Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Apr), 1943. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
Every billboard in Shreveport, La., thirty one years ago, was ablaze with new elaborate paper heralding the coming of the Mighty Haag Shows - "The 18th Transcontinental Tour." The 1912 season opened Thursday March 21st in the home city, where the name of Ernest Haag the Showman was a household word. While the show was on rail 1909 to 1914 George Moyer was General Agent and he ranked as one of the best in his line. Later on he was for some years with the American Circus Corporation. Ernest Haag was sole owner and Manager; Frank McGuyre, Assistant Manager; Harley Hubbard, Treasurer; Jim Campbell in charge of the front door and advertising banners; Harry R. Rhodes in charge of ring stock. He joined out with the show in its early days as a wagon show, and remained continuously forty-four years, and is now resident of Marianna, Fla. Advertising Car No. 1 was in charge of Victor Stout. Arthur Hopper, now with Ringling-Barnum Circus, was also in the Advance Department, Wm. Kellog, legal adjuster; Jim Finnigan - Trainmaster; Henry Emgard and Blassinggame were in charge of concessions. Napolian Reed Head Chef and made it a point to see that the circus folks were well fed.
The rail equipment for this season consisted of 15 cars, made up as follows: 1 advance car, 4 sleepers, 3 stock and 7 flats. The programme was presented in two rings and 1 stage. The show carried three elephants, 9 camels and seven cages. All cars were of wooden construction, and stocks and flats were 60 feet long.
George Oram was Manager of the Annex Department. A few of the attractions I recall are Chief DeBro and wife, Esquimoux midgets; Nellie King presented a clever musical act and also played the steam calliope in parade; DelFeugo, the human salamander and fire eater; Doc Coates, a typical Texan in tail coat and western hat, made sideshow openings and all announcements in big show. The musical feature was Prof. Nelson's rag time band and New Orleans Minstrels.
Frank Miller was Equestrian Director, and principal rider, and presented his own jockey act, also performed some well trained menage horses. The four DeBolien's troupe of acrobats; the well known Wallett Family, five people, in their excellent riding displays with beautiful horses. The Clown song was "Alexander's Rag Time Band" a popular tune of the day, followed immediately by the old time leaps over horses and elephants. The SiKitchie troupe of Japs in foot juggling and balancing; Agnes DeEspa and Bill Johnson aerial performers; Jimmy O'Neal hand balancer; Clara Miller, principal equestrienne; Birdie Martino, rolling globes, juggler, and slack wire performer; Holzer and Rexloh, iron-jaw and wire act, Mardello, contortionist and clown. other clowns I recall were Roy Barrett, Gail Boyd, and McCammon. Henry and Irene Marshall and Mabel James, trapeze, rings and aerial butterfly displays; Birdie Woods on the slack wire; John Woods now with Cole Bros. Circus, performed some trained ponies and horses.
The circus entered Canada June 2 at Port Colborne, Ont., playing important towns and cities to the northern limits of the Toronto and Northern Ontario Railway at South Porcupine. A 325 - mile run was made to reach this town from Burk's Falls. The circus was unloaded and on the lot Sunday noon. One dollar was the admission to the circus at South Porcupine, a remote part of Ontario. The first stop in Quebec was at Valleyfield, July 4th, where show did immense business, and other towns in this province were played up to July 13th then into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Narrow gauge railroads were used at that time on Prince Edward Island, Canada; and on Sunday July 18th the circus train was left at Point Du Chene, N.S. and equipment and people with show transported by steamer across Northumberland strait, over two hour trip, to the first stand, Summerside, P.E.I., which was a Monday date. Ordinary cars of the railroad were all ready to receive the equipment on arrival there and were used the full week. Charlottetown the largest city, 16,006 population was a two day stand. Souris was the Saturday date. All moved back on same steamer Sunday to Point Du Chene, show train loaded and tour continued, through New Brunswick and Quebec, the last stand in Canada being at Farnham, Quebec. In all sixty-six stands were made in Canada to satisfactory business. The circus was at Jamestown, N.Y., Labor Day where the show enjoyed big business.
An incident worthy of mention occurred on the night of June 3rd at St. Catharines, Ont., It was unfortunate to say the least. As the railroad crew were preparing to shift the loaded flats and stock cars to couple on to the sleepers an explosive of some kind was set off on top of the elephant car. The noise awakened all the show train and brought a crowd of townspeople in haste to the railroad yards. Rudy Gonzallas in charge of the elephants was on the scene at once and got them out of the car admidst their trumpeting. Their injuries were cuts about backs and heads from splintered wood and tin, were carefully looked after at once. In a week or so with the best of attention the injuries had healed.
Nine camels in the other half of the car were not injured in any way, The train was held up for two hours while officials of the railroad and police made every effort to find those responsible for the outrage but without results. Some people with the show were of the opinion that this happening was caused by a rival show in Canada at the time, however this could never be proven.
The old-style after show concert was presented with comedians, juggling, black face and dancing, concluding with Colorado Cotton, his wife and boy in "sports and pastimes of the western plains."
The Menagerie display was made up of three elephants, trainer Rudy Gonzallas, two of these were still with the Haag Circus twenty years later and were said to be among the largest with any show. There were also the nine camels, zebra, and seven carved and gold leaf cages of animals. Show also had a giant "Valk-Vark" (or African Wild Boar).
The big top consisted of a 120 foot with two 40 foot, and one 50 foot middle pieces. Several tableaux wagons of ornate design were a parade feature and all baggage stock, sleek dapple grays. What circus fan would not like to wake up and find this circus waiting for him.
Dick Masters was Bandmaster of the Big Show band, and for some years later had the band with the Mugivan and Bowers Shows. The No. 1 Band Wagon of the Haag Circus was built originally for the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show in 1904, and was replete with fine heavy carvings. On one side was depicted Columbus discovering America; and or on the other, Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas. The same wagon was with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show the last few years that it was on the road. At last reports it was at the old quarters, Marland, Okla., crumbling away. Picture the countless thousands thrilled on circus day seeing this wagon with its ten dapple grays leading the Mighty Haag Circus parades through the United States and Canada. Circus days that have gone - but are not forgotten.
An 8 page herald of attractive design was put out in advance of the appearance of the circus. Several of the parade wagons were pictured therein in exact reproduction. I doubt if one of these pieces of advertising could be found anywhere today.
The Mighty Haag Circus of those days is another show that can be added to the list of America’s representative circuses, likewise the name of Ernest Haag, who was widely known and highly respected, shall always live in the annals of circus history.
On Tuesday, January 12th, 1905 a great array of circus owners gathered in Columbus, O., for the auction of the Forepaugh & Sells Bros. Circus. All of the properties, animals, name and good will were to be sold to the highest bidder. John Robinson, Otto Ringling, Jas. A. Bailey, “Solemn” Mike Welch, B. E. Wallace, Willie Sells, E. Haag, Walter Main, H. H. Tammen, Frank Lemon, Theo Hamlin and others were present. All had hopes of buying some part of the equipment to add to their own property. Promptly at 10 a.m., the hour set for the sale, Lewis Sells mounted the platform and said that he had received an offer of $150,000 for the show entire, that the good will and name went with the property, and that the bidding would start at that figure instead of selling the property piece-meal. Then auctioneer Pugh took the stand. While the majority of the visitors were looking at each other in astonishment and hurriedly conferring, Pugh called for other bids. Of course none were made and he promptly knocked down the property for $150,000 - “The purchaser is Jas. A. Bailey,” shouted Lewis Sells, and the sale was over! Mr. Sells later explained that the offer from Bailey had come to him only that morning after the men had reached the Winter Quarters, so Mr. Cole (Chilly Billy) and Mr. Sells agreed to sell the property entire.
This explanation did not satisfy the attending showmen, and the opinion was freely expressed that never again would a show be offered at public auction. Dr. W. T. Hornaday made a futile effort to secure one of the African elephants for the New York Zoo. Theo Hamlin wanted to buy 100 horses for the New York Hippodrome. However the greatest criticism came from the small show owners who had hoped to purchase small lots of animals or properties for their shows, but were not allowed to buy one thing.
After the “auction” Otto Ringling left the winter quarters with Bailey and went into conference with him at the Chittendan Hotel. Then came the announcement by Bailey that he had sold half interest in the show to the Ringling Bros., the show to be operated jointly by the Bailey and the Ringlings. Again the small show owners squirmed, for this meant that instead of one show leaving the road, there would be three big shows working together. The territory mapped out had Ringling Bros. opening in Chicago and working East; Barnum and Bailey were to open in New York and work West; Forepaugh-Sells were to open in Columbus then go through the middle West and South.
Though this purchase made Jas. A. Bailey the biggest man in the circus world with his holdings in Barnum & Bailey, Buffalo Bill and Forepaugh-Sells, it was the first upward step of the Ringling Bros., for on July 1st, 1906 they bought the Bailey interest in the 4-Paw Sells Show, then came the purchase of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, then the Circus Corporation of America was added - but all this is another long story and must wait for another snowy evening.
In correspondence with Dr. Conley, Frank Kindler received the further information regarding the above “auction” which should be of interest to all CHS members, and we print it as follows: “After Forepaugh and Sells combined, they had a pretty good show; but Ringling grew too strong for them while Barnum & Bailey was in Europe. With Barnum & Bailey back in this country, and Ringling getting stronger each year, the Forepaugh-Sells Combine decided to sell their show, title, animals, rolling stock and complete equipment at auction.
The Ringling-Bailey Combine put out the show in 1905 and 1906. Early in 1906, April 11th, I believe, Bailey died; and on July 1st, 1906 the Ringlings bought the Bailey interest from his estate. In 1907 the show went out as usual from Columbus, but at the close of the season went to the Ringling quarters at Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Forepaugh-Sells did not go out in 1908 or 1909, but was sent out in 1910 playing New England and the Eastern States until September, then coming through the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, closing in Mississippi on November 23rd. In 1911 they again played New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio, back to Michigan in July, then through the Midwestern States until late in September, then a big swing through the Southeastern States, closing in Mississippi on November 11th. Both years the winter quarters were in Baraboo, and the show was retired there.”
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.