Bandwagon, January, 1947. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included.
I have before me the Official Route Sheet season 1913 of the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. Today it is a souvenir of other circus days. Season opened at the old Madison Square Garden, N.Y. Mar. 22 to Apr. 19. Needles to say, great crowds attended during the full engagement as they still do each spring. The first stand under canvas was Brooklyn, a full week at 5th Ave. & 3rd St. The entire spread of new canvas with the immense big top, 6 poles, with 3 rings and 2 elevated stages, new side show banners, and all wagons, and cages fresh from the hands of artists and painters presented a great flash on the lot. The grand glittering street parade - A Princely Presentation of Pompous Pagentry rolled over the streets of Brooklyn the morning of opening day and was witnessed by countless thousands. The famous Two Hemisphere Bandwagon with 12 horse team of sleek dapple greys of course headed the parade and driven by Jim Thomas. Ten years previous this wagon first appeared in the Barnum & Bailey parades with the 40 horse team driven by Jake Posey. Other elaborate wagons that were in this parade include Europe-Asia-Africa-America, Golden Age of Chivalry, Funny Folks, Two Jesters. In the words of the press agent, a solid mile of gold and glitter. Performance opened with the spec “Cleopatra” with 1,250 people taking part along with 700 horses, elephants, camels and 75 ballet girls. This spec lasted 20 minutes. The music was selected and arranged by Faltis Effendi a musician of Ned Brills Concert Band.
The program included such fine acts as the Neopolitian Troupe a double trapeze act, the Viennese Troupe of 10 aerialists, the DeKoes Troupe of acrobats, the Schiavoni Troupe a posturing act, the famous Icelander Troupe, the Gilmer Wonders making their first appearance in U.S. Maximo on the high wire, Fred Derrick and Orrin and Victoria Davenport the celebrated equestrians, Mikado Royal Jap Athletes. Performance ended with the Hippodrome races, Roman riding, Jockey and the 4 horse chariot races. The old style after show concert was in vogue at that date, consisting of singing, dancing, juggling and comedy acts. Bert Rutherford was producing clown and his wife Lottie played a sax solo with the big show band. Lew Graham was side show manager and made all the announcements in big show. The Ringling Bros. living at that time were Al. R, H.R., Alf T, Chas. and John. Barnum & Bailey had 88 cars and the Ringlings had 86. The combined titles were first used for the season of 1919. Ned Bril was bandmaster from 1911 to 1916. The air calliope first came into use that year and only the Barnum & Bailey show and the Ringling Bros. Show used them. Matt Meeker played it for the 1913 season. In parade they also used a ladies band and a mounted band dressed as Hussars, for mounts they rode the big dapple grey baggage stock.
Following Brooklyn they played all the important cities in the East and Middle West. St. Louis was a week stand. From Jun. 11 to July 1 they were in Canada, Toronto and Montreal were 2 day stands. Late in July they were as far west as the Dakotas. Labor Day found the show at Hannibal, Mo. Show did not go into Tex., but did go into Okla. At Memphis, Tenn. great crowds attended. Closed the season at Louisville, Ky., Mon., Nov. 3 after being out 7 months and returned to winter quarters at Bridgeport, Conn. Number of stands 153, states 25, 3 provinces of Canada. No parades called off and every performance on time.
A 35 year old circus feud with a newspaper angle ended here recently. James A. Haley, president of R.B.B.B. Circus, and Charles W. Riffe, former Big Tent press agent, shook hands and agreed the fuss was over.
In 1894 at Fort Plain, N.Y., the Ringling Show cancelled its scheduled performance because the town’s newspapers refused to print advertisements or readers about that circus. Later, it was learned, Rife, then agent for the Walter L. Main Circus, had contracted with the papers that no other circus was to be mentioned while his own ads were running.
In an editorial, Sept. 4, 1894, the Fort Plain Standard apologized by explaining that an exceeding clever and smooth young man by the name of Chas. W. Rife had maneuvered this and other newspapers to accept a contract detrimental to Ringling’s when they had no knowledge of the coming of another circus.
At his reunion with Haley, the press agent, long retired and now living in Cincinnati, said he was glad that’s off my chest, and I hope we can be good friends. In an aside to an Enquirer’s reporter, he added, Hell, I’m thru, anyway.
On a Thur. in Dec. there appeared in the office of our city mayor a well known R.B.B.B. Circus star of the high wire known as “The Great Arturo,” his real name being Arthur Trostl. His mission as he stated to a reporter later was to fulfill a very early ambition that of waling across the Niagara gorge on a tight rope. As a stunt of this kind or any other kind is frowned upon by city officials both on this side and the Canadian side of the Niagara river, the Great Auturo was left with a decision as just what to do next. He learned, however, that if he could lease land or buy land from property owners on each side of the river, he probably could carry out his life time ambition, the act being set for May or June. Arturo was with the R.B.B.B. Circus from 1935 to 1941. Arturo claims that he is the fifth generation of a family oof tight rope walkers. He comes from Tampa, Florida, where he plans to begin training sometime in Feb. for his great feat. He was born 35 years ago in a small town near Vienna, Austria. Past tight rope walkers who have made the Niagara Falls their background as a setting for their acts are:
Blondin, 1859, 1860
Prof. Jenkins, 1869
Prof. De Leon, 1887
Calverley, 1892, 1893
Twelve artists have made it successfully, Jenkins did it on a velocipede and Spelterini was a woman. In June 1910 Oscar Williams, better known as “the Great Houndin” attempted to cross on a slackwire, but it became so slack that he could go neither forward or backward and was forced to slide down a rope to the Maid of the Mist boat below. In 1868 Prof. Murphy walked a tight rope across Falls street the rope being stretched between two buildings.
Howe’s Great London Shows opened the 1921 season in Apr. at Albuquerque, New Mexico. They entered Canada at Cranbrook, British Columbia on May 23 for a 4 week tour. Show was owned by Mugivan, Ballard & Bowers. Dan Odom was manager and Bert Rutherford general agent. On Sept. 6 they made a record at Goldsboro, N.C. in getting the big top up and guyed out exactly 47 minutes after the first wagon rolled on the lot. In 1922 on May 20 they enlarged while on the road from 10 to 25 cars. (F. A. Norton)
Richards & Sons Circus opened at Bandera, Tex. April 1, 1921 and was moving on 6 trucks and 3 touring cars. They closed the season at Centerport, Tex., Nov. 20. (F. A. Norton)
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.