(Howe’s Dragon float as seen on the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1888 – Steve Flint collection)
The year 1871 marks the introduction of the first float of which we definitely have pictures, but only because the earliest surviving photo was made fully fifteen years later. Howes Great London Circus, the second Howes show framed with European Parade equipment, opened that year. Included in the imported parade wagons were the big Elephant and Globe Tableaus (ref: THE TELESCOPING TABLEAUS, pages 4, 5, and 6) and the pony tableau which I have labeled the Howes Dragon (photo no. 1). The very excellent lithographs and other advertising matter used by that show definitely fix this association. This float was sold with the Howes Show to James A. Bailey, et al, late in 1878 and remained with the Bailey-controlled shows until they were sold to the Ringlings. In this interval, it was integral with the large group on Barnum & London, later Barnum & Bailey. The Ringlings retained this particular vehicle after they sold off most of their parade equipment and used it in some of the Ringling-Barnum specs through 1937.
(As seen on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1932 – note the wings are now gone – Steve Flint collection)
(As seen on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1935 – Steve Flint collection)
Nothing is known of this float after the 1937 season on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
(1) “Those Diminutive Tableaus, the Allegorical Pony-Drawn Parade Floats” – Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 1960, pp. 3-9
By Richard Conover