Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo: Sideshow Freaks, Jabbers and Blade Box Queens

Overview


Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo lifts the curtain on carnivals in America. Here is the history of the North American side show at circuses and carnivals, along with the stories of freaks and other side show acts in other venues such as dime museums, store front shows, in vaudeville, on movie theatre stages — and even at touring whale shows. This follow-up to Seeing is Believing (ECW, 2002) tells the story of the carnival in words and pictures. The book follows the development of the circus side show with interviews...
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Overview


Circus and Carnival Ballyhoo lifts the curtain on carnivals in America. Here is the history of the North American side show at circuses and carnivals, along with the stories of freaks and other side show acts in other venues such as dime museums, store front shows, in vaudeville, on movie theatre stages — and even at touring whale shows. This follow-up to Seeing is Believing (ECW, 2002) tells the story of the carnival in words and pictures. The book follows the development of the circus side show with interviews and stories from side show workers that explain the role of freaks, working acts, managers, and talkers — and explores how important grift was to circuses and how it became located inside the side show. From circus transportation to highlights of the construction of the big top, to Lentini the three-legged man, Siamese twins, and the folks with an extra body growing right out of them, Stencell gives us an incredible and very real perspective on the circus in words and photos.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A former circus owner chronicles the colourful history of sideshows. Full of photos from the author’s private collection and evocative slang such as ‘grifters’ and ‘lot lice,’ the book links exhibitions of freaks and curiosities past to today’s Body Worlds science shows and reality TV contests involving the ingestion of bugs."  —Globe and Mail

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781550228809
  • Publisher: ECW Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2010
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 560,600
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


A. W. Stencell owned and operated his own circus for 19 years and is a former president of the Circus Historical Society. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
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Read an 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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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 9, 2012

    highly recommended

    it is one of the best side show books out there and it has a lot of info. in it. A big variety of pictures.

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