Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Apr), 1944. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
Just twenty-six years ago it was really an extensive tour of the West for the Sells-Floto Circus. This prominent and high class tented amusement institution confined its full season's routing to the States West of the mighty Mississippi River with the exception of one day when the circus crossed the river into Illinois and exhibited at Rock Island, then turned back to Iowa for following stands.
I have before me the Official Route Sheet, Season 1918, Sells-Floto "The Circus Beautiful." I was a member of this big troupe the entire season. All CHS Members and circus fans I am sure are acquainted with the fact that this fine organization was owned by the original owners and founders, Tammen and Bonfils of Denver, Colo., at that time and up to December 1920. All circus folks engaged for that year reported at Denver, Colo., the home office of the show and Winter Quarters where the name was a household word, and throughout the West. Quite a number of performers, ticket sellers, bosses, bandmen and others stopped at the old historic Windsor Hotel on Larimer Street, host to the Famous, and in the '80's and '90's Denver's finest hotel. We were there one week.
The circus train with all equipment and the flats loaded with elaborate richly carved tableau wagons, band wagons, and cages, fresh from the hands of the artists and painters, left Denver over the Santa Fe Railways, Monday April 1st, a beautiful Spring day. Next day a stop was made at Trinidad, Colo., where the cook tent was erected and all were fed, including the stock. Likewise the next day a stop was made at Las Vegas, N.M. Show train arrived in Albuquerque, N.M., early A.M. April 4th, rehearsals held following day and season opened Saturday April 6th. Show was at El Paso, Tex., Monday and enjoyed good business, followed by four more stands In New Mexico, then into Arizona playing Bisbee, Benson, Miami, Globe, Wilcox, Tuscon, Phoenix and Yuma. First stand in California was at El Centro, April 22nd.
A long tour of that state was made, 42 days being spent there. Los Angeles was played May 2-4 and San Francisco May 30 - June 2. For almost seven weeks we were on the Southern Pacific Railway. Show was in Oregon and Washington stands after leaving California, then into Idaho, exhibiting at Mosco, Boise and Shoshone. On July 4th show was at Walla Walla, Wash. Salt Lake City, Utah, was the July 11th date and from there a long jump was made to Cheyenne, Wyoming; over the Oregon Short Line, and Union Pacific Railway - 521 miles, (show being enroute July 12th). We enjoyed some wonderful scenery on this long trip.
Monday July 15th show did big business in the Home City of Denver, Colo. Many visitors on hand two days including Otto Floto. Other stops followed in Colorado then into Nebraska for one week playing Alliance, Broken Bow, Grand Island, York, Seward and Beatrice. It was a very dry Summer and weather extremely hot when show entered Iowa July 29th at Shenandoah. The first stand east of the Mississippi River was now played, August 6th. Show crossed back into Iowa making other towns up to August 20 at Centerville, then into Missouri for eleven towns. Show was heavily billed and big crowds looked forward to for Labor Day September 2nd in Kansas City, Mo., but entire was lost account of rain and muddy lot. Horton, Kansas was lost also on account of weather conditions. The old home town of the Campbell Bros. Great Consolidated Shows was played September 5th at Fairbury, Nebraska. Ponca City and Alva were the only stops made in Oklahoma. More Kansas and Colorado stands were played and Saturday September 28th show finished the 1918 tour at Walsenburg, Colo., and returned to quarters at Denver, 171 miles. Account of the flu epidemic that year, all other circuses that were enroute were forced to bring their season to an end about October 4th.
I have no list of the staff, performers, bosses, etc., as show did not have an official printed program. However, I recall from memory quite a few of them. H. B. Gentry was General Manager 1917 to 1920. Harvey Bruner who was with Gentry Bros. many years as Treasurer filled the same position with Sells-Floto. Mr. Jim Campbell, an old friend of the writer from the Mighty Haag Circus days, was front door man, and had advertising banners. Doc Palmer was manager of the Big Double Museum and Annex with the usual line-up of side show attractions. Charlie Lucey, boss property man. The Big spool-like affair mounted on heavy running geat and his own invention, was in use then. Middle pieces were rolled up on this spool. C. L. Brown, with the show 1917-1920, was Bandmaster with real circus band of 24 musicians. George Myers was big show announcer and in charge of the after show concert "The Big Musical Extravaganza" with 24 ballet girls, singers and dancers taking part, also with Arthur Borella in his musical act playing a saxophone solo "Carnival of Venice." A regular theatre back-drop was hung at rear of stage for the concert.
J. H. delVecho played steam calliope in parade and sold concert tickets. The circus had a nice spread of canvas all new that year, a 4-pole big top, with two rings and centre stage, and was a 30-car show.
I am unable to name all performers and these following however I do recall. William Wells, a veteran of Gentry Bros., was Equestrian Director presenting some well trained horses and appeared in the big high school horse acts. The famous Hobson Family and the Hodgini family, equestrians presented their excellent riding acts with handsome horses in the two rings. The Le Groh's, one lady and two gents, very clever contortionists. Bert Delno Troupe on the Aerial bars, Paul Brachard, hand balancer and contortion act on pedestal, "Slats" Berta Beeson, on the tight wire gave a splendid exhibition in girl make-up. Ethel Marine and girl partner, iron jaw and trapeze act. Sweeney and Newton in a novel iron jaw act, and also trap performers. Leo Hamilton trained dogs and manage act, Ida Delno aerial performer and other acts. The Rink-Wright Duo in ladder balancing and equilibristic feats. Jack Harris and Arthur Borella headed the line-up of clowns. There was an Arab Troupe of nine men in whirlwind tumbling and pyramid acts. Blanche Wells Manage rider, also worked elephant herd and performed "Snyder" with long curved tusks, and biggest of the herd. This bull became unmanageable with the show two years later at Salina, Kansas and had to be shot.
The 24 ballet girls presented the revolving statuary number in white tights and wigs in rings and on stages The big aerial return act was The Four Famous Nelsons. Performance concluded with the Hobson's and Hodgini's in both rings attired as Indians in an exciting display of feats of horsemanship with sleigh bells on horses, and red fire burning, while the band played real Indian war dances.
A nice menagerie display was carried with some elegant dens and cages richly carved with the real circus flourish and with the sun burst wheels. All went in parade. The big bandwagon with show for years and sometimes referred to as the "Ceylon Wagon" is still preserved we are glad to say and at the Peru, quarters. Elegant lithos and lavish billboard displays were used by Sells-Floto Circus and plenty of attractive advertising matter was put out in advance.
The only opposition encountered of which I remember was the Al. G. Barnes Trained Wild Animal Show appearing in a few towns following us in the North West.
The Sells-Floto Circus is another big tented amusement Institution that has come and gone and with a fine reputation for almost thirty years, shall always be remembered as another of America's representative circuses.
The editors are advised by Clyde Wixom that Van B. Wixom, 67 years old, last of four sons of Matt Wixom, whose Circus, Wixom’s Great Shows, toured Michigan 40 years ago - has passed to the White Tops above. . . .
1. A Radiant New Spectacle of Color, Beauty, Joy and Laughter in Glorious Processional Pagentry.
2. The Internationally renowned Artists in Amazing aerial feats; The Eldens, The Genders.
3. Harriet Beatty (Riding Lion).
4. An Astounding Novelty Divertisment; The Linds, The Free Hands.
5. Promenade of the Clowns - introducing Big-Footed Double-Dizzy, red-nosed Funmakers from Near and Far Reaches of the Earth.
6. Natural enemies from Jungle Wilds Educated Beyond Belief. Great new mixed groups of the most ferocious Wild Animals Ever assembled under the directions of Clyde Beatty.
7. Thrilling features as traditional as the circus itself: The Gutierris, The Ardens, The Linds.
8. Amusing and remarkable examples of patient schooling and training: Performing Dogs, Performing Ponies.
9. Inimitable and incredible New Feats Awheel by Myrtle Dunedin.
10. Accomplished Beauties in Rhythmic Ensemble. Aloft featuring the lovely Estrelita, produced by Antoinette Concello.
11. Clyde Beatty’s educated Chimpanzees.
12. Wizards of the Tight Wire in New and Unparalleled Equilibristic surprises. The Guterris, Don Francisco, The Pennys.
13. Bucking Mules.
14. Introduction of our Cowboys and Cowgirls.
15. Daring and agile Comedians in startling power dives and lofty somersaulting.
16. Mexican Wizards in a Potpourri of breath-taking new feats: The Comeaus, The Oleveras, The Freehands.
17. An Equestrian Presentation in which the High School Horse is King. Presented by Rudy Rudinoff.
18. Winston’s Educated Sea Lions.
19. Clyde Beatty Elephants, presented by Miss Norma Rogers.
20. Wild West Show announcement.
21. “Promenade of the Clowns.”
22. The World’s foremost mid-air marvels, featuring Antoinette Concello.
On June 12th, 1902, at the matinee of Harris Nickel Plate Show, exhibiting at Sigourney, Iowa, a tornado leveled the big top, injuring 25 people. On the same day at New West Moreland, Tenn., a gun fight took place during the evening show of the Sun Bros. Progressive Shows. Result 1 man shot.
On August 30th, 1902 in Dexter, Kans., while Bonheur Bros. Show was in full swing, a cyclone lifted the tent.
During the night of September 1, 1902, cars containing John H. Sparks Show were wrecked at Veedersburg, Ind.
Early in the morning of September 20th, 1902 a freight train ran into the rear of Sells & Downs Circus train at Choctaw, Okla.
The first section of the Wallace Show train was wrecked at Shelbyville Ill., July 16th, 1903. Disaster seemed to follow this show, for again on August 6th 1903, they had a rear end collision at Durand, Mich. and all bosses were killed but one, Altogether the dead totaled 25, seriously injured 21 and 100 less seriously hurt.
At the Winter Quarters of Greater Smith Amusement Enterprise in Brunswick, Ga., February 28th 1906 - 16 monkeys were burned to death.
Brundage-Fisher Amusement Co,,, encountered cyclone at Blackwell, Okla, June 1st 1906. A month later the Norris & Rowe Show train was wrecked five miles from Saskatoon, Sask. Canada.
Pawnee Bill Show was wrecked by wind and rain at Bayonne, N.J., July 17th 1906. Damage amounted to $7,000 and Pawnee Bill had his arm broken.
At Tiger Creek, Ark., on October 25th 1906 a section of the Hagenbeck Show train was wrecked with three flat cars entirely demolished. Two years later on June 25th 1909, to be exact, same show was wrecked at St. Paul, when crashed into by a freight train.
John Robinson Circus suffered a blowdown in Alabama, on October 14th 1908 during matinee. After tent collapsed it caught fire.
On October 24th 1908 at Gulfport, Miss., a riot was started between lawless whites and drunken Negroes, on lot of Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Wild West. Lon Beeler shot it out with one of the offenders and both were killed.
Norris and Rowe Circus big top was blown down at Princeton, Ind. on October 28th, 1909, and over 1000 people hurt.
During matinee at Schenectady, N.Y., May 21st 1910 - fifteen thousand people were thrown into a panic when fire destroyed Barnum & Bailey big top. All seats destroyed and an estimated lose of $18,000.
Five minutes after night show started July 5th, 1910, Ringling Bros., Circus was struck by cyclone at Watertown, S.D. Big Top was torn to shreds. Gas lamps igniting tent added to its destruction by causing fire. Damage $20,000.
Yankee Robinson Show train was wrecked at Merriland Junction, Wisc., June 9th 1911.
Ringling Bros. Circus main tent was destroyed by fire in Afternoon of August 22nd 1912 at Sterling, Ill.
Parker Shows suffered blowdown at Michigan City, Ind., Labor Day 1912.
In April 1913, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus suffered heavy lose when Winter Quarters at Peru, Ind., were flooded.
Rice and Dore Shows we're struck by a tornado at Grand Island, Nebr,, in July 1913.
Rock Island train and Barnum & Bailey Circus train crashed at Richfield, Nebr. August 12th 1913.
Shenandoah, Pa., August 24th 1913 was the scene of a riot between mob and Sig Sautelle Nine Big Shows.
Forty- three oars of Ringling Bros., Circus were destroyed by fire, latter part of May 1914 at Cleveland, Ohio. Loss $65,000.
John H. Sparks Show was caught in tornado June 23rd 1914 at Redwood Falls, Minn.
Sells-Floto-Buffalo Bill Shows were wrecked between Onaga and Havensville, Kans., September l6th 1915.
Ringling Bros. Circus suffered $25,000 loss when one of horse tents was destroyed by fire at Huntsville, Ala., October 28th 1916. 40 head of stock burned to death, and same number had to be killed on account of severe burns.
Stock car of Coop & Lent Circus burnt in Kenton, Ohio, May 6th 1917, killing 3 elephants.
Big top of Barnum & Bailey Circus was blown down when struck by tornado at Uniontown, Penna., June 1st 1917.
Polack Bros. 20 Big Shows wrecked at Dunkirk, N.Y., July 19th, 1917.
Sun Bros. Circus was struck by tornado January 11th, 1918, while playing Georgia State Fair, at Macon.
On June 22nd, 1918, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train was passing through Gary, Ind,, enroute from Michigan City to Hammond. Hot box caused train to stop, Trainmen set up danger signals. Despite warnings, empty equipment train moving at 50 miles an hour tore completely through four circus cars and demolished fifth, which were filled with sleeping circus people. 85 were killed outright.
$100,000. damage was caused by fire at Ringling-Barnum Circus Winter quarters at Bridgeport, Conn,, February, 1924.
All elephants of Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus injured when hit by passenger train at Elgin, Ill.
July 10th, 1927, Al. G. Barnes Circus train was wrecked middle of July, 1930, at Canaan, N. B., Canada.
Mounted Women Couriers
No. 1 Band Wagon
Four women driving tandem teams
Eight-horse Tableau wagon
Open den of tigers and lions - 6 horses
Tableaux - drawn by 6 colts
Open hippo den - 8 horses
Open den of Llamas drawn by 6 horses
Clown riding in donkey cart
Four-horse tableau wagon
Four-horse Tableau wagon
Clown riding donkey
Four-horse tableau wagon
Six-horse tableau wagon
Clown driving donkey
Open den of axis deer - 4 horse team
Clown band wagon - 6 horses
Ten lady riders
Two Roman Chariots
Open den elks and kangaroos - 6-horse team
Open den - snake enchantress 6-horse team.
Four hybrids - cross between zebra and mule
Four-horse tableau wagon
Oriental band - mounted
Open den of lions 8 horses
Four horse tableau
Sideshow bandwagon 8 horses
12 mounted men in military uniforms
Juvenile Roman Hippodrome miniature chariots - ponies.
Ten ponies - led
Russian men & women on wagon drawn by 8 horses
Six-horse closed den
Four-horse open den of elk
Six horse tableau
Thirteen elephants - then 4 camels and Calliope - drawn by 6 horses
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified November 2005.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified November 2005.