War Circus (2016-17)

Other Research Projects:

WAR CIRCUS RESOURCES:

War Circus book, published 2017.

A small team of researchers from Circus Central lead by CEO Helen Averley explored what happened to international circus during WW1. The focus of the research has been on tracing individual circus artists and their circuses, and animal through the period of the Great War.

See this article for a project overview and research methods. The Project was supported by Heritage Lottery Fund – WW1 Centenery Programme,  culminating in a 160 page book.

The research was inspired by the discovery of a book by Grock, a famous Swiss clown. More than 3 years later it has culminated in a book which will be available in PDF on this site, as well as in hard copy version in libraries and archives. Contributors include family members of circus artists, researchers, North East emerging artists, as well as forward from Prof. Ron Beadle of Northumbria University. Most of the information has been gathered from public archives including: National Fairground and Circus Archives, T&W Archives, National Archives ( British Newspapers), The World’s Fair newspaper, from published biographies and autobiographies.

 

WAR CIRCUS PINTEREST BOARD:

 

 

WAR CIRCUS LISTS:

WAR CIRCUS: A-Z LIST CIRCUS 1914-1918

Circus people, Men Women and Children are listed here. Some of them served.

SERVING SHOWMEN 1914-1918

Showmen soldiers not identified as circus. All these individuals were reported in The Worlds Fair newspaper. The list focuses on military details.

War Circus Life Card allows groups to share stories with each other.

WAR CIRCUS GROUP RESOURCES

War Circus Life Cards On these cards children and groups can find out about real circus people and their lives in WW1. A different card can be given to each child or member of a group, they can bemused to share the true stories with each other. Here is a PDF for War Circus Life Badges to go along with each of the cards.

 

WAR CIRCUS BIOGRAPHIES:

BLUMENFELD

This is a very large and long established jewish circus family based mainly in Germany. They owned circus buildings and travelling shows. Their story has been researched by an Academic, Marline Otte.

Alexander Bostock

BOSTOCK

E.H. Bostock was the head of a large family business with his four sons, while Frank Bostock in charge of another Bostock circus touring on the continent at the outbreak of war. E.H.’s interests included a Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie, “The Royal Italian Circus” (formerly Volpi’s), several Hippodromes (Ipswich, Paisley & Hamilton), two picture palaces (Balantyre & Paisley) a Zoo Building, the Victoria Hall, Hamilton, Glasgow.

BRADNA, FRED

At the outset of war Fred Bradna worked with Ringling Brothers as the show director, and also agent. He and his wife, Ella, were both naturalised Americans, (he originally from Germany and she from Hungary).

CASTANG & RUHLEBEN CAMP

Reuben Castang was a British animal trainer his chimpanzee act was famous. He was interned for most of the war in Ruhleben Camp, Berlin. The camp was where the Germans kept around 5000 “alien’ men for the duration of the war. Castang was there for most of the war as was Claude Ohmy and other circus artists.

Franz Taibosh

TAIBOSH AND HEPSTON

Franz Taibosh, known mostly as ‘Clicko’ was a bushman and British South African, While Maurice was an Irishman known as ‘Paddy’. Both held British Passports. They started working together around 1912/13. The working relationship was unequal, with Franz an indentured artist and Paddy as his “manager”. They toured the world for the duration of the war.

 

COCO THE CLOWN/NICOLAI POLIAKOFF:

At the outbreak of war Nicolai was fourteen, and already a seasoned circus performer and clown who had run away to start his career at a very very young age. He joined many different armies.

DALE, MERCIA WAMBA

At the outbreak of war Mercia, was fifteen. Her mother had died in 1912 and she worked with her father in an acrobatic act during the war, they were British. Her story has been researched by a family member, Colin Dale.

Frank Foster – 1917 © Foster Family

FOSTER, FRANK

Frank was a young man at the outbreak of war, working with George Sanger as a performer and animal man. He performed and then fought in the war. later became a famous Ring Master at Blackpool Tower Circus.

 

GROCK

By 1914 Grock, Adrien Wettach, was an established musical clown working across Europe. He was from Switzerland. It was reading his autobiography Grock, King of Clowns. (Methuen and Co. 1957) which was the spark for the War Circus Project. He performed through out the war across Europe.

HAGENBECK, LORENZ

Lorenz was the son and heir to Carl Hagenbeck. Carl was the most successful animal importer and founder of Stellingen Zoo, Germany, which was fabled for it’s innovate ‘nature’ park designs. Lorenz was an adult at the outbreak of war. While his brother signed up, he was put in charge of business in Northern Europe and America for he duration of the war and started a circus.

HANNEFORDS

The Hanneford Family were well established circus artists working internationally especially in Britain & Ireland before the war, and toured during the war ending up in America.

KAYES FAMILY

In 1916 Mrs Lizzie Kayes, of Buff Bills Circus entered the lions cage, after her lion tamer sons joined up.

OHMY FAMILY

Ada Smith (Ohmy), Pimpo, Burt Sanger, Lilly Smith (Ohmy)

At the outbreak of war King Ohmy ( John Smith) and his adult children Claude, Lilly and Ada, were working with a circus in Germany. They were all interned while the family were released after a month, Claude was removed to and remained in Ruhleben camp until the end of the war.

Edward Pablo 12/6/1915 The World’s Fair
Photo reproduced by kind permission of
The World’s Fair Ltd.

PABLO, EDWARD

Edward Pablo was the son of Pablo Fanque and a mature artist well known in British circus before the war. He fought and was injured.

PROSKE, ROMAN

Roman was Austrian and aged 14 run away from home to work with animals and set of on a ship for Africa. At the outbreak of war he was a 16 years old and already a lion tamer in East Africa. He joined the Austrian Army.

SANDOW, EUGEN

Sandow was a naturalized British citizen and strongman, who was famous for developing fitness regimes. At the outset of war he had various enterprises. He faced social and business hostilities in Britain as a “German”.

Sir Gerrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, 1917, Royal Veterinary Corps.

TYRWITT-DRAKE, SIR GERRAD

Sir Gerrard was an ‘amateur’ menagerie owner, circus hobbyist and politician. At the outbreak of the war he had a large collection of animals in his private zoo at his home in Maidstone. He took animals to America, exhibited at The World’s Fair and joined up.

 

WHITELEY, HENRY A.A.

Henry was a member of the Whiteley family of acrobats, and head of his own troupe which varied in line up as children joined up an others grew into roles.

WOODWARD 

The Woodward brothers trained performing sealions in Britain they trained them to detect submarines for the Navy.

 

WAR CIRCUS ARTICLES:

The following articles are themed either on a subject basis or relate to an individual or family.

Page from Arthur Fenwick’s cuttings book. © Tyne & Wear Archives, Newcastle UK.

 

WAR CIRCUS: NEWS SNIPPETS

More than 360 newspaper articles are transcribed featuring circus or showland people between 1914 and early 1919.

NORTH EAST NEWS SNIPPETS

A few stories relating to WW1 in the North East, including Arthur Fenwick’s lecture in 1916.

WAR CIRCUS: EFFORT & EFFECT

Contemporary news reports, including financial and social impacts felt by on circuses and fairgrounds and their efforts to contribute to the war as a community.

WAR CIRCUS: POETRY

A few poems and songs found during the research.

Bostock & Wombwell’s Menagerie, Great North Road, Newcastle upon Tyne 1914 © Fairground Archive Collection, University of Sheffield Library, National Fairground and Circus Archive.

WAR CIRCUS: ANIMALS

A few news articles relating to circus and other animals during the war. Other Animals feature prominently in the following articles: Bostock, Tywritt-Drake, Hagenbeck.

 

THANKS

Helen Averley would like to thank the following people for their support during the development of War Circus:

Ron Beadle, John Wolstenholme, Richard Van Emden, Geoff Younger, Tom Sandow, Frank Foster III, Colin Dale, Juliet Powell, Roland Bostock, Rebecca Scott, George Pinder, David Konyot, Margaret Wilby, Kerrin Tatman, Lynne Whatmore, Harry Averley, Rosie Bristow, Giuseppe Marino, Leanne Staugaard, Robyn Hambrook, Steve Cousins & Freya Averley.

Circus Central would like to thanks the following organisations and staff for making their collections accessible and available:

University of Sheffield National Fairground & Circus Archive, Tyne & Wear Archives, British Library, Imperial War Museum, The World’s Fair, Library of Congress, Tate.

 

Special thanks to or funders and supporters:

North East of England Heritage Lottery Fund, The Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland., and The Pen and Pallet Club.