Circus Historical Society
Olympians of the Sawdust Circle
Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A biographical dictionary of the ninteenth century American circus
Ro - Ry
Compiled and Edited by William L. Slout
Copyright © 2005 by William L. Slout. All rights reserved.
ROACH, JAMES. Boss hostler, Robinson & Lake, 1859-60.
ROBBINS, BURR. (August 13, 1837-January 30, 1908) Showman. Born in Union, NY. Sent to Western Reserve University by his parents with the intention of his becoming a minister. Ran off, shipping on a boat as a waiter from Cleveland to Milwaukee. Stowed away on a lumber boat to Chicago, 1855. Eventually drifting back to Cleveland, became a member of the Athenaeum Theatrical Stock Co. as general utility and walking gentlemen. Joined Spalding & Rogers, 1858, as property man at $15 a month and keep. At season’s end, with small savings, opened a concert company of 5 people, called Harmonious Bards, with Prof. C. C. Pratt as his partner and manager; but the venture failed and Robbins was left to pay the bills, which he did by working as a harvester at $2.50 a day. Fall 1859, bought McBullwell’s Panorama of the Revolutionary War and toured with some success until he joined the Union army. Began as wagon boss with Gen. George B. McClellan’s brigade and remained for the duration, working his way up to becoming a Colonel. After leaving the service with savings, built and operated 2 variety theatres in the oil country at Pit Hole and Oleopolis and continued during 1866-67 until the wells dried up. Following year, was in the shoe and boot business, South Haven, MI. Winter 1869, bought an interest in Bill T. D. Travis’ Painting of the Army of the Cumberland. Following summer, bought a sideshow from Jim McGiver, making fair dates with the attraction on its 2 wagons, 5 horses, and a buggy. Purchased a spotted wild cat and called it an American leopard. Sacred fowls from India were white hens stained red with vermilion. Had a deformed mule with an exceedingly broad head and a snout that turned up, purchased for $10, and billed as the Moorish Magi. Shortly, picked up the remains of the bankrupt John Stowe Circus and formed the Burr Robbins Seven Co.’s Circus and Menagerie in conjunction with Stowe. The two split up, 1873, with Robbins forming a new show out of the equipment of the old European Circus of Smith, June & Nathans. Continued as the owner of the Burr Robbins’ Circus through the season of 1888. 1889-90, held a controlling interest in James M. French & Co.’s Circus and Menagerie. Robbins had a great propensity for saving money, much of which he invested in real estate in Chicago and elsewhere throughout the country. During his latter years, holdings totaled some 40 pieces of property, including a ranch in Kansas, the whole valued at more than two million dollars. Died in Chicago, age 70.
ROBBINS, FRANK A. (June 15, 1854-October 10, 1920) Rider and showman. Started in the circus business as a candy butcher. Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1870; Hemmings & Cooper, 1871; George F. Bailey 1872-73?; concert ticket seller, Warner, Henderson & Springer, 1874; Melville, Maginley & Cooke, 1875; candy stand, P. T. Barnum’s, 1876; VanAmburgh’s, 1877; P. T. Barnum’s, 1878; Was a protégé of Adam Forepaugh’s, menagerie booklets, 1879; privileges, Pullman & Hamilton, 1880. Started his own show, May 6, 1881, and continued with it for several years, including the New York Circus, 1893, which sailed up the Hudson on a chartered steamer, stopping at various cities. General manager, Robert Hunting’s, 1894-95; lessee and general manager, New York Circus, 1897; Frank A. Robbins United Shows (Frank A. Robbins, Gil Robinson, John W. Hamilton, W. A. Conklin, proprietors), 1898; sideshow manager, Sun Bros.’, 1899. November 9, 1910, his 18 year old daughter, Winona, disappeared from her home in Jersey City and was married several hours later to Ray W. Anders, a 23 year old candy butcher. Operated his own show, 1905-1915. Retired from the circus business, fall 1915. Unable to remain idle, entered the carnival business as well as placing circus acts in vaudeville. 1916, was one of the first showmen to transport by motor trucks. Used specially constructed 2-ton trucks for the baggage with trailers for the cages, ticket wagons and chandelier wagon. [Robbins: “I have been investigating the feasibility of motor truck transportation for upwards of a year and have convinced myself that it is the one and only proper method. I figure that we can save from $35,000 to $40,000 on transportation in a season and what is more, it will enable me to visit and show in towns where under ordinary conditions, by railroad haulage, it would be impossible.”] Was a resident of Jersey City, NJ, for some 20 years where he headquartered his show. Had a wife, Matilda, a daughter, Winona, and a son, Milton A. Died at Riverside Hospital, Charleston, SC, from the effects of injuries incurred when he fell 20’ through a skylight at Andrews, SC, on October 10.
ROBBINS, JASON. Dining room caterer. P. T. Barnum’s, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, Adam Forepaugh’s, Burr Robbins’. Cookhouse proprietor, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1879-80. Usually hired 6 cooks and from 40 to 50 waiters and dish washers and other helpers made up the number to about 65 people. A different contract was made with the show each season, varying with the price of provisions. Invested his spare money in Brooklyn and New York business property and retired from the business independently wealthy.
ROBERTS. Handler, with June, Titus & Co., 1833, where he was advertised as having been a keeper at the Tower of London. November of that year, severely mauled and, in all probability, permanently incapacitated, causing him to be replaced by his assistant, Isaac VanAmburgh.
ROBERTS. Clown. West’s, 1821; with a circus in Portland, ME, summer 1821, also did the farce, Miller and Coalman; comic songs, Simpson & Price, Olympic, Philadelphia, May 1823; Broadway Circus, NYC, June 1823.
ROBERTS, CHARLES. “Athletic Artist,” L. B. Lent’s, 1870; costumer, Howes’ Great London, 1871-72.
ROBERTS, GEORGE. John Robinson’s, 1871.
ROBERTS, JAMES and MRS. Clown, juggler, actor. James West’s, 1821; Davis & Co., 1821; comic songs, Price & Simpson, 1823-24; juggling, with Mrs. Roberts, Price & Simpson, 1826; with Mrs. Roberts, Brown & Bailey, 1828; with Mrs. Roberts, Blanchard’s, 1830; Hopkins & Co. (Tippoo Sultan menagerie), 1833; Eagle Circus, 1836; S. H. Nichols’, 1838; Bacon & Derious, 1838. Mr. And Mrs. James Roberts did both juggling and balancing. [Described in 1828 as: “Monsieur and Madame Roberts (and their) faculty of balancing and catching and throwing balls. . . . He balances long and heavy articles on his chin and forehead keeping them at pleasure in rapid rotary motion. A musket, for example, inverted and resting with the point of the bayonet on his chin will be kept perfectly erect and turning with great rapidity. We are told that he sometimes supports five heavy muskets at once, and keeps them balanced, the point of one bayonet only resting on his chin. Both M. and Mme. throw and catch balls, rings and large knives—they sometimes have eight balls in motion at once.”]
ROBERTS, JAMES. Head hostler, Cooper, Bailey & Co. Australian tour, 1877.
ROBERTS, JOHN. See John Cleveland.
ROBERTS, MARY. Race rider, P. T. Barnum’s Roman Hippodrome, 1875.
ROBERTS, NICK. Roberts & Gardner (Nick Roberts, Frank A. Gardner, proprietors), 1886.
ROBERTS, THOMAS. Acrobat and leaper. Haight’s Great Southern, 1874; Robinson & Myers, 1883.
ROBERTSON. Gymnast from London. Had a company at Vauxhall Garden, NYC, July 1802; combined with Thomas Franklin, Jr. for a circus, February 1803, Newport, RI.
ROBIE, J. A. Contortionist, John F. Wood’s Allied Shows, winter 1889-90.
ROBINSON, ALEXANDER. (1812-February 27, 1887) Native of Schenectady, NY. In early life, his parents died, leaving 4 brothers to make it on their own. Learned the blacksmith trade, but after brother John went south and entered the circus business, soon followed. Later, started Robinson, Toole & Lake’s Circus. When this disbanded, started a show of his own, which was on the road for more than 30 years. Always considered Utica, NY, his home, living at 64 Whitesboro Street in retirement. Married Mary Jane Deery, November 29, 1858. Had 2 children, Boyd Robinson and Mrs. Helen Ripley, both of Utica, and also an adopted son and daughter. Robinson & Eldred, 1847; assistant manager, John Robinson’s, 1857-58. Returned to Utica, joined with Levi J. North for a show playing in the East. When North retired, Alexander continued alone. Retired in 1878. Died of apoplexy in Utica, NY, at age 75.
ROBINSON, BOYD. Gymnast and leaper. Son of Alex Robinson. Robinson & Lake, 1848-49, 1859-60; Alex Robinson’s, 1862; Robinson & Brothers, 1863; Robinson & Deery, 1864; Alex Robinson’s, 1869-75.
ROBINSON, CHARLES. Youngest son of John F. Robinson, who never really saw active service in the ring, for “old John” was retired when he was growing up. Married Minnie Marks, October 20, 1879.
ROBINSON, CLARENCE. Rider. Son of James Robinson. Worked with his father for many years. Was Beeswing in The Sprite of the Silver Shower (“It was astoninishing to see this child, scarcely five years old, doing his little pantomime as gracefully and correctly as many we have seen who had reached man’s estate.”), Hippodrome, NYC, winter 1865-66; L. B. Lent’s, only 5 years old, 1866; Parisian Circus, assembled for the Paris Exposition, 1867; winter circus, Academy of Music, New Orleans, 1868-69; Gardner, Kenyon & Robinson, 1869; James W. Wilder & Co., 1873; Haight’s Great Eastern, 1874; bareback buffalo rider, Montgomery Queen’s, 1875; Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1876; Great Chicago Circus, 1879; Ryan & Robinson’s, 1882; Westman’s, 1883; Martell’s, 1884; S. H. Barrett’s, 1885-87; W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1889.
ROBINSON, EDWARD. Gymnast, Adam Forepaugh’s, 1875.
ROBINSON, ELIZABETH. (b. March 4, 1825) Wife of old John Robinson, nee Elizabeth Frances Bloomer, born in Madison, IN. Married Robinson, January 5, 1841, and eventually gave birth to 5 boys and a girl: John F., Gilbert, James H., Frank M., Katie V. [Mrs. Robert Stickney]. Rode mančge in her husband’s circus.
ROBINSON, EUGENE. Son of James Robinson and brother of Clarence. Worked with his father’s show. Also Montgomery Queen’s, 1875; Cooper, Bailey & Co. when they left for Australia, November 8, 1876; Great Chicago Circus, 1879; manager, Robinson & Myers, 1883. Not to be confused with the Eugene who was the Floating Theatre operator, 1888. See James Robinson.
ROBINSON, FAYETTE LODAWICK “YANKEE”. (May 2, 1818-September 4, 1884) Showman and clown. Born near Avon Mineral Spring, Livingston County, NY, a direct lineal descendent of Dr. Robinson, the eminent divine who came to this country in the May Flower. Began work with his father as a shoemaker in West Richmond, NY. 1837, opened his own shoemaker’s shop in Medina, MI. At the end of the year, returned home and married but his wife died within a few months. Returned to the shoe business, this time at Dansville, NY. Entered show business there, 1845, exhibiting two oil paintings by S. C. Jones, each 12’ by 15’, representing “The Raising of Lazarus” and “The Baptism of Christ.” December 1845, performed the role of Radcliff in Richard III for a theratrical group in St. Louis. Organized Olympic Serenaders, 1846, presenting minstrel and variety entertainment (Robinson doing Lucy Long). August 1846, joined June & Turner, remaining with them 2 seasons, filling in the intermediate winter with Henry Rockwell’s, Cincinnati. Again went into business for himself, 1848, performing with his wife and a musician named Charles Gilson, traveling with a 2-horse wagon. After closing, fall of that year, put out a river boat entertainment, an unsuccessful venture that ended with the sheriff possessing the boat to satisfy creditors. Scenery and properties being clandestinely removed, the company set up in an abandoned church until spring, 1849, when it was back on the road presenting dramatic performances. Shortly, enlarged the company and continued in this manner until 1851. Winter 1852-53, leased Frank’s Museum, Cincinnati, where first billed himself with the name of “Yankee.” Opened the following spring in a large tent, performing Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Sam Patch. During ensuing winter, managed a theatre in Dayton, OH. Back under canvas the following summer. By this time, had accumulated some 40 head of horses, so opened a stable in Indianapolis, February 1856, giving circus performances twice a week. In the summer, set out in the circus business with great success. By 1858, had two shows out - Burt & Robinson’s Old-fashioned Circus, A. S. Burt, manager, and the other, a double one, with circus and dramatic performances in the same tent. The season was a disaster. 1860, commenced a dramatic tour under canvas that lasted until 1865, when he purchased James Melville and Jerry Mabie’s Australian Circus. After the 1866 season, erected Yankee Robinson’s Coliseum and Zoological Garden, Chicago. 1867 tour featured the “Wallapus” as an extra attraction. 1868, M. Smith of Philadelphia invested $60,000 in the show, with W. C. Coup as assistant manager, and enjoyed a successful season. Good fortune continued the following year, when it was said that the show was making more money than any previous circus organization. 1870, Robinson divided the company, taking “a ninety-eight horse trick” into Canada, while renting the remainder of the outfit to Enochs & Everett, who went back to the barns in 21 days. 1871, took to rail and boat. Started out in Michigan, 1872, and made a transcontinental journey as far as San Francisco. Remained on the West Coast, 1873, when combined with California circus manager John Wilson. 1874, general manager, Soulier Hippodrome. Following year, with Dan Scott, organized a hippodrome, menagerie, and circus with a stage. Scott’s death, June 28, closed the season. 1876, acted as agent-at-large for W. W. Cole’s. Devoted 1877 to starring in dramatic performances, as had been his custom every winter except one since 1862. Took Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the road again under canvas, 1879, and was successful. Following year, starred in a play written by his wife, F.F.V.’s. Since that time, was involved in but few enterprises; however, 1884, contributed his name and good will to Yankee Robinson & Ringling Brothers’ Double Show, which originated in Baraboo, WI, on May 1 and, because of Robinson’s failing health, closed its season on October 8. Died of Bright’s disease in Jefferson, IA. Was particularly successful as an advertiser and as an innovator of features for the street parade. Married 3 times. First wife was a Miss Nye from Pittsford, NY, with a son from this union, Silas Robinson, who became editor of the Warsaw, IL, Democrat. Second wife was the daughter of Captain Drake of revolutionary fame. Third was a Miss Babcock from Chillicothe, OH. In 1893, Bruce L. Baldwin, Baldwin’s Railroad Shows, upon visiting Robinson’s grave, wrote the New York Clipper: “It seems a sad coincidence of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ to see the lone, unkempt mound that marks the last resting place of such a man as Yankee Robinson, neglected as it has been.” The epistle was effective, for the grave underwent a decent restoration.
ROBINSON, FRANK M. (1850?-February 23, 1882) Rider and clown. Fourth son of old John Robinson. Born in Montgomery, AL. H. Buckley & Co., 1857-60; rider, Albisu’s, Havana, 1866; Thayer & Noyes, 1867, 1870; second clown, John Robinson’s, 1868; contortionist and rope performer, Robinson’s Circus and Gardner & Kenyon’s Menagerie, 1869; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1870-71, 1875; contortionist, James Robinson’s, winter 1870-71; clown and rider, John Robinson’s, 1871-74; gymnast, Melville, Maginley & Cooke, 1875; treasurer, John Robinson’s, 1879. Married Frankie Bailey, daughter of Fred Bailey, July 14, 1879. Died in Cincinnati, age 32, at which time he was part owner in the John Robinson Circus.
ROBINSON, GEORGE. Juggler, Hurlburt & Hunting, 1887.
ROBINSON, GEORGE H. Contracting agent, Wallace & Anderson, 1890; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1892-93.
ROBINSON, GEORGE W. Treasurer, John Robinson’s, California (Frank Frost, manager), 1886.
ROBINSON, GILBERT N. “GIL”. (July 15, 1845-August 17, 1928) Born at Buchanan, VA, the second son of old John Robinson. Began as a tumbler and carpet acrobat, making ring debut, 1847, at 3 years of age, with Robinson & Eldred. With his brothers, took over the management of the John Robinson’s, spring 1871. November 16, 1875, married circus rider Emma Lake Thatcher, Memphis, TN. John Robinson’s, 1865-79; director general, Frank A. Robbins’ (Frank A. Robbins, Gil Robinson, John W. Hamilton, W. A. Conklin, proprietors), 1898; general advance agent, John Robinson’s, 1900. Daughter, Agnes, married Francis Reed, November 29, 1899, Jersey City, NJ. Died in Cincinnati, age 84.
ROBINSON, HARRY. Guilford & Cannon, winter 1889-90.
ROBINSON, HELENE. Rider, with Alexander Robinson’s, 1875.
ROBINSON, HENRIETTA. (b. 1841) An equestrienne daughter of Alex Robinson. Robinson & Eldred, 1847-52; bareback rider, Washburn’s, 1855-56; John Robinson’s, 1857. May have married an Eldred. See Alexander Robinson.
ROBINSON, HENRY. (d. February, 1901) Curiosity. Hod-carrier by trade but appeared with many circuses, billed as the “Wild Man from Borneo.” A black man who wore a large bone ring in his nose and who carried a large bone as a war club. In later years his skin began to peal off, turning his color to white. Made a considerable salary from his various circus and museum appearances, which was spent primarily for drink, a habit which ultimately caused his death in Maysville, KY.
ROBINSON, HERBERT. Rider, W. W. Cole’s, 1886.
ROBINSON, IDELLE. (d. April 10, 1889) Daughter of Yankee Robinson, described as being a woman of beauty and talent although erratic in behavior. From childhood had a desire to go on the stage, a dream that was strongly discouraged by her parents, which may have given rise to acts of defiance. A bizarre incident occurred in about 1887, after her father’s death. While visiting friends in NYC, was discovered on the Brooklyn Bridge, alone and in a semi-conscious state. Was taken to the Chambers Street Hospital where, during the period of revival, she told the doctors that her name was Lulu Wilbur and recounted a fictitious story of a life of romance and adventure. Newspapers picked up the story and for 3 days it was a headline sensation, until she was reunited with friends. This is said to be the first of a number of escapades in which she was involved. The last dido took the shape of her running away from home and roaming the western part of New York state masquerading as a music teacher from Boston. Shortly thereafter she died as the result of an accidental fall, age 19.
ROBINSON, JAMES. (May 20, 1811-February 2, 1908) Associate, strong man. Born in Ithaca, NY. Younger brother of old John Robinson. A man who boasted he had never taken a dose of medicine in his life. Died at the home of his son-in-law, Frank Wright, in Cincinnati, OH, age 97. His brother, Abe, was chief of police at New Orleans during Gen. Butler’s regime. James contested old John’s will, 1889, claiming he was the rightful heir to his estate. Spalding & Rogers, 1851; Star State, 1852; Australia, 1855; Rowe’s, 1857; John Wilson’s, 1859; Robinson & Lake, 1860-1861. Died in 98th year.
ROBINSON, JAMES [r. n. James Michael Fitzgerald]. (1835-1917) Outstanding bareback rider. Born in Boston. Age 9 was apprenticed to John Gossin, the clown, who was with Rockwell & Stone. Remained with Gossin for 2 years, during which time performed as general utility, leaping, tumbling, etc. Spring 1846, indentured to John Robinson, remaining for 9 years. When he left, was the top equestrian in the business. Joined Spalding & Rogers, 1856, and traveled through the East and South; engaged by Howes & Cushing for their United States Circus in England, with which he also toured the Continent; while abroad was connected with Astley’s Royal Amphitheatre, where he created a sensation; following this, rejoined Howes & Cushing at the Alhambra Palace, London, for 3˝ month engagement there; appeared before the royal family, May 14, 1858; followed by a series of performances at Vauxhall Gardens; engaged to the German circus manager, Walslager, for a year at a salary of $250 a week and all expenses paid; returned to London, where he was hired by James M. Nixon for Cooke’s Royal Amphitheatre (James M. Nixon, proprietor), Niblo’s Garden, NYC, 1860. John Robinson’s, 1861; Thayer & Noyes, 1862; Chiarini’s, fall 1862, for his amphitheatre in Havana, Cuba. March 9, 1863, was given a benefit that netted $1,700 and a championship belt that cost almost $1,500. Thayer & Noyes, 1863. At the season’s close, in company with Frank Howes, erected an amphitheatre, Chicago, opening November 24, 1863. Robinson and Howes organized a railroad show, 1864. John Robinson’s, 1864; Dan Rice’s, 1865; Yankee Robinson’s, Chicago, November 1866; Hippotheatron, NYC, winter 1865-66; L. B. Lent’s, 1866; Parisian Circus, assembled for the Paris Exposition, 1867; Albisu’s, Havana, winter 1866-67; winter circus, Academy of Music, New Orleans, January 1869; equestrian director, James Robinson’s Champion Circus, 1869; Robinson’s Circus and Gardner & Kenyon’s Menagerie, 1869; equestrian director, performer, James Robinson’s Circus (Lipman and Walters, proprietors), 1870; combined his circus with P. A. Older’s, 1873; James W. Wilder & Co., 1873; Haight’s Great Eastern, 1874; John Wilson’s Palace Amphitheatre, San Francisco, 1875; Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1876; Great London, 1878; equestrian director, Great Chicago Circus, 1879; Sells Bros.’, 1881, 1884; Ryan & Robinson, 1882; W. W. Cole’s, 1883; S. H. Barrett’s, 1885; Miller, Stowe & Freeman, 1887. [George Middleton: “When he walked in the ring to begin his act, with whip in hand, and jumped on the back of his bare-backed horse one was impressed at that minute that he was ‘it.’ He had that style and grace and finish to his act that no one else ever had that I have ever seen or heard of.”] Finally, retired to a farm in Mexico, MO, where he trained horses and died. Robinson’s riding style was original, fine and graceful; attrative in physique and personality; as a pad or bareback rider, or carrying a boy on horseback, challenged all comers, offering up to $10,000 and his championship belt to anyone who could exceed him. Touted as the greatest bareback rider of his day, his act was described, 1867: “On a bare-backed horse, he now is on his head, now at the other extremity, now backwards, now forwards, now riding sideways, now jumping over banners on one foot, now turning twice around in the act of jumping them, and now on his knees.... The coup de force is the turning of successive back somersaults through three balloons covered with paper and alighting each time on his feet on his horse.” For a time made his home in Louisville, KY, where he had a brother-in-law who was a dry goods merchant, and Robinson, for some years, it was said, was a silent partner in the business.
ROBINSON, JAMES A. (d. May 6, 1900) Contracting agent. Connected for several years with John V. O’Brien’s and Adam Forepaugh’s. Later, manager for John A. Forepaugh’s Temple Theatre, Baltimore, 1891; and with Forepaugh’s Theatre, Philadelphia, 1892. Died in Philadelphia.
ROBINSON, JAMES H. (d. September 26 or 27, 1880) Rider. Third son of old John Robinson and part owner of the John Robinson Circus. Died while traveling in advance of the show, age 33.
ROBINSON, JAMES S. (d. November 1, 1919) Bandmaster for Barnum & Bailey for several years. Prior to that was with Howes & Cushing; leader of brass and reed band, which paraded in the Golden Chariot drawn by a team of 20 horses, L. B. Lent’s, 1874; Howes & Cushing, 1875-1880. Married Sarah Ann Pluce, a non-professional, November 22, 1882. She died October 30, 1894. Musical director, Rice’s, 1896. Retired from the circus at the end of that season. Had a collection of circus posters said to be the largest in the world at that time. Died at Morristown, NJ.
ROBINSON, JENNIE [Mrs. Bennerman]. Sideshow performer. Died July 3, 1873, Little Rock, AR.
ROBINSON, JOHN ALEC. (d. April 30, 1866) Rider. Son of Alexander Robinson. While the John Robinson Circus was exhibiting in Crittenden, KY, March 25, 1866, a gang of ruffians attacked the circus people. In the affray, young Robinson was injured. Died in Cincinnati from the effects. James D. Robinson and John Robinson, Jr. were also badly injured.
ROBINSON, JOHN F. “OLD JOHN.” (July 22, 1807?-August 4, 1888) Founder and long time owner of John Robinson’s Circus and one of the great individuals in circus history. Date and place of birth form a controversy. Sons claimed he was born in Schenectady, NY; other members of the family said the place was Little Falls, NY, while Robinson himself stated that he was born in Albany, NY, July 22, 1807. Copeland MacAllister gives South Carolina as his place of birth. Some believe his date of birth was earlier because, according to his own statements, he was a 4-horse rider with a circus in Boston, 1816. Story has it that he ran away from home at age 9 and did not see his parents again until he was 22, when his mother recognized him as he was riding at the head of a circus procession through the streets of Utica, NY, where his parents were living. After leaving home, ended up as hostler with Blanchard’s, later, Page & McCracken. When only 15, was employed as a watchman near Boston at the winter quarters of Rockwell’s. While there, practiced riding horses at night and, by the time he was 18, was a 4-horse rider with Turner’s, Buckley & Weeks and others. Eldest of four sons of John and Nancy Boyd Robinson - John, Alex, James and Boyd. Father, a blacksmith, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, emigrating to America shortly after the Revolutionary War. For a number of years, was captain of a sailing vessel making crosses between Glasgow and NYC; around 1807, abandoned the sea and settled in Albany. The outset of Robinson’s circus management, was generally associated with partners, the first being John Foster, Robinson & Foster’s National Circus, 1842-44; then combined with Gilbert Eldred, Robinson & Eldred’s National Circus, the leading circus in the South before the Civil War. Partnership came to an end in Richmond, VA, June 28, 1856, after 11 years together. Combined with Bill Lake, 1860-1862. Before going into proprietorship, was connected with James W. Bancker’s, 1832; Edward Eldred’s, 1834; Buckley, Weeks & Co., 1835; Raymond & Weeks, 1836; winter circus, Richmond Hill, NYC, 1837; Lion Theatre Circus, 1837; Charles H. Bacon’s, 1837-38; Bacon & Derious, 1838; manager, circus troupe, Ludlow & Smith, American Theatre, New Orleans, 1840, equestrian manager, Ludlow & Smith, 1841. Was an excellent teacher of riders, James Hernandez being his first outstanding pupil, followed by James Robinson. Established his home quarters in Cincinnati, about 1852, where he raised - John Jr., Gil, Frank, James, Charles, daughter Katie. Katie married Robert Stickney, Sr. and shortly died in child birth. All were from his second marriage. First union, Margaret Yates in Schenectady, NY, 1835, ended in separation, after which he married Elizabeth Bloomer, an equestrienne. She died on Christmas Eve, 1879. Gradually Robinson transferred the running of the John Robinson Circus to his sons. Eldest, John F., became manager; Gilbert was treasurer and later superintendent and general agent; James H., front door superintendent and assistant manager; Charles C., assistant and later treasurer; Frank M., privileges. Through the years accumulated a large amount of wealth and property. 1875, was the Republican nominee for the Mayor of Cincinnati, but was defeated. Was a physical giant of a man, with incredible strength in his prime. It was said he had been known to kill an unruly horse with one blow of his fist. Although a man of charitable inclinations, was profane and quick tempered, described as “impulsive, strong-headed, blunt, laconic, outspoken.” Died in Cincinnati, leaving an estate valued at over $1,000,000. His will prescribed the following distribution: $1,000 to his nephew Boyd Robinson; a lot and house worth $3,000 to neice Mary Robinson; $15,000 to grandson James Robinson, age 8; $15,000 to grandson Robert Stickney, Jr., age 17; the remainder of his estate to his sons Charles M., John F., and Gilbert.
ROBINSON, JOHN F., JR. “THE GOVERNOR.” (1843-1921) Oldest son of old John Robinson. Took over management of John Robinson’s with his brothers, 1871, when his father retired. Trained as a bare-back rider, tumbler and leaper, but increased weight eventually necessitated withdrawal from performing. First wife died, August 6, 1889, age about 44. She was the former Caroline Heywood, daughter of a Confederate colonel from Charleston, SC. The two were married, NYC, 1866. Had 6 children, 4 of which survived her - John G., Katie, Pearl, and “Cad.” When the old John Robinson circus went under new management, 1896, Robinson combined with Franklin Bros. to form Robinson & Franklin. Menagerie of the Robert Hunting show was purchased and added to the already sizeable one of the combined institutions. 1909, sold the circus to his son, John G. Robinson, for $100,000, thereby mending the break caused by the “Governor’s” marriage to his nurse, Mary Maud Logan, which took place in a private car attached to the Robinson Circus, Clarksville, TN, September 22, 1908. The end of all litigation was filed in a Cincinnati court when John F. gave John G. a bill of sale for $1.00 and other considerations, conveying all of the circus property known as John Robinson’s Ten Big Shows. This terminated a nasty legal process. The “Governor” retained a life-long interest in the property that would net him at least $10,000 a year. This misunderstanding in the family which kept father and son at odds during the tenting season of 1908 was then straightened out. A few years later, lost a legal fight with his daughters in the Cincinnati court. The judgment stated that he turn over to them, Pearl R. Lamkin and Caroline R. Stevens, all the stock which he had been holding and which was left to them by their deceased mother; also, required to forfeit $30,000 in acrued dividends, the stocks being valued at nearly $270,000. Referee Whittaker, October 26, 1912, in Cincinnati, declared Robinson bankrupt for the second time within a month and referred the decision to Judge Hollister. Robinson claimed he was solvent and able to pay his debts if given time. In an appeal, he won a $320,000 suit against his two daughters from the Ohio Supreme Court, Columbus, June 24, 1913. His daughter, Mrs. Pearl Lamkin, died of influenza at her home in Chicago, October 8, 1918, age 38. John G. continued until 1912, when he did not take the show on the road because of the financial uncertainty caused by the “presidential excitement.” Instead, divided his circus into vaudeville acts and toured under the auspices of the Western Vaudeville Association, selling the title and remaining equipment of the John Robinson Ten Big Shows to Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers, spring 1916. The “Governor” was 73 years old at this time.
ROBINSON, JOHN G. (January 12, 1872-July 30, 1935) Born in Cincinnati of the famous Robinson family. Son of John F. Robinson, Jr. Engaged in show business all of his life. Was a rider at 18; at 20 an assistant manager of the John Robinson Circus; 1901, took over management and continued to operate the show until 1916. Title then was sold to Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers and later passed into the hands of the Ringling organization. Robinson’s group elephant act appeared for several years at indoor circuses, parks, fairs and at special performances; and eventually came under the management of son, John IV. Was a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Knight Templar; a past potentate of the Syrian Temple Shrine, Cincinnati, for two years, the only circus owner ever to be made a Shrine potentate. Was a trustee of Syrian Temple at time of death; a director of the Cincinnati Zoo, secretary and director of the U. S. Playing Card Company; director of Cincinnati Christmas Seal Committee of the Anti-Tuberculosis League; member of the Cincinnati Club and the Firemen’s Protective Association; honorary member of the Circus Fans’ Association. Died at his home, 3010 Reading Road, Cincinnati, age 63.
ROBINSON, JOHN S. Knockabout clown. P. T. Barnum’s, 1879-80; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1881.
ROBINSON, J. W. sideshow privileges, W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1888.
ROBINSON, KATE. (1851-1874) Daughter of old John Robinson. Married Robert Stickney. Their son was Robert Stickney, Jr. Robinson & Eldred, 1856; John Robinson’s, 1858; Robinson & Lake, 1859-62; Robinson & Brothers, 1863; John Robinson’s, 1864. Died in childbirth.
ROBINSON, MARIE [nee Mary Jane Deery]. Wife of Alex Robinson. With her dancing horse, Don Juan, Robinson & Deery, 1864; the Metropolitan Circus, 1864; (with little Annie, Alice and Master Alex) Alex Robinson’s, 1867-74.
ROBINSON, R. W. Proprietor of the short lived Robinson & Co., 1889.
ROBINSON, STUMP. Master of ring stock, P. T. Barnum’s, 1872.
ROBINSON, WILLIAM. Adam Forepaugh’s, 1878.
ROBON, PEDRO. Troupe of aerial artists, Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton, 1881.
ROCHE, ELIZABETH ANN. Trapeze performer, Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton, 1881.
ROCHELLE, MONS. Gymnast. L. B. Lent’s 1861-63. Advertised: “Performs Incredible Feats, upon an iron frame at the top of the pavilion, forty feet from the ground, the great performance being known as ‘Le Echelle Perileuse’.” Tom King’s, 1864; Palmer’s Great Western, 1865.
ROCHETTE, J. B. “FRENCHY”. Trick clown and Herculean performer. First visited California, 1850; after which time, made annual tours through the state. Billed as “the pioneer clown of California,” Lee & Bennett, San Francisco, 1853-57; Lee & Ryland, summer 1865. Died at the County Hospital, San Francisco, age 41.
ROCHFORD, WILLIAM. Apprentice, North American, 1845; Eagle/Star Circus, winter 1848; Stokes’, 1849-50; Johnson & Co., 1851-52; Sands, Quick, 1853; Robinson & Eldred, 1854-56; Welch & Lent, 1859. Performed la perche as Rochford & Rentz, at least 1854.
ROCKWELL, ALEXANDER. Clown, Nathan A. Howes’, 1836; Bacon & Derious, 1838; Brown & Mills, 1838 (later as Waterman & Co.); Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1839; Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1840; Broadway Circus, NYC, 1840; Welch & Mann, 1841; Sands’, United Kingdom, 1842; Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1847-48; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1843; Rockwell & Stone, 1843-45; June & Turner, 1846; Stone & Madigan, 1850; E. F. & J. Mabie’s, 1851; Welch’s, 1852.
ROCKWELL, HENRY J. (d. 1849) An orphan from Utica, NY, who never knew who his parents were. A man by the name of Bagely was his guardian, at one time quite wealthy but later failed in business. Began in circus business as an apprentice rider to Samuel McCracken at North Pearl Street Circus, Albany, NY, 1826. Rider, Albany Circus, 1826; Tivoli Gardens, Philadelphia, 1826; William Blanchard’s, 1827, 1830; Simon V. Wemple’s, Troy, NY, 1828; Royal Circus, 1831; Fogg & Stickney, 1832; Edward Eldred’s, 1834; manager, Old Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1835; Oscar Brown’s, 1835; Frost, Husted & Co., 1836; J. J. Hall’s, 1836; Frost & Co., 1837; proprietor, with H. Hopkins and Matthew Buckley, Buckley, Rockwell, Hopkins & Co., 1838; manager, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., Bowery Amphitheatre, 1839; rider, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., 1841; Yankee clown, Welch’s National, Philadelphia, 1841; equestrian director, Niblo’s Garden, NYC, winter 1843-44; management, Henry Rockwell & Co., winter 1841; co-proprietor with Oscar Stone, Rockwell & Stone’s New York Circus, 1842-44. The men had 2 units, 1845-46, each managing a show; after Stone died, August 1846, kept both shows running, 1847-48, calling them Rockwell & Co.’s New York Circus. Left the business at the termination of the latter season. Died of cholera in Cincinnati, about 35 years of age.
ROCKWELL, MME. Equestrienne, W. W. Cole’s, 1886; 6-horse rider, S. H. Barrett’s, 1887.
RODICUE, L. J. Proprietor, Rodicue & Co., 1889.
RODNEY BROTHERS. Gymnasts and acrobats, Ducello’s United Exhibitions, 1879.
RODRIGUEZ, L. J. Manager, Milwaukee Mid-Winter Circus, Exposition Music Hall, Milwaukee, winter 1894-95.
ROE, FANNY. Dog circus, St. Germain’s Imperial Circus, 1889.
ROFF, J. H. Billed as a great scenic rider and equestrian comedian, his forte being “Pete Jenkins.” S. O. Wheeler’s, 1865.
ROGAN, P. Clown, J. M. Barry’s Great American Circus, 1894.
ROGERS, ANNIE. Dan Rice’s, 1872.
ROGERS, BELL. Equestrian, John Robinson’s, 1872.
ROGERS, CHARLES J. (February 5, 1817-April 3, 1895) Son of English performer John Rogers, who came to USA, 1816, with James West’s circus company. At age 5, made his debut at the Broadway Circus, NYC, in the pantomime La Perrouse, and during the scene where the child is carried away upon the monkey’s back, both monkey and child fell from a high rock, young Rogers getting his collar bone fractured, which was the only bone fracture he ever received during his career. Made ring debut at age 8, in Baltimore, January 11, 1826, with Price & Simpson on the occasion of his father’s benefit (Charles’ brother, W. Rogers, age 7, was also brought out), where he performed on the trampoline and turned a somersault over 4 ponies. 1826, apprenticed with combined shows of Quick & Mead and Fogg & Howes. Fogg & Stickney, Washington Circus, Philadelphia, 1828, 1830, 1839; John Lamb’s, 1831; Brown’s, 1835-37; Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1839; proprietor (Charles Rogers, John Shay, John Mateer, J. W. Jackson), Cincinnati Circus, 1840-41; Welch & Delavan, 1841, 1847; Welch & Mann (at this time was designated as “the great equestrian of the South”), 1843-44; Mann, Welch & Delavan, 1844, 1846. Joined Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1847, as principal rider, and remained with the company as performer and partner until 1865. While with Spalding’s, 1848, bought an interest in the show. So began the long and successful career of the Spalding & Rogers’ circuses. The men moved onto the river boat, Floating Palace, 1852, and floated up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers; while at the same time, the managers maintained a land circus. Spalding & Rogers performed in NYC during the indoor season, 1854-55. With Spalding, converted the Pelican Theatre, New Orleans, into the Spalding & Rogers’ Museum and Amphitheatre, 1856, and performed there for a few months. At the close of the engagement, February 28, 1856, the Floating Palace started back up the river, featuring Nathan & Co.’s performing elephants. Spalding & Rogers performed in the West Indies, 1863-64. The partnership was dissolved, 1865. Rogers was married to a Miss Davis in Philadelphia, June 1866. Reached his peak as a rider in the 1840s and has since been called the “greatest scenic rider that America has ever had.” [Stuart Thayer: He was “one of the absolute master riders of America.”] Died at his home in Germantown, PA.
ROGERS, DELLA. Tight-rope performer, daughter of Nat Rogers, 1864. See Nathaniel P. Rogers.
ROGERS, E. O. Proprietor, Rogers’, 1890-91.
ROGERS, ETTIE. Albino lady, P. T. Barnum’s, 1873-77.
ROGERS, JOHN. Rider. Came to America from England with James West’s troupe, 1816, along with his son, Charles J. Rogers. Simpson & Price, Philadelphia, Baltimore, 1822; still vaulter, Simpson & Price, Broadway Circus, NYC, 1823; riding master, William Blanchard’s, 1823; Richmond Hill Amphitheatre, summer 1823; John Rogers’, NYC, 1823-24; Price & Simpson, 1823-26; Aaron Turner’s, 1842.
ROGERS, M. D. Proprietor, M. D. Rogers’, 1891.
ROGERS, MRS. C. J. Performing horse handler, Spalding & Rogers’ New Orleans Circus, 1859.
ROGERS, NATHANIEL P. “NAT.” Scenic rider and gymnast. Levi J. North’s, 1855; Spalding & Rogers, 1856-59; Hyatt & Co., 1859; Niblo & Sloat, Cooke’s Amphitheatre, 1860; R. Sands’, 1861; Howard’s Athenaeum, Boston, Goodwin & Wilder, 1861; Rogers & Ashton’s acrobatic troupe, 1861; Spalding & Rogers, South America, 1862. Returned from South America with his 2 boys early in 1871, after some 9 years absence. Was probably one of the team of Rogers & Hammond, gymnasts with the Imperial Brazilian Hippodrome, Philadelphia, winter 1872-73; posturing with his sons, Charles and Antonio, for Joel E. Warner’s; Great Russian Athletes, West Indies, 1875-76.
ROGERS, WILLIAM E. (d. May 1, 1886) Born in Brewster, NY, a nephew of Egbert Howes and grandson of Nathan Howes. Father was lost on a steamer in Lake Michigan. Treasurer, P. T. Barnum’s (1879) and for VanAmburgh & Co. With the latter, 1883, a train of cars was wrecked by a cyclone in Minnesota; Rogers, picked up for dead, partially recovered from the accident. Died in Towners, NY.
ROHM, ANNA JANE [nee Duck]. (1846?-May 28, 1875) Sideshow fat lady. Youngest and smallest of three sisters. Born in Licking County, OH. At age 20, married Rohn, a trainer of dogs and horses. 1874 weighed 583 pounds, was 6’ tall and 72” around the waist. Connected with Barnum’s enterprises and with the European Circus. Died at age 29 in Baltimore, Washington University Hospital.
ROLLAND BROTHERS [Henry, William]. Gymnasts and acrobats. Began circus performing on John Robinson’s, 1862, as the Rolland Brothers. Comparable to the Hanlon Brothers in their skill as performers and famous for their act called Alitora Volante, which consisted of a series of leaps, swings and somersaults in mid-air. After the Robinson engagement, joined the Hanlon Brothers on tour. Next, took a specialty company down the Mississippi, playing small towns on their way to New Orleans; there, engaged by Spalding & Bidwell for a European tour. See William Holland and Henry Rolland.
ROLLAND, CAROLINE. Equestrienne. Pad rider, L. B. Lent’s, first season in USA, 1868, 1869-72; 5-year tour of Europe, performing with Hengler’s, England, 1874; J. W. Myers’ Cirque American, Paris, 1877; Batty’s, London, 1877. On return to USA, engaged with Den Stone’s, 1878; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1878; W. C. Coup’ New United Monster Show, 1879; Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1883; then Sanger’s Amphitheatre, London, 1884; back to Adam Forepaugh’s, 1885. Daughter, Lizzie, was also a rider with Forepaugh's, 1885. Husband, William, was a cornetist attached to Emidy’s band.
ROLLAND FAMILY [William C., Mme. Rolland, “Little Willie”]. General performers. William C. was a clown, rider, long-stilt act and tumbler. His wife was a vocalist and entrée rider. Their son, William, Jr., a 3 years old in 1875, was doing a bottle pyramid act. Dan Rice’s, 1870; E. Stowe’s, 1871; Howe’s Great London, 1874-75; W. C. Coup’s, 1879. Little Willie, rider and tumbler, drowned while with W. C. Coups’, June, 1879, age 15. While returning to the circus train in the dark, slipped from a railroad bridge. When Coup was informed of the accident, he offered $50 to anyone recovering the body from the river. A property man, Thomas Leddy, was successful in bringing the dead boy to shore; whereupon, Coup ordered his treasurer to pay the sum. Other members of the company added to the reward whatever they could afford.
ROLLAND, HENRY [r. n. Keyes]. (1838-June 1, 1892) Gymnast and acrobat. Born at Culpepper Courthouse, VA. After completing a European tour for Spalding & Bidwell, remained on the continent for over 16 years, traveling with all the large circuses. Called the “American Prince” because of his neat appearance and extravagant mode of living. Returned to America around 1880 and engaged as press agent for Signor Faranta. Next, with Frank Gardner’s, Central America, as business and press agent. Remained in Guatemala when the show returned to the States, where he taught English and Spanish for nearly a year; then took a position as timekeeper for the big dredge boat City of Paris. After having been in show business for nearly 40 years, died of cancer at the Charity Hospital, New Orleans.
ROLLAND, WILLIAM. Cornet soloist. See Caroline Rolland.
ROLLIA, HELEN. Dancer and rider, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1844.
ROLLINS, JIM. Rider, George F. Bailey & Co., 1874.
ROLLINS, WILLIAM. Acrobatic clown. Dan Rice’s, 1869; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1883-85; W. W. Cole’s, 1886. Married Kate Silbon, of the Silbon Family, fall 1885.
ROLTAIR, HARRY. Sideshow and concert magician, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1879.
ROMAINE, AL. Banjoist, with Robinson & Eldred, 1849-50.
ROMALO, THOMAS. Burr Robbins’, 1885.
ROMAN BROTHERS [John H. Murray, George Holland]. Gymnasts. Dan Rice’s, 1856, 1859; L. B. Lent’s, 1860-61. See John H. Murray and George Holland.
ROMELLI FAMILY [Eugene, Marie, and son Carlos or Cecil?]. Aerial acrobatics, Howes’ Great American, London, 1870; came to America the following year with Howes’ Great London, 1871-73; Atlantic and Pacific, 1871; proprietor, with Harvey Johnson, Romelli & Co.’s Great Novelty Circus and Performing Animal Show, 1872; Cooper, Jackson & Co., 1883.
RONALDO BROTHERS. Sells Bros.’, 1885.
RONALDO, CLAUDE. Donaldson & Rich, 1885.
RONCONI BROTHERS. Gymnasts, E. G. Smith’s, 1867.
RONZONTI, MLLE. CONCHITTA [or Ronzati, Rosetta]. Making a grand ascension each day to the top of the pavilion, a distance of 220’ and a height of 50’, tight-rope dancer, James M. Nixon’s Southern, 1870; Great Commonwealth, 1871.
ROONEY, LIZZIE. Ringling Bros’., 1897.
ROONEY, MIKE. Rider, Ringling Bros.’, 1892-94.
ROONEY, SAM. John F. Wood’s Allied Shows, 1889.
ROPER. Simpson & Price (formerly James West’s), 1822, Philadelphia, Baltimore; Simpson & Price, Broadway Circus, NYC, 1823; Price & Simpson, 1827.
ROPER, H. Horizontal bars, Harry Thayer & Co.’s, 1890.
ROSA, PATTI. Serio-comic singer, concert, Montgomery Queen’s, 1876; Cooper, Bailey & Co., Australian tour, 1877.
ROSAVELLA BROTHERS. Trapeze performers, Collins’ Oriental Combination, 1877.
ROSCH, JACK. Cloggist in concert, Great Australian, 1870;
ROSCOE, GEORGE. Advertiser, Nixon’s Amphitheatre, Chicago, 1872.
ROSE, ALLEN. Leaper from England, L. B. Lent’s, 1871; John Robinson’s, 1873.
ROSE BROTHERS. Leapers and tumblers, Irwin Bros.’, 1887.
ROSEBUD, COUNT. W. W. Cole’s Australian tour (which left San Francisco, October 23, 1880).
ROSE, BYRON V. (d. August 8, 1901) Engaged in circus business for some 55 years. Boss canvasman, L. B. Lent’s, 1874; master of transportation, Cooper, Bailey, & Co., 1879-80; Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1881-82; Barnum & Bailey, 1880s-1895, last employment being with this show. [D. W. Watt: “Rose was a gentleman at all times and in his day was considered the best master of transportation that ever was in the business.”] Died of Bright’s disease in Bridgeport, CT.
ROSE, CLARK. (d. February 11, 1887) Born in Royal Oak, MI. Entered circus business around 1873, controlling some of the privileges on Dan Rice’s; later with Batchelor & Doris, and John O’Brien’s. Co-proprietor, Boyd & Peters’, 1878-80; interested in Stowe’s, 1881; in partnership, Carroll & Rose’s Great Eastern, 1882. Died of consumption, Denver, CO.
ROSE, NELLIE. Charioteer, Barnum & Bailey, 1892.
ROSENBAUM, J. Contracting agent, Frank Rich’s Great Eastern, 1886.
ROSENBERRY, PROF. Band leader, from the Academy of Music, NYC, New York Champs Elysees, 1865.
ROSENBURG, J. Contracting agent, Baldwin, Wall & Co.’s Great Eastern, 1880.
ROSS, CHARLES B. Gymnast. George F. Bailey & Co., 1863; Robinson & Deery, 1864; John Wilson’s, San Francisco and Australia, 1865. Remained behind when Wilson took his troupe to India, 1866-67; clown, Chiarini’s, San Francisco, 1868. Become co-proprietor of Woodyear & Ross’ Royal Australian Circus. Privileges, concert and sideshow, Donaldson & Rich, 1885.
ROSS, E. H. Holton & Gates’ Harmoniums, a minstrel band organized for the the Simon Pure American Circus, NYC, October 1, 1866.
ROSS, FRANK. Bartine’s (Charles Bartine, proprietor and manager), 1889.
ROSS, GEORGE. (d. February 4, 1870) Scenic rider. Pupil of James M. Nixon. Took the Nixon name for part of career. Howes & Co., 1848; Crane & Co., 1849; J. M. June’s, 1850; Welch’s, 1852; Welch & Lent, 1854; Howes, Myers & Madigan, 1855; Jim Myers’, 1856; Nixon & Kemp, 1857-58; apprenticeship ended, Welch & Lent, 1859; L. B. Lent’s, 1860; James M. Nixon’s, fall 1860; R. Sands’, 1862; Melville, Cooke & Sands, 1863; pirouetting act and somersault thrower, Chiarini’s, South and Central America, 1869. Died in Rio De Janeiro.
ROSS, JAMES. Agent, Charles Bartine & Co., 1872.
ROSS, JAMES. Detective, P. T. Barnum’s, 1873.
ROSS, VICTORIA. Rider, G. G. Grady’s, 1874.
ROSS, WILLIAM. Vaulter, James M. Nixon’s, 1870.
ROSSETER, R. Tight-rope performer. J. T. and J. B. Bailey’s, 1834; Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1847.
ROSSTON, AUGUSTUS L. [“Gus”]. Advertising agent. Stone, Rosston & Co., 1864; Grand Reserve Combination, 1866; Whitby & Co., 1867; DeMott & Ward, 1868; asst. advertiser, Stone & Murray, 1869; asst. agent, Rosston, Springer & Henderson, 1872; contracting agent, John Robinson’s, 1874.
ROSSTON, FRANK H. (May 30, 1828-February 22, 1874) Showman, ringmaster. Born in Philadelphia. Connected with Dan Rice’s early management until at least 1855; L. B. Lent’s, 1858-59; Dan Rice’s, 1862; ringmaster, Howes’, 199 Bowery, NYC, 1864; Mrs. Charles Warner’s, Continental Theatre, Philadelphia, winter 1864-65; ringmaster and co-proprietor, Stone, Rosston & Co., 1864-66; equestrian director, James M. French’s, 1867-69; co-proprietor and equestrian director, Rosston, Springer & Henderson’s Great Mastodon Caravan, Circus and Menagerie (Frank H. Rosston, Andrew Springer, Abe Henderson and Adam Forepaugh, proprietors), 1871 (Forepaugh bought out his partners, October 1872); equestrian director, concert privileges, Montgomery Queen’s, 1873. Died in Jacksonville, FL, age 46. Married Laura Johnson, whom he met on Dan Rice’s, 1852. They had a daughter and 4 sons.
ROSSTON, GEORGE. Contracting agent, Robinson & Lake, 1865.
ROTHCHILD, A. B. Co-proprietor, A. B. Rothcild & Co.’s Royal Victoria Circus, 1875-76, with John V. O’Brien.
ROTTGEN, MLLE. L. Equestrienne, with Great European, 1865.
ROULESTONE. Rider. Native of Boston, book-binder by trade. Amateur rider, Thomas Stewart’s, 1809. Also landlord possessing building in which circus performed, Roulestone’s Amphitheatre, Boston. Having sold out his amphitheatre to Robert Davis and a Mister Bates, stayed on at what was now called the Boston Circus, giving riding lessons in the morning and performing in the evening.
ROURK, JAMES. Lion king, W. S. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1890.
ROUSE, JOHN. Candy privilege, Wintermute Bros.’, 1897.
ROWE, JAMES. Singing and talking clown, Bryan & Williams, 1894.
ROWE, JAMES R. Proprietor, James R. & William Rowe’s Menagerie, 1834; rider, Lion Theatre Circus, 1837.
ROWE, JOSEPH ANDREW. (1819-1887) Rider and showman. Born at Kingston, Lenoir County, NC. Asa T. Smith’s, 1829-33; Yeaman Circus, 1831-33; continued apprenticeship, Joseph Palmer’s, 1833; Peter Coty’s, 1833-35; Buckley & Weeks, 1835-36; Raymond & Weeks, 1836; in Cuba, 1837; Peter Coty’s, 1838; rider, John Mateer’s, 1843-44; Rich & Rowe (Dariastus Rich and Joseph Andrew Rowe, proprietors), 1844. Show left for South America, spring 1844. Gave the first circus performance under canvas in San Francisco as Rowe’s Olympic Circus, October 29, 1849, and continued showing there and in Sacramento until 1850. Proprietor, Rowe & Marshall’s American Circus (with John R. Marshall), 1858, which toured Australia and parts East. From this latter venture, amassed enough money to retire to a huge ranch in California; later, returned to the circus business and lost his entire fortune.
ROWE, RICHARD. Gymnast, with John Robinson’s, 1879, 1881.
ROWE, S. N. Agent, the Atlantic and Pacific Circus, 1871.
ROWE, WILLIAM. Co-proprietor, James R. & William Rowe’s Menagerie, 1834.
ROWLAND, JAMES. (D. April 4, 1876) Drove a team of 10 Shetlands before the Cinderella Chariot,” Howes & Sanger, 1872; “the King of the Air” balancing trapeze (throwing a double somersault and alighting on a trapeze bar), Melville, Maginley & Cooke, 1875. Died in Wheeling, WV.
ROWLAND, JOSEPHINE. G. F. Bailey & Co., 1869.
ROWLEY, ALICE. Equestrian, John Robinson’s, 1867.
ROYAL JAPANESE TROUPE. Great Chicago, 1873
ROYCE, CHARLES M. Clown. E. Stowe’s, 1871; Cosmopolitan, 1871-72; Cooper & Jackson, 1880, 1882; equestrian director, James T. Johnson & Co., 1881; contractor, Pullman, Mack & Co., 1884.
ROYCE, JOHN. Clown, Cole’s Great New Southern Circus, 1881.
ROYER, ARCHIE. Clown, leaper, tumbler and all-around performer. With wife Rose, Walter L. Main’s, 1892-93; Cole & Lockwood, 1894; Great Wallace, 1896. Rose (d. January 14, 1899) Acrobat. Born in Towanda, PA. Married Archie Steubenville, OH, April 6, 1893. Died of pneumonia, Carrolton, OH, age 24.
ROYER, EUGENE. Walter L. Main’s, 1888.
ROYER, MAUD. Walter L. Main’s, 1888; Melvin, Royer & Jacob’s Big Two Ring Circus, 1895.
ROZETTA, MILLIE. Flying trapeze. James M. French’s, 1870; James M. Nixon’s Southern, 1870.
RUDOLPH, CARL. Courtney & Sanford’s Minstrels, party made up in New York to travel with Courtney & Sanford’s Circus in South America. Sailed from New York, July 23, 1873.
RUGGLES, HENRY W. Acrobat. Raymond & Weeks, 1836; H. H. Fuller’s, 1838; J. W. Stocking’s, 1839; Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1839; western unit, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., 1842; slack-wire, Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1840; slack-rope, Welch & Manns, 1843-44; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1844; Howes & Mabie, 1845-46; Palmer’s Great Western, 1846; slack-rope, Sands, Lent & Co., 1846, 1847; flying cord, R. Sands, 1849; John Robinson’s, 1858; Niblo & Sloat, West Indies, November 1860; Spalding & Rogers, South America, 1862-63; Hippotheatron, NYC, with Spalding & Rogers, spring 1864; Lipman & Stokes, 1866.
RULLEN, ED. General agent, Irwin Bros.’, 1887.
RUNARD, JAMES. Nelson’s South American Hippodrome, California, May 1870.
RUNNELLS, BONNIE. (d. August 16, 1884) Rider, gymnast and variety artist. One of 7 children. Made his debut at age 8, riding with his father, Burnell R. Runnells, at the Cirque Napoleon, Paris. Following year, came to America with the Runnell’s Family (Burnell, and sons Bonnie and Freddie). See Burnell Runnells. Following this engagement, the Runnells Family was discontinued; Bonnie’s father retired and Freddie remained in the circus business. Bonnie followed a career on the variety stage. Later, Dutch clown, P. T. Barnum’s, 1880-81; M. B. Leavitt’s All-Star Specialty Co., 1883, as well as Hilliard & Main’s Circus. Last appearance, Tony Pastor’s Theatre, April 4, 1884. Died in Chicago.
RUNNELLS, BURNELL R. (April 17, 1826-February 2, 1908) Acrobat. Born in Indian Springs, GA. Came into the business, 1837. Equestrian, Rockwell & Co.’s, 1838; rider, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., Bowery Amphitheatre, 1840; June, Titus, Angevine & Co., 1841-42; rider, Rockwell & Stone, 1842-43; Rockwell & Co., 1847; Dan Rice’s, 1848; Howes & Co., 1849; Crane & Co., 1849; Levi J. North’s, 1854; Rowe & Co.’s Pioneer Circus, San Francisco, 1856; Howes & Cushing, Alhambra Palace, London, 1858; acrobat, Price’s, Lisbon, Portugal, 1862; Cirque Napoleon, Paris, 1865; George W. DeHaven’s, 1866; Dan Castello’s, 1867-68; L. B. Lent’s, 1867-68; Dan Rice’s, 1869; returned to Europe, 1869, and performed at the Cirque Champs Elysees; back in USA, James M. Nixon’s Southern, 1870; P. T. Barnum’s, 1871; James M. Nixon’s, 1872; Great Eastern, 1872. Runnells and the boys were with Howard, Langrishe & Carle’s “Black Crook” Co., touring as far West as California. When in California, performed at John Wilson’s Palace Amphitheatre, San Francisco, 1875. Returning East, 1875-76, with Montgomery Queen’s, Runnells Family act discontinued with Burnell’s retirement. One of the first American leapers to accomplish a double somersault from a batoute board, 1850s. Considered one of the handsomest and best physically developed men to appear at that time. Performing with his 2 sons, was unrivaled in the classic school of gymnastics, classic groupings and posturings. Appeared before the Queen of England and the Emperor of France. In later years, was door keeper at the People’s Theatre, NYC, 1886. Died at the Home for the Incurables, Philadelphia, age 82.
RUNNELLS, FRED. (b. 1852) Clown and tumbler. Oldest son of Burnell Runnells, originally a member of the Runnells Family of gymnasts. See Burnell R. Runnells. Family broke up, 1876. Carlo Bros.’, South America, 1877; tumbler, Cooper & Bailey, 1880-81; Leon & Dockrill, Iron Amphitheatre, Havana, winter 1881-82; Cantelli & Leon, Havana, Cuba, winter 1882-83; Hilliard & Main, 1883; Roberts & Gardner, 1886; Barnum-Forepaugh, Madison Square Garden, 1887; Barnum & Bailey, 1893.
RUNNELLS, JAMES. Acrobat, Welch & Mann, 1843-44; Mann, Welch & Delavan, 1845; clown, L. B. Lent’s, 1876.
RUNNELLS, WILLIAM. James Robinson’s, 1872.
RUNNISON, W. General agent, Great Oriental Pavilion Show, 1877.
RUSSELL, G. B. Treasurer, James E. Cooper’s, 1872.
RUSSELL, GEORGE H. Manager, Rufus Welch’s, 1852; treasurer, Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1868.
RUSSELL, JAMES. band leader, Springer’s Royal Cirq-Zoolodon, 1875.
RUSSELL, JOHN N. Clown, Walter L. Main’s, 1886-87; co-proprietor, Clements & Russell, 1888 (but sold his interest to Robert Clements in July of that year); equestrian director and principal clown, Gregory & D’Alma, 1889.
RUSSELL, L. H. General performer, Thompson, Smith & Hawes, 1866.
RUSSELL, LIZZIE. Wallace & Co., 1886.
RUSSELL, MAUD. Walter L. Main’s, 1889.
RUSSELL, SHAD. 40-horse driver, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1873. Said to be one of the best drivers in the country.
RUSSELL, T. B. Cooper, Jackson & Co., 1882.
RUTH, JOHN. Ed G. Basye’s Cosmopolitan Circus and Equestrian Exposition, 1878; Holland & Gormley (George Holland and Frank Gormley, proprietors), 1888.
RYAN BROTHERS. Gymnast. Trans-Atlantic, 1879; Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton, 1881.
RYAN, DANNY. (b. 1868) Acrobat. With original Sells Bros.’ and continued with them off and on until, as Forepaugh-Sells, the show went off the road, 1911. Worked the ground and high bars with the likes of Pettit, McVey, English, Zorella Brothers, Delno, etc. Principal flyer with Ryan, Weitzel, and Zorella. With Barnum & Bailey on the European tour 4 years; Australia with Sells Bros.’; in Cuba - Santos & Artigas, Pubillones, etc. Married Ouika Meers of the famous Meers equestrians. Later years took to clowning until 1935 on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
RYAN, JAMES M. Aerialist, equestrian director. Siegrist, Howe & Co., winter 1884; Donaldson & Rich, 1885; Holland & McMahon, Chicago, fall 1885.
RYAN, J. E. Master of transportation, Reichold Shows, 1897.
RYAN, PATRICK. (1833?-August 2, 1893) From County Tipperary, Ireland. Came to USA, 1854, and entered circus business. Traveled with the smaller shows, sometimes in sideshow management. Later, sideshow manager with Adam Forepaugh’s for several years. In partnership, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding and Joel Warner, 1873, took out Warner, Ryan & Spalding for a season. Following year, with the withdrawal of Spalding, show went out as Warner & Ryan. Ryan & Robinson, 1882-85. In retirement from the circus business, opened a grocery store, Albany, NY. Also owned real estate in that city. Brother of Cornelius Ryan, also a circus man. Died there at about 60 years of age.
RYAN, S. (with John V. O’Brien) proprietor, Joel E. Warner’s Great Pacific Menagerie and Circus, 1871.
RYAN, THEOLA. Donaldson & Rich, 1885
RYAN, TONY. Equestrian director, Lockwood & Flynn, 1887; Holland & Gormley, 1888.
RYDON, WILLIAM and EMMA. Aerialists. Leon W. Washburn’s, 1892-93; Barnum & Bailey, 1895.
RYLAND, ELENA. (May, 17, 1875-1955) or “Nellie,” a nickname used almost exclusively when she retired from show business, was born in Mexico City. Her parents were Elena Jeal and George Frederick Ryland, both circus riders. Kept a diary when traveling with her mother between 1891-1894. Married Cecil Lowande, November, 16, 1900, in St. Louis, MO. They had three sons - Cecil, Jr. (b. 1902) and twins Jeal and Ryland (b. 1904). All were born in Petersburg, IL, where the family maintained a home, later moving to Springfield. After the family was grown, Cecil, Sr. departed for the East. Nellie made her home in Michigan with her twin sons. Cecil died in an accident in NYC in 1940. Both are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Petersburg. First appeared as a teenager, 1887, at a private exhibition at the Jeal sisters’ training school in Jersey City. Made her American debut as a rider, Barnum & Bailey, 1893; within a month, transferred to Adam Forepaugh’s where she and Julia Lowande did a double bareback riding act. 1901, Nellie and Cecil Lowande came together as riders on Walter L. Main’s. From then through 1915 had parallel careers with the same shows. Double riding and hurdle act with Julia Lowande, 1903; rode with her aunt, Linda Jeal, 1905; principal act opposite Sadie Davenport, 1910. Frank A. Gardner’s, West Indies and South America, 1889-93; Walter L. Main’s, 1901; Forepaugh-Sells, 1903; Lowande Bros.’, 1904; Shipp’s, 1905; Campbell Bros.’, 1905-06, 1909-10; Sells-Floto, 1908; Gollmar Bros.’, 1910; Howes’ Great London, 1911, 1914-16; John Robinson’s, 1917-21; Hagenbeck-Wallace, 1922-24; Sells-Floto, 1927-28; Downie Bros.’, 1929; Shipp’s, Trinidad, 1930.
RYLAND, GEORGE F. (1826-April 12, 1890) Principal riding act, tumbler, juggler on ground or horseback, ringmaster, clown, animals breaker and performer. William Cooke’s, England, 1840; Pablo Fanque’s, Liverpool, 1847; James Cooke’s, Glasgow, 1848; Thomas Cooke’s, Portsmouth and Brighton, 1849; Welch’s, Glasgow, 1852; Hernandez & Stone, Bolton and Bradford, 1853; E. T. Smith’s, Drury Lane, 1853; Hernendez, Stone & Newsome, 1854; E. T. Smith’s, London, 1855; Dan Rice’s Circus, 1855-56; juggler, Lee & Bennett’s, San Francisco, 1856-57; Lee’s New National Circus, 1858; Lee & Ryland’s, San Francisco, winter 1866-69; Hayes Park, San Francisco, 1866; Lee & Ryland’s Cosmopolitan Circus, San Francisco, 1866; Lee & Ryland’s Hippodrome, San Francisco, 1866; ringmaster, Jeal & Co., California, 1871; Ryland’s, California, 1872; equestrian director and ringmaster, Crystal Palace Show, 1872; Ryland’s, returning to California after about 5 years spent in South and Central America, 1878; Prof. Samwell’s Great Combination, South America, 1873; equestrian director, American Circus, winter 1879-80. May have been married to Rosaline Lee, daughter of H. C. Lee. Married equestrienne Elena Jeal, 1880. Weldon & Co., winter 1884; Miles Orton’s, 1885; dog circus, Tribbey & Co.’s Mastadon Dime Circus, 1887; Ringling Bros.’, 1897. Had winter quarters in Hayward, CA, for many years. A fine instructor; of his apprentices, Linda and Elena Jeal were the best known as riders and general performers. When Ryland got his own show, called it Jeal & Co., 1871, as well as Ryland’s Oriental up to about the middle of the 1870s, when the girls left.
RYMAN, ADD. Sideshow performer, VanAmburgh’s, 1866.
RYWICK, HERR. General performer, Stone & Murray, 1868.
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