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Circus Historical Society Convention 2004, Nyack, New York

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Dedicated to the memory of David G. Mullaney, circus worker, carny, performer and collector. The convention was held in one of America's finest historic towns. Nyack is situated on the banks of the Hudson River. Todd Robbins

The convention circus was the colossal Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. The circus was playing a ten day run at the Marine Park, Brooklyn.

We spent a historic day at Coney Island. A visit to the new Coney Island Museum in the former Child's Restaurant building and lunch at Nathan's Famous! Participants enjoyed performances at Sideshow By The Seashore. At least one person had a chance to ride the famous Cyclone. Todd Robbins escorted us on a walking tour of the most famous play land in America.

2004 was the centennial of the beginning of the Golden Age of Coney Island. 1904 was the first season that all three of the great amusement parks: Steeplechase(1897-1964), Luna Park (1903-1947) and Dreamland (1904 -1911) were all in operation. Coney was the site of the great publicity battles between Bostock and Hagenbeck and from where the "Wallace Fighting Lion" act became a standard on American circuses. These few acres generated more showmen than the whole country.

Sideshow by the Seashore

On Sunday, some attendees visited the Somers Historical Society, housed at the Elephant Hotel at Somers, New York, recognized as "the Cradle of the American Circus."

Papers and Presentations

Stephanie Monseu "New York City Circus, Side Show and Burlesque Scene," Stephanie Monseu, Bindlestiff Family Circus. Performer, artist, and co-founder of the Bindlestiff Family Variety Arts, Inc. (Photo right)

"Ringling on the Road," color slide presentation, Robert Sabia.

"First Circus Lot Shot? Dan Rice's Show Photographed in Jamestown, NY 1864," David Carlyon.

"From Diamond to Big Tommy, Memorable Males," Ken Kawata (elephants).

"You May Be Sure There Were Others," Robert Sabia, a look at the post-war Ringling circuses.

"A Long Career in a 'Fun' Business," Bob Commerford, dean of petting zoo showmen, his life with animals and showfolks.

Banquet speaker was Todd Robbins, America's funniest and most talented performance artist, postmodern master of the side show, chairman of the board of Coney Island USA. Todd has appeared in under canvas side shows, numerous night clubs, television and film appearances, and more recently his 2003 -2004 off Broadway hit, Carnival Knowledge at the Soho Playhouse. Carnival Knowledge opens in Milwaukee in August 2004.

"1897 Tour of the Little Known Price and James Pony, Vaudeville and Pantomime Show," John Polascek.

Terry Ariano "Beasts and Ballyhoo, the Menagerie Men of Somers," Terry Ariano, Curator of the Somers Historical Society. The birthplace of the American menagerie business reflected in the holdings of the historical society and the view from the Elephant Hotel. (Photo left)

"Whistles and Walkabouts. Where Have They Gone? The Changing Roles of Ringmasters and Clowns," Robert Sugarman. Author of Circus for Everyone: Circus Learning Around the World. "Who Was Buffalo Bill?," John Thiele.

"The Noblest Roman of Them All," Stuart Thayer, circus historian and author of the early American Circus par excellence.

"From Rags to Ricketts. The Roots of Circus in Early Gotham," Bill Slout, author and circus historian. The Earliest New York City Circuses.

"Ringling Barnum 1953. A Pictorial History," Steve Gossard & Rick Purdue. Outstanding multi-media presentation.


The convention was not only about hearing great paper presentations, visiting Coney Island, the Cole Bros. Circus and an great day and evening with Todd Robbins - It was also time for great fellowship with friends that share the same passion for the circus. Like Christmas, it only comes once a year!

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Last modified 2004