Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Feb), 1945. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
The Robinson Famous Shows opened the 1914 season in Montgomery, Alabama, April 15th, having been in winter quarters in that city. There were 20 cars back with the show and Advertising car No. 1 was ten days ahead. This circus was owned by Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers, two hustling showmen who made circus history. Bert Bowers was General Manager of the Robinson Famous Shows and Jerry Mugivan was General Manager of the Howes Great London show also on 20 cars that year.
Some of the staff I recall from memory were S. L. Cronin, Advertising banners and in charge of front door. In later years he was manager of Al. G. Barnes Circus. James McNulty, manager of side show with the usual line-up of attractions. Zack Terrell was in charge of the privilege car. He also made circus history - being manager of Sells-Floto Circus for years as we all know, present owner of Cole Bros. Circus. George Atkisson was press agent back with the show and made all announcements in the big show program. The writer met him in Bedford City, Va. in 1933. Dick Masters was band leader with real circus band of 16 musicians. He was formerly leader with Mighty Haag Circus, and later leader with John Robinson Circus (Mugivan and Bowers owners). Archie Dunlap was in charge of elephants, Bill O’Day side show boss canvasman, and Frank Millard, big top boss canvasman. Doc Williams was boss of props. Chester Monahan held some position on the front door. James Orr was in charge of reserve seat tickets, while Mrs. Orr was snake enchantress in the annex. Dave Jarrett of Rockford, Ill. was lot superintendent and Vernon Reaver if I am not mistaken was Auditor.
Show had an entire new spread of canvas, a 4-pole big top with 2 rings and centre stage. Everything moved on time with a full crew of working men in all departments.
I regret that the circus did not have an official printed program so I could list all the acts. However, a well-balanced program was presented and am naming here only the performers I recall from memory. Frank Miller was equestrian director and did his principal bareback riding, also did a two-horse carrying act with lady equestrienne. He also was in charge of menage acts. Show opened with the regular tournament followed by the old grand entry with all men riders in the two rings.
Outstanding feature of the big show was the Famous Nelson Family of Acrobats, six people. This act did not join until show entered into Canada. They performed on the centre stage. Paul Nelson of the Cole Bros. Circus was the juvenile member of the troupe. One of the girls Estrella Nelson is now Mrs. Zack Terrell. In later years this troupe was with John Robinson, Sells Floto and Ringling-Barnum circuses. Clara Miller and Grace Thomas were the two esquestriennes doing the usual feats in a most artistic manner with beautiful horses.
Laurette Sisters who were from Montreal, Canada and joined in Canada, did aerial butterfly act and another aerial display. Ed. Millette and son Harry did their head balancing acts on trapeze. They were experts at this and appeared with other big shows later. DeMarcy, assisted by his wife had several large chimpanzees that performed on the stage doing some clever stunts including riding high bicycles of various types. Birdie Martino did rolling globe and juggling also was a slack wire performer. Al. Miaco, an old-timer was producing clown, having been with Ringling Bros. and the Forepaugh-Sells Shows.
The two LeMars, Walter Goodenough, and Joe Bell were among the clowns. Others I have forgotten. Joe Fuentes a Mexican as an impersonator got a lot of laughs on the track before each performance also was in the wild west in girl costume as a fancy and trick rider. Circus had some nice menage horses with ten or more lady and gent riders. Archie Dunlap and another trainer worked the elephants in both rings. There was an aerial bar act whose names have slipped my mind.
Dick Williams did the old-time mule hurdle dressed as a Dutchman with bells on mules neck. He also clowned. The writer knew him with the Dode Fisk Great Combined Shows. There was a clown band. Frank Miller's handsome sorrell horse with cream-colored mane and tail and gilted hoofs attracted much attention in the menage number. Did the cake-walk to perfection to the strains of "Coon Band Contest" down the hippodrome track.
The after show concert was strictly wild west with Hank Linton in charge The writer met him last Spring with the Cole Show and is still going strong. Henry Boogs, wife and daughter Georgette, were others in the wild west concert. The others I have forgotten. The circus gave parades having several nice tableau wagons and cages, and all sleek baggage stock. There was not an air calliope used with the big show band, but there was the old time steam calliope in parade.
The route of the Robinson Famous Shows from Montgomery, Ala., took it north through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Penna. and West Virginia. First stand in New York State was Jamestown, one June 1st followed by Gowanda and Niagara Falls. Circus went into Canada June 4th at St. Catharines, Ont. Twenty-four towns played in that Province including Cochrane and South Porcupine, which are on the northern limits of the old Toronto and Northern Ontario Railway (277 mile jump to Cochrane). First stand in Quebec was July 2nd at St. Jerome followed by Jolliette, Grand Mere, Quebec, St. Anne De Laperade, Three Rivers, Terre Bonne, Lachute, Maissoneuve, Montreal (2 days) Magog, St. Hyacinthe, Sorel, Nicolet, Montmagny, Riviere Du Loup. All to satisfactory business. Then into New Brunswick for six stands.
First stop in Nova Scotia was July 28th at Amhurst and followed by Truro, Windsor, Halifax, New Glasgow, Sydney, North Sydney, Antigonish, Pictou and Oxford. Show came back again to New Brunswick at Moncton August 8th. On Monday 10th circus was at St. John, N.B. These last two names, fine business.
August 11th was a day enroute as show laid over in Mattawamkeag, Maine, a village on the banks of a rocky river where the cook tent was erected, two meals served and all animals fed and watered. Bangor was played 12th. Nice business here, and Gardiner followed. Route then took show through New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Penna., Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio. Six towns played in Virginia, eleven in North Carolina and two in South Carolina. October 28th into Georgia for six stands.
At Beaufort, S.C., account of coastal storms and high winds that day only, the dining tent and horse tents were put up. No performances as day was lost and show pulled out after dark.
Chattanooga, Tenn. November 4th was the closing stand to nice business. Warm sunny weather the last three weeks. In appreciation of the employees services during the season the management had an elegant supper served the last Sunday on the road which was at Rome, Georgia. Everything was on the menu from oyster cocktail to salted almonds, also a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. A delightful Sunday for all the show folks with beautiful weather thrown in.
The circus was taken to Peru, Ind. Winter Quarters over the Queen and Crescent, Southern, Monon and Wabash Railways. Total number of show days 176. Four Provinces played in Canada - 59 towns. States visited 16. Total mileage 10,948.
The Robinson Famous Shows was on road again 1915 season opening in Peru. In March, 1916 Mugivan and Bowers bought the John Robinson 10 Big Shows from "gov" John F. Robinson, Cincinnati, and that year saw the JOHN ROBINSON CIRCUS title used and continued on under the Mugivan and Bowers banner until passing into the hands of John Ringling September 6th, 1929. When the 1930 tour ended, John Ringling retired the show for good at the Peru winter quarters.
One of the really oldest and most famous names in circus history was the word ROBINSON. To-day, to circus lovers everywhere it is a pleasant memory of billowing white tents, glittering street parades, sawdust and spangles and Princely Presentation of Pompous Pagentry.
Season 1911 - Opened April 8th at Lakeview Park, Peoria, Ill., 25 car wild west show (23 cars back and 2 advance cars). Staff for the show as follows: Vernon C. Reaver, Pres. & Gen. Mrg; M. A. Cookton, Gen. Supt.; A. Salvail, side show mage; Lon B. William, Gen. Agt.; C. R. Gerdes, Sec. & Auditor; W. R. Bennett, Treasurer; Dee Robinson, Supt. Front Door; Tom Gorman, Press Agent; George Applehands, Supt. Tickets; Henry Kerns, Bandmaster; Joe R. Smith, “Young Buffalo”; Ambroise Means, Chief Cowboy; George Wombold, Boss Canvasman; “Crazy” Ray Choisser, Arena Announcer (for first 5 weeks), Clarence Woodward, Announcer (balance of season); Whity Larkin, Goss Hostler (Baggage Stock); Jess Robinson, Steward; Frank Schram, Boss Ring Stock.
The title dates back as early as the late 90's or early 1900s. A man named “Doc Pike” had it for a number of years and toured Michigan, Indiana and Ohio with a Michigan man named “Dave Perriene.” He ahd out a Wild West Tiger Bill. At one time he owned two shows, No. 1 and No. 11. “Perriene” was out of Eaton Rapids and had a show called Bronco Joes Wild West. Sometime during early period Perriene sold show to Emett Snyder, better known as “Col. Tiger Bill.” Will now refer to him as Col.
Show went to Kentucky and as far as I know went to Texas. This show I believe never returned to Michigan. The Col. did return to organize a show and go out of Wisc., with a “Popcorn George Hall.” Due to unforseen accident in which a man was killed, show disbursed near Miles, Mich., I am sure.
In years to come “Col” and son “Leo” who is today with Ben Davenport’s “Dailey Circus” known as young “Tiger Bill” producing concert. The two took out a wagon show. Last season Leo was with his father was in 1927.
In ‘28 Col. and a person Harry Beagles of Edwardsburg, Mich. took out “Tiger Bill Show.” In ‘29 Col. was with the D. D. Murphy Shows - a carnival company. Carnival was forced to close. However, Col. was there for a number of years.
Col. returned to Charlotte, Mich., and with F. C. Fisher (self) operated a couple of pit shows and pony ride at various County Fairs one fall.
Ending this period of time a partnership took form between Col. and a Bellview man named MacIntosh. Show going out of Bellview for 1938 seaso;n. Col. died in late ‘38 or early ‘39. He is laid to rest at Charlotte, Mich. I am sure show was never taken out of or near Greenville. Show wintered in Charlotte and “Mrs. Emma Snyder” died at Homestead in Charlotte, April of 1944.
Leo Snyder, the son, did reside in Greenville one winter, either ‘29 or 1930. His wife’s relatives still reside there I believe. He did return to work for Col. and MacIntosh for season 1935.
1902 - Jan. 8 at Algiers, La., the Sells-Gray Circus was sold at Sheriff’s sale and brought $5,025.
1903 - July at Janesville, Wis. the Luella-Forepaugh-Fish Wild West Show was sold at receivers sale and brought $12,510. The show was bought by Walker of the Erie Printing Co. and then leased to John Barton.
1905 - Jan. 10 at Columbus, Ohio the Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Show was sold to James Baiely for $150,000 cash.
1905 - Jan. at Geneva, Ohio the Walter L. Main Circus was sold to W. P. Hall of Lancaster, Mo. for $120,000 cash.
1906 - Dec. at Baraboo, Wis. the control of Hagenbeck Show was bought by Ringling Bros.
1910 - Jan. at New York the Cole Bros. World Tour Show was sold by James Downs to Fiss, Doerr, and Carroll horse dealers.
1910 - June 11 at Peru, Ind. the Norris and Rowe Circus was sold at public auction.
1911 - Nov. 24 at Indianapolis the Danny Robinson Circus was auctioned off.
1913 - June 11 the Hagenbeck-Wallace Shows were sold to Carl Hagenbeck and Great Wallace Show Co. of Indianapolis.
1913 - Aug. 21 at Overland Park, Denver, Col. the Buffalo Bill-Pawnee Bill Show was auctioned off and brought $16,000.
1914 - Aug. at Glens Falls, N.Y. the Sig Sautelle Circus was sold to Louis Thilman.
1914 - Dec. 10 at Terrace Park, Ohio the Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show was sold at auction and brought $4,468.75.
1916 - Mar. the John Robinson 10 Big Shows Combined were sold to Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers.
1916 - Dec. 16 at New York the Frank C. Bostock trained wild animal collections was sold to Frank Spellman for $150,000.
1918 - Feb. 26 at Shreveport, La. the Cole Bros. Circus was sold at auction.
1918 - Dec. 28 at French Lick, Ind. the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was sold at receivers sale to Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers for $36,100.
1919 - Mar. at Enid, Okla. the Campbell Circus was sold to Floyd King Show then opened under title of Sangers Shows.
1920 - Nov. the Yankee Robinson Circus was sold to Edward Ballard.
1920 - Nov. the Sells-Floto Circus was sold to Edward Ballard and Jerry Mugivan.
1920 - Nov. the Harry K. Main Shows were sold to K. F. Smith for $12,000. The sale took place at Milan, Tenn.
1920 - Dec. 2 the Francis Ferari Shows were sold to John Brunen for $20,000.
1921 - Oct. 27 the Wallace Farms at Peru, Ind. were sold to Mugivan, Bowers and Ballard for $500,000. This included 600 acres of land, show car shops and winter quarters.
1922 - Jan. 12 at Chicago the Gollmar Bros. Circus was sold to Mugivan, Bowers and Ballard.
1923 - Jan. the Gentry Bros. Famous Shows were sold at receivers sale to James Patterson.
1924 - June 18 at Little Rock, Ark. the Golden Bros. Trained Wild Animal Circus was sold to John Pluto for $18,600.
1924 - Sept. George Christy bought the Golden Bros. Show from John Pluto at Mooresville, N.C.
1924 - Sept. Walter L. Main Circus owned by Andrew Downie was sold to Miller Bros.
1926 - Jan. at West Baden, Ind. the Gollmar Bros. Circus was sold to Arthur Heritage and C. F. Neese.
1926 - Feb. 11 at Louisville, Ky. the Gentry Bros. Circus was sold to King Bros.
1926 - Feb. the Cole Bros. Shows was sold to John Pluto.
1928 - Nov. at Macon, Ga. the Sparks Circus was sold to H. B. Gentry.
1929 - Dec. at West Baden, Ind. the Gentry Bros. Circus was sold to Donaldson at receivers sale.
1930 - Mar. 13 at Havre de Grace, Md. the Downie Bros. Circus was sold to Charles Sparks.
1930 - Aug. the Cole Bros. Circus was sold to H. S. Ingrahm and Bert Rutherford.
From The Bucksport (Maine) Clipper, Thursday, June 4th, 1896. Sent by A. P. Wescott, CHS.
“Waterville, June 1st, 1896: True & McVeigh have left their circus in the hands of the Deputy Sheriff Nutt of Fairfield and the people who were with them are getting out of town as fast as they can. Probably if they had had good weather Sunday they would have netted a good sum from the Sacred concerts which were to have been held at Island Park, but the storm spoiled that. Several of the laborers have walked away while some were able to get a small amount of money and went by rail. The good town of Fairfield has provided all with food and a place to stay, so none have been obliged to beg.”
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.