dressing-room is in charge of the matron, who also looks after the ladies’ wardrobe. In arrangement the room is almost the counterpart of the men’s room, except that there is no “Clown Alley.” All around the canvas walls are lines, upon which are thrown the various costumes used by the ladies in their routine work, each garment placed in its proper order, for immediate and instant use, when a rapid change is demanded. Withal, the dressing-rooms of a big circus are as interesting as any other feature about it, but, unfortunately, are not often subjected to the gaze of outsiders.
One number on the programme of Ringling Brothers’ big circus is well worth more than one visit to the show, even if nothing else were seen. Fine, high-spirited horses are always attractive to American audiences. When such horses are trained to perfection, and execute such bewildering evolutions as to amaze the spectators, they are even more acceptable. Again, when they are ridden by the most expert, finished and accomplished horsewomen in the entire circus world, the ensemble is so thoroughly pleasing that the “high school manege act” as given in the Ringling shows are admittedly far in advance of any similar examples of a similar character as to stand entirely without rivals.
Miss Minnie Johnson and Miss Alice Jackson occupy the first two of the three arenas and Mr. Rhoda Royal the third ring. Miss Johnson, mounted upon the superb Arabian thoroughbred “Captain Kidd,” presents as perfect a picture as has ever been seen in circus exhibitions, or ever will, for that matter. Tall, willowy and graceful, Miss Johnson sits her spirited charger like a veritable Centaur. There is no jerkey, nervous motion, no hesitancy about sending him at and over the highest fences and hurdles, and no sign of fear or lack of confidence. She is a complete mistress of the high-strung horse, and guides him with a hand as delicate as a child’s, yet firm as steel. The superb horse, at her command, drops to his knees, bows to the audience, waltzes, dances quadrille figures, trots, paces, canters, runs, and, in all gaits known to the horse, keeps perfect time to music. Miss Johnson and “Captain Kidd” present one of the most beautiful pictures to be found in the circus world.
Miss Jackson, also, is a superb rider. Her mount is “Mizpah,” another Arabian of finest blood, and as high-spirited as any horse that ever lived. The guiding hand of Miss Jackson, however, directs him through all the series of high school tricks and gaits with unerring certainty and artistic finish. Miss Jackson has taught Mizpah to retrieve like a dog. The two lady manege riders, referred to above, are without doubt the most skillful and graceful in the profession.
Mr. Rhoda Royal presents “Sultan,” a powerful throughbred, who requires an iron hand to guide and master him. He is in excellent hands and does all the tricks the others do. Mr. Royal is undeniably one of the foremost manege riders in the circus world and is entitled to a generous share of the applause which always greets this number on the big show’s programme.
Originality, progress and continual advancement are the watch-words of the Messrs. Ringling Brothers. What other shows have done for years they want nothing to do with. Old-fashioned street parades, with a string of red wagons and a coterie of unshaven circus attaches arrayed in weather-beaten uniforms of divers hues, such as everyone expects to see in a circus parade, are conspicuously absent in their pageant. There is not a wide-mouthed clown driving a diminutive donkey in their parade. There are not a dozen women, arrayed in faded silken habits of once brilliant hues, riding thick-necked work-horses. There not any of the score or more of antiquated features, old as the hills and tiresome to the eyes of everyone, in the spectacular street carnival afforded by the Ringling Brothers’ World’s Greatest Shows. There is, however, a series of absolute innovations, beginning at the very head of the great parade and covering everything in it, over its mile and three-quarters of length.
And, to start with — just to mention one feature that speaks volumes for itself — the circus band, comprising forty musicians, will be found mounted upon matched white horses, full caparisoned in the richest of habiliments. The members of the band are uniformed in the full dress of United States artillerymen. Their accoutrements are all correct, even to the waving red plumes on their helmets. And, best of all, this band is not merely for display but it is a musical organization of the very highest order of merit.
Photo: George Ganweiler, Musical Director
Prof. Ganweiler, formerly band director in the Second United States Cavalry, which has the only mounted band in this country except the one now with the Ringling Brothers’ Shows, is a director of a life-time experience, and accredited with being one of the best arrangers and leaders in the country, as well as a cornet virtuoso ranking with the very best. He has also perfected his mounted band, that even though they ride horses that cannot be supposed to walk in step, much less keep time, their music is so perfectly rendered that a marching body of troops would be able to keep perfect measure with it.
It is an odd and brilliant spectacle. Leading the band, come two orderlies, each bearing guidons, all correct and according to military demands. Following these are a group of military, wearing the latest uniform of the Kaiser’s Body Guard, of Prussia. After them come members of the band playing lively airs and latest popular marches, their horses in columns of twos or fours and every man and horse in correct military position. The bass drummer was the only member of the band who had any difficulty. The heavy thud of his drum-stick upon the drum, which is almost over the horse’s head, made the animal restless, but as the days went on he got more and more used to it, and by the time the summer was half spent a cannon wouldn’t startle him.
There was not a little fun at Tattersall’s in Chicago last April when the mounted band began rehearsals. They stood the horns all right, but at the first thump of the big bass drum, the horse jumped out from under his rider like a shot. It is said that the drummer hit the ground in perfect time with the measure of the music, but it cannot now be proven. The mounted band, however, is a reality and a most satisfactory feature of a parade that has created a positive sensation in every city in which it has been seen.
The greatest sensation thus far presented by any circus performers is in the form of a startling series of aerial feats that in themselves appear absolutely impossible. It has fallen to an American team to evolve this newest sensation, from the old-fashioned trapeze performances, which, in former days, with old-time circuses, were considered the acme of perfection and intrepid daring.
It used to satisfy circus goers to see a swinging trapeze act, in which a few somersaults were turned into a net; a few long flights through the air, suspended from a trapeze bar, were accomplished by the artists, and a few gymnastic turns or acrobatiques afforded — and that was supposed to be all that could be accomplished in this line of work.
There are four artists with the Ringling Shows, known under the name of “The Dacomas,” and four more who are billed as “The Flying Fishers,” whose work is little short of marvelous. As it is radically different from anything of the sort seen in this country heretofore, a brief summary of some of the things these performers do may not be uninteresting. What may be said of one team may also be said of the other, for their acts, though differing materially in detail, are of the same general character.
At either end of the great circus amphitheatre are erected a pair of immense scaffold-like structures, reaching entirely to the dome of the big tent. One of these scaffolds, which is merely two tall poles with a cross-beam on the top, stands at the right side of the tent and a similar structure has place on the left side. Reaching from the top beams of one to the other, are strong steel cables, small in size but of great tensile strength, and midway between the high supports depend swinging trapezes. Room is found for four of these swings in each of the two distinct acts. There are three young ladies in one of the teams and two in the other. The smallest of these is used in the most skillful and dangerous portion of the programme. Swinging from the trapeze on the extreme right of the tent, in either case, the heavier man of each quartette, hanging head downward, catches the member of his troupe who swings entirely across the amphitheatre, from another trapeze, somersaults and lands fairly in the hands of the “carrier,” as he is called.
Difficult forward and backward double and single somersaults are thrown, pirouettes, twists, dives and long leaps are accomplished with lightning-like rapidity, until at times it is bewildering to note the shooting human forms darting through the air. The muscular “carrier” is always just at the right spot in exactly the proper instant of time, and falls with these artists are almost unknown. After a short session of this rapid work, the two stronger men of each team take places in the topmost part of the rigging, on stationary bars. The lighter members of the troupes are then hurled from one side of the tent to the other, at a height of sixty feet above the ground, by sheer muscular strength, and are caught, just as surely as fate, by the strong arms of the “carrier” at the farther side of the rigging.
The most marvelous performances imaginable are afforded by these artists. They simply play ball with human beings, tossing them to and fro so rapidly that it is difficult to follow all the moves, but never failing to catch them by hands or feet, just in the nick of time. It is a thrilling and highly original sort of aerial work, indeed, and performed by no other artists anywhere.
Sunday is proverbially a lazy day. Working people the world over look forward to it as a day of rest, and who is it that does not mentally vow, when Saturday night comes, that he will sleep just as late as he likes on Sunday morning, just because he has the chance?
When Sunday immediately precedes circus day, however, and the long expected myriad of wonders is to arrive in town on Sunday morning, it is an entirely different matter. Then, to the average small boy and his numerous adult relatives, Sunday morning takes upon itself another aspect, and everyone feels it dependent or incumbent upon himself to arise early, hie to the show grounds, and carry water for the thirsty camel. What would the circus be, in his after years of reminiscence, if he failed to do this? How could he, in after years, look his children in the face on circus day, and fail to narrate his thrilling adventures on a similar occasion, when he was a boy? As it was in former generations, and as it is now, so will it always be. The charm of the circus is perennial; it never dies, and probably never will.
Doubtless thousands of early-rising citizens will see the five big trains, that bear the Ringling Brothers’ Show from place to place, arrive in the railroad yards. They will see the masterly system which pervades everything there, pertaining to the unloading of the show, and there will be some sights worth seeing.
In six huge stock cars, built specially to order, as are, in fact, all of the cars used for transporting this big show, will be seen the largest herd of Asiatic and African elephants ever assembled together under one management. This show announces in advance that it has twenty-five of these huge but always interesting beasts. It exhibits, according to the press of every city in which the show has appeared this year, twenty-four elephants of ordinary color and one genuine white elephant - the only one of its species ever brought to America.
The elephants are the wisest animals you ever saw. They know it is Sunday, and that Sunday is a holiday for them. They may keep count of the days, for all anyone knows to the contrary, as they are conceded to have marvelous reasoning powers, or they may realize, from the unusual degree of ease with which everyone is working, that it is the seventh day. No matter how they know it, they come out of their cars in a leisurely, lolling manner on Sunday, which is entirely missing on week days, and after they are out, they stroll off in a bunch, and after forming a circle, watch the unloading of the show with wise eyes and dignified mien. They undoubtedly realize that on this one day, at least, they may stuff themselves with hay to their full capacity and not have to go shoving heavy wagons around with their trunks, assisting the horses to straighten up the menagerie for public inspection.
The largest elephant known to exist in captivity is Old Baldy, owned by the Messrs. Ringling. An interesting sight incident to the unloading will be witnessed when Baldy comes out of his car. The other elephants walk down a heavy gang-plank, which is made fast to the sill of the car door, and which leads to the ground by an easy incline. The car door is ten feet high, and it makes big Babylon stoop to get her lofty shoulders under its top, as she steps upon the plank. Old Baldy is so tall and so wide, however, that he can not get out of the door, or into it, when they load the cars, until the gang-plank is taken away. Therefore, he calmly waits until all the other elephants have “walked the plank” and are grouped together awaiting the coming of their leader, when the gang-plank is removed and Baldy shows his keepers how to do the trick. He drops to his knees, fore and aft, and wriggles his huge body forward into the doorway until he can get his front feet out and upon the ground. The floor of the car is about five feet above the ties, but this is nothing for Baldy. Once his fore feet are on the solid ground, he draws his body forward, allowing his hind legs to drag along the car floor. Eventually — for the process is slow — he manages to get one hind foot out, and the rest is easy. With trumpeting and waving trunk he steps out and ambles off at a rapid gait to join the herd. There are answering trumpets from all of the elephants, and every morning, when the unloading is finished, they greet their leader in so effusive a manner as to give rise to the impression that he has been absent for a week. Ordinarily he has to hurry to catch up with the herd, for on week days he has to work just like the others, and whilst he is wriggling his big body out of the car, his companions are trotting off toward the show ground, to help place the heavy wagons and get dressed for the parade. But this is Sunday, and they all know it as well as Baldy.
The sights and scenes in and about the tents, which will have been erected almost in less time than the operation can be described, are more than interesting, but, as Rudyard Kipling says, “that is another story.” This article has to do with the animals and the performers who travel with the big show; therefore let us step within the menagerie tent and see how it looks on this day of rest.
No more work is to be done here, on this day, than is necessary for the protection and comfort, of this nomadic outfit. Those of the workingmen who, having performed the necessary tasks of the morning, have an idle day to fill, may leave the grounds and go where they like. This many of them do in the afternoon, after first having a general clean up, shave and clean clothing. It is still early morning, however, and the menagerie presents comparatively a chaotic condition of things. When the public sees it, all the dens and animal vans are ranged around in a great ellipse next to the side walls. The cages are opened and so arranged as to present as diversified an animal panorama as possible. But to-day the cages are only partly opened; half the sides are swung up and fastened, so that to see what is in them one has to stoop and peer under. Others are tightly closed, for, if the day be cold, the animals are not to be exposed unnecessarily; if there are young, and they need rest, they will sleep in peace if the cages are kept closed. Others, who rant around and make night hideous, and who never care to sleep, apparently, are permitted a full flood of light and air. The zebra, for instance, according to the story of the keepers, is on his feet all day, and kicks like a trip-hammer all night, every night in the season.
Local feed dealers have preceded the show to the grounds, and have deposited great piles of baled hay, hundreds of bags of grain of various kinds, straw for bedding, and everything necessary to the comfort of the animals. A tub of finely cut carrots and turnips indicates that the happy family, who dwell in the monkey’s cage, are to have a grand Sunday dinner. The elephants, staked out in a long line, are some of them lying down sleeping, whilst others are munching hay. Still others are scraping up dry earth and throwing it all over their backs, and upon this day no keepers appear with long-handled brooms to sweep them off. Keddah, the dainty white elephant, is staked out with the others, and blanketed with great care. A watchful attendant sits near him and watches him all the time. Underneath his blanket peep out his four legs, and through its folds about his neck protrudes his white head, wagging from side to side in that peculiar waving motion seemingly so pleasing to these animals. He is of a bright, clear mouse color, a delicate tint of greyish white, and he is kept as neat and clean as a pin all the time. Keddah, by the way, lives and travels in the finest animal wagon ever constructed. It is large and well appointed, and is padded inside with soft cushions, upon all sides, so that the rough jolts of the cars, at times, may not injure him. He is the most valuable animal ever owned or exhibited by anyone. Keddah is a confirmed kleptomaniac, and, notwithstanding that he always has more hay than he can possibly eat, he will strain at his chains all the time to reach the pile of feed in front of another elephant, to steal it. He is a clown, too, and apparently enjoys some of the numerous funny things he does.
Superintendent Perl Souder has charge of all this great herd of elephants, and has under him a large corps of assistants. The animals, however, on this one day, do pretty much as they like, so long as they do not stampede or attempt to do anything unruly. If they care to sleep all day, no one will disturb them, and their comrades in chains will not offer to so much as touch them while they are resting.
William Winner, the veteran animal trainer and expert, is superintendent of the menagerie with the Ringling Shows. He has charge of everything in it, and to his watchful care is due the preservation of those that are delicate, and the safety of those that are inclined to be ferocious toward each other. He may be seen any Sunday morning, lounging here or there in the menagerie, issuing instructions about feed or bedding, or cleaning of dens, and his very voice seems familiar to his queer pets. The Ringling Brothers, at their winter quarters in Baraboo, breed all their own “cat animals.” These include all representatives of the feline race, and on Sunday, if one is fortunate enough to get inside the tents, he will see Mr. Winner and his men carefully examining the young animals to see that their physical condition is good, and that they are prospering as well as they should. In one cage are four of the prettiest Nubian lion cubs ever seen anywhere. They are from twelve to sixteen months old, and of a light tan color, much lighter than they will be when fully grown. The young males are just sprouting manes, and appear to be proud of them. Their coats are now spotted, almost as distinctly as leopards, but by the time they are a year and a half old, these spots will disappear. They have nothing to do on Sunday but play, like a lot of kittens, and they are as lively and full of fun as any domestic kittens ever were. There are four families of lion cubs, of various ages, and their patriarchal parents, in another den, look carefully across at the young fellows once in a while, when they become too frolicsome, in a way that seems to say, “Young men, if you don’t behave yourselves Papa will have to come over and attend to you.”
One of Mr. Winner’s special cares is a young kangaroo. As is well known, the kangaroo is a pouch animal, and its young, after birth, until they are four or five months of age, are carried in the pouch which nature has provided. Mamma Kangaroo never allows her little one to appear in public, or when there is a crowd in the menagerie. On Sundays, however, when all is still, the little fellow peeks out of his downy pouch, sees the coast clear, and in an instant is skipping about as lively as a cricket. He is not more than a foot and a half high, and is six weeks old. Before the summer is over he will be dispossessed, as it were, and then will have to bear the gaze of the staring public, just as the rest of his family do.
Sunday is a feast day all throughout the big show, with the single exception of the carnivorous animals. All showmen have learned that lions, tigers, leopards, and other beasts of their ilk, thrive better and keep in better condition if they are compelled to fast one day in every seven. The animals are used to it, and whilst some of them manifest a little uneasiness when four o’clock comes on Sunday afternoon, they are soon over it, and appear to be contented until the same hour on Monday. It has been remarked by show people, therefore, that the men who ride in the lion’s den, or who perform tigers in the street parade, take more risk on Monday than upon any other day of the week. The monkeys have an especially good time, for they get all the carrots they can eat on Sunday, and this is the vegetable they are most fond of. Bears are given bread on Sunday, and eat a great deal of it. A baby cinnamon bear, that joined the show in Park City, Utah, a short time ago, refuses to eat bread, however, and, therefore, like the other carnivora, goes hungry until Monday, with the exception of a pan of sweetened milk, which he laps up delightedly. He is the most vicious animal of any kind in the entire show, notwithstanding the fact that he is not five months old.
By noon all the chores necessary to Sunday arrival have been finished, and the men who are not on watch are permitted to go out and see the sights. They must be orderly, well behaved and polite to all they meet, for the morale of the show will permit no infraction of its rigid rules, on Sunday or any other day. The performers, all of whom travel on a special train of standard Pullman cars, have no call to visit the show grounds on Sunday. They are breakfasted sumptuously in a well-appointed dining car, and are at liberty to go away and remain as long as they like on Sunday. For people who work with horses, ride horses, and are with horses all the time, it seems rather strange that the Mecca of almost every performer in the big company is a livery stable. He will hire a good horse — and will not have a bad one — get some of his friends, and drive to some place where a good dinner may be had. He will put in the afternoon sightseeing and driving, and will invariably return the horse in excellent condition, for a circus performer will never injure a horse, no matter whose it may be. He has an inherent love for the animal, and never maltreats it. If there are swimming baths in the city, the circus performer will find and enjoy them, and by ten o’clock in the evening he will be seen wending his way to “Hotel de Ringling,” as the Pullman train is known amongst them, and will be in his berth at a very seasonable hour, resting for the work of the morrow and the ensuing week.
Sole Proprietors and Managers.
Al Ringling, Otto Ringling, Alf. T. Ringling, Charles E. Ringling, John Ringling.
William E. Vogt, Treasurer.
Warren A. Patrick, Accountant.
W. J. Rouse, Press Representative.
Charles F. Ryan, Pinkerton Detective.
Advance Executive Staff.
A. G. Ringling, Special Agent.
E. M. Burk, Contracting Agent.
Ralph W. Peckham, Contracting Agent.
Kerry Meagher, Manager Advertising Car No. 1.
George Goodhart, Manager Advertising Car No. 2.
Thomas Dailey, Manager Advertising Car No. 3.
Advertising Car No. 1.
Kerry C. Meagher, Manager.
William Shea, Boss Bill-poster.
W. H. Hoskins, Assistant Boss Bill-poster.
W. T. Murphy, Lithographer.
Kurt Eisfeldt, Lithographer.
Orin Stevens, Programmer.
Harry Cassell, Porter.
Bill-posters: C. F. Miller, B. G. Scanlan, O. M. Ballard, A. M. Bybee, T. K. Titus, Frank Ward, Louis Twesne, E. J. Bishop, John Graves, T. F. Scanlan, Charles Treager, J. F. Benzinger, Edward Bluski, Charles Snowhill, C. F. Courson, C. M. Connor.
Advertising Car No. 2.
George W. Goodhart, Manager.
H. B. Malone, Boss Bill-poster.
A. A. Reeves, Lithographer.
Milt C. Hagan, Lithograph Boards.
William Fritsch, Programmer.
Charles Carr, Paste-maker.
Charles Kautz, Porter.
Bill-posters: John Hartman, Charles Adkins, Thomas Foster, William Ward, H. F. McLeod, John Hain, Charles Johnson, J. K. Whitlake, John Raymond, Charles Dering, James Tucker, O. E. Hunter, E. P. Ray, Henry Mabler, L. W. Brownell, C. E. Prentice.
Advertising Car No. 3.
Thomas Dailey, Manager.
Louis Knob, Boss Bill-poster.
Excursion Bill-posters: George Choffin, A. C. Abbott, John Herod, Dan. F. Cline, Tony Crandall, E. P. Karst, Lewis Taylor, E. R. Wentworth, Louis Ellsner, Jerome Diehl, M. C. Service, Edward Braddock, Eugene Bateman.
Superintendent of Excursions, Edward Arlington.
Forage Agent and Layer Out, George H. Heiser.
Ticket Sellers: William E. Vogt, W. A. Patrick, Fred Madison, George V. Connor, James Beattie, William H. Horton, Harry J. Piel, Alf. Witsenhausen, Bud Horn, Hugo Classen.
Front Door Men.
Henry Ringling, Superintendent.
John White, Assistant Superintendent.
Fred Fisher, George Heiser, Fred Devlin, J. C. Murphy, George W. Swift, Joseph Dalgarn, W. J. Rouse.
Side Show Staff.
Hugh Harrison, Superintendent.
James W. Beattie, Asst. Superintendent and Orator.
John Hamilton, Ticket Taker.
Side Show Performers.
Prof. Hugo, Magician
C. L. Edwards, Educated Horse “Bonner”
Barbara Leffler, Albino
Major Rhinebeck, Midget
Bertha Carnahan, Midget
Nellie Leona, Serpent Queen
Leah May, Giantess
Louisa Finzie, Long-Haired Lady
Miss Turner, Whistler
____, “The Half-Man-Half-Horse”
C. L. Edwards and His Famous Horse “Bonner”
George V. Connor, Superintendent.
Justin G. Douglass, Chief Electrician.
C. E. Goff, Assistant Electrician.
George Sykes, Ticket Taker.
Dressing Rooms. [Performers]
Al Ringling, Equestrian Director.
Edward Shipp, Assistant Equestrian Director.
John Rooney, Ringmaster.
Daniel Leon, Ringmaster.
Little All Right
John J. Rooney
W. W. Horn
James G. West
Mrs. Chas. Leandor
H. E. Harrison
Mlle. Sarah Irwin
Harry Watson, Jr.
Mrs. Edward Shipp
John B. Rooney
Joseph De Van
Charles E. Nelson
Macart Sisters (3)
Mrs. Lewis Sunlin
Harry Watson, Jr.
George Ganweiler, Musical Director.
H. G. Robinson
G. E. Nanamaker
F. W. Redburn
J. F. Hopkins
James E. Rossett
Edward S. Brady
George V. Gray
L. A. Matthews
C. W. Cleveland
W. H. Van Cleave
J. W. Gockley
G. B. Henderson
L. A. Peterson
Side Show Band.
Clate Alexander, Director.
C. E. Shook, Had. Throp, Harry McClellan, A. J. Ross, Asa Cummings, William B. Wilson, C. E. McGilliard.
William Winner, Superintendent.
J. W. Winner
W. M. Cook
C. L. White
P. L. Johnson
J. R. Stewart
C. E. Conger
W. G. Harrington
H. C. Craig
H. C. Morris
Charles O. Roy, Superintendent of Lights.
Frank Waite, B. Downer, A. H. Clawson, William Kelly, Chas. Bendon, C. St. Charles, Lon Tarr, A. Faust. J. C. Murphy, Calliope Fireman.
Fred. Schafer, Superintendent of Wardrobe.
Mrs. Lovemberg, Superintendent Ladies’ Wardrobe.
Clifford Bonsher, Bob. Burrell, C. A. Wilkinson, Fred. Lewis, Frank Reeves, Paul Rich, Chas. Oberhouse.
Dining Car “Olympus.”
Paul Matthews, Superintendent of Dining Car.
Charles Stone, Chef.
Lee Warren, Pastry Cook.
Edward Gaskill, Cook.
W. A. Lawrence, Head Waiter.
Edward Barrett, Louis Brown, John Flannagan, Adam Bird, Arthur Boyce, E. H. Leeson, Harry Heath.
Sleeping Car Porters.
Paul Cunningham, Head Porter, Car “Trilby.”
Bert Tenney, Private Car “Caledonia”
Alfred Hastings, Car “Arcadia”
S. Hinckley, Car “Alvena”
Frederick Railston, Car “Henderson”
Car Porters Workingmen’s Sleepers.
Frank Craig, David Shane, John Miller, Charles Leech.
Edward Farley, John Richards, E. D. Gardner, John Harvey.
Ernest C. Haley, Superintendent.
Henry L. Haley, Assistant Superintendent.
Benjamin E. Pratt, Steward
Andrew Cannon, Chef
Jack Thomas, 1st Assistant
John Birmingham, 2d Assistant
James G. McCarty, 3d Assistant
William Craft, 4th Assistant
William Liebrick, Kitchen
Louis Kleeman, Butcher
Albert Schneider, Assistant Butcher
William Fontaine, Camp Fire
Herbert Carley, Assistant Camp Fire
Henry S. Rubien, Head Waiter, Performers’ Department
Frank H. Sayers, Head Waiter, Workingmen’s Department
Spencer Alexander (Delevan), Superintendent.
Robert Meeks, Assistant Superintendent.
Will Crosby, Stableman
J. Repasz, Master Mechanic
H. Wilson, Harness Maker
C. J. Nordyke
C. C. Moore
A. W. Russell
T. D. Devine
J. C. Nealon
T. M. Scanlan
M. B. Gilpatrick
J. E. Clark
J. W. Kelly
H. U. Farley
E. F. Brown
Rhoda Royal, Superintendent.
Frank Wingate, Superintendent of Loading.
Harry Force, Superintendent of Trappings.
C. E. Jacobs
E. J. Murphy
W. S. Brownie
John H. Snellen, Superintendent of Canvas.
Ed. Kennedy, First Asst. Supt. Canvas.
Lee Coleman, Second Asst. Supt. Canvas.
James Cavanaugh, Third Asst. Supt. Canvas.
John Parent, Fourth Asst. Supt. Canvas.
Edward E. Rice
H. F. Kulper
F. C. Gibson
F. C. Johnson
W. H. Wilson
A. L. Ethan
E. C. Burdge
J. W Austin
Side Show Canvas.
John Jennings, Superintendent.
William Clay, John McKay, H. Summerhult, Geo. Watson, Harry Dailey, H. Ellsworth, J. Graney, Jas. Rogers, J. I. Stewart, Harry Kelly, Jack Hoerness.
Frank Adams, Superintendent.
John Siegel, Chas. Holt, A. Whitstone, Arnold Smith, Fred. Tallcraft.
Robert Taylor, Master of Transportation.
Charles Brown, Assistant Master of Transportation.
Henry Shade, Superintendent Car Repairers.
H. J. Shepherd
P. S. McPherson
H. C. Lauer
M. G. Irwin
There are a great many people who believe that a circus cannot be a real circus unless it be seen under canvas, with dirt rings and the sawdust smells that go with it, in imaginary descriptions, at least. Doubtless there is some truth in the belief, if it means to compare the modern, up-to-date show with the small traveling concerns of the past, that would be completely lost in an amphitheatre.
On the 10th of April, 1897, the doors of Tattersall’s in Chicago were opened to one of the largest and finest audiences that ever gathered in the Windy City to witness any sort of an entertainment. The grim old walls, the unattractive steel roof girders, the homely woodwork of the interior, which every one supposed would be there as a matter of course, were missing, and, much to their surprise, Tattersall’s had been transformed into a veritable fairy-land by the magic touch of money. In the spacious arena everything was as spick and span as if just out of the proverbial band-box. The grimy rafters were hidden, having been literally buried beneath masses of flags of every nation, banners and bunting of every color of the rainbow. The aisles and Corridors had been transformed into floral gardens, and decorated as they were with potted plants and blooming flowers, savored nothing of the ideal the public possibly had conjured up. The seats were gone, too, and in their place modern, comfortable, folding opera chairs, and in front of them a complete circle of private boxes, appropriately and richly draped and furnished with artistic chairs of unique design.
Overhead, amidst the sea of bunting, depended a myriad of ropes, trapezes, and other aerial paraphernalia, each individual piece of which was as white as pipe-clay and strong arms could make it. The dirt rings were not there, either, but instead rings of wood with earth floors, perfect and complete. Neatly uniformed ushers, competent and polite, seated them, just as they were used to being seated in a first-class theater, and all the hurry, jostle, push and annoyance of their old-fashioned, ideal boyhood circus had vanished.
Down underneath the seats, ranged in perfect line, and entirely surrounding the amphitheatre, was disclosed the most superb menagerie Chicago had ever seen. The greatest variety and number of rare wild animals and the largest herd of elephants ever brought together under one management. And everything was clean and sweet and inviting. It was something the ideal circus man had not dreamed of.
Then the performance! A company of artists numbering more and better specialists in every line than had ever before engaged under any one banner. Such a ceaseless, ever-changing, never-ending kaleidoscope of leaping, turning, vaulting, somersaulting human bodies never before startled the eyes of American show-goers. With necks twisting and eyes bulging, in vain effort to take it all in at a single sitting, thousands of individuals, having seen the show, experienced that sense of vagueness and uncertainty about what they had or had not seen, that caused them to come again and again, only in the end to exclaim, “It’s too much for me; it’s too big to ever see it all. But it’s a bully show all the same.”
The verdict of Chicago was given on the opening night. The Ringling Brothers’ World’s Greatest Shows was pronounced to be the largest as well as the best show that had ever exhibited there. Then the tide of pleasure-seekers set in with a flood. The advance sale reached into the second week, before the second performance had been given. The circus was the fad; it was the thing to see and the thing to do. Everybody who was anybody got the circus fever, and Tattersall’s was thronged at every performance, afternoon and night, until the 24th of April, when the Chicago engagement ended and the show took the road. Hundreds of thousands saw it, and whoever saw it praised it. Thousands were turned away, upon many evenings, unable to get seats, only to profit by the example of their own late coming and arrive earlier next time. It was a triumphal opening, that opening at Tattersall’s, and whatever other circus came to Chicago afterward, found that the fame, the reputation and the prestige of the Ringling Brothers lived longer than a day in the hearts of Chicagoans.
Joliet, Ill. Monday, April 26th. Clear but chilly. Business big. The first stand of the season under canvas. The big show arrived on Sunday from Chicago. The day was spent in getting settled in the sleepers and making acquaintances. “B. & B.” Show billed as coming soon, but the opposition amounted to nothing. The performance went smoothly, considering the fact that it was the first under canvas.
Streator, Ill. Tuesday, April 27th. Bright sunshine, but cool winds. Business good. Nothing of importance transpired. Some minor transpositions were made in the programme, tending to add to the general perfection of the performance. Serious runaway accident; three small boys injured.
La Salle, Ill. Wednesday, April 28th. Cloudy and threatening. Slight shower at night. Business light. About as bad a lot as could be found anywhere Every wagon mired to the hubs, and if rain had set in during the day would have rendered it almost impossible to move. Business in the town stagnated, and no factories, quarries or mines running.
Davenport, Iowa. Thursday, April 29th. High wind all day and very cold. Business good. Despite the extreme cold and threatening weather, a large audience attended both afternoon and night shows, and, wrapped in cloaks and overcoats, enjoyed the performance.
Monmouth, Ill. Friday, April 30th. Clear but still cold. Business good. The high water and its effects are seen throughout this section, and doubtless prevented many farmers from getting to town on account of impassable country roads.
Fort Madison, Iowa. Saturday, May 1st. Clear and cold. Business good. A high wind blowing all day, added to the chilliness of the air, made it uncomfortable for performers and patrons alike. A vast extent of country in the vicinity of this place is completely inundated.
St. Louis, Mo. Monday, May 3d to 8th. Slightly chilly at times, but withal a week of exceptionally good weather. A long detour had to be made to reach St. Louis, owing to the floods, consequently the show trains did not arrive until late Sunday evening. A permanent grand stand had been erected with double the capacity for reserved seats used on the road. The big top was enlarged to six poles, and the ampitheatre thus constructed was the largest ever erected for show purposes. The representatives of the press reviewed the street pageant from the Southern Hotel, and pronounced it the finest ever seen in St. Louis. The annual meeting of the Turners was held during our week in St. Louis, and they proved excellent circus patrons. Business on the opening was very good. On Tuesday it was big, and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights thousands were turned away, unable to get seats. Achilles Phileon and his ascending globe, with pyrotechnic display, proved a great drawing card, and the Fishers, Dacomas, Foy Family, Millettes and Leandors came in for a generous share of newspaper comment. Our principal equestrians, Demott, Cook, Leon, Dockrill, Ryland, Rooney and Lowande were also given unstinted praise. On Friday the weather was decidedly warm, and on Saturday morning there was a slight shower, which cleared in the afternoon. In all, the St. Louis engagement was the most successful ever played by any circus in that city, despite B. & B. opposition. St. Louis was never billed before as it was for this engagement. The city, from end to end, was rainbow-hued, with posters, flags and banners.
Kansas City, Mo. Monday, May 10th. Typical circus weather, clear and hot. Tremendous business. Thousands were turned away from both performances. The parade elicited the most cordial approval from the vast throng that witnessed it. The show went with a dash and vim that captivated everyone. Late comers in the evening, who were refused admission, offered as much as $3.00 for reserved seat tickets, but could not get them. Several hundred who had purchased tickets, but had arrived too late, were given their money.
Leavenworth, Kan. Tuesday, May 11th. Clear and warm. Business fair. Showed on the Military Reservation.
St. Joseph, Mo. Wednesday, May 12th. Rain during the forenoon, but cleared at 1:50 P. M. Despite the shower in the morning the attendance was good at both shows. The temperature fell during the evening, and it turned quite cold.
Topeka, Kan. Thursday, May 13th. Threatening weather, cloudy and cold. Upon former visits to this town severe storms have been the rule, and the morning apparently threatened a repetition, when a slight shower fell at ten o’clock. The lot was a mile and a half from town, and street car service very poor, but notwithstanding these facts business was big.
Newton, Kan. Friday, May 14th. Chilly winds and cloudy weather. Business good.
Great Bend, Kan. Saturday, May 15th. Clear and cool. Business good.
Trinidad, Co. Monday, May 17th. Warm; clear until 5:30 P. M. Heavy western wind prevailed all day, and in the evening a sand-storm made matters very disagreeable. Showed on the Santa Fe Railroad lot. Good business.
Pueblo, Col. Tuesday, May 18th. Warm and hazy. Business big. Opposition with Walter L. Main Show, but no appreciable result was felt from it. Our advance brigade had captured everything in sight in the town.
Colorado Springs, Col. Wednesday, May 19th. Pleasant, but slightly cloudy. Business big. The show made a tremendous hit. The season at the big hotels opened May 10th, and the town was filled with Eastern people. Many members of the company took short trips between shows sight-seeing.
Denver, Col. Thursday and Friday, May 20th and 21st. Showed at River Front Park. On Thursday it was cloudy during a portion of the day, and at six o’clock a sharp shower set in and lasted until 7 p. M. The afternoon audience packed the big-top to the doors, and at night hundreds were turned away. Tremendous business marked the second day, and the show was declared by press and public to be the finest, largest and best ever seen in Denver.
Greely, Col. Saturday, May 22d. Bright, warm and very dusty. Business good.
Rock Springs, Wyo. Monday, May 24th. Hot and dusty. Business light. Probably so named because there are no springs there. A cosmopolitan crowd of Huns, Fins, Norwegians, Poles, Dagoes and other foreigners, who work in the coal mines there. A desolate, barren mining camp, with a cosmopolitan bunch of weather in keeping with its people. It was clear, cloudy, sunshiny, dusty and rainy, by fits and starts. One show only was given, and no one was sorry to leave the place.
Park City, Utah. Tuesday, May 25th. Magnificent weather. Business fair. The lot was in a beautiful valley fronting the center of the town. Superintendent Winner, of the Menagerie, bought a silver-tip bear cub, that was apparently a bundle of sharp teeth and claws, and chock full of fight. He lived with the show about six weeks.
Ogden, Utah. Wednesday, May 26th. Made-to-order-weather. Business big. Show lot was in the center of town adjoining the city hall. The percentage of half tickets received at the door, signifies that Mormon country has been reached.
Salt Lake City, Utah. Thursday, May 27th. Perfect weather continues. Tremendous business. The show was declared by both Mormon and Gentile newspapers to be the finest and largest ever seen in Utah. One family of thirty-nine persons was noticed in the afternoon crush. Our company spent all available time in visiting the Tabernacle, Temple, Bee Hive and other points of interest.
Logan, Utah. Friday, May 28th. Very warm and clear. Business fair. A beautiful little city in a fertile valley; a veritable Garden of Eden. A Mormon settlement that shows thrift and prosperity upon every side.
Idaho Falls, Idaho. Saturday, May 29th. Hot, clear, dry and dusty. Business good. Arrived very late, and the parade was therefore late. Played to almost capacity in the afternoon, but the great majority of the population apparently took to the sage brush at night.
Dillon, Mont. Monday, May 31st. Trains arrived at Dillon about 10 A. M. Sunday. During the night the weather, which had been pleasant, turned cloudy and cold, and all day Monday it rained. This is a typical Montana town, where gambling is carried on openly, and every other door is a saloon. Business light.
Anaconda, Mont. Tuesday, June 1st. Cold and cloudy. Raw winds and disagreeable. The lot was just across the railroad tracks from the center of town. The parade made a decided hit and the performance captured the town.
Butte, Mont. Wednesday, June 2d. Cloudy, raining and dismal. Business great. A beautiful city — called the Venice of the West because there isn’t a drop of water within miles of it. Magnificent tropical plants and blooming flowers, purely imaginary. But everybody has money and spends it freely. Every native asks: “Why the h— didn’t you t’row ’em fer a dollar?” An edict has been issued to hoboes and foot-pads to get out within twenty-four hours, and everyone wears a gun.
Helena, Mont. Thursday, June 3d. Showery. Cleared at 7 P. M. Business big. Arrived late, and parade did not start until 11:30. Lot near center of town. The show pleased everybody.
Great Falls, Mont. Friday, June 4th. Clear during day; rain at night. Business big. The first big show the town has ever had, and everyone within a radius of a hundred miles attended. The town is well laid out and thoroughly prosperous.
Havre, Mont. Saturday, June 5th. Clear and hot. Business fair. One show only. A small town, typically Western in its characteristics, and thronged with negro soldiers and sombrero-clad cow-punchers. The show delighted everyone.
Devils Lake, N. D. Monday, June 7th. Clear and cool. Business big. A 583 mile run from the last stand, and everyone glad when it was completed. The cool weather precipitated a heavy frost last night. Crop prospects are excellent, and farmers eager for the show. Delighted audiences witnessed both performances.
Grand Forks, N. D. Tuesday, June 8th. Clear until 3 P. M. Then rained all night. A tremendous audience witnessed the afternoon show, but the down-pour of rain at night made attendance light. “Gumbo” mud smeared everything, and delayed loading until 3:30 A. M.
Faargo, N. D. Wednesday, June 9th. Cloudy, turning cold at night. Business big. The show arrived late, and parade did not start until 12 o’clock. Performance commenced at 2:45. The show gave thorough satisfaction.
Wahpeton, N. D. Thursday, June 10th. Rained in forenoon. Cleared later. Business good. At this town the saddest accident of the season occurred. During the early morning hours, while the canvasmen were engaged in putting up the big top, a severe thunderstorm came up. The lightning struck a center-pole, at the base of which twenty-two men were working. C. E. Walters and Charles Smith were killed instantly, and twenty others were knocked senseless. Charles O. Miller, master of properties, was the worst of those injured, as he sustained a shock which has afflicted him severely throughout the season. A subscription was taken up amongst the men employed by the show, and a purse was immediately raised, sufficient to defray funeral expenses and erect a handsome monument over the graves of the dead. The monument represents a shattered center-pole, upon a substantial base, and is properly inscribed to commemorate the sad affair, as well as to perpetuate the memories of those whose lives went out at the lightning’s flash. The monument was placed in position on the 29th of September, and the lot properly graded, sodded and decorated.
Fergus Falls, Minn. Friday, June 11th. Clear and very warm. Business big. The parade and performance captivated large audiences afternoon and night.
Sauk Centre, Minn. Saturday, June 12th. Hot and clear. Business great.
Minneapolis, Minn. Monday, June 14th. Excessively hot and clear. Opposition with B. & B. Show. Town postered and bannered from end to end. Monster perambulators on trolley lines attract attention. The showing up of fraudulent newspaper testimonials used by another show, created a sensation. Street parade made a great hit, and the public and press declared the show to be the biggest and best ever seen in that city. Capacity in the afternoon was fully taxed, and at night a turn away.
Buffalo, Minn. Tuesday, June 15th. Hot; threatening weather in afternoon. Business fair. Small town in rich agricultural district. Rain in the evening. One show only.
Litchfield, Minn, Wednesday, June 16th. Rain until 3 P. M. Business good. Parade late on account of weather.
Willmar, Minn. Thursday, June 17th. Clear and hot. Business big.
Marshall, Minn. Friday, June 18th. Warm and clear. Business big. A heavy rain during previous night made roads very heavy and muddy. Thousands of railroad excursionists visited the show here.
Morris, Minn. Saturday, June 19th. Clear and warm. Business big. A small but hustling town. The side show opening was one of the largest of the season. The large audiences were delighted with the show.
Huron, S. D. Monday, June 21st. Rained hard until 11 A. M. Business big. The heavy rain-storm in the morning doubtless turned back some farmers who had long distances to drive.
Watertown, S. D. Tuesday, June 22d. Typical circus weather, hot and clear. Business big. In consequence of late arrival, and delay with several wagons at a bad crossing where the runs were, the parade was very late in starting.
Aberdeen, S. D. Wednesday, June 23d. Cloudy and cool morning; hot afternoon, prospects here and money easy.
Ortonville, Minn. Thursday, June 24th. Showers in morning; cleared at 1 P. M. Business big. A little town with lots of hustle in it. The show was welcomed by everyone, and declared to be great.
Madison, S. D, Friday, June 25th. Clear on arrival; rained 9:15; cleared 5 P. M. Business big. Last day of big Firemen’s Tournament.
Hawarden, Iowa. Saturday, June 26th. Misty rain in morning, cleared at noon. Business good.
Yankton, S. D. Monday, June 28th. Show arrived on Sunday. Weather hot and cloudy, but cleared during the night. Monday was clear and hot. A heavy electric storm hurt attendance at the night show. Business, however, was big.
Sioux Falls, S. D. Tuesday, June 29th. Hot and clear. Business big. Opposition with B. & B., but had no effect upon our business that was discernible. The show made a great record for itself, and was pronounced the best ever seen.
Worthington, Minn. Wednesday, June 30th. Very hot. Business big.
St. James, Minn. Thursday, July 1st. Clear; hottest day of the season. Business good.
Blue Earth City, Minn. Friday, July 2d. Clear and hot. Business big.
Mankato, Minn. Saturday, July 3d. Clear until 6 P. M. Heavy wind-storm at night. Business great. Fourth of July. Immense crowds attended both performances, despite the storm at night. Opposition with B. & B., but no effect upon our business.
Austin, Minn. Monday, July 5th. Fine day, but warm. Business great. Our second Fourth of July town. No other celebration held here, but everyone within fifty miles came to the circus. The performance made a great hit.
Charles City, Iowa. Tuesday, July 6th. Hot and clear. Business big.
Iowa Falls, Iowa. Wednesday, July 7th. Very hot. Business big.
Lakde City, Iowa. Thursday, July 8th. Broiling sun and hot night. Business big. Trains arrived late, and consequently delayed the parade. Towns-people and farmers were circus crazy, and eager for the show, which delighted everyone.
Tama City, Iowa. Friday, July 9th. Warm; showers at noon; cloudy afternoon. Business good. Great numbers of Indians attended the afternoon show, and laughed at the antics of the clowns like country boys.
Monticello, Iowa. Saturday, July 10th. Clear forenoon; rainy afternoon. Business big. A very threatening storm appeared about five o’clock, but passed over toward the west without doing harm.
Freeport Ill. Monday, July 12th. Clear morning; light showers at 2 P. M. Business big. A heavy thunderstorm, accompanied by high wind, passed over at six o’clock Sunday evening, and blew down the side show and stable tents, but did not inflict severe damage. The splendid parade and performance captured the audiences. The night house was particularly large and enthusiastic.
Monroe, Wis. Tuesday, July 13th. Clear and pleasant. Business big.
Madison, Wis. Wednesday, July 14th. Clear morning and cloudy afternoon. Business big. Very bad lot, on boggy ground. Excellent street car facilities and big audiences.
Baraboo, Wis. Thursday, July 15th. Hot and clear. Business good. The home of the big show. Mr. and Mrs. Ringling, Senior, and a number of relatives of the firm, visited the afternoon show, and later had dinner in the dining car.
Janesville, Wis. Friday, July 16th. Perfect weather. Business great. This town was circus-hungry. The house was packed to suffocation at the afternoon show, and there was a grand night house. Accountant Warren A. Patrick, whose home is here, received many callers. “Buffalo Bill” opposition, but their date so far ahead that it was of no consequence. The show made a great hit.
Evanston, Ill. Saturday, July 17th. Clear and warm. Small lot. Business fair.
Belvidere, Ill. Monday, July 19th. Cloudless and warm. Business big. This is always a good town for the Ringling Show. Farmers have about completed harvesting and town and county are in prosperous condition.
De Kalb, Ill. Tuesday, July 20th. Light showers at 3 P. M. Business good. One show only. A heavy downpour set in after the trains were loaded in the evening.
Dowagiac, Mich. Wednesday, July 21st. Fine day. Business big.
Three Rivers, Mich. Thursday, July 22d. Clear. Business big.
Coldwater, Mich. Friday, July 23d. Clear and warm. Business big.
Albion, Mich. Saturday, July 24th. Perfect weather and good business.
Detroit, Mich. Monday, July 26th. Rained all day. Business big. Opposition with B. & B. Show. This has been the hottest opposition fight of the season thus far. Every effort has been made by the opposition to get the people to “wait,” and even the weather is with them. In spite of pouring rain, the street parade went out on time, and the streets were thronged with a dripping crowd to witness it. The afternoon house filled the big top, and at night it was all but a turn-away. George Bleistein, of the Courier Company, visited the show here. The Detroit papers were lavish in their praise of the performance, and declared it to be the best ever given in that city.
Mt. Clemens, Mich. Tuesday, July 27th. Showery all day. Business big. About 1,800 summer guests and professional people are here at the hotels and sanitariums. The show drew large and enthusiastic audiences afternoon and night. Spader Johnson and his clown band had to respond to encores until they had exhausted their repertoire.
Pontiac, Mich. Wednesday, July 28th. Perfect circus day. Business big. The first big show ever seen here. Good crops cause everyone to feel hopeful, and money is plentiful.
St. Johns, Mich. Thursday, July 29th. Fine weather. Business big.
Ionia, Mich. Friday, July 30th. Clear weather. Business big. First big show here in several years. Great turnout of country people at afternoon show, and of towns-people in the evening.
Holland, Mich. Saturday, July 31st. A very warm day and light business.
Petoskey, Mich. Monday, August 2d. Clear and very warm. Business big. Used the Newbury lot, outside of town. Excellent railroad train service every five minutes.
Traverse City, Mich. Tuesday, August 3d. Clear and warm. Business big. A particularly large country audience, and great numbers of excursionists.
Manistee, Mich. Wednesday, August 4th. Clear in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon. Business good.
Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Thursday, August 5th. Broiling hot day; clear. Business good. The last section did not arrive until 11:40 A. M., and parade did not start until 2 P. M. Big show commenced at 3:25 p. M.
Howell, Mich. Friday, August 6th. Clear and warm. Business big.
Adrian, Mich. Saturday, August 7th. Fine weather. Business good. Immense crowds on the streets early in the morning, and until parade had passed. Lot right in town.
Attica, Ind. Monday, August 9th. Very hot. Business good. This was a great day for the lemonade boys. The afternoon house packed the big top. A Japanese woman performer fell from a perch at the dome of the tent to the ground, and sustained a broken arm, lacerated face and internal injuries. She was subsequently sent to Chicago to a hospital, and eventually rejoined the show.
Gibson City, Ill. Tuesday, August 10th. Clear and sultry. Business fair.
Pontiac, Ill. Wednesday, August 11th. Threatening clouds. Business big.
Princeton, Ill. Thursday, August 12th. Beautiful day. Business big.
Kewaunee, Ill. Friday, August 13th. Balmy and clear. Business big.
Aledo, Ill. Saturday, August, 14th. Typical circus weather. Business big. The first big show to visit this town. People fairly fought for places at the wagon to purchase tickets.
Oskaloosa, Iowa. Monday, August 16th. Bright and clear. Business big. After arrival of the show Sunday it turned cloudy and dreary. The town was full of people as early as Sunday noon, and at the afternoon performance there was a perfect jam.
Marshalltown, Iowa. Tuesday, August 17th. Showery until 5 P. M. Business big.
Boone, Iowa. Wednesday, August 18th. Superb day. Business fair.
Missouri Valley, Iowa. Thursday, August 19th. Very hot. Business good.
Fremont, Neb. Friday, August 20th. Fine day; threatening at night, with wind and lightning. This town proved a surprise. It was literally packed with people from everywhere. Business was great.
Norfolk, Neb. Saturday, August 21st. Fine weather. Big business. Another surprise. Trains brought in the bulk of the out-of-town crowd, as excursions were run from twenty near-by towns.
Omaha, Neb. Monday, August 23d. Warm and clear. Tremendous business. Omaha has felt the return of prosperity, and turned out en masse to see the parade and the performance. The capacity of the big top was reached before the hour for beginning the performance at both shows, and thousands were unable to get admittance. Street car facilities were not of the best. The show made a great hit.
Lincoln, Neb. Tuesday, August 24th. Very warm. Business great.
David City, Neb. Wednesday, August 25th. Warm during day. Wind and lightning at night. Another town where everybody and all their friends were determined to see the show. The business is unprecedented in the history of circuses. Threatening storms at night caused the concert after the night show to be abandoned.
York, Neb. Thursday, August 26th. Wind and changeable weather. Business phenomenal. Another town that was “show-hungry.” Pinkerton detective Moore had an encounter with a burglar in the morning, and fired a shot at him. The revolver failed to work after that, or there would probably be one thief less in the world.
Grand Island, Neb. Friday, August 27th. Perfect weather. Great business.
Hastings, Neb. Saturday, August 28th. Dry, hot and very dusty. Phenomenal business. Showed on a fine lot outside the corporation. Excursion business particularly large.
Kearney, Neb. Monday, August 30th. Perfect weather. Business big. This town has been in bad shape, but the effect of the tremendous wheat crop is already felt. Big excursions.
Holdridge, Neb. Tuesday, August 31st. Excellent day. Great business.
McCook, Neb. Wednesday, September 1st. Hot wind and dusty. Business big.
Red Cloud, Neb. Thursday, September 2d. Clear. Business big.
Superior, Neb. Friday, September 3d. Hot winds and dust. Business great.
Hebron, Neb. Saturday, September 4th. Hot and clear. Same immense business.
Falls City, Neb. Monday, September 6th. Hot as Tophet. Business great.
Beatrice, Neb. Tuesday, September 7th. Clear and warm. Business good. Showed on a lot at the extreme outskirts of the town. Transportation facilities poor. The show gave great satisfaction.
Seneca, Kan. Wednesday, September 8th. Fine weather. Business big.
Holton, Kan. Thursday, September 9th. Clear and warm. Business big.
Washington, Kan. Friday, September 10th. Warm. Threatening weather after 4 P. M. Lack of track room prevented prompt unloading of the trains, and thereby made the parade late.
Beloit, Kan. Saturday, September 11th. Threatening up to 10:30 A M. then clear. This town proved another surprise and gave an audience in the afternoon that proved to be the largest in the history of the Ringling Brothers’ Shows for a single performance in a one-day stand on the road. There seemed to be no end to the throng.
Concordia, Kan. Monday, September 13th. Hot and clear. Business great. Another town that was hungry for a big show and expressed its full appreciation of the bill of fare afforded it. Immense audiences day and night.
Salina, Kan. Tuesday, September 14th. Threatening and showery. Business big. Notwithstanding the fact that it was a bad day the people wanted the circus, and the weather cut little or no figure in the matter of attendance.
Ellsworth, Kan. Wednesday, September 15th. Clear until 5 P. M., then cyclone and rain. The worst storm of wind and rain thus far encountered by the Ringling Shows occurred at this place at 6:30 p. M. Threatening clouds began to gather a little after 4 o’clock and by six the storm had assumed alarming proportions. The first blow struck at about 6 o’clock, but, although severe, the canvas withstood the force of it and nothing gave way. The storm then veered around and came back, whirling with terrific speed. It struck the big top and black tents and in a second there was nothing but a mass of wreckage and debris where they had stood. The attendance at the afternoon show had been tremendous and another crowd was expected at the night show, but, in consequence of the storm, the night show was of necessity abandoned. All hands were set to work all night in a pouring rain to untangle the mass of ropes, canvas, seats, stringers and shattered center and quarter poles, but it was daylight before the last section pulled out of the town. A great deal of valuable wardrobe and paraphernalia were damaged or destroyed, but there were no casualties.
Manhattan, Kan. Thursday, September 16th. Cloudy in morning, clear afternoon. Business good. Owing to delay in loading at Ellsworth trains did not arrive until very late. The parade started at 2:40 and doors opened at 4 P. M. Only one show was given and that under no top but the sky.
Lawrence, Kan. Friday, September 17th. Clear and cool; chilly at night. Business big. Owing to delay, caused by breaking of an axle on one of the elephant cars, the last section arrived very late. Lockhart’s elephants were in the car but were not injured. They were unloaded at point of accident and herded in the woods, seven miles from Lawrence. As soon as the other elephant cars had been unloaded one was sent back and the Lockhart elephants brought to the town. Lot two miles from town and only three street cars on the only line running. The parade started at 12 o’clock and the big show at 2:35. Business was great and everyone well pleased with the show.
Olathe, Kan. Saturday, September 18th. Fine weather and good business.
Emporia, Kan. Monday, September 20th. Fine weather. Business big. The parade was especially pleasing to the great throng that witnessed it. The performance was pronounced the best ever seen in the city.
McPherson, Kan. Tuesday, September 21st. Fine weather. Business good.
Hutchinson, Kan. Wednesday, September 22d. Clear and pleasant. Business big. Showed on lot about a mile from the center of town. Very large audience expressed its appreciation of the performance, and the parade made a great hit.
Wichita, Kan. Thursday, September 23d. Fine weather. Business big.
Wellington, Kan. Friday, September 24th. Weather clear in afternoon; threatened storm at night. Business good. This is the town that was wrecked by a cyclone one day after the visit of the Ringling Show in 1893. A change in the route that year brought the show to Wellington one day earlier than originally billed. Charles Fisher, one of the Fisher Family of aerialists, is pronounced ill with typhoid fever and remains at Wellington, attended by his wife.
Enid, Okla. Ter. Saturday, September 25th. Clear and pleasant. Business tremendous. This is the first big show Enid has ever had. The town is four years and nine days old and is wild about the circus. The afternoon audience was another surprise like that at Beloit, Kan. A good-natured multitude of noisy, yelling Westerners yelled themselves hoarse with enjoyment at the rare treat the big show afforded them.
El Reno, Okla. Ter. Monday, September 27th. Clear and breezy. This is a seven-year town, but a hustling one. The streets were thronged with early comers all day Sunday and the afternoon show was a repetition of Enid experience. A five-pole big-top was erected to-day and the additional capacity was fully needed. The afternoon audience is a cosmopolitan one, comprising cowboys, Indians, soldiers, and people of almost every nationality.
The Circus Annual goes to press September 27th in order that it may be in the hands of its publishers before the circus season closes. Owing to this fact a detailed account of occurrences happening after that date cannot be chronicled. The remainder of the show’s route is published without comment.
Shawnee, Okla. Ter., Tuesday, September 28.
Oklahoma City, Okla. Ter, Wednesday, September 29.
Ardmore, Ind. Ter., Thursday, September 30.
Guthrie, Okla. Ter., Friday, October 1.
Winfield, Kan., Saturday, October 2.
Coffeyville, Kan., Monday, October 4.
Parsons, Kan., Tuesday, October 5.
Fort Scott, Kan., Wednesday, October 6.
Warrensburg, Mo., Thursday, October 7.
Jefferson City. Mo., Friday, October 8.
Washington, Mo., Saturday, October 9.
Hiawatha, Kan., Monday, October 11.
Marysville, Kan., Tuesday, October 12.
Fairbury, Neb., Wednesday, October 13.
Phillipsburg, Kan., Thursday, October 14.
Smith Centre, Kan., Friday, October 15.
Clay Centre, Kan., Saturday, October 16.
Abilene, Kan., Monday, October 18.
Marion, Kan., Tuesday, October 19.
Lyons, Kan., Wednesday, October 20.
El Dorado, Kan., Thursday, October 21.
Harper, Kan. (1 Show), Friday, October 22.
Perry, Okla. Ter., Saturday, October 23.
From the Butte Miner
There is an interesting story in the rise of the now famous Ringling Brothers, in the circus world, from a very meager start, fourteen years ago, to the zenith of their profession, which they now occupy. Their career as showmen illustrates the typical thrift, integrity of purpose and ingenuity of typical Western men. Their success has nearly all been achieved in the West, or rather the Middle West, and Western ideas of honesty and fair dealing have gained them a reputation that is as carefully preserved as it is well merited.
There are seven brothers in the Ringling family, and five of them constitute the firm. The other two are with the big show in managerial capacities.
The natural adaptability for the show business, coupled with an inborn ability to successfully manage and handle large forces of men, seems present to a marked degree in all the brothers. They manage their own business in every detail, rather than look to salaried men to manage it for them. Their beginning was small indeed, and a pet goat and a pony constituted their first menagerie and circus stock fourteen years ago, when they gave an amateur show in a remote Wisconsin school-house by way of experiment. The show idea took hold upon them, however, from that very time, and by carefully saving their scant earnings, they managed to gather together a half dozen circus or menagerie attractions, and a few wild animals, within a year or two. In order to find means to carry their little stock in trade through the severe Wisconsin winters, the boys, all of whom were and are musicians of no mean order, organized a “hall show” for the winter months, and earned not only their expenses, but sufficient to winter their little circus and allow some funds for adding to it in the spring before setting out for another season. Two, three and four years went by. The little circus had grown to a small wagon show. Its seasons were profitable, owing to the fact that the enterprising young managers never went into territory where good business was not reasonably assured. At the end of seven years they had almost a score of animal cages, a hundred fine horses, and employed about two hundred men. Their fame as showmen had already gone forth, for their policy from the very start was to present everything advertised, and never announce a “fake,” or perpetrate one.
The eighth year found the Ringling Brothers on wheels. That is, it witnessed their change from a wagon or road show to a “railroad ” show, equipped with their own cars, and not owing anyone a dollar.
The eighth season was a momentous one. Nearly, if not quite, all the ready cash they had went to fit out what they thought was the finest circus and menagerie procurable, but at which they now smile with pleasing recollections. A yellow dog, or some other circus mascot, served them, however, and their eighth season, like all the others, marked a rapid and long stride in advance. All the profits from this season, like those of previous years, went into the further equipment of the show, and when it embarked en tour the ensuing spring, it had a score of fine cars, a complete circus company, and everything that went to make an excellent show of its size.
But the Ringling boys went calmly on their way, having set the mark to be achieved a few years later. Two or three years more of healthy business growth, and two or three more great additions were made to the now big show, until the season of 1895 came round. Then the Ringling show jumped into Boston, and other Eastern cities, and simply astounded them by presenting a show so large, so fine, and so perfectly conducted, that the press united in declaring it the brightest and best ever seen there. Other big shows sent their advertising cars, with hundreds of men, to bill all the towns and cities against the Ringlings. But the fiat of Boston had gone forth, and the show cleared a small fortune, and at the same time made an undying name for itself and its hustling progenitors. The season of 1896 witnessed a further increase in its size and grandeur.
It cleared the field of all competitors, and three other shows formed a triumvirate to wipe it out. But the friction of combined opposition only polished up its brightness and added to its strength. In 1897, in April, it opened at Tattersall’s immense amphitheater in Chicago for two weeks, and played to the capacity of the great auditorium.
In St. Louis, Denver, Kansas City, Ogden, Salt Lake, and other Western cities, its triumphant march has been one continuous ovation. It now needs sixty-seven cars of mammoth size to transport it from place to place. Its menagerie is the most complete, its elephant herd the largest, its employees the greatest in number, and its circus company of three hundred artists the most perfect ever organized. The Ringling Brothers have reached the zenith of their hopes, and own and personally control the largest circus ever organized.
[Not included here are several articles, many photographs.]
CHS webmaster J. Griffin, last modified April 2008.