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Olympians of the Sawdust Circle
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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.


UFFNER, FRANK. Privileges. Dan Castello’s, winter 1867-68; VanAmburgh’s, 1871-72; with J. Parks, Howes’ Great London, 1873. Said to be the discoverer of Lucia Zarette and Jo Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy.

UNDERWOOD, JOHN. Rider, Palmer’s Pavilion Circus, 1836.

UNLAUFF, J. F. G. Naturalist and dealer in circus curiosities, Hamburg, Germany, 1882, shells, stuffed birds and animals, skulls and skeletons, as well as live animals.

VAIL, JOHN W. Herculean performer. Native of Mansfield, OH. As a youth was a boatman on the Western rivers. In the ring performed feats while suspended from the center pole of the tent, 10’ above the ground, holding anvils by his teeth and other 50 to 60 pound weights. One day in a town in Indiana the pavilion was hit by a tornado, the pole broke and Vail fell on his head. Though badly injured, survived the fall. Later, abandoned the profession and married a wealthy quadroon in Port Royal, West Indies. Migrated to California and became Squire Vail, Justice of the Peace of Yankee Station. Connected with Bancker’s, 1831; American Circus, 1833; Buckley & Co., 1834; Brown & Co., 1836-37; Waring and Raymond, New Orleans, winter 1837-38. [John A. Dingess: “…one of the oldest time favorites, was a performer of rare excellence in everything he undertook.”]

VALENTINE, CHARLES and MAY. Flying return act, Bruce L. Baldwin’s, 1894.

VALENTINE, SCOTT. Program agent, Baird, Howell & Co., 1874.

VALLEAU. Rider, William Blanchard & William West’s, Canada, 1824-25.

VALLEE, MONS. Interpreter, Spalding & Rogers, 1859.

VALLENTINE, SCOTT. Program agent, Baird, Howell & Co., 1874.

VALVINO, ARTHUR. Dockrill’s, South America, winter 1885-86.

VAN AMBURGH, ISAAC A. (May 26, 1808-November 29, 1865) Lion tamer. Born in Fishkill, NY, of German descent. Became connected with menageries, 1829. Mnd made NYC debut at Richmond Hill Theatre, fall 1833. Same season, appeared at the Bowery Theatre for Thomas S. Hamblin in a melodrama, The Lion Lord; or, the Forest Monarch, in which he rode a horse up a high incline; when he reached the top a Bengal tiger spung out upon him and the two struggled down the ramp to the footlights as in desperate combat. Assistant keeper to a Mr. Roberts, June, Titus & Co., 1833, and continued with this firm through 1837; when Roberts was torn severely by a tiger that year, VanAmburgh became the permanent keeper. Principal attraction, the Zoological Institute, 37 Bowery, November 1834, and performed there every winter season until 1838. Went to England and Europe with Lewis Titus, July 1838, and remained for 7 years, where he gained his fame. First appeared at Astley’s Amphitheatre, London, and later at Drury Lane and the principal cities of Europe. While abroad, several dramas were written for him and were produced with success. Made several tours through the provinces of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales with a traveling menagerie; said to have been the first to introduce the American style of tenting to Great Britain. Returning to America, 1845, June and Titus establish a new menagerie with his name, VanAmburgh & Co., a name that was identified with both menagerie and circus until 1921. After retirement from activity in the ring, around the mid-1850s, he still accompanied the show bearing his name through its annual tours, although it was under the management of Hyatt Frost. 1853, the Raymond interests leased the Floating Palace and refurbished it to house an exhibition of the VanAmurgh menagerie. Strangely, he never owned a show with his name on it. Possesed great physical strength and courage and performed with grace, firmness and self-possession; but frequently used a crow bar to beat his animals into submission. With him the style of animal acts changed from displays of docility to blatant challenges by man and beast and on many occasions he was bitten and chewed by his animals. Never married. Died at Sam Miller’s Hotel, Philadelphia.

VAN AUKEN, HARRY S. Gymnast. Born in Geneva, NY. At age 10, moved to Hudson, MI, with his parents. Age 18, ran away from home and joined the Great Eastern. At close of the season, took George C. Paine as a partner and performed in variety houses with a single bar act. Following spring, they joined the Z. W. Spreague’s Electric Light Show, which had a short life. Following year, were with the Parson & Roy Circus. Paine left the act at the close of the engagement. Took C. W. Cardello as partner, 1883. Made their debut on the double bars, 1884, at Miner’s Eighth Avenue Theatre, NYC. Following summer, Miles Orton’s; later, Tom Canary’s American Four Show. 1885, joined Barnum & Bailey but was forced to leave in April because of an injury. July of that year, took C. F. Fox as a partner. As Fox & Van Aukens, were a feature with the Hallen’s company for 2 seasons; McNish, Johnson & Slavin’s Minstrels; Van Auken & Long, a tour of South America, leaving October 20, 1888, returning July 24, 1889. With Jerry Hurley as a partner, traveled with Primrose & West’s Minstrels, 1889. Then, Van Auken, McPhee & Hill. January 1, 1898, formed a partnership with William Vannerson.

VANCE, MOSES. Executed first double somersault in USA, according to Levi J. North. The boy was a resident of Albany.

VANCE, THOMAS. (d. April 21, 1889) L. B. Lent’s, VanAmburgh’s, P. T. Barnum’s.

VANDERCOOK, H. A. Band leader, J. H. LaPearl’s, 1891-94.

VANDERVELT, C. Rider, Lailson’s, Philadelphia, 1797.

VAN GAPA, TONY. Contortionist, New York and New England Circus, 1884.

VAN HORN, C. E. General business agent, Sherman & Hinman, San Francisco, September 1883.

VANICE, MISS. Equestrienne with Lailson’s company, Boston, 1796; Lailson’s, 1798.

VANITI FAMILY. Gymnasts, Charley Bartine’s, 1872.

VAN LUVEN, HARRY D. Proprietor, VanLuven’s, 1872.

VANNERSON, WILLIAM. Gymnast. Born in Richmond, VA. Made first appearance as a bar performer, 1889. Then, with various circuses until 1894 when he formed a partnership with Joe Garnel and joined the Orrin Bros.’, Mexico. 1895, Ringling Bros.’ an aerial bar act. January 1, 1898, formed a partnership with Jerry VanAuken.

VANOLAR, WILLIAM L. Beckett’s, 1882.

VAN ORDEN, WESSEL T. B., JR. (d. October, 1877) Son of a doctor in the Albany, NY, area. Upon finishing a college education, gravitated to the circus business. Manager of Spalding’s North American Circus, 1844; manager, Dan Rice’s, 1848 (when the circus went sour, 1849, Van Orden was instrumental in foreclosing on Rice’s farm in Greene County, NY); manager, Spalding, Rogers & Van Orden, 1851; Spalding & Rogers, 1851-64; interested in Madigan & Stone, 1852; manager, Nixon’s Royal Circus, 1861; business manager, Parisian Circus, assembled for the Paris Exposition (Avery Smith, G. Quick, John Nathans, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding and David Bidwell, proprietors), 1867. Married Caroline Spalding (b. 1821), sister of Dr. Gilbert Spalding. Died in Albany.

VAN PELT, LULU. Midget, with Cameron’s Great Oriental Circus, 1875.

VANSTONE, WILLIAM. Advertiser, Whitmore, Thompson & Co.’s Equescurriculum, 1865

VANTA, SIGNOR. Horse training exhibition with lecture, Wambold & Whitby, 1861.

VAN VALKENBERG, RICHARD. Manager, Castello & VanVleck’s, summer 1863-64. VanValkenberg & Co. toured Texas and Mexico, 1881-83.

VAN VLECK, MATTHEW. (1820-June 20, 1873) General manager, Castello & VanVleck, 1863, which had been traveling by boat along the Ohio River; the show changed hands in St. Louis, Missouri, with the new owners being VanVleck, Ben Maginley and George W. DeHaven, the latter assuming the management. Their first engagement was for a week in St. Louis beginning October 6. Died in Cuba, NY.

VAN VLECK, WILLIAM. Burr Robbins’, 1885.

VAN ZANDT, A. D. [r. n. Anson Babcock]. (1849-December 23, 1896) Began career as an acrobat at age 17. For 12 years, traveled with his brother as the Van Zandt Brothers, connected with John Stowe & Sons, 1868, 1871; G. G. Grady’s, 1869; Stowe & Orton, 1870; W. W. Cole’s, 1871-83; Great Transatlantic Allied Shows, 1879; Stickney’s Imperial Parisian Circus, 1880. 1877, he began riding and became a proficient bareback jockey. South America, 1886, with Dockrill’s; remained there until May 1896. Died at the home of his daughter, Morenci, MI.

VAN ZANDT, MILLIE. Trapeze performer with Sells & Barrett’s, 1890. Brought a suit for $1,000 against the management for breach of contract, for dismissal shortly after being hired. Was apparently awarded $700.

VAN ZANDT, ROSE and ELLA. Diefenbach’s Trans-Atlantic, 1888.

VAN ZANDT, WINANT. Member of the VanZandt Family. Died on a yatching trip at Bath Beach, NJ, July 17, 1892.

VARDEN, DOLLY. Male dwarf. Haight’s Great Eastern, 1873-74; Cameron’s, 1875; VanAmburgh’s, 1876.

VARDEN, DOLLY [r. n. Mrs. Selitia Campbell]. (d. August 18, 1911) Not the same as above. Giant Negress weighing 650 pounds.

VARDEN, WILLIE. Rider, Haight’s Great Eastern, 1874.

VAUGHAN, FRANK [r. n. Francis Maguire]. Clown. Died in the Essex County jail, NJ, after suffering from delirium tremens, July 28, 1869.

VAUGHAN, T. Minstrel performer, with Rockwell & Stone, 1842; banjoist, Hobby & Pratt, 1842.

VELCOURT, HENRY. Gymnast, acrobat, Great Australian (Frank J. Howes, manager), 1870.

VELLIER, DURAND. Rider, Dan Rice’s, 1873.

VENUS, ROSINO. Principal bareback rider and bounding rope performer, Orrin Bros.’, Mexico, 1897.

VERDA, MONTE. Contortionist, P. T. Barnum’s, 1871-72.

VERMULE, T. L. Proprietor and manager, T. L. Vermule’s New Jersey Circus, 1845.

VERNER, CHARLES. Irish songs, concert, Cooper, Bailey & Co.’s Circus, Australian tour, 1877.

VERNON. Partner of George Dunbar, W. W. Cole’s, 1885.

VERNON BROTHERS [B. S., Charles]. “Absolute Kings of the Air,” Ringling Bros.’, 1893. B. S., Comedy bar act; entered the profession, 1882, and shortly afterwards joined with Fred Elmer in an act under the title of the Elmer Brothers. Roberts & Gardner, 1886; joined Rome Emery, 1887, and played dates as a bar team; met with an accident during the 1889 season. After recovering, joined with Charles Vernon for an aerial bar act; Ringling Bros.’, 1893; Forepaugh’s and Walter L. Main’s. 1895, B. S. took C. M. Zazelle as a partner for a comedy bar act.

VERNON, DANIEL S. (circa 1854-1908) Born in Morocco. Came to USA as an opera singer, minstrel, etc. Was press and route agent, John Robinson’s, 1879, railroad and general agent, 1882; railroad contractor, Frank A. Robbins’, 1889. Mrs. Vernon was a lion tamer, John Robinson’s, 1879.

VERONA BROTHERS [Eugene F., Fred, and Minnie Steward]. Adam Forepaugh’s, 1892.

VERRECKE, MONS. Parisian gymnast. After having astonished Europe, James M. Nixon’s Alhambra, NYC, fall 1863, performing on a single trapeze. New Bowery, NYC, for 3 weeks beginning September 21, 1863, for manager James W. Lingard. Then a year’s contract with manager Lea of Baltimore, beginning at the Front Street Theatre, October 19, 1863.

VERSHAY, BILLY. Clown. Haight & Chambers, 1867; Frank Howes’, 1868; Dodge & Bartine, 1868.

VEY, CHARLES. Dutch clown, Wallace & Co., 1884.

VICK, MLLE. FRANK [r. n. Frances Victoria Johnson]. Rider. Dan Rice’s, 1851-55; Crescent City, December 1855; pony act, Crescent City, May 1856; Dan Rice’s, 1856; Orton & Older, 1858; (as Mlle. Victorine), Hyatt & Co., 1859; Great Railroad circus (McCorkle), 1859. Had 2 sons and 2 daughters. Possibly the wife of Jean Johnson.

VICTOR, FRANCOIS. Four horse rider, Montgomery Queen’s, 1877.

VICTOR, FRANK. Gymnast, Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton, 1881.

VICTOR, SIGNOR. Man monkey, Thayer & Noyes, 1865.

VICTORELLI BROTHERS [John, William]. English gymnasts. James Robinson’s, 1870; Dan Rice’s Paris Pavilion Circus, 1871; John O’Brien’s, 1872; L. B. Lent’s, 1873; Roberts & Gardner, 1886.

VICTORELLI, WALTER [r. n. Walter Hovey]. (January 1858-February 28, 1882) Gymnast. Born in Xenia, OH. Apprenticed as gymnast to Harry Victorelli until 1875; that year, teamed with Charles W. Cardello, Cardello & Victorelli, horizontal bar performers. Hilliard & Hunting, 1875-77; Campbell’s (John V. O’Brien’s), 1878, left in May for South America with Cooper & Bailey; Batcheller & Doris, 1879-80; American Four Combination, 1881. Married Lizzie Parker. Died of consumption, NYC, age 24.

VICTORIA, MLLE. English “Queen of the Lofty Wire.” Performed since the age of 5 or 6. Came to USA on the urging of P. T. Barnum after having been well received on the Continent, where, at one time, she had cross the river Seine on a wire. Barnum’s Roman Hippodrome, NYC and on the road, 1874-75. She walked across a wire, then re-crossed with her head in a sack, and finally rode across on a velocipede. Cameron’s Oriental, 1875; Carlo Bros.’, South America, 1876; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1881.

VICTORIANA. A pupil of Franconi, a rope walker for Pepin & Breschard in 1808 in their first show in what is now known as the Walnut Street Theater of Philadelphia; was still employed by them in 1810, when the Salem Gazette of Massachusetts said he supported five apprentices on the rope, one perching on his shoulders, one on each of his legs, and one at each end of his balance pole.

VICTORINI [also seen as Victorian and Victoriani]. Rope-dancer, a student of Franconi’s, with Pepin & Breschard, 1809, his American debut; Robert Davis’, Salem, MA, February 1810, vaulting over 6 horses.

VIDELLAS. Aerialist, Barnum & Bailey, 1891.

VILALLAVE. Rope-dancer. William Blanchard & William West’s, Canada, 1825; Asa T. Smith’s, 1829; ventured into management, summer and fall 1818, performing in Boston, Salem, Worcester, MA, and Albany, NY; joined Pepin’s troupe, Philadelphia, November 1818. Performed in America for over 15 years.

VILLION TROUPE. Bicyclists, Adam Forepaugh’s, 1881.

VINCENT, ALEXANDER. Equestrian. Nathan A. Howes’ winter, 1843-44; Howes & Gardner, 1844.

VINCENT, CHARLES. Lee & Ryland, California, February 1869.

VINCENT, FRED. Band leader, W. F. Kirkhart’s Great American, 1894.

VINCENT, W. Ringmaster, Atlantic and Pacific, 1871.

VINETTA, ADA. Concert singer, hippodrome jockey, Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1882.

VINO, WILLIAM. Clown, Barnum & Bailey, 1893.

VINTON, ANNIE. Wallace & Co., 1886.

VIOLA, NINA. Equestrienne. Robert Stickney’s, 1880; VanAmburgh & Co., 1880-81; Frank A. Gardner’s, South America, 1889.

VIRELLA, JOSEPH. Rider, W. W. Cole’s, 1875.

VIVALLA, SIGNOR. Juggler, Aaron Turner’s, 1836; plate spinner, Drury, VanTassle, Brown & Co., 1837.

VOIGHT, CHARLES. Musical director, Charles Noyes’, 1870-71.

VOLEMANN, HERR. German acrobat. With VonCastle, classic posturing and lofty leaps, Sands & Nathans, 1857.

VON CASTLE. German acrobat, with Herr Volemann, classic posturing and lofty leaps, Sands & Nathans, 1857.

VOSE. Band leader, Rockwell & Stone, 1844.

VOST, PETER. Band leader, Nixon & Kemp, 1858.

VRANDENBURG, AD. Band leader, F. J. Tayor’s, 1893.

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Copyright © 2005
William L. Slout and Circus Historical Society, Inc.
No part of this information may be reproduced in any form or means
without written permission of William L. Slout and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.

Last modified October 2005