From a biographical sketch of Edward Gallaway (born 1869 in Delphos, OH, died 1930 in Chicago, IL) it says:
“Following this editorial adventure, Gallaway embarked upon a circus career. For three summers he travelled as the “Orator” for various small circuses; his field of action was the front of the tent where his oratorical powers reached a high state of perfection.”
The time frame of his circus career would be somewhere 1895-1899. Before that time he worked in Fort Payne, AL. He spent most of his life in Illinois, Ohio and Indiana. I am wondering if it is possible to find out which circuses Edward Gallaway was the orator for? Among others, he may have worked under the names: (Peter) Edward Gallaway, S.W. Erdnase, E.S. Andrews, Bustin Homes.
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Mr. Galloway spoke the enticing language out front of the side show tent, as part of the ‘bally’, which convinced local gawkers to part with some of their money and buy a ticket for admittance. It was a fee separate and apart from the ticket that provided entrance to the menagerie [zoo] and big top [ring performance]. Though many have termed them ‘barkers’, a term suited to “man’s best friend”, the more correct period terms for the job are; talker, orator, lecturer and blower. There are fine line differences, changing between shows, across time, and between circuses, carnivals and amusement parks, where one or more of the job terms might not mean the outside person, but the personality inside the tent who made a discourse about the special personalities who were seen inside. People sometimes talked inside and out, blurring the placement differentiation.
By all means, also start your search with basic Google searches for the names, aliases and variants thereon.
A modicum of employment data survives for circus employment in the late 19th century. Mostly it’s for larger railroad shows, not more modest operations. The best prospects for finding something about Gallaway’s employer are to use key word searching for the names, aliases and variants thereon, in issues of the New York Clipper. It has been digitized and is available free online at Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. There are also Clipper issues at the online Fulton History and perhaps elsewhere. Each has a different search engine and OCR service and may yield complementing results, so check both. In your Clipper searches, you might also search for mention of the geographic locations with which your subject was associated. The local newspapers in those communities may have reported on him at one time or another. Locals often looked down upon showmen, but enlightened folks realized that they simply led lives that caused them to be on tour, as travelers.
Another search tool would be the name finding aids at the Circus World Museum library. They include rosters from route books and elsewhere. Contact Pete Shrake at the facility and ask him for assistance.
Small circuses likely means overland troupes, moving by horse and wagon, through the hinterlands, though it might mean a modest railroad show of from one to five cars. Mention of Gallaway in the Jay Marshall collection compilation as the possible binder of the Erdnase books makes sense. It would not be unusual for a talker to present acts of his own in the side show, magic, playing cards and the like. As a possible consumer of ‘how to’ books and such it may have connected Gallaway to that realm of activity.
Fred Dahlinger Jr., Curator of Circus History, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
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