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Olympians of the Sawdust Circle - O

Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A biographical dictionary of the ninteenth century American circus

Compiled and Edited by William L. Slout
Copyright © 2005 by William L. Slout. All rights reserved.

OAKES, J. S. Orton Bros.’, 1865.

OAKLEY, ANNIE [r.n. Moses]. (August 13, 1860-November 3, 1926) Born in Darke County, Ohio, the 5th daughter of Jacob and Susan Moses, Quakers. Grew to only 5 feet tall. After her fathers death, 1866, Annie assisted the family by trapping and performing farm chores. Shortly, was sent to live at the county poor farm, where she was educated and where she taught herself to use a rifle. Upon her return home at age 13 or 14, she used her father’s old rifle to hunt game for sale at Greenville, Ohio, hotels and restaurants, enabling her to pay off the mortgage on the family home, and gaining for her a reputation as a markswoman. Was invited to participate in a shooting competition at Cincinnati with Frank Butler and others. She won with 25 hits in 25 attempts, Butler missing one shot. The two were married, August 23, 1876. First appeared in a show together, May 1, 1882, when Butler’s partner was taken ill. She held objects for her husband to shoot and did some shooting herself. At this time, adopted the stage name of Oakley. At a performance in 1884, Sitting Bull, impressed with her manner and skill, adopted her and named her Little Sure Shot. The Butlers joined Sells Bros.’ Circus, 1884, as champion rifle shots, remaining one season; replaced Bogardus, Buffalo Bill’s, 1885, Oakley becoming the star; remained with that show through 1901. Contracted by Union Metallic Cartridge Co. to make endorsements. Retired, 1913. Both died in November 1926.

OAKLEY, GEORGE. Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1882.

OATES, J. C. Dan Rice’s (Dan Rice, William H. Stowe, J. C. Oates, proprietors), 1881.

O’BRIEN, ADDIE. Bentley’s Old Fashioned Circus (J. B. Bentley, proprietor), 1895.

O’BRIEN, ARCHIE. Hurdle rider, John S. McMahon’s, 1892; Sells Bros.’, tour of Australia, 1891-92.

O’BRIEN BROTHERS. Gymnasts. Stickney’s Imperial Parisian Circus, 1880; Charles Lee’s, 1887; Shields’, winter 1887-88; Barnum & Bailey, 1893. Willie O’Brien was killed from a fall from a double trapeze in Temple, TX, November 21, 1887.

O’BRIEN, CHARLES. Acrobat and clown, Great International, Offenbach Garden, Philadelphia, winter 1876-77; Cooper & Bailey’s Great London, 1880; leaper, Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1881; Sells Bros.’, 1882; principal clown and tumbler, W. C. Coup’s, 1893; clown, Welsh Bros.’, 1895, 1897; clown, Lowry Bros.’, 1905.

O’BRIEN, CLARA. Trained sheep, with Barnum & Bailey, 1892.

O’BRIEN, DAN. Leaper. VanAmburgh & Reiche Bros.’, 1885; S. H. Barrett’s, 1887; Melville & Co.’s, 1889; James Donovan’s, Bermuda, winter 1891-92; Ringling Bros.’, 1891-93; Walter L. Main’s, 1901; Barnum & Bailey, 1909. O’Brien’s wife died, NYC, April 1, 1908.

O’BRIEN, FRED. (1848-April 28, 1881) Champion leaper. Native of Buffalo, NY. Lake’s, 1869; Dan Rice’s, 1870; Rice’s Paris Pavilion Circus, 1871-72; P. T. Barnum’s, 1872-73; John Wilson’s, San Francisco, January 1874; Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1876; Great London, 1875-77; with wife and sons, Freddie and Willie, Orrin Bros.’, Havana, 1878. Wife was a slack wire artist and his 2 children performed on the trapeze. With P. T. Barnum’s, Madison Square Garden, 1881, was injured in a leaping double-somersault over a number of elephants. Died aboard the steamship England en route to Liverpool as a result of those injuries, age 33. Remains were buried at sea.

O’BRIEN, FRED, JR. Acrobat. The son of leaper Fred O’Brien. Three Melville’s & Co., 1889; general superintendent, Price & James, 1897; principal clown, Cooper & Co., 1897.

O’BRIEN, HARRY. Gymnast. Clark Bros.’, winter 1889-90; flying rings, Shedman Bros.’, 1894.

O’BRIEN, J. C. Manager, Howe’s London Circus, 1896, proprietor, 1897.

O’BRIEN, JOHN. (1858-March 12, 1903) Equestrian and horse trainer. Born in South Wales. Began as one of the O’Brien Family, attaining prominence as a trick and jockey rider. Brother of Jennie and Archie O’Brien. Came to USA with them as a manège act for Barnum & Bailey and remained with the organization for 4 years. Ringling Bros.’, 1898, as equestrian director and horse trainer, staying with them until the close of the 1902 season. It is claimed he was the first man to break a large ensemble of stock, consisting of 63 horses. Died in Baraboo, WI, age 46.

O’BRIEN, JOHN V. “POGEY.” (January 29, 1836-September 7, 1889) Born in Frankford, an extension of Philadelphia, the son of a stone mason, Michael O’Brien. When 13 years of age, started as a stage driver. 1857, bought out the stage line and ran it for 2 years. Had his first connection with a circus, 1861, when he rented horses to Gardner & Hemmings and went along as boss hostler to keep an eye on his property. Became a silent partner with one-third interest in the organization and also acted as assistant manager, 1862. The company opened a new amphitheatre in Philadelphia, November 24, 1862. During this stand James E. Cooper entered the circus business with Gardner, Hemmings, and O’Brien. The latter disposed of his share of the property to Cooper 5 weeks into the 1863 summer season. Organized Bryan’s (sometimes referred to as Brian’s) National Circus With Mrs. Dan Rice for touring in Pennsylvania and New York State. Took out Bryan’s (or Brien’s) Great Show and Tom King’s Excelsior Circus, 1864, with Tom King the featured performer. Bought 44 of Adam Forepaugh’s horses at a cost of $9,000; when payment came due, Forepaugh was forced to accept a share of the circus. With Forepaugh, 1865, began summer tour with Dan Rice’s Menagerie, which was made up of the former Jerry Mabie animals, comprising 22 cages. The property was delivered to Forepaugh at Twelfth and State Streets, Chicago, where the company started the season. The menagerie, Dan Rice, his horse, Excelsior, trick mules, and two elephants constituted the exhibition. Rice was engaged for the 25 week summer season at a salary of $1,000 a week. Trouble with Rice and between the partners and a poor profit on the season led to the dissolution of the Forepaugh-O’Brian business arrangement. Fitted out a show, 1867, under the title of Whitby’s & Co. 1868, organized the DeMott & Ward Show and, at the same time, ran Bryan’s Circus and Menagerie. 1869, organized Campbell’s Circus and Menagerie with Hyatt Frost as manager and continued with Bryan’s. Repeated these shows the following season. 1871, had 4 shows out - Sheldenberger’s, O’Brien’s, Joel E. Warner & Co., and Handenberger & Co. For 1872, merged the 4 shows into 3 - O’Brien’s, Joel E. Warner & Co., and Kleckner & Co.; 1873, O’Brien’s Twenty-five-cent Show and was interested with Dr. Spalding and Patrick Ryan in Dan Rice’s. Leased/managed P. T. Barnum’s, 1874, and was a partner in Maginley & Co. 1875, continued to manage the Barnum show and organized Rothchild & Co. with James DeMott as manager. 1876, ran O’Brien’s Six Shows Consolidated, as well as Rothchild & Co. 1877, O’Brien’s Six Shows; Campbell’s Great 25c Circus, 1878. Was almost bankrupt at the end of the season. Borrowed money from Forepaugh, and the latter foreclosed on most of his show property and the Campbell show was taken from O’Brien at the end of the 1879 season. It was used to fit out the Batcheller & Doris New Circus from Frankford (PA), 1880. O’Brien refused to quit and, since he had a great deal of circus equipment, continued to put out small shows with low admission prices and fancy titles for them. 1884, O’Brien, Hardenberger, Astley, and Lowande. When his J. Henry Rice & Co.’s was showing Albany, NY, process servers who had been following the show were on the lot, July 22, the parade that went out never came back, but ended up at the Frankford, PA, quarters. Had an interest in Lowande’s Brazilian Circus when he died. [D. W. Watt: “The show prospered for some years and ‘Pogey’ O’Brien became famous in the business in those days, but it was said that he knew little or nothing about the Ten Commandments. While his great menagerie was a feature, he was running the ring performance so cheap that it was unsatisfactory to the public.”] He was described by Kit Clarke as a plainly dressed man, short of stature and somewhat stout, with a round, full face. Free with everybody - a king or a canvasman would be all the same to him. Once in a while, on stated occasions, came out resplendent with diamonds, a velvet vest, every button of which was set with them, a watch chain with big ones in every link, a large solitaire on his bosom, and a big ring on his finger. Throughout his career his reputation as a manager was tarnished as one who was dishonest with his employees and who carried with the show a compliment of gamblers and thieves. Perhaps justice prevailed, for he died of asthma, in poverty, at his residence in Philadelphia. Wife died April 2, 1873, quite suddenly at Frankford, PA.

O’BRIEN, JOSEPH. Dr. James L. Thayer’s, 1880.

O’BRIEN, L. Assistant manager, Collins’ Oriental Combination, 1877.

O’BRIEN, TED. Tumbler, Lake’s Hippo-Olympiad, 1866; Joel E. Warner & Co., 1871.

O’BRIEN, WILLIAM. Acrobat and leaper. Son of Fred O’Brien. Howes’ London, 1877; Cooper & Bailey, 1880; Howard Bros.’, 1888; Charles Andress’, 1888; Robinson-Franklin, 1897.

O’CONNELL, JAMES. Dancer, said to be the first to perform a clog or wooden shoe dance in America. Appeared with circuses, 1839.

O’CONNELL, JAMES F. (1807-January 29, 1854) Tattooed man. Crane & Co., May 1836; Boston Lion Circus, 1836; Palmer’s, Havana, 1837; Waring’s, winter 1838; Welch & Mann, winter 1841; Rockwell & Stone, 1842; Nathan Howes’, winter 1842; New Jersey Circus, 1845; Stickney’s, January 1849; Dan Rice’s, 1850-52; Lathrop Concert Co., January 1852; Maltby’s, March 1852; Star State Circus, October 1852; Whitbeck’s, Cuba, 1853; Dan Rice’s, winter 1852-53. Died in New Orleans, age 47.

O’CONNELL, WALTER. Asst’t agent, Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1881.

O’CONNER, MICHAEL. Proprietor of a saloon and livery stable, Galesburg, IL, 1867. Entered into a shakey partnership with circus proprietor James T. Johnson that year. When the enterprize failed, O’Conner inherited the circus property and took it on the road as M. O’Conner’s Great Western Circus, 1869-71. After the latter season, quit the business to look after his livery stable.

O’DALE, ROBERT. Whitby & Co. (John V. O’Brien, proprietor), 1867.

O’DALE, WILLIAM. Rider. Went blind, became an inmate of a charitable institution, Cincinnati, 1865. Fund was raised by other circus people for him.

O’DALE, WILLIAM. (1859?-April 14, 1932) Rider. Apprenticed to Old John Robinson; continued riding career, 1871, Van Amburgh, Siegrist & Frost; developed into a good principal bareback rider and somersault equestrian, being featured with big circuses when the trick of leaping through a hoop of fire was new. 1872, Great Central Park Menagerie; Campbell’s Circus, 1878; W W. Cole’s, 1879; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1885, as bareback rider and a double team Roman standing race rider; Burr Robbins’, 1885; winter 1885-86, Orrin Bros.’; 1886, Miller, Okey & Freeman; 1888, Great Wallace; 1889, 1891, 1892, principal act, Barnum & Bailey; June 1889, New York City 4th Avenue Circus as bareback rider; October 12th sailed with Strurgis’ Grand Circo Americano for Caracas, Venezuela, and did not to return until August 1890; remainder of that season, rode on the John McMahan show; Scribner & Smith; Cole & Lockwood, 1895; Bentley Show, 1896; Walter L. Main, 1897; performer and was equestrian director, Sun Bros. Circus, 1905-10. Retired to home, 12th Street, NYC; died at Bellevue Hospital, age 73. [See John Daniel Draper, “Willie O’Dale and Willie O’Dell, Bandwagon, January/February, 2004.]

O’DELL, CHARLES W. Trainer and multi-horse rider. Barnum & London, 1881, ring stock groom; Sells Bros.’, 1887, in charge of 30 horse act trained by Allen Sells; Sells Bros.’, 1889, equestrian director and performed the “Postillion of Moscow,” driving 35 horses under full gallop. [New York Clipper: “This is a feat that is said to have never been accomplished before in this or any other country.”] Fisher & Aiken’s, 1890, in charge of the hippodrome, broke a 22 horse team for the track and worked on the standing races, the show collapsing at Burlington, Iowa on September 4; Ringling Bros.’, 1891-92, Roman and four-horse rider, rode and controlled a five-horse tandem hurdle race; W. B. Reynolds’, 1893, F. E. Davis’, 1894; Great Exposition Circus, 1895; J. H. LaPearl’s, 1896-97.

O'DELL, WILLIAM, JR. John H. Murray’s, 1878, bareback trick and somersault rider; W. C. Coup’s, 1879-81, pad rider and somersault specialist, tumbling act as well as turns on the track as a hippodrome rider; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1883, jockey rider on the track; Sherman’s Educated Horses & Hinman’s Great European Circus, also 1883, somersault and four-horse rider; Frank A. Robbins’, 1884; Van Amburgh, Reiche & Bros., 1885, somersault equestrian and four-horse rider; W. W. Cole’s, 1886, jockey and bareback rider; Doris & Colvin, 1887; Sells Bros.’, 1888, Courier of St. Petersburg act, riding and reining 23 horses on the hippodrome track; 4th Avenue Circus, NYC, 1889; and later, Barney Carroll’s Old Time New York Circus, under canvas at 13th Street and 4th Avenue; Leon W. Washburn’s, 1893-94, equestrian director and four-horse rider; Walter L. Main’s, 1894, four-horse and manege act and drove a five-horse tandem, as well as ringmaster, leaper and tumbler and Roman standing rider; Richold’s, 1897; John Robinson’s, 1898, 1902. Connected with Roche’s Bijou Theatre, Chicago, 1909; Forepaugh-Sells, 1910-11, equestrian director. Was married to Millie Alma O’Dell, also a professional. Died of a heart attack in the spring of 1929 at his home in Bay Shore, Long Island, NY, interred in Oakwood Cemetery at Bay Shore.

O’DELL, WILLIAM T. SR. (d.October 28, 1866). Somersault equestrian and leaper, Levi J. North’s, 1851; Dan Rice’s, 1852; R. Sands & Co., 1853; Myers & Madigan, 1854; John Robinson’s, 1857; Robinson & Lake, 1858-1861; Nixon & Co., 1863; Alexander Robinson’s, 1866. O’Dell died that year at Philadelphia. Wife was equestrienne Rosa Meyer. She survived him until March 15, 1884.

O’NEAL, J. H. Leaper, Great Australian Circus Co., 1877.

O’NEAL, M. J. Press agent, Sells Bros.’, 1885.

O’NEIL, HENRY P. (1842-June 13, 1902) Gymnast. Began career in the 1860s when he became a member of the Goldie Brothers act, with George Goldie and Claude Conner. The team was connected with Stone & Murray, Murray’s, and Chiarini’s, performing trapeze and acrobatics. Died in NYC. See Goldie Brothers.

O’NEILL, MICHAEL J. (d. April 16, 1897) Agent and bill writer. Began career with John B. Doris’, 1883; Sells Bros.’, 1884-85; Doris & Colvin, 1887; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1893. Connected with Ringling Bros.’, early 1890s. [Roland Butler: “In a most convincing tone he would delineate attractions that never had and never will appear under canvas, and satisfy the reader that they might all be seen for fifty cents.”] At one time, was press agent for the Grand Street Museum, NYC, and for Sam T. Jack’s Opera House, Chicago. A memorable feat as an agent for Sells was his opposition fight with Ringling Bros.’ in Texas. At the close of the season, however, he collaborated in the preparation of Ringling’s route book. Described as “an easy, vigorous, original, fluent writer of old style circus publications ... a rough diamond, aggressive to a degree, but gentle as a child and honest as the sun.” Died at his home in Cincinnati, OH, from heart failure.

O’TOOL, MICHAEL. Knockabout clown, with Walter L. Main’s, 1886.

OAKLEY, FRANK. (d. March 8, 1916) Clown, performing as “Slivers.” Born in Sweden of English parents. Ran away from home at 14 years of age and became a groom with John McMann’s. 5 years later, was a performer with Andrew McDonald’s. 1902, married the vaudeville singer Nellie Dunbar. Committed suicide, NYC.

OATES, J. C. Proprietor (with Dan Rice, William H. Stowe), Dan Rice’s, 1881.

OBERIST, JOHN F. Courtney & Sanford’s Minstrels with Courtney & Sanford’s Circus, South America. Sailed from New York, July 23, 1873.

OCHFORD, W. Rider, Quick, Sands & Co., Baltimore, 1833.

ODELL, ALMA. (1868?-December 19, 1908) Wire walker and aerialist. Born in Ingersol, Canada. Started in the business at age 15 with the George L. Fox pantomime troupe, Olympic Theatre, NYC. Called “The Human Fly,” Barnum’s, Forepaugh’s, Sells Bros.’, John Robinson’s, etc., as well as having played the leading vaudeville theatres. Married William T. Odell, former circus performer and theatrical manager. See below. Died in Chicago, age 40.

ODELL, CHARLES W. Trainer and rider. Ringling Bros.’, 1891-92; Barnum & Bailey, 1893; Walter L. Main’s, 1894; LaPearl’s, 1896.

ODELL, WILLIAM T. (d. October 28, 1866) Scene rider, equestrian director. Began career around mid-century. There was a Master Odell performing at the Bowery Amphitheatre during the circus season, 1847-48, in feats of horsemanship for manager John Tryon, which presumably was our man. August, 1851, gave a pantomime at the Bowery Amphitheatre; and again in January, 1853, was performing in The Man o’ War’s Man. Dan Rice’s, 1852; Welch & Lent, 1854; scenic rider and double somersault performer, Myers & Madigan, 1854; H. P. Madigan's, 1856; Tom King’s, 1858; Robinson & Lake, 1859-60; Tom King’s, Washington, DC, 1861-62; Maginley & VanVleck, 1863; James M. Nixon’s Alhambra, NYC, fall 1863; Howes’, 199 Bowery, NYC, winter 1863-64; S. O. Wheeler’s, 1864; Hippotheatron, NYC, winter 1864-65; National Circus, Cincinnati, winter 1864-65; Lake’s Hippo-Olympiad, 1865; equestrian director, Alex Robinson’s, 1866, but fell from a horse, Ann Arbor, MI, while attempting a somersault, which caused a compound fracture in his arm and rendered him useless for the season. Died in Philadelphia.

OGDEN, ADA. Nixon’s Amphitheatre, NYC, May 1863.

OGDEN, CHARLES D. Contracting agent, G. G. Grady’s, 1873.

OGDEN, DARIUS. Native of Westchester County, NY, who became a partner of James Raymond in the menagerie business, 1831-34. Proprietor (with E. M. Hobby), Ogden & Hobby, 1842; (with Chauncey Weeks) Ogden, Weeks & Co., 1845.

OKEY, T. W. Co-proprietor, Miller, Okey & Freeman’s, 1886.

OLDER, PARDON A. (September 22, 1826-September 29, 1908) Wagon show manager, traveled chiefly in the Midwest, reputed to have traded a sawmill at Janesville, Wisconsin, worth $5,000, for a third interest in the E. F. and J. Mabie circus in 1849. The show had about 70 horses, 8 wagons, an 85-foot round-top, and a 30-foot dressing tent. Older’s Great U. S. Circus followed this in 1852. Others under his name included Orton & Older’s, with Miles Orton in the years 1858-60, and Older's Museum, Circus and Menagerie, 1870-73. [John Dingess: Described him as “one of the most gentlemanly of managers,” recalling that he was “extremely popular in every section of the county, especially throughout the West,” and in appearance being easily taken for a person of the clergy.] At the end of P. T. Barnum’s 1872 season, a smaller show was formed in Detroit and sent South under the management of Older, leased to use Barnum’s name and partially financed by him. The Barnum name was expected to draw large crowds and the surplus animals loaned to Older would be cared for throughout the winter months. The tour opened in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 4, 1872, and then followed a route through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana, ending up with financial trouble in New Orleans. An eight-day stand there closed the operation, which was said to have lost Older his life’s savings of $60,000. Older and J. M. Chandler contracted to buy the show property from Barnum & Co., giving Older rebirth in circus management under the title of Older & Chandler’s Trans-Atlantic Circus and Menagerie. The tour took the show from winter quarters at Algiers into Mississippi and, from there, north into Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, back down to Kansas and, ultimately, Texas, after which the unfortunate circus folded in Shreveport, Louisiana. Continued in show business for another decade before retiring to his farm near Onoka, Minnesota.

OLINZA, MISS. Polish in origin, and Parisian as a professional, was the second ascentionist in America. She appeared with Warwick’s circus, 1855.

OLIVER, FRED. Treasurer, George W. DeHaven’s, 1865.

OLIVER, HARRY. Contracting agent. Batcheller & Doris, 1882; John B. Doris’, 1883.

OLIVER, JAMES. Robinson & Lake, Wood’s Theatre, Cincinnati, winter 1859; Robinson & Lake, 1860.

OLIVER, JOE. W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1889.

OLMA, WILLIAM. “Leaps for life”, Hippotheatron, 14th Street, NYC, November, 1864; monkey-man, Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1870.

OLMSTEAD, IRA. Manager, western unit, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., 1841.

OLWINE, FRED. Lake’s Hippo-Olympiad, 1867.

OMAR, HENRY. Spalding & Rogers, 1856, 1859.

ONOFRI, CHARLES. Kenebel’s Parisian Circus, fall 1885.

ORD, “MASTER.” Rider. Melville, Maginley & Cooke, 1875.

ORDEY, KAROLY and AUGUSTA [or Ordney]. Hungarian jugglers, Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1881.

ORGAN, WILLIAM. Equestrian, L. B. Lent’s, 1868-71; liberty horses, Montgomery Queen’s, 1876-77; ringmaster and equestrian director, VanAmburgh & Co., winter 1877-78; performing stallions, W. W. Cole’s Australian tour (which left San Francisco, October 23, 1880), 1880-81.

ORMAN, CHARLES. Clown. D. S. Swadley’s, 1872; Orrin Bros.’, Mexico, winter 1881-82.

ORMOND, MARGARET FRANCES [r. n. Francelia Delsmore]. (d. December 4, 1863) Equestrienne. Considered in her time to be one of the foremost female riders in the world. Became a member of Spalding’s and Spalding & Rogers, 1844-64. Beloved by all her colleagues. Died of yellow fever while with this concern, St. Jago, West Indies. Originally a Quakeress, had a good education, was kind and affable, and endeared herself to a large circle of acquaintances. Rode under the name of Miss Delsmore for a number of years, even after marrying a Mr. Palmer. Had one child, a bright boy, who was named Clarence Delsmore Palmer, and who died at age 15. Circus rider Kate Ormond was her adopted daughter.

ORMOND, KATE [r. n. Kate Simpson]. (d. August 10, 1892) Equestrienne, with a specialty of single equitation. Adopted daughter of Mrs. Margaret Frances Ormond (see above), and fellow apprentice of Charles Fish with Charles J. Rogers on the Spalding & Rogers show. As a young woman, had raven black hair and coal black eyes; was an excellent pad rider and attractive both in and out of the ring. Made a successful tour of the coastal cities of South America, 1862-63, where, it is said, men crowded around the circus entrance to escort her to her hotel. Returned to NYC, April 1864, and appeared at the Hippothreatron, 14th Street, with Spalding & Roger, where her apprenticeship ended with her marriage to Ferdinand Tourniaire, May 15, 1864, both being members of Spalding & Rogers company. The marriage ended with her filing for divorce, June 1869. Then married an actor of considerable means, Richard Pennistan - the man had won a grand prize in the Havana lottery of $500,000 in gold but, unfortunately, became interested in thoroughbred horses and lost it all. The marriage was as unsuccessful as the first and Kate settled in Mexico with her son. A third marriage was to a non-professional named Wood. Spalding & Rogers, 1856-62, Old Bowery Theatre, NYC, 1861; West Indies, 1863-64; Hippotheatron, NYC, with Spalding & Rogers, spring 1864; Dan Rice’s, 1864; J. F. Orrin’s, South America, 1865-66; Dan Castello & Co., 1866; Orrin Bros.’, 1867-68; Mexico, winter, 1881-82, 1883-84. Died in Mexico City.

OROVIO, E. Spanish gymnastic clown, Main & VanAmburgh, 1890.

ORR, COL. NOAH. (d. July 1, 1882) “The Ohio Giant.” Said to be a handsome man who stood 8’ 2” in his stockings and weighed 560 pounds. Yankee Robinson’s, 1866; VanAmburgh’s, 1872; P. T. Barnum’s, 1874.

ORRIN, GEORGE FREDERICK. (December 6, 1815-May 15, 1884) Born in County Chester, England. Early in career formed a partnership with Thomas Nunn, Felix Walker, and William Stewart and, calling himself George Honey, performed in England as The Acrobat Family. The troupe came to America, 1845, and opened at Niblo’s Garden, NYC. Later, traveled with Rockwell’s, Howes & Mabie, and other shows of the period. 1851, visited Cuba and Mexico. When the troupe broke up, Orrin formed a family act and traveled with such shows as Spalding & Rogers, Dan Rice’s, and H. Buckley & Co. (1857). Orrin family formed a partnership with the Kneass Family as a “room show,” 1857. Went to the West Indies later that year in partnership with G. Chiarini. On return, 1859, performed at Barnum’s Museum; 1860 in other variety halls; John Wilson’s, California, 1861. Orrin & Sebastian Circus organized, 1863, and for 2 or 3 years toured South and Central America and the West Indies. Sebastian sold out to the Orrins, 1866, and the show continued as Orrin’s California Circus. The family returned to San Francisco, 1868; combined with the Gregorys, 1870, to tour California and Oregon; broke up when the show came to grief in Stockton, CA. After which, left for South America to join Courtney & Sanford. When that company disbanded in Valparaiso, joined with the Nelson Brothers (Sam and John), Charles Lasaille, and the Rosalin Sisters for a tour through southern Chili. Later, joined Chiarini’s and remained with it until 1872. Continued working in the Southern Hemisphere for several years before dying in Mexico City. Wife Zilla T. (April 3, 1828-May 24, 1884) was born in Sheffield, England.

ORRIN BROTHERS [George Washington, Charles, Edward]. Sons of George F. and Zilla T. Orrin. See George Frederick Orrin above. George and Edward, joined George L. Fox’s “Humpty Dumpty” Troupe for 2 years. Spring 1877, took a variety and pantomime show to Havana where they continued in various enterprises until 1880. Opened their first circus company, 1881, establishing a theatre circus in Mexico City at a cost of $80,000, from which they made tours of the Mexican interior. The venture lasted until George’s death in London. George W. (February 7, 1846-September 9, 1892), the eldest of the three brothers, born in NYC, and entered the ring around 1850 with Dan Rice’s, traveling with his father. Visited Mexico and Cuba as early as 1854. Various times connected with Spalding & Rogers, Harry Buckley’s, Levi J. North’s. Throughout career, performed in most acts in the circus program - rode well enough for scene and 2-horse acts and was sufficient as a clown, even portrayed Little Eva in Yankee Robinson’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” Co., 1856. December 1875, made a trip to southern France for the benefit of wife’s health. Returned, March 1876; wife died May 30. Married Miss M. Medina, December 27, 1879, NYC. Edward (1847-1924) took over management after brother’s death on their 12th winter season in Mexico City. He married Zillah Covell in Troy, NY, December 4, 1893. She died from childbirth in Troy, July 28, 1897, age 25. Charles F., the youngest brother and the most obscure, was not always connected with the firm.

ORTON FAMILY. See Orton genealogy. Hiram (1805-August 2, 1883), the proprietor of Orton Bros.’, was a sailor on the Great Lakes until he formed a circus, starting from Portage, WI, 1854-57. In partnership with P. A. Older, Orton & Older, 1858-60. Retired from managing, 1862. Died of heart trouble, Norris, MI, age 72. Miles (November 10, 1836-November 23, 1903) was born near Erie, PA. Entered the circus profession as a member of his father’s company, Orton & Older, where he remained several seasons as an equestrian. Moving away from the family show, equestrian manager and co-proprietor, Stowe & Orton, 1870; W. W. Cole’s, 1871-74; bareback rider and owner of all privileges, Joel E. Warner’s, 1873; equestrian director, Burr Robbins’, 1875-76; Great Roman Hippodrome, 1877; H. C. Lee’s, winter 1877-78; Great American Circus, 1878; equestrian director, Great Transatlantic Allied Shows, 1879. In 1880, began his own management with a wagon show. After 2 successful seasons, took out a 24-car railroad show, Orton’s Anglo-American Shows, until illness caused a loss of fortune. Reorganized into a 4-car show, 1883-85; then chartered the steamer, J. H. F. Dowell, as a boat show on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers for 2 seasons; manager, Tribbey & Co.’s Mastadon Dime Circus, 1887. After securing DeArley & O’Brien’s, renamed Rentz’, operated for 4 seasons throughout the South and Southwest, returning East, 1893. December 4, 1902, organized Miles Orton’s Big Southern Show. Equestrian director, Phil Diefenbach’s, 1895; equestrian director, New York Circus, 1897; manager, Orton Children’s Liliputian Dog and Pony Circus, 1898. It has been said that he was the first rider to carry 2 people at once with the horse galloping at full speed. Married equestrienne Mary Ann Cole in St. Louis, MO, August 22, 1862. They divorced May 20, 1878, Circuit Court, St. Louis, MO. Had 2 sons from a 2nd marriage to Elizabeth Hayes - Norman and Myron. Confusion of family members occurs because, during his management, took in and trained a number of young performers who all used the family name. Died of a stroke at Key West, FL, age 66.

ORTON, JOHN. Juggler, globe performer. No relation to Hiram Orton. Apprentice, Floating Palace, 1852; Whitbeck’s, 1854; Ballard & Bailey, 1855; Major Brown’s, 1857; Mabie & Crosby, 1858.

ORTON, SARAH B. (d. October 6, 1931) Wife of R. Z. Orton. Died at Colorado Springs, CO.

ORTUS, PROF. Aeronaut. A native of England. United States Circus, 1882. Died in Maysville, KY, this year on August 7 when he slipped from the trapeze bar of his balloon and fell into the Ohio River.

ORVILLE, CHARLES. Balancing trapeze act, Great Chicago Circus, 1879; S. Dutton’s Southern, 1880; equestrian director, aerialist, McMahon’s, 1888.

ORVILLE, CORA. Great Australian Show, 1880.

ORVILLE, HARRY and MAY. Hart, France & Co. (H. H. Hart, F. F. France, proprietors), 1889.

OSBORN, J. Levi J. North’s, 1859-60.

OSBORN, TOM. English clown. Wife’s name was Harriot; the children were Thomas, William, Lottie and Lavina. E. F. & J. Mabie’s, 1847; clown, Dan Rice’s, 1848-49; Mabie-Raymond-Driesbach’s, 1852; Driesbach & Mabie, 1853; L. G. Butler’s, 1854-55; Levi J. North’s, 1856-59; Hyatt & Co., 1859; World Circus, 1860; Antonio Bros.’, 1659-61; John Robinson’s, 1867. May have returned to England and had a traveling show and shooting gallery.

OSBORNE, W. Gymnast, First National Union, 1861.

OSTRANDER, SAM. Clown, James T. Johnston’s, 1867.

OSTRON. Bancker’s New York Circus, 1824.

OSWALD, MAUD. Race rider, P. T. Barnum’s Roman Hippodrome, 1875. In the fall of 1877, said to be riding 20-mile races for a purse of $100 in the driving parks of Minnesota. Hippodrome jockey, Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1882; equestrienne, Sparrow’s Royal Pavilion Show, 1886. While with the company, her fiance, gymnist David Hawley, fately injured himself attempting a triple somersault. Four days later, June 9, 1886, at General Hospital, Montreal, Canada, the two were married. Hawley died the following day.

OTERO, MARIA. Bareback rider, Martinho Lowande’s, 1881.

OUNZAND BROTHERS. Acrobats, W. W. Cole’s, 1874.

OURA, S. Sword walker, with Barnum & Bailey, 1892.

OURI, ROSINA. Running globe and slack wire, Wallace & Anderson, 1890.

OWEN, J. H. Agent, George W. DeHaven’s, 1865.ncogi iLBuffalo Bill’s, 1885, Oakley becoming the star; remained with that show through 1901. Contracted by Union Metallic Cartridge Co. to make endorsements. Retired, 1913. Both died in November 1926.


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Last modified October 2005