Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 6 (Dec), 1944. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
Many readers of the Bandwagon, as well as other circusiana collectors, will have read and heard of the gay ‘90s and the Golden Age of the Circus. Back in those days, a circus was a “circus” and used many horses to pull their wagons from the train to the lot in the early morning hours and back to the train at night; and the wagon shows used horses to pull the wagons from place to place, while on tour during the summer months.
In those days cities and villages welcomed the shows and usually would like to have a number of circuses exhibited in the town during the summer season as a circus brought business into the town. Circus Day was a holiday for the folks in town and vicinity, and on circus day they gathered on Main Street to see “The Grand Free Street Parade,” and that meant extra business for the merchants.
It was back in the ‘90s that I started into my circus career, and I always look back to my trouping days with pleasure and scenes and incidents of those days appear more vividly to me than those of later years. I presume that is because I was in my teens and carefree in those days, and trouping with a circus was an adventure to me, and not just work.
Back in those days there was a wagon show that toured New York and the New England States during the summer months, and Sig. Sautelle was the owner. When I was a boy, I used to hear folks tell of Sig. Sautelle’s Circus, traveling on boats on the Erie, Seneca and Oswego Canals and other inland waterways in New York State. It was sometime in the ‘80s that Sautelle put out his first circus on boats. He told me many years ago the very year, but I have long forgotten the exact year. He traveled on boats for a number of years and it was either in the year 1894 or 1895, that he made the circus an overland show, traveling from place to place on wagons. It was on Saturday, September 5th, 1896, that I first had the pleasure of seeing the Sig. Sautelle’s Circus, as that was the first time that his show played Ithaca, my home town.
Having already put in two seasons with circuses, I went to the show grounds that morning, about 8 a.m., so as to be on the lot when the bandwagons and carryalls arrived, and see if any of my trouper friends were with the show. The Bandwagons arrived and among the first for me to see was Joe Shanahan, a trombone player, that was with the Stadel Circus, also the Dunlaps Circus, the early part of the Summer, that I also trouped on that year. I spent the whole day on the lot and saw the big show performance and spent plenty of time in the side show visiting, as well as seeing the main show. Little did I think that day, that I would troupe the following season with “Sig. Sautelle’s New Big Shows, Circus, Museum, and Trained Animals, the Largest and Best 25 cent entertainment on Earth - Sig. Sautelle, Owner and Manager.”
Of all of the wagon circuses Sig’s was the largest and best known in New York and the New England States, where he toured for many years, and his name was a household word in the East. Many people who did not know him intimately considered Sig. a choleric old fellow, ready to scrap at the drop of a hat, but those who were his associates or had dealings with him, found him good-hearted and friendly and he was a good man to work for in spite of his peculiarities.
During the tenting season of 1897 I was playing alto in the side show band. In the big show band there was a fellow named Tom Henchy, a baritone player from Hoosick Falls, N.Y. He was a barber by trade and worked at his trade in the Winter in his home town and summers trouped with Sig. Sautelle’s Circus.
Every morning he would open up his barber shop in the side show and do barbering until time for parade, which left the show grounds at twelve o’clock noon every weekday. Sig. was one of his first customers every morning, so I used to come in contact with him quite often. One day when Sautelle was talking to me, telling me of his early circus experiences, I told him that I was in hopes of trouping with his show as a Magician, sometime. He told me to learn to do Punch also and I would be able to get more work with circuses.
Tom Finn was the side show manager. He also did magic, Punch and Ventriloquism. Many a morning Sig. picked up Tom’s Vent. figures to show me how he did that act in the early days, but I didn’t practice the art until some years later. It was after I was doing magic and Punch that I discovered that I really could also do vent.
Many a young fellow got his start in the circus business with Sig. Sautelle’s Circus and many of them in later years trouped with the larger circuses that toured in years gone by.
Some years later when I was with Sig. Sautelle’s Nine Big Shows, doing magic and Punch, also was manager of the side show for one season; I would be in a hotel lobby or in a restaurant, after the show, and Sig. Sautelle would point me out and tell the folks how I started with his show, when I was a boy, and how he taught me to do magic and Punch. He always seemed as if he wanted to impress on their minds that I had been with his show all those years. The fact is, however, that he never taught me magic or Punch either for that matter. I learned by observation and plenty of practice. Playing in the side show band, the season of 1897, I had plenty of time to observe those acts, but I could perform a number of good magic stunts previous to 1897.
They used to tell a story about Sautelle - I heard it before I joined the show, also heard people tell it in later years. They told that when Sig. went into the dining tent and eggs were being served with a meal, that Sig. would call back to the cook and say “give them all the eggs they want” and hold up one finger, meaning give them one egg! People that never trouped with this circus claimed that it was a fact and would get a little peeved if I told them that it was not so, and explain to them that it was just one of Sautelle’s jokes.
During the season of 1897 and in later years when I was with this circus, many times he came into the dining tent and told the cook to give the “all the eggs they want’ and hold up one finger, and then laugh. I - as well as the others, always got two eggs with the first order and after Sig. made the above remark, sent out for a second and got two more.
Sig. always had a good cook house and always got everything in season. If any one ever left the dining tent hungry it was their own fault, as the food was there for them to eat, and it was always good wholesome food too.
Sautelle always wore a good sized diamond studded horse with a flowing mane in his shirt front, and this was known as the trade mark of the show.
For many years Sig. wintered his show in Syracuse, N.Y. The quarters were in the old street car barn on Grape St. There was plenty of room on the street floor to store the wagons and in the basement there were stables for more than one hundred horses. There was another building used for a wagon and blacksmith shop. Also a house where Sig. and his wife lived during the Winter months.
Sautelle always had a good show and plenty of riding acts on the program. Some riders that I recall with the show in ‘97 were Charles Ewers and wife, Jack Cousins and wife (Lottie Aymar) and Grace Washburn. James Kincaide was the Equestrian Director. After Grace Washburn left in August, he did a principal riding act. Another rider was Captain Pierre who did a 4-horse riding act. Pierre was billed as the French Fireman from Paris, and made a high dive from an 80 ft. ladder into a net for the Grand Free outside exhibition on the show grounds immediately after the parade and again in the evening at seven o’clock.
Some of the other acts on the show were Billy and May Lorenz, in single and double traps; Horace Webb and his one man revolving ladder; Miller Bros., double swinging perch and a brother act (acrobatic). In the concert was Sully and Mack, who did a song and dance in white face and a black face turn, also Mrs. Stowe was the vocalist; Joe Olcott in lightning baton swinging and Cameron, sang in the concert, also did acts in the side show. There were more performers but their names have slipped my mind now.
There were 12 musicians in the big show band and Prof. Ryel was the director. Tom Finn was manager of the side show. He made openings also did magic, Punch and Vent. Bill Roach was a ticket seller, Cameron, was the snake charmer and heavy weight lifting. Bartine was the fire eater and they had a Rooster Band.
There were three cages of wild animals and in a fourth cage was the Wildman, captured (?) on the island of Madagascar by a party of sailors and hunters. In capturing this hideous monster, two of the party were killed and a third was bitten and died within 24 hours, showing all the symptoms of hydrophobia! On the come out from the big show in the afternoon, they fed him 10 lbs. of raw meat.
C. F. Brown was Director of the sideshow band and played solo cornet, Harry West, cornet; Eddie Minor and Henry Tallman, trombones; Fred. David, Tuba; and I played the alto horn. The drummer’s name I cannot remember. We used a trap drummer in the show and Sully - a concert performer played bass drum in parade. The side show band made parade as a clown band. The big show band played for the outside exhibition, so that gave us time to wash up before the customers started to come in, but we had to hurry to make it.
The performers, musicians, ticket sellers, and owners and officials, slept and ate breakfast in hotels and dinner and supper on the lot. The big show band rode over the roads in the No. 1 bandwagon. The wagon was a chariot bandwagon and had a top on it to use going over the road. It was taken off for the parade. The side show band wasn’t so fortunate. We rode over the road on a tableau wagon, that was used for a wardrobe wagon, and the No. 2 bandwagon, so we had nothing to protect us from the sun or rain and a good many mornings it rained, but we got used to it and enjoyed the trip through the open country that way.
The bandwagons used four horses going from place to place and six horses in the parade. There were two carryalls for the performers and others used horses and buggies. The baggage wagons usually left town at 5 a.m. and the menagerie section at 6 a.m. Performers and musicians left about 7, except on Sunday, when we left an hour later. The jumps were short, on the average ten or twelve miles at a time. A few times five or six miles and now and then a longer jump of 15 or 18 miles. We didn’t parade until noon, so we had plenty of time to make the jumps and rest before the parade.
Sig. Sautelle was owner and manager. Jos. Hewitt, assistant manager; Bert Stowe, supt.; Dan Travers, boss canvassman and Jack Kent, boss hostler. Mrs. Sautelle was in the ticket wagon, sold big show tickets, paid all bills and salaries.
The show opened the season in Solvay, a suburb of Syracuse, Fridy, May 7th and showed in Syracuse, N.Y., Sat., May 8th. The show moved Sunday a.m. to Canastota for Monday’s stand, and Oneida, May 11th, Rome 12th, Utica 13th, where the show had its first opposition for the season. The Forepaugh-Sells Bros. followed us in the next day. The show was in Ilion, 14th; Herkimer, 15th. The show Sundayed in St. Johnsville, and showed there Monday 17th. The show was in Glens Falls, Monday 24th and West Troy, Monday, May 31st (Decoration Day).
The circus made towns on the West side of the Hudson River and was in Kingston June 7th. On the morning of Tues., June 8th, we ferried the Hudson River from Kingston and into Rhinebeck, N.Y> The show was in Port Chester, N.Y., June 18th and Greenwick, Conn., June 19th. Then made 18 stands in Conn., Thompsonville was the last stand and Westfield, July 10th was the first stand in Mass. After making eight stands in Mass., the show played Putman, Conn., Tuesday, July 20th, Danielson 21st, Pascoag, R.I., 22nd, Woonsocket - 23rd and Milford, Mass., Sat. the 24th.
The show made 14 more stands in Mass., including Milford, Sheffield was the Monday, August 9th stand; Canaan, Conn., 10th, Lakeville 11th and Pine Plains, N.Y., August 12th. Pine Plains was an unusual date for the circus. The show played there on Wed. June 9th and it rained almost all day, so the show made the town again on August 12th and it still rained all day, but the unusual part of it is, for a circus to show in the same town, on the same lot, twice in the one season.
The show was in Yonkers, N.Y>, Sat. August 21st; Sunday moved to Tarrytown and ferried the Hudson River to Nyack, N.Y. for Monday’s stand. The show then entered New Jersey and was in Englewood, N.J., Tues. August 24th. On Wed., Sept. 8th, the show was in Washington, N.J.
The following is a newspaper clipping from the Warren Tidings, Washington, N.J. - “Sautelle’s circus was in town yesterday and was without doubt, the best one ring show ever exhibiting in this locality. The street parade at noon was unusually good and was well attended. The street band concert at night was also of a high order. The show itself was liberally patronized and each and every act certainly merited the applause it received. There was not an act on the entire program but that could be appreciatively viewed by the most fastidious.”
The show was in Burlington, N.J., Sept. 22nd and Camden, N.J., Thurs. Sept. 30th. The evening before, in Camden newspaper was an item, telling how the wild man’s tusks were found on the lot in Burlington, after the show left town. There was no wild man banner line or a Wildman in the side show that day in Camden. He was on exhibition again the following day and the balance of the season, as the show had extra tusks!
The circus made 33 stands in N.J. The show was in Media, Pa., Friday, October first; Kennett Square, Oct. 2nd and Newark, Del., Monday Oct. 4th. The show made 9 stands in Delaware and 8 stands in Eastern Maryland. The last stand in the state was Rising Sun, Friday, October 22nd. The show closed the season in Oxford, Pa., on Saturday, October 23rd. On Sunday the show was loaded on railway cars and shipped to winter quarters in Syracuse, N.Y.
That season ended my career as a circus musician. My next adventure with a circus was as a magician and Punch and Judy performer. During my trouping days I have performed in every part of the United States, five Provinces in Canada and in Old Mexico, and trouped with many shows - big and small and regardless of their size they all had “glamour” that made them a real circus.
Brantford (Ontario - Canada)
One day only. On Wilkes Green, Chatham Street
Saturday, May 10th, 1902. Afternoon and evening.
Dayolheasala’s Imperial Railroad Show.
100 artists - Male and Female Champions. Original, Beautiful, Graceful, Artistic.
Crowned Kings and Queens. “Equilibrists” - “Foot Jugglers”
100 artists - Male and Female Gymnasts and Acrobats in friendly rivalry for supremacy.
Gymnastic Rarities, Athletic Exercises - Contortionists - Leapers - Tumblers
Col. Magnus Schultz’ highly trained troupe of performing Great Dane Dogs. The War Dog of Germany. The most wonderful troupe of performing dogs in the world - executing Military drills, forming large and small pyramids, walking tight rope and many other wonderful feats, some of them being of a humorous character.
Grand Free Street Parade - Sat. May 10th at 10 a.m.
Two performances daily - afternoon and evening. Rain or Shine. Excursion rates on all railroads. Will exhibit at Brantford, Saturday - May 10th - General Admission 25 cents.
How many of our members remember the large P. T. Barnum Hippodrome of the seasons of 1874-1875? In the spring of 1874 we opened in the old Madison Square Garden, which had been a railroad station, and which took up the block bounded by 24th and 25th Sts., and 4th and 5th Aves.
The show was composed of circus acts and Roman races, elephant and camel racing, and horse and pony races, as well as any other kinds of races. I rode in the elephant and camel races, and my two sisters, Emma and Lizzie, rode in the horse races. My dad was boss animal man, and he did his act in his big den that I took care of while it was pulled slowly around the track by a four horse team.
My stepmother, Mom White, was the wardrobe mistress, had been since Barnum started showing under canvas. We had our menagerie under the seats on the 24th St. side, and the stock under the seats on the 25th St. side. After some time, during which we showed to vast crowds, we got ready to move, and put most of the animals in the Central Park Zoo, all except ten small cages which were to go with the side show, and the elephants and camels, and my dad’s performing den.
Our first stand was Boston, for ten days, where we showed to big business, then to Philadelphia. The show was loaded on a steam ship, except for big Bets, the elephant. Dad drove her to Fall River, Mass., where he put her on the Fall River steamer for New York, then over to Jersey City, where his horse and Bets were loaded in a special car on the Pennsylvania R.R. to Philadelphia. We stayed there two weeks with big business. Our next stand was Allegheny City, across from Pittsburgh, for ten days.
I was thrown off my elephant in the race, and was laid up for two days. Big business were done here, also. The next stand was Baltimore, Md., for ten days, and it was here that we had the bad blowdown. (Ed. note - mention was made of this blowdown in a previous article by Mr. White, in the Aug. number of Bandwagon.)
From Baltimore we again went to the Madison Square Garden, collecting all the animals we had left in the Central Park Zoo for this engagement. While we had been on the road, they had built two very large traps in the centre of the arena for two plays, using two large castles, which would come up through these traps. One play was Bluebeard, and the other Jack the Giant Killer. There were about five hundred people in the two plays, and two hundred horses in addition to ponies and all the elephants and camels, with their gorgeous costumes. There were the races, and some circus acts as well.
This performance ran all winter, and we had a great number of big circus people and other notables come from all over the country to see that performance. I remember seeing young Addie Forepaugh with his sealskin coat and diamonds, and I had a talk with him about my Dad’s den.
The put the big Hippodrome on the road in 1875 minus the two plays, but my Dad and a few men took his den and 19 cages and the big elephant Bets, two camels, two Fiji Islanders, the Dwarf Admiral Dot and his father and mother to Detroit, Mich., to join the Warner, Springer & Henderson Cirkzolodian.
And I ask if any of our fans remember the great theatre in New York that nearly took up a whole block called the Hippodrome and which had a revolving stage and which they could put on two plays at one time.
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Last modified November 2005.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified November 2005.