This needs must be a story of two men who trouped with the circuses in the early days; the story of Father and Son. The father was known as "Professor Chas. White - The Lion King," who worked for P. T. Barnum in the early museums later to be so well known to everyone which were operated by the Famous Showman. Mr. White, Sr., acted as boss animal man for Barnum when the latter went out "under canvas" for the first time in 1872.
Chas. H. White of Fredonia, Kansas, the Son-started to work for his Father with the Barnum show in the same year (1872) at the age of fourteen. Young White took care of his father's den of two performing lions, black leopard and spotted leopard, and the act remained with Barnum during the seasons of 1872 and 73.
The following year C. H. White was with Barnum's Big Hippodrome Show. They took only the elephants, camels and put the greater number of the animals in the Central Park, N. Y. They had ten small cages in the side show, and made only four stands after New York City, namely, Boston, Philadelphia, Allagania City (across from Pittsburg) and Baltimore, and then went back to the old Madison Square Garden and showed there all Winter with two plays entitled "Jack the Giant Killer" and "Bluebeard."
In the Spring of 1875 the act of White, Sr., together with 20 cages of animals, the largest elephants and two camels went to Detroit where they were joined with the show called The Warner, Springer and Henderson Circzolodion! Animals were rented to them. In the Fall the Whites went back to Bridgeport, Conn., quarters. In 1876 the show was called the Barnum & Geo. F. Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. C. H. White was with that show-along with his father until 1878. The last year mentioned, the former rode in the street parade in a den with four 4-year-old Asiatic Lions.
Later that Fall Mr. White, Jr., left the circus and went railroading, first as news butcher on the Erie R.R.; then spent ten years on the Penn. Lines and become Conductor and then to the Burlington Route as Engineer for 33 years and was retired in 1920.
It is also mentioned by Mr. White that his father, two sisters, his step mother were all with the Barnum & Bailey Shows. In later years his step mother was Wardrobe Mistress for 35 years. His sister rode in races and in menage acts. His brother-in-law was boss prop. man.
. . . Chas. White, Jr., and who by the way is now "85 years young" and still enjoys a circus about as good as anything in life . . ."
During the 24 years I toured the United States and Canada with nine different shows, I was with three separate circus organizations using the name ROBINSON, one of the out-standing names in circus history. If there should be any other person who was connected with the three shows mentioned here I would like to hear from them.
The entire season of 1911 I was with the John Robinson 10 Big Shows, John G. Robinson, General Manager. I recall the wording used in newspaper advertising at that time, - The Pioneers And Perpetuators Of Tented Amusement Institutions - Three Generations Of Successful Circus Kings - The Oldest Largest And Wealthiest Show In The Universe - Organized 1824. The season opened April 17 at the Armory in Cincinnati, a week stand to very good business. The circus exhibited in 16 states that year and after a successful tour closed November 16 in New Albany, Mississippi. That was the last year the show was on the road under the management and ownership of the Robinson family. In March 1916 the show was sold to Jerry Mugivan and he put out a 28-car show that year with the title, John Robinson Circus. The wording - 10 Big Shows" was never used by Mugivan and to my knowledge none of the cars which were the old wooden type, wagons, or other equipment was ever used.
The entire season of 1914 I was with the Robinson Famous Shows, a 20-car circus, Mugivan and Bowers owners. Bert Bowers was General Manager. This show had wintered at Montgomery, Alabama, and season opened there April 15. The tour included 10 weeks in Canada, 60 towns and cities being played through the Provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The show was up as for as the Northern limits of the railroad in Ontario. After a very pleasant season for everyone the seasons tour which was satisfactory ended November 4 at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The season of 1917 I was with Mugivan and Bowers John Robinson Circus. Show had wintered at Americus, Georgia, and season opened in Macon, in April. This was the largest show Mugivan and Bowers ever had on the road, between 40 and 45 cars including the Advance. Show had three rings, two stages and a strong performance closing with the regular hippodrome and 4-horse chariot race. Account of war conditions that year there were late arrivals in some towns and frequently the street parade had to be called off. There was a shortage of working men also from mid-summer on, however the show remained on the road the full season. After 1917 the show was cut down in size to a 30-car show and remained the some under the Mugivan and Bowers ownership. In September, 1929, the John Robinson Show and the four other shows of the American Circus Corporation become the property of John Ringling and at the close of the 1930 season the Robinson show was retired for good.
The years I was with these shows was the period of the street parades when the lavishly carved and brilliant goldleaf wagons, some with ornamental statues and mirrors rumbled along behind the 4-6 and up to 10 or 12-horse teams of sleek dapple grays or beautiful Percheons amid the sounds of clattering hoofs and clanking chains. They brought Pageantry to America's Main Street from Bangor to Frisco, then rumbled back to the circus lots in sunshine wind or rain and sometimes in a snow flurry. Those elegant wagons in their gilt and glamor and those gaily colored sun-burst wheels have turned the last mile. Just a pleasant memory today.
I caught FOREPAUGH CIRCUS, in the early - '80's, and was delighted with items entitled "YANKEE-FARMER." So when I established my own CIRCUS - I always carried one, or more, 'Rubes'. Harry Clark wore a yellow-wig, CIVIL WAR overcoat, and cowhide-boots. He drove a hollow-backed' mare, hitched to a 2-wheel sulky. In Coshocton O. in 1892 - he 'interfered' with PARADE; one policeman hooked mare to a post, and, another placed Harry in jail. I was overseeing the Parade - riding a 5-gaited horse - and saw the entire performance. Harry called to me: "Walt, they're putting me in-the-cooler; send a fixer down, to get me out!" But in the excitement it slipped-my-mind; and, the mender didn't relieve Harry, until time for Matinee. 1893, and for several seasons MAIN CIRCUS had 2 of the greatest 'Rubes' of ALL times: Harry Hodge, and Harry Green! - Walter L. Main. Hobby Bandwagon, Vol. 4-5, No. 12-1 (Jan-Feb), 1950, p. 3.
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Last modified November 2005.
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Last modified November 2005.