Project Description

Elk and Buffalo Tableau

This wagon was commonly called the Elk & Buffalo Tableau wagon. It was built by the Bode Wagon Works of Cincinnati for the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show, and it is my firm belief this one was built in the winter of 1904-05 and was on the show for its first season of 1905. Whereas the motif for the other two Carl Hagenbeck wagons we have discussed was Oriental, this one was most definitely of the North American West. The carvings feature an Indian’s head in center circle and elk and American bison on either side. On the top scroll are the words “Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show Co.” Perhaps this wagon too was referred to by same name as C. Lee Williams called the other two wagons, the India Tableau wagons, but if so I have never heard it. Fans usually call it the Elk & Buffalo Tab just for identification purposes. The wagon as you can see was not very long, just about 14 feet, and had outside type sunburst wheels and on the show was used for a properties wagon, and in parade was used as a tableau with costumed performers usually riding it along the route of march.

(1906 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 9 – photo # 56C – Carl Hagenbeck show)

The wagon remained on the Hagenbeck show for the 1905 and 1906 seasons, and then of course it went to the combined Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus of 1907 and succeeding seasons. I feel certain this one remained on the show longer than did either of the two India wagons, and have every reason to believe it was there through the 1925 season, which was the last one for street parades.

(1923 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 65 – photo # 35B – Elk and Buffalo Tab, circa 1923 – Melvin collection)

It possibly may have been carried on the show a few years after 1925 for baggage wagon purposes but I have never seen any photos of it during those years. There are several photos floating around showing it resting in the wagon graveyard at Peru in late 20’s and early 30’s. Certainly it was in no shape to make parades and be placed on Hagenbeck-Wallace in 1934 as was so many of the old parade wagons.

(1932 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 18 – photo # 44E – Peru WQ – old Haag tab from early 1900’s and Sells-Floto-Buffalo Bill wagon – hay barn in rear)

In one photo dated 1933 the Elk & Buffalo wagon stands with a bunch of old cages and the deterioration is quite evident. Part of the carving was missing. In 1935 the wagon was dismantled but the sides with the carvings were kept intact and removed to the Miami County Museum in Peru, Ind., along with the sides of the old Hagenbeck-Wallace steam calliope and another wagon called the India or Jardiner wagon.

(1936 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 18 – photo # 44F – July 1936 in Peru winter quarters – large hay barn and large wagon barn)

Some nice art work was done on the wagon panels prior to their being put in the museum, and when I visited there in 1950 they still looked very good. One side is with the rest of the museum properties on the top floor of the courthouse in Peru, and the other side, which even though some of the carvings are missing is still most attractive, is located on the wall of the library annex, a few blocks away.

(2013 – The Elk and Buffalo Carvings as seen in the Miami Co. Museum in Peru, In. – Bob Cline photo)

(1) Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Mar-Apr), 1958, pp. 5-6

By Joseph Bradbury