Project Description

Yankee Robinson Steam Calliope

Although it is not known definitely to this writer just when and where this particular wagon originated, it is believed to have first appeared on Fred Buchannan’s, “Yankee Robinson 3 Ring Wild Animal Circus” about 1917. The earliest photo I have of the wagon puts in on the Yank show in 1917. The wagon was probably built for the show to replace an earlier calliope the show had. Yankee Robinson traveled on 24 cars in 1917. The train consisted of 1 advance, 6 stocks, 11 flats, and 6 coaches.

(1918 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 59 – photo # 102B – Yankee Robinson Steam Calliope – Melvin collection)

In 1918 and 1919 it was cut down to 1 advance, 5 stocks, 9 flats, and 5 coaches, making a total of 20 cars. For the 1920 and final season under the Buchanan ownership the show was enlarged to 25 cars, the train now rolling on 1 advance, 6 stocks, 12 flats, and 6 coaches.During the fall of 1920 the show was sold to Jerry Mugivan and Bert Bowers and at the end of the season was delivered to the Hall Farm in Lancaster, Mo. Mugivan and Bowers also sent their 15 car Howes Great London Show following the 1920 season to winter in Lancaster.

During the winter of 1920-21 the best equipment of both shows was put into a 25 car show under title of Howes Great London Circus and Van Amburg’s Trained Wild Animals to tour the 1921 season. C. D. Odom was manager and Bert Rutherford general agent. The Yankee Robinson steam calliope being larger and more attractive than the 1920 Howes Great London wagon went into the new 1921 Howe show.

During the winter of 1921-22 the calliope was remodeled. A slight rearrangement of carvings took place and the old outside type sunburst wheels were replaced by the newer inside type. A change of title also took place for the 1922 season. The show went out on some number of cars and physical equipment but was now called Gollmar Bros. Circus.

(1923-1924 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 9 – photo # 87E – old Yankee Robinson Calliope – P.M. McClintock collection)

During the winter of 1922-23 Mugivan and Bowers who had operated four circuses in 1922, Hagenbeck-Wallace, Sells-Floto, John Robinson and Gollmar Bros., cut down the number to three that would tour in 1923. The best equipment of the John Robinson and Gollmar Bros. shows went into a single show that went out in 1923 under the John Robinson title. This steam calliope went on the train and remained on the show throughout the 1923 and 1924 seasons bringing up the rear in the traditional street parade.For 1925 season all Mugivan and Bowers units went out intending not to parade and the steam calliopes were left in winter quarters, but after about a month the management felt the parade was necessary to stimulate business, so the calliopes were sent to rejoin their respective shows. Other parade wagons had been carried just in case the shows did decide to resume the parade. This calliope rejoined the John Robinson Circus for the remainder of the 1925 season.

This wagon now becomes “lost” following the 1925 season. No doubt it was stored in Peru, Ind. quarters but I am unable to positively state what finally happened to it. It vanished as did the huge No. 1 Band wagon that came with it from the Yankee Robinson show. (See May 1957 issue of Bandwagon for history of this wagon.) It is generally believed by wagon historians though, that a fire that destroyed one of the John Robinson winter quarter barns in 1926 or another fire in quarters the winter of 1929-30 consumed both of these wagons. The wagons were gone from Peru before the first of the great wagon burnings about 1938.

(1) Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 5 (Sep-Oct), 1958, pp. 4-6.

By Joseph Bradbury