* Thank you for providing the information and leads in your reply on Madame Yucca. I’m writing a book on the Sells Brothers’ Circus, and I wanted to feature Madame Yucca in a collection of sidebars I’m writing on Sells Brothers’ performers. I’ve found the links that you shared invaluable (the strongwoman shown in Buckles Wookcock’s blog entry does resemble the strongwoman shown in Apps’s Ringlingville sidebar.
* If the Barnum & Bailey poster (object# ht2000123, Tibbals Collection), with illustrations of ‘Madam’ Yucca lifting a horse and performing other feats of strength, originated in 1892, that would’ve been the year following her marriage to William Kempf (1891). In 1893, the New York Times mentioned Madame’s search for her husband, a vaudeville minstrel, after he’d deserted her. Apparently, she didn’t finalize her divorce until August 1904, though, four months before she married John T. Welsh.
* As you mentioned, finding Madame’s real name is my next gargantuan task. A lengthy search on Ancestory.com for a marriage license, based on her husband’s name, has been unsuccessful, but I’m undaunted and haven’t exhausted the website’s records. Besides, I can still follow the other sources you suggested. Thanks, again. Michele Collins, Image Researcher, Ohio Historical Society
* Madam/Madame Yucca may have made ‘guest’ appearances with some shows, not traveling with them an entire season. That allowed her to engage in competitions, demonstrations, variety stage engagements and other activities away from the circus route. In a tertiary document I saw reference to a handbill promoting her as early as 1892. That is the same year she was with Barnum & Bailey, promoted by special lithographs. You can see an example of it at: http://emuseum.ringling.org/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/search$0040/0?t:state:flow=78d66f5a-09cf-4326-b109-8578da92ef8f
* This may have been her first major circus contract; the Barnum show was at the pinnacle of the circus world and would have sought out acts for their debut on the road.
* There is commentary newspaper coverage that connects Madame Yucca with the 1898 Forepaugh-Sells tour. The copyright date on the Forepaugh-Sells poster is 1898, readable per the TIF file online from the Library of Congress. Forepaugh-Sells was then a partnership between James A. Bailey, who owned the Barnum show, and two of the Sells brothers, and others.
* Reference place her with: the Wm. H. Gillmeyer’s Show in 1900; Welsh Bros. and Walter L. Main in 1901; Welsh in 1904; Sautelle-Welsh in 1905; and Welsh in 1909 [New York Clipper abstracts at: https://circushistory.wpengine.com/Clipper/Clipper1900s.htm
* In 1913 she was with the Wyoming Bill Wild West, which was likely a Welsh operation. [online newspaper reference]. An online newspaper ad places her on Welsh in mid-August 1915, augmenting your dates from Billboard of 1901 and 1911. There is an actual photograph of Madame Yucca doing a heavy animal lift, a horse, on Welsh Bros. in the CWM collections. I believe that it is the original of a titled print that is on this website: http://www.fscclub.com/history/iron-e.shtml There may also be a photo of her lifting a small elephant.
* CWM has a photo of her on Ringling, or at least thought to be Ringling, in the ladies dressing top, perhaps c1902. It has been published as Katie Sandwina, but Jan Todd, University of Texas-Austin, the authority in such matters, thinks it is indeed Madame Yucca. You can see it on page 43 of Jerry Apps, ‘Ringlingville,’ and also elsewhere.
* Buckles Woodcock’s blog published (June 1, 2012) a photo identified as the Walter L. Main circus sideshow in 1890. http://bucklesw.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-06-09T05:54:00-04:00&max-results=100&reverse-paginate=true The identification is a bit suspect since the banner beside it is for the ‘Streets of India,’ which suggests a street fair or carnival operation. A lady on the bally platform was identified as Yugao (sp?), but she may have been the actual Yucca, or an imitator.
* Yucca’s obituary was published in the New York Clipper, November 21, 1917, page 35 (viewable online). Oakland, CA was her birth place. She passed 53 years later at her Philadelphia home on November 11, 1917. She was interred at Norwood Cemetery, Philadelphia. On December 12, 1904 she was married to John T. Welsh, which explains her frequent appearances with that show. It also places her with Barnum & Bailey, but no date is given. There is brief mention of her pre-circus activities and her title-winning actions. There’s a slight mention of the couple’s non-circus life in Billboard, October 26, 1907, pages 22-23 [Google Books].
* Much, much more can be learned about her life and career by searching all of the usual biographical and genealogical resources, digitized newspapers and show trade journals, circus advertising and ephemera (programs, route books) and more. Be certain to search under variations in Madam/Madame. A fundamental question will be: what was her real given name? It may be revealed in her marriage certificate. I have not heard that her personal papers survive nor have I seen any published biography, but there may be one in journals devoted to physical culture. Fred Dahlinger Jr., Curator of Circus History, ‘The Ringling,’ John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
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