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My great uncle Emile Bouchard joined the Barnum Circus probably in the late 1800s when the circus was in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He became an elephant trainer known as King Cole and, according to my grandfather, toured worldwide. There’s a mention of a King Cole with the Cancie Brothers United Shows. If anyone has heard of this man I’d love to know more about him.Thank you.

Josephine Maguire, Drummondville, Quebec

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The successive Barnum, Barnum & London and Barnum & Bailey circus played engagements in Montreal on these dates before 1900:

1877 May 28-30 Barnum

1883 July 16-17 Barnum & London

1885 Sept 3-5 cancelled in favor of Ottawa

1887 Aug 31-Sept 1

1889 Aug 23-24 Barnum & Bailey

1895 July 22-23

I searched for references to J. Emile Bouchard and also King Cole, without success. There are no references to him in the weekly trade journal, New York Clipper, nor in the readily available route books of the circus. Employment records from before 1900 do not survive. I also tried a large newspaper archive, Fulton History, which had many references to a hockey player named Emile Bouchard, but nothing relevant. Searching for “King Cole” is problematical because of the nursery rhyme, Nat King Cole and so on, all in great abundance.

Most elephant trainers in North America are pretty well known. I do not recall seeing the names Emile Bouchard or King Cole mentioned; but there’s always the possibility he worked behind the scenes, or with a known trainer, as an assistant. Perhaps he was known by another nickname on the circus, before he attained some standing and reputation?

I found only a brief reference to “King Cole”: Cancie Brothers’ United Shows signed the agreement with the Alliance. Their advance department will employ about fifteen billposters, divided in two brigades. Frank E. Tracy will be general agent, Mike Shone, press agent, and John E. Garvey, special agent. In the side show will be featured King Cole, the Great Hall, Gavin, physical culture; Margie, transparent girl; Braggs, singing monkey; Madam Cameron’s den of reptiles, and others. For the big show is the Les Troupe Zaritski, eight lady and gentlemen acrobats, including Little Alexis. Billboard, March 30, 1907, p. 32. You can read other entries about the Cancie show here: https://circushistory.wpengine.com/History/BriefC.htm simply scroll down to them.

Two listings for the Cancie circus, for 1907 and 1911, can be found on this website at: https://circushistory.wpengine.com/History/BriefC.htm. Simply scroll down to the name Cancie. The same 1907 information is in Variety, February 2, 1907. The Cancie Bros. are illustrated on page 29 of Billboard, October 19, 1907, viewable on Google Books. Cancie Bros. Union Shows, 490 Reservoir Avenue, Providence, RI, is in the winter quarters list in New York Clipper, March 20, 1909, 138. There is a listing of Cancie & Murray Shows, a 1910 traveling carnival, in the show listings in Joe McKennon’s book Pictorial History of the American Circus. Variety, March 7, 1914, lists Cancie Bros. Shows as wintering in Latrobe, PA. Such lists were often not updated frequently and need to be verified by other means.

Fred Dahlinger Jr., Curator of Circus History, The Ringling, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL

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