Project Description

Columbia Bandwagon

While the Ringling Bros. ordered five new wagons for their show from the Bode Wagon Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio to compete with the return of the Barnum & Bailey Circus from its five year tour of Europe, they also had the Columbia Bandwagon built by Bode for their second unit they called the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus. The wagon remained on the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus through the 1907 season. The Ringling’s decided to take this show off of the road for the 1908 season. Having bought the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907 from the James A. Bailey widow, this wagon was sent over to the Barnum & Bailey Circus where it remained until 1918.

With the newly combined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus created in 1919, this wagon was used on the newly formed show again in 1919 and 1920. The wagon was then left in the Bridgeport winter quarters as surplus equipment. It was sold to George Christy in 1927 for his Christy Bros. Circus.

(1927 – Conover Set # 93 – photo # 5)

George Christy used this wagon on his show from 1927 to 1930. From 1931 to 1934, it was stored in the South Houston, Texas winter quarters. This wagon was sold along with many others to Jess Adkins and Zach Terrell who were building their all new Cole Bros. Circus. It went out in 1935 as wagon # 62. Gordon Potter’s loading list at Benton Harbor, Michigan on August 12, 1935, noted the Columbia as a white ticket wagon about 21 feet long. (1)

(1935 – Conover Set # 468 – photo # 4505)

While this bandwagon was used on the Cole Bros. Circus in the daily street parades, by 1939, they didn’t need it anymore. It remained in the Rochester, winter quarters. Apparently, during this downtime and before the 1940 season started, a door was cut into the driver’s side of the wagon. Also to be noted was the change in the carvings on the back end of the wagon sides. Gone were the arch and the column tops. The newly added plaque carving at the rear was calling for Grand Stand Tickets.

(1940 – Conover Set # 473B – photo # 4838)

The 1941 season also began a series of changes that would last for years in the paint schemes of the wagon. While the wagon body remained white, the carvings took on various colors.

(1941 -Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library.)

1942 saw more carvings being painted different colors. The 1942 season also found a change of wheels to this Bandwagon / Ticket Wagon. Not only were these different wheels but the rear axle had now been moved forward.

(1942 – Conover Set # 98 – photo # 408 – Wm. Koford photo)

1942 saw more carvings being painted different colors. The 1942 season also found a change of wheels to this Bandwagon / Ticket Wagon. Not only were these different wheels but the rear axle had now been moved forward.

(1946 -Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library.)

(1947 -Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library.)

(1948 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 26 – photo # 42C)

(1949 -Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library.)

By 1950, the Columbia bandwagon had been painted over one more time. Seen on the lot with just a base coat, the ticket wagon end also had a new canopy over the customer’s head added to the wagon. Once the Cole show closed, this wagon with the rest of the equipment was taken to the Arthur Wirtz farm outside of Peru, Indiana. This was the former Terrell Jacobs farm and would soon be sold to Paul Kelly.

(1950 – Conover Set # 59 – photo # 3406)

In 1952, William Brinley of Meridian, CT, bought the Columbia Bandwagon from the Cole Bros. Circus. In 1954, Circus World Museum founder, John M. Kelley, bought the Columbia Bandwagon from Mr. Brinley. This became the first wagon in the collection at Circus World Museum. (2)

(early 1960s at Circus World Museum – Bennett Studios slide sold in the Gift shop)

Once the Craftsman in the Circus World Museum workshops got started refurbishing this wagon, the back axle was moved to the original location, the sunburst wheels were put on it again and carvings were all painted with a fine gold paint.

(Circus World Museum Postcard)

The records at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin indicate this wagon is 21 ft. 10inches long, 8feet, 4 inches wide and 12 feet 7inches tall when the skyboard is upright.

The wagon can be seen in person at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin

(1) Bandwagon, Vol. 9, No. 5 ( Sept-Oct ) 1965, pp. 4-5
(2) Bandwagon, March / April 1983, page 33.