Project Description

Bluebeard Float


(1) By far the easiest to trace, is the story of the seven that were built for Barnum & London in the middle 1880’s. These seven, together with the older Howes Dragon, made a total of eight for that show. The first two of the seven, Santa Claus and The Old Woman in the Shoe, were made in 1883 as evidenced by the special lithographs that were made up for each of them. Between 1886 and 1888, the set was completed with the addition of Mother Goose, Bluebeard, Sinbad the Sailor, Cinderella, and Red Riding Hood. The special two-sheet lithograph, circa 1889  indicated that there were two others – Sleeping Beauty and Robinson Crusoe. However, none of the considerable news coverage about this set that would be contemporary with the lithograph, including a special route book issued for the 1889 winter season in London, ever mentions other than the eight. This, together with the entire absence of photographs of the Beauty and Crusoe, has led me to conclude that these two were never built.

The eight stayed with the show until the second European trip of 1898-1902 when three were left behind. This fact con be ascertained from the inventory of equipment compiled on the occasion of the sale of the show by Mr. Bailey to Barnum & Bailey, Ltd. (ref: my 1957 pamphlet, THE AFFAIRS OF JAMES A. BAILEY, pages 5 and 16). This inventory listed five pony floats as a group, and it was necessary to examine the European parade pictures to determine that these were Cinderella, Mother Goose, Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, and the Howes Dragon.

(1903 – Conover Set # 703 – photo # BB16)

This photograph is believed to be a part of the large set of correlative pictures taken in Bridgeport about 1903, soon after the show returned from its five-year European tour. One other photo has been found that is undated but is obviously after 1903 as the wheels have been changed to 12 spoke wheels on the Woman in the Shoe and the Red Riding Hood Floats.

(This is an undocumented negative in the Conover photographic collection)

Other than this last photo, all traces of this float disappear.

(1) Excerpts from “Those Diminutive Tableaus, the Allegorical Pony-Drawn Parade Floats” – Bandwagon: Vol. 4, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 1960, pp. 3-9

By Richard Conover