Project Description

Cole Bros. Circus # 21 Cookhouse Boiler wagon

In 1938, a small wagon 12’6″ long was built to carry the cookhouse boiler wagon for the Cole Bros. Circus’ second unit, they called the Robbins Bros. Circus. This wagon was numbered # 21. This short wagon would serve the Cole Bros. Circus through the 1944 season.

(Oct. 14, 1937 in Galveston, TX. – Wm. H. B. Jones photo)

A new steel framed wagon was built to carry the steamer boiler for the 1945 season, but this one would be much longer. It was large enough to have three steam kettles inside the wagon. This wagon was used until the show closed in 1951. In 1946, the wagon was painted red with white lettering.

(1946 – Oswego, MI. – Don Smith photo)

In 1948, the wagon was painted red with white lettering. In 1949, this wagon, along with the rest of the show, was painted in a readily available orange color with blue lettering.

(August 23, 1948 in Radford, VA. – Joe Bradbury Photo)

When the Cole Bros. Circus ceased operations during the 1951 season, this wagon and many others were brought to the former Terrell Jacobs Farm west of Peru, near the Grissom Air Force Base. In the early 1950s, Arthur Wirtz sold the property and the remains of the Cole Bros. Circus including all of the elephants and animals to Paul Kelly. Paul Kelly was no stranger to the circus business as his father was a circus man as well.

(1935 – Bob Good photo)

Paul and his wife Dorothy built a circus career for themselves by performing the elephants for 20 plus years. They had a cage act worked by various people including Jules Jacot, Dick Kelly and Julius Voh Uhl. Circus people stayed for the winter with all of this Cole Bros. Circus equipment on the property. Slowly, items were sold or rotted apart.

(1983 – Bob Cline Photo)

In 1996, an auction was held at the Kelly Farm. This wagon did not sell. It still remains at the Kelly farm, in front of the elephant barn that has now collapsed.

(July 21, 2017 – Bob Cline photo)