Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jun), 1944. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
It was in the year of 1896 and springtime had arrived in central New York. The robins and bluebirds had arrived and the air was warm and balmy, so my thoughts turned towards the open road and the winding trail of the circus.
So I polished up my alto horn and started putting in more time practicing to harden my lips for the tenting season. This was about the 3rd week in April and in "The New York Clipper" appeared an advertisement - "CALL - STADELS GREAT AMERICAN SHOWS. All people holding contracts with the above shows report in Wellsville, N.Y., not later than Wed. May 6th at 10 a.m. for rehearsals. Show opens Saturday, May 9th. Please acknowledge this call at once."
On Tuesday, May 5th, the band leader, two other musicians and myself left Ithaca, N.Y. for Wellsville, arriving there in the evening. After we left Elmira, N.Y., where we had changed cars to the Erie R.R., we found two more musicians enroute to join the circus. The tuba player's home was in Wellsville, so we felt quite confident that we would have a band even though no others reported. We arrived in Wellsville in the evening and reported on the lot Wed. morning and started band rehearsals at once. Performers had arrived and were busy limbering up and going through their acts.
The band contract called for 9 musicians to play the show - the circus to furnish a performer to play Bass drum in parade, concerts on the main St. in the evening, and on the lot where we played for the free act, making a total of 10. We used a trap drummer to play the show.
The circus was a wagon show travelling from place to place on wagons. The show used 20 wagons and 44 head of baggage stock. The owners, performers, musicians, etc., slept and ate breakfast at hotels, and ate dinner and supper on the lot. The show carried a cook house for all the season of 1896. The season of 1895 the show carried a cook house for the working men only, others eating 3 meals at the hotels that season. Fred and Al. Stadel were the owners. C. F. Brown was the band leader and furnished the band.
Performers that I recall are Eddie Martine, bounding rope and foot slide. He also did the tight rope ascension to the peak of the tent and slide for life to the ground for the Grand Free outside exhibition, on the show grounds immediately after the parade. Loredo, contortionist, Leonard and Lamarr, triple horizontal bars and breakaway ladder perch; Geo. Boring, singing clown and clowned through the show. Prof. H. J. Elliott, and Atrox, a spotted Arabian Boxing horse, the only one of its kind in the world. He also had a wrestling mule, that he worked in clown makeup, both unusual acts in those days, and very good. Also Sully and Mack, who did a song and dance in white face and a black face turn in the concert.
There were many more performers, but I can't recall their names. All performers did 2 or more acts. Some acts on the program that season, besides those mentioned, were Roman Ladders, Flying Rings, wire act, Trapeze, Swinging Perch, Acrobats, and several clown numbers, including "Jargo" the clown giraffe, also trained ponies. The performance was considered very good by the cash customers that attended the show that season in the villages and towns the show exhibited in.
The show opened the season in Wellsville, N.Y., Sat., May 9th with the Grand Free Street Parade leaving the show grounds at 12 o'clock as was customary with the small circuses of years ago, to parade at noon. The Stadel Bros. rode in an open carriage and led the parade. Then the beautiful chariot bandwagon with its silver background and gold leaf on the heavy carvings, that glistened as it rolled along with Prof. C. F. Brown's Military Brass Band. Then came performers with their spangled costumes, mounted on horse back, comical clowns and their clown carts, lead stock, ponies, with the ticket wagon bringing up the rear.
It was a nice parade for a small circus, and much better than some wagon shows put out. Some wagon shows, back in those days, only put out a bandwagon. In later years I trouped with circuses that put a bigger parade, but they were bigger wagon shows.
The show moved Sunday morning to Bolivar, N.Y., for Mondays stand. Then into Penna., Shinglehouse, Pa., May 12th; Oswayo, 13; Ulysses: 14; Gaines, 15; Westfield, 16; Elkland, 18th, then returning to New York state, exhibiting in Addison, N.Y., Tues., May 19th.
(After my previous article appeared in "The Bandwagon" in Aug., 1943, I received a very interesting letter from F. S. MacFall, CHS, and reads in part - "The last issue of "The Bandwagon" was of more than usual interest to me by reason of the story of your first circus engagement, The Stadels Great American Shows was one of the circuses of my boyhood, and I have a courier of it, four pages, 21 X 28 all over, half sheet folded once, every page liberally illustrated with cuts. I well remember the circus and I do remember vividly the chariot with "Prof. C. F. Brown's Military Brass Band." I remember the chariot with band going through the street I lived on before the performance and your band playing a beautiful tune, not loud, but sweet, but its volume was such that you could hear it for half a mile across Second Street, where I lived, on a residental street in Geneseo, Livingston County, N.Y. In one of the paragraphs it says "We have the best Band ever with a circus" and it seemed just that to me in those days. I know that tune played going through our street stayed with me for many days, but I never knew what it was." Since the foregoing was written, Mr. MacFall has presented to me the Stadel Courier. The circus was in Genesco, N.Y., May 29th, 1896, and was in Perry, N.Y. May 30th, (Decoration Day) Stadel Bros, New United Shows exhibited in Geneseo, N.Y., June 13th, l895, Mr, MacFall informs me that he saw the show both seasons.)
The circus didn't carry a sideshow season of ‘96. Its revenue was all derived from the big show admissions, reserved seats and concert. The year 1896 was a tough year for amusements. Times were hard and money was scarce, therefore business was poor; the show getting expenses or above expenses in very few towns that it showed while on tour. So the show closed Friday, June 5th, in Ellicottville, a village in western New York.
After the evening performance, that eventful night, we retired to the hotel as usual and then came morning and the circus had gone. Pulled out some time during the night or early morning for Wellsville, never to tour again as Stadels Great American Shows. So the performers and musicians weren't thinking of making the next stand and parade at noon that day, but were thinking of where to go. We had money, but not a great amount. The show had been paying, and the show had paid us Friday night what they could. We also know before the evening performance, that this was the finish, but the performers and musicians were loyal and put the show over just the same, that evening as they did at the opening stand.
C. F. Brown, band leader, recalled seeing an ad in the New York Clipper a week previous, that F. D. Dunlaps 20th Century Combined Shows wanted performers and musicians; show to open Sat. June 6th in Ridgeway, Pa. He suggested that the band make the jump and take a chance of getting placed and when we caught the show, we would send a wire to the performers if they needed any.
To make a long story short, will say that four musicians including the band leader made the jump, arriving in Ridgway, Pa., Sunday about noon and found out that the show hadn't opened. We located Mr. Dunlap and he informed us that he was ready to open, but lacked a band and needed a few more performers. So we told him that now he had a band, and that we could get him some performers.
The agent started billing Ridgway early in the week and then headed for the open road to herald the coming of the circus. Some performers came on that were with the Stadel Circus and the show was ready to open. The show used a one pole 70 ft. round top, and moved from place to place on three wagons and used six head of baggage stock, all hired. Dunlap owned a beautiful pair of grays that he drove over the road with his carriage. The ring horses were owned by a performer. The show didn't have any conveyance to carry performers and musicians over the road, so we made the jumps via train. Sometimes the jumps were cross country, and then we had to ride the baggage wagons. The performers and musicians slept and ate breakfast at hotels, dinner and supper on the lot.
The show didn't have anything to parade with. One baggage wagon was fitted up so as to put cross seats in it and we used that for a band wagon to go through the streets and out to lumber camps, etc., to remind the folks that the show was in town. The band consisted of four instruments, bass drum and cymbals. The price of admission to the show was 20 cents for adults; children under 12 years, 10 cents.
Some performers that I recall were Prof, Elliott and his Boxing Arabian horse and wrestling mule. Loredo, contortionist, and either one or two other acts from the Stadel circus. Another performer, but not from the Stadel show, was George Parento, who did table drops, single traps and acrobats. There were several other acts, but I don't remember their names. The show had a number of good acts, but the performance wasn't as strong as the Stadel performance, as the Stadel circus was much larger. Anyway, it pleased the customers in the villages and hamlets that it showed in while on tour.
The show opened in Ridgway, Pa., Sat., June 13th for a two day stand, Sat. and Mon. Then Portland Mills, June 16th and 17th; Arroyo, June l8th. The show made a two day stand in Hallton, Pa., Friday and Saturday, June 19th and 20th. The show gave two performances on Friday and had a few customers at the matinee Sat, The lot was out a way and Sat. evening the band used the bandwagon to go into town to remind the folks that the show would give another performance that evening.
The band returned to the show grounds and we waited for the folks to come. None came, so shortly after 9:00 p.m. Dunlap gave orders to tear down and load up. The show pulled out of Hallton in the night for Clarington, another two day stand, on the banks of the Clarion river. Clarington was an inland town, off the railroad, so the performers and musicians rode baggage wagons that night. The show pulled out of Clarington Tues. night and the performers and musicians rode the baggage wagons into Marienville, where we arrived shortly after daybreak and went to bed in the hotel. Marienville was on a railroad, but it was a roundabout way via train to the next stand, so we rode the baggage wagons once more to Brookston, June 26th stand. From then on until the finish we rode the trains.
St. Marys, Pa., was putting on a 2-day celebration, July 3 and 4. The agent billed St. Marys for those dates. The show gave two performances on Friday, the 3rd. On Saturday the 4th, the crowds were enormous, in town to attend the celebration. After the parade, which was over about 10:30 a.m., the folks came on the lot in droves, and asked what time the performances would take place. Dunlap couldn't be found. Some one with the show stated that they saw him get on a train about 10:00 o'clock. The show could have easily give a performance in the forenoon, and no doubt two in the afternoon that day, so it was a good day’s business lost. Dunlop returned Sunday with the intention of moving the show to the next stand.
The folks with the show were sore, to think of losing a big day like Saturday, so they refused to let him move it. He then stated that he would go to Ridgway and get the money and pay off. He returned Monday, but didn't have the money, so the show was torn down, loaded on the wagons and put in a hotel barn.
The following item appeared in the Ridgway, Pa., newspaper a few days after closing. - "F. D. Dunlop's 20th Century Combined Shows spread their tents last week at St. Marys and decided to quit the business at that place. Mr. Dunlop said that almost every day since the show went on the road it was his ill luck to be where it rained and with no income it was impossible to keep the concern afloat."
The following week the show was sold to a man named Murphy, from Byromtown, Forest County, Pa. We received the money due us and then went different ways. Two or three others and I made another adventure, but not so good. I returned home late in Aug. and didn't have much money to show for my season's work. Nevertheless my heart was still with the tented cities of sawdust and spangles, with all of its romance and adventure,
So the tenting season of 1891 I was with the largest and best known wagon show in the east.
On Saturday afternoon at 5:00 o'clock May 13th we left Wichita to catch the Dailey Bros. Circus the following day at Dalhart, Kansas. We arrived at 2:00 a.m. and were fortunate to get a room as Dalhart is a soldier town. Both of us were up bright and early to see the circus train come in. However, we were disappointed to learn they were on a slow freight and would not be in before noon, so we spent our time looking over Dalhart and watching down the railroad tracks. It was 2:00 o'clock before the Circus hove in sight. Before the train was stopped we drove alongside and started to meet old friends.
Pete Lindemann, our old boss on the Sells-Sterling Circus, welcomed us first and we watched the smoothest unloading I have ever seen on any circus. Dailey Bros. boasts that their runs are five feet longer than on the Ringling-Barnum Circus. Two pull up teams are used, a sweet pair of sorrels and a swell pair of dappled greys.
The train consists of six flats, two stock and two sleepers - color of cars - red with silver streaks. Show carries 53 head of stock, 8 elephants, camel, zebra, Sacred Cow.
Loading of flats is in the following manner: 2 trucks used in taking wagons to lot; 2 automatic stake drivers, three big dens, cook house, concession wagon, side show wagon, ticket wagon, tractor and prop wagon, wardrobe wagon, seat wagon, pole wagon, water wagon, canvas wagon, stringer wagon, canvas wagon No. 2, calliope and 2 cages.
We wore only able to visit on the lot a short time as we had a long drive back to Wichita. Greeted our old friend Ralph Noble, the best "upper and downer" in show business also Ben Davenport, owner, and Charles "Butch" Cohn, Assistant Manager, Leo "Tiger Bill" Snyder, Hazel King and many others.
The following Friday in company of our Doctor-friend, Dr. E. L. Cooper, noted horse fancier, we drove to Hutchinson, Kansas, and caught the night performance. Crowd was big - though not capacity. Performance is presented in three rings, is fast and pleasant to the customers. All of it was excellent in my opinion. Highlights were Louie Reed's Elephant Act presented by Norma Davenport. This little lady is a most versatile performer. Nellie Dutton and Co. presents an Equestrian Act rightly named "The Act Beautiful" in white tights and wigs - it is a lovely number. Hazel King presents 8 well trained Liberty horses, also a fine high school horse.
The next day, Saturday, Mr. Leonard and I drove to Newton, Kansas, and just visited. I was fortunate in obtaining three rolls of film and got some dandy pictures. Show did big business at Newton.
Executive Staff is as follows: Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Davenport, owner; B. C. Davenport, General Manager; Mrs. Eva Davenport, Treasurer; Charles (Butch) Cohn, Assistant Manager; R. M. Harvey, General Agent; Billy Rose, Advance Press Agent; H. C. Howard, Director of Public Relations; K. W. Drake, Legal Adjuster; Leo Snyder, Equestrian Director; Bertha Drake, Purchasing Agent, Mail Agent; Joe Rossi, Musical Director; Louis Reed, Supt. of Menagerie; Ralph Noble, Lot Superintendent, and Pete Lindeman, Train Master.
The Band with the show is excellent. Leader Joe Rossi who also plays a mean Cornet. Calliope Player - Louis Grabb; Joe Pomille - Clarinet; "The Old Fossil" - Drums; "Spooks" Purvis - Cornet; Owen Boggs - Trombone; George W. Gardner - Baritone and Max Hughes, Bass.
Show opens with Patriotic Spec. Norma Davenport singing America very spiritidly.
Riding Dogs presented in Rings Nos. 1, 2, and 3 by Peggy Harrison, Ted Kerrick and Tommy O’Brian.
Balancing Perch Act, Si and Nellie Kitchie
Single Trapeze - Ring 1, Mildred Pyle; No. 2, Johnnie May Snider; No. 3, Nellie Dutton.
Special announcement on Johnnie May - Muscle Grinds
Clowns - Jack Harrison -Producing, Rube Arnold, The Dutchess, Scotty Davis, Jim Fay and Annabelle.
Elephant, Horse and Dog Act, Ring 1 - Louie Reed, Hazel King and Norma Davenport
Ring 2 - Rex Williams, Tommy O'Brian and Peggy Harrison.
Clown walk around entire company.
Pony drill presented by Hazel King.
Nemo Elephant - Doing the Hula-Hula, handled by Raymond Frievogal.
Swinging Ladders - Peggy Harrison, Johnie May Snyder and Web - Mildred Pyle.
Wire Act - Norma Davenport
Elephant rolling barrel
Clown capers on track.
Wild West announcement featuring Tiger Bill.
Liberty Horses trained and presented by America's Leading Lady Horse Trainer Hazel King.
Cloud Swing - Ring 1 - Ted Kerrick - Ring 3 Norma Davenport.
Clown Base ball game on track.
Si Kitchie Head balancing
Nellie Dutton's trained camel - a most unusual act
Iron Jaw - Johnie May Snyder
High School Horses - ridden by Mildred Pyle, Hazel King. Peggy Harrison, Ted Kerrick, Tommy O'Brian and Leon Snyder
Specialties on Hippodrome - Hazel King riding Major doing the "Kooch", Dipsy Doodle. Tommy O'Brian riding Black Diamond doing the Spanish high trot and the carrioca.
Elephant Act presented by Norma Davenport and Louie Reid.
Dog Act by Tommy O'Brian.
Ring Act - Ring 1 - Mildred Pyle and Donna D. Pyle. Center - Johnnie May and Leon Snyder. Ring 3 - Ted Kerrick and Peggy Harrison.
Dutton's Riding Act
CONCERT LINE UP
Tiger Bill - Sharpshooting and horse roping - featuring 5 horse catch.
Tex Leon - whip manipulator and knife thrower.
Peggy Harrison - Fancy Rope Spinner
Mildred Pyle, Tommy O'Brian - trick and fancy riding. Henry Fullbright and his trained bull.
Ted Kerrick and his rodeo mule.
SIDE SHOW - J. D. Graham - Manager; Ticket sellers - Willie Rawls and Johnnie Farthing. Myra Karsey - Palmist and snake charmer. Inside Lecturer - Marie Graham. Dave and Millie Curtie - Magic and sharp shooting, Ralph Ward - Tatooed Man - Jerry Adkinson - Sword Box. Floyd (slim) Arnold - the Musical Rube. Barbara A, Nichols - Dancer.
Mr. and Mrs. Blackie Woods, Cookhouse and pony track. Mrs. Davenport celebrated her birthday at Hutchinson and served ice cream and cake to the entire personnel. Mr. Davenport plans to enlarge show by four more cars - two flats, a sleeper and a stock car, also to enlarge the top to make it a four-ringer. We stayed at the runs and watched the loading until we regretfully had to leave. We brought the Harrison’s home with us to spend Sunday. And so to Mr. and Mrs. Ben Davenport, to my performer friends, Ticket sellers, Bosses - and Band Men - I want to say Thanks for a happy visit.
Lillian Leitzel Monument. . . . This [monument] was unveiled on December 10th, 1931 in the Inglewood Park Cemetry, Inglewood, Calif. Unknown to most fans, the ashes of this famous aerialist are contained in a crypt under this monument. The statue is life size, and hewn from Carrar Marble. Below the figures are shown two Roman Rings - one of which is broken to symbolize the accident which brought death to this circus favorite. The accident occurred in Copenhagen, Denmark, February 1931. Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Jun), 1944, p. 6.
CHS Myers writes "another one I uncovered is a wagon show that possibly your members might not have on their records. It was called Meredith & Bilz's Circus which was locally owned. It opened its season here in Wheeling on Wed. May l2th, 1897, playing local lots through Tues. May 18th, after which (the newspaper stated) it departed for "West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania spots." The career of the show apparently was short lived, as the next record I found of it was that it was to be sold at a Constable's Sale July 11th of that year. Acts mentioned were The Famous Merediths, trapeze; Eugene Hanke, trapeze; Professor Add's Dog Circus; The Suttons, George Bilz, H. J. Menkemeller, and Prof. Henry Snider's Band. That's all the information I have about the outfit at present, but I am still checking".
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.