Project Description

Four Arch Seal Den

A series of cages were built in the West Baden, Indiana winter quarters and then continued in the Peru, Indiana winter quarters under the direction of William “Cap” Curtis over a course of about 6 years. The notable characteristic of these cages was arched openings and furniture style mass produced carvings. Only one cage was ever made with four arched openings. it was used as a seal den.

The earliest known photo of this wagon is found in 1928 on the Sells-Floto Circus. The wagon was equipped with a water tank that covered most of the center of the wagon. It was carrying the wagon number 32. It also had a scalloped skyboard that would match the last few cages built for the John Robinson Circus.

(1929 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 10 – 70E – Aug. 24, 1929 in Joplin, MO.- Arthur Toeves photo)

While still on the Sells-Floto Circus, another photograph taken two years later in 1931, shows the wagon number has been changed to number 27. The words “Trained Seals” had been taken off of the sides and replaced with more painted scrollwork. The vented sideboards had been replaced with 1/2 opening sideboards. The decorative painting on the water tank and what was generally termed a mudboard had all vanished in two years.

(1931 on Sells-Floto – Conover Set # 837, photo # 309)

The cage remained on the Sells-Floto Circus through the final season of 1932. When it was determined that the Sells-Floto Circus would not go out again, this wagon was picked up by the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. The wagon was still white in 1933 but was repainted for the 1934 season with what appears to be a red body.

(1934 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 47 , photo # 101B, bulls pushing 4 arch seal den into menagerie tent)

The wagon was again used on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1935. It remained red carrying the number 32 on it. Due to the Depression, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus did not go out in 1936. In 1937, the show was leased to Howard Bary. No photographic evidence has been found to indicate this wagon was used in 1937. The show was again leased in 1938, however we do know this wagon stayed in winter quarters. it remained in the Peru winter quarters until the massive wagon burning that occurred in November of 1941. This wagon perished that day.

(November 1941 – Conover Set # 932, photo # 9)