Project Description

Adam Forepaugh Steam Calliope

(Bob Cline collection)

(1)  As early as 1880, a calliope is known to have existed on the Adam Forepaugh Circus. The earliest definite date for the calliope this history deals with is 1887. This unit remained on the Forepaugh Show until its final season in 1894.

During the winter of 1894-1895 Fred R. Castle bought the Forepaugh Calliope. Mr. Castle had appeared on the O’Connor Circus in 1870, the Sells Bros. Circus in 1878. and the Forepaugh Show in the early and middle years of the 1880’s. He was a noted leaper and did a double somersault over 14 elephants while on the Forepaugh Show.

(1896 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 69 – photo # 19A – Adam Forepaugh’s former steamer on Leon Washburn show)

Castle rented his twenty whistle machine to circuses, carnivals, wild west shows, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin shows during the years 1895-1911. In 1895 he rented it to the Stetson Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company owned by Leon W. Washburn. In 1896 it appeared on the Leon W. Washburn Circus. It is not known to this writer what shows Castle rented his calliope to for the years 1897, 1898, and 1899. but it can be conjectured that the Washburn Circus or the Stetson Show was using it.

In 1900 and 1901 it was rented to the Campbell Bros. Circus. Nineteen hundred and two found the calliope on the Buckskin Bill Wild West Show. In 1903 Castle rented it to the Cole Younger and Frank James Wild West Show. It is not known to whom Castle rented his calliope to for the 1904 tour, but there is an excellent possibility it was on either the Parker Carnival or the Buckskin Bill Wild West Show.

In 1905 Castle was assistant manager of the Hulburd Wild West Show. This was a newly formed show using the equipment of the 1904 Buckskin Bill Wild West Show. Since Castle always traveled with the show his calliope appeared on; it can be assumed that the calliope was on the Hulburd Show in 1905. Castle and his calliope may have appeared on the Cosmopolitan Carnival in the latter part of the 1905 season.

(1906 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 69 – photo # 6A – Oct. 20, 1906 – former Adam Forepaugh steam calliope after fire in Kansas City – T.A. White collection)

In 1906 the calliope appeared on the Cosmopolitan Carnival. The calliope was badly burned in a fire at Kansas City, Kansas on October 20 of that year. This Kansas City fire was one of the worst fires in carnival history. Over $400,000 worth of damage was reported. The calliope was repaired and put on tour again after the Kansas City fire. It may have been on the Cosmopolitan Carnival after 1907, but nothing has come to light to prove this.

A haze falls over the calliope’s history for the years 1907, 1908, 1909. and 1910. It is, as already stated, known that the calliope at one time appeared on the Parker Carnival and on the Buckskin Ben Wild West Show. This 1907 through 1910 period seems to be the only time when it could have been on these shows. If it was on the Buckskin Ben Show during this period it would have been 1908 or after. (2) The Calliope was then found on the Miller and Arlington’s 101 Ranch Wild West show in 1909.

The last show Castle and his calliope appeared on was the Herbert A. Kline Carnival in 1911. Castle became ill soon after the 1911 tour and after two years of lingering illness he passed away on December 29, 1913, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. So ended the life of Fred R. Castle, but what happened to the historic Forepaugh Calliope? The only answer I have to this can be found in the January 10, 1914 issue of the Billboard. This issue, which contained Castle’s obituary, told how his house was destroyed by fire on December 26, 1913. If Castle still had the calliope at the time of this fire, it may have been destroyed in it. The Billboard article also mentioned that Castle was planning to take out a small wild west show for the 1914 season.

(1) Bandwagon, Vol. 9, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1965, pp. 14-15

(2) Bandwagon, Vol. 13, No. 6 ( Nov-Dec. ) 1060, page 16.