Project Description

Cornelia and Her Jewels

The first photo shows the Barnes tableau commonly called by wagon fans, “Cornelia and Her Jewels.” This term had been tacked on about 1946 more or less for identification purposes. Just who first used that name isn’t exactly known. Perhaps the central carved figure is Cornelia. Anyway, that’s as good a name for identification as any. This wagon was built by Louis Berg in winter of 1920-21 at the Culver City quarters using Bode carvings and is perhaps the most attractive tableau wagon ever to appear on the Barnes show. It shows the professional touch of a master wagon builder and looks like one of the fine ones turned out by Bode, Moeller, and others in years gone by. (1)

(Al. G. Barnes Circus, carrying the Side Show Band in parade, Minona, Minn. June 17, 1924 – Walker Morris photo)

It was used on the Barnes show from 1921 through the 1924 season as the sideshow bandwagon. The final regular parade was given by the Al G. Barnes Circus July 14, 1924, of Denver, Colorado. After the 1924 season, it is assumed this wagon was stored at winter quarters and then went to the studio rental service and hence to Jimmy Woods.

(1946 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 15 – photo # 47A – Cornelia and her Jewels air calliope – in Peoria, IL.)

In 1946 Frank Meyers of Peoria, Ill. got the carvings that had come off the long before dismantled wagon and were now strewn about the Woods lot in Venice and took them to Peoria to put on a wonderfully built little air calliope wagon he had constructed. For years the origin of the carvings Meyers had picked up in Venice remained a mystery to wagon historians, We knew they must have come from an old Barnes wagon because they had come from the Woods lot which at that time stored the remaining parade wagons of the show, but no one seemed to be able to recall such a wagon bearing the Cornelia carvings, nor could anyone find a photo of such a wagon. In 1955 Walker Morris, an old Barnes musician, who had been on the show in 1924 came up with a couple of photos of the original wagon and hence the mystery was solved. So far as it is known, the little air calliope that Meyers built is still in Peoria.

(1) excerpts from the Circus Wagon History files, Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Jul-Aug), 1959, pp. 3-4
(2) Fielding Band Chariots by Richard Conover, pp. 32-34.