Circus Posters. I have two big circus posters that each say “Hobart’s Big United Circus Acts. Price Valley County Fair, Ord, NE. Sept 16-17-18.” At the bottom they say “Copyright 1906. American Show Print, Milwaukee.” One shows acrobats and one shows all kinds of performing animals. I’m trying to find out if these are reproduction or original posters, and if there was even a circus by this name. There is an Ord, Nebraska, but it’s in Valley County (there is no Price Valley County). Does anyone have any information on these posters? Let me know if you need more information. Thanks.
I have not seen this particular artwork with other show titles on it, but the Riverside Litho Company in Milwaukee did a number of posters, all the same artwork for a number of circuse titles in the 1920s and 1930s on 1890 lithographs. These stock posters were around for a long time and were finally used up.The same is true of Donaldson, the Enquirer, and Erie, they did special request posters, but many times you ordered a stock number, and the same artwork has five different show titles on it. Many times they sent out samples with ficticious names on the posters just to show you what they could do. The same was true for printed forms, etc. The B.F. Harrison Printing Company of Elyria, Ohio in 1900 sent out a envelope containing a “great number of samples of contracts for the use of theatrical managers” They printed on the back of the form Sample of Call Form No. 10 to be put in pads, with changes desired in name of company and manager, 200 cost $1.50. They were priced accordingly and they also had the same form stock form with name of company and manager omitted, 200 for $1.00. Ted Bowman told me when he was ordering posters for the Carson & Barnes Circus from Enquirer that they would order some to test what could be seen to the best advantage. The poster company had the stock on hand and they simply overprinted the title of the show, but for some it was in red, yellow, green, black, etc. This way they could judge what looked best at a distance. In some cases I have six or seven different circus titles, in different colors of the same stock Enquirer artwork. The items are called stock because when you lithograph or print a four color item you print as much as you think you can safely store. Then when an order comes in you pull the stock paper from the shelf and simply overprint in one of two colors on the open space the title of the show. In this way you can add the show title in the white space, or in the case of the poster you have, along the top and fill it in with the show title. Many of the catalogues of the period show the stock artwork available and you ordered what you needed based on the reference number that was given. There may be five clown posters available but to be sure that you will get the one you want – you need to order by the stock number. The same is true today, at the Graphic 2000 printing office in Las Vegas they print up a number of posters as a stock design with room for a show title somewhere. They also print up posters that can be run through a press and all they need to add it the name of the show, it is the best way to handle a request. The problem is that a circus will call a week before a date and say we need this poster with a clown, an elephant, etc., and what the printing office does is add the show title and ship it out. Most shows cannot wait weeks until a particular piece of artwork goes back on a press, the same is true today as it was 100 years ago.
This is another response to John Polacsek. Thanks for the additional information. I have two more questions though. You mentioned that this is “stock artwork.” I’m curious about how you know it’s stock artwork? Have you seen it on on other posters bearing different circus names? Also, do you have any idea of the value of such posters, if in fact they are original lithographs? Thanks again for your enlightening information.
This poster (on eBay) looks to be a one sheet printed sample from the show print house, but that is not a real circus title. Most shows would not order a piece with their name and the date on the same line, even though this is stock artwork, a show would not waste the space for a date, they would put it on a date tail. The artwork looks original, but I cannot tell from the ebay picture.
This is a response to John Polacsek. Thanks for your reply. I have two posters and both are approx. 41.5 inches wide x 27 inches tall. To see what one looks like, you can look on Ebay (there is a poster like one of mine listed, but the auction ends early this evening – Ebay item #3717769132 or you can find it by searching “Hobart’s” on Ebay). The show title and dates are printed across the tops of the posters and are not attached by a date tail. Thanks for all your information. I wonder if what I have are, in fact, print samples? I wasn’t sure if these were original lithographs or reproductions that were done in the 1970’s or so. I bought the posters at an estate sale in approximately 1981 and have only seen 2 like them since – the one on Ebay and one hanging in a restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska that has long since gone out of business. Any further insights you might have would be appreciated.
So what size is your poster? My 1/2 sheet by the American Show Print is copyright 1907, Milwaukee, and is 21 x 28, and I am aware that the company produced other sizes. The second question I have – was the show title and date printed on the poster or was it attached on a separate piece of paper? Usually a date tail was 9 by 21 inches for a 1/2 sheet, or corresponding to the size of the poster. The date tail was pasted and added to the bottom of the poster. If the date and place was printed on the poster these are normally samples that were sent out to prospective customers. lf the date tail is added to the poster it is most likely a date for a show, as the circus would purchase stock posters and add the date of the performance. However I cannot verify the Hobart Big United Circus Acts as a circus, it may be a group of acts that did a fair date. As I find no route for a circus with this title, it could have been a group of acts that played a fair circuit and not a regular travelling show. Also just because the poster was copyrighted in 1906 the artwork was used for a number of years and you may be looking at a ten year span of time.
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