Bandwagon, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Jul-Aug), 1964. Note: Only some articles are included in this online edition. Many illustrations are not included. The Circus Historical Society does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in the information in these online articles. Information should always be checked with additional sources.
Benjamin E. Wallace, son of Ephraim and Rebecca Wallace, was born October 4, 1847, near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The Wallaces were of Scottish lineage. Ben's grandfather fought at the battle of Tippecanoe under Gen. Harrison. Ephraim brought his family of five daughters and five sons, first to Rochester, then to Peru, by wagon in 1863. The father became custodian of the County Poor Farm, south of Peru, on the Strawtown Pike, but died of malaria in 1864. This left the burden of support on Ben's shoulders. Three brothers and a sister died soon thereafter and are buried with the father in the Salem cemetery nearby. One sister, Alice, later married Pim Sweeney, director of the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago. Ben worked hard to support the family. He worked for neighbor Frank Bearss, and it is said that he often walked barefoot with a sack of corn to the mill at the south edge of Peru. This was ground into meal for mush for the family. Later he became owner of the Bearss farm that can be located by the ornamental corner posts. Several still have the name "Wallace" on them.
Ben enlisted in the 13 Indiana Volunteer Infantry in Feb., 1865. He received, some say $2,000, some $1,000, for serving in place of another man. The war was over before he got into any fighting in Virginia. He was in long enough, however, to make $250.00 by trading with the soldiers before being discharged.
Back in Peru with this money, Ben started a livery stable at Main and West 2nd Streets, and a woodyard, with 2 horses and a one horse wagon to deliver the wood which he got from his brother John's farm. This farm was later to be the site of Ben's first winterquarters. Ben believed in being in debt, for then one would work harder. He first married Dora M. Blue, but she died in 1870. Two children are buried with her in the Rankin Cemetery. He then married Florence E. Fuller, daughter of Reuben Fuller, for many years a well known hotel proprietor in Peru.
By 1881, Ben was advertising in the Peru papers that he had the "largest livery stable in Indiana." The fact that he already owned several tracts of real estate showed that he had indeed prospered. By that year his name begins to appear in the Peru papers. In January, he made a business trip to Michigan. In July, he had the contract for erecting the billboards for the Barnum and Great London Circus, appearing Aug. 5. His livery stable had become the overnight stop over for the traveling entertainment groups passing through Peru, and the papers said he had two of the finest and best farm houses on the road from Peru to the county line. All of this had not come about by just hard work alone.
Now he had the money to invest and his interest in the circus was increasing. His partnership with James Anderson became a reality. Ben went to Detroit to buy harness and wardrobe belonging to the W. C. Coup Circus, as well as other circus property that was sold at auction. And Anderson attended the Nathan and Co.'s Circus auction at Garnett, Kansas. Other paraphernalia was secured, and the "Wallace and Co.'s Great World Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo, and Alliance of Novelties" started out of Peru after the opening day, April 26, 1884.
John W. Vogel, general agent, "Diamond, the elephant, with Jim Sweeney as superintendent of menagerie, Al G. Field, equestrian director, Wm. B. Parkhurst, driver of the bandwagon, a host of performers, workmen and wagons pulled by eighty-five mules took the road through southeast Indiana, southern Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia. This was no little mud show, although it was a one-ringer. It had an excellent performance, a long list of performers, and good equipment. They came back to Peru on Oct. 23, after a very successful season. They had played in almost virgin territory where circuses were almost nonexistent.
April 25, 1885, found an enlarged "Wallace and Co.'s Great World's Menagerie, International Circus and Alliance of Novelties" heading through Ohio to Rochester, Pennsylvania. There a large side wheel steamer, the "Courier" was waiting for them. The name was changed to the “B. E. Wallace," and the boat, followed by four barges and with a steam calliope making sweet music, made an attractive sight. The show unloaded at the wharves and showed on shore, on its way down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Texas where the tour ended. In Texas Wallace traded his horses for mules; wintered the mules at Peru, auctioned them off next spring and bought good horses for the 1886 tour, making a handsome profit. The trip home was made up the river to Cincinnati, then by rail to Peru, arriving New Year's Day, 1886. In 1885, in the extreme south, only one exhibition a day was given, at 9:00 A.M., immediately after which the tents were folded and the route taken to the next stand. This was to avoid making targets of the employees of the circus by those who had come 20 or 30 miles to witness the performance, and then get drunk as soon as the performance was over. At one place 16 stalwart men rode into town armed with Winchesters and revolvers, but the circus moved on before there was time for trouble. Wallace maintained his route for the show coined money and a more prosperous season could not be desired.
During the winter of 1885-86, Wallace negotiated with the Hummel, Hamilton and Weldon Syndicate of Cincinnati and received from them a privilege car, advertising car, one stock and six flats and sleepers. This was said to be in exchange for the privilege of following the show. He picked up other cars, too, for he is listed as having a 15 car show in 1886. Wallace now had a railroad show and was on his way to rapid success. He started his season with 22 cages, 120 horses, 4 camels, 3 or 4 tab wagons, calliope, racing chariots, etc. His big top was a 120 x 1-50, for his one ring circus. His menagerie was 100 x 2-60 and he had two side shows. This year he visited not only Indiana, but Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. He closed at Peru, too, giving two performances on Oct. 22.
In 1890, his big top was a 120 x 2-60's; the menagerie a 70 and 4-30 middles. His side show consisted of 2-30's with a 60. He had 2 horse tents that were oblong squares with hip roof and push poles. There were 5 center poles in each. The cook house was the same with the side walls not as high as the horse tents. He had only 1 or 2 colored car porters and 1 colored boy who worked on a 8 horse team. All other help was white. He had 10 flats, 8 stock, 7 sleepers, an elephant car and 2 advertising cars, according to performers with the show.
Photo: A fine bay-window cage, typical of the ornate design of most Wallace cages. Taken about 1905. Burt Wilson Collection. Researcher note: Al G. Barnes 1919.
Soon there were more elephants. Pilot, Gypsy and Jeannette from the defunct Miller, Stowe and Freeman show, were added. In 1891, due to differences of opinion over grift, Anderson sold out to Wallace, during the season. Wallace was now sole owner of the circus bearing his name. In 1892, he bought his new winterquarters and prosperity continued.
According to the N.Y. Clipper of Mar. 14, 1893, two more stocks, 3 flats and a coach were added making it a 30 car show for the 1893 season.
The name of the show was changed to "Cook and Whitby's European Circus, Museum and Menagerie" for the years 1892-93-94, due to "heat" on the road. Many are the stories told by old troupers. “Slow" was heard frequently. Not infrequently, back yards were used instead of streets by performers to reach the train at night, sometimes to the surprise or consternation of property owners. "Col. Johnson" one time rode between the horses of the six horse hitch going to the train in order to hide. At another time he pounded stakes with his men; again he was a canvas man; again he hid in the monkey cage. The possum bellies of the railroad cars were brimming over when the cars reached Peru in the fall. In Ohio in 1893, the show was advertised as "The Great Wallace Show combined with Cook and Whitby." Much of the trouble had disappeared by 1895.
The 1895 route book gives the animals carried as 5 elephants, 5 camels, 2 yak, 2 llamas, 4 ostriches, 1 sacred ox, 3 zebra and 20 cages. The big top was a 180 ft. with 4-50 ft. middle pieces. The menagerie top was an 80 with 5-40's. The dressing tent was 70 ft. with 1-40. 40 trunks were on the gentlemen's side and 26 on the ladies. There were 6-8 horse drivers; 9-6 horse drivers and 7-four horse drivers.
Wrecks plagued his circus. In 1892, the engine was derailed as the show train was leaving Richland Center, Wisconsin. Some thought the switch had been tampered with by someone who had been fleeced on the midway. The next stand was lost and as they neared McGregor, Iowa, 5 cars were ditched and 30 horses killed. The Aug. 7, 1903, Durand, Michigan, wreck killed 24 men, many of them bosses, 1 elephant and 3 camels. On July 17 of the same year, 2 sleeping cars were demolished at Shelbyville, Illinois. 7 horses were killed and two men died of injuries. On June 25, 1908, a freight train crashed into the second section of the train at St. Paul and destroyed the bandwagon and several cook house wagons. In 1917, the Ann Arbor wreck was followed by the disastrous 1918 Ivanhoe, Indiana, wreck but Wallace no longer owned the show at that time.
In Sept., 1899, Wallace purchased the La Pearl Show and thereby came in possession of the big hippo that so many showmen wanted, in addition to five more elephants.
The circus ran into a race riot at Evansville in 1903 and was not allowed to show at night. The citizens of Linton, Indiana, the next stand, let it be known that no performances would be allowed in that town if there were any negroes on the list of Wallace's workmen. The negroes were left at Switz City, and the tents were erected with the help of the performers and front end men. The negro workmen were then secretly brought in from Switz City just before the trains were ready to leave that night. It was a most relieved group of circus people when those wheels began to move. Two monster houses was Linton's way of thanking Col. Wallace for his cooperation.
In 1907, after much legal maneuvering the Carl Hagenbeck Circus - title and equipment - became the property of Wallace. The train was brought from Mexico and arrived in Jan. Thus the Great Wallace Show became the Hagenbeck-Wallace title that we still remember. This also gave Wallace a larger herd of performing elephants (in 3 rings), a polar bear act, and excellent wagons.
In 1910, Wallace's winterquarters became the scene of two sales of the Norris and Rowe Circus. The first sale on June 11 saw circus magnates from throughout the country coming to Peru and staying overnight at the Bearss Hotel. A summer of litigation saw a final sale on Aug. 6, when all remaining equipment was disposed of. Wallace purchased some of that.
The year 1913 is remembered in Indiana as the year of the great March flood. Wallace suffered serious financial losses in it as did hundreds of other Hoosiers. The Mississinewa River rose so quickly and unexpectedly on the most deadly rampage of its history, that the men at winterquarters could do little. Most of the horses were fortunately on high ground across the river to the Springdale Farm. The elephants were turned loose in hopes they could save themselves but 8 of them perished. Two or three were washed down into Peru. Twenty-one lions and tigers and 8 performing horses drowned. Much damage was done to the circus property. Canvas, seats and lighting apparatus being made in Chicago had not yet been sent to Peru. The opening date had to be changed from April 11 at St. Louis, to Peru on April 26. In the meantime, Col. Wallace had several elephants and other animals shipped in from other circuses and from the Hagenbeck Zoo at Hamburg, Germany.
Wallace, now aging, said he was too old to stay on the lot late at night and get up early in the morning. So Peru citizens read in the papers in May, 1913, that Wallace had sold his circus on the road, and had sold the title as well to a syndicate. He retained all his real estate interests including the winterquarters. "I've showed in all 48 states and if I was going to spend any money on farms, it would be in Miami County." "I would rather invest my money in Wabash Valley black bottom land than Wall Street any time," he stated.
Col. Wallace could now spend his time in overseeing his large real estate holdings and his banking interests. He maintained his farms as he had his circus equipment, in best possible condition. When he left Peru early in 1921 for Rochester, Minnesota, few thought or knew that he was seriously ill, but he passed away on April 8 and was buried in the family plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Peru.
Wallace was a lover of good horses and was an excellent judge of them. His lithographs insisted his circus had the "finest horses of any show on earth." He wanted dappled horses, although he had some black horses with white plumes. 8 duns with yellow plumes and yellow trimmed harness pulled the hippo den. His horses often had hame and bridle plumes both. The bridle plumes were at least a third smaller than the hame plumes. The baggage wagons were varnished after being painted, as were also the sleeping cars.
The color scheme for the entire show was body paint white with red and blue striping. It was all standard. Small wagons were painted just like the large. The cars were white numbered in red and blue. The coaches and advertising cars had pictorial and animal cuts in the panels. The menagerie, big top, side show and horse tent poles were white with a different tipping color for each tent. The color scheme was changed to canary yellow in 1899 and to orange-yellow in 1902. It was changed back to white after the combine in 1907.
Wallace was described as being a nice jovial fellow. He had lots of friends. He was red faced and had a brown mustache. He didn't drink, and smoked a cigar only once in a while. He usually wore dark clothes. He was about 5 ft. 9 in. tall and had an average voice neither harsh or high. He wore plain but expensive clothes. His employees were always very loyal to him. There was an old saying around the lot that it was worth an employee's job to introduce anybody to him as "Mr. Wallace." He was "Col Johnson," assistant to Mr. Wallace. The Wallace Show was advertised as the "World's Highest Class Circus" and lived up to it for their equipment and stock was always of the best.
Wallace's admonition to his men was “shoot square as long as you are in Peru." Patrons willing to be "taken" on the lot were usually accommodated in many different ways, especially in the early years, as was the case with many other circuses of that time. But ladies were always treated with courtesy. The paying customer always got more than his money's worth. He always saw an outstanding performance by real artists in the performing field. The equipment was always in excellent shape and attractive. And Peru was proud of its home town circus.
Just when the circus "bug" hit Benjamin E. Wallace is not known. He had "taken over" the meager worldly possessions of a defunct show troupe stranded in Peru a year or two before, but he began actively to gather together circus properties of all sorts in 1883.
Most of the animals purchased from Nathan and Co. were kept in the old chair factory and perished in the January 25, 1884, fire. Other properties, including nine cross cages, tent and seats from W. C. Coup, had been stored in his livery stable and in one or two other nearby properties. The stock had been kept at his farm in Butler Township, a farm acquired from his brother, John, in 1881, with profits from his livery barn, "et cetera."
By opening date, April 26, 1884, additional wild animals had arrived from Paul Hagenbeck, Germany, and William Cross, London, via New York; the stock had been brought in from the farm; and the wagons and other paraphernalia gathered together on the lot. Cages had been built by Sullivan and Eagle, and eleven other wagons by Weesner and Sons, both of Peru; a calliope, by Alhsen of Cincinnati; and tabs and two band wagons by Spellman and Co. of Cincinnati. Like a mushroom, the Wallace and Co. grew quickly from nothing into a very sizable circus.
Upon return October 17, 1884, the cages, tents, etc., were housed in the old L. P. and C. railroad shops. The horses, camels and Shetland ponies were taken out to the farm. Sullivan and Eagle started to overhaul and paint the fifty wagons and cages. A large room was prepared at the farm for the winter training of ring and trick horses. This was the start of Wallace's first actual winterquarters. This first winterquarters was three and a half miles on southeast from the quarters that we usually think of, the one that later became the American Circus Corporation quarters.
Though some equipment was left in Peru, on returning from the 1885 season, on New Year's Day, 1886, mainly cages and the other wagons for repair and painting, much of the property was taken to the new quarters. In a large brick house, still standing and in use, lived Ben's mother. She helped all she could in canning and other activities. Ben's wife and her sister made the wardrobe. The brick barn used for the cats, monkeys and birds is still standing. Inside on the brick walls can still be seen the deep scratches made by the cat's claws. The elephants were kept in a log building just east of the brick building. There was a driveway between the two buildings, covered by a split shingle roof. The hay eating animals were in the north end of the log structure, and the elephants in the south part. This building was about 30' x 50'.
North of the bull barn was the ring barn, a frame building with a ring. It was 45' square and had stalls and a dressing room on the sides. There was no upstairs. North of this building stood the frame cookhouse 20' x 30', a one story frame building with a kitchen shed built on it. West of the cookhouse stood the pony and camel shed. Connected to the shed was a lean-to for seats and poles. The combination blacksmith shop, wagon storage and paint shop was about 50' x 70'. The harness shop took about 30' x 20' of the upstairs, with wardrobe and storage taking the rest. The frame horse barn stood west of the brick cat barn. It was about 40' x 80', a one story building about one hundred and fifty head. In the middle of this square of buildings was a well with a windmill furnishing the power.
Now all that is left of the original buildings is the brick house with its century old pine trees, and the old brick barn. Note its large door on the south side for large wagons, and the little window at the northeast corner where the cats were loaded and unloaded from their cages. Now close your eyes and picture mentally Ben Wallace's first winterquarters.
On November 6, 1891, Peru papers announced the purchase by Wallace of the 220 acre farm of Gabriel Godfroy. This land had belonged originally to Gabriel's father, Chief Francis Godfroy (Miami Tribe), who had received it from the United States Government in 1826. This land, coveted by Wallace for years, lay between the Wabash (Miami for white rock) and the Mississinewa (much fall in the water) Rivers and was some of the best farm land in Indiana. The paper also announced Wallace's purchase of five acres of land in North Peru to be used as a railroad yard for his cars.
Now began a rapid building of a new winterquarters. All that was on the newly purchased farm was a brick house (still standing and in use), a small barn used for a while as part of the new ring barn, a corn crib and a windmill. All else had to be quickly built. The paint barn, cookhouse and pony shed were brought from the old quarters. All else was new. But the Peru papers on October 9, 1892, state that the Great Wallace Show was home from its summer tour, and moved into its new winterquarters.
Completed or not, Wallace now had commodious new quarters, capable of producing most of the forage needed for his stock and animals, and a winterquarters over three miles closer to Peru and its stores and railroads.
He had wanted to also purchase the farm just to the east, the Hillcrest farm, with the intention of building the quarters on the long, high ridge. The owners would not sell, however, until several years later. Had he been able to make the purchase in 1892, he would have avoided the tremendous financial loss caused by the great 1913 flood, as he had to build on lower ground.
The following is a list of the various buildings and their uses:
1. Brick house built by the Godfroys. (Still in use).
2. Ornamental gate.
3. Ring barn. An octagon building 70' in diameter, with a 44' ring with mechanic, and two dressing rooms. Attached to this was a stable for ring stock, containing 40 box stalls. It was heated and lighted by natural gas so practice could take place all winter. This building was torn down in 1958. The stable part was 50' x 50'.
4. Lot for zebras and other hay eaters.
5. Brick barn 40' x 50' for hay animals and ruminants. One story. It later became the southeast corner of the cat barn of the American Circus Corporation.
6. Brick elephant barn 50' x 50'. Burned Nov. 21, 1901.
7. Bunk house.
8. Mammoth wagon barn with two large round doors at each end. Said to be 120' x 200'. Huge letters spelled out the "Winterquarters of the Great Wallace Circus" on front side.
9. Store house.
10. Wagon shed, 425' long for storage of wagons after being repaired and painted.
11. Camel barn, used from 1901, until it burned Aug. 2, 1905.
12. Pony barn, 50' x 60', burned Aug. 2, 1905.
13. Ring stock barn, 50' x 60'.
14. Windmill and water tank.
15. Blacksmith, wood shop and paint shop. East part was 50' x 100'. The west part came from the old quarters and was 50' x 70'. The wardrobe room, sail room, and harness rooms were upstairs. The back part was torn down Nov., 1941. The east part was torn down earlier.
16. Camel barn 50' x 50'. Torn down about 1956.
17. Brick barn 40' x 50' for cat animals. The brick barns had all slate roofs. One and a half story high. It had a capacity for 14 cages on the first floor, and the second floor was for birds, monkeys and other fauna from the tropics. The second floor had a large skylight and a 7' x 26' ventilator. There were also four ventilators on each side of the animal cages for the regulation of temperature and to dispel odors. The lower floor had consolidated cages with strong iron rodding, and iron netting overhead, partitioned by heavy bar iron, with a door between each compartment. Entrance to the cage was effected at one end only and the animal admitted was driven to the place assigned and barred in, and so on until each compartment was filled. This building became the southwest corner of the American Circus Corporation cat barn. The old brick walls can still be seen.
18. Store house 50, x 50'.
19. Draft horse barn 60' x 120', side walls 18' high, with 96 stalls 5' x 9' x 12' and a driveway on each side. The second floor was 26' high from floor to collar beam. Its slate roof had slate blue and white letters on it spelling "Winterquarters of Great Wallace Circus." This made a big flash as one turned east off the bridge over the Mississinewa River. The barn was struck by lightning and burned July 15, 1915.
20. Ornamental gate. This was the main gate.
21. "Bat" pen for old horses to be used as cat meat.
Ben brought to his new quarters the following property:
1. 8 bulls - 4 leased to other small circuses such as Sieber and Cole, and Sieber and Berry. Of the remaining, 3 were male and 1 female. One was African and 3 Asiatic.
2. 1 fine pair of Bengal tigers - male and female.
3. 4 lions.
4. 1 pair Rocky Mountain lions.
5. 1 oscolot.
6. 2 leopards.
7. 1 extra fine cage of birds, including the yellow breast, red breast and black back macaws and many cockatoos - as pretty a cage of birds as one ever saw.
8. 5 camels. Some were leased out to other circuses.
9. 1 sable antelope.
10. 1 ibex.
11. 1 blissblok.
12. 1 fine Asiatic yak,
13. 3 or 4 nice llamas.
14. Many small animals, including porcupines, badgers and argutas.
15. 1 nice cage of monkeys.
16. 1 big bandwagon. A canopy was over the rear, a carved horse on each side, rider with spear in hand and serpent striking at horses' head.
17. 1 calliope.
18. 12-14 cross cages, several from W. C. Coup Show.
19. 1 snake cage built by Sullivan and Eagle in 1889 or 1890.
20. 2 large wardrobe tabs, so large that when built, Sullivan and Eagle had to cut a notch in the frame of the door to get them out of the building. This notch could be seen for many years after.
21. A chandelier wagon with large rhino on one side and a hippo on the other, also built by Sullivan and Eagle.
22. Cookhouse wagon, stable, stake and chain, pole, stringer and jack, reserved plank, blue plank, 2 canvas, 2 side show, 1 candy, 2 property wagons, 1 clown cart, one den (No. 16) 16' long. for tigers; one cage (No. 18) 18' long (lions); 2 dens with carvings set in at corners and scrolls on the top and bottom boards; and one ticket wagon as large as any railroad show carried. It had hexed corners, with 3 windows in the rear, side door and vents. It was white with gold leaf scrolls. The sunbursts were gold with transparent colors of red and blue. The striping was red and blue.
This was the huge winterquarters used by Wallace until he sold the Hagenbeck-Wallace title and circus equipment on July 1, 1913. No real estate was included in the deal. Instead of selling his land, he continued to add to his possessions until his death. He sold the circus because of his age. He said "I am getting too old to stay on the lot at night and get up early the next morning."
Although Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers might winter one of their several circuses in the old Wallace winterquarters, Peru was no longer an active circus city. Ben Wallace died April 8, 1921, owning about 2,700 acres of land. Much of it lay from the concrete bridge over the Wabash River at the southeast edge of Peru, with the Wabash River on the north to the fringe of hills on the south, on to the bend of the Mississinewa River a half mile east of the winterquarter buildings. His name can also still be seen on concrete fence posts south of Peru on the old Straw Town Pike. His land from 1913 on had been used for farming purposes only. However, he continued to keep his fences and buildings painted and in good repair.
Then on October 27, 1921, the estate of Benjamin E. Wallace sold to the American Circus Corporation six hundred acres of land including the old winterquarters, and the car shops and trackage in North Peru. It is said the consideration was for $500,000. A new bright, very active circus era had set in. Peru, again, was the "Circus City."
The big wagon barn was torn down by the American Circus Corporation during the winter of 1921 and 1922. Imagine driving east on the river road in 1910, past Wallace Row (over a dozen houses for his workers) and past five sets of farm buildings, each farm named. The buildings were all painted "Colonial" yellow or "Wallace" yellow trimmed in white. The whitewashed fences on each side of the road extended from the bridge on past the winterquarters. The fence along one farm close to the first winterquarters had square wooden posts with round knobs on top. Some of these are still in place along the old fence. Wallcourt Farm had a beautiful stone fence along the yard, and a fountain in the front yard. Springdale, the summer home of Mrs. Wallace, had a high stone wall along the yard and holly bushes and rare vines in the yard. Seven very expensive, unusually ornamental, overhead gates stood in front of the several farms and two were used at winterquarters. They had raised letters, gold leafed. Some of the hinges were of brass, costing $100.
All of this, and a drive along the usually placid Mississinewa River, past the mammoth circus winterquarters. What a trip to be long remembered!
On June 21, 1902, John H. Havlin, C. Lee Williams, Frank R. Tate and Carl Hagenbeck formed a corporation, the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show Co., the purpose of which was to conduct animal exhibits and displays throughout the Western Hemisphere. The ownership was divided with one forth to each, with each investing $5,000. The company presented the exhibitions during the years of 1902, 1903, 1904, under the direction of Havlin and Tate. In 1905 the group expanded their holdings to include equipment needed for a large railroad circus. The circus toured as the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Wild Animal Show in 1905, opening on April 24, in St. Louis, Missouri, and closing October 7, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The show wintered at Carthage, Ohio.
On October 12, 1905, the group entered into articles of incorporation as the Carl Hagenbeck Circus and Show Company. With Hagenbeck in Germany, the others made this move without his approval. Hagenbeck had not received any share of any profits and had not been paid for the animals furnished in the first place. Hagenbeck did not wish to have his name used in connection with a circus under canvas. However without active representation in the United States Carl Hagenbeck had little control over the actions of his partners.
During 1906 the Carl Hagenbeck Greater Shows, under the management of Tate and Havlin, had a very poor season, during which the show became heavily indebted and at the close of the season was insolvent and bankruptcy was imminent. Tate and Havlin were badly in need of some way to bail themselves out.
On December 4, 1906, Tate and Havlin entered into a contract to form a partnership with the Ringlings. The Ringlings were to transfer the Forepaugh-Sells show into a new corporation, with their interest to be 70%. Tate and Havlin were to transfer the Carl Hagenbeck Circus to the new group with their interest to be 30%. The contract was signed by all parties on December 4, 1906, however the deal fell through when Tate and Havlin were unable to furnish clear legal title to the Hagenbeck name.
However Ben Wallace was not so squeamish and immediately set his sights on the Hagenbeck show. On January 9, 1907, he formed a partnership with the Tate and Havlin.
With Wallace were Jeremiah J. Mugivan and John O. Talbott. The five individuals were the partners. Tate and Havlin assigned the Hagenbeck show to the new partnership, receiving one half interest. Wallace, Mugivan and Talbott assigned the Great Wallace show and received half interest. Wallace's interest was one quarter and Mugivan and Talbott each had one-eighth interest. The agreement called for Benjamin E. Wallace to have exclusive management and control of the new show, and that he was to have Mugivan and Talbott as his assistants. Another interesting part of the agreement called for Wallace, Mugivan and Talbott to receive as compensation for their management services all profits from privileges connected with the show, consisting of the privilege car, the candy stands and balloons. Wallace was to sell off all surplus properties of the combined shows and divide the proceeds thereof among the partners in proportion to their respective interests, and Wallace was to winter, repair, refit and make additions to the show as may be necessary to prepare the show for the road in first class condition for the opening in the spring of 1907. Wallace was to keep accurate record of his expense in wintering the show and he was to be reimbursed for such expenses out of the first profits after the opening of the season. After having been so reimbursed, before any dividends were to be made Wallace was to receive the sum of $10,000 to be set aside to provide for future expenses. Finally after all of this had been paid to Wallace, additional profits were to be divided according to the interests of the partners.
Havlin and Tate agreed to deliver the Hagenbeck show to Peru, Indiana, at their own expense, within 20 days, except for a ticket wagon, a cage and two flat cars which were to be delivered as soon as possible at Peru. Havlin and Tate were to have the right to be represented by an agent with the show at their own expense.
The final clause of the agreement called for title to the property and good will to remain the property of the partners for a period of five years.
Havlin and Tate still had the problem facing them of what to do about the obligations for which they were personally liable, in connection with the losses suffered by the Hagenbeck show. Uncle Ben stated he would give them a helping hand here, too.
On January 19, 1907, at Peru a second agreement was drawn. This covered the loaning by Wallace of $30,000 to John H. Havlin and Frank R. Tate. It also called for the loaning by Jeremiah J. Mugivan of $15,000 to Havlin and Tate. These two loans were secured by the pledging and assigning of Tate and Havlin's interest in the new partnership. It was further agreed that Wallace shall remain in complete and absolute possession and control of the total properties until said debts were fully paid. The interest to be paid by Tate and Havlin on the notes was 8%. They also agreed to pay the attorney's fees.
While all this was going on Carl Hagenbeck was none the wiser, until he read the January 19, 1907, issue of the Billboard, announcing the combination. Hagenbeck at once cabled Tate and Havlin, "See greatest surprise Billboard combination Hagenbeck and Wallace Shows. I protest and never agree to this." Tate and Havlin responded with a cable advising. "Have made splendid deal protecting your name our names preventing suit in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois, on October 14, 1908, against Benjamin E. Wallace to restrain the use of the Carl Hagenbeck name.
In presenting his case Hagenbeck's attorney stated that the Hagenbeck name loss of your money our money saving company from bankruptcy courts where everything would have been sacrificed and disgrace, suspend your opinion until you secure our official information." However Carl Hagenbeck never did receive the "official information" as he filed and reputation had been greatly injured by use in connection with the Wallace name.
In presenting his case Hagenbeck's 'attorney stated that the Hagenbeck name and reputation had been greatly injured by use in connection with the Wallace name. In addition the attorney stated that the management of the partnership had been disastrous through design (on Wallace's part) and that at the close of the 1907 season Havlin and Tate and others of the partnership, except for Wallace, were without means to meet the expenses of wintering the show and that Tate and Havlin were unable or unwilling to repay their loan to Wallace and Mugivan. Thus Tate and Havlin defaulted on the loans and Wallace thereby possesses himself of all assets of the partnership. The Hagenbeck attorney contended that Wallace had covetously schemed from the beginning to convert to his own use the Hagenbeck equipment and the Carl Hagenbeck name.
The attorney further contended that during the 1907 season Wallace had used the name of Carl Hagenbeck and had posters printed and posted far and wide containing pictures and likeness of Carl Hagenbeck, with said likenesses shown in connection with pictures or likenesses of Wallace. He further contended that Wallace had been in the circus business for many years and that the character of the Wallace exhibitions had always been and were in 1907 of such a low order that his (Wallace's) reputation among reputable circus proprietors and the public was very bad. He further stated that the Wallace show is commonly known as a "graft" show, and that Wallace permitted and encouraged operation of gambling devices, such as "nut" games and "shell" games and that he permitted indecent and lewd dances in certain parts of the tent, and that "short change" men preyed upon the public and visitors at his show, as well as additional undesirable acts. All of this leads up to the request that Benjamin E. Wallace be restrained by a writ of injunction from further use of the Carl Hagenbeck name in any way.
After due deliberation the judges ruled that when Wallace bought the circus he bought the name.
As we look back on history it would appear that Ben Wallace may well have masterminded the takeover of the Hagenbeck equipment and name. And if it was done in the manner outlined above, which was taken from the printed record of the Hagenbeck suit, he acquired a valuable show property for the nominal sum of $45,000.
By Charles Wirth. Bandwagon, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Jul-Aug), 1964, pp. 13-15, 18.
A visit was recently made by the writer, a member of The Billboard staff to Peru, Ind., long the winter "home" of the Great Wallace Circus (later known as the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus) and of recent years also of the John Robinson and Sells-Floto circuses. So much had been heard of the big improvements being made there (these were started last summer) it was decided a visit was in order for the purpose of giving readers of The Billboard the details of these improvements.
Things are being accomplished on a big scale by the American Circus Corporation (of which Jerry Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Edward M. Ballard are the principals), which owns and operates the John Robinson and Sells-Floto shows, not to mention the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, whose winter quarters are located at West Baden, Ind. Some readers seem to be of the opinion that the Hagenbeck-Wallace Show will also winter in Peru hereafter, but upon inquiry the reporter was informed that it will retain its quarters at the "springs." It was only last fall that the Sells-Floto Circus which had its winter quarters in Denver, Colo., for many years was first taken to Peru, following the close of the season.
The city of Peru and its natives are very proud of the American Circus Corporation and its extensive new building operations, which greatly add to the prestige of the little Indiana town. The citizens are very much interested whenever anything appears in the local press concerning the plans, etc., of the circus interests, and right well may they feel proud that such an institution is located there.
The quarters are located about two and one-half miles in a southeasterly direction from the city on a tract of land between the Wabash and Mississinewa Rivers, facing the latter. Access is easy. The drive (or walk if one so chooses) is a most beautiful one, and the road, and the fence on each side of it, are kept in splendid condition. Before one enters the circus property he observes the Wallace estate, which comprises many, many acres. (Ben Wallace, deceased, for many years was owner of the Great Wallace Circus, later called Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus).
The work of rebuilding and erection of new buildings started a year ago, is expected to be completed by October, but there will still be plenty to do after that, such as leveling the grounds, fixing roads, etc. The land on which the various buildings are located has been elevated and is a number of feet above the high-water danger line, thereby precluding any fear of a repetition of the flood experienced some years ago.
The land purchased by the circus corporation last year added to what it already had makes approximately 500 acres, twenty of which are used for the quarters. By the time all improvements have been completed it is estimated that about $500,000 will have been spent in this great undertaking of the well-known triumvirate of showmen.
Most of the 500 acres is utilized for pasture and the growing of alfalfa, corn, timothy, oats, hay, cane, etc., to be fed to the animals during the resting period or winter months. All of this will be stored - some of it is being done now - in a recently constructed building. Eleven hundred tons of timothy and alfalfa are expected in the harvest. There is also a slaughter house on the grounds where cattle and hogs are killed and used in feeding the men, also the animals in quarters during the winter.
The circus corporation has its own water system, drawing the water from the Mississinewa River and piping it throughout the winterquarters grounds. Sufficient fire protection is in evidence, there being standard fire plugs and 1,600 feet of hose to be used in combating any conflagration that might occur. There is also a tank which has a capacity of 200,000 gallons of water. Two plants supply the steam heat and power for all buildings, and electric light, secured from the local light plant, is in all buildings that require it. There will be nothing lacking on the part of the circus owners in providing comfort and convenience for the personnel.
Two bungalows recently erected are tenanted by farmers who are caring for the crops on the winter quarters farm. The bungalows are 26x26 feet, modernly equipped and with basements. A big, brick farm house, having fourteen rooms, is also on the grounds and used by farm help.
Jerry Mugivan has been spending most of his time in Peru and at the quarters. He is indeed a busy person looking after the numerous details in the construction and equipping of the quarters. Tom Tucker, who has been with Mr. Mugivan for many years, is superintendent at the farm, having in charge the men who are doing repair work and building equipment for the corporation interests.
Most of the buildings have been constructed and work on several others is now getting under way. Some of the completed buildings still need to be painted, but this will all have been attended to by the time the shows "roll in." A little delay has been caused now and then through a shortage of craftsmen and labor, but, taken all in all, wonders have been accomplished in the short space of time. The buildings are of concrete and steel, with cement floors. About forty men are busy on the buildings and building equipment and ten men are engaged for farming purposes. It was learned that the payroll is more than a thousand dollars a week. Three new five-and-one-half-ton service trucks are used for hauling gravel, sand, timber, etc., to the quarters. From fifty to sixty loads of gravel and sand are hauled every day from the corporation's own gravel pits and used in the construction of buildings and roads.
There are two stock barns, one for the John Robinson Circus and the other for the Sells-Floto Circus. They are 200 feet long, 72 feet wide and 40 feet high. The lofts are used for storing hay for the elephants, each loft having a capacity of 300 tons. The animal barn for Sells-Floto is 150 feet long, 72 feet wide and 40 feet high, and in the loft 300 tons of hay can be stored, while the one for the John Robinson Circus (now in process of building) will be 135 feet long and 60 feet wide. These barns are capable of housing 60 elephants tethered in the center of the floor. The harness department will occupy the second floor of the John Robinson Circus animal barn. The blacksmith and machine shop building is 150 feet long, 72 feet wide and 40 feet high, the loft being used for storage purposes. In this building is installed row after row of the most modern machinery necessary to keep in repair the auto tractors, trucks, touring cars and farm machinery used about the quarters and any equipment that may be sent in by the shows en tour. The value of machinery, etc., in this building is placed at about $14,000. A paint shop to be built will be 150 feet long, 72 feet wide and 25 feet high. It will have a dormitory, will be steam heated, equipped with hot and cold running water, bathtubs and will be used as sleeping quarters for the circus employees. The new wagon shed is 200x100 feet and has 1,600 feet of floor space. It will take care of the parade and those of the better grade wagons. There are two other sheds utilized for the remainder of the wagon equipment, one of which is 200x75 feet.
The ring barns total four, one of which, 140x40 feet, can accommodate 50 head of ring stock. A steel arena is also in evidence. A building, 80x20 feet, is used in housing dogs, goats, hogs and ponies. There are two dining halls for the employees, both being 60x16 feet in dimension; a building 80x30 feet, for poles and seats; one 60x40 feet (a cage house), one 60x40 feet for the light department and one for cooking purposes. The new hay shed recently built is 150 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet high and has a capacity of 340 tons. It was learned that there will be three "cuts" of alfalfa on the show farm during the summer.
In the new animal building was observed a number of animals, some of which were recently received. The animals are in charge of Emory Stiles, and Mrs. Stiles gives able assistance. The building is lined on both sides of the interior with "compartments" for beasts. The animals there at present include two lions, three pumas, two leopards and two cubs, two tigers, and three elephants, the latter being in charge of Joe Metcalfe, who we found at the time of our visit putting the "bulls" through a few paces and "manicuring" the nails of one of them. Also at the quarters are five camels, five bears, six kangaroos, one zebra, a zebu and some deer.
Stables that are being erected, with those already up, provide room for 450 head of horses. These buildings will be supplied with heat and running water. There are approximately fifty head of stock on the farm now, such as draft horses, mules and ponies. On the grounds are seventy-five wagons of all kinds, all in good condition and could be pressed into service at once should anything happen to any of the wagons of the shows on tour.
About one-half mile north from the city is located the train department, which occupies eight acres of land. It is alongside the Lake Erie and Western Railroad tracks. An elevation of six feet has been made with stone and gravel in order to avoid high water interference. New repair sheds have been built and track has been laid to accommodate 100 or more 70 foot cars, and machinery and appliances have been installed to build, repair and paint any type of circus car. At the present time six stock cars, three advertising cars, and three sleepers are in the circus train yards.
The American Circus Corporation has executive offices downtown, utilizing the entire second floor of the Wabash Valley Trust Building. The entire third floor of this building is occupied by the wardrobe department, which is equipped with all the latest machines and devices for making the most elaborate wardrobe and trappings. On this floor are also located the wardrobe storage rooms and the designing room.
The new winter "home" which Messrs. Mugivan, Bowers, and Ballard are constructing is indeed a credit to them. All showmen, when in Peru or its vicinity, should avail themselves of a visit. (Reprinted from August 11, 1923, issue of the Billboard magazine.)
B. E. Wallace sold his show on June 11, 1913, to a syndicate which organized the Carl Hagenbeck and Great Wallace Shows Co. with headquarters in Indianapolis. Officers of the new company were John O. Talbot, president; Edward M. Ballard, vice president, and C. E. Corey, secretary-treasurer. Circus activity at Peru, however, was far from over because at the conclusion of the 1913 season the newly owned Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus returned to Peru to winter. The former Wallace quarters were rented for the winter of 1913-14. C. E. Corey, an officer of the new company, was a nephew of Wallace and no doubt swung the deal with his uncle to obtain use of the quarters for the winter. The show went out from Peru for the 1914 season and was not destined to return again until the winter of 1924-25.
The following winter of 1914-15 Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers rented the Peru quarters from Wallace and brought both of their circuses, Howes Great London Shows, and Robinson's Famous Shows to winter there. Hagenbeck-Wallace, incidently, wintered following the 1914 season at Carthage, Ohio, in the Cincinnati area. John O. Talbot disposed of his interest in that show to C. E. Corey at Omaha, Neb., July 8, 1914, Edward M. Ballard, however, was the real power and money behind the Hagenbeck-Wallace show and by 1915 was in complete command. It has been said that Corey was the "leg man" for Ballard and supplied the circus "know how" on the road with the show while Ballard was handling his other hotel and real estate interests.
During the winter of 1915-16 there were no shows at the Wallace quarters in Peru. Mugivan and Bowers wintered their two shows at Montgomery, Ala., and Hagenbeck-Wallace was sent into winter quarters for the first time at West Baden, Indiana, location of a couple of large resort hotels owned by Ballard. Various circuses were to use the West Baden quarters until the winter of 1929-30 at which time Sam B. Dill framed and sent on the road for the 1930 season his motorized Gentry Bros. Famous Shows.
In March, 1916, Mugivan and Bowers purchased from John G. Robinson the title and physical equipment of the John Robinson Ten Big Shows which had been off the road since the 1911 season with most of the properties being stored at the old Robinson quarters at Terrace Park, Ohio. The new owners immediately transferred the title itself to their Robinson's Famous Shows in quarters at Montgomery, but sold the old Robinson wagons and physical equipment to B. E. Wallace, who had it shipped to Peru. This equipment, of course, included the unique "cottage den" cages, several chariot type bandwagons, and other tableau and parade equipment as well as baggage wagons. For several years thereafter Wallace leased some of this equipment or sold outright to other circuses and carnivals. One unusual semi circular tableau wagon was mounted on a truck chassis and sold to the motorized Coop & Lent Circus of 1918. Several bandwagons were used by carnivals. The late Bill Woodcock says he remembers seeing an ex-John Robinson Ten Big Shows chariot bandwagon at Peru in the early 20's with the name of A. C. Miller Shows (carnival) stenciled in the center medallion. Wallace himself was reported to have interests in some carnivals during this period, but his interest may have only been in the form of leased equipment.
During the winter of 1916-17 again no circuses wintered at Peru. Hagenbeck-Wallace continued to winter at West Baden. Mugivan and Bowers sent both their shows, Howes Great London Shows, and John Robinson's Circus into winter quarters at Americus, Ga. They combined them both into a gigantic 45 car show titled John Robinson Circus for the 1917 season. This was the largest show this famous team of showmen ever operated in the number of cars used.
Following the 1917 season Mugivan and Bowers again rented the Wallace quarters in Peru and sent John Robinson there for the winter of 1917-18. For the 1918 season the show was cut to 30 cars and the surplus equipment was stored in one of the barns during the season. For several months the show advertised for sale a great amount of surplus wagons, animals, and equipment, which could be seen and inspected at Peru.
At the conclusion of the 1918 season John Robinson was again sent to Peru for the winter. Also Mugivan and Bowers purchased the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus which was in quarters at West Baden. Edward Ballard became a third partner with Mugivan and Bowers and remained until their holdings were finally sold in 1929. The West Baden quarters were retained and used by Hagenbeck-Wallace.
During the winter of 1919-20 John Robinson went back to the Peru quarters and Hagenbeck-Wallace to West Baden. At Peru in the early spring of 1920, Mugivan-Bowers-Ballard framed a third show to go on tour for the 1920 season. It was on 15 cars and was titled Howes Great London Shows, so the local residents of Peru saw two circuses leave their midst that spring. However at the conclusion of the season only John Robinson came back to spend the winter of 1920-21 at Peru as Howes Great London went into quarters at the William P. Hall farm in Lancaster, Mo. Hagenbeck-Wallace as usual went to West Baden. During the winter of 1920-21 the famous trio, who were now at the top echelon of the circus world purchased the Yankee-Robinson Circus from Fred Buchanan and the large and very popular Sells-Floto Circus from Harry Tammen and Fred G. Bonfils. Yankee Robinson was sent to the Hall Farm, and Sells-Floto was returned to their usual quarters in Denver, which were also figured in on the sale.
In the spring of 1921 the new circus giants, Mugivan, Bowers, and Ballard, who soon formed and were henceforth known as the American Circus Corporation, sent fourth four circuses. Only one, John Robinson, went out of Peru, but also out that season were Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto, and an enlarged Howes Great London Shows and Van Amburg's Trained Wild Animals which used equipment from both the 1920 Howes and Yankee Robinson shows.
B. E. Wallace was true to his vow to never sell his real estate holdings in Peru so long as he lived but in the fall of 1921 following his death the previous March, Mugivan, Bowers, and Ballard purchased from the Wallace heirs on Oct. 27, 1921, the winter quarters, about 600 acres of land, and the railroad car shops at North Peru. Sale price was about $500,000. The sale included all miscellaneous circus property Wallace had at the quarters, which, of course, still contained remnants of the John Robinson Ten Big Shows wagons. Wallace, himself, had sold some cages to Al G. Barnes in 1919 and others had been sold to various carnivals, etc. Some cages were still usuable and for the 1922 and succeeding seasons several were then used by the various American Circus Corporation units. Some of the old chariot type bandwagons were still stored in a field at Peru but were never used by the new owners. By the early 20's chariot type vehicles had been eliminated on practically all shows in favor of box type wagons which could also carry a baggage load. Chalmer Condon sneaked over a no trespassing signed fence in 1922 to photograph some of these old John Robinson wagons and one which appears in his classic photo is the old Peacock Chariot Bandwagon.
Even though the American Circus Corporation now had the spacious Peru quarters only John Robinson was sent to spend the winter of 1921-22 there. Much work had to be done, including building of new barns, sheds, etc., and repair of older ones before it could adequately accommodate more than one show. So Hagenbeck-Wallace returned to West Baden, Sells-Floto to Denver, and Howes Great London went into quarters at Montgomery, Ala.
All four ACC shows went out in 1922, however the Howes show was now titled Gollmar Bros. Circus with some advertising matter calling it Gollmar Bros. and Yankee Robinson Combined Circus. The Howes title was leased in 1922 to Golden, Runkle, and Adams who used it on their new show which had been the 1921 Palmer Bros. Circus.
Following the 1922 season John Robinson came back to Peru and for the first time, also Sells-Floto. The old Denver quarters were closed. Hagenbeck-Wallace went to West Baden. Gollmar Bros. initially went back to Montgomery, Ala., but in the early spring of 1923 when it was decided that only three shows would be toured that season, some of the Gollmar property and animals were sold to Christy Bros., while the remainder of the show was sent to Peru quarters where it was combined with some of the 1922 John Robinson equipment to form a 30 car show titled John Robinson Circus for the 1923 season. However most of the 1923 Robinson equipment was from the 1922 Gollmar show. Vast new improvements had been made at the Peru quarters by now.
After the 1923 season both John Robinson and Sells-Floto returned to winter at Peru while Hagenbeck-Wallace went to West Baden.
In the spring of 1924 several old Robinson and Sells-Floto advance cars plus other equipment were sold to Chester Monahan who was framing a new 5 car, tunnel type car show, at nearby Wabash, Indiana. The corporation which had obtained a five year lease on the Gollmar Bros. title in 1922 now subleased that title to Monahan for the 1924 and 1925 seasons. In 1924 all three of the corporation units went out.
Following the 1924 season an odd thing occurred. Robinson and Hagenbeck-Wallace switched quarters. Robinson was sent to West Baden and Hagenbeck-Wallace returned to its old home in Peru. The elephant herds of the two shows were also switched.
In 1925 the three corporation units again went out. The intention was that no street parades would be given but all were fully equipped to parade with exception of the steam calliopes. After about a month of the experimental no parade policy the word was given from the front office to restore the parade in an attempt to bolster sagging business. The three steam calliopes were dispatched to the respective shows and the parade was continued for the remainder of the season. In late summer of 1925 a fully equipped 10 car, flat car type, circus was assembled at Peru using surplus equipment from both West Baden and Peru. Chester Monahan brought his 5 car Gollmar Bros. tunnel car show into Peru and left out with the new 10 car show which was also called Gollmar Bros. A month of bad weather soon killed off the new show so it was necessary for the corporation to repossess it and return it to West Baden. During the winter of 1925-26 this 10 car show was sold to Arthur Hoffman who moved it to his quarters at Burlington, N.C., added 4 cars, and toured it in 1926 as Heritage Bros. Circus but before the season was out the corporation repossessed the equipment from Hoffman and returned it to Peru where it was stored. No change in wintering sites occurred 1925-26.
In 1926 all three corporation units went out. No street parades were given this season or subsequent seasons as long as the corporation owned them. The only time in the future that the ACC would feature a parade on one of their units was for the 1929 season when it was felt it best to continue the long parade tradition of the newly acquired Sparks Circus. After the 1926 season Hagenbeck-Wallace and Sells-Floto returned to Peru and John Robinson to West Baden.
All three units returned to the road for the 1927 season and again after the conclusion Robinson headed for West Baden, Hagenbeck-Wallace and Sells-Floto to Peru.
The corporation was now enjoying the big money years of the late 20's and all three units went on the road for the 1928 season. At the end of the season for the first time all three units, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto, and John Robinson went into quarters together at Peru. The West Baden quarters were closed although the buildings remained intact for some years after that. The equipment of Floyd and Howard King's 15 car Gentry Bros. Circus after its bankruptcy in the fall of 1929 was sent to West Baden for storage and sale. Several of that show's tableau wagons plus most of the baggage wagons passed into oblivion with the old West Baden quarters. As mentioned earlier Sam Dill organized a truck show at West Baden which went out from there in 1930 and that was the last circus activity in the famous old resort town.
During the winter of 1928-29 the corporation made two more important purchases. Sparks Circus was obtained from Charles Sparks and the Al G. Barnes Circus from the famous showman of that name. Sparks continued to use its regular quarters at Central City Park in Macon, Georgia, and Al G. Barnes was sent to its former quarters at Baldwin Park, Calif.
The spring of 1929 must have been a wonderful one for the circus fan in Peru when he saw 3 magnificent circuses, Sells-Floto, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and John Robinson all leaving out for the season's tour. By now Peru was shown on maps as the "circus city" and the quarters during the winter and especially the early spring attracted thousands of visitors. In early September, 1929, John Ringling purchased the entire American Circus Corporation holdings, including the Peru quarters and farms, for a reported two million or more dollars. Following the 1929 season John Ringling returned Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto, and John Robinson to Peru for the winter.
In 1930 again all three of these great shows left Peru for the season's tour. However the great depression which was now on in earnest was signaling that the end of the glory days of the circus in Peru was in sight. After the season which saw all of the six Ringling owned circuses close earlier than customary, Robinson, Sells-Floto, and Hagenbeck-Wallace returned to Peru.
In 1931 it was decided to shelve the Robinson show and it never returned to the road, however, much of the train and wagon equipment as well as the elephants and other animals were used by the remaining units. Both Sells-Floto and Hagenbeck-Wallace did go out from Peru for the 1931 season. Following it, both returned to Peru.
In 1932 both shows went on the road with Hagenbeck-Wallace being enlarged from 30 to 35 cars, and Sells-Floto cut from 35 to 30 cars. At the season's close both shows returned to Peru. Due to the bad business conditions in general and the heavy losses incurred during the 1932 season it was decided to shelve the Sells-Floto show for 1933.
In 1933 a single show went out from Peru but it was an enlarged 40 car Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus under management of Jess Adkins which paraded in several cities and had a very profitable season. The show returned to Peru for the winter.
In 1934 a 48 car Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus went on the road using two old parade wagons sent up from Ringling-Barnum quarters in Sarasota as well as taking the pick of the many available old parade wagons there at Peru and featured one of the great street parades of all times. Present day fans look back with nostalgia on this wonderful event and treasure it as a memory never to be forgotten.
During the time the Ringling management owned the Peru quarters it was customary each winter for the Big Show to send its baggage stock to Peru rather than to Sarasota. Also there was considerable traffic between Sarasota, Peru, and Baldwin Park where the now down to 3 units from the original 6 wintered. Advance car, elephants, and animals went from Peru to Baldwin Park to join Barnes in 1933. After Sparks was taken off the road following the 1931 season the working cat animals of Franz Woska were sent to Peru. Likewise during the 30's at times certain wagons from Al G. Barnes and Ringling-Barnum were left there. For example when Ringling added a giraffe in 1936 while on the road it was necessary to send a cage from the show to Peru for storage. That accounts for the appearance of a typical Ringling Tab-Den on Hagenbeck-Wallace in 1938. Also photos of wagons lined up for burning in Peru about 1941 show several with the Al G. Barnes title. Following the Barnes wreck in Canada in 1930 some Sells-Floto wagons were sent from Peru to join the Barnes show replacing those destroyed.
In 1935 a smaller Hagenbeck-Wallace show went out from Peru, this time on only 35 cars, but now carrying the lengthy title of Hagenbeck-Wallace-Forepaugh-Sells Combined Circus. The regular daily street parade was eliminated but several were given during the season. The show returned to Peru after the season and during the winter of 1935-36 it was decided by the Ringling management to shelve the show.
So in 1936 for the first time in many years no circus left Peru to make the season's tour.
But in the early spring of 1937 big things were happening. The depression was over and most shows were making money, and the Billboard that spring had rumors of several additional railroad shows to go out. Eddie Arlington and Frank A. Hatch, both old time and highly experienced circus men, leased from Ringling the Hagenbeck-Wallace title and equipment at Peru for a 35 car show. They had planned to, but never did, present a daily street parade and carried parade wagons including a steam calliope. The show opened at the Stadium in Chicago and made a small fortune. When the show started on the road tour Arlington and Hatch sold out to Howard Y. Bary who took the show on a most successful 1937 season. It returned to Peru following the season.
During the winter of 1937-38 Bary reduced the show somewhat in number of cars, used a new color scheme for the wagons and rail equipment, but went out in 1938 with a very fine and beautiful Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus featuring Blacaman, the Hindoo Animal Hypnotist. The show had a complete new spread of canvas, and several brand new dual pneumatic wheel all steel wagons. Little did the Peru residents know that the sharp 1938 recession would kill off the show in California that fall as well as nearly every other show on the road in one of the worst seasons in history. The Hagenbeck-Wallace equipment after its close was sent to the Baldwin Park, Calif., quarters and then was scattered. None of it ever returned to Peru.
During the 1938 season there was some other circus activity at Peru. After the Big Show closed early at Scranton, Pa., and returned to Sarasota quarters, a few weeks later a train of RBBB equipment was sent to enlarge the Barnes show which was still on tour. Several flat cars loaded with equipment, and stenciled Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Combined Circus was sent to Peru from Barnes after the enlargement. This was Barnes' cookhouse, big top, and other properties which had been replaced by Big Show equipment and was no longer needed. Also the open end observation type sleeper on the Barnes show was sent to Peru. In all about 6 cars came. This accounts for the Barnes-Sells-Floto equipment at Peru in period 1938-44.
The Ringling baggage stock cars with horses were also sent to Peru in early season 1938 after the new tractors were received at Philadelphia. In 1939 the Big Show eliminated all baggage stock so the stock at Peru was sold and the cars stored in the North Peru yards.
Beginning in 1938 several wagons, cages, and other vehicles were sent from Peru to Sarasota. The four Terrell-Jacobs cages, which were the typical two and three den type that had been on Hagenbeck-Wallace in 1937, were sent to join RBBB in 1938. In the 1940-42 period the Two Jesters steam calliope, Harp & Jesters air calliope, and bell wagon returned to Sarasota. Later the Five Graces and Lion and Snake wagons were shipped there.
Following the Cole Bros. fire at their quarters in nearby Rochester, Indiana, in Feb., 1940, a Mt. Vernon built flat car loaded with the old John Robinson hippo den, an old Sells-Floto sea lion den, and the two Barnes-Sells Floto canvas wagons were sold to that show and shipped from Peru.
In the early 40's Terrell Jacobs got a Sells-Floto cage (now at the Baraboo museum) and some other equipment from the Peru quarters. Back in 1935 the old Hagenbeck-Wallace steam calliope, the Carl Hagenbeck Elk and Buffalo tableau, and the ex Pawnee Bill-Mighty Haag India or Jardiner tableau were dismantled and the sides placed in the Miami County Museum in Peru.
The 1939 Billboard reported that a large number of old rail cars stored at the North Peru rail shops were cut into scrap. A few former stock cars were sold to the Conklin Shows in Canada during the late 30's but there still is confusion as to whether they came from Peru or from the H-W property which ended up in California. The late Bill Woodcock was of the opinion some of the Conklin cars did come from Peru.
The first of several great wagon burnings took place at Peru in 1923 in which many old and non usable wagons were destroyed. The big destruction of wagons which remains so vividly in the minds of circus wagon lovers and still creates a feeling of sadness in many took place at Peru in November, 1941, after the decision was made to finally close out the quarters and put them up for sale.
Various accounts have been given about these burnings as well as conflicting reports on the number of wagons involved. Let's put it this way. Observe the wagon inventory of 1939 printed here. With exception of the wagons going to Cole Bros. and those brought to Sarasota all of the rest were burned. Also the report has been given that farmers, circus fans, and others attempted in vain to acquire some of the wagons but were refused by the management. Whether or not this is true I don't know. Chalmer Condon put in a good word pleading that the bandwagons and tableaux be saved. Fortunately some were, but others were put to the torch.
By early 1944 practically all of the vast amount of circus property stored at Peru was gone. The North Peru Rail Shops had been dismantled and the area cleared some years earlier. A fire about 1940 destroyed a car shed consuming the Barnes-Sells Floto sleeper No. 39 and 4 Hagenbeck-Wallace coaches. The Ringling management had found a buyer for the quarters in 1944 and proceeded rapidly to remove the few remaining wagons. Chalmer Condon braved a cold and biting rain on April 8, 1944, to visit the rail yards in Peru to photograph the loading and shipment to Sarasota of the last 5 wagons, all that remained of the hundreds of circus vehicles that once rolled through the streets of Peru. Two regular railway system flats were used. On the first car went an Al G. Barnes-Sells Floto baggage wagon with part of the body now cut away to extent I have been unable to fully identify it but think it one of the light department wagons. With front wheels and gears missing and with the front end tied up to the Barnes wagon in front came next the Gladiator and Lion Tableau wagon. Behind it was the Carl Hagenbeck Lion Tableau. On the second flat car was the old Sells-Floto Elephant Bandwagon and No. 110, Barnes-Sells Floto light plant. Fortunately today all of these wagons with exception of the first listed are safely housed in the Ringling Circus Museum in Sarasota. The two cars were shifted into place and were picked up by a regular freight to begin their final journey to Sarasota. The new owner, a Mr. Schramm, formerly of the New York Stock Exchange, took possession of the old quarters and farms, and thus ended the long tradition of B. E. Wallace, American Circus Corporation, and Ringling circus activity in Peru.
My thanks go to Dick Conover for his special help in preparing the above article.
Official inventory from Ringling-Barnum files in Sarasota, Fla., from Collection of Ringling Circus Museum, Sarasota
Show Name, Number, Type Wagon, Condition
HW, 4, cage, fair
HW, 5, cage, fair
HW, 6, cage, poor
HW, 9, cage (seal), fair
HW, 10, cage, fair
HW, 11, cage, bad
HW, 12, cage, fair
HW, 14, hippo den, fair
HW, 19, cage, fair
HW, 26, cage, fair
HW, 30, cage, fair
HW, 31, baggage, poor
HW, 31, cage, fair
HW, 32, cage, fair
HW, 32, boiler wagon, bad
HW, 34, giraffe wagon, fair
HW, 34, Frigidaire, junk
HW, 37, tableau, fair
HW, 38, elephant tableau, fair
HW, 40, baggage, fair
HW, 42, baggage, fair
HW, 42, S. S. canvas, fair
HW, 44, steam calliope, good
HW, 46, concessions, good
HW, 48, ticket, poor
HW, 52, red ticket, bad
HW, 52, boiler, poor
HW, 53, baggage, bad
HW, 53, baggage, fair
HW, 54, cookhouse tank, bad
HW, 54, cookhouse tank, bad
HW, 55, commissary, fair
HW, 59, cage, fair
HW, 60, light wagon, poor
HW, 61, light wagon, fair
HW, 62, light wagon, fair
HW, 62, light wagon, good
HW, 67, tableau, good
HW, 68, baggage, fair
HW, 69, canvas, bad
HW, 69, baggage, poor
HW, 71, baggage, poor
HW, 76, baggage, bad
HW, 77, plank, fair
HW, 78, dog wagon, good
HW, 79, baggage, fair
HW, 81, canvas, fair
HW, 82, canvas, fair
HW, 82, baggage, bad
HW, 83, baggage, fair
HW, 84, stringer, fair
HW, 85, baggage, bad
HW, 89, baggage, poor
HW, 89, baggage, fair
HW, 90, baggage, fair
HW, 93, stringer, fair
HW, 94, baggage, poor
HW, 98, stake driver, good
HW, 99, stake driver, good
HW, 100, air calliope, bad
HW, 101, air calliope, good
HW, 102, tableau, fair
HW, 103, bell wagon, good
HW, 104, band wagon, fair
HW, 104, stringer, poor
HW, 105, stringer, fair
HW, 108, baggage, bad
HW, 109, baggage, poor
HW, No number, jack, bad
HW, No number, baggage, bad
HWFS, 62, light, poor
HWFS, 67, baggage, good
HWFS, 68, menagerie canvas, fair
HWFS, 77, baggage, good
HWFS, 80, ring curb, fair
HWFS, 86, baggage, fair
HATS, 90, baggage, poor
HWFS, 96, baggage, fair
JR, 1, ticket, bad
JR, 14, baggage, bad
JR, 15, baggage, poor
JR, 17, cookhouse tank, poor
JR, 72, baggage, poor
JR, 94, baggage, poor
SF, 25, hipp den, fair
SF, 25, hipp den, bad
SF, 26, jack, poor
SF, 42, cookhouse, fair
SF, 50, baggage, fair
SF, 51, cookhouse tank, poor
SF, 52, baggage, bad
SF, 64, baggage, poor
SF, 70, baggage, poor
SF, 71, light, bad
SF, 71, lights, bad
SF, 73, baggage, bad
SF, 74, baggage, poor
SF, 81, baggage, poor
SF, 82, baggage, poor
SF, 82, baggage, poor
SF, 83, baggage, poor
SF, 83, jack, poor
SF, 85, baggage, fair
SF, 86, baggage, poor
SF, 90, baggage, poor
SF, 91, dog wagon, bad
SF, 92, pole, fair
SF, 100, baggage, poor
SF, 89, baggage, fair
SF, 101, seal wagon, bad
SF, 104, stringer, poor
SF, 105, stringer, poor
SF, 106, baggage, fair
SF, 106, canvas, fair
SF, 108, cookhouse, fair
SF, 109, baggage, poor
SF, 111, baggage, bad
SF, 112, baggage, fair
SF, 115, baggage, fair
SF, 116, stringer, fair
SF, 119, stringer, poor
Barnes, 2, light plant, poor
Barnes, A, cookhouse, good
Barnes, B, plank wagon, good
Barnes, C, cookhouse, good
Barnes, 11, cookhouse, good
Barnes, 39, jacks, good
Barnes, 40, jack, good
Barnes, 45, canvas, good
Barnes, 81, stringer, good
Barnes, 82, canvas, good
Barnes, 83, chairs, good
Barnes, 84, canvas, good
Barnes, 92, stringer, good
Barnes, 100, plank, good
Barnes, 102, chair, good
Barnes, 110, light plant, good
HW, 4-horse chariot, good
HW, 4-horse chariot, fair
HW, 4-horse chariot, bad
HW, 1-horse stake gilly, fair
SF, 1 tandem horse cart, fair
JR, 1 sacred ox cart, fair
Trucks and Tractors
Barnes, 1 Dodge Truck, Eng No. T30-1029, Serial 8072655, 1 ton, Model-Yr. Built ITMD-21, Note: Title has been changed to Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, Inc.
R.B.B.B., 1 Dodge Truck, Eng. No. 1711606, Serial 8229641, 11/2 ton, Model -Yr. Built KH 30 35
Animals and Horses
1 male camel, HW
1 female camel, HW
2 ringstock mares, RBBB
1 jumping horse "Ace High", RBBB
Animals on Lease at Lafayette, Ind., Zoo
1 male camel "Denver", HW
1 female camel "Virginia", HW
1 baby camel (female) born April 25, 1939, RBBB
(1) 3 zebras (geldings), HW
(2 zebras died January 19, 1940)
6 flat cars:
1 big top - 170' round top with three 50' middle pieces, Barnes
8 12 pole pieces side wall for big top, Barnes
5 pieces seat curtain, Barnes
1 side show top - 1-60' round top with 1-30' middle piece - no good, Barnes
2 extra 40' middle pieces for 70' top, Barnes
200 feet runaround, Barnes
1 cookhouse tent with side wall, Barnes
2 tarpaulins for wagons, Barnes
1 hand truck, Howes
1 electric light frame, large, HW
1 old air calliope, JR
1 small ladder (swinging), HW
1 sack hula grass, JR
In the early nineteen forties Terrell Jacobs acquired a tract of land on route 31, seven miles south of Peru, Indiana. Jacobs had been featured with his big act on the Ringling Barnum show in 1949. This was probably the largest number of wild animals ever presented in an arena at one time in recent history. The following year Terrell and Dolly Jacobs operated the "African Jungle Camp" at the Golden Gate Exposition, San Francisco, California.
Following the closing of the San Francisco World's Fair, Jacobs purchased 13 acres south of Peru and brought his assortment of animals and equipment back to the Indiana city. A rodeo circus was presented at the farm on April 13, 1941. Jacobs opened at the Greater Olympia Circus in Chicago on April 18, for the first of a long series of yearly engagements, for the Chicago Stadium Corporation.
In the spring of 1942 a gathering was held by the Circus Model Builders, at the Jacobs farm. By this time a large and modern animal barn had been constructed with indoor wild animal dens, connecting to an indoor training arena. The model builders viewed a number of newly painted wagons and cages that were to be a part of the Jacobs Circus with the Conklin Carnival in Canada during the 1942 season. Jacobs had a love for fancy wagons and was gathering during this period a number of cages and parade wagons. He had purchased the Cinderella pony float from the Cole show and carried it with the Conklin Shows that season. On April 5, 1942, a rodeo circus was held in connection with the CMB convention. An old Gentry Bros. cross cage was placed in front of the Bearss Hotel in Peru to advertise the show. An interesting water wagon was flashed with Terrell Jacobs Wild Animal Circus in circus style lettering, as were each of the other wagons.
Following the 1942 season the unit was returned to Peru for the winter. In 1943 the same basic unit was with the World of Mirth Carnival in the United States. Jacobs appeared with the Gilbert Bros. truck circus in the east for a few weeks. His units were pulled overland on short hauls and by system rail flats most of the time. Following the closing of that show he joined the carnival.
During the winter of 1943-1944 Jacobs decided to take his own show on the road moving by trucks. With much fanfare the Terrell Jacobs Wild Animal Circus opened in Peru on June 9 and 10, 1944. Art Mix, brother of Tom Mix, was also featured with the show that was presented arena style in a portion of the old Col. Tim McCoy Wild West Show blue and white canopy. Other equipment came from the James M. Cole circus. The show closed shortly after it opened.
Jacobs worked indoor Shrine dates in 1944 and 1945. He was with Arthur Bros. and Austin Bros. in 1945. Dolly Jacobs had the three elephants with the Bailey Bros. Circus, opening with them in April of 1945. Mrs. Jacobs had filed divorce action against Terrell during the summer of 1944 following the closing of their ill-fated circus. They were divorced in July of 1945 and further court action was necessary for division of their circus and real estate properties.
The legal aspects of the case were resolved when Arthur M. Wirtz, principal owner of the Chicago Stadium Corporation, purchased the circus property valued at $20,000 and the winter quarters consisting of 13 acres and various buildings. The sale was made early in August of 1945. Wirtz had formed the Barnes Bros. Menagerie, Inc., and the Jacobs properties were sold to this corporation. Wirtz then transferred the three elephants and some other equipment to Dolly Jacobs, according to an article in the August 9, 1945, issue of the Peru Daily Tribune. Wirtz retained the remainder of the purchase and contracted Jacobs to work the act.
Wirtz announced later in August that the new owners were planning extensive improvements with the view of establishing a zoological garden. A local contractor began grading the land for additional buildings at once. It is presumed that the elephant barn was built at this time.
In October of 1945, Division One of the CHS, held a meeting at the quarters. Don Smith, reporting the meeting in the November 15, 1945, Bandwagon, stated that Terrell Jacobs, had advised him that the full holdings had not been sold to Wirtz, but that he and Wirtz had entered into a partnership.
The success of the CHS meeting lead officials of the organization to select Peru, Indiana, as the location for the first annual national convention. The dates were set for April 11 to 14, 1946.
Twenty-nine members attended the meeting and it was recorded as a great success. The group found the Jacobs equipment newly lettered "Barnes Bros. Circus-Terrell Jacobs Lions and Tigers." In addition to the equipment used by Jacobs on the carnival dates, he purchased the pony cages and wagons from the defunct V & H Circus. These had been built in 1942 by Verne Souls, in Harrison, Ohio, from materials salvaged from the 1929, Gentry Bros. Circus, which had been in storage at the old West Baden, Indiana, quarters. The Russia wagon was also at the farm, having been acquired from the Cole show. A couple of other small wagons formally on the L. W. Hoffman circus were there. Most of these wagons had been purchased by Jacobs in 1943
During the next few years the Chicago group kept the quarters humming in preparation for the annual Greater Olympia engagements in Chicago and Detroit.
In order to introduce the next part of our story we must move to another circus. Following the conclusion of the 1948 tour Zack Terrell sold the Cole Bros. Circus to the Hoosier Circus Corporation, headed by Jack Tavlin, for a reported $350,000. This group operated the circus during the 1949 season. They added a number of new wagons, including two that opened into a sideshow bannerline. They presented a strong show and for a short period of time featured movie actor Burt Lancaster as a special feature. The show opened in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 14, 1949, and closed October 16, in Miami, Florida. It went into winter quarters in Ojus, Florida. In January of 1950 a petition was filed in federal court asking that the Cole Bros. Circus, Inc. be declared bankrupt. On January 6 the circus property had been sold by Hoosier Circus Corp. of Indianapolis to the newly formed Otis Circus Corp. There was much speculation at the time that the undisclosed owners of Otis were the Chicago Stadium group. Wirtz emphatically denied he had or intended to buy the Cole show, however, on February 24, it was announced that Barnes Bros. Circus had been merged with the Otis Circus Corporation. The merger had been arranged by Arthur M. Wirtz, James D. Norris and William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd. Shortly thereafter a spokesman for the Cole show said it had not been decided whether to use the Peru quarters for the Cole show or not. It was announced that the Barnes equipment as well as the Cole equipment would both be brought to Chicago for an April 21, opening.
The show opened on April 21, in the Chicago Stadium, with great fanfare. The Barnes Bros. title was not used for the first time in years, at the traditional Chicago spring circus date. The show was billed as "Hopalong Cassidy," presented by Cole Bros. Circus. The Chicago newspaper ads mentioned the combining of the Great Barnes Bros. Circus with the Cole show making the "World's Greatest Show." The opening date ran through May 7. The menagerie tent was set up in the parking lot. The show continued to play other indoor dates moving the complete under canvas equipment on the show train from city to city. The Billboard of June 24, 1950, reported that 33,000 people witnessed the show in the Buffalo, N.Y., Civic Stadium on June 9 and 10 Pittsburgh followed on June 14 to 17. The show was blowing four to five days between stands. From Pittsburgh the show went to New York City for a date beginning June 21, in the Yankee Stadium. Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, followed on the 30th for five days.
During the New York stand, Jack Tavlin, identified as an executive of the show announced that a traditional under canvas tour would begin in Jersey City, N.J., on July 5. The show played Philadelphia July 17 to 22 finally closed at Bloomsburg, Pa., on August 5. Cassidy had left prior to the closing. It was taken to the St. Louis, Missouri, Arena; that was under lease at the time to Arthur H. Wirtz.
The Peru Tribune of October 9, announced that Peru had been selected as the winter quarters and that the show would be moved from St. Louis to Peru within a week. The elephants were appearing at the National Dairy Exposition, in Indianapolis and this was probably the cause for the move at the time. Rather than take the elephants back to St. Louis and then possibly move the whole show to Peru at a later date it was decided to make the move at that time.
The Cole train arrived from St. Louis on October 18, and was parked on the Pennsylvania spur at the Bunker Hill Naval Station, located about ten miles south of Peru, near the Barnes Bros. Terrell Jacobs farm.
The elephants and lead stock were watered at the base and then walked to the quarters. The quarters had been totally inactive since the spring of 1950 when the Jacobs equipment was taken to Chicago for the opening. The Jacobs animals and equipment had been in St. Louis with the rest of the show until the move.
Some of the wagons and cages were moved to the quarters at once, but a large portion of the show was placed in storage at the Naval Base. Bill Woodcock was with the show at the time. Photos show that the cookhouse was moved to the quarters and the dining tent was set up. It also appears that the big top was erected at the quarters.
Although officials of the show had not announced plans for the 1951 season, they began a $30,000 building program at the quarters. The elephant barn was augmented by the addition of a concrete block lean-to along one side and end. The horses were quartered there. On the second side of the long barn a 50 by 66 foot ring barn wing was added, as well as a second wing for kitchen, dormitory and heating facilities. No reason was given at that time as to why the rest of the equipment was not moved to the quarters from storage at the Base. The wagons were under cover at the Base.
After the first of January, 1951, an office was constructed between the wings of the elephant barn. The cats, as well as the other cage animals and the hippo had been moved to the original cat barn after the arrival from St. Louis. There were 36 people in quarters during the winter.
The show prepared for the spring opening at the Chicago Stadium on April 20. Three trucks were purchased. The semis gillied props and other equipment from Peru to Chicago. The elephant car and one flat were used. The only wagons brought to Chicago were the Jacobs cat cages and three addition cages for the menagerie. A horse tent was set up in the parking lot. Following the Chicago stand the show was returned to Peru.
On May 15, Frank Orman, Cole manager, announced that Terrell Jacobs had purchased his act back. This included 15 cats, three cage wagons, the arena and props. This along with other equipment already owned by Jacobs was used to frame a wild animal circus with the James E. Strates carnival.
The Cole show purchased additional trucks to haul the elephants and a small amount of additional building was completed during the summer of 1951. The bulls made a number of fair dates for Barnes Carruthers Agency. In the fall two possible buyers talked with the Cole owners, both of these, a Texas oil man, and Jack Mills, were unable to come to terms. Frank Orman moved into the house on the quarters.
Early in 1952, Bill Horstman, spokesman for Arthur M. Wirtz, announced in the Billboard, that the equipment and all animals not needed for the Stadium dates would be sold. Kelly-Morris Circus bought two elephants and the Mack trucks were sold to concerns outside show business. In March 29 rail cars were sold, leaving only the elephant car. The "America" steam calliope was sold to the Cleaver-Brooks Co. The Kelly Morris show later purchased the hippo and three cages, as well as the remaining lead stock. This left only 10 elephants at the quarters. The elephants, a liberty horse act and a pony drill were booked with the World of Mirth carnival, opening with the show late in May, using the Barnes Bros. title. The bannerline wagons from the Cole show were used on the carnival. The Chicago date closed on May 5, 1951, with the Cole title again used.
Following the closing of the Howes Famous Hippodrome circus some of the equipment, formally on Biller Bros. was brought to the Cole quarters in Peru in June of 1952. In September of 1952 the final big move was made at Peru when all of the wagons stored at the Naval Base were moved to the quarters. In the next year or so the elephant railroad car and ticket wagon were sold to Tony Diano, and the sideshow bannerline wagons went to King Bros. The elephants appeared with King for a period of time also.
The Cole Bros. circus title was used for the last time by the Stadium group in the spring of 1953. In 1955 the title was used by Floyd King in newspaper ads, as King Bros. and Cole Bros. Combined Circus.
During the 1955 period Paul Kelly was placed in charge of the Peru quarters and reportedly assumed ownership of the land, buildings and remaining Cole equipment and animals.
In 1956 the Circus Historical Society held its convention in Peru and met at quarters. Since the middle 1950's the property has been known as the Paul Kelly farm.
Following the close of the two King Bros. Circus units in 1956 some of the equipment was returned to the Kelly farm. One semi carried the Barney Bros. title, which had a short life after the King show closed. Paul Kelly has continued to book the elephants at indoor dates and with a shopping center show. At one time he operated some carnival rides at the farm south of Peru, but this did not prove successful.
To this date a number of the Cole Bros. Circus wagons remain on the property, some with the bits and pieces of show equipment still in them. Some of the wagons have been purchased by the Peru Circus City Festival and are used in the parade held during the festival. These have been lettered with the Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto and Cole Bros. titles.
In this year of 1964 the Paul Kelly farm is the location of the only active circus quarters that remain in the famous circus city.
The winterquarters of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Shows which were located about three miles south of Peru, Indiana, was in the very center of the Indiana flood district. The loss to the show is between $50,000 to $60,000 according to Mr. Ben Wallace.
The general conditions at Peru are very bad and many families are homeless, but all show folks escaped without serious injury. More than 75 circus men were marooned at the quarters. The water attained a height of from 15 to 20 feet. It was three days after flood stage before Mr. Wallace and Mr. Cory were able to reach the quarters. The heaviest loss to Mr. Wallace occurred in the destruction of many miles of fence and the flooding and destruction of buildings and homes on the farms and the drowning of cattle and homes and farm stock. The trains were partially submerged, the passenger coaches to within two feet of the roofs. Flat cars were totally covered. None of the wagons were lost. John Worden in charge of the elephants said they stampeded and swam to higher ground except the six which drowned. Cindy Dobbins in charge of the ring stock was at the farm. Mr. Wallace and Mr. Corey's homes in Peru were not damaged.
The Hagenbeck-Wallace show had been scheduled to open at St. Louis on April 12. Most of the performers were in St. Louis to report for rehearsal. R. M. Harvey, the general agent, was in New York City and Floyd King, press agent ahead of the show, had not reported. It was announced that the show would have its 1913 opening April 26 at Peru, Indiana. Doc Ogden, the side show manager, was at home in Cincinnati and will report at Peru, April 4.
This report of one of the great circus disasters in the many years of the circus in the United States has been condensed and re-written from The Billboard of April 5, 1913.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or means
Last modified February 2006.
without written permission of the author and the Circus Historical Society, Inc.
Last modified February 2006.