In reading the April 6, 1878 edition of the Newtown [PA] Enterprise I came across a reference to John O’Brien’s circus horses passing through the town. They were on the way from O’Brien’s farm in Brownsburg [a small hamlet along the Delaware River – south of New Hope] to Frankford. The notice indicated that his show will start on the 13th. I am looking for additional information about the circus.
I am also looking for information regarding John V. O’Brien, specifically a biography. Family information (not documented) indicates that my grandfather, William H. Reese, was an elephant trainer while John O’Brien was associated with Adam Forepaugh. William Reese supposedly married the daughter of John O’Brien which produced a daughter, my grandmother. Any help with this is appreciated.
John V. “Pogey” O’Brien was born in Frankford. His circus career started in 1861. By 1874 he was associated with P. T. Barnum, an association that ended after the 1875 season. In 1878 he had Campbell’s Great 25 cent Circus and was almost bankrupt at the end of the season. He lost this show at the end of the 1879 season. He went on to put out small shows with low admission and fancy titles. On July 22, 1884 process servers were on the lot and the “parade that went out never came back,” ending up at the Frankford, PA quarters. When he died on September 7, 1889 he had an interest in Lowande’s Brazilian Circus. His career was tarnished by a reputation as a dishonest manager. He died of asthma, in poverty, at his residence in Philadelphia. Just some of the information in Slout’s Olympians, pp. 225-226. Thayer and Slout have information on him in Grand Entree, pp. 162-163. Slout’s Royal Coupling has information on O’Brien and Barnum 1874-75, pp. 113-131. You might find information on O’Brien in circus history books that deal with Barnum 1874-75. The books mentioned here are listed on the CHS publications page.
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