Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan-Feb), 1959. 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 advertisinq booklets issued by circuses the latter half of the 19th century were jammed with illustrations and articles revealing in detail all of the attractions found with the show.
During this period various shows issued many types of printed matter, These incuded advertising booklets, herals, couriers, and special bills advertising excursions over various railroads. The question is often asked what is the difference between a herald and a courier. My own definition would be that a herald is usually one sheet of paper printed on both sides, approximately ten inches wide and 29 1/2 inches long. In contrast, a courier is usually considerably smaller in size. perhaps ten by thirteen inches in size, and eight to twenty-four pages in length.
Couriers have been used for almost as long as there have been circuses. In 1954 Ringiling Bros. & Barnum-Bailey Circus and King Bros. Circus each used attractive, specially prepared couriers.
However, the early literary efforts of circus press agents in the late 1800 presented a masterful combination of words and pictures to attract public attention. P. T. Barnum issued a wonderful advance courier during the season of 1871, one year prior to the P T. Barnum show being placed on rails by William C. Coup. This particular booklet listed P. T. Barnum as editor and a circulation of 800,000. It is 16 pages in length and is highly illustrated with fine steel engravings. Over P. T. Barnum's signature on page 2 we find the following statement: "Holsum instruction with innocent amusement; will in every particular be moral and unexceptional. Everything will be new. The exhibition will contain more startling and entirely novel wonders of creation than were ever before seen in one collection, as I expect to make this the crowning success of my manegarial life," Signed, the Public's, Obedient Service, P. T. Barnum.
Barnum also fancied himself as having literary ability and a few short Limericlks also appear in this booklet. One of them read as follows:
Parents and guardians of whatever creed,
Please, this synopsis of the museum read,
That you may comprehend and know,
The real merits of a mammoth show,
From every quarter of this breathing world,
Will Myriad wonders daily be unfurled,
'Neath the pavilions of three mammoth tents,
All for the trifling sum of fifty cents.
Never before, since ancient Noah's time,
Whose floating ark preserved two of a kind,
Have been combined in such perfection,
A mineature world in one collection.
Many animals are desctibed in this booklet, including the Asiatic elephant, the black rhinoceros, the African Eland, the horned horse of Tartary and the Asiatic Yak. Various freaks are also described including Admiral Dot, the renowned California Dwarf and Monsieur Goliath, the great French Giant who was 8' 10" high.
An illustration of Mr. Don Castello who is defined as a gentleman of rare accomplishments, both as a jester and as a conversationalist and an expert in the training of horses, in both of which capacities he remains without a peer. Mr. William Dutton is described as an unequal and celebrated pad bareback equilibrist, daring, brilliant, unique. The famous Cardiff Giant is described as being on exhibit with the show as a facsimile of the questionable monster, exhumed at Cardiff, N. Y. A number of advertisemens for commercial concerns also appeared in this booklet, including the green tea, sold by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.
Many of the advertising couriers used by various shows of this period were produced by Richard K. Fox, a show printer and engraver of Franklin Square, New York City.
In the 80s when competition between Barnum's organization and that of Adam Forpaugh; as well cis W. W. Cole and the Sells Bros and some of the lesser lights was at its very keenest, it became necessary for the Barnum organization to do some trading with Adam Forepaugh, in order to book the coveted Madison Square Garden New York spring date. Circus world was shaken, with the announcement that these two mighty monarchs had combined for the 1887 engagement in Madison Square Garden, Mr. Fox created a very fine 30-page courier printed in brown ink an white paper. The cover officially lists the title of this combined extravaganza as P. T. Barnum & Companies Greatest Show on Earth and the Great London Circus and Adamn Forepaugh's New and Greatest All Feature Show Circus, Menagerie and Hippodrome. The back cover says that these tremendous shows combined for Madison Square Garden short season only commencing Monday, March 14th, 1887.
The Courier Company of Buffalo, N.Y. gradually also attained stature as producers of show printing. Their pictorial booklets and posters were usdd quite extensively by many of the large travelling shows. It was always possible to identify a Courier Product, because of their imprint being found on the printing matter and always on the cuts they furnished their patrons. Adam Forepaugh, during the 70s and 80s, used tons of advertising from the Courier Company and it can be said for the famous Philadelphia showman, no one knew better and appreciated more fully the value of pictorial illustration in advertising material, and the best was none too good for him.
Another concern in Buffalo, Warren, Johnson & Co. printed a very attractive 18-page courier, 6x9" in size for the Great Forepaugh Show. The back cover of this particular booklet included a calendar for the year 1874. About two years ago I had this particular Forepaugh Courier reprinted in its entirety.
Upon occasion couriers of various shows were given special titles, for instance, the Forepaugh-Sells Bros. 1900 courier was called the Blue Book and was issued especially for the Madison Square Garden date which this show covered during the Barnum. & Bailey Show's European tours. The booklet advertising the 1907 edition of Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show was titled the Frontier Guide. Buffalo Bill's courier for the season of 1901 was called the, Rough Rider. The 1888 Forepaugh Courier entitled The Progress of Civilization. This book, incidentally, was one of the first occasiotns that a circus advertised a Wild West Show as being a part of its performance. Dr. Williarm F. Carver, a famous rifle shot appeared with the Forepough Show during the 1888 season.
In 1903 the Barnum-Bailey show issued a 100 - page book, entitled "The Relm" which was 6 1/2 x 9 1/2" in size and was printed on good book paper with the covers attractively printed in colors. This book is full of fine circus pictures and reading matter.
During this period it was not unusual for the larger circuses to have as many as four advertising cars travelling in advance of the show. Frequently the programmers or handbill distributors were with the number 2 or number 3 car. They would enlist the aid of youngsters In various towns along the route to help circulate the couriers or heralds from door to door. It was not unusual at that time for 25 to 50,000 copies of a booklet imprinted with the date of a particular town to be distributed in that city and vicinity.
An article covering the outstanding couriers of the late 1800S would certainly not be complete without mentioning the wonderful booklet published by the Courier Co. for W. W. Cole in the season of 1885. This booklet which was 10 x 13 1/2in size was entitled W. W. Cole's Illustrated Herald Pageantry & Art. Both the front and back cover were lithographed in approximately 6 colors. A copy of the particular herald which I have in my collection is rubber stamped "Dansville, Friday, July l7th. This particular piece of advertising material is perhaps as well illustrated and as interesting as any published during this period. A most interesting illustration is a cut of the show being unloaded from the Pacific Mail Steamer. It shows the elephants in harness harness being lowered over the side of the boat and a bandwagon being unloaded on the dock. Many cages and other animals are also shown. Various acts are illustrated on the different pages. Page 7 is devoted entirely to an enormous drawing of the Mighty Sampson, descirbed as a matchless monster, the largest Asiatic elephant ever captured. The animal is described as being valued at $100,000 and capable of carrying 100 people in a single load. Another feature described with the W. W. Cole show was a wax museum of Presidents and other famous men of that period. A fine drawing illustrates a grand street parade as given by the Cole show in Melborne Australia.
The oldest courier that I have in my collection is one issued by the Great National Circus in 1864. It is approximately 4x7" in size and has 18 pages. This booklet states that the show is under direction of Mrs. Charles Warner, who was formerly Mrs. Dan Rice. The book is filled with fine print reviews lauding the show, that had appeared in various newspapers.
The couriers issued by circuses around the turn Of the century are truly wonderful examples of circusana and are a valuable part of every serious circus collection.
The following item appeared in the Jeffersonville, Indiana Evening News in August of 1958. It was in a column called "The Olden Times Revue" which is taken from the files of 1908.
"Eight New Marches"
"Mr. C. E. Duble, the well known march writer of this city, today sent eight of his compositions to Prof. Henry Becker, bandmaster of John Robinson's shows at Tyrone, Pa. These are to be used in the program. Duble's marches are great favorites with all the good bands. His famous "Under White Tents" is played by every band on the road."
Here is a list of all of Mr. Duble's compositions, 33 in all: Salute to Dalbey, Floral City, Our Congress, Berry's U. S. Republic Band, Gallrein's Triumphal, Olivette, Heros of Luzon, Across Canada, Le Garde D'Honneur, The Magnificent, Flowers of Paris (Waltz), Prince Imperial, Salute to Williamsport, Under White Tents, Luna Dome, Red Coat Battery, Ringling's Grand Entry, Among the Lillies Waltz, Radio Fans, The Gay American, Zip Boom Gallop, Sounds from the Harem (Oriental), Royal Tournament, Trouper's Greeting, On Florida Shores, Evans' Fashion Plate, Crimson Plume, Wizard of the West, The Circus King, Battle of the Winds, Barnum and Bailey's Royal Pageant, Bravura, and Old Glory Triumphant.
Bravura has been available on records in recent years and Old Glory Triumphant is on the latest Decca recording by Merl Evans' Band.
With the once great Circus, now just a memory, I am reminded of the time, some years ago, the very pleasurable experience of being associated with the Walter L. Main Circus, Many of you old timers fully know that this organization was quite respected in the Circus World! I am sure they take their place with other groups of reputable renown!
In the early part of the century they travelled by rail; later they resorted to transportation by motorized vehicles. At the time I played with them, in 1935, time was running out! The by-gone days were just a memory. However, the name Walter L. Main was still a household word. Mr. Main had built up, through the years, a fine record.
I can vividly remember the many personalities I met during my association with the Main Circus. I knew both Mr. and Mrs. Main personally. I also remember "Wild Bill" Newton, "Rube" Egan, the Bryants and many others. A fine group of people indeed!
Personally, I owe so much to both Mr. and Mrs. Main; if it had not been for their personal interest in furthering my University Education I would have never been able to complete same. My parents were poor people - not able to send me to a school of higher learning. So, I resorted to the next best - being associated with a musical group; especially a Circus Band.
I joined the Walter L. Main Circus in Pittsburgh, Pa. We played a lot of jobs in the Pittsburgh area, also other towns and cities in Pennsylvania. Later we moved on to Cumberland, Maryland and other cities in that state. Later some appearances in West Virginia. Then we shifted to the State of New York - we really made a tour of the state. Troy Ticonderoga, Thousand Islands Area, and many others.
We had the usual itinerary - advance men, a fleet of trucks, Cook Tent, Big Top, Side Show, Concessions, etc. We made a parade in each city or town during the morning; then ballyhoo, matinee and evening show. A picture taken in Cumberland, Maryland accompanies this article, The Band Wagon was painted with the typical circus colors. Part of the Band members were assembled at the time this picture was taken.
Our Band consisted of 18 members led by Prof. Joe Zahradka, of Pana, Illinois. A grand bunch of fellows. I do remember my roommate, "Swede" Lundstrum, formerly of Husk O'Hares Orchestra - he could play the sweetest trombone this side of heaven.
I do also remember the day we received our new Big Top at Tower City, Pennsylvania. Quite an event. The one we originally used was just about worn out - we looked with disdain the times rain would issue forth.
We had the usual breakdowns - and of course the bad weather - especially when we were playing jobs in the Hudson River Valley. Seemed the rain would never stop - but the people still turned out - the weather didn't dampen their spirits to see a good Circus performance. I noted, especially in the New England States, the desire, on the part of the inhabitants, the true desire to see a Circus and really enjoy each act to the very utmost!
I am now a Music Supervisor in a large School System, near St. Louis. I am very much interested in my work, but, I do never forget my Circus experiences. The "KNIGHTS OF THE SAWDUST TRAIL" are truly a fine group. They were sincerely dedicated to their profession.
It has been a long time since I once played first chair trumpet with the Walter L. Main Circus Band. This fine Circus has passed on into oblivion, BUT, their wonderful contributions to the American public in providing good entertainment will remain forever.
As I write this article during the oncoming Christmas Season I still receive so many greeting cards from my former associates on the Walter L. Main Show. Thru the years our friendships have not been forgotten.
I correspond quite frequently with Mr. Merle Evans, the greatest Circus Band Director of ALL! His record with Ringling is above reproach. He now does appearances with High School Bands and Shrine Circuses. He represents the BEST IN SHOW BIZ! And to think he had his first start in my hometown of Nokomis, Illinois; that is why we have so much in common.
Many of you readers will be glad to know that Mr. Sverre O. Braathen, of Madison, Wisconsin will soon have on the market a new book concerning Circus Bands. I have written him many times and given him some information with regard to the Walter L. Main Band.
In conclusion may I reiterate the very fact that I do conclusively believe that someday the Circus will come back. Just a common bit of motivation and a well organized type of re-indoctrination could bring about good results.
My personal experience with a Circus has enriched my life! I feel that those experiences helped me to greater achievements!
Today “The Greatest Show on Earth” is synonymous with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey. It has not always been so, however, and it is interesting to observe how the phrase progressed from casual use by anyone who took a fancy to it; was fought for by showmen who came to appreciate its prestige-giving quality; and, finally, became recognized as the co-title of a specific show.
Let me explain that these observations are not based on any knowledge of copyright or legal protections for the slogan. This report is based on the actual use and development of the phrase as is now evident in the black-and-white of preserved circus advertising. It is conceivable that actual use of the term was not always in accordance with legal authority; however, I believe we can agree that the true story lies in actual practice, not in legal rights that could be ignored, evaded or unenforced.
The actual origin of the phrase may be vague; but it is clear that Barnum’s press agents were the first to make full capital of the claim - and that Barnum’s shows stayed with the slogan longer than any others, thus gaining a degree of claim, for Barnum, to being THE Greatest Show on Earth.”
On the other hand, only thru steadfast repetition, and only over the span of time did Barnum entrench its association with that slogan; and, even then, an occasional challenger felt free to use it for himself. Here, we aren’t speaking of who in fact had the wherewithal to actually be the greatest on Earth, because the rise and fall of circus greats was so rapid as to alter the truth from season to season. Also, there frequently was reasonable doubt as to who was actually best, depending on what standard of measure might be used. Furthermore, “greatness” involved not only physical size, but fame and notoriety with the result that a well known show might be greater in fame than a bigger “First of May.” What we are speaking of here, is the use of the actual words, verbatim, “The Greatest Show on Earth” as an advertising slogan or trade mark, irrespective of whether the shows using it fulfilled the literal meaning of the phrase.
Within the narrow scope of my collection of newspaper ads, evidence abounds as to the general use of the slogan in earlier years, by others than Barnum. The beautiful ad of Van Amburgh & Co., 1880, which is reproduced here, proudly proclaims the “60th consecutive year of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’” Other ads of Batcheller and Dorris 1879, Barnum & Springer 1875 (different from P. T. Barnum), and Forepaugh 1874 use the same phrase, or so nearly the same that the public would not differentiate. Clearly, in these early days the slogan was not identifiable with any particular show, but was used by many in recognition of the appeal of these well-chosen words.
By the middle of the 1880s, however, the industry appears to have begun to respect the phrase as a Barnum & London or Barnum & Bailey trade-mark. Encroachments were limited to catch-phrases that were never quite a direct quote, such as “The Greatest 25 cent show on Earth” by little Fursman & Co. in 1885.
Then, in 1898, Barnum & Bailey went to Europe for 5 years. Somehow, the fact that B&B were still “On Earth” didn’t count, since they were not inside continental USA. As we now erroneously refer to our World’s Series in American baseball, so then, one need only look inside continental USA to find what Americans would accept as the greatest on Earth.
As a result, in 1901, the Gollmar Bros. show gathered the courage to claim itself “Now truly The Greatest Show on Earth.” In 1902 the Ringling Bros. temporarily scrapped their handle as “The World’s Greatest Shows” and blazened forth in their publicity as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Thus the two members of the Baraboo “camp” moved to unseat Barnum & Bailey’s claim to fame during the latter’s absence.
The term “World’s Greatest” is still used affectionately and synonymously with Ringling Bros. as present day troupers and fans differential between the original Ringling show and the present day combine. This significantly Ringling slogan is second in fame only to Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth;” however, even the Ringlings could not establish their trade mark without static from, of all people, the possessors of the Greatest Show on Earth slogan. This is evidenced by a Forepaugh-Sells ad in the Chicago Tribune in 1898 which is bannered “The World’s Greatest.”
Any discussion of the relative value of these two great slogans would have to take note of this development. It shows that each of the two great warring camps (Forepaugh-Sells and Buffalo Bill operated by Barnum & Bailey interests vs. Ringling and their Gollmar cousin-allies) had mutual respect for the value of the other’s identifying slogan as they each stole that of the other.
When the Ringlings finally gained control of Barnum & Bailey, normalcy returned, and each resumed the trade-mark with which it had been originally associated.
Even as late as 1910, however, Barnum’s by-word was still not totally inviolate. In that year John Robinson’s 10 Big Shows were “All united in one Greatest Show on Earth” as per their ad. It is also significant to note that John Robinson was “Not in the Circus Trust!” This would suggest that control of the famed slogan was still essentially a matter of private power, and not affected by legal copyright protection.
The final and complete test of the value of the phrase “The Greatest Show on Earth” came with the merger of Ringling with Barnum & Bailey. The brothers had to choose one of the two famed slogans for their combine, and it would appear significant that they chose Barnum’s phrase over their own. It is also evident on inspecting the publicity of shows, that it was not until after the combine of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey came into being, that there was a universal respect for Ringling’s claim to the phrase. Whether this was due to effective legal protection for the trade-mark, or due to the simple awe of competitors, of the overwhelming and obvious superiority of RBB&B is unknown. For whatever cause, the trade-mark “The Greatest Show on Earth” was finally Ringling property.
D. R. (Dorey) Miller, a partner in the operation of the Al G. Kelly-Miller Bros. Circus, has purchased the holdings of his brother, Kelly Miller, in the Kelly-Miller Circus, thus becoming sole owner of the show. His father, Obert Miller, will continue as General Manager, and James M. Cole will become Manager. Cole, last year, was Manager of the Hagen Bros. Circus, and earlier had his own circus on the road.
According to reports received, there will be a number of changes in the format of the show. It is expected to have a 6-pole Big Top, a Menagerie Top, a Side Show, and a full scale Cook House. It has been several years since Kelly-Miller operated a cook house. The Giraffe which has long been a feature of the midway in a separate top, will be in the menagerie, as well as cages of animals. The cages recently purchased from the Magraw show will be in this top also. 14 elephants will be carried. It appears that the Kelly-Miller Circus will now be one of the best equipped, as well as having the most canvas of any circus on the road in 1959.
The first illustration shows the steam calliope that was used on Howes Great London Shows for season of 1920. This wagon goes way back into early Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers days. I have a photo showing it on their Great Van Amburgh Shows in 1907, and possibly it dates back to 1904, the year that Mugivan and Bowers put their first circus on the road under the title of Great Van Amburgh. I have no idea who built the wagon or where Mugivan and Bowers got it. In 1908 they changed the name of their show to Howes Great London Shows and continued operation of that title through the 1916 season. It can be assumed the calliope remained on the show, although it is entirely possible it may have been switched over to Mugivan and Bowers second show which they put on the road for the 1911 season under title of Sanger's Greater European Shows which used the equipment of the Dode Fisk Shows which Mugivan and Bowers purchased during the winter of 1910-11. The Sanger title was used also in 1912 and 1913, although Mugivan once said in an interview that they switched to the title of Robinson's Famous Shows during the 1913 season. They had purchased that show from Danny Robinson in 1912. However, most historians believe the title of Robinson's Famous wasn't used until 1914, although it is entirely possible that a change of name did occur during mid-season 1913. Robinson's Famous Shows title was used on the second show for 1914, 1915, and 1916 became known as the John Robinson Circus, the title having been purchased from John G. Robinson in early 1916.
The Howes show did not go out in 1917, 1918 or 1919, however, in 1917 some Howe equipment was used to enlarge the John Robinson show. The steam calliope is believed to have been stored from 1917 until 1920, when Mugivan and Bowers again put the Howes Great London Show on the road for the 1920 season with Danny Odom as manager. The show that season traveled on 15 cars, with 1 advance, 4 stocks, 6 flats, and 4 coaches.
In the winter of 1920-21 the calliope was sold to Palmer Bros. Big 3 Ring Wild Animal Circus, a new show being framed by W. F. "Doc" Palmer, John T. Bachman, and Al Tinsch. The new show went out in 192 1 and at the end of the season was sold to a group composed of Mike Golden, Milt Runkle and Chas. J. Adams, who had leased the Howes Great London title from Mugivan and Bowers. They put the show out for the 1922 season on 15 cars, with 1 advertising, 3 stocks, 7 flats, and 4 coaches. In 1923 and 1924 the show was called Golden Bros. Circus with Mike Golden at the helm until he sold the show in mid-season 1924 to John Pluto, who in turn sold it to G. W. Christy a couple months later.
Christy renamed the show Lee Bros. Circus and put it out, still on 15 cars, for the 1925 and 1926 seasons. Sometime after 1925 Christy had a new wagon built to house the calliope, but just when this occurred it is not known to this scribe. Some have reported that the old wagon was still on the Lee Show in 1925 but I have not been able to determine definitely if the old wagon was still in use in 1926.
Lee Bros. was taken off the road following the 1926 season and for years after the G. W. Christy advertised in the Billboard a 15 car circus for sale, which he did finally sell to Ken Maynard in 1936. When the property arrived in California the new wagon to house the calliope had been completed, but just when it was built for sure I still can't say.
I regret that we don't have a better photo to show of this calliope. Seems like all my photos of this particular wagon have been jinxed. My 1907 photo doesn't show the entire wagon. Another 1920 photo of the cally is not very clear and also has an automobile parked right next to it. A photo showing a wreck of the Palmer Bros. train in 1921 shows only a portion of the calliope, and just a few weeks ago I got an excellent photo of the bull herd of the Howes 1920 show standing next to the steamer, but here again I don't have a complete view of it as just part of the wagon is shown. So the photo that was used is the best I had. And so if there are other readers of the Bandwagon who want to help out in making our magazine a success, if you have a good, clear photo of this particular calliope wagon, send it in so it can be printed in the following issue. Your photo will be returned to you in good shape.
The second photo shows the John Robinson steam calliope that is currently housed at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. This beautiful wagon is in perfect condition as well as the instrument and many, many fans have seen it. It is indeed a must for any fan visiting in the Detroit area.
The wagon was built by the Bode Wagon Works of Cincinnati for Mugivan and Bowers for use on their John Robinson Circus. I understand it was delivered in time to appear on that show for the 1917 season. The show that year was on 45 cars, with 2 advertising, 11 stocks, 20 flats, and 12 coaches, and was the largest show Mugivan and Bowers ever put out under the John Robinson title.
A good bit of the 1916 Howes Great London show that had toured on 21 cars that season was combined with the John Robinson property to put out the huge show. Many observers say that the 1917 John show was a whopper and a whale of a good show. The calliope remained on the show for the 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, and 1922 seasons. After the 1922 season the calliope was stored in Peru, the Howes 1921 steamer being on John Robinson for the 1923, 1924, and 1925 seasons.
In the winter of 1924-25 the calliope was sold to Floyd and Howard King who put it on their new 10 car Walter L. Main Circus in 1925. It remained on the Walter L. Main Circus through the 1927 season and in 1928 and 1929 it was on the King brothers' Gentry Bros. Circus. After the Gentry show went broke in Paris, Tenn. in the fall of 1929 the property was taken over by the Donaldson Lithographing Company and shipped to the old Hagenbeck-Wallace quarters in West Baden, Ind. where it was finally disposed of. In 1930 Andrew Donaldson presented the calliope to the Ford Museum as an exhibit to perpetuate the memory of the American circus. One interesting thing about the wagon, note that the whistles have been moved to the top portion of the wagon. I assume this was done after the wagon got to the museum. A photo I have showing the wagon on John Robinson Circus in 1918 has the whistles and keyboard in the customary place.
The third photo shows the air calliope of the John Robinson Circus in parade in Memphis, Tenn. Sept. 12, 1921. Most everyone should recognize this wagon as one of the famous Gentry Bros. twin steam calliope wagons that were built by Sullivan & Eagle of Peru, Ind. about 1902. The history of the other wagon is very well known and we will review it in this column at a later date, but facts concerning this particular "twin" are somewhat obscure. The photo shown is the earliest date I have for this wagon on the Mugivan and Bowers shows. However, it is believed to have gotten to them some years earlier and was no doubt used as a steam calliope before being converted to air. I can only speculate when Mugivan and Bowers got it, but would guess it to have been sometime around 1914. Am sure it would have been available by 1915 at least as Gentry was down to operating only one show that year, but perhaps it was available earlier. Gentry did operate a second show in 1914 but it was only on 5 cars to begin the season and was later cut down to 3 cars, but I hardly think a wagon of this size could have been carried on a gilly show. Mugivan and Bowers would have needed another steam calliope for their second show which they started operating in 1911, although for a couple years the Sangers Greater European Shows was quite small and probably didn't even carry a steamer. Anyway, if any readers can fill in the missing details as to when and how this Gentry twin wagon got to Mugivan and Bowers please let us know and we'll print it in a following issue.
Anyway, after 1921 the air calliope was used on John Robinson in 1922 and 1923, and may have been there in 1924. It was positively there in 1923 but I doubt seriously if it was there in either 1924 or 1925, as I think the Howes 1921 air calliope was used those two years, but again I am not positive that was the case. In mid-season 1925, Chester Monahan's 5 car Gollmar Bros Circus was enlarged to 10 cars with the flat car type equipment being leased from Mugivan and Bowers. Some speculate that this air calliope went into the enlarged show which lasted only a short time. For the 1926 season Arthur Hoffman leased equipment from Mugivan and Bowers for a 10 car, flat car type circus, called Heritage Bros., and the air calliope was definitely on this show. Mugivan and Bowers repossessed the equipment late in the season though and returned it to Peru. The air calliope then was stored at Peru until it was renovated and went out on the 1934 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and used in the now famous parade given that year. After 1934 it was stored at Peru until it was burned with a great many other wagons about 1941. I have a photo of it in sad shape resting under a wagon shed minus it's wheels and looking like it was not long for this world, which indeed it wasn't.
With the completion of this article we have now covered all of the steam calliopes used in the Mugivan & Bowers parades. These three, plus the two shown in the Sept.-Oct. issue, and the Two Jesters shown in Christmas issue give a total of 6 which is all of the steamers I know of that they ever used. Of course, this doesn't include both the Sparks and Al G. Barnes steamers which they got in the fall of 1928. Sparks did parade in 1929 under Mugivan and Bowers management, so I guess there were really 7 different steamers that they used.
One error was in my last article which I would like to call attention to. I said that the winter of 1920-21 was the last that Sells-Floto wintered in Denver. That is not correct as they also wintered there following the 1921 season, and went into Peru quarters for the first time the winter of 1922-23.
Also Bill Woodcock brings to my attention the following most interesting bit of information. "Believe you list in the Sept.-Oct. issue 20 cars in 1919 for Yankee Robinson Circus. Guess that is correct as for as it goes, but this show sometimes came home with more plunder than it started with, due to Buchanan often buying stuff enroute. I saw the Yank show at Hot Springs, Nov. 5, 1919. Distinctly remember counting 27 cars. Also saw the bill car which would make 28 cars. As I remember it, there were seven coaches, six stocks, and 14 flats. The show did not parade that day. This show was much lighter and smaller than Hagenbeck-Wallace which I also saw the same season, and the latter had 28 cars with it, and two ahead. The Yank show had only seven bulls three camels, and 6 cages in the menagerie, but had two working dens in the big top spotted behind the arena. Latter was mounted on a platform wagon. They had canvas ring curbs, also had five seat wagons, like the Curtis seats. Latter were simply spotted along the front side and opened up. Space between the wagons was open and not filled in as was the case with the Curtis wagons.
"Another time, 1926, 1 was with Robbins Bros. Circus. This opened with 20 cars and closed with 24. On opening there were 4 stocks, 6 coaches, 9 flats, and the bill car. During the season a short stock car, two steel flats, and a coach were added. When the two flats come on, no flat cars were eliminated, so there was so much room on the train that they didn't remove poles from wagons, that is from several of them. Looked funny to see a wagon setting on a flat with the pole bouncing up and down in the front of it. Also, Bob Schiller went to old Sells-Floto quarters in Denver and bought ten old Sells-Floto wagons. Think they were all baggage wagons. Only brought 3 of them onto the show, sent others to Granger. Three coming on the show were an old pole wagon, tank water wagon, and a seat wagon that was lately painted orange and lettered, "Battle of The Flames," some kind of a fire show I suppose. Just happened to remember that in 1919 on the Yank lot, I noted a baggage wagon, newly painted, but old title showing through new paint, and that title was Cole Bros. World Toured Shows. Something from the J. Augustus Jones outfit, doubtless."
It is not known exactly when the above photo of the Sells-Floto Circus canvas spool wagon was taken. However, we can assume that it and the two small shots were taken around 1919.
I had a very warm friendship with Capt. William H. "Bill" Curtis, the inventor of the canvas spool. He told me he built the first spool in 1910 at the Denver winter quarters of the Floto show. It had an old quarter pole as a spindle, and was hand powered, by turning a big crank as the man is shown in the photo. This wagon was a test and when they started playing for keeps with these contraptions, a steel pipe spindle was used.
Power was then provided by a gas engine located at the rear of the wagon. These units were great labor savers, but were very hard on the canvas. Sells-Floto; Hagenbeck-Wallace and John Robinson were the only shows that ever used them. As far as I know there were three spools with each of the above shows - two for the big top, and one for the menagerie top.
On April 7, 1906 I shook hands with James A. Bailey, owner of the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Madison Square Garden, New York City and went ahead on the route.
Leaving my wife in New York City I went to Boston to pave the way for the coming of the big show to that city the week of June 18. When I left Mr. Bailey he was in apparently the best of health. However, he died in his home at Mount Vernon, N.Y., only five days later, on April 11. He was stricken with erysipelas.
I was ordered to return to New York to attend the funeral which was held April 14. A special train was arranged to take the employes of the show, about one thousand in number, from New York to Mr. Vernon, a distance of about twenty miles.
Mr. Bailey had been affiliated with the Methodist Church and the funeral services were conducted by Rev. H. H. Beatty of the Methodist Church.
Of course the Madison Square Garden was completely dark on the 14th. The entire capacity had been sold out for the two performances for that date, in advance, but the money was refunded and tickets for other performances were issued.
All with the show knew it would be operated the balance of the year. However, I started plans for future seasons and planned to go back to the Wallace Circus as I had promised Mr. Wallace.
However, I was soon advised that my contract with Mr. Bailey had two more years to run and that as Mr. Bailey owned the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, I would be transferred to that show which was managed by Mr. McCaddon, a brother-in-law of Mr. Bailey.
Joins Buffalo Bill
I was one of a very few persons that were personally engaged by Mr. Bailey, hence did not feel like trying to break my contract after he had died, so I went over to the Buffalo Bill show for the remaining years.
Col. Wm. F. Cody - Buffalo Bill - what a name it became - popular and known by every human being familiarly. Buffalo Bill did not crave notoriety, it was forced upon him by friendly admirers.
He himself preferred to ride along on the plane of frolicsomeness and let the world take care of itself. He enjoyed entertaining people personally. He would be found in the center of a group of newspaper men in a bathroom, or cafe or hotel lobby telling anecdotes and sensational stories and they would all become so entranced that they would forget the deadline back in their offices.
Not A Self Made Man
Yes, Buffalo Bill was not what one would call a self made man. He was made by others as far as reputation went. Men like Dexter Fellows, Louis E. Cook, Major Burke and Charley Thompson were busy creating publicity for him.
While there was some basis in his life for stories about his military experiences, and his scouting work and his buffalo killing and his dealings with the Union Pacific Railroad, much of what was generally written about was pure fiction, for which he was not responsible.
Most of his hunting experiences took place around Dodge City, Liberal and Great Bend in Kansas and around Salida and Grand Junction in Colorado, and along the Union Pacific railroad.
Always In Debt
Buffalo Bill did not know the difference between a dime and a dollar. He never bothered about finances. He was always in debt to the ticket wagon on the show, always owed every man on the show small amounts or possibly all the men would owe him small amounts.
He was liberal, always giving away articles of some kind or money. The first fountain pen I ever owned was given to me by Buffalo Bill.
If Buffalo Bill had two dollars in his pocket and a man came up to borrow one dollar he would promptly give it to him.
There were several small towns in the country named after him. The principal one of which is Cody, Wyoming.
That has become quite a town, a beautiful place and not like any similar town in the country.
Any person going to Wyoming should certainly go to Cody and they will be amazed and entertained.
The Buffalo Bill Show
The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, was one of the largest and also one of the cheapest big shows ever organized. It had three hundred horses with it, but they were mostly the size of ponies and not like the big heavy horses circuses carried.
Most of the men with the show who participated in the drills and parades of the military section of the program, presenting detachments of the military of many countries of the world, were all cheap men, satisfied to work for meager wages as long as they were well fed and provided with flashy uniforms.
The show always carried a company of expert trick riders whose work was worth the price of admission and then there were the world's best rifle shots, Johnny Baker and Annie Oakley. The latter two could carry the load of the performance.
Fond of Liquor
Buffalo Bill's main personal weakness was his fondness for liquor. Many days he would be so drunk he could not take his usual place on his horse at the head of their procession in the arena, and they would put him in an open carriage and drive him around the arena so the public could see that Buffalo Bill was really with the show.
His work as an expert shot was a fake. The cartridges and shells he used were so loaded that he could not fail to hit the clay pigeons or break the glass balls if he tried. No, Buffalo Bill would never be missed out of the performances.
So even without Buffalo Bill himself in the program, the show always made good with the public. It was a money maker until its last season, when bad routing of the show in the southern states really wrecked it.
Pawnee Bill Joins
Due to the wretched business for the Buffalo Bill Show in the cities of the south which had never liked a Wildwest show, the end of the big show seemed to be approaching. Des Moines gave the show its last really big day's business.
Pawnee Bill (Major Lilly) was brought on from Oklahoma to join in the performance and in the management. His name was added to the title which was made to read BUFFALO BILL and PAWNEE BILL'S Wild West Show.
An effort was made to induce Pawnee Bill to put some money in the show and take a financial interest, but this he refused to do.
Poor business continued and the loyalty of the people with the show began to crumble. At Denver the legal strings began to tighten about the show and the entire outfit, including Major Lilly's own property become involved.
The Buffalo Bill interest attempted to compel the Pawnee Bill crowd to assume the indebtedness of the show, but Pawnee Bill successfully evaded all such efforts.
We had had Wild West shows such as Buck Skin Bill, Terrel Bros. Wild West, The 101 Ranch but none were winners. The Pawnee Bill show was the exception. Pawnee Bill personally was a gentleman to the very finest meaning of the word. He was of an entirely different type of man than Col. Cody, and he was successful financially with his show. But he remained aloof.
Finis of Wild West Show
Buffalo Bill was a character of magnetic appeal. When once you had met him, you could not avoid admiring him, He was a remarkable figure as he appeared on his horse, he was simply irresistible personally.
He died practically poor because of his natural generosity and kind disposition. All that was left was what his friends and admirers had honored him with.
But he was not disappointed for he never seemed to care much for goods of this world.
When the end did come Buffalo Bill must have enjoyed much satisfaction with the knowledge that he had done much to bring clean, healthy, inspiring entertainment to the front ranks of the amusement world.
Early in December the capital expansion fund drive opened for the Circus World Museum, Inc. at Baraboo, Wisc. Our own C.H.S. vice president Chappy Fox is general chairman of this drive. All members of the C.H.S. have received a copy of the brochure with a letter from Chappy outlining plans for this fine circus museum in Baraboo.
The Circus World Museum in Baraboo and the Museum of the Circus in Sarasota are the only two large institutions in the United States devoted exclusively to preserving and displaying circus material. Obviously one of the prime aims of the Circus Historical Society is cooperation with the two organizations. In past issues of the Bandwagon you have been posted as to the progress of the Sarasota project.
Since beginning the Baraboo capital fund drive a number of very fine contributions have been received and it is felt that the goal of 150,000 dollars will be achieved. A story appeared in newspapers throughout the United States concerning receipt of the America Calliope which was recently moved to the museum in Baraboo. This wagon was last seen on the Cole Bros. show in 1950.
The C.H.S. is cooperating with the Baraboo museum in attempting to have the Barnum, Bailey and Hutchison wagon moved from the old Christy quarters in Houston to Baraboo. Preliminary arrangements have already been made by representatives of the museum with Mr. Christy. Members of the C.H.S. in Houston are attempting to get things moving from the other end.
Many members of the C.H.S. have already taken memberships in the Circus World Museum which are available at the cost of $5.00 for one year, $25.00 for 6 years and $50.00 for 15 years and $100.00 for life.
Early in January a member of the Circus Historical Society donated $200.00 to the World Circus Museum in behalf of the Circus Historical Society. It is hoped other members will give support to this project proportionate to their financial ability.
Serious consideration is being given at this time to holding the 1959 convention of the Circus Historical Society in Baraboo. It is hoped that the official opening of the museum will be on July 1st, 1959. At this time it has not definitely been decided whether the C.H.S. will be able to meet that early in the summer. It is expected that the president will make an announcement concerning the location and the date of the C.H.S. convention in the March-April issue of the Bandwagon.
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.