The first phase of this subject which I have chosen to call the European Influence began in 1864 with the importation of our first tableau wagons from England. This activity continued for about twenty years with the result that many of our better documented and most elaborate tableaus were of foreign manufacture. The second phase of this influence occurred in the early years of this century when certain European works of art served as the models on a few domestically built parade wagons. However, even before this first "invasion," the American circus parade had been developing in its own pattern for almost twenty-five years.
The earliest known record in this country of a procession that might be termed a circus parade is a cut advertising Purdy, Welch, Macomber & Co. that appeared in the Albany (N.Y.), Argus in 1837. This cut, which was discovered by Col. Sturtevant and used in his article that appeared in the April-May 1941 issue of The White Tops, shows a mounted band of fifteen musicians riding twelve horses and one elephant. We could presume that musicians continued to parade mounted until 1847, a date which now appears to be correct for the introduction of the first ornamental bandwagon. This vehicle, built by John Stephenson of New York City for the Raymond & Waring Circus, was a shell-type, canopied affair, possibly with sunburst wheels. We have only two advertising cuts which substantially agree, and a special 12-page, non-illustrated pamphlet that rambles on for 2000 words without agreeing in any detail with the cuts (all dated 1847) to convince us that here was a work of art that "outshone the triumphal chariots of the Caesars."
In 1848, Stephenson built a similar bandwagon for Welch, Delavan & Nathan (ref: my cut appearing in page 15 of Fox's Circus Parades, also in the Bandwagon for March 1953). By 1850, practically every show of any importance had a bandwagon to lead its parade. It, followed by all of the animal cages that the show could muster, and interspersed on occasions with mounted riders, was about all there was to it. Early in the same decade, an organ wagon called the Apollonicon appeared on the Spaulding & Rogers Circus. When Seth B. Howes, the American showman who was responsible for most of the reasons for this article, moved his show to England in 1857, he took an Apolloncon with him. Also in 1857, appeared the steam calliope, an American product that never found substantial acceptance abroad. That was the last important development on the American parade scene before I introduce my subject.
THE HOWES EUROPEAN CIRCUS OF 1864
Photo No. 4 - Advertising Cut from the reverse side of the same herald as photograph No. 3.
It has long been established that when Seth B. Howes returned with his Great European Circus in 1864, after a seven year sojourn in England, he brought back some fine parade equipment. Included in this were the first tableau wagons to appear in America. There has been, for two generations at least, considerable confusion about the identity of these wagons. One could conjecture about what they might look like from three illustrations we have that appeared in two Great European Heralds, The two heralds are now in Sarasota, the one from which the cut of the Globe Tableau (Photo No. 2) was copied being at the Museum of the American Circus, while the others which carried the cuts of the Golden Horse and the Three-Tiered tableaus (Photos 3 and 4) currently seems to be lost somewhere around The Circus Hall of Fame. However I am fortunate in having a photostat of it which the late George Chindahl gave me several years ago.
The fact that one of these drawings was of a globe tableau led to the origin and subsequent perpetuation of the erroneous conclusion that the Big Globe Telescoping Tableau (Photo No. 6) that was new on the Howes Great London Circus of 1871 was a part of this 1864 importation. In my 1956 publication THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS, now out of print, I strove to point out the error of this conclusion; but in doing so, I could not completely account for a second Globe Tableau (second, that is, besides the original configuration of the Five Graces) that obviously existed.
The discovery, about 1951 by George Chindahl, of the Wisconsin Dells picture of the so-called Golden Horse BondWagon (Photo No. 5) licensed us to place more faith in the pictorials of the Great European heralds. It then become probable that there were at least three major wagons in the set, especially since fragmentary descriptions of them have turned up in newspaper accounts.
The attraction that received the most comments in the press was the Three-Tiered vehicle. It commanded attention because an uncaged lion was ridden on the top deck, reclining at the feet of his mistress impersonating the Goddess of Liberty, all surrounded by a bevy of girls seated on the lower decks. While this was all intended to awe the townspeople and tingle their spines a bit over the idea of mixing cats with "kittens," this particular lion seems to have been docile - so tame, in fact, that when the wheel came off the wagon in front of the Tribune office in Chicago, thereupon tumbling the Goddess, her court, and the lion into the street, the cat was the least perturbed of all and patiently waited for someone to come and get him.
The quest to identify the vehicles on the Howes Show received a major assist in August 1959 when Mr. Hippisley-Coxe, British Circus Historian and fellow member in the Union des Historiens du Cirque, sent me an ancient photograph (No.1) from the British Sanger Circus. There can now be but little doubt that was the intention to illustrate these two and the Golden Horse tableaus in the Great European heralds. The heralds, coupled with the dozen pertinent newspaper comments that I have already corralled, definitely prove that either these Sanger wagons or two almost exactly like them were on the 1864 Howes Show. Those interested in doing a little microscopic probing will note that the mud-board in the Wisconsin Dells picture is almost identical to that on the Three-Tiered vehicle in photograph No. 1, an identity that strongly suggests that all three vehicles were made by the some manufacturer.
After pursuing all currently available leads, including a visit to England in September 1960, I have been unable to definitely determine whether the two Howes wagons were duplicates of, or second-hand from, Sanger. However, the majority of the evidence points toward the second-hand hypothesis. While in England, I visited Mr. James Sanger, now aged 91, the youngest son of Lord John Sanger who, with his brother George, jointly operated the Sanger Circus for many years. Mr. James Sanger had no recollection of the wagons in the picture, nor would he have had if they were sold to Howes six years before he was born. At the same time, it is obvious that he has vivid memories about the old Sanger show, even going so for as to volunteer information about the sale of the pony float to Forepaugh (ref: my article ALLEGORICAL PONYDRAWN PARADE FLOATS, in September-October 1960 Bandwagon, page 8) and Adam Forepaugh, Jr's. date at Covent Garden with his clown elephant in 1884 (ref: my 1959 pamphlet THE GREAT FOREPAUGH SHOW, page 12). Also, as Sanger recalls it, most of the shows in England built their own wagons. This may partially account for the almost complete lack of interest by our British contemporaries in the history of their parades or the builders of their parade equipment. In fact, I have been told by several that there is not a single parade wagon still in existence in the British Isles, nor is there anyone who is an authority on the subject. So it appears that this is a matter that could have best been solved by a historian of a previous generation, because by now there is no one left either in England or in the United States who could have any recollection of these vehicles.
After the 1864 season, the circumstances of Seth B. Howes' connection with the Great European, as well as the history of the wagons, is still obscure. It is certain that Howe sold out to a firm known as the Flatfoots - George F. Bailey, Lewis June, Avery Smith, and John J. Nathans - before 1867, and it now appears that the transaction took place just before the St. Louis opening in 1865. Since the Flatfoots controlled other shows, they divided up these feature wagons, sending the Golden Horse Bandwagon to the George F. Bailey Circus and retaining the three-decker on the Great European. The Globe Tableau was on and off the Great European, in fact, the earliest mention uncovered to date has it on a show known as Howes Olympian Circus which was playing Chicago in 1865 concurrently with the St Louis dates of the Great European. It was, however, back on the latter show in 1868 and listed, along with the Three-Tiered tableau, with the show property to be auctioned off by the Flatfoots in March 1872 at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At this sale, most of the property was bid in by the firm because it was not bringing satisfactory prices; and these two tableaus are last heard from in the list of property that was re-advertised a year later,
It is quite certain that there were two other tableaus in this set even though no advertising cuts or photographs have turned up on them. One of these was the Chinese Car of Confucius which the Detroit Free Press for May 10, 1864, describes as a vehicle with exquisite carvings, heavy guildings, and beautifully pointed panels depicting notable events in American and European history. It was further embellished with several young ladies attired in Louis IV era costumes. This chariot continues to be mentioned now and then in the material that I have through 1870. The second tableau was the Neptune Chariot, the first of possibly four of that name another one of those situations that makes the tracing of wagon history interesting. Of the others, one was on the Yankee Robinson Circus of 1868-69 and two were on the Barnum Circus, the latter show having one beginning with 1871 and possibly a different one after 1881. Actually, the circumstances are such that one Neptune Chariot, or two at the most, would have been sufficient to account for all four. I hope to have more about this later,
THE HOWES GREAT LONDON CIRCUS OF 1871
Seth B. Howes seems to hove gone into semi-retirement after he sold his Great European to the Flatfoots and left the active management of his later circuses to his twin nephews, Elbert and Egbert Howes. These nephews were two of the thirteen children of Nathan A. Howes, older brother of Seth and also an early circus manager. Seth B., himself, lived until 1901 and died a wealthy man. The Clipper for February 12, 1870, tells us that Egbert, under an engagement to Seth B., had sailed recently for England to start another circus there under the Howes & Cushing title as the show was known in 1857-63. Later issues of the Clipper substantiate that they opened in Liverpool on the 19th of March and were out at least through September.
Evidentally, this trip was also a buying expedition, because, by the spring of 1871, he had returned with a quantity of elaborate equipment that was used to frame the parade for the Howes Great London Circus. This parade, which in quality has never been surpassed, featured the Globe and Elephant telescoping tableaus (Photos 6 and 7, also ref: THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS) and included the Three-Headed Dragon pony float pictured in THE ALLEGORICAL PONY-DRAWN PARADE FLOATS, a bandwagon called Euterpe with vertical mirrored panelled sides, a second bandwagon which probably was wrecked at a railroad grade crossing the first season, and a Cinderella Coach.
The nephews had an interest in the Great London through 1873 then sold out completely to James E. Kelly and Henry Barnum who converted it to a railroad show in 1875. Kelly, however, had a big interest in the show right from the start. This corrects on erroneous date for this transaction given on page 2 of my 1957 pamphlet, THE AFFAIRS OF JAMES A. BAILEY. That pamphlet also outlines the subsequent history of Howes Great London and traces the route by which this parade equipment became identified with the Bailey-controlled shows.
THE VAN AMBURGH BANDWAGON
Now that we have the correct date for the transfer of the Great London Circus from the Howes to Henry Barnum & Kelly, I am digressing from my main subject for a paragraph or so to relate the probable circumstances of an important phase in the history of one of our better-known earlier bandwagons. I refer to the Van Amburgh Great Golden Chariot as it was titled in the lithograph (Photo No 8) issued about 1866, the year it was built by Fielding Brothers of New York. This particular lithograph is remarkably accurate as evidence by photographs of the vehicle that have turned up on Barnum & Bailey and other shows until the wagon ended its career on the Rhoda Royal Circus in the early 1920's. For some time, Bill Woodcock, Joe Bradbury, and I have been speculating on how the wagon could have gotten to Barnum & Bailey where it first appeared in a picture made in Peoria, Illinois, in 1891, and later in the lot scenes at Chester, England. Recently, very recently in fact, I have reviewed documentation that leads to a highly plausible answer.
While not prepared at this time to delve into much detail on the Van Amburgh Circus and Menagerie, the particular edition (which was not the first use of the title) managed by Hyatt Frost and associates started about 1856. By 1865, they had put out a second unit, one being known within professional circles as the Red Show and the other the Green. The subject bandwagon, constructed for the Red unit, was described in the Clipper for March 24, 1866. The firm previously had another bandwagon at least as early as 1862 which, presumedly, was then out on the Green Show. In a personal letter written by Frost in December 1871 (one of a dozen recently acquired and made available to me by Chalmer Condon), he mentioned that the firm was dissolving by this action, Frost acquired the Green unit, then based in Connersville, Indiana, and the exclusive right to the Van Amburgh title. At the same time, two of the associates, Henry Barnum (no close relation to P. T.) and Kelly were retaining the Red unit which would operate as Barnum & Co. This same information is given somewhat less explicitly in on article by Ken Hubbard entitled "Old Overland Circus Days" that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post for December 8, 1923.
Next, we find a cut of this bandwagon in a Howes Great London 1874 courier that is now in the San Antonio Library. The ssme courier also illustrates five of the wagons that the Howes imported in 1871 and mentions that Henry Barnum is the manager. Actually, as it now developes, he and Kelly owned the Greet London in 1874. Therefore, it is plausible to assume that some equipment from the former Red Show was used to augment that bought from Howes. With this bandwagon established on Howes Great London, the subsequent circumstances that placed it on Barnum & Bailey are not difficult to trace. The identification of the Van Amburgh band chariot with Howes Great London leads to another possible error in my phamplet THE AFFAIRS OF JAMES A. BAILEY. Illustrated on its back cover is a bandwagon that, based on what I considered at the time to be sufficient evidence, I identified as the Howes Bondwagon. Since a show of this size would probably not have two similar band chariots, the present conclusions tend to crowd this one out of the Howes inventory. However, both of them definitely made the European tour with Barnum & Bailey.
FOREPAUGH FALLS IN LINE
Photo No. 9 - Forepaugh Parade at Worchester, Mass. in 1888. American Antiquarian Society.
Several years later, a smidgen of this European Influence eventually caught up with Adam Forepaugh. First, in 1878, he had an American firm practically copy the Howes Globe Telescoper (ref: THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS, page 7, and THE GREAT FOREPAUGH SHOW, page 6), and we still have the Five Graces Bandwagon as the residual result. A year later, the Clipper reported that he imported two more British wagons. These are possibly the two shown in photo No. 9. Also, while not 100 percent conclusive, there is still a preponderance of evidence that the St. George and the Dragon Telescoper was an importation (ref: THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS, page 11).
Now, in order to supply all of this merchandise, there must have been some factories that our British contemporaries have not been able to identify. While Sanger and others, as James Sanger recalls, may have constructed much of their own parade equipment, the fact that even the export business to the States was considerable surely indicates that firms were operating in this specialized field.
Parading the Monuments of Europe
We have now come to the second phase of this article. There have been two notable instances where parade wagons built in the States were decorated with copies of European art work The first of these were the so-called Continental Floats - America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, made in 1903 by Sebastian for Barnum & Bailey. Since I recorded this event in THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS, it would be too repetitive to illustrate the wagons again. However, since I wrote that pamphlet, I have visited the Prince Albert Memorial, took the reproduced set of photographs, and found that the monument actually is in Hyde Park which is about a mile from where I understood it to be. The original figures are of marble and appear to be about 50 percent larger than the reproductions made for the wagons. As generally known, the figure from the Africa is in the Ford Museum at Dearborn, while those from the other three were apparently destroyed many year, ago.
The second example in this category concerns the Swan Bandwagon (Photo No. 15) built by the Moellers of Baraboo for the Ringling Circus in 1907. In this instance, there was no direct copy, in fact, the foreign influence was almost obscured. Nevertheless, a chain of events transpired that permits the inclusion of the Swan within the scope of this subject.
For a period of fifty years beginning with 1661, Louis XIV, the Grand Monarch of France, devoted much of his efforts and no inconsiderable part of the state revenues to the construction of the Versailles Palace. It, together with its gardens, deservedly ranks as one of the showplaces of the world. For the next 100 years, the succeeding kings and emperors, prodded no doubt by the usual female agitation of wives and mistresses, added to and remodeled it. However, there does not seem to have been much alteration in the gardens since 1837 when an album of line drawings, illustrating all of the monuments, basins, statues, plaques, vases, and bronze groups that are still to be found there, was published in the City of Versailles.
The copy of this album, given to me by Henry Moeller, had evidently been in his possession since 1894. Henry also stated that they had never found much use for the material in the album, but did mark certain drawings for the attention of the wood carvers when the Swan Bandwagon was being built. Even though these woodcarvers were definitely not copy artists, it is discernible that the suggested drawings influenced them in a minor way, particularly in the execution of the center carving of the Triton riding the dolphin and blowing the conch. On my second visit to Versailles in 1960, I photographed (No. 16) the bronze group in Appollo's Pond that includes this detail. Even less faithfully reproduced is the rear carving of the lady and her young handmaiden. Of the several originals of which this might be considered to be a composite, I have chosen (Photo No 17) the one that appears to be the most appropo.
While there are many better reasons to visit Versailles, those of you who make it will find two generally rectangular reflecting pools directly behind the palace. Around each pool are eight bronzes similar to the one in photograph No. 17. Over the terrace from there and 900 yards down a long concourse that takes off perpendicular to the back of the palace, you, will find Apollo's Pond. Of course, if you choose to be herded through on a guided tour, you will miss this, along with almost everything else that is worthwhile. Versailles is worth at least a day of your time and is easily reached by train from Gare St. Lazere in Paris. After arriving at Versailles Station, it is an interesting mile walk to the palace, just the right distance to condition you for the three miles that you should walk to properly see the gardens. The excellent maps in the official guide book, procurable in your favorite language at the entrance to the palace, is all you need to find your way around.
Those of you who are familiar with my pamphlet THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS will recognize, just as occurred before when I published THE GREAT FOREPAUGH SHOW, that a little more of it has been revised. The revisions are, solely the result of the opportunities that I have had to do further research as no one but me has challenged the conclusions that I drew at that time. It is evident that considerably more research will have to be done before a reasonably complete history on the early American circus parade can be authoritatively set down.
For many years, this small circus has been playing the state of California, as the smallest tented circus in the United States.
It's big top is a 40' round with 1 20' middle piece. Four sections of seats, 5 high, surround the one ring. The side poles have been painted candy-striped.
Also carried on the show is a 20'x40' tent used as a menagerie for the animals.
The show owned animals consist of a chimp, Toby Tyler; three ponies, Tiny Tim, Prince Charles, and Major Mite; and five dogs, Black Beauty, Copper, Smokey, Skippy, and Ginger. These all being exhibited in the Menagerie tent before and after the show.
The show's truck line-up is listed as follows with color scheme:
1. #38 - Red Studebaker - Seats, Props, Ring curb, sidewall, and Concessions.
2. #11 - Orange Trailer - Clown sleeping quarters.
3. #26 - White Chevrolet - Carries dogs and chimp.
4. #7 - Red and White trailer - Hauls ponies and canvas.
Left in winter quarters is a white concession trailer used in the Los Angeles area dates. The Strong's also have a station wagon and house trailer that travel with the show.
Capt. Merrill Heuer owns a yellow truck which hauls his buffalo and pony and a 28' yellow trailer with four sections for his wild animals. Capt. Heuer owns a North American Bison called Geronimo; a pony Apache; a timber wolf, Fang; and two lions, Major and Scrapper.
The show is presented in one ring in the tent with the wild animal cage in the backyard behind the tent. The steel arena is 20 feet in diameter and 10 feet high and is made up of twelve five foot sections. These sections are carried under the cage trailer.
The program is listed as follows:
1. Chimp Act - Toby Tyler and John Strong.
2. Clown - Larry Tariel.
3. Dog Act with Larry Tariel and John A. Strong.
4. Fritz Hans - Juggling and Roly Boly.
5. Capt. Merrill Heuer and his lion, Major.
6. Clown unicycle and juggling - Larry Tariel.
7. Pony Act with John Strong.
8. Fritz Hans - Balancing and hand stands.
9. Clown - Larry Tariel & John Strong.
10. High Diving Dog, Black Beauty.
11. Capt. Merrill Heuer and his Buffalo.
Ken Willer goes by Fritz Hans.
The show is given free at shopping centers and fairs and for other dates, it sells tickets.
The show has had continued good business this season and the Buffalo and free menagerie are proving to be very popular with the people.
The route for the Show this season is as follows:
June 9-17 - Bakersfield, Calif.
June 21 - Dos Lalos, Calif.
June 22 - Los Banos, Calif.
June 23-24 - Riverbank, Calif,
June 29 - Fairway Park Shopping Center,
July 1 - Hayward, California.
July 2-15 - Pleasanton, Calif.
July 19-28 - Santa Rosa, Calif.
August 2-6 - Yuba City, Calif.
August 7-9 - Turlock, Calif.
August 10-13 Petaluma, Calif.
August 14 - Napa, Calif.
August 15 - Sonoma, Calif.
August 17-19 - McHenry Shopping Center, Modesto, Calif.
August 23-26 - Roseburg, Oregon
September 1-9 - Salem, Oregon.
September 12-18 - San Jose, Calif.
October 6-15 - Fresno, Calif.
After October 15, the show will return to it's Thousand Oaks quarters and start playing schools and shopping centers in the Los Angeles area for the rest of the winter. All photos by author, taken at Pleasanton, Calif.
The rumbling of a circus contracting battle that erupted this season belittles anything seen in recent years on the Eastern seaboard. Attempting to fill the void left by the Ringling show circuses of all sizes have filled the East from Maine to Florida. Beatty-Cole, Wallace, Hunt, Beers-Barnes and King all made the Spring dates up the coast and around Philadelphia until Memorial Day and then headed for New York and the New England states there to be joined by both Kelly-Miller and Mills.
Big Top, Hoxie Bros. Circus. Hemphill photo.
Also joining in the contest is a revived show, not seen for several seasons, Hoxie Bros. Circus owned and operated by L. B. "Hoxie" Tucker. This smallie struggled through a wet Spring after opening at Adele, Ga., on April 8 then when the larger shows left the area, finally hit a solid two months of business in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Mr. Tucker has a small but efficient staff includes Edw. Mathers and "Doc" Bartok, of med show fame, contracting; Sam Warren, purchasing agent and utility; Mrs. Bartok, treasurer, Mrs. Tucker, inside reserves; Frank Silverlake and Leonard Grain, big top; Carl Nelson, concessions and Lee Bradley, annex.
The show owned equipment is painted in lavender and lettered in red and moves on the following six pieces: semi, big top poles, seats and marquee; semi, bull, 6 liberty horses and donkey; semi, office, concessions and sleeper; straight bed, light plant and mechanical; straight bed, big top canvas; trailer, cookhouse, pulled by light plant truck. All equipment is in excellent condition. There are several pieces of privately owned equipment in the backyard including two trucks and trailers of Lee Bradley's that carry the annex and stock.
The show is heavy on lead stock and includes a bull, 12 year old Dinah, and a six up liberty group, both purchased from Bill Morris, brahma bull of Dave Woods, donkey and about ten horses belonging to others on the show. A very impressive array of horse flesh for a show of this size.
The canvas includes a sixty with three thirtys of push pole construction for the big top, a twenty by twenty marquee and a canvas fly over the cookhouse. A larger big top is in order for next season. Bradley's annex is also a twenty but has a larger area enclosed by sidewall.
The midway lineup has pony ride, office, corn and cone joint and floss joint down the left, novelty stand in the center and a large bannerline and annex on the right. The midway appearance is fine except that the joints could stand a little flashing up.
Ducats go for $1.00 and $.50, reserves, annex and concert all are priced at $.25. A modest price list for a modest show that has made friends through it's clean operation plus the fact no phones are used and the sponsors can make a real dollar through a very liberal percentage deal. I have been on the lot several times when the sponsors wanted to wrap up the deal for next season after pocketing a percentage that made me wonder how other shows could repeat, after being exposed to their financial dealings. This one sends everyone home happy.
Seating has blues on both front and back end, seven high, seven high reserve planks on long side and a section of seven high reserve planks plus the bandstand flanking the back door on the short side. Back door curtains and reserve seat maskings are in blue and yellow. Center poles are metal telescoping type, quarter and side poles are wood and painted white. Lights are four bulb clusters on each center pole and powered by two Chryslers, one a 7 1/2 kw and the other a 5 kw.
The performance runs about 75 minutes and varies slightly from day to day. The listing on this day ran as follows:
2. Evy Karoly principal riding
3. Clown bottle gag, Frank Chesire
4. Dogs & Monkeys, Jeanette Silverlake
5. Web, Christy Haupt
6. Clown gag, Frank Chesire and Onions Bradley
7. Roman rings, The Silverlakes
8. Riding mechanic, Lee & Hazel Bradley
9. Concert announcement
10. Knockabout comedy, Onions Bradley
11. Swinging ladders, Christy Haupt & Jeanette Silverlake
12. Marguerite Karoly, six horse liberty act and specialty horse
13. Bull, Dinah, presented by Frank Silverlake
Dave Wood and Doris Morris with Concert Stock, Hoxie Bros. Circus. Elbirn photo.
The concert is presented by Chip & Doris Morris with posing and dancing horses with Dave Wood and his brahma and mule providing comedy relief. Onions Bradley also does whip cracking.
Fans are always welcomed on the lot and Mr. and Mrs. Tucker are very genial hosts. This show should make a lot more friends before closing into Miami quarters, probably in late November.
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.