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Books now available from CHS!

Books       Photographs

All proceeds from book sales go to support Bandwagon or other activities of the Circus Historical Society. Books are in new condition. Only a limited number of copies available. Order now!

Star Traveling Showmen, The American Circus Before the Civil War, by Stuart Thayer (paperback, new condition). Out of print. Books donated to CHS by the family of Stuart Thayer. Price: $30.00, plus $5.00 shipping and handling (USA); International: $30.00, plus $12.00 shipping and handling. Order here.

    • Starting with the often overlooked fact that the most important circus act is the purchase of a ticket, Thayer examines the financing, framing, staging, routing, advertising, and moving of a circus. Every page contains some wonderful and tasty tidbit to delight the reader! — David Price

    • Anyone who might have thought that nonfiction writing was dry and unimaginative will find portions of this book to be positively inspired. The chapter on “Going to the Show” is just short of poetry — Steve Gossard

    Traveling Showmen manages to cover nearly every aspect of the entertainment from the time J. Purdy Brown set out with the first circus tent in 1825 to Spalding and Rogers’ great Floating Palace on the eve of the Civil War. Besides adding considerably to our knowledge of circus history, the distillation of so much wisdom is an imposing achievement in itself. — A. H. Saxon

    • Stuart Thayer has distilled the wisdom and knowledge gathered from Annals into a beautifully written little masterpiece called Traveling Showmen. Organized topically, the book explored the origin and development of the business side of the traveling, tented circus. It also placed field shows in the context of Jacksonian America, exploring the impact of societal forces such as western population movement and improvements in transportation. Reading the book is a humbling experience. After only a few pages the reader becomes painfully aware how little he knew about the period. It is the smartest circus book ever written. Annals and Traveling Showmen brought a previously unknown level of research and analysis to the study of circus history. He examined the ante-bellum period with a thoroughness unequaled before or since for any period of show history. These two books are his legacy. No one ever said more about circus history in fewer words. — Fred D. Pfening III

    • For circus lovers, Traveling Showmen is a book long overdue. Add this book to his three volume Annals of the American Circus and there is no question as to Stuart Thayer’s pre-eminence among circus historians. — William L. Slout

    Devoted to scholarship, Stuart L. Thayer devoted much of his life to the study of American Circus History. He published one hundred or more articles on circus history. His Annals of the American Circus 1793-1860 is the premier work on the history of the circus. His Traveling Showmen is the finest single volume on American field shows history.

    Send your reader review of or comments on this book to

Star Shrine Circus, A history of the Shrine Circus, by John H. McConnell. (hardcover, new condition) Out of print. Books donated to CHS by John McConnell. Price: $30.00, plus $6.00 shipping and handling (USA); International: $30.00, plus $13.00 shipping and handling.
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    • To a large portion of the American public, there are two circuses: Ringling and the Shrine. McConnell's affectionate and rollicking history shines the laser beam of historical scholarship on this hugely important but little understood form of twentieth century circusing. — Fred D. Pfening III, Past President, Circus Historical Society.

    • If you've been unable to keep up with the ever-changing Shrine Circus phenomenon without a program, this is the book for you. It's all here: the personalities, the politics, the intrigue. Told with refreshing candor by one who has paid his dues, this fascinating account details every aspect of the operation and fills a much needed place in circus research. — Dave Price, Past Secretary-Treasurer, Circus Historical Society.

    • Provides important new insights into the complex dynamics involving show business, fraternal organizations, and medical charities that underlie this persuasive form of American culture. — William D. Moore, Director, Livingston Masonic Library, New York, New York.

    • Both sympathetic and accurate, this is one of the most concise and thorough studies available of the evolution of twentieth century American circus.

    John McConnell is also the author of Ring, a Horse and a Clown: An Eight Generation History of the Hannefords. He also served as a Trustee of the Circus Historical Society.

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Conover Photographic Collection

    Collective sets from the Richard and Albert Conover collection are again to the public. Visit Conover Photographic Collection to purchase any of these sets of photographs, as they are digitized and made available.

    There are currently sets of photos taken on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus prior to 1956, Cole Bros. Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace, 101 Ranch Wild West, Strates Shows, Cetlin and Wilson Shows, Gollmar Bros. Tim McCoy Wild West, Sparks Circus, Al G. Kelly-Miller Bros. Circus, Beatty-Cole winter quarters and the Sun Bros. Circus. Proceeds from the sales are shared by the Circus Historical Society and the Conover family. You will also find many individual photos from the Conover photographic collection on the CHS website and on the CHS Facebook Group and the CHS Facebook page.
    Richard Conover (1904 - 1971) was a dedicated researcher of the circus who published books about the John Robinson Circus, the Telescoping Tableaus, The Great Forepaugh Show, the Affairs of James A. Bailey, The Circus: Wisconsin’s Unique Heritage and the Fielding Bandchariots. Much of his research came in the form of photographic documentation. He wrote many articles for Bandwagon and served this organization as Treasurer and later as the Vice-President. Read more about circus historian Richard Conover.
    His son, Albert Conover, was as well-known to the Circus Model Builders as his father was to the circus historians. Albert was a dedicated builder whose speciality was the recreation of the Robbins Bros. Circus in ¼” scale. To build these models, he learned the amazing value of the photographs and all the details that were preserved in them.
    Between Richard and Albert, the Conover Photographic collection grew in size with photographs and negatives amassed from other collections, including those of Kenneth Whipple, George Hubler, George Graf, Dyer Reynolds, William Koford, Don Smith, and many others not identified. The collection included many Glass Plate Negatives, large format negatives that are about 5” x 7”, medium format negatives, many other film sizes from 120, 126, 35mm as well as slides and the more modern color 35 mm negative strips and photos.
    The photos range in scope from the 1896 Ringling Bros. Circus to almost every show on the road in 1995 and just about any show you can think of in between. Many were taken by Richard and Albert themselves. Approximately 9,500 photos in their collection were painstakingly placed into 38 different photograph albums where they were divided into sets, many of them being dated.
    In 2012, the Conover family graciously allowed the Circus Historical Society to use the Conover collection to share the rich wealth of this collection with the world by digitizing the collection to preserve its past and current state. Most of the Glass Plate negatives have been turned over to the Circus World Museum where they are safely stored. The Circus World Museum then provided the Circus Historical Society with the digital images to use as needed.
    The Circus Historical Society has been working diligently on this project. The recording of every photo in the 38 albums came first and then the scanning of these sets began. Each set was then documented, recording the photographer, when and where the photos were taken, how many photos in each set and which album a set can be found in. A description of each photo is then recorded, the negative size is recorded or noted if it cannot be found. There are negatives in the collection with no matching photographs. The negatives are then scanned to produce a positive image.


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