Project Description

Gollmar Bros. Four Mirror Tableau

The Gollmar Bros. Circus based out of Baraboo, Wisconsin were cousins to the Ringling Bros. and the Moeller Wagon Co. owners. By 1903, the Gollmar Bros. had moved to the Railroad era of their career. Wanting to really dazzle the crowds with their daily street parade, they added a couple ornate wagons to their holdings. This wagon started out with an order to the Moeller Bros. Wagon Company for the basic frame and running gear. Ben Gollmar then took over the construction of the wagon by building the body, designing the layout of the sides and the carvings that would adorn the wagon.

(1907 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 19 – photo # 15C – Gollmar Bros. Band – Dr. Fred E. Tryon 4th from right)

The earliest photo that I know of is from 1907. It shows the wagon as originally configured with the two larger mirrors on the ends and the smaller mirrors in the center. The wagon remained in this configuration at  least through 1913 when this next photo was taken.

(1913 – Conover Set # 296 – photo # 37 – Kenneth Whipple Collection)

The wagon served as a Band wagon on the Gollmar Bros. Circus in the daily street parade carrying a 15 member band from 1903 through 1916. The show was sold in 1917 to carnival owner, James Patterson. He still toured the circus no known as the Patterson-Gollmar Bros. Circus. The exact time that this wagon underwent a major change is not known but approximately the time that James Patterson got this wagon, the mirrors were re-arranged with the larger ones going to the center and the smaller ones to the outside. A new curved piece was added to the top with more carvings wile new carvings were created to adorn the upper corners of each side.

(1917 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 19 – photo # 29A – Patterson-Gollmar Bros. Circus)

Now taking on the appearance that everyone is familiar with, the wagon remained in the possession of James Patterson through 1922. It is presumed that it was used on his small circus or carnival operations from 1918 to 1921. A photograph was printed in Hunter’s Magazine in 1958 that dated the photo as 1922 on the Patterson Shows. In 1923 to 1925, the wagon was on the Gentry-Patterson Circus. By 1926, the wagon had been sold this time to Floyd and Howard King. Their Gentry Bros. Circus toured on 10 railroad cars. The wagon remained there for the 1927 season. In 1928, another of the Floyd and Howard King shows was titles the Walter L. Main Circus where this wagon was found. This was also a 10 car show. Their show then became the Cole Bros. World Toured Shows for 1929 and 1930.

(1930 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 6 – photo # 49D – Cole Bros. World Toured Shows, April 11, 1930 in Douglas, AZ)

( 1 ) The King shows were re-possessed by National Printing and Lithograph Co. The equipment was offered for sale and moved to the Venice Transport Co facilities where it remained until bought by George Christy in May of 1936. The wagon was never used by George Christy. It sat at his South Houston, Texas winter quarters from 1936 to 1946. He sold it to Sutcliffe and Case, a Druggist Association, who restored it completely.

(1946 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 15 – photo # 48D – in Peoria, IL.)

They used it on occasions in local parades. (2) In 1957, the Pabst Brewing Company bought the wagon and donated it to the newly formed Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The Museum opened two years later to the public.

(Circus World Museum Postcard)

Having been repainted by the Circus World Museum staff, they kept the skyboard in place that was on it when the wagon was obtained in 1957 and lettered it as the Gollmar Bros. Circus. Years later, the Circus World Museum would take a long and hard look at historical photos. The Skyboard was changed along with the mudboard.

(Richard Cline photo)

The wagon is 16’8″ long x 8′ wide x 11’2″ tall. It weighs 6,020 pounds.

( 1 ) Bandwagon, March / April 1979

(2) The Colossal Book of Magnificient Circus wagons, page 24

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