Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Feb), 1944. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
There has never been much written up about the Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show, and at this time I will try and give a brief description of this wonderful rambling show. It was known as Weideman Bros. Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West.
Winter quarters were in Harrisburg, Illinois, and for season of 1912, the show train consisted of 17 cars, 5 stock, 5 coaches, 1 elephant, and 6 flat cars. Length of the whole train, if I remember rightly, was 1450 ft. including wake car and engine.
Show had a nice parade, with plenty of flash for a show of this kind - circus and wild west - mostly wild west. The show went to the west coast during the 1912 tour for 26 days. The show consisted of a fine side show where everything went on and the sky was the limit. The big show had a menagerie which consisted of 3 elephants, Old Lou, Rubber and Lena (this Lena was the one that led the Ringling Bros. herd on the big stampede in Santa Barbara, Calif.), 2 camels, 56 head of baggage stock, and 60 head of ring stock. Tent was a 70 with 3 30 ft. middles. Big top was a 120 with 3 30 ft. and 1 40 ft. middle pieces, and had a generous connection with Chester Monahan and Kid Bartlett, managers of the concession dept. that caused plenty of squawks.
The side show had such artists as Col. Weaver, Kid Hunt, Jerry Mugivan, Boston, Honest John Brown, but Col. Hoke was the king bee of this bunch. (The Jerry Mugivan was the same one of the Mugivan, Bowers and Ballard combination, and owned the Howes Great London shows, which also toured in 1912. He was with the Kit Carson show in 1911, and part of 1912, then with his own show.)
The big show performers consisted of cowboys and cowgirls, Indians, Cossacks, and such performers in circus acts as the following: The old original Miller family out of St. Louis in tight wire, and flyers Albert Powell, Sr. and family wire acts, Johnnie Manilla, Art Le Fleur, the Demar troupe and the Andersons. Clowns were Steamboat Bill, Rube Harry Miller, who left the show in Arizona and went into pictures.
The Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West was on the road for 4 years, from 1911 to 1914, under the Kit Carson title, then it went out in 1915 under the title of Barton and Bailey Shows. Mr. Hall of Lancaster, Mo., took the show over and had it shipped to his farm, and that was the last of this organization, which went into history.
Will say that the old Kit Show was a real fast mover, and if you never trouped with it, you missed the show of your life, for it made a real trouper or a prize fighter out of you. But those days are gone beyond recall, and the circuses of today and the future are greatly changed, but will, nevertheless, continue to be the best entertainment of all.
The following article by CHS Frank A. Norton is written with the idea it may be a help to explain the terms used in making a collection of circus lithographs. Frank has the distinction of being the first collector to photography and entire large collection of lithographs
Have you ever walked down to the station to watch the evening train puff in and out again? And after it had puffed on its way, turned around and discovered it had left one of its cars behind? Sure you have, and as soon as you saw it you knew it was not just an ordinary railroad coach. No railroad ever painted its cars with its flaming colors and pictures! Then you made a rush for the car and ran along side as the switch engine shoved it onto a side track. Then you sat on a tie until long past bedtime listening to the billposters talking about one sheets and panel dates, three sheets, and sixteen’s they had hung or posted that day. You heard Dusty Rhodes tell Chicago Red about how he wrapped up a barn for a 250 count or maybe it Philadelphia Wop telling Tommy Conners he got the coal yard done in Dinkyville for a 400 count, or maybe Weary Willie was telling about the six donoghus he wrapped up in his country route that day.
Sheets - sticks - daubs - hods. You didn’t know what they were talking about, but you did know it had something to do with the circus, so you were satisfied. Finally you spotted the old man coming down the track looking for you and maybe swinging his extra razor strap, so you took off for home and bed. But you didn’t sleep - you were too busy thinking about all the gay posters those men were going to paste up come morning.
Well, here is what those words are in English!
A “1 sheet” is a poster or litho 28 x 42" in size and is the base from which all “bills” are measured. There are half sheets, one, two, three, four, six, eight, twelve, sixteen and twenty-four sheet bills.
The 1/2, 1, and 2 sheet bills may be “uprights” or “flats.” An “upright” is when the printing and picture cross the paper the narrow way. A “flat” has the printing running the long way of the paper.
A half sheet is half the size of a 1 sheet or 28 x 21". A 2 sheet is twice the size of a one sheet, or 42 x 56". A three or four sheet is always an upright and is equal in size to three or four 1 sheets posted together on the long sides. A 6 sheet is simply a bill printed in 2 three sheet sections. A 16 sheet bill is printed on 4 four-sheet sections, and the 24 sheet is made the same way.
A panel may be a ½ sheet or a 1 sheet, but is always upright. If it is a half sheet it is 14 x 42" - if a one sheet it is 20 x 52". There is also a “streamer” bill and may be from two to six or nine sheets in size - but more about that later.
Anything up to a four sheet is a “lithograph” or “sticks” paper and is put up in stores with the aid of a pair of “sticks,” and strips of sticky paper. Very few if any shows now use four sheets in their lithograph “hod” as the bundle of 150 to 200 sheets of paper the “lithographer” carries is called. Anything from a four sheet on up is “posting” paper and is posted on the outside of buildings or on fences. It is posted up with a brush with ten to twelve foot handle. The small sheets are also posted along with the big bills.
The most common “type” of poster used is known as “stock” paper. The printing companies print up thousands of sheets in the different sized bills, but don’t put the title on. There are clown Bills, Lady Rider - Male Rider; Monkey; Animal; Elephant; Tumbler; Aerialist Bills. A circus orders so many sheets of whatever type they want and then the printer will put the show title on the bill or “cross line” it.
Pictorial paper needs no explanation. It is a picture bill. Date sheets simply carry the show title, town and date and may be any size or shape up to 8 sheets.
Special paper is paper that carries the name of a performer such as Clyde Beatty and a good picture of the performer, or the act as the case may be. Date sheets are special paper as are price bills which carry the title and admission price. They are mostly used by the small shows with a 25 cent to 50 cent admission.
A “letter” bill can be any size but seldom goes over a six-sheet. It is colored but has no picture on it - just wording. Some bills have a small picture with the title taking up most of the bill. Many shows paste a small “date” slip across the bottom of the lithograph. The big shows use quite a lot of special paper, but the small ones are usually “stock” paper with maybe a special for their feature act. Some of the big shows also have “copyrighted” paper which is used by that show alone.
In 1938 when Cole Bros. gave up the parade, they had a large stock of “parade” paper on hand. They simply cut the top of the sheet off and pasted in a strip with “Robbins Bros.” title on it, and used the paper up. (Ed. note - Robbins was their No. 2 show for that season, and gave a parade.) In 1943 the Beatty-Wallace show used some of the Cole Bros. one sheets showing Beatty in the cage and carrying his name. The Cole title was simply cut off and the paper sold to B-W who had it slipped with their title. This often happens when a show has paper on hand that they cannot use.
A “daub” may be any size, show or on anything. It is simply a number of bills posted in one place, such as a fence or a barn. They are usually spoken of as three-high or four-high, and two to two hundred long. Maybe it is a “coalyard” fence high enough to get a three sheet on. That makes it a three-high. The biller starts at one end with a three sheet date - then maybe he will slop up a six-sheet-picture, then a three sheet date, and a three sheet picture, then maybe a six sheet date and then three one sheet flats or a few panels, until he comes to the end of the fence. Say he gets five 3-sheets, two 6-sheets, and three 1-sheets on the fence - the “daub” is then a three high-ten long.
If the fence were high enough to get a three sheet with a 1-sheet flat above it, it would be a four high - ten long. Sometimes he can go five or six high on a barn or building. That is when he uses a “streamer” which is nothing but a long “flat” bill with the title on it, and maybe made in from 2 sheets on up to 8 or 9 sheets in length. He slaps up his big bills and if there is room he will slap a row of one sheet flats above or below them, and then put the streamer across the top. Sometimes he will put up several three and six sheets and then put up a sixteen which is four-high. He will use the streamer to bring the three’s and six’s up even with the sixteen, or he has no streamer, he will use one sheet flats. A biller with an artistic mind, a big barn, and a good variety of paper can really produce a work of art that any farmer should be proud to have on his farm.
There have been cases though where the biller found no one at home so went to work anyway with the hopes of getting finished before the farmer arrived, only to have Mr. Farmer arrive too soon and hopping mad. It is a sad sight to see a biller pulling down his own paper before it is even dry, with Mr. Farmer watching him over the sights of a 12-gauge.
Years ago all farmers had an out-house or air-conditioned bathroom. As a rule a six-sheet would just about go completely around one. “Donoghu” is show world name for the bathroom, hence the term “Wrapping up a Donoghu.” And the farmers like to have you do it because the paper kept the cold winds from blowing through the cracks and giving him a chill as he imitated that famous statue, “The Thinker.”
From the Billboard of April 15, 1911: “The Pennsylvania Railroad has announced the number of cars to be carried by the different circuses and Wild West Shows that will be conveyed from place to place during the coming season as follows:
Barnum & Bailey, 84
Ringling Bros., 81
Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill, 48
John Robinson, 38
Campbell Bros., 28
Cole Bros., 25
Norris & Rowe, 22
Gollmar Bros., 22
101 Ranch W. West, 21
Howard Damon, 20
Yankee Robinson, 16
Rice Bros., 12
Dode Fisk, 11
Gentry Bros. No. 1, 10
Sun Bros., 10
Mighty Haag, 10
Gentry Bros. No. 2, 9
Welsh Bros., 8
M. L. Clark, 7
John H. Sparks, 7
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.