Circus

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Becoming Centaur

Becoming Centaur

Eighteenth-Century Masculinity and English Horsemanship
edition:Hardcover
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Cirque Global

Cirque Global

Quebec's Expanding Circus Boundaries
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
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Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo

Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo

Sideshow Freaks, Jabbers and Blade Box Queens
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

Many sideshow operators also ran the concert (or after–show) privilege and tried to hire "specialties" — musical, acrobatic and dance acts suitable for both shows. Magicians were ideal as they could do stage magic, Punch and Judy, and ventriloquism in the sideshow and acts of illusions or mentalism in the concert. Since magicians were good talkers, lecturers and pitchmen, many became early sideshow owners or managers. Coupled with a female companion presenting a large snake, assisting in an illusion, reading palms or appearing as the "Circassian Beauty," the magician could put on the whole show. The addition of a midget, a fat person or a giant upgraded the enterprise into a big–time display. Waxed, stuffed and mummified freaks extended the displays while providing additional Subjects for outside banners. A wax two–headed baby required no lodging or salary and was easily packed away for transport. People were fascinated with snakes and they were easy to transport too. A small cage containing wolves, cats, dogs, birds and monkeys billed as the "Happy Family" could be seen on most early sideshows.

 

By the early 1870s, the physical layout of the modern tent circus was developing into its characteristic 20th–century look. The lining up of the sideshow, menagerie and big–top tents in a straight line replaced the multitude of scattered small tents. A photo from the period shows the 1872 P. T. Barnum’s Circus sideshow housed in a small one–pole round tent fronted by a bannerline of eight banners of various sizes. Sideshowmen still preferred hiring acts with their own paintings, ensuring a mixture of styles and colors on sideshow bannerlines into the 1880s.

In spring 1873, the Clipper issued its first circus supplement, listing 22 touring shows. Most carried a sideshow, a museum or both. Joel E. Warner’s circus trouped a free menagerie of 12 cages, plus an extra–charge museum tent that included more exotic beasts — three camels, one elephant and an English mastiff. The sideshow featured skeleton man John Battersby, fat lady Hannah Battersby, "Aztec Children," an "Egyptian Mummy," Punch and Judy and an "Educated Pig." Barnum’s World’s Fair boasted a regular performance tent plus a cookhouse and four sideshows, while the Great Eastern Men agerie’s sideshow offered a Punch–and–Judy show, magician Professor Collier, two cages of animals, an "Albino Boy" and a "Four–Footed Four–Legged Child."

J. W. Orr was an ambitious outside show – man. His attractions at the 1873 Van Amburgh & Co. Circus included a museum tent of inanimate objects, a tent sheltering the paleontological exhibit of life–sized animals long passed from earth and another holding a wax works and a gymnastic display, while views of European cities and principal American seaports were offered inside the cosmorama tent. Another pavillion held Capt. John Grimley’s Australian Bird Show while Orr’s Monstrosity Show featured the eight–foot–six giant Terrance Keough and his eight–foot–two sister Margaret. Other oddities included 673–pound fat lady Adelaide Hopwitt and Ella Bray, a child wonder who weighed 114 pounds at age 14 months. Dwarves included 19–year–old Willie Grant and 23–year–old Eva Henshaw, each just over two feet tall. Arthur Barnes, the "Living Skeleton," stood five–three but weighed only 34 pounds. Armless Lillie Deveneux, two "Circassian Beauties," Mungo Park ("the Spotted Boy"), bearded child Essay Blake, a "What Is It?" from Patagonia, a boy and girl aged 11 and 14 from Madagascar and an African "Earth Woman" rounded out the exhibit.

The Museum of Living Curiosities connected to L. B. Lent’s Leviathan Universal Living Exposition, Metropolitan Museum, Mastodon Menagerie, Hemispheric Hippozoonomadon, Cosmographic Caravan, Eques – curriculum and Great New York Circus featured a dwarf, a bearded lady, "Circassian Beauties," a "Living Skeleton," a "White Moor" and glassblowers. Lent’s April 1873 Clipper ad trumpeted 60 carloads of curiosities and marvels, boasting, "All living wonders and attractions. No Wax works, no stuffed animals, no fictitious names, no ventriloquist frauds, no corpses, and NO HUMBUG!" The sideshows appearing with larger circuses began featuring more living human curiosities. The short, fat, tall, skinny and deformed became the Monstrosity Show’s big draws.

 

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Seeing Is Believing

Seeing Is Believing

America's Side Shows
edition:Paperback
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