Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 3 (May-Jun), 1958. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Not all illustrations are 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.
The beautiful chariot type steam calliope featuring the large dragon carving as shown in the illustration is the favorite of many circus wagon fans. Many have told me that it was their favorite steam calliope, and truly it was a beautiful wagon.
It was built for the Great Wallace Shows by the Sullivan and Eagle Wagon Firm of Peru, Indiana. Some say 1899 was the year it was built and although I can't say positively if that is correct it is very nearly so. It was used by the Great Wallace Shows through the 1906 season. In the winter of 1906-07 the show's owner, B. E. Wallace, purchased the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show, and for the 1907 season put on the road the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus using the best equipment of both shows. The surplus equipment was sold, and this steam calliope went to the Campbell Bros. Great Consolidated Shows, a good sized railroad circus out of Fairbury, Nebraska, that was owned by A. C., Doc, Ed, and Virge Campbell, and Fred Hatfield.
The calliope was on the Campbell Bros. Circus for the 1907 through 1912 seasons. In late summer 1912 the show experienced financial trouble and was sold to William P. Hall and shipped to his quarters at Lancaster, Mo. At the time the show traveled on 26 cars, including 2 advance, 7 stocks, 11 flats, and 6 coaches.
In 1913 a railroad show was organized using the Campbell Bros. equipment and went out from Lancaster using the name of Cole Bros. Greater World Toured Shows. The Campbells and Fred Hatfield continued to share in the management although the title to the equipment was still held by Hall. Although I have no definite proof, it can be assumed I think that the steam calliope that had been used by Campbell in 1912 would have gone out on the 1913 Cole show. In any event the calliope was the property of William P. Hall.
Details as to what shows the calliope may have gone out on during the years 1914 through 1919, if any, seem to be missing. During those intervening years several railroad shows went out from the Hall farm in Lancaster, all under more or less the same circumstances. A group of individuals would organize the show and lease the physical circus property from Hall and would begin the tour in the Spring, but in almost every case after a few weeks or months the show would blow up, and Hall would repossess his property and ship it back to Lancaster to await the next promoter. For example Barton & Bailey went out in 1915, and Orton Bros. tried it in 1916, both small railroad shows, but neither lasting very long and the property ending back at Lancaster. It is entirely possible that this steam calliope went out on some of the Hall equipped shows during those years, but I have no evidence at all to prove such was the case.
During the winter of 1919-20, Rhoda Royal, Dan C. Hawn, and Harry Hunt organized at Valdosta, Ga. the Rhoda Royal Hippodrome and Old Buffalo Wild West Shows. A small railroad gilly type show that Rhoda Royal had out in 1919 was enlarged to a flat car type circus consisting of 15 cars which included 1 advance, 3 stocks, 7 flats, and 4 coaches. Most of the equipment came from the Hall farm, and included was this steam calliope.
It remained on the Rhoda Royal show for the 1920 and 1921 seasons, and went out for the 1922 season which lasted only a couple weeks. The 1922 season opened March 15 at Biloxi, Miss., and closed April 7 at Troy, Ala. The equipment was sent to Vandevier Park in Montgomery, Ala., which was the winter quarters of the Mugivan and Bowers owned circus, Gollmar Bros., which went out in 1922. The calliope plus the rest of the Rhoda Royal equipment now becomes "lost" to this observer. Several have told me they remember seeing the Rhoda Royal equipment in Montgomery the following winter but what finally happened to it I have been unable to determine. I feel sure it didn't get to another circus or surely we would have some information on that. There is a possibility it did get to some carnival, especially the steam calliope, because in those days many carnivals carried steamers for lot concerts and other bally purposes.
The other illustration shows the steam calliope of the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show. The wagon was built by the Bode Wagon Works of Cincinnati in the winter of 1904-05 for the Carl Hagenbeck Circus. It remained on the show the two years 1905 and 1906 the show was on the road. In 1907 the steam calliope was placed on B. E. Wallace's combined Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Wallace probably selected the calliope over his other one because it was newer, but few fans will say it was more attractive. It remained on the show until sometime in 1917 or 1918. The last photo I have showing it on Hagenbeck-Wallace is 1916. It has been the common belief of most wagon historians that the calliope was destroyed in a wreck in 1917 or 1918. Several minor wrecks occurred during that period but we have never seemed to be able to pinpoint just what wreck destroyed it. A large chariot type bandwagon which Bode had built in the early 1900's for the Great Wallace Shows was also supposedly destroyed in the same wreck. The calliope was gone before the tragic Gary wreck in 1918 which took such a heavy toll of life. That wreck involved destruction of the coaches by a rear end collision, hence the heavy loss of life, but little or no damage to the wagons loaded on the flats in front of the train.
If someone can tell us just what finally did happen to both the calliopes mentioned in this article by all means write in and fell us, and we will fully air your comments next issue.
Aeolian Music Wagon
1903 Africa Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1893 Ali Baba and Thieves, Barnum & Bailey.
1893 Alladin and His Lamp, Barnum & Bailey.
1881 Alligator Float, P. T. Barnum.
1903 American Float, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1850 Apollonicon, Spaulding & Rogers, made by Henry Green.
1848 Armamaxa or Persian Chariot, Welch Delevan & Nathan.
1903 Asia Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1893 Beauty and the Beast, Barnum & Bailey.
1919 Belgium or India Tab, U. S. Motorized Show, made by Bode.
1888 Bell Tableau, Adam Forepaugh.
1892 Bells of Moscow, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1880's Blue Beard Float, Sells Bros.
1893 Blue Beard Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1894 Blue Midway Plaiance, Walter L. Main.
1893 Caledonia Bandwagon, Barnum & Boiley.
1881 Canopy Bandwogon, P, T. Barnum.
1893 Capt. Smith and Pocaliontas, Barnum & Bailey.
1876 Car of Commerce, Howes Great London.
1853 Car of the Juggernaut, P. T. Barnum.
1877 Car of Liberty, Montgomery Queen.
1881 Chariot of Neptune, P. T. Barnum.
1919 China Tableau, U, S. Motorized Show, made by Bode.
1893 Cinderella Coach, Barnum & Bailey.
1880's Cinderella Float, Sells Bros.
1878 Cleopatra's Barge, Adam Forepough.
1902 Columbia Bandwagon, Forepaugh-Sells, made by Moeller.
1893 Columbus Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1877 Declaration of Independence Tab, Demonstration Tableau, Montgomery Queen.
Dragon Bandwagon, John Robinson made by Ohlson.
1893 Dragon Chariot, Barnum & Bailey.
1849 Dragon Chariot, Crane & Co. Oriental.
1855 Great Dragon Chariot, Sands & Nathan & Co.
1861 Dragon Chariot, Lent's National.
1861 Dragon Chariot of the Ancients, P. T. Barnum.
1894 Dragonia Bandwagon, Walter L. Main,
1888 Eagle Tableau, Adam Forepaugh.
Eagle Tableau, Great Wallace.
1851 East India Car, R. Sands & Co's.
Egypt Tableau, Adam Forepough, made by Sebastian,
1912 Egypt Tableau, Ringling Bros.
1905 Elephant Bandwagon, Great Floto Show, built at Winterquarters.
1920 Elephant Bandwagon, Al G. Barnes, built at Winterquarters.
1905 Elephant Bandwagon, Carl Hagenbeck, made by Bode.
1903 Europe Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1893 Euterpe Bandwagon, Barnum & Bailey.
1905 Elk & Buffalo Tableau, Carl Hagenbeck Show, made by Bode.
1903 Fairy Tales Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1878 Five Graces (double deck), Adam Forepaugh.
1892 France Tableau, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1919 France Tableau, U. S. Motorized Show, made by Bode.
1903 Funny Folks Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1892 Germany Tableau, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1903 Golden Age of Chivalry, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1871 Golden Car of Cleopatra, J. M. French Circus.
1877 Golden Car of Conquerors, Montgomery Queen.
1871 Golden Chariot, L. S. Lent Circus.
1881 Golden Chariot of Orient, P. T. Barnum.
1847 Golden Chariot, B. S. Howes.
1866 Golden Chariot of World, Howes & Cushing, made by Stephanson.
1866 Golden Dragon Chariot, Howes & Cushing, mode by Stephanson.
1868 Golden Dragon Float, Yankee Robinson, made by Coan & Ten Brocke.
1866 Golden Horse Band Chariot, Howes & Cushing, made by Stephanson.
1850 Golden Serpent Bandwagon, John Stowe's Circus.
1892 Great Britain or John Bull, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1919 Great Britain Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
1872 Great Golden Car of Egypt, Van Amburgh & Co.
1880's Gulliver's Travels Float, Sells Bros.
1903 Imperial Chariot, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1912 India Tableau, Ringling Bros.
1905 India Bandwagon, Carl Hagenbeck, made by Bode.
1919 India Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, mode by Bode.
1893 Indian Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1880's Jack the Giant Killer, Sells Bros.
1919 Japan Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
- Jardinierre Tableau, Sells-Floto.
1866 Jerusalem Float, Howes & Cushing, made by Stephanson.
1873 Landing of the Pilgrims, Barnum & Bailey.
1866 Lilliputian Float, Howes & Cushing.
- Lion Float, John Robinson, mode by Bode.
1867 Lion Chariot (3 decker), Howes European.
1903 Lion Cage with Canopy Top for Band, W. H. Harris Nickle Plate.
1903 Lion Tableau, Carl Hagenbeck.
- Mazzepa Tableau, John Robinson, made by Bode.
1919 Mexico Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
1894 Miniature World's Fair Tableau, Walter L. Main.
1881 Mirror Tableau & Band, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Great Rajah on His Moving Throne, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Mirror Tab. & Bagpipers, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Mirror Tab, Jubilee Singers, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Mirror Tab, Bell Ringers, P. T. Barnum.
1880's Mother Goose Float, Sells Bros.
1893 Mother Goose Float, Barnum & Bailey.
1893 Musical Bells of Moscow, Ringling Bros.
1866 Mythological Car of the Pagans, Howes & Cushing, made by Stephanson.
1873 Neptunes Chariot, Yankee Robinson, made by Coan & Ten Brocke.
1893 Nursery Rhymes Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1880's Old Woman in Shoe Float, Sells Bros.
1893 Old Woman in Shoe Tab., Barnum & Bailey.
1876 Operonican or Muses, Sells Bros.
1887 Orchest Melochor, P. T. Barnum.
1903 Our Country Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1919 Panama Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
- Peacock Bandwagon, John Robinson, made by Bode.
1892 Persia Tableau, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1919 Persia Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
1903 Phoenician Galley Tableau, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1868 Polyhymnia Tableau, Yankee Robinson, made by Coan & Ten Brocke.
1893 Puss in Boots Float, Barnum & Bailey.
1893 Queen of Hearts Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1880's Red Riding Hood Float, Sells Bros.
1893 Red Riding Hood Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1880's Robinson Crusoe Float, Sells Bros.
1846 Imperial State Carriage and Throne, Van Amburgh.
1848 Great Roman Band Chariot, Raymond & Waring & Co.
1881 Roman Chariot, P. T. Barnum.
1912 Russian Tableau, Ringling Bros.
1878 St. George and the Dragon, Adam Forepaugh, made by Sebastian.
1881 Sacred Chimes, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Santa Claus Chariot, P. T. Barnum.
1880's Santa Claus Float, Sells Bros
1893 Santa Claus Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1881 Shell Chariot Float, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Shell Coach, P. T, Barnum.
1909 Siam or Elephant Tusk Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1877 Silver Car of Oberon, Montgomery Queen.
1880's Sinbad the Sailor, Sells Bros.
1893 Sleeping Beauty, Barnum & Bailey.
1919 South America Tableau - U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
1912 Spain Tableau, Ringling Bros.
1881 State Chariot of the Indian Princesses, P. T. Barnum.
1881 Statues Steam Calliope, P. T. Barnum.
1881 The Celestial Car, P, T. Barnum.
1903 -Throne Tableau Car, Barnum & Bailey., made by Sebastian.
1893 Toys and Games Tableau, Barnum & Bailey.
1846 Triumphal Car, Van Amburgh.
1893 Tuberonicon Musical Wagon, Barnum & Bailey.
1903 Two Hemisphere Bandwagon, Barnum & Bailey, made by Sebastian.
1892 United States Bandwagon, Ringling Bros., made by Moeller.
1919 United States Tableau, U. S. Motorized Circus, made by Bode.
1881 Vampire Cart, P. T. Barnum.
1866 War Chariot of India, Howes & Cushing, made by Sebastian.
1893 Washington Inauguration Tab., Barnum & Bailey.
1893 William Penn Treaty with Indians Float, Barnum & Bailey.
1912 Witches Float, Ringling Bros.
1894 World's Fair Tableau, Walter L. Main.
The Five Graces wagon has had numerous titles, "Brittainia Tableau," "Mythological Car of the Pagans," "The Golden Car of Commerce," "Columbia," "World Tableau," "Globe Tableau."
The War Chariot of India had many mirrors near top of wagon, these were later removed and pictures of Presidents were placed and wagon was renamed "Car of the Presidents."
The Sells Bros. and Barnum & Bailey children Floats seem to be very similar but they are no doubt two different sets of floats.
Front Door - 1 Marquee with netting, 18x20 fold and rigging complete. 1 back curtain 18x20. 1 back curtain 10x30. 1 stool. 1 camp chair. 1 register stand. 5, 40 inch iron posts. 1, 40 foot front door chain.
Menagerie Tent - 1, 60 foot tent with rigging complete. 2, 40 foot middle pieces.
Big Top - 1, 90 foot top with 3-40 foot middle pieces and rigging. 17 lengths blue seats. 14 lengths reserved seats. 150 iron staubs. 150 wood staubs. 14 sledge hammers. Extra ropes, stakes, and rigging.
Dressing Room Tent - 1, 50 foot round top with 1-30 foot middle piece and rigging. 1 pedestal for 40-pony act and all props and equipment for all acts.
Side Show Tents - 1, 45 foot round top with 2-30 foot middle pieces and rigging. 1 marquee 8x10. 2, 2 inch x 15 foot banner poles. 3 ticket boxes. 5, 7x12 side show banners. 1, 7xl2 entrance banner, 3 inside curtains. 6 elevated stages. 12 folding chairs.
Cook House Tent - 1, 30x45 foot tent, poles, and rigging complete. 1, 18x20 tent with rigging. 2, camp ranges. 12 dining room tables. 2 kitchen knives. 2 kitchen steels. 4 upright 8 gallon pots. 3 camp kettles. 5, 28x30 oven pans. 1, 40 quart mixing pan. 3 coffee cans. 13 dish boxes. 150 each of knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups and saucers, bowles, etc. 20, 1 gallon pitchers. 10 buckets. 2 hammers. 1 bread basket. 5, 10 gallon milk cans.
Light Department - 15 carbide light tanks, large and small. 10 gas machine lights. 3 gas lanterns. 2 blow torches. Tools and repairs for same. 4 water buckets, harness horse.
Blacksmith Shop - 1 forge. 1 anvil. 1 bench vise. 1 set horseshoeing tools. 10 forging hammers. 3 pair tongs. 2 monkey wrenches. 4 S wrenches. 1 brace. 2 drill bits. 1 machine drill. 1 thread cutter.
Stable Tent - 1, 20x30 tent rigging complete including mangers. 10, 3 gallon buckets. Small lot stable equipment.
Harness and Trappings - 74 sets pony harness and collars. 30 sets baggage harness and collars. 14 sets lead vars, 10 saddles, 38 sets ring trappings for performing ponies. 90 halters. 10 riding bridles. 4 saddle blankets. 12 pair pony parade housings. 3 pair baggage parade housing brass mounted.
Wardrobe - 3 pairs brass mounted elephant trappings. 2 pair camel covers. 3 elephant blankets. 2 camel blankets. 19 parade laprobes, red. 36 parade helmets. 40 band uniforms. 29 parade coats. 100 parade feathers. 83 flags. 12 flag staffs. 25 pieces extra wardrobe. 3 horse parade blankets. 2 white horse necklaces and trappings. 60 parade caps. 10 ladies riding habits.
Wild Animals - 3 female elephants, Babe, Queen, Pinto, performing doing two acts. 2 Siberian camels, male and female, Bill and Jeanette. 11 monkeys, male and female, 5 of them performing. 1 sacred ox, male. 2 female pumas. 1 female untamable lioness, cage for same. 2 lions, male and female. 28 performing dogs. 1 male deer.
Horses, Ponies, Misc - 22 baggage horses. 20 ring horses and ponies. 27 saddle horses and parade ponies. 12 performing pigeons.
Parade Wagons - 1 ticket wagon, red and gold. 1 ticket wagon, yellow and silver. 1 bandwagon. 1 hound wagon. 1 major wagon. 1 harness wagon. 1 unaphone wagon and unaphone complete. 1 steam calliope. 1 No. 25 candy wagon and candy stand complete. 1 No. 10 cage. 1 No. 15 cage. 1 No. 14 cage. 1 No. 26 cage for untamable Lioness. 1 No. 11 cage. 1 No. 12 cage. 1 No. 16 cage. 1 No. 17 cage. 1 No. 19 trunk tab. wagon. Canvas covers for all above wagons.
Baggage Wagons - 1 stringer wagon. 2 seat plank wagons. 1 pole wagon. 1 canvas wagon. 1 menagerie wagon. 1 cook house wagon. 1 steel water tank wagon. 1 wagon for lights. 1 jack wagon. 1 No. 22 cage for parade and baggage. 1 stake and chain wagon. 1 prop wagon.
Railroad Cars - 1 advertising car No. 1 equipped with new border bed stead, dresser, table. Typewriter and all tools complete for advertising purposes, including range and dishes. 1 vestibule stateroom car 82 foot long, Vesper. 1 vestibule sleeper 70 long, Aurora. 1 sleeping car 76 foot long, steel platform, Houston. 1 sleeping car 70 foot long, Texas. 1 stock car 70 feet long, 6-wheel trucks, for horses and elephants. 1 stock car 70 feet long, 6-wheel trucks, for horses. 1 stock car 60 feet long, 4-wheel trucks, for horses and dogs. 7 flat cars 60 feet long, 80,000 lbs. capacity weight.
Equipment in Cars - In lunch car, Houston: 2 cash registers; 1, 12 foot lunch counter; 1, 10 gallon coffee boiler; 1 ice box; 1 steel range; 1, 10 gallon oil tank; 2 lanterns. In sleeping cars: 80 mattresses; 150 sheets; 150 pillow cases; 100 pillows; 100 blankets; 2 safes. On flats: 2 sets steel loading runs; 2 Delco light plants.
Coulter & Coulter Famous Shows, out of Albany, Mo. This show was first called Coulter & Clark, after the original partners, Wade H. Coulter and Carl H. Clark. This was a high class wagon show during the seasons of 1908, 1909, and 1910. Coulter and his associates put it on rails for the 1911 season. In 1912 they used the Cole Bros. title. The tours of 1911 and 1912 were both failures, during both of these seasons the show wintered in Lancaster, Mo. The 1913 Cole Bros. was not connected with this show in either equipment or owners.
The 18th Transcontinental Tour of the Mighty Haag Circus was the season of 1912. It was quite a long season, including eleven weeks in Canada. Ernest Haag, sole owner. George Moyer was General Agent and Traffic manager and one of the best in his line. Harley Hubbard was secretary-treasurer, and with the show for many years. Frank McGuyre was Ernest Haag's right hand man, and Wm. R. Kellogg was legal adjuster. Jim Campbell was in charge of front door and may have been advertising banner solicitor. Jim Finegan, trainmaster, Fritz (Dutch) Meyers, boss canvasman, and Eddie Van Camp, superintendent of lights were other heads of departments. Harry R. (Shorty) Rhodes was in charge of stock and was with the Haag Circus over 40 years. Henry Emgard had the concessions, and Napoleon Reed was chef.
George Oram was side-show manager with Prof. Nelson's Ragtime Band and minstrels. Among the attractions were Chief DeBro and wife, billed as the Eskimo midgets. They were from Kendallville, Ind. Nellie King did musical act and played the steam calliope in parade.
Victor Stout was in charge of Advertising Car No. 1 and this circus was well billed with a fine line of all new special paper that year, the 18 Transcontinental Tour.
There were no printed programs and the performers named are recalled from memory, so a few may have been omitted. Frank Miller was Equestrian director, and did gents principal and jockey act. Clara Miller, equestrienne. The Wallett family, five people were featured, riding act. DeBolien Troupe acrobats and tumblers, Agnes DeEspa, Irene Marshall, Mabel James, and Neta Peasley aerial performers, Si Kitchie Jap Troupe, John Smith performing horses, and ponies, Birdie Martino, rolling globe and club juggler, Jimmie O'Neil, hand balancer, Mardello, contortionist, Bob Peasley, juggler. Rudy Gonzallas performed the three elephants. The old-time leaps were also presented in the early part of the program. Roy Fortune, Gail Boyd, Mardello, and Henry were clowns. Colorado Cotton (Frank Smith), his wife and son did trick riding and rope spinning.
Dick Masters was director of big show band, 15 musicians, and the writer was trombonist. Doc Coates, of Hempstead, Texas, with western hat and frock coat made all announcements during performance. Collectors claim they find it difficult to obtain routes of the circus on rail, 1909-1914, as no printed route sheets were ever issued.
"These two photos were taken by Bill Woodcock while he was traveling with the advertising car of Campbell-Bailey Hutchinson Circus and Wild West, a 10 car show, in the spring of 1921. First photo shows a billing stand for Wheeler Bros. Greater Shows, a two car circus owned by Elmer H. Johnes and managed by Al F. Wheeler, for the Alderson, W. Va. stand played April 18, 1921. Second photo shows the same billing location, several minutes later being covered with Campbell-Bailey-Hutchinson paper advertising their May 9 date at the same town."
Bringing a show to your town may require much preparation on the part of the advance crew of some circus. The advance crews, traveling ahead of the show on their own advance cars, do not see much of the show proper, but are more concerned with clearing the way for the events that are to take place later.
I was an advance man on different circuses for years, and was never of the opinion that the average fan realized what preparations were made. Details are worked out weeks and sometimes months ahead in a town, city, or village, chosen by the General Agent before play date is ever announced. Charles Sparks once said any boob can run a circus but it takes someone to know where to put it. I have always been inclined to agree with Mr. Sparks, as I have seen more than one show fail from poor routing.
After the General Agent has decided upon the town, checked on conditions and made the routing contracts, the first advance car arrives in town with a crew of usually from 20 to 30 billers, lithographers and press agents. Beginning early in the morning, these men will work until late at night as they have but one day to bill the entire city and surrounding territory which is about 50 miles in each direction. The average car will have about 10 billers, 6 to 8 lithographers, 4 banner men, paste maker and porter, press agent and car manager.
Quite some years ago it was customary to carry a chef on the car and feed the crew, but as with many other parts of the circus, the chef has been done away with and the men now receive allowances for meals every day besides their regular salary.
I was on the advance of the John Robinson Circus in 1920. In July of that year our advance car and the car of the Sells-Floto Circus were spotted on the same side-track in Kansas City, Mo., as we were both billing the town at the some time. That season the John Robinson Circus had the finest advance car on the road and was said to be the finest in advance of any circus. It contained shower baths, extra wide berths and in one end of the car we carried a small pick-up truck which we used for a "town billing truck" to run around in and pick up lithographers on the routes and to supply them with more paper.
Billing War! The No. 3 Advance Car of the old John Robinson Circus, then under the ownership of the American Circus Corp., and the No. One Advance Car of the Sells-Floto Circus, then under the ownership of Messrs. Bonfils and Tammen of the Denver Post, battle it out in Kansas City, Mo., on July 4, in 1920. S. F. was sold at the end of that season to the American Circus Corp. along with the Buffalo Bill title for $219,000. The John Robinson car was known as "Uncle Johnny's White Beauty" because of the fine accomodations. Wm. Koford, author of the "Billing War" story was on the John Robinson Car.
The No. 1 car is in the city two weeks ahead of the circus and after that there is the No. 2 car which is in one week ahead. Years ago most shows carried a brigade which would bill a town weeks ahead of the No. 1 car if another circus was headed that way. This brings to mind the old billing wars that circuses were famous for; of billers covering paper at night and pulling lithographs in the stores during the daytime, telling merchants that the show was not coming to town as their circus was going to play the date instead. The greatest billing war in the last few years occurred in Denver, Colorado, when the Sells-Floto and the John Robinson Circuses played the town within a week of each other.
At this time the Sells-Floto Show was under the banner of Messrs. Bonfils & Tammen, and Denver, of course, was the winter home of the Sells-Floto. The Robinson advance sneaked in at midnight and plastered the town with paper. George Moyer was General Agent of the Robinson Circus while Paul W. Harrell was Advance Car Manager of the Sells-Floto Circus. Moyer and Harrell sat in the Hotel lobby talking over old times while Moyer's men took over every location that had been billed by Harrell's men that day. Moyer had hired every taxi he could and one man was assigned to each with a bucket of paste and paper, and was sent out to cover everything in sight that he could of the Sells-Floto. All were supposed to be back at the Railroad Station by 2 a.m. in order to leave town. When the City of Denver awoke next morning it was covered with John Robinson paper. It is likely that the citizens of Denver still haven't forgot some of the old circus days.
Today, there are very few billing wars as there are only two railroad circuses touring this country and they usually try to keep out of each others way.
Who remembers the billing war in 1923 between the Al G. Barnes Circus and the John Robinson Circus in an unidentified Iowa City?? Barnes was to exhibit on July 5th and John Robinson on July 15th; one going East and the other West, in the same city. The Barnes Car was running two weeks ahead as usual with no special brigades for this date. The night before the Barnes Car was to arrive, the John Robinson brigade arrived in town and grabs off all the likely locations for both lithos and posting, so the Barnes people had posters plastered on the slanting roof tops, on the tops of elevators with lithos everywhere they could be stuck, making this small Iowa town really covered for two shows. Both did good business but the similarity of dates was enough to cause confusion. Both, of course, had good parades.
Somewhat earlier than in America, the tenting season opens in England and by Easter Monday a dozen or so Big Tops will have mushroomed beneath the pale English Spring skies. At this time of the year it is great to be living in our Midland counties as many of our tenting shows start their season from this part of the country before leaving for the four points of the compass. Extremes of climate are not normally met with in England, but even so Billy Smart's Circus which by opening at Ipswich on March 14th, became the first of our "Big Three" to get going, found it necessary to use a heating plant inside their big top; an innovation which made sitting under canvas in March a much more comfortable affair.
Unlike many English circuses Smart welcomes television and their debut was marked by a forty-five minute broadcast by the BBC giving tantalizing glimpses of this year's new acts. This was followed by behind the scenes shots designed for Childrens TV on Sunday afternoon. Billy Smart's have their usual big programme. House acts include groups of elephants, camels, polar bears, chimpanzees, sea lions, horses, ponies, zebras, mules and oxen. The bill opens with "Circus Fantasy" with the whole company and many of the animals parading around the hippodrome track or appearing in the single ring. Amongst the twenty-six listed acts are Four Willers (roller-skaters); Four Jungoves (auto-ladder balancing); Six Biros (risley acrobats); Flying Lunasz (Flying trapeze); Three Peters (aerial balancing act); Atlas Sahara Troupe (Arab tumblers); Barschelly (Porcelain plate spinner); Michael and Sasha Coco, Little Hubert, Whimsical Walker and Co (clowns). The last eight acts on the programme constitute a "Wild West Show" in which Wyatt Earp, Sitting Bull, and assorted Western characters are impersonated by members of the Smart family (Billy Junr, Wally, Gloria) and others. After the "death" of Sitting Bull and his tribe all are resurrected to take part in a grand and colorful finale. Billy Smart has one of the most ambitious circus programmes in England today.
Chipperfield's Animal Circus, as it is termed, opened at Northampton on March 23rd. They really earn that "animal" part of their title, for in the bill which I saw were lions; tigers; white, black and brown bears; chimpanzees; elephants; camels; llamas; giraffes; dogs; horses; ponies; crocodiles; snakes; a hippopotamus and a duck all appearing in the sawdust ring. So many animals that the mere humans seemed crowded out but there were good aerial, juggling and clown acts by members of the Tom Fossett family; Dickie Sandow, Bill Smee and a mule were helping with the laughs, likewise Fiery Jack a venerable dead-pan character with an obstinate car. The Digger Pugh girls were swinging, riding, dancing or "dressing" the animal acts, and Indian thrills were provided by a well-known "red-skin" Chief Eagle Eye (Jack Carson) who is a long-time expert with the rifle, lariat and stock whip. Trainers and handlers of animals included Capt. Jack Smith, Roger DeBille and Messrs. Dick and John Chipperfield. This is a show which can be termed real “circus" and the inclusion of so many animals seemed to go down well with the big audiences I saw under Chipperfield's 5000 seater. Out of the long Chipperfield history, this circus has unearthed a traditional act this season, in which a shuttered cage-wagon is hauled into the ring by an elephant. The shades being rolled up, a couple of lively lionesses are disclosed and into their company steps the fearless lion "tamer" for a few furious moments of old-time cage thrills.
Bertram Mills' Circus, proud of being the "Quality Show" of England opened at Gloucester (which also has the distinction of being my home town!) on April 1st. No April fools, these brothers Mills' have their usual elegant programme produced in quiet, smooth and meticulous style. On the programme are the Mohawk "Indian" Riders (two English circus families, Paulo and Williams, in this troupe); Ghezzi Trio (humpsti-bumpsti acrobats); Frances Duncan (aerial artiste); Two Mascotts (head-to-head balancing); Coco and Co clowns; and the New De Riaz (trapeze and revolving aeroplane). House acts include baby elephants, tigers, horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras and poodles trained and shown by Alexander Kerr, Kurt Dubrow, Nadia Houcke and Phyllis Allen. A distinct novelty for an English circus is the inclusion in this Mills's programme of Ferry Forst, a celebrated German illusionist and it will be interesting to see how this unusual act for a circus goes down with the "flatties."
Sir Robert Fossett's Circus opened in Hitchin on the last day in March. Always an excellent "family" show this years programme looked especially good under a new two pole blue canvas tent. Fossett contributions to the programme include Bailey's presentation of leopards, pumas and jaguars, Bobby's showing of horses and shetland ponies, and Mary's new dog acts. There were more Fossett's dancing and juggling on high stilts in the persons of "Big" Bob, Marion and Dorothy, whilst Frankie of the same name clowned in excellent style in the good company of Dennis Anderson and Co. The six Fossett elephants were shown by Ivor Rosaire and Jacob, both masters of their art in different styles. Trapeze, trampoline and wire acts complete a real sawdust ring programme.
Cousins of the Fossett's, the Robert Brothers, another circus which puts its faith in animals opened in a Midland town on the same date as their relations. This circus has a smart four pole tent in green canvas and has elephants, lions, bears of two colors, horses, dogs, ponies, llamas and an old favorite, a boxing kangaroo, all performing in the ring. The Roberts family make several appearances during the show. Brothers Bobby and Tommy show and ride horses, Kitty presents poodles and ponies, young Bobby does a classical wire act, and the youthful Carolyn may be seen amongst the girls swinging on ladders under the roof of the big top. This circus usually has one or two good Continental balancing and aerial acts, and also English artistes bearing such trusted names as Yelding, Barratt and Fossett. Jacko, whose red hair betrays his Fossett blood, is one of the best Augustes in the business in this country and when he cleans off the make-up after the show he may be seen assiduously carrying out the duties of tent-master. (Canvas-boss to you).
Lord George Sanger's Circus opened at Tolworth in Surrey during the last week of March. This show bearing a world-famous name is a smaller circus than the one which operated under the same name in the early part of the century but it is still run by the Sangers, and whilst it may have lost in quantity, it lacks nothing in quality and may be safely recommended to all true circus lovers. I have not seen this year's programme yet, but one is almost certain to see members of the famous Freeman family of clowns and all round circus artistes. Sangers have their own troups of lions which are presented in a small rectangular cage after the manner of the old time wild beast show; the lions give a bouncing type of act not seen in the round big cage. Sangers usually have a couple of good Continental acts to give their bill quality and I look forward to seeing this interesting show, when perhaps I may be allowed to write something more about this circus's long history.
Passing through a small Worcestershire town, Halesowen recently I spied "day-bills" for Dennis Bros. Circus which was shortly due to make a two day stand there. This show is owned by Dennis Fossett and has shown under a variety of names. Quite a nice little show with one elephant, also pony, dog, trapeze and clown acts largely supplied by the family.
A cheerful small English show often making one-day stands is Bob Gandey's. For a small "nut" he gets together a good bill. Luckens, Raymers and William Gilberts modest circuses will also be out and about soon and it is possible that some of these small shows will settle in seaside towns or countryside resorts for a summer season. One other little circus may be encountered on our English lanes, owned by the picturesque "Count" Andreus Larzard and ambitiously styled the Buffalo Bill Circus. I have a weakness for these smaller shows; they invariably offer good entertainment and are often a cradle of embryo circus talent.
Up in Scotland are three small circuses two of which occasionaly make forays over the Border. These are Pinders No. 1 Circus; Tommy Pinders Zoo-Circus and Winships Circus Supreme. All small shows when compared with England's "Big Three" but all offering entertaining programmes.
Missing from the English circus scene this year is Cody's Circus, a fair-sized show which always offered good value for money and which has operated here for well over the last decade. Harry Coady, the proprietor is not lost to the business, however, as he is running a circus promotion and gala agency. Also I cannot find any trace of Kayes Bros. Circus which after several years of tenting in Ireland, returned to show in England last summer. Of a very old and honored British Circus family, I understand that Johnny Kayes, part owner of the circus has taken up a circus appointment on the Continent. There is no news of Rosaires Circus starting out and with the brothers Rosaire (and their families) working in English, Australian and Swiss circuses it does not look as if we shall be seeing this interesting circus on the road again for some time. It is possible that other members of the family may operate a summer season with their show at a seaside resort.
Well, that is just about the sum of our English Tenting Circuses of 1958. Good tenting to them all, and may there be some American Circus Fans sitting around our single rings and getting as much pleasure out of it all, as I did from watching your three ring circuses last summer.
Editor's Note: The writer of this article was in the United States last year as an exchange teacher, and many of our members met him. We think this is a very comprehensive article. If some of the English terms are not familiar here are two explanations. ''House acts" mean the acts owned and often shown by members or employees of the circus concerned; "Flatties" are members of the paying public.
Aside from such prima-facie evidence as photographs, letters, and contracts, I have been able to draw much of the material for my two published (The Telescoping Tableaus, 1956; The Affairs of James A. Bailey, 1957) and two projected pamphlets on circus history from route books, The Billboard and New York Clipper files, and old files of daily newspapers. While my interest has been primarily in the political history (including factors that deal with ownership, partnership agreements, transfers of titles and property, size and growth of the shows, details of equipment, parade and parade wagons, and disasters, such as wrecks, storms, fires, clems, foreclosures and sheriffs' sales) rather than on famous performers and other non-managerial notables, these same sources will probably yield more information about people than about things and events.
Part of this material is rare, particularly some of the route books and Clippers; and it has taken considerable effort to locate some of it. In the interests of furthering more research on circus history, I am making my findings public information.
In 1955 I compiled and circulated on a very limited basis a list of circus route books known to have been issued prior to 1930. This document seemed to be quite useful to the few who received copies. This edition is an up-to-date version of that 1955 list, which was based on the one originally published by Col. C. G. Sturtevant in the December, 1935, issue of The White Tops. Besides containing books not generally known to exist in 1935, I have added inventories of several collections where an original copy may be examined. It is also hoped that the publication of this inventory will ferret out some of those that I have never been able to find. It is also entirely possible that a few on this list never existed. It is known that Sturtevant made his compilation from the inventories of several private collections and from ads and notes which he found in the New York Clipper. I consider a few of the notations which Sturtevant may have relied upon to be rather vague. Including those published since 1930, the list totals 374 different issues since 1835.
Route books, while never permitted to reflect anything derogatory, are relatively reliable for research purposes, compared to other show generic material, such as lithographs, couriers, heralds, and newspaper ads. Some of these books are excellent histories of the year's tour and usually include a roster of the personnel, frequently a diary of the highlights, and occasionally some information about the equipment. Since they are not intended for the general public and are circulated primarily within the profession, there is little point in falsifying the facts. They are usually compiled and published by a duly licensed member of the company and sanctioned by the management.
For the purposes of this listing, the book must be an official publication and must have a cover and at least four pages. This definition has been adopted to rule out the folded route sheets which do not contain any information other than the route. Folders which do have supplementary information, such as a roster, have been included and designated with a suffix "f."
The following code applies to the inventoried collections.
SA - Hertzberg Collection in the San Antonio Public Library.
P - Princeton University
H - Harvard University
LC - Library of Congress
W - Don Howland Collection at the Wisconsin State Historical Society (now at Circus World Museum Parkinson library)
N - New York Public Library
FP - The Fred Pfening Collection (private)
CG - The John P. Grace Collection (private), now owned by R. E. Conover
Zoological Institute, 1835 - SA
June, Titus, Angevine, 1842 SA, P , CG
George K. Goodwin, 1860 - SA
Gardner & Hemmings, 1863
Montgomery Queen, 1874
Doris, John B., 1886 - CG
Welch & Sands, 1880
Burk, T. K., 1890
Lee, Chas. E. London, 1893
Miller, Oakley and Freeman, 1888 CG Reynolds, W. B., 1892 - CG
Harris Nickel Plate, 1894
LaPearl, J. H., 1897 - SA, CG
Locke, Fred, 1893
Barrett, S. H., 1884
King & Franklin, 1889 - CG
Sells & Gray, 1900 - CG
Cooper & Jackson, 1880-82
Orton Bros., 1927 - SA, CG
Eschman, J. H., 1917f - CG
Soutelle, Sig, 1912 - CG
Norris & Rowe, 1903 - CG
La Tena, 1917 - W, CG
Downie Bros., 1927 - CG
Robbins Bros., 1927 - CG, W
1892 - SA, P, FP, CG
1893 - SA, FP, CG
1894 - SA, FP, P, CG, W
1895-96 - SA, FP, CG
1897 - SA, FP, CG, W
1898 - SA, FP, CG
1899 - FP, CG
1900 - SA, FP, CG
1901 - SA, N, FP, CG, W
1902 - SA, FP
1903 - SA, FP
1911 - SA
1913 - SA
1914 - SA
1915 - P, F P, CG
1916 - CG
1917 - FP, CG
1882-1900 - FP, W, P (composite)
1882-1914 - FP, W, CG (composite)
1905 - SA, FP, CG
1891-92 - FP
1899 - SA, N, FP, CG, W
1900 - SA, N, CG, W
1901 - SA, LC, FP, CG
1902 - SA, FP, CG
1903 - SA, FP, CG
1904 - CG
1905 - SA, LC, N, CG
1906 - CG
1916 - FP, CG
1917 - FP, CG
1919 - FP, W
1921 - FP, CG
1922 - SA, FP, CG
1923 - SA, FP, CG, W
1924 - SA, FP, CG
1890 - CG
1891 - FP, CG
1892 - SA, Flo, CG
1893 - FP, CG
1894 - SA, W, FP, CG
1909 - CG
1914 - CG
1915f - W, CG
1920 - CG
1921 - CG, W
1923 - SA, W, FP, CG
1924 - W, FP, CG
1926 - SA, FP, CG
1927 - SA, W, CG
1879-80 - SA
1883 - CG, SA
1884 - SA, CG
1890 - S. B. & Barrett, W
1891 - SA
1891-92 - FP 1892 - FP
1893 - CG
1895 - FP, SA
1903 - Pan American, CG
Pawnee Bill (Wild West Show)
1894-95 - CG
1898 - CG 1899 - SA, CG
1900 - SA, P, FP, CG
1901 - SA, CG
1906 - CG
1899 - CG 1902-03-04, Map - SA
1902 - P
1905, Map France - CG
1917, Jess Willard - SA, CG
1912 - CG, FP
1914 - CG
1915f - CG
1916f - CG
1925 - SA, CG, FP
1929 - FP, CG
1878 - FP, N
1880 - SA, N
1891 - FP, P, SA
1892 - FP, P, SA
1893 - FP, P, SA, CG
1894 - CG, P , SA
1913 - W
1921 - W, F P, CG
1922 - W, SA, FP, CG
1923 - W, SA, N, CG
1893 - Cook & Whitby title, FP
1895 - FP, SA CG
1896 - FP, SA
1897 - FP, W
1901 - SA
1902 - CG
1903f - CG
1904 - CG
1906f - CG
1906 - CG, SA
1912 - W
1913 - W, FP, CG
1914 - W, SA, FP, CG
1915 - W, SA, FP, CG
1916 - CG
1920 - W, CG, FP
1922 - W, SA, FP, CG
1923 - SA, CG, FP
1910 - CG, FP
1911 - CG, SA, FP
1912 - CG, SA, FP
1913 - CG, SA
1922 - CG, SA
1897 - FP
1898 - FP, W, N, CG
1900 - FP, SA
1902 - CG
1906 - CG, SA
1907 - SA
1885 - FP, N
1910 - CG
1873 - CG
1875 - H
1876 - CG, H
1877 - CG
1879 - CG
1880 - CG
1882 - CG, FP, H, SA, P
1883 - CG, FP, SA, P
1884 - CG, SA, P
1885 - CG, P
1889 - CG, SA, P
1889 London, Winter Season, CG, P
1890 - CG, SA, P
1891 - CG, SA, FP, P
1893 - CG, FP, SA, P
1894 - CG, FP, SA, P
1895 - CG, FP, SA, P
1896 - CG, FP, SA, P
1897 - CG, FP, SA, P
1897-98 England, Map only - FP, SA, CG
1898-1901 Watkin's Book - FP, CG, SA, P
1903-04 - FP, CG, N, P, W
1905 - FP, CG, P, W
1906 - FP, CG, P , W
1907 - CG, P, W
1914 - CG
1915 - CG
1916 - CG
1917 - CG
1922 - CG, FP
1923 - CG
1924 - CG
1925 - CG
1926 - CG, FP
1927 - CG, W
1913 - CG, SA, FP
1911 - CG
1914f - CG, FP
1915 - CG, FP
1916 - CG, SA, P
1917 - CG
1919 - CG, SA, FP
1920 - CG, FP
1921 - CG, FP
1922 - CG, FP, W
1923 - CG, FP
1924 - CG, FP, SA, W
1925 - CG, FP, SA, W
1926 - CG, FP, SA, W
1927 - CG, FP, SA, W
1911 - CG
1912 - CG, FP
1913 - CG
1914 - CG, FP, W
1915 - CG, FP
1916 - CG, FP
1920 - CG, FP, W
1921 - CG, W
1892 - CG
1893 - SA
1894 - CG
1895 - CG, FP, SA, W
1899 - CG, SA
1919 - CG
1920 - CG, W, FP
1921 - CG, W, FP
1922 - CG, W, SA
1923 - CG, W, FP
1924 - CG, W, FP, SA
1925 - CG, W, FP
1880 - N
1877 - SA, P
1879 - SA, P, FP
1880 - SA, P
The following books issued since 1930 will complete the list of all known route books within the bounds of our definition. Since copies of these are comparatively plentiful, any catalog of the major collections would be meaningless.
Bailey Bros., 1944, 1946, 1947.
Beatty, Clyde, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1951.
Beatty-Russell Bros., 1944.
Beatty-Wallace Bros., 1943.
Cole Bros. 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1949.
Cole, James M., 1943, 1946.
Cristiani Bros., 1956.
Dailey Bros., 1942f, 1943f, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949.
Kelly-Miller, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957.
King Bros., 1946, 1947, 1950.
King-Cristiani, 1952f, 1953.
Main, Walter L., 1937.
Mills Bros., 1942f, 1945f, 1947, 1949f, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954f, 1957.
Mix, Tom, 1936, 1937.
Polack Bros., 1944.
101 Ranch, 1946.
Russell Bros., 1933f, 1 935f, 1936f, 1937f, 1941f, 1942.
Seils-Sterling, 1930f, 1931f, 1932f, 1933f, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938f.
Sello Bros., 1944, 1945.
Stevens Bros., 1950.
Wallace Bros., 1942f.
Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955.
The New York Clipper (1852-1924)
The Clipper (issued weekly for over seventy years) was founded as a sporting events journal in 1852. In 1856 it began to carry a column on the amusement industry, grouping indoor and outdoor activities under the some heading. About 1860 this was segregated into several major branches, including circuses, dramatic, New York theatrical, minstrelsy, variety, and foreign show news. Up until 1900 the entire amusement portion never occupied more than one-third of the magazine, with the circus, aside from the advertising, rarely exceeding one column.
The format of the paper was changed several times after the initial 11xl7-inch size of 1852. In 1863, 1864, and 1868 there were successive increases in page dimensions, ultimately reaching a page size of 17x23 inches. About 1875 there was a decided lowering of the quality of the paper. In 1881 the size of the page reverted to approximately its original 11x17-inch dimensions and so continued until late 19 15. For the next eight years it was controlled by interests that catered to indoor entertainment, and it carried very little circus information. In mid-year 1923 it was sold to the publishers of "Variety" who made it an exclusive outdoor publication until it was discontinued in July, 1924.
Aside from a possible file inherited by "Variety," which I have never been able to ascertain still exists, it is doubtful if a complete file of the periodical could be assembled from all the files in existence. There are several almost complete files after 1881, including those of the New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, Harvard University, American Anquitarian Society of Worcester, Library of Congress, and the author's. Likewise, there are more issues to be found prior to 1863 when the format was first enlarged, than in the years 1863-1881 when the page size was large. It is theorized that this large size has contributed to the vulnerability, because they were harder to save, required folding to store, and especially after 1875 were printed on paper that would not survive ordinary handling.
For the so-termed vulnerable years, Harvard University has an almost complete run after mid-year 1866 through 1880. The American Anquitarian Society holds a few scattered issues in the 1860's, Volume 18 commencing April 9, 1870, and all issues after February 14, 1874. In New York, at either the Public Library or the Historical Society, can be found most of 1867-68, all of 1871, most of 1872, and part of 1873. The Library of Congress holds about six months centering around January 1, 1879, and some issues between 1867 and 1871 upon which I have not had an opportunity to check. The author's file contains about 37 per cent of the 1870's and 55 per cent of the 1860's (believed to be the largest 1860 file in existence). It is primarily a combination of the files that formerly belonged to Col. C. G. Sturtevant and John P. Grace. Most of the overflow that resulted from this combination was sold to the late George Chindahl, giving that file a solid run from 1882 to 1890, about 35 per cent in the 1890's, and practically complete from 1901 to 1916.
In the pre-vulnerable years, files for the 1856-1860 period exist at both of the New York sources, the American Anquitarian Society, and in the author's file. The San Francisco Public Library is supposed to have some sort of file between 1867 and 1873, and the University of Ontario has some issues between 1857 and 1862. The Hertzberg Collection at San Antonio holds a complete file for the period between 1881 and 1906, also complete files for the years 1909, 1910, 1913, and 1914; and incomplete files for 1865, 1866, and 1911. The Wisconsin State Historical Society and Princeton University also have limited files in the 1880's. I have seen only two issues prior to 1856, and neither of them contained any amusement news.
The value of the Clipper as a research tool stems from the fact that it is about the only concentrated source of information that we have for the period before 1900. Even so, one must be wary, particularly of the "Spring Special" where it made a practice of publishing anything that the shows sent in about their planned expansion and performance for the on-coming season. However, there are numerous good accounts of important happenings in the business. Many of these have formed the basis of articles by former circus historians, including Bernard, Pitzer, Sturtevant, and Chindahl. The "for sale" advertisements and the transfer of property notices are considered to be trustworthy and form one of the principal pegs for some of the conclusions that I have drawn in the pursual of my field of interest. The route information is also valuable even though it would be impossible to reconstruct the entire route for any show before 1900. However, even that which is given is useful for newspaper file research.
The Billboard shifted from a monthly to a weekly magazine in 1900. By about 1905 it was the equal of the Clipper in its outdoor department, and by 1910 it was much superior. Except for the brief flurry in 1923-24, the Clipper never regained much stature in the outdoor field.
Local Newspaper Files
Recent experimentation with the newspaper files in approximately thirty cities have led me to conclude that this is a lucrative source of information, and one that, collectively, could be better exploited by the membership of CHS. If armed beforehand from route lists with the dates that the shows of interest played the town, a remarkable quantity of material can be scanned in a day. I have found that cities large enough to have a daily newspaper for the period are more likely to be worth the effort than towns which published only a weekly paper. The latter rarely seemed to make any comments after the show was gone. This is the all-important thing, as the ads themselves are generally unreliable, at least as evidence for the political aspects of the business. However, even some of these after-notices were written by the show's press department, and on occasions an expert will have trouble differentiating between "professional" and "gilly" language.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified January 2006.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified January 2006.