Bandwagon, Vol. 7, No. 4-5 (Apr-May), 1952. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Illustrations are not included. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.
E. K. Fernandez ALL AMERICAN CIRCUS is now currently touring Japan. I have caught one of the many performances, which I say is one of the top notch shows.
Show is a 3-Ring affair.
Opening number - Spec "Grand Entry" - Following into steel ring and top notch acts such as Frank Philips' Pumas and Tigers, the Great Cepler Family of the High Wire; Mildred's Wlebes, Performing Monkeys; the riding Duttons, "The Act Beautiful," the Belfords, Acrobats-Wrisley Act, the wonder seals, by Captain Guy Leslie; tons of elephants, presented by Miss Dolly Jacobs; Dewayne's acrobats.
All these are in ring two (center) with many top notch performers in the other two rings.
Show closes with a finale of "Fred Valentine and his Sensational Flyers."
There are many animals on the show such as horses, seals, monkeys, elephants, dogs, mules, chimps, tigers and lions.
The show has been playing here in Tokyo two weeks, and I believe it runs for two or three more. Show was sold out two weeks in advance with performances at 1, 3 and 5. The show has been playing to capacity crowds at all performances. I don't know where the show will go from here but believe it'll be somewhere in Japan. It was a beautiful show and every act a thriller. A must for every C. H. S. Fan.
Nowhere in the annals of motorized show history can there be found a more memorable tour than the 1936 coast to coast trek of the Tom Mix Circus. For the first time in show history a transcontinental tour of a motorized show was accomplished. It definitely brought the truck show into its own. Even today, sixteen years later with better highways and better equipment, a coast to coast tour of a motorized show is a rare thing. Off hand I can't even think of another one in recent years. However King Bros, Circus in 1949 might be considered one as they traveled from Macon, Georgia to the Pacific coast and back again.
The late Tom Mix who was the "Hopalong Cassidy" and even more so of an earlier generation, had his first taste of circus ownership in 1934 when he become a partner of Sam B. Dill in the latter's circus which had been on the road for a few years. In 1934 the show took to the road under the title "Sam B. Dill's Circus and Tom Mix Wild West Combined," but before the end of the season Mix bought out Dill and toured the show under the name of Tom Mix Wild West & Circus Combined. Later the title was shortened to Tom Mix Circus and this title was used until the show went broke in 1938, and was sold out piecemeal.
The Mix show paraded in 1934 and 1935. It was the 1935 parade that had the elephant ride the parade in a truck. Who can forget August 6, 1935 in Sandusky, Ohio, when the Tom Mix Circus day and dated the new Cole Bros. Circus? On that day both street parades went out, Mix parade down one street, and the Cole parade down another. However all was friendly. No paper was pulled or covered by either show and at their matinee both shows asked that their patrons attend the rival show's evening performance.
Tom Mix was never afraid of a circus fight, even though he was friendly in his opposition. He fought the Al G. Barnes Circus up the Pacific coast on two occasions, and took on Cole, Russell, and anyone else if the time arose.
The Mix show spent the 1935-36 winter at Compton, Calif. For the 1936 season the street parade was discontinued even though one was given on opening day. The Downie Bros. Circus, Mix only rival for motorized show supremacy, also discontinued their street parade for 1936.
Mix enlarged his show considerably for the 1936 season. All canvas was brand new except the menagerie top. The big top was a thing of beauty. It was a 150 ft. round top with 3 fifty foot middle pieces, The side walls, marquee, and curtains were red and white striped. Also menagerie, side show, and cookhouse side walls were red and white. Poles were painted white and blue. According to this reporter's record the Mix big top was the largest ever carried by a motorized show.
The motorized equipment was excellent. No show past or present has ever had better equipment than did the Mix show in 1936. Motorized equipment for the most part consisted of about 65 new Ford tractors and semi-trailers with a few straight trucks. All trucks were handsomely painted white with title in red and blue lettering. Cages that year also carried out the same color scheme. Even the performers and staff's living quarters trailers were uniform and were painted red, white, and blue. The show was a comfort for the workingmen that year. Several large sleeping tents with new collapsible special cots were carried. These tents were the last to be taken down and loaded in the early morning.
The show traveled in six or seven different convoys in the early morning hours.
Ted Metz was side show manager and had a new 145 x 22 top, with all new artisticly painted banners.
The Tom Mix Circus was heavy on fine horses and almost 100 head of horses and ponies were carried. Several large semi-trailers were used to transport them. Most of these horses and ponies were housed in the menagerie tent. The rest of the menagerie was the only weak spot of the entire show. Five rather small cages, all straight trucks, were carried. Lineup of cages as follows: (1) contained 8 monkeys and 2 baboons; (2) contained 1 lion; (3) contained 1 lion; (4) contained 2 deer; (5) contained dogs. Three elephants and one zebra completed the menagerie. The cages were very attractive. All carried the title and some had carvings on the skyboards.
Staff was as follows: Tom Mix, owner; D. E. Turney, manager; P. N. Branson, general agent; Rhoda Royal, equestrian director; and D. W. Helms, superintendent. Carl Robinson lead a good 12 piece circus band.
The performance in addition to the main feature, Tox [sic] Mix, himself and Tony Jr., included famous performers such as the Riding Hobsons, Erma Ward, and the Flying Arbaughs, which included some of the most famous flyers of all time.
Max Gruber's Jungle Oddties was on the show and was presented in the performance with a pleasing routine featuring an elephant, zebra, and Great Dane dog.
The 1936 performance was as follows: Display No.
1. Spec - "Parade of the Royal Mounted." The first two displays were specs and most colorful. There were 82 mounted people in the 1st and 24 in the second.
2. Spec - "Entry of the Garlands." Staged by Rhoda Royal.
3. Performing dogs and monkeys in 3 rings presented by Homer Hobson, Helen Ford, and Joe Bowers.
4. Swinging ladders. (20 girls).
6. Lady riding acts with Del Herberto, Mlle Lorenzo, and Ella Davenport.
7. Introduction of Tom Mix.
8. Lady polo riders. Helen Ford and Company.
9. Clowns. Boxing number.
10. Head balancing on revolving trapeze. Charley Arley.
11. Les Cotelettis Troupe of comedy acrobats.
12. Irma Ward, aerialist.
13. Tom Mix's Own Company of Cowboys and Horses. Tom gave an excellent riding and shooting exhibition, firing at stationary and moving objects, and lying on his back shooting out light bulbs on an erected dome.
14. Clowns funny ford act.
15. Perch and trapeze acts in 3 rings.
16. Rhoda Royals Liberty Horses and ponies in 3 rings.
17. Single trapeze acts with Johnny Jordon, Albert Powell, and George Arley.
18. Max Grubers, "Oddities of the Jungle."
19. Bell-Jordan-Marks troupe of acrobats in 3 rings.
20. Famous Riding Hobsons.
21. Toreodors from Old Mexico.
23. The Flying Arbaughs on double rigging. Flying return act. Flyers included Jim Arbaugh, Erma Ward, Vera Bruce, Bettie McVeight, and catchers were Harold Ward and Bud Asher.
The performance was very good and was one of the best ever given by the Mix show. No movie star, past or present has ever even come near to matching the terrific appeal to the kids that Mix did. Although he had appeared in very few films in the last five or six years he was still very well known by the kids and their fathers as well.
The Tom Mix Circus opened the 1936 season at Compton, Calif., on March 11, and then streaked northward up the Pacific coast. The first 54 days of the season the show was in California and 107 consecutive performances were given, Mix was the first show in San Francisco that year and had a good 4 day stand, April 2-5. Opposition with the Al G. Barnes Circus was encountered at many California stands but despite this opposition business was consistently good.
The official log of the circus records the California tour as thus:
"Racing up the coast, weaving back into the San Jaoquin and Sacramento valleys, cutting through the mists of the Golden Gate, shadowed by the leafy giants of the Big Tree Country, not a single performance was lost in the sunkist State. All were one-day stands except San Francisco, Oakland Alameda, and Eureka. In the last named place two night shows were given, but only one matinee. This, however, was in accord with the original schedule and due to a long mountain jump in reaching the stand."
The show entered Oregon, May 4, at Grants Pass and played nine stands in the state. At Medford, May 5, the closest opposition of the season was encountered, with the Al G. Barnes Circus scheduled in the next day. The Medford stand nevertheless was good, as were all Oregon stands.
Cutting across Oregon, Mix entered Idaho on May 14 at Emmett, to good business. This territory had been rather barren of circuses in recent years, and welcomed the Mix show with open arms. Next day at Boise the first turnaway of the season occurred. Nampa, Glenn's Ferry, and Twin Falls gave heavy patronage at matinees and night shows.
May 19 at Burley, Idaho, was an unforgetable day. It was the day of the blowdown. The official log records the event as follows:
"Filmy wisps of rasping, sandy dust clouds greeted the show on its arrival in this city at six o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, May 19th. Low flung, forbidding cloud banks hid the sun from view, and the wind and dust increased with each passing hour."
"A short time after the matinee performance, the wind suddenly tore loose with a triumphant blast of elemental fury and, like a wailing banshee riding in a hideous nightmare of flying dust, ripped its metoric way across the city and the circus lot where, unleashing a final burst of pent-up savagery, it flattened the menagerie top."
"Working desperately, heroically, to round-up fractious animals and to prevent further damage to circus properties, the male contingent of the show waged a grim and victorious battle with the elements in this trying hour. Seat planks, poles, jack and stringers were thrown through the air like so much confetti. Tom Mix sustained a painful injury when his left shoulder was struck by a flying grandstand platform and three other employees were victims of minor injuries during this session with the wind. No townspeople were harmed in this circus tragedy."
"With dust so thick that visibility was reduced to a distance of less than one hundred feet, the big top was lowered and the night performance cancelled as a matter of precaution."
"The cancellation of the night performance at Burley, Idaho, marks the only scheduled performance to be lost during the entire tour."
The show entered Wyoming, May 24, at Kemmerer, and other stands in that state were Rock Springs, Rawlins, Laramie, and Cheyenne. After Wyoming, then Colorado for a stand at Greeley, May 29, and Sterling, May 30.
The longest run of the season was from Sterling, Colo., to Hays, Kansas, a Sunday distance of 307 miles. Seven Kansas stands followed and Mix pulled into Kansas City, Mo., for a two day stand June 8-9. This two day stand turned out to be slightly terrific, with packed houses at all performances. Both press and public were lavish in their praise of the circus. St. Joseph, Mo., June 10, was also a banner day.
Leaving Missouri, 4 stands were played in Iowa, at Shenadoah, Atlantic, Carroll, and Sioux City, after which the drough area of South Dakota was invaded with surprising and gratifying results. Five cities, Mitchell, Huron, Aberdeen, Brookings, and Sioux Falls were visited and gave average business.
The circus then returned to Iowa for five stands and then crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and played Moline and Aurora.
The outstanding stand for any motorized show was played June 29 - July 8 by Mix at the Coliseum in Chicago. This indoor stand was sponsored by Goldblatt Bros. Department Stores. The stand was a record smasher, and one of the greatest ballyhoos for a circus was put on to advertise the show. A total of 24 newspapers carried advertising and 92 feature stories and 76 pieces of art were printed. Two hundred 24 sheet billboards were used, and 12,000 sheets of paper were posted. Goldblatt Bros. themselves printed and distributed 2 million 42 page rotogravure heralds advertising the Tom Mix Circus. Business was phenomenal, and 172,875 people saw the show in the 10 day engagement. Two turnaways were recorded.
The canvas tour resumed July 9 at Elkhart, Indiana. Then the show quickly jumped across Indiana and Ohio, entering Pennsylvania, July 15, at Meadville. Two days later it was in New York for twenty stands. The best business of the canvas season was had in New York State.
Stanford, Conn., was played August 10, and the transcontinental journey was complete. The first ever accomplished by a motorized circus.
For the next three weeks Mix was in Conn., Rhode Island, and Mass.
On August 31, the circus was in the metropolitan area of New York for a two day stand at Newark, N. J., and one day each in Jersey City and Elizabeth.
Back into Pennsylvania, Sept. 4 at Easton, and after 4 other stands in that state, the circus headed below the Mason-Dixon line and South fast.
A quick week brought the show into the North Carolina tobacco season at Raleigh, Sept. 14. Other North Carolina stands were at Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Statesville. Mix crossed into South Carolina for two stands, Sept. 22 at Spartanburg, and Sept. 23 at Anderson, and then into Georgia, Sept. 24 at Athens. This writer caught and reviewed the circus at Athens.
The show entered Georgia in the midst of a sudden epidemic of infantile paralysis, and it was necessary to rearrange the route almost overnight. Mix was scheduled to enter Florida for 16 stands and was to have closed the season there, but these unforseen circumstances caused that part of the route to be changed. After three other Georgia stands at Macon, Dublin, and Savannah, the show backtracked into South Carolina for five stands and back into North Carolina for 12 more.
Mix was as far North as Norfolk, Va., for stands Oct. 19-20. Other Virginia stands were at Portsmouth, Petersburg, Lynchburg, Roanoke, PuIaski, and Marion, and the show entered Tennessee on the last lap of the tour Oct. 28 at Kingsport. Five other Tenn. stands followed, another Georgia stand at Rome, Nov. 4, and to Anniston, Alabama, Nov. 5 for the closing date. Show went into winter quarters at Anniston, Ala., after a 35 week, 12,236 mile tour. Business on the entire tour was good, with the show getting good press and public after-notices at every stand.
For the 1936 season we have said before that the Downie Bros. Circus was Tom Mix's only rival as to having the largest motorized show. Both shows were at their peak that year so perhaps a little comparison would be in order here. It was this writers privilege to catch both Mix and Downie that year.
No doubt Mix had the larger physical layout. It looked larger on the lot. Its 150 with the three 50's big top compared favorably with both the Cole and Barnes Circuses. In fact I believe all three of those circuses had exactly the same size tops that year. The Downie big top was smaller, about 110 with three 40's. Downie and Mix both had practically the same number of vehicles, however Mix had more of the larger semitrailer type trucks than Downie. Mix had more horses, but Downie was far superior in the menagerie. Downie had 9 elephants, 4 camels, and 9 cages with a good variety of leopards, tigers, bears, lions, sea lions, monkeys, and kangaroos. Downie had probably the better balanced animal performance, while Mix had more aerial acts, including a flying act, which Downie did not have. Neither show had a cat act. The Tom Mix personal drawing power was stronger than anything Downie had, but a Charlie Sparks owned circus could never be cut out in its regular established territory. I won't make a definite statement as to which show I believe was the stronger, because I must confess I am always prejudiced when comparing a Charlie Sparks owned circus to any other one.
So, I'll let you readers decide for yourselves but I think you will all agree with me, those who saw both the Mix and Downie shows in 1936, you saw two of the best motorized circuses of all time.
Small railroad show on road from about 1893 to 1898. Headquarters were at Danville, Illinois. One ring performance. Menagerie of two elephants, one hippo, one camel, and 10 cross cages of animals. Closing stand home run to Danville, 408 miles. Total mileage for season 6,749 miles. The bandleader was H. A. Vandercook of Allegan, Mich., who was the composer of about 50 or more fine numbers for military band. His music played by the best bands. His band was one of the advertised features of the LaPearl Show.
17 - Danville, Illinois
1 - Warsaw, Indiana
1 - Coldwater, Michigan
1 - Rochester, Indiana
1 - (Sunday)
1 - Sullivan, Indiana
1 - Malden, Missouri
1 - Springfield, Missouri
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified December 2005.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified December 2005.