Circus Historical Society
Olympians of the Sawdust Circle
Olympians of the Sawdust Circle: A biographical dictionary of the ninteenth century American circus
Wh - Wy
Compiled and Edited by William L. Slout
Copyright © 2005 by William L. Slout. All rights reserved.
WHALEN, JIMMY [The Whale]. (b. December 10, 1861) Boss canvasman. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY. As a youth, left home to work on steamboats of the Hudson River and the mule towed boats of the Erie Canal. Joined Frank A. Robbins’, 1883-84; Gardner & Lamkin, West Indies, Central and South America, 1885-89; selected as boss canvasman for Stickney & Donovan, Latin America, 1889-90; assistant boss canvasman, Sells Bros.’, 1890-91; Barnum & Bailey, assistant to McLean, 1892; boss canvasman, Leon W. Washburn’s, 1893-1899; Walter L. Main’s, 1900; Forepaugh-Sells, 1905; Ringling Bros.’, 1906; Ringling Bros.’ & Barnum and Bailey, 1919-1935.
WHALLEN, JAMES H. Proprietor, Whallen’s, 1878.
WHARTON, J. W. Sideshow privilege, S. O. Wheeler’s, 1867; Lake’s Hippo-Olympiad, fall 1867.
WHEATHOFF, HERR. German rider, Grand National Circus, 1865.
WHEELER, ALSON. Contracting agent, M. K. Houlton’s, 1893; Wheeler Bros.’ Shows (Alson Wheeler, D. Wheeler, proprietors), 1894; George S. Cole’s, 1895.
WHEELER, BILLY. Clown, F. J. Taylor’s, 1891.
WHEELER, CHARLES L. Manager, Herr Driesbach & Co., 1857; agent, VanAmburgh & Co.’s southern, winter 1858-60.
WHEELER, D. Co-proprietor, with Wheeler Bros.’ Shows (Alson Wheeler, D. Wheeler, proprietors), 1894.
WHEELER, H. E. “PUNCH”. (August 25, 1852-June 19, 1924) Born, raised and educated in Evansville, IN, where he consider his home throughout his career. Parents were Ed E. Wheeler of Indiana and Mary Bowler of Maine. Began in the circus in an advance force but rose rapidly until he became an agent. Connected with nearly every circus of importance for 50 years, but was principally with the Robinson Ten Big Shows. Got out the first notable advance courier used in minstrelsy for Lew Dockstader. Wrote material for minstrel and vaudeville artists. Died of a stroke at the Elks Home, Bedford, VA.
WHEELER, JENNIE. Equestrienne, St. Germain’s Imperial Circus, 1889.
WHEELER, MRS. W. S. Female clown, Ringling Bros.’, 1890.
WHEELER, SILAS O. Proprietor, S. O. Wheeler’s International Circus, 1863; under the firm name of Hitchcock, Hatch & Wheeler, erected an amphitheatre in Boston, winter 1864-65; proprietor, S. O. Wheeler’s, 1864. Made an agreement with George K. Goodwin, September 10, 1866, for 2 years co-proprietorship of Wheeler & Goodwin’s International Circus and Model Arena, but the plans did not materialize; so Wheeler went out with S. O. Wheeler’s Great International Circus, 1867; then sold the property to W. J. Metchear, 1870. Ticket seller, Adam Forepaugh’s, 1873. Ran a small hotel in North Berwick, ME, 1874.
WHEELER, WILLIAM S. [a. k. a. U. S. Wheeler]. (1856-March 14, 1913) Born in Chicago. Began theatrical career as a child. Became a favorite Dutch comedian as a member of the J. H. Haverly Stock Co.; then turned circus performer for many years. Dan Rice’s, 1877-78; Hunter’s, 1885; Shield’s, 1887; in charge of concert, Heffron’s Great Eastern, 1889; Stone Bros.’ Wild West, 1889; business manager and clown, World’s Fair Aggregation and Combined Shows (Joseph White, proprietor), 1892. May have managed the Cherokee Medicine Co. later that year. 1895-1908 was a street evangelist. Died at Ft. Worth, TX.
WHELAND, MISS. Equestrienne. Pepin’s company, 1818-20, in Philadelphia, NYC, and the West Indies.
WHETTONY BROTHERS [Leonard, James]. Gymnasts. Robinson & Deery, 1864-65; G. G. Grady’s, 1867; Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1868; John W. Robinson’s, 1870; Cosmopolitan Circus, winter 1871-72; Shelby, Pullman & Hamilton, 1881.
WHIPPLE, J. Niblo & Sloat (L. B. Lent, manager), West Indies, November 1860.
WHISTON, J. W. Humorist, Bunnell sideshow, P. T. Barnum’s, 1879.
WHITBECK, H. MILLER “HARRY.” (1820-September 28, 1870) Agent, Dr. Gilbert R. Spalding’s, 1842-48; Dan Rice’s, 1849-53. Entered into partnership with Charles Castle and Wash Kidwell, 1854, to form Whitbeck & Co.’s One-Horse Show, performing in a 110’ round top, traveling the Ohio River and its tributaries in a steamboat, featuring Mme. Tourniaire. Closed an unprofitable season at Pittsburgh in October of that year. Dissatisfied with this venture, Castle and Whitbeck purchased a large flatboat and converted it into a floating theatre named the Lattene Gongola, and began in November of that year floating down the river between Cincinnati and Louisville. One foggy night the boat drifted onto a sand bar; discouraged by the unfortunate state of affairs, the two managers said “goodbye” to the ship and its occupants. Later, Whitbeck was business manager with L. B. Lent’s, 1869, and assistant manager in 1870. Died in a railroad accident while the show was traveling on the Erie Railroad. The train had left Middletown, NY, at 5:00 a.m., en route to Patterson, NJ, with 7 freight cars and 2 passenger cars in the rear, but stopped at Turner’s Station to check a heating “journal.” While there, it was rear-ended by the Atlantic and Great Western express, coming at top speed. Whitbeck was about 50 years of age at the time.
WHITBECK, WILLIAM. Tumbler and gymnast, Alexander Robinson’s, 1871.
WHITBY, ELVIRA [r. n. Dunn, Mrs. Richard Hemmings]. (d. October 24, 1930) Professionally known as Mlle. Elvira, bareback rider. Adopted by Margaret and Harry Whitby at 3 years of age, 1852. Taught to ride by the great equestrienne, Mme. Louise Tourniaire, who had a circus venture with Harry Whitby, 1858. The company toured through Pennsylvania and then rented a steamboat and played all the Hudson River towns. Dan Rice’s, 1857; H. Whitby & Co.’s Metropolitan Railroad Circus, 1859; James M. Nixon’s, 1860; Wambold & Whitby, 1861; Brien’s, 1863; Mrs. Charles H. Warner’s, National Hall, Philadelphia, winter 1863-64; Palmer’s Great Western, 1865; Gardner & Hemmings, National Hall, Philadelphia, 1865; S. O. Wheeler’s, 1866; Whitby & Co. (John O’Brien, proprietor), 1867. When Whitby formed a partnership with Richard Hemmings, after buying out Dan Gardner, 1868, Hemmings & Whitby’s, Elvira and Hemmings met and were married. Hemmings sold out to Cooper, 1872. Adam Forepaugh’s, 1875-1880; John O’Brien’s, 1883. Retired from the ring, 1880, after a serious accident in Jamestown, NY. Following her husband’s death, she continued to live in their Philadelphia residence on North 10th Street. The couple had 2 sons, neither were in the circus business. Died in Philadelphia, age 85. See Harry Whitby and Richard Hemmings.
WHITBY, GEORGE [r. n. George Cummings or Cummins]. (d. June 1917) Leaper. Native of Lancaster, PA. Apprenticed to Harry Whitby and, at times, rode in petticoats under the name of Carlotta Whitby. Great Commonwealth Circus, transported by the boat, William Newman, 1879; S. H. Barrett & Co., 1883; Donaldson & Rich, 1885; Menches & Barber, 1887; Walter L. Main’s, 1888; W. B. Reynolds’, 1892. One of his performing feats was jumping over 11 elephants. Had been out of the business for 2 years when he died in Lancaster, PA, age 59.
WHITBY, HENRY W. “HARRY.” (1817-November 4, 1870) Englishman who first appeared in the United States, 1843-45. Was considered one of the best horse breakers and trainers of his day. Created family of circus performers which included his first wife, Margaret; adopted daughter, Elvira, equestrienne and slack-wire performer; Susan, his wife’s niece; and apprentices George, Willie and Johnnie, all taking the name of Whitby. After the death of his wife, married Catherine VanCamp, of Lancaster, by whom he had a son, Harry, Jr. Robinson & Foster, 1843; John Mateer’s, 1843-44; Myers & Madigan, 1854; Howes, Myers & Madigan, 1855; Tourniaire & Whitby, 1858; H. Whitby & Co.’s Metropolitan Railroad Circus, 1859; James M. Nixon’s, 1860; James M. Nixon’s, Washington, DC, fall 1862; Bryan’s, with Mrs. Dan Rice, 1863; equestrian manager, Mrs. Charles H. Warner’s, National Hall, Philadelphia, winter 1863-64; Palmer’s Great Western, 1865; Gardner & Hemmings, National Hall, Philadelphia, 1865; with S. O. Wheeler’s, 1866; director, Whitby & Co.’s Consolidated Shows, Circuses and Menageries (John O’Brien, proprietor), 1867; Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby’s Combination Circus, 1868-69, bought Dan Gardner’s interest in the show, 1868. Fall 1870, was shot during at riot at the front entrance in Rayville, LA. He died in Vicksburg, MS.
WHITBY, JOHN “JOHNNIE”. Rider. An apprentice of Harry Whitby. Steeple chase act with Elvira, Wambold & Whitby, 1861; Mrs. Warner’s, 1863. See Harry Whitby.
WHITBY, LIZZIE. Brien’s (John V. O’Brien’s), 1863.
WHITBY, LUCY. Donaldson & Rich, 1885; Walter L. Main’s, 1888; Indian clubs, Main & VanAmburgh, 1890.
WHITBY, MARGARET [or Marguerita, nee Buckius]. (1817-1865) Equestrienne. Native of Lancaster, PA. First wife of Harry Whitby, who taught her to ride. Had no issue, but adopted a 3 year old girl, Elvira Dunn, 1852. Tourniaire & Whitby, 1858; Wambold & Whitby, 1861; Brien’s (John O’Brien’s), 1863. See Harry Whitby.
WHITBY, SUSAN. Equestrienne. Niece of Harry Whitby’s wife, Margaret. Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1868-70. See Harry Whitby.
WHITBY, WILLIE. Rider. Apprentice of Harry Whitby. Principal riding act at 4 years old, Myers & Madigan, 1854; Tourniaire & Whitby, 1858; Wambold & Whitby, 1861. See Harry Whitby.
WHITE, A. J. Assistant manager, P. T. Barnum’s, 1874.
WHITE, ALASCO C. (d. March 30, 1909) Animal trainer, famous as a lion tamer. Began with P. T. Barnum. Said to have brought the first white elephant to this country. Died in NYC, age 77.
WHITE, ARTHUR J. Advance agent, P. T. Barnum’s, 1873.
WHITE, CHARLES. Lion tamer. Thayer & Noyes, 1867; Dr. James L. Thayer’s, 1869; James Robinson’s, 1870; lion tamer and menagerie superintendant, P. T. Barnum’s, 1871-73; 1876-80; P. T. Barnum’s Roman Hippdrome, 1874-75.
WHITE, CHARLES E. Advance agent, Holland & McMahon, 1885-86.
WHITE, EMMA. Barnum & Bailey, 1889.
WHITE, FRANK. Negro deliniator, United States Circus (Frank Howes, Joseph Cushing, proprietors), 1867.
WHITE, GEORGE. Tumbler and gymnast, Alexander Robinson’s, 1871.
WHITE, GEORGE. Keeper of chariots, Howes’ Great London, 1871.
WHITE, GEORGE. Minstrel performer, P. T. Barnum’s, 1873.
WHITE, HANK. Ethiopian comedian in charge of minstrel company, Whitmore & Co., 1868.
WHITE, HARRY. Trained dogs and ponies, Bailey & Winan, 1890.
WHITE, JAMES [r. n. Will W. White]. (d. October 23, 1883) Leaper, tumbler, clown. Began professional career W.W. Cole’s, 1874, where he remained for 6 seasons; clown and principal leaper, Welch & Sands, 1880; Cooper, Jackson & Co., 1881-83. Married, July 7, 1882, in Waseca, MN, Minnie Wells (known as M’lle Minnetta, iron-jawed lady). Died of malaria, Warrensburg, MO, age 30.
WHITE, JAMES W. Equestrian director, Goldenburg’s, 1874; equestrian director, Main’s International, 1882.
WHITE, J. C. Menagerie superintendent, Montgomery Queen’s, 1877.
WHITE, JOHN “CAPTAIN.” (d. May 1902) Born in Chicago. With Adam Forepaugh’s, where, after some years of service, was advanced to manager of one of the departments of the ring performance. When he died, Chicago, from pneumonia, age 54, was proprietor and manager of the London Dime Museum on State Street.
WHITE, JOHN “PROF.” Performing dogs, goats and monkeys. Great Commonwealth, 1879; John H. Murray’s Pony Circus, 1880; Dr. James L. Theyer’s, 1880; educated steers, William O’Dale Stevens, Park Square, Boston, 1883; dog act, Sells Bros.’, 1884, 1887; trick goat, P. T. Barnum’s, 1886; performing dogs, Sells Bros.’, 1886-87; Charles Andress’, 1889; Stow, Long & Gumble, 1889; Barnum & Bailey, 1893.
WHITE, JOSEPH. World’s Fair Aggregation and Combined Shows (Joseph White, proprietor), 1892.
WHITE, J. T. Agent, J. T. Johnson & Co. 1869; general agent, Romelli & Co., 1872.
WHITE, LIZZIE. Barnum & Bailey, 1889.
WHITE, LON. Sideshow and candy stand privileges, Thayer & Noyes, 1867.
WHITE, MINNIE. Performing goats, Holland, Bowman & McLaughlin, 1890.
WHITE, MRS. CHARLES. Wardrobe mistress, P. T. Barnum’s, 1876-1880; Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson, 1882.
WHITE, NICK. German clown, Sells Bros.’, 1877.
WHITE, ROBERT. See Robert Ellingham.
WHITE, ROBERT. Minstrel, Sands, Lent & Co. (Richard Sands and Lewis B. Lent, proprietors), 1846.
WHITE, TONY. Manager, White & Markowit, 1889.
WHITE, WILL W. (October, 1853-October 23, 1883) Born in Indiana. Married Mlle. Minnette of St. Louis, MO, July 7, 1882. Principal clown, Cooper, Jackson & Co., 1882-83. Died of malarial fever, age 30.
WHITEHILL, CHARLES. Billposter, with P. T. Barnum’s, 1873.
WHITEHURST, JOHN W. Business manager, with G. G. Grady’s, 1873, general agent, 1874.
WHITING. Keeper, J. R. and W. Howe, Jr. & Co.’s menagerie, 1833-34.
WHITLOCK, C. Scenic rider, Ludlow & Smith, 1841; Robinson & Foster, 1842.
WHITLOCK, FRANK. Rider, E. F. Mabie’s, 1847.
WHITLOCK, HARVEY M. Bareback rider. With Buckley, Weeks & Co., 1835; J. J. Hall’s, 1836; Eagle Circus/Cole & Co., 1837; Cole/Miller/Yale, winter 1837; Bacon & Derious, 1838; Yale, Sands & Co., 1838; H. A. Woodward & Co., 1838; Joseph E. M. Hobby’s, 1839; Fogg & Stickney, 1841; American Theatre troupe, January-March, 1842; Robinson & Foster, 1842; John T. Potter’s, 1844-45; Howes & Mabie, 1846; Mabie’s, 1847.
WHITLOCK, WILLIAM. Ethiopian entertainer. Welch, Bartlett & Co., 1839; June, Titus, Angevine & Co., Bowery Amphitheatre, 1840; Henry Rockwell & Co., winter 1841.
WHITMORE, O. A. “Famous Clarionet Soloist”, formerly of Whitmore & Clark’s Minstrels. Proprietor, Whitmore, Thompson & Co.’s Equescurriculum, 1865; Whitmore & Co.’s Hippocomique, 1868.
WHITNEY BROTHERS [William, Henry, George]. Goodwin & Wilder, 1862; Robinson & Howes, 1864; Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1868.
WHITNEY, CHARLES [“Col.”]. [r. n. Alfred Whitman]. (d. May 17, 1894) Agent. World Circus, 1860; Spalding & Rogers, 1861; Gardner & Hemmings, 1862; Maginley & VanVleck’s, 1863; Alex Robinson’s, 1867, 1871; Cooke’s, Philadelphia, winter 1867-68; general business agent, Handenburger & Co., 1871; Klicker & Kelly, 1872. Spring 1873, met with an accident which resulted in the amputation of a leg. Made plans to take out Whitney & Co.’s Centennial Circus, 1874, an idea which probably never materialized. At that time, was cashier, Mortimer’s Varieties, Philadelphia. Press agent, Baird, Howell & Co., 1874; director of publications, Parisian Circus, Operti’s Tropical Garden, Philadelphia, fall 1876; railroad and excursion agent, Adam Forepaugh’s, 1877-78; W. C. Coup’s, winter 1878-79; excursion agent, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1879; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1880-81, 1884; Mile Orton’s, 1883; Frank H. Rich’s (Frank H. Rich, Col. Charles Whitney, J. N. Abbott, proprietors), 1886; general manager, VanAmburgh & Reich Bros.’, 1886; treasurer, Whitney Family Circus, 1890; general manager, Whitney’s Imperial Shows (G. S. Whitney, proprietor), 1892. Died Reading, PA, age 60.
WHITNEY, FLOYD “PROF.” Band leader, Whitney Family’s New Enterprise Circus, 1887-90.
WHITNEY, GEORGE LEON. (1833-February 16, 1889) Born in Littleton, NH, where as a youth worked in a machine shop. Made debut on stage at the National Theatre, Boston, 1849. Married Nellie E. Packard of Nassau, NH, 1852. 1861, established the Whitney Family World Entertainment Co., which consisted of his wife, his brother E. B. Whitney and wife, and Charles Whitney. Entered the circus profession, 1867, working for others and remained through 1872, at which time he returned to his small entertainment company, continuing on the road until 1877.
WHITNEY, H. J. Gymnast. Worked at times with partners Charles S. Burrows and Sam Shappee. (with Burrows) Levi J North’s, 1860; (with Shappee) R. Sands’, 1862; (with Shappee as Motley Brothers) Bailey & Co., 1864; Seth B. Howe’s European, winter 1864-65; (with Shappee) Spalding & Rogers, Academy of Music, New Orleans, winter 1864-65; (with Shappee) George F. Bailey & Co., 1865-67; (with Shappee) Chiarini’s, Havana, fall 1865; (with Shappee) James Robinson’s, 1868-72; (with Shappee) Great Eastern, 1873; (with Shappee) James W. Wilder & Co., 1873; (with Shappee) Wallace & Co., 1884.
WHITNEY, JAMES. Irish clown. Wallace & Co., 1884; Mayo’s Model Show, 1884; Black Brothers Ten Cent Show, 1888.
WHITNEY, JOHN. Manager, C. W. Kidder & Co.’s, 1893.
WHITNEY, JOSIE BELL [Mrs. Lowell Smith]. (August 1874-December 2, 1896) Gymnast and trapeze performer. Born in Athol, MA. Oldest child of Charles A. and Ada V. Whitney of the original Whitney Family, and the granddaughter of G. L. and Nellie Whitney, founder of the Whitney enterprises. Entered the profession at the age of 6, and from 1882 to 1887 was featured with the Whitney show. Later, introduced a troupe of educated dogs and appeared in the concert. In her prime, was a musician and an all-around performer. After marrying Lowell Smith, a non-professional, December 1893, retired from the profession. Died at her home, Woodville, OH.
WHITNEY, LEON P. Frank Rich’s, 1886; Whitney Family’s New Enterprise Circus, 1889.
WHITNEY, LILLE R. Equestrienne, Baird, Howell & Co., 1874.
WHITNEY, NELLIE E. [nee Nellie E. Packard]. Married George Leon Whitney, 1852. Owner and controller, Whitney’s Imperial Wagon Show, 1892.
WHITSTON, N. W. Boss canvasman, Great Western, 1876.
WHITTAKER, FRANCIS W. “FRANK.” (1818-1887) The brother of John S. Whittaker. Rider, Royal Pavilion Circus/Olympic Circus, 1830; John Lamb’s, 1831; Stewart’s American Amphitheatre, 1832; Aaron Turner’s, 1835; Eagle Circus/Cole & Co., 1837; Thomas Taplin Cooke’s, 1838; western unit, June, Titus, Angevine & Co., 1841; clown, James Raymond’s, 1842; ringmaster, Welch & Mann, 1843-44; Mann, Welch & Delavan, 1844; Rockwell & Stone, 1846; ringmaster, Welch & Delavan, 1847; 4 and 6-horse rider, Rufus Welch’s, 1852; Lee & Bennett, San Francisco, 1856-57; equestrian director, Joe Pentland’s, 1859; at Comac’s Woods, Philadelphia, early summer, 1860; Front Street Theartre, Baltimore, eraly winter, 1860; Levi J North’s, 1860; Tom King’s, Washington, DC, winter 1861-62; Gardner & Hemmings, National Hall, Philadelphia, fall 1862; Bryan’s, with Mrs. Dan Rice, 1863; ringmaster, Mrs. Charles H. Warner’s, Philadelphia, winter 1863-64; Gardner & Hemmings, 1864; S. O. Wheeler’s, Boston, winter 1864-65; Gardner & Hemmings, Continental Theatre, Philadelphia, winter 1864-65; clown, Seth B. Howes’ European, 1866-67; Cooke’s, Philadelphia, winter 1867-68; clown and singer, Great European (Avery Smith, G. C. Quick, John Nathans & Co., proprietors), 1868-69; clown and ringmaster, Mrs. Charles Warner’s, Philadelphia, 1870; lecturer, John O’Brien’s, 1871; P. T. Barnum’s, 1873, 1876-80; asst’t sup’t of amusements, P. T. Barnum’s Roman Hippodrome, 1875; ringmaster, D. W. Stone’s, 1878; in charge of Roman Races, Brighton Beach Fair Grounds, Coney Island, summer 1879; agent, “The Galley Slave” Co., 1880. As a conductor of the performance, he stood on a table covered with a rich scarlet cloth, timing the different performers by striking a bell with his hammer. Lost his 14 year old son, John Walter Whittaker, September 26, 1867, of erysipelas. At age 60, January 11, 1881, slipped on the ice and fell upon the railroad track in the Bowery near Houston Street, NYC, and was run over by a freight car of the Adams’ Express of the Harlem Railroad Co. Right arm was badly crushed and required amputation. Received $10,000 in damages from the railroad but died from the injuries a short time later.
WHITTAKER, GEORGE. Bareback rider, Great Commonwealth Circus, transported by the boat, William Newman, 1879.
WHITTAKER, JOHN S. (d. 1847) Rider. The brother of Francis Whittaker, equestrian. Made his debut, 1823, with Price & Simpson; Sandford’s Mount Pitt Circus, 1826, 1828; Washington Circus, Philadelphia, 1828; vaulter, Fogg & Stickney, 1830; Royal Pavilion Circus/Olympic Circus, 1830; Sweet & Hough, 1835; Palmer’s, 1835; equestrian manager, Nathan A. Howes’, 1836; J. J. Hall’s, West Indes, 1837; Waring and Raymond, New Orleans, winter 1837-38; S. H. Nichols’, 1840; Howes & Mabie, 1841; clown, Rockwell & Stone, 1842; clown, Aaron Turner’s, 1843; Welch & Mann, 1843, 1845; John T. Potter’s, 1844; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1843-45; scenic rider, S. P. Stickney’s, 1846; Howes & Co., 1846; Mann, Welch & Delevan, 1846. At the Front Street Theatre, Baltimore, with Welch, Mann & Delavan, while he was performing a feat of horsemanship at full speed, one of the “long bills” of the evening floated down from the third tier, descending in gyrations. It fell before the eyes of Whittaker’s horse, which plunged in fright, throwing the rider, then reared and leaped forward, striking Whittaker in the head with its hooves, fracturing his skull and injuring his spine. Little chance was given for recovery but he did so and ultimately joined Winfield Scott’s army in Mexico for the battle of Vera Cruz, March 29, 1847. Shortly, was wounded and, while recovering, died of fever contacted in the camp. His last words were reported to have been, “Boys, I’ve rode my last act. It was my best engagement and my last. Give always your horse a loose rein, but never desert your flag.” We leave it to the reader to accept or reject such a dramatic finale.
WHITTAKER, LEW. Leaper and tumbler, P. T. Barnum, 1876; clown, Bentley’s Old Fashioned Circus, 1895; Price & James Shows, 1897.
WHITTAKER, MARY ANN. See Mary Ann Wells.
WHITTAKER, PATRICK. Rider, tumbler, rope-dancer. Mount Pitt Circus, NYC, 1826. Fell from 2 horses while riding at Duffon’s Garden, Brooklyn, 1826, and died from the effects of the fall.
WHITTAKER, ROBERT H. Hurdle rider, clown. Nathans & Co., 1882; Frank Robbins’, 1883; Washburn & Hunting, 1884; Kennebel’s, 1885; Miller, Okey & Freeman, 1886; S. H. Barrett’s, 1887; equestrian director, Stow, Long & Gumble, 1889; equestrian director, Hunting’s, 1892; equestrian director, Bentley’s Old Fashioned, 1895; trotting and hurdle acts, LaPearl’s, 1899. Announced retirement from the profession, October 20, 1892, to go into the stationery business in Jamestown, NY.
WHITTEMORE, TONY. Negro minstrel, with Mann, Welch & Delavan, 1845.
WHITTLE, JOSEPH. Lion performer, John O’Brien’s, attacked and killed by a lion he was working with in winter quarters, April 4, 1872, age 32. Had been with O’Brien for over 5 years.
WHITTONY BROTHERS [James, Andrew]. Trapeze performers, John W. Robinson’s (not “Old John”), 1870.
WHITTONY, FRED. Gymnast, D. S. Swadley’s Monster Combination, 1872.
WICKLIN, JOHN H. Advertising agent, L. B. Lent’s, 1867-68.
WICKWIRE, J. M. Assistant, Herr Driesbach’s Menagerie and Howe’s Trans Atlantic Circus, 1868; contracting agent, Lake’s Hippo-Olympiad, 1871.
WIGGINS, E. W. Sideshow proprietor, L. B. Lent’s, 1876; privileges, Great Chicago, 1879; privileges, Dan Castello’s, 1880, sold out to Ned Foster in June.
WILBANKS, BEN. Equestrian and posturer, George F. Bailey & Co., 1866.
WILCOCK, JOHN. Clown and comic singer. Driesbach & Howes, 1868; Yankee Robinson’s, 1869; Empire City, 1871; Great Eastern (Dan Carpenter and R. E. J. Miles & Co., proprietors), 1872.
WILCOX, HARRY. Gymnast and tumbler. Gardner & Hemmings, Philadelphia, 1865; Seth B. Howes’ European, 1867; Dr. James L. Thayer’s, 1869; J. E. Warner & Co., 1871; gymnast, Dan Rice’s, 1873; Howe’s Great London, 1874; Springer’s Royal Cirq-Zoolodon, 1875.
WILCOX, JOHNNY. Clown. S. O. Wheeler’s, 1867; Herr Driesbach’s, 1868; lecturer, John Robinson’s, 1872-73.
WILDER, JAMES WATERMAN. (1833-August 15, 1889) Born in New Hampshire. Entered the circus business through manufacturing a Drummand light and gasworks for Spalding & Rogers, and remained with them from 1850 through the closed of their 1857 season, executing a variety of jobs, from gasman to agent, treasurer, and manager. 1856, managed their Railroad Show, and, 1857, the North American Circus. Organized, in conjunction with the Antonio Brothers, the Great World Circus, 1858. Winter 1859-60, the company appeared at Wood’s Theatre, St. Louis. After 2 years, disposed of his interest in the show. For tenting season, 1860, managed Niblo & Sloat’s. Following winter, with Spalding & Rogers, Old Bowery Theatre, NYC, and at the Academy of Music, Boston, as treasurer and assistant manager. Next year, general agent, Spalding & Rogers’ Railroad Circus. That winter, with George K. Goodwin, ran a circus and put on horse pieces at Howard’s Athenaeum and the Academy of Music, Boston. Summer 1862, with Goodwin, ran the North American Circus, disposing of his interest at the end of the season to S. O. Wheeler. Visited California, 1863, with a “Polyrama of the War.” Following year, with Goodwin and W. W. Nichols, put another circus on the road. Bought the Continental Theatre with Sloat and Goodwin, 1865, for a short season; after which, he sold his participation to a Mr. Wildman. For a few years his attentions were devoted to interests other than circus - mining investments in California, 1866; the management of the Fusyama Japanese Troups, 1867; and the manufacture of billiard cloth, 1868-69. Back with the circus, general agent, James M. French’s, 1870; Murray & Stone, 1871; director, Stow’s North American, 1872; manager, J. W. Wilder’s International Circus, Chicago, winter and spring 1873; exhibitor of a baby elephant, Wilson’s, California, 1875; agent, Wilson’s, 1876; exhibitor of small menagerie, Sandwich Islands, winter 1876; agent, Chiarini’s, California, 1879. In later years, engaged in boring artesian wells in California. Died of pneumonia in San Francisco, age 63.
WILDES, A. J. Contracting agent, Charles Andress’, 1889-90.
WILFRED, GEORGE. Tight-wire performer and slide for life, Wallace & Co., 1887.
WILKINSON. General performer, billed as the greatest vaulter in Europe. Price & Simpson (Joe Cowell, manager), 1825-26. Rode bareback, performed on the tight-rope and did Ducrow’s “Drunken Sailor” act.
WILKINSON, EDGAR. Hurdle rider, Sells & Rentfrow’s, 1893.
WILLETS, OSCAR. Contracting agent, North American Circus and Balloon Show, 1875.
WILLETT, T. James Robinson’s, 1870.
WILLIAMS & HALL. Concert clog dancers, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1879.
WILLIAMS, ANDY. Banjoist, minstrel troupe, Gardner & Hemmings, 1863.
WILLIAMS, BOBBY. Clog dancer, W. N. Smith’s Ethiopians, VanAmburgh’s Menagerie, 1860.
WILLIAMS, CAROLINE [Mrs. William Williams]. Rider, rope-dancer. Arrived from England with the James West troupe, 1816. James West’s, 1817, 1822; Victor Pepin’s, 1818; Price & Simpson, 1823-25, December 1826, 1827-28; William Blanchard’s 1823; Albany Circus, February 1826; Lafayette Circus, 1828; Brown & Bailey, 1828; J. P. Brown’s, 1829-31; Harrington & Buckley, January 1830; J. Purdy Brown’s, 1830, 1833 and probably 1832; New York Circus, 1831-33; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1844. Specialty mentioned for her was the broad sword exercises, which she performed on horseback, a cavalry manual-of-arms in six parts; said to have the dexterity of a fencing master; occasionally appeared on the slack wire, which was unusual for a woman that early in American circus history.
WILLIAMS, CLAUDE. Press agent, Montgomery Queen’s, 1873-74, 1877; advance press agent, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1876; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1877.
WILLIAMS, CLINTON. Contortionist, with Yankee Robinson’s, 1862; Frank J. Howes’, 1865; Caldwell’s Occidental, 1867; clown, Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1869; French trick clown, Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1870; G. G. Grady’s, 1874.
WILLIAMS, DAVID. Concert performer, Dan Castello & Co., 1866.
WILLIAMS, EDWARD. Boss canvasman, John Robinson’s, 1891.
WILLIAMS, EPH. Black animal trainer and circus owner out of Medford, WI, 1880s and 1890s. Married Rhoda Black, December 29, 1892, Oshkosh, WI. Ferguson & Williams, 1889, bought by R. Z. Orton when show stranded. Williams & Co., 1890; Williams’ Great Northern, 1891; Williams’ Consolidated, 1892-93; continued as late as 1902.
WILLIAMS, FRANK. Antipodian Hercules, S. H. Barrett’s, 1882.
WILLIAMS, GEORGE. Clown, James Robinson’s, winter 1870-71; P. T. Barnum’s, 1877.
WILLIAMS, HARRY. Boss canvasman, Sells Bros.’, a first year organization, 1872.
WILLIAMS, HERBERT. English clown, L. B. Lent’s, just imported, 1868-70; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1871; Howes & Cushings, 1875.
WILLIAMS, IDA. Fat woman, John Robinson’s, 1885.
WILLIAMS, JIMMY. Clown, Burr Robbins’, 1875.
WILLIAMS, JOE. Rider, H. Buckley & Co., 1857-58.
WILLIAMS, JOHN. Spanish clown. Robert Hunting’s, 1891; Frank A. Gardner’s, winter 1891-92.
WILLIAMS, JOHN H. Lion tamer. Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby, 1869; James Robinson’s, 1870; elephant man, P. T. Barnum’s, 1872.
WILLIAMS, JOSEPH. Trapeze performer, San Francisco Circus and Roman Hippodrome, 1872; Cooper, Bailey & Co. Australian tour, 1877.
WILLIAMS, LEN. Burr Robbins’, 1885.
WILLIAMS, M. J. General performer, Metchear & Cameron, 1870.
WILLIAMS, MORTIMER. Specialty dancer. Barnum & VanAmburgh’s, 1866.
WILLIAMS, MRS. WILLIAM. Equestrienne. Sister-in-law to Walter Williams. James West’s, Philadelphia, 1816; William Blanchard’s, NYC, Albany, summer 1823; Joseph Cowell’s, Savannah, GA, December 1823; Albany Circus, February 1826; Price & Simpson, 1827; Mount Pitt Circus, NYC, season 1827-28; Sandford’s Mount Pitt Circus, spring 1828; J. Purdy Brown’s, 1828-29. [Charles Durang: “Mrs. Williams had a splendid figure, an interesting expression of features, although they were not regularly beautiful. She was certainly the most graceful slack-wire performer that was ever seen.”]
WILLIAMS, PROF. Proprietor and manager and school of educated horses, with Prof. Williams’ Consolidated Railroad Shows, 1892; troupe of dogs and cats, Cole’s Colossal Circus (George S. Cole, John H. Sparks, proprietors), 1893.
WILLIAMS, ROBERT “BOBBY.” (d. March 14, 1870) Clown. Came to America with Cooks’s company, 1836. Richmond Hill Circus, NYC, 1840; S. B. Howes, Bowery Theatre, 1841; Hobby & Pratt, 1842; Howes & Mabie, 1843; Rockwell & Stone, 1843, 1846; Niblo’s Garden, winter 1843-44; Raymond, Weeks & Co., 1844; June & Turner, 1844; Rockwell & Stone, 1845; Chatham and Bowery Theatres, winter 1846-47; Howes & Co., 1847; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, where he was billed as an “English Grotesque,” 1848; June & Titus, 1848; Spalding & Rogers, 1850; Rufus Welch’s, 1850; R. Sands’, 1851-53; Welch & Raymond, 1852; Mann, Moore & Co., 1853; Chrystal Amphitheatre, 1853; Seth B. Howes’, 1855; Sloat & Shepard, 1857; John Tryon’s, NYC, 1857-58; Cooke’s Royal Amphitheatre (James M. Nixon, proprietor), Niblo’s Garden, NYC, 1860; Madigan’s, 1861; R. Sands’, 1861; Goodwin & Wilder, 1862; S. O. Wheeler’s, 1864-66; New National Circus, NYC, 1866; Joe Cushing’s, 1867; L. B. Lent’s (billed as Herbert B. Williams), 1868. Died of pneumonia in Philadelphia, age 65.
WILLIAMS, S. Cannon balls, John Robinson’s, 1884.
WILLIAMS, SAMUEL. Clark Bros.’, winter 1889-90.
WILLIAMS, SHANG. Boss canvasman, P. T. Barnum’s, 1875.
WILLIAMS, STEPHEN T. Treasurer, John O’Brien’s, 1872; the Imperial Brazilian Hippodrome and Great California Circus, Market Street near 13th, Philadelphia, winter 1872-73.
WILLIAMS, THOMAS H. (d. October 11, 1888) Herculean performer. Born in Boston. Crane & Co., 1850; cannon ball performer, Stone & Madigan, 1850; Hyatt & Co., 1859; Great Railroad Circus (McCorkle), 1859. South America, 8 years, where he was honored by Emperor Don Pedro I and given the name of Signor Thomas Guilluamus Henrico, which he frequently used in his profession. One of his acts was balancing a rifle with a bayonet attached to 3 chairs hanging from the gun, with 2 swords placed through the trigger guard. Placing the bayonet on his chin, he balanced the lot for several minutes. After leaving Stone & Madigan, 1851, went to England and was connected with Batty's circus during the time of the world's fair at Hyde Park. Following this, toured Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Dublin. See Signor Henrico.
WILLIAMS, W. Acrobat, L. B. Lent’s, 1876.
WILLIAMS, WALTER. Clown. A lad when he came to this country with his brother, William Williams, as an equestrian with James West’s troupe, 1816. Proficient on the slack-rope and later a very good clown. West’s during the American tour, through 1822; Olympic Circus, Philadelphia, 1823. May be the same man who was with Raymond & Waring, 1839, and did light balancing at the winter circus at Niblo’s Garden, NYC, 1843-44.
WILLIAMS, WALTER V. (April 27, 1849-June 9, 1912) Musician. Born in Earlville, NY. Became a proficient cornetist and later switched to the tuba. Joined P. T. Barnum’s at age 15 and remained for 21 years. Also connected with VanAmburgh’s, George W. DeHaven’s, Montgomery Queen’s, W. W. Cole’s, Sells Bros.’, old John Robinson’s, Adam Forepaugh’s, Burr Robbins’, and Ringling Bros.’ Married in Delavan, WI, Henrietta Rector, October 25, 1870. Claimed to have covered over 170,000 miles by wagon and some 100,000 miles by rail throughout his professional life. Died in Manchester, IA.
WILLIAMS, W. HERBERT. James M. Nixon’s Amphitheatre, Broadway opposite Waverly Place, NYC, winter 1871-72
WILLIAMS, WILLIAM. Clown and tight-rope performer, who sometimes called himself “Chatterbox Gabblejoke.” Came to USA from England with James West’s, 1816-22; Price & Simpson’s, 1822-25; Walnut Street Theatre, 1824; Harrington & Buckley, 1830; Yeaman Circus, 1830; Nathan A. Howes’ Eagle Circus, 1836. Brother of clown Walter Williams. Wife was a graceful slack wire performer.
WILLIAMS, WILLIAM P. [“Canada Bill”]. Elephant keeper, Adam Forepaugh’s, in charge of the bulls, Columbus and Romeo. Killed by the latter unreliably animal, Hatboro, PA, 1867. Had formerly been handler for the likes of Hannibal, Pizarro, and Virginius.
WILLIAMSON, FRANKLIN. Acrobat, with W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1884.
WILLIAMSON, JOHN. Clown, L. B. Lent’s, 1874; P. T. Barnum’s, 1874.
WILLIS, FRANK. Proprietor, Great Atlantean, 1878.
WILLIS, JAMES. Clown, Barnum & Bailey, 1893; rider, Gollmar Bros.’, 1897.
WILLIS, LEWIS “CONTRABAND LEWIS.” (1851?-March 20, 1881) One of the rare black riders America produced before the 20th century and the greatest of his race. Sometimes advertised as “The nonpareil Lewis” and “Lewis the Moor.” Rider and equestrian director, John Wilson, aided in making him a star performer. With John Robinson’s, 1867-78; D. W. Stone’s, 1878. Particularly successful performing in Russia. Died a few months after return from Europe, age 30.
WILLIS, OSCAR. General performer, Stone, Rosston & Murray, 1867; aerial equilibrist and rope-walker, Stone & Murray, 1868.
WILLIS, RICHARD. Band leader. P. H. Nichols’, 1841; Rufus Welch’s, 1847-48; Robinson & Eldred, 1850-51; J. M. June’s, 1854; Washburn’s, 1855; Rowe’s, 1856.
WILLITS, C. C. Treasurer, Spalding & Rogers, 1854.
WILMOT, FRANK. Rider. Byram G. Bernard’s, 1829-30; Royal Circus, 1831; Edward Eldred’s, 1834; Palmer’s, 1835; Brown’s, 1835; scenic rider, Sweet & Hough, 1835; Howes & Sands, 1835; 2-horse rider, Crane & Co., 1836; scenic rider, Charles H. Bacon’s, 1837-38; Robinson & Foster, 1843.
WILMOT, J. N. Rider, Cincinnati Circus (John Shay, John Mateer, J. W. Jackson, Charles J. Rogers, proprietors), 1841.
WILSON, ALICE. See Alice Lake.
WILSON, BILLY. Minstrel performer, P. T. Barnum’s, 1873.
WILSON BROTHERS [Lewis, Luke, George]. Gymnasts. Lipman & Stokes’, a first-year organization, 1866; Perry Powers’ Combination Circus, 1867; gymnasts, C. W. Noyes’ Crescent City Circus, spring 1870 (former Paris Pavilion, set up in New Orleans under the proprietorship of Spalding and Bidwell); John O’Brien’s, 1871.
WILSON, C. Juggler, Old Dominion Circus, 1845.
WILSON, C. A. Advance agent, Stowe & Orton, 1870; press agent, John Stowe & Sons, 1871.
WILSON, CHARLES C. (July 12, 1870-August 7, 1920) Agent. Married Clara Harris, daughter of William H. Harris. John S. McMahon’s, 1892; Rentz & Co., 1893; W. H. Harris’ Nickel-Plate, 1900.
WILSON, DAVE. Courtney & Sanford’s Minstrels, a party made up, New York, to travel with Courtney & Sanford’s Circus, South America. Sailed from New York on July 23, 1873.
WILSON, FRANK. Negro minstrel, John Wilson’s, mountain towns of California, 1865.
WILSON, FRED. General performer. Spalding & Rogers, 1853-54; Jim Myers’, 1856; clown, Sloat & Shepard, 1857. Later, returned to England to perform in music halls.
WILSON, GEORGE. Animal tamer, Chiarini’s, San Francisco, 1879.
WILSON, HARRY. F. J. Taylor’s, 1892; equestrian director, Great Exposition Circus (J. C. O’Brien, manager), 1895.
WILSON, HARRY. (d. June 29, 1890) Contortionist, John Forepaugh’s, California, 1888.
WILSON, HENRY. (b. June 2, 1801) Born in England but came to the United States when a boy and appeared at the old Bowery Theatre, NYC, in Putnam’s Ride as a singer. 1849, went to California to look for gold. 1857, had an interest in the Nixon & Kemp. One of his sons was Captain F. B. Wilson, circus press agent. Died at his home in NYC of cirrhosis of the liver, age 76.
WILSON, HUGH. Contortionist, juggler and hat spinner, Haight’s Great Southern, 1874.
WILSON, JOHN [John F. McDonough]. (d. February 7, 1922) Bareback and 4-horse rider. Born in Cincinnati and resided there all of his life when not on the road. The name of Wilson was given to him by old John Robinson for whom he worked for most of his career, beginning with Robinson & Lake, 1862. Started with Robinson as a pony boy, later teaching himself to ride. Also broke horses for John F. Robinson. Was at times equestrian director with the show. Married 3 times, his first wife being Alice Lake, adopted daughter of William Lake. [Robert Stickney: “He developed into the most wonderful 4-horse rider of his day.”] Was with the show as late as 1893. One of the most handsomely dressed men in the ring. Died at the Savoy Hotel, Cincinnati, age 78.
WILSON, JOHN. (1829-August 4, 1885) Native of Scotland. Landed in NYC to follow his trade as a butcher, 1849, at about 20 years old. Obtained employment with Beck’s dry goods store as a clerk and later as a window dresser. Moved to San Francisco the following year and engaged in several lines of business. 1859, bought the Sands, Nathan & Quick elephants, Victoria and Albert, for $22,000; which were shipped west in the charge of Dr. Charles Bassett, as agent for the owners; the elephants were the first to be exhibited on the West Coast and, as such, created quite a sensation. With the help of William Hendrickson, bought show equipment for $20,000 and put out a circus featuring the elephants; and the Grand Circus and Elephant Exhibition, Wilson & Co., owners, opened at Jackson and Kearney Streets, June 1, 1859. Converted Mechanics’ Pavilion, San Francisco, into a hippodrome, 1860; company was advertised as John Wilson’s “Dan Rice’s” Great Show, the suggestion being Wilson had obtained some of Dan Rice’s trained animals, particularly the mules “Pete” and “Barney,” and made arrangements to use the Rice name; this may or may not be true - any pair of comic mules could be christened as such. Commenced a tour through the interior of California, Oregon, Washington Territory, and lower Canada; but, before a month had run, a tragedy occurred when Victoria died of injuries, complications from crossing a swift running river. The Wilson circus returned to San Francisco for an October 5-17 stand at the Jackson & Kearney Street lot. From October 30 to November 12, the group occupied the Hippodrome (formerly Mechanics Pavilion), modeled on the lines of the famous Cirque Olympus of Paris; according to the Alta Californian, this was the largest and best show ever seen in the state; still featured was the performing elephant Albert and the trick mules Pete and Barney; the run finished and the threat of unpleasant times ahead, the show sailed for Honolulu on the vessel Yankee, departing on December 26 with a complement that included the elephant and mules. 1862, the wagons of so called Joe Pentland’s Great New York Circus arrived in California from the East on March 30 to go out under the management of Wilson, who had just returned to the West Coast from the Orient; the circus opened in San Francisco at the Jackson Street lot, April 6, in a 110’ round top. There is no proof that this outfit had anything to do with Joe Pentland; certainly the clown was not advertised in the bills, but the problem with writing him out of the California venture is that he can’t be located elsewhere at this time. The stand terminated May 19 and the company set out for the mountain regions; their absence lasted until October 20 when they returned for a twenty-two day stand under the designation of Mammoth Circus and Hippodrome and Joe Pentland’s Great World Circus; then the show was taken as far south as Los Angeles for an appearance on November 29 and 30. 1863, John Wilson’s Mammoth Circus, with the same program as the previous November, returned to the Metropolitan Theatre, San Francisco, for a stand from January 16 to January 20. By fall, Wilson and H. C. Lee combined their shows as the Mammoth Circus and Roman Hippodrome and descended upon the Jackson Street lot for a stay under canvas from October 23 to November 26. 1864, Wilson filed suit against William Hendrickson for dissolution of their partnership; trouble between the two occurred first in 1859 when Wilson had a unit of their circus company in South America and Hendrickson was managing another on the West Coast; the two had a successful season the prior year and some money was laid aside for real estate investment; when Wilson returned he was informed that Hendrickson’s company had a losing season and the reserve funds were used up in an attempt to keep the show running; but this could not be verified because “the books had been lost”; later, Wilson learned that certain real estate had indeed been purchased by Hendrickson using partnership money; Wilson sued for a deed to one-half of the property so purchased, as well as for the dissolution of the partnership. 1865, in San Francisco John Wilson’s Hippodrome, on the site of the old Mechanics Pavilion was arranged with two rings, an inner and outer one; in the larger, all sorts of races were contested - hurdle, chariot, Roman, pony, and even running; the smaller ring was used for circus acts. Constructed a circus in San Francisco on a lot facing New Mongomery Street and opened on January 28, 1874. Continued in the business until about 1875 or 1876, when he took his troupe to Australia, India, China, etc. He died in Hamburg, Germany, from dropsy and cancer of the liver, during the time his circus was traveling in that country.
WILSON, JOE. Boss canvasman, Shedman Bros.’, 1894.
WILSON, LEW. Leaper, Dr. James L. Thayer’s, 1870.
WILSON, NELLIE. Hurdle rider and aerialist, Cole & Lockwood, 1894.
WILSON, SAMUEL. (d. June 4, 1890) Orrin Bros.’
WILSON, SUSIE. Equestrienne. W. W. Cole’s, 1886; S. H. Barrett’s, 1887.
WILTON, HARRY. Aerialist. Robbins & Colvin, 1881; (with Dashway) Nathans & Co.’s, 1882; John Robinson’s, 1885.
WILTON, WILLIAM. Clown, Barnum & Bailey, 1893.
WINANS, GILBERT D. Proprietor, Bailey & Winans, 1890.
WINFIELD, JOHN. Gymnast, Sells Bros.’, 1879; performing dogs, John H. Murray’s, 1881; John B. Doris’, 1883. See Gregory Brothers.
WINFIELD, WILLIAM “SIDE SHOW BILL.” Boss canvasman, John Robinson’s, 1868-75; boss razorback, 1886-87; boss canvasman, 1888-90.
WINN, MAJOR. Musician, Fogg & Howes’, 1826, playing the violin and the hurdy-gurdy.
WINNER, WILLIAM. Lion tamer, VanAmburgh & Co., 1871.
WINNIE, EDWARD. Gymnast. Madigan’s, 1861; Stokes’, 1862; Thayer & Noyes, 1863; general performer, Rivers & Derious, 1864; John Robinson’s, 1867; (with Louis B. Carr, trapeze and brother act), C. T. Ames’, 1868; Metchear & Cameron, 1870.
WINTER, JOHN. Treasurer and press agent, Irwin Bros.’, 1888.
WINTERS, AL. Supt. of curiosities, P. T. Barnum’s, 1877.
WINTERBURN, JAMES. (d. 1908) Proprietor, Winterburn Show Printing Co., Chicago, IL.
WISEMAN, E. L. Director, Great Western Circus, 1876.
WITCHER, FRANK J. Press agent, Burr Robbins’, 1874.
WITHE, TOM. Apprentice, Aaron Turner, 1842.
WITHERELL, GEORGE E. Proprietor, Witherell’s, 1882-83.
WITHERS, JOSEPH. Band leader. George F. Bailey & Co., 1866-73; Melville, Maginley & Cooke’s, 1875; band leader, P. T. Barnum, 1876-77, 1879-80.
WITMAR, CHARLES. Orrin Barber’s, 1888.
WITTING, EDWARD. Batcheller & Doris, 1881.
WIXOM, ERNEST B. (d. November 29, 1933) Began in show business, 1888, with the Wixon-Bentley Circus, playing tuba in the band and in charge of privileges. 1889-93, served in the same capacity with the Matt Wixom Circus. Then, 1895-99, with brother, Van, took out Wixom Bros.’ Circus. After selling it, the two operated a carnival for several years. Then Ernest went into the mercantile business at Bancroft, MI, until his death there.
WIXOM, FRANK. (1864-March 5, 1943) Wixom’s, 1891. Son of Matt Wixom.
WIXON, MATT. Wixom’s, 1885-97; Wixom Bros.’, 1901.
WOLCOTT, E. W. Ringmaster, Spalding & Rogers, 1859.
WOLF, JACK. Acrobat, John Robinson’s, 1891-92.
WOLF, WILLIS. (d. July 14, 1875) Leaper and tumbler. John W. Robinson’s, 1870; Smith & Baird, 1872. Died of consumption at Macomb, IL, age 24.
WOLFINGTON, JOHN B. Contortionist. Satterlee, Bell & Co., 1858; Great Union Circus, 1860.
WOLFSOHN. Acrobat, Madigan’s, 1861.
WOMBOLD, GEORGE [r. n. George Wormald]. (March 19, 1858-December 26, 1939) Born at Maysville, KY. In circus business more than 40 years as a canvasman or boss canvasman. Started trouping, 1874, when 16, Sells Bros.’ Went to VanAmburgh’s, John H. Murray’, Thayer & Noyes, Hemmings, Cooper & Bailey; John Robinson’s, 1882-83; Sells Bros.’, 1884; R. W. Weldon’s,. 1885; S. H. Barrett’s (Sells Bros.’); Burr Robbins, 1887; French & Monroe’s Steamboat Show, 1888. Did steam boating as a mate every winter when not on a show. Early 1890s, George W. Hall’s; Albert M. Wetter’s; Gentry Bros.’; Norris & Rowe; Gollmar Bros.’; sideshow boss canvasman, Forepaugh-Sells, 1910; Young Buffalo Wild West, 1911-13; Hagenbeck-Wallace; Al G. Barnes’; last trouping with, Sun Bros.’ Following, associated with Time Recorder Co., Cincinnati, where he remained 10 years. Also employed for a time at Manhattan Bathing Beach, Dayton, KY; and the Home Stock Co. In late years, lived at the National Elks’ Home, Bedford, VA, and, as a Spanish-American War veteran, Soldiers’ Home, Sandusky, OH. Died of chronic myocarditis, age 80.
WOOD, ARTHUR. Pinkerton detective assigned to Adam Forepaugh’s to keep off pickpockets, sneak thieves, and house breakers. Died in Chicago by falling into a coal shoot on West Madison that someone had neglected to cover.
WOOD, CHARLES K. (d. October 4, 1894) Born in Centerville, VT. At age 12 was employed by a stage company, Spencer & Kingsley, whose route was from Brattleboro to Greenfield. Acrobat, Montgomery Queen’s, 1873. With VanAmburgh’s from the time it was formed until it disbanded, with the exception of a year or two when with another company. Associated with Frank Hyatt for 19 years, during which time he had charge of the transportation and laying out of routes. With P. T. Barnum’s for several years. Entered the Union army and served in the Quartermaster department, Fort Monroe. Retired from the business about 15 years prior to his death in Brattleboro, VT.
WOOD, EDWARD. See Edward Woods.
WOOD, GEORGE. Equestrian director, Wood & Ewers’ Golden Gate Wagon Shows (Charles Ewers, George Wood, proprietors), 1897.
WOOD, HARRY. Clown and general performer, Handenburger & Co. (John O’Brien, proprietor), 1871.
WOOD, JAMES. See James Woods.
WOOD, J. A. Excursion agent, Cooper, Bailey & Co., 1880.
WOOD, J. H. Press agent and superintendent of advertising car, John F. Stowe’s, 1892.
WOOD, JOHN. Agent, Homer Davis’ New Show, 1879.
WOOD, JOHN A. See John A. Woods.
WOOD, JOHN F. Took over Holland & Gormley, which became the John F. Wood’s Allied Shows, November 1889.
WOOD, JOSEPH H. [“Col.”]. (circa 1818-October 21, 1892) Native of Weedsport, NY. Received title of “Colonel” from his involvement in the “Toledo War” between Ohio and the territory of Michigan during which he is said to have headed a regiment of volunteers. 1843, moved to Cincinnati and assembled a traveling museum, with which he toured for 15 years. Subsequently, took his exhibition to Cuba, after which he claimed he had taken the first elephant to that island. Opened Wood’s Museum, Philadelphia, in the old Bolivar Hotel Building on Chestnut Street and another at 9 Dearborn Street, Chicago, in the Tremont Hotel block, both in 1854. Philadelphia property was destroyed by fire in 1857. That year or the following one, became manager of Spalding and Rogers showboats Banjo and James Raymond on the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and continued in that capacity until the Civil War interrupted boat travel on the rivers. 1859, opened an amusement on Lake Street, Chicago, under the firm name of Donnetti & Woods, “The Great Burlesque Circus,” a pantomimic and acrobatic exhibition of “dogs and monkeys.” 1861, represented P. T. Barnum in taking the Grizzly Adams bears to Cuba. Bought the St. Louis Museum, 1864. Later, opened Wood’s Museum, Chicago, from which he acquired a fortune, but lost it due to the Chicago fire, 1871. Wood’s Museum, Philadelphia, proving unprofitable, retired, Adrian, MI, where he died.
WOOD, ROSINA DELIGHT [nee Richardson]. (d. May 2, 1878) Fat woman. Born in Cheshire County, NH. Traveled with P. T. Barnum’s, etc. She was the lady erroneously reported to have been lowered from the burning Barnum’s Museum through a window by block and tackle. However, she was on exhibit there at the time. When but 19 years of age, weighed 515 pounds. A lady of intelligence and education. Died in Florida, at the time weighing 615 pounds..
WOOD, T. G. Advertising agent, Wood & Ewers’ Golden Gate Wagon Shows (Charles Ewers, George Wood, proprietors), 1897.
WOODRUFF, TIM. Concert performer, Dan Castello & Co., 1866.
WOODRUFF, WILLIAM. Lion tamer, J. J. Nathans, 1861.
WOODS, BEACH [r. n. John W. Woolsey]. (d. December 21, 1881) Herculean performer. Stood 6’ 4” inches in height and weighed about 240 pounds. Entered the circus profession as a protégé of John Tryon. In his act, pulled against horses, had rocks broken on his chest, etc. Performed at the Amphitheatre in the Bowery, NYC, about 1844 or 1845 and later traveled with various circuses. In retirement, settled in Sing Sing, NY, where he is said to have owned property and lived comfortably. Fathered 3 sons and 3 daughters. Died at his home, age about 68.
WOODS BROTHERS. Black performers, with Robbins & Colvin, 1881.
WOODS, CHARLES H. Equestrian director, Donaldson & Rich, 1885.
WOODS, EDWARD [or Wood]. (1820-June 19, 1898) Rider. Born in Albany, NY. Began with a circus at the age of 10 under William Bancker. Palmer’s, 1835; Bancker & Harrington, 1835; scenic rider, Joseph E. M. Hobby’s, 1839; Hobby & Pratt, 1842; John Tryon’s, Bowery Amphitheatre, NYC, 1843; Welch & Mann, 1843-44. Rider, Mann, Welch & Delavan, 1844-47, for their Mediterranean trip, setting sail on May 28, performing at Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa, Malaga. Following, the company went to South America, completing a tour lasted 11 months. Welch, Delavan & Nathans, 1848-50; 4-horse rider, Rivers & Derious, 1852-61; Gardner & Hemmings, 1862; Slaymaker & Nichols, 1864; Tom King’s, 1864; and then retired from the business. Was in the production of Herne the Hunter at the old National Theatre, Philadelphia, about 1846. Opening night of this piece, his horse, Fire Fly, was killed by falling to the stage floor from a considerable height. Woods was saved by clutching a beam and hanging suspended until others came to his aid. Credited, along with his equestrienne wife, to have performed the first double bareback act in the United States.
WOODS, FRANK. Contracting agent, Great Wallace Show, 1893.
WOODS, GEORGE. Bareback rider, Spalding & Rogers, 1859.
WOODS, JAMES [or Wood]. Clown, juggler, slack-rope performer, Caldwell’s Occidental Circus, 1867.
WOODS, J. F. Proprietor, J. F. Woods Allied Shows, 1889-90.
WOODS, JOHN A. [or Wood]. Press agent, John Robinson’s, 1871-75, 1883, performing ponies, 1892; excursion agent, Cooper & Bailey, 1880.
WOODS, JOHN F. Holland & Gormley, taken over by John F. Woods, the John F. Wood’s Allied Shows, November 1889.
WOODS, DR. L. B. Purchasing agent, P. T. Barnum’s Roman Hippodrome, 1875.
WOODS, MARGARET [or Wood]. Equestrienne. Bancker & Harrington, 1835; Welch & Mann, 1843-44; Rockwell & Stone, 1846; Welch & Delavan, 1847. Wife of Edward Wood. See above.
WOODVILLE, JAMES. Batcheller & Doris, 1882; John B. Doris’, 1883.
WOODWARD, H. A. Agent, E. F. and J. Mabie’s, 1851.
WOODWARD, IRENE [exhibited as LaBelle Irene]. (d. November 1915) Sideshow curiosity. Claimed to be the first tattooed lady in the world. Traveled with Barnum & Bailey to Europe, appearing before royalty, as well as the leading medical institutions on the Continent. Died, age 53.
WOOLFORD, GEORGE. Horse drama performer. Thomas Cooke’s son-in-law. Made London debut, summer 1825 with Andrew Ducrow’s company. 1836, moved into Thomas Cooke’s stable just prior to leaving for USA. With American company, 1836-37. Troupe performed in a building erected on Walnut Street, Philadelphia. Wife was a tight-rope performer. Daughter Rebecca Marianna Woolford (1838-1907) married Arsene Desire Loyal (1838-1905.
WOOLSET, JOHN W. See Beach Woods.
WOOLSTON, S. C. [Dr.]. Ringmaster, George F. Bailey & Co., 1854-62.
WOOTTEN, P. BOWLES. Livery stable owner on Price Street, Atlanta, GA, who joined with Andrew Haight to take out Wootten & Haight, 1871. Sold his interest in the Wootten & Haight to his partner in the fall of that year. Augusta (GA) Daily Chronicle & Sentinel: He was “a Georgian and an old Confederate and will be remembered by his former comrades.” Interested in Wootten & Andrews’ Great Southern Circus, 1874. Treasurer, Great Metropolitan Olympia, 1877. By 1879, was a horse and mule trader in Nashville, TN.
WORD, LEMUEL. Animal keeper, Miller, Mead & Delavan, 1834; the Zoological Exhibition from Baltimore, 1836-37; riding master, Waring and Raymond, New Orleans, winter 1837-38.
WORLAND, ANNIE. Equestrienne and tight-rope dancer. Daughter of Jerry Worland. With the Worland Family, South America, Spalding & Rogers, 1862-64; the Hippotheatron, NYC, winter 1864; Robinson & Lake, 1864-65; George W. DeHaven’s, 1867; Dodge & Bartine, 1868; James T. Johnson & Co., 1869; Charles Noyes’, 1870; E. Stowe’s Northwestern, 1871; Burr Robbins’, 1872; rider, Sells Bros.’, 1874; Great Pacific Circus, 1877-78; Basye’s Great Consolidated Shows, 1879; Cooper & Jackson, 1880; Siegrist, Howe & Co., 1884 Sieber & Co., 1888. Married Steward W. Davis, ringmaster and equestrian director.
WORLAND, HENRY. Dodge & Bartine, 1868.
WORLAND, JERRY [r. n. Comosh]. (April 24, 1864) Tumbler and leaper. With Spalding, Rogers & Van Orden’s People’s, 1851; Johnson & Co., 1852; Floating Palace, 1853; Den Stone’s, 1854; VanAmburgh, Stone & Tyler, 1855; Welch & Lent, winter 1855; Madigan’s, 1856; Floating Palace, 1857; John Robinson’s, August, 1857; Cooper & Myers, 1858; Davis & Crosby, 1859; Robinson & Lake, 1860; Antonio Bros.’, 1861. Spalding & Rogers, West Indies, 1863-64. Met with an accident while there and was sent to NYC, where he died a few months later.
WORLAND, JOHN [r. n. John Comosh]. (August 9, 1855-July 5, 1933) Leaper. A native and many years resident of Corning, NY. Father was a Portuguese immigrant. Began with the circus at age 10, taking his professional name from the equestrienne, Mme. Worland. It is thought that he was apprenticed to Jerry Worland, tumbler and leaper, as one of the Worland Family. Listed with Davis & Crosby’s, 1859; James T. Johnson’s as early as 1869; probably on his own, 1872, when connected with the San Francisco Circus and Roman Hippodrome; still in California, 1874, with John Wilson’s Palace Amphitheatre, San Francisco; Carlo Bros.’, South America, 1877-78; Adam Forepaugh’s, 1880-84, as trick leaper, participating in a horizontal bar act, and featured as an outside wire ascensionist; Orrin Bros.’, winter 1883-1888; W. W. Cole’s, 1885-86. Was said to be the only man in the world to repeatedly accomplish three somersaults in one leap from a spring board under a circus tent before a paying audience. First successful attempt at a triple somersault from a spring board occurred in St. Louis, 1874; feat was repeated with Howes’ London, St. Louis, MI, 1876; the latter time was marred by his landing in a sitting position rather than on his feet; successfully repeated the feat twice while with Adam Forepaugh’s, 1881; again at New Haven, CT, October 9, 1884. Said to be the only acrobat to repeat the hazzardous feat of a triple somersault. [Steve Gossard: Worland “was certainly the only man who ever accomplished the feat often enough to claim consistency and live to tell about it.”] Married Josephine Campbell, Corning, 1884. Early 1880s, invented a leaping board tail piece which greatly facilitated leaping. Although he patented the device, he donated it to the benefit of his brother leapers. Died at his home in Corning, age 78, where he had been in the coal business. Served as a city alderman and as a county supervisor, and was a Democratic candidate for state assemblyman, 1916. His son, John Jr., appeared on the stage many years, taking his father’s professional name. And there were two daughters, Josephine and Margaret.
WORLAND, MRS. JERRY. Outside ascension act, Cooper & Myer’s Circus of All Nations, 1858; oscillating wire performer, Spalding & Rogers, West Indies, 1863-64; Hippotheatron, NYC, with Spalding & Rogers, spring 1864; Great Union Combination, 1865; George W. DeHaven’s, 1867; Dodge & Bartine, 1868; equestrienne and manège act, James T. Johnson’s & Co., 1869. Married Henry McGuffin on the Lipman Circus, May 20, 1866, in Alleghany City, PA.
WORLAND, MILLIE. Australian Dime Show, 1887.
WORLAND, WILLIAM. Howes’ Great London, 1876.
WORLEN, JESSE. Treasurer, King & Franklin, 1889; J. H. LaPearl, 1893.
WORRELL, FRANK. Herr Driesbach’s, 1856.
WORRELL SISTERS [Sophia, Jenny, Irene]. Concert entertainers. Famous daughters of the clown and comedian, William Worrell. Performed in the circus ring with him in California in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Went onto the stage as children, singing and dancing their way to popularity in California and Australia. [M. B. Leavitt: They were “exceptionally pretty and attractive, and one of them, Jenny, who was a very clever and spirited clog dancer, made a great hit.”] Murphy & Bray’s Minstrels, American Theatre, San Francisco, and a tour of California, 1864; Bowery Theatre, NYC, July 10, 1865, to August 11, 1865; 1866, took over the theatre on Broadway opposite Waverley Place, calling it the Worrell Sisters’ New York Theatre. Increased interest in burlesque, inspired by Lydia Thompson and her British Blonde Brigade, 1868, was instrumental in developing the popularity of the sisters. October, 1868, they leased the old New York Theatre and produced the burlesque of The Field of the Cloth of Gold. Irene was married to E. Eddy, Jr. Sophie married German dialect comedian George S. Knight. She is said to have been the inventor of the pleated skirt. She died in New Orleans, 1917. A third sister, Jennie, born in 1850 in Cincinnati, OH, died on August 11, 1899, in Brooklyn, NY, from burns she received while asleep on a Coney Island meadow; the grass burned over a large area and when the fire was extinguished, her body was discovered. Sophie and Irene had separated from Jennie some time before her death because of her “habits.” She was married to Mike Murray, a known gambler, later divorced. Second husband was J. A. Chatfield.
WORRELL, WILLIAM. (1823 - August 7, 1897) Clown and black face comedian, known as “The Original Cheap John.” Born in Cincinnati, the son of Judge Worrell, and educated as a civil engineer. Apprenticed in the circus business with old John Robinson. Later, took the first American circus to Australia, built a ring on the theatre’s stage and gave “horse pieces” with considerable success. Ethiopian entertainer, Clayton, Bartlett & Welch, 1840; Robinson & Foster, 1843; Stickney & Buckley, 1844; clown, Great Western (Dennison Stone, Eaton Stone, Thomas McCollum, proprietors), 1846; clown and minstrel, S. P. Stickney’s, 1847-49; Great Western (Stone & McCollum, proprietors), 1849; clown, Stokes, Germaine & LaThorne, 1850, which traveled by steamer to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and back again to New Orleans; Welch & Lent, 1851, 1854-55; Welch’s National, winter 1856. With his illustrious daughters, visited California and took engagements with Lee & Bennett, San Francisco, 1857; H. C. Lee’s, 1858; Australia, 1859-61; Lee, Worrell & Sebastian, 1863; John Wilson’s, Metropolitan Theatre, San Francisco, 1863-65; proprietor, Worrell’s Theatre, San Francisco, 1865. The family returned East and performed in NYC, 1866. George W. DeHaven’s, 1866; Adam Forepaugh’s, Philadelphia, 1866; Nixon’s Amphitheatre, Broadway opposite Waverly Place, NYC, winter 1871-72. Retired, Little Neck, LI. 1874, was in the auction business in Scranton, PA. “Billy” Worrell, one of the best known clowns in the circus business, died of pneumonia, Newark, NJ.
WORSTEL, OLIVER. Clown, Satterlee, Bell & Co., 1858.
WORTLEY, ED. Clown, Sparks’, 1891.
WORTH, CARLOTTA. William O’Dale Stevens’, Park Square, Boston, June 1883.
WORTHINGTON, DAVID. Assistant manager, Great International Circus (James E. Cooper, James A. Bailey, Robert S. Hood, David Worthington proprietors), 1874.
WORTHINGTON, PROF. [and wife]. Double trapeze and slack-rope, Holland, Bowman & McLaughlin, 1890.
WREN, W. G. Clown. Hurlburt & Hunting, 1885; Miller & Runnells, 1888.
WRIGHT, BILLY. George W. Richards’, winter 1889-90.
WRIGHT, CHARLES. See Charles Antonio.
WRIGHT, CHARLES. (1792-1862) Born in Somers, NY. First appeared in circus performances as an employee of Finch & Bailey in their exhibition of the elephant “Betty” or “Little Bet,” 1822; New Caravan of Living Animals, supposedly under the ownership of Carley and Purdy, 1826; by 1828, part of that concern; Carley, Purdy & Wright’s menagerie, 1830; co-proprietor, Purdy, Welch, Finch & Wright’s menagerie, 1832; Purdy, Welch, Finch & Wright, menagerie, 1832. May have been first “lion keeper” in America, since he was advertised as entering a lion’s den as early as 1829. Had two menageries on the road, 1828.
WRIGHT, EDWARD A. General agent, Hilliard & Hamilton, 1875.
WRIGHT, JOHN B. Singing clown, E. O. Rogers’, 1891.
WRIGHT, R. L. Agent. Great Western (Dennison Stone, Eaton Stone, Thomas McCollum, proprietors), 1846; Robinson & Eldred, 1850; St. Louis Amphitheatre, 1852.
WRIGHT, TULLUS. Billed as the youngest American Hercules, 4th season, Charles Lee’s Great London Show, 1896.
WRIGHT WILLIAM F. General manager, Beckett’s, 1887; general manager and contracting agent, George W. Richards’, winter 1889-90.
WURTH, FRANK. Press agent, Bruce L. Baldwin’s, 1894.
WYANT, FRANK. Booker & Howard’s Minstrels, L. B. Lent’s, 1865.
WYATT, ANDY “PROF.” Violinist, Hippocomique, 1868.
WYATT, THOMAS. Born in NYC. Pupil of Aaron Turner, 1842-53. Rider, James Myers’, 1856; VanAmburgh & Co., 1857; Eldred’s, 1858; Mabie’s, 1860; S. O. Wheeler’s, 1863.
WYNNE, EDWARD. 4-horse chariot driver, Howes & Cushing, 1875.
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