Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Dec), 1945. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
One of the many circus titles that toured the country for many years, was Howes Great London Shows. My first recollection of the show was in the year 1897. I was with the Sig. Sautelle Circus that year and we Sundayed in Brewsters, N.Y., and showed there Monday, June 14th. I remember, that day in Brewsters of hearing some of the folks with the Sautelle Circus, tell that Brewsters, N.Y. was the home of Seth B. Howe, who owned the Howes Great London Shows, that had toured the country for many years previous to 1897.
In one of my scrap books I have a clipping, stating that in the Oshawa, Ont., Canada newspaper, “The Vindicator” of August 2nd, 1871, was an advertisement that announced “that Howes Great London Circus and Sangers English Menagerie of Trained Animals - their first season in America, will appear in Oshawa on Thursday, August 17th, 1871, afternoon and evening. Admission 50 cents, Children under 10 years, 25 cents.
I mention this ad to give the readers an idea of how many years that the Howe Show toured the country, I never had heard of it previous to 1897. The principal reason I never heard of it was the fact that the circus had never made my home town, Ithaca, N.Y, as I can remember, but from 1897 on for many years I heard of the circus and saw their posters in town now and then after 1908. The many years the show toured I never saw the show but one season and that was the tenting season of 1920.
The Sautelle Circus showed in Amenia, N.Y., Friday, June 11th, 1897, and I heard folks with the show tell that Amenia, N.Y. was the home of Hyatt Frost, who was one of the owners of the Van Amburgh Circus. The Van Amburgh title was familiar to me for it showed in Ithaca when I was a young lad, about 1888 or 1889. The reason I mention the Van Amburgh circus is the fact that Howes Great London shows and Van Amburgh titles have been affiliated for many years.
The year of 1904, Mugivan and Bowers, who had been with Howes Great London season of 1903, put out the Great Van Amburg Colossal Shows on rails. On the courier of the Van Amburg show was a picture of a wagon show, winding its way along a country roade and under the picture, a line - “How we traveled years ago.” Below was a picture of a gorgeous circus railroad train, rolling along on the rails and the line “The Way we travel now.” The tenting season of 1908 the title was changed to Howes Great London Shows and Van Amburgs Trained Wild Animals, and the two titles were used together, more or less until the last year of the show, season of 1921.
The tenting season of 1920 I picked up a herald in Bancroft, Ont., Canada of Howes Great London Circus. The herald is liberally illustrated with cuts and reads in part. “The circus of 1000 wonders, novelties and innovations. A world Congress of Peerless Performers. 1000 employees, artists and performers. 500 horses from American and European stalls. 40 clowns, 10 acres of tents. 3 rings and elevated stages. 2 miles of parade glories. The World’s greatest acting herd of elephants. The largest zoological exhibition in the world. Gorgeous Million Dollar free street parade daily 11 a.m. A might moving panorama of the Glories of the Earth, the only world toured circus in existence.” The circus exhibited in Bancroft on Saturday, June 5th, 1920. Afternoon only.
Howes Great London Circus, season of 1920 was owned by the Howes Great London Shows Co., Dan Odom, President and manager; James Albannese, Sec-Treasurer; Geo. W. Ryan and Geo. Steele, legal adjusters; Geo. Ross, Officer; John F. Dusch, musical director; Chas. Mugivan, front door; I. D. Newman, press dept.; Chas. W. Martin, announcer; Tom Tucker, lot supt.; Harry Sells, big top boss canvasman; C. H. Johnson, side show boss canvasman; August Crist, trainmaster; Joe Metcalfe, supt. of menagerie; Fred. Davis, steward. Bert Rutherford, general agent and traffic manager. Dan Hoffman, contracting agent.
Big show performers were - C. H. “Pop” Sweeney, Equestrian Director; Mrs. Winnie Sweeney and Rose Wallet, lady principal riders; Mrs. La-Belle Clark, equestrienne, Mrs. Agnes Kelley, 4 people wire act; Miss Ada Conner, Mrs. Julia Allen, Miss Vernon Page, Mrs. Albert McGee. Pat Kelley, trained ponies; William F. Wallet, gents principal riding act; Frank Allen, Vernon Page, John Williams, Donald Binn, Henry Bockler, La Hassan Hanid Ben Ali, troupe of Arabian acrobats and tumblers; Robbins Family (6 in number); LaDare Warner Trio; Stoffer and DeZonso, roller skate artists; Knight Family - 4 people, acrobats and wire walkers; Mrs. Cora Thomas; Mrs. Evelyn Colby, Frank De Rue; J. W. Bonhomme, Charles Dryden, Foot Juggler; and Coy Herndon, Hoop roller.
Some of the clowns were W. J. Langer and Edw. Limoge, principal and producing clowns; Willie Kleinpeter, Chas. Lewis, Ray Christopher, Buck Thompson, Hugh Dougherty and Jerry Richardson and others.
Cookie O’Neil was side show manager until Troy, Ohio, August 9th and Charles F. Curran, manager the balance of the season. Monte Proctor, director of side show band and colored Minsterls; Fred. Palmer, comedy jugglers; Three Camerons - Scotch Bag-pipers and musical act; Madam Asia, mind reader; Joe Hamlin, tattooed artist; DeLong, bag puncher; Dewey Winkler, crawfish boy; Mrs. Tullis, snake enchantress; Chas. Diamond, harpist; Joe Metcalfe, untameable lion act. Carl Myers and Lee Norris impersonaters and I was the inside lecturer, also magician and vertriloquist.
The show wintered in Peru, Indiana, and all canvas put up and rehearsals were held in Peru. On Friday, April 23rd, after the afternoon rehearsal, the show was taken down and loaded on the cars. The show pulled out of Peru in the night and opened the tenting season in Huntington, Ind., on Saturday, April 24th. The show moved Sat. night to Kenton, Ohio for Monday, April 26th stand. Ashland April 27th, lot covered with water, day lost. Barberton 28th, Salem 29th, Dover 30th, Mt. Vernon May 1st, the show was in Portsmouth Sat. May 8th, Circleville 10th. The show made a 158 mile jump to Cadiz, O., arrived at 4:30 p.m. Set up the dining dept. and fed the people and unloaded stock for feed and water. Then pulled out in the evening for East Liverpool, O., May 12th stand. The show made 16 stands in Ohio. The show then entered Penna., the first stand was Carnegie, late arrival and a night performance only. The show made 8 stands in Penna. The last stand in that state was Johnsonburg, Friday, May 21st. Sat. May 22nd stand was Gowanda, N.Y> The show then entered Canada and showed in Welland, Ont. on Monday, May 24th (Queen’s birthday) to big business. St. Catharines 25th, Dunnville 26th, Tillsonburg 27th, Goderich 28th, Kincardine 29th.
Sparks Famous Shows exhibited in several towns two or three days ahead of the Howes Great London Show, but didn’t hurt the Howes Circus, as the Howes Show did big business in every town that they followed the Sparks Circus in. The Sparks Circus showed in Owen Sound, Ont., on Sat. May 29th. The Howes Circus Sundayed in Owen Sound and showed on Monday, May 31st to capacity business both afternoon and night.
I stated in the first part of this article that Howes Great London Circus made its first appearance in Oshawa, Ont., on August 17th, 1871. Forty-nine years later, on Thurs. June 3rd, 1920, the Howe Circus made its last appearance in Oshawa. 1920 was the last year the show toured in Eastern Canada.
The circus made 14 stands in Ontario and Brockville was the last stand. The show then made Valleyfield, Lachine, Victoriaville and Levis all in Quebec Province. The morning of Sat. June 12th in Levis, I looked out of the sleeping car window - I saw a sight that I have never forgotten. There was the St. Lawrence River and on the opposite side of the river was the walled City of Quebec, a sight well worth seeing. I was so impressed at such a beautiful scene, I concluded that I would visit the city that night.
Working in a side show back in those days was a lot different from the present time. The circuses of late years keeps the side show up at night to catch the “come out” from the big show, but when I was a boy and all the years I trouped with circuses, the orator in making his side show opening in the evening would say “If you intend to visit the side show, you must go now - for just as soon as the big show starts this evening, this department will be taken down and loaded on the cars ready for the town where we show tomorrow.”
So that evening in Levis, when the big show performance started my days work was finished and I started for the ferry and visited the Walled City of Quebec, and it was such an interesting sight that I have never forgotten it.
The circus that night made a 274 mile jump to Grand Falls, New Brunswick. The show train arrived in Edmunston, N.B., a divisional point, Sunday night about 11 p.m., and it seemed as if all the folks in the town were at the R.R. station to see the circus go through. The show arrived in Grand Falls, and moved to Chipman for an afternoon performance and then to Blacksville, afternoon only. Thursday, June 17th stand was Chatham; 18th, Rogersville and Sat. 19th, Sackville, N.B. The Sunday run was 327 miles to New Waterford, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island.
Sunday afternoon the train stopped at Piedmont, a railroad station in the wilderness and fed the people with the show, also unloaded the stock and fed and watered them. If I remember correctly, we laid there a little over 2 hours. The circus arrived in New Waterford, Monday morning about 8 o’clock. The circus also exhibited in Glace Bay and Sydney Mines on Cape Breton Island and then ferried back to the mainland and showed in Antigonish, N.S. Thursday, June 24th. The circus showed in St. John, N.B., on Thursday, July 1st (Dominion Day) to an enormous business. The last stand in Canada was St. Stephen, N.B. on Friday, July 2nd. The show made 35 stands in Canada.
At Levis, Quebec - the Hagenbeck-Wallace had posted paper for Quebec City and followed the Howe Circus into a number of towns in the Maritime Provinces. In one of my scrapbooks I have the newspaper ads that appeared in the evening paper of June 30th, 1920, in St. John, N.B. One is of the Howe Show telling of its glories and beside it was another ad and reads as follows - “Wait! Wait! Positively largest circus and Greatest Wild Animal Show that has ever toured in the Maritime Provinces. Wed. July 14th - Never before anything like it. A combined attraction of unlimited worth. Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus DeLuxe and trained animal Congress Supreme. Don’t fail to see the great $1,000,000 Free Street Parade. 2 shows - 2 and 8 pm. Doors open 1 and 7 p.m.” Both circuses were Mugivan and Bowers Shows.
The Howe Circus returned to the States after St. Stephen and was in Princeton, Maine, Sat. July 3rd and Sundayed in Eastport and showed there Monday, July 15th to big business. The show made 8 stands in Maine and showed in Portsmouth, N.H., July 13th and made Haverhill, Greenfield, Holyoke and North Adams in Mass. The show then entered New York state and exhibited in Hudson, N.Y., Monday, July 19th. The following is a newspaper clipping that appeared in the Monday evening paper.
“Many Visited Circus Grounds On Sunday. Visited Horses And Animals Tents And Watched Operation Of Erecting Tents.”
“Yesterday at an earlier hour than that anticipated Howes Celebrated London Shows, one of the biggest that has reached these parts in some years, arrived at Hudson Upper about 6:30 and in less time than it takes to tell, the Circus wagons and paraphernalia were unloaded and taken up to the Storm tract. Crowds of people went up to the circus grounds Sunday to get some first-hand information as to the size and appearance of the Howes Circus, and all were pleased and surprised at the general appearance of things. The work of putting up the little city - for such a modern circus is with its physician, nurse and lawyer, cooks and various artists and performers - proceeded in the morning and first of all went up the cook tent. This is always erected first. By the looks of things the men had plenty to eat yesterday, for a regular Sunday dinner was served. The tent where the menagerie is housed was also erected yesterday, and many of the folks who went up to look over the circus yesterday took a peep under the canvas, boy-fashion, and there were elephants, camels, lions, tigers, bears and lots of Shetland ponies.
On Sunday the managers of the circus try to make the work as light as possible for the men. Only the things necessary to be done are attended to, for that reason the big canvas where the circus performance is given was not erected yesterday. The main poles were put up and guy ropes fastened the tent erection outlined. But early this morning the big canvas was spread and seats located. And it is sure some circus tent. The big spread of canvas covers a seating capacity of thousands.”
July 20th stand was Kingston, N.Y., and July 21st Middletown, N.Y. The following was clipped from the evening paper in Middletown, July 21st - “Howes Circus arrives here, show tonight. Arrives from Kingston at early hour. Tents on Royal tract. Have fine parade. Hundreds see procession of circus folk over the city streets.” (Headlines) “Howes Great London Circus, rivalling in magnitude and sensations the combined Barnum and Ringling shows will give exhibition on the Royce lot on East Main St. tonight. This afternoon the big tent was thronged for the afternoon performance and folk who attended claimed the show was one of the best held here in years.
“The afternoon performance followed the conclusion of a brilliant street parade through the principal streets participated in by three bands, the customary gold trimmed circus wagons and bevies of pretty women.
“Hundreds of persons lined the main arteries of business in the city to watch the parade this morning. The wild animals in their cages attracted the attention of the youngsters, while (this silent like) the pretty folk from the Nile who might be descendants of Solomon’s hosts, drew admiring glances from the newspapermen and sterner sex.
“If the first two bands were good then the colored players who perched atop of a bright red bandwagon were better. The jazziest of jazz music oozed from their shining brass horns in such a fashion as to make the ferocious lions in the wagons that rumbled ahead, lay down and shiver.
“The biggest part of circus day came this morning at 6 o’clock when the circus train hove in from Kingston, where the circus showed before record audiences yesterday. The youth of the city handed over the key of the city this morning when the train came to a halt, and then volunteered their services in carting water for the thirsty elephants.”
The next stand was Liberty, N.Y., July 22nd. Showers during the day and a terrific storm after the night performance, the show didn’t get loaded until 6 a.m. At Cadosia, N.Y. the train was held about 4 hours to put a new set of wheels on a flat car. The show arrived in Pittson, Penna. at 4 p.m., gave a night performance and moved in the night to Stroudsburg, Penna. for Sat. stand. The show Sundayed in Norristown, July 26th stand. The following Sat. stand was Martinsburg, W.Va. and made a 254 mile jump to Washington, Pa. Monday, August 2nd stand. The show then moved into Ohio and showed in Barnesville, O., Tues. August 3rd and Troy, O., Monday, August 9th. Then entered Indiana for 3 stands and two stands in Illinois. Cairo, Ill. was Saturday, August 14th stand and Monday, August 16th was in Union City, Tenn. The show made 6 stands in Tennessee and entered Arkansas and showed in Marianna, Monday, August 23rd and made 8 stands in that state. Wed. September 1st the show was in Caruthersville, Mo. After showing 8 stands in Missouri, the show made 6 stands in Arkansas and then entered the state of Texas and Naples, Sept. 16th was the first stand there. Bay City, Tex., was Sat. September 25th stand. Saturday night the show made a 284 mile jump to Brownsville, Tex. where many of the show folks, like myself, spent the afternoon and evening in Matamoras in Old Mexico. The show made 25 stands in Texas and the last stand in the state was Orange, Thurs. October 14th. The show then entered Louisiana and was in Jennings, La., Friday, October 15th. The circus showed in Houma, La., Sunday, October 17th to capacity business both afternoon and night.
After making 12 stands in Louisana the show returned to Arkansas and showed in Hot Springs and then showed in Arkadelphia, Malvern and New Augusta in Ark., Popular Bluff, Mo., Friday, November 5th, Sikeston, Nov. 6th and closes the season in Jackson, Mo., on Monday, November 8th. Only an afternoon performance was given.
The feature of the day was the big farewell dinner tendered by the management to everyone connected with the show, and on the menu was Roast Turkey and all of the trimmings to make a swell dinner. I still have the souvenir menu that was used for the event.
The side show band played during the festivities and everyone joined in singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Then came the handshakes and farewells and there was scarcely a dry eye in the whole gathering as these manifestations of friendship and good will took place. Many of the show folks rode the show train to Cairo and Louisville, then proceeded to their respective destinations.
The show went into winter quarters in West Baden, Ind., at the Hagenbeck Wallace winter quarters. During the winter the show was moved to the John Robinson quarters in Peru, Ind.
Summary of the season - the show opened the season in Hutington, Ind., on Sat. April 24th. Closed in Jackson, Mo., on Monday, November 8th. Show visited 15 states and 4 provinces in Canada. Total miles traveled 11,989 miles. Total number of days lost, 3. Number of half days missed, 10. Sunday shows, one, October 17th, Houma, La.
The tenting season of 1921, the title of Howes Great London Circus and Van Amburgs Trained Wild Animals. The show opened the 1921 season in Albuquerque, New Mexico on March 26th and worked west to the coast. The fall of 1921 the circus went into quarters in Montgomery, Ala. That winter the title was changed to Gollmar Bros. Circus. The show opened the 1922 season in Montgomery, and I saw the show in Birmingham, Ala. on Tuesday, April 18th and spent the day on the lot visiting acquaintances. That day in Birmingham was the last time that I saw the Howe equipment and Gollmar Bros. Circus.
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.