Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: The American Circus 1910-1927 As Seen by F. W. Glasier

Wild, Weird, and Wonderful: The American Circus 1910-1927 As Seen by F. W. Glasier

by Mark Sloan, Timothy Tegge
     
 

Here, in both glory and grit, is the American circus during the most vibrant period in its history. These photographs, not seen for almost a century, show it all, from the pre-performance parades and tent raisings to the magical events under the "Big Top" and the train leaving town. We see performers hanging by their teeth and hanging out the laundry, and much in… See more details below

Overview

Here, in both glory and grit, is the American circus during the most vibrant period in its history. These photographs, not seen for almost a century, show it all, from the pre-performance parades and tent raisings to the magical events under the "Big Top" and the train leaving town. We see performers hanging by their teeth and hanging out the laundry, and much in between. These truly remarkable images capture both the intensity of the routines and the spirit of camaraderie of the performers. Glasier's work was unique in many ways, not the least of which was the off-hand elegance he allowed his subjects, even the wonderful animals. This was the era of the big tents, and in these beautiful prints they appear as seductive, gossamer backdrops to the performers. Mark Sloan's discovery of Glasier's work is a true gift to circus lovers and all of us who care about our past. 75 duotone images.

Author Biography: Mark Sloan is the Director of the Halsey Gallery at the College of Charleston and the author of Hoaxes, Humbugs, and Spectacles, Dear Mr. Ripley, and Self-Made Worlds.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Dispensing entirely with circus clich s, Sloan (Hoaxes, Humbugs, and Spectacles) presents the photographs of Glasier (1865-1950), a commercial photographer in Brockton, Mass., who shot promotional photos of the various circuses that repeatedly came through town over the years. His photos, printed fully rather than as they were cropped for ads, reveal a subculture presenting itself unapologetically (even defiantly)-and fascinatingly. Sloan writes: "As a sustained document of circus life at this time, there is no known equivalent": "The Illeson Sisters, Acrobats" finds two child performers perched on large balls, hoisting the smallest (in a near perfect split) between them, with their prideful looks questioning the assumption of total exploitation; in "Sparks Circus, 1923," a clown, via barely perceptible wires, tows a skeleton behind him that seems to float as it mimics his movements; a group shot of a circus wedding party (the ceremony itself often "held in the center ring in front of the spectators during intermission") shows the participants extolling a solemnity-within-spectacle that also displays their intelligence and deliberate self-fashioning. An introduction by essayist Timothy Tegge ("born and raised performing as a clown in his family's one-ring circus," the press chat notes) vividly traces circus history back to Rome. Anyone interested in American cultural history will find that these 62 b&w photos reveal a great deal about how performers-often from a great diversity of backgrounds-comport themselves toward their art. (Mar. 1)
Library Journal - Library Journal
These two collections abundantly testify to the circus's multiple functions as art, culture, and lifestyle, as a working zoo or a window on human deformity. F.W. Glasier's images, collected by photo curator Sloan (Hoaxes, Humbugs, and Spectacles) and not seen since they were shot in the early 20th century, are profoundly sad. Glasier was a commercial photographer in Brockton, MA, who stayed there while circuses passed before his camera for over 20 years. He posed its employees and animals or simply let his camera gather the bigger view of it all. Glasier's circus makes its members look like an accidental family, living on the road, with a poignant pride in their work and world. Timothy Noel Tegge, who grew up in a family-owned circus, offers the introductory text, an appreciation of Glasier's contribution to circus lore in the early 1900s. Kelty's previously uncollected photographs cover a later period, the 1920s through the 1940s. He was a New York City-based banquet photographer who toured the country with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus and others. Kelty's most popular image was his annual "Congress of Freaks" shot, which served as the class picture of the Ringling Brothers sideshow of exotic people. These records of adults surviving extreme birth defects strive for objectivity and dignity-Diane Arbus behind a bigger camera in an earlier day. An essayist who also worked briefly in the circus himself, Edward Hoagland adds to work done by Barth and Siegel (One Man's Eye) that moves through Kelty's photographs to the role of the circus in society. The circus is dark at its center, wrapped in faux bravado and fun-an idea confirmed by both these books. Recommended where there is interest in the circus.-David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., CT Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780971454842
Publisher:
Quantuck Lane Press
Publication date:
11/14/2002
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
10.28(w) x 11.34(h) x 0.71(d)

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