Getting under cover 1917 © Courtesy of the Library of Congress . 3a42929r

These War Circus Stories are transposed from newspapers found in the British Libraries’ online archive, British Newspaper Archives; Tyne and Wear Archives, Fenwick Collection; The World’s Fair, the Showland newspaper held on microfiles at the National Fairground and Circus Archive, University of Sheffield. The American titles were found transposed online via the Circus Historical Society




   At Scarborough Bankruptcy Court yesterday, Eliza Baker, the proprietress of a travelling circus, was examined. She returned liabilities £408, and a deficiency of £330. Debtor said that after the death of her husband she ran the circus in Ireland, but Home Rule and strikes compelled her to leave the country owing to the political situation, outside Belfast people took no interest in circuses! and the takings fell off very much. The examination was closed.

8/7/1914 Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer




   What was probably the first open-air meeting called to protest against the war, was held on the stage front of Mr. Brose Harvey’s Show at Manningham Fairground, on Sunday Last.

A tremendous concourse of people assembled to hear the views of Mr. F. W. Jowett, The Labour M.P. for Bradford, upon the situation.

At the conclusion of the meeting when thanking Mr. Harvey for the use of his stage, Mr. Jowett, in a chat expressed some very pertinent views regarding the detrimental effect war would have upon the amusement caterers and show people.

8/8/1914 World’s Fair



At the time of going to press we have received several telegrams from Lessees and Tenants asking us to open a Subscription List to embrace all British Showmen. As will be seen on our front page we have already started the scheme and if our suggestions are agreeable to our readers all that remains is for everybody to work with a will and make this the biggest fund that has ever been organized (sic) in Showland.


   Mr. E. H. Bostock, the proprietor (sic) of Bostock and Wombwell’s menagerie, is handing over ten per cent of his takings to local funds at all towns he visits.

5/9/1914 The World’s Fair



  Sanger’s Circus gave two performances on Pool Meadow, Coventry, on Tuesday, and 20 per cent. of the gross takings were handed over to the relief fund (sic). At York last week Mr. Sanger had the pleasure of handing over to the York fund the sum of £51 14s.

10/10/1914 The World’s Fair



    War Tax Bill Passes. Washington, Oct. 22. The WarRevenue Bill was passed by Congress and signed by the President today and will go into effect as to most of its features tomorrow at midnight. . . . a tax to be paid by proprietors of theatres, museums and concert halls, with seating capacity not more than 250, $25 a year; not exceeding 700 capacity, $50; not exceeding 800, $75; more than 800, $100; circuses, $100 . . . &c.

31/10/1914 New York Clipper   





   Among the “enemy aliens” now interned in the British Isles are a very large number of performers – musical, gymnastic and otherwise – whose specialities consisted of acts staged either in the variety theatres or in circuses, and who were on tour when war broke out. An even greater number of such artistes belonging to the enemy nations who had booked engagements ahead in Great Britain are, by the circumstances of war “interned” in their own country. Their contracts with British managers have of necessity been voided and cancelled, and this has caused a considerable gap in the arrangements made by those managers, more particularly for the class of entertainment which is more personable and popular at Yuletide.

Gaps in Christmas Programmes.

   Variety entertainment caterers found themselves faced, indeed, with a difficulty unparalleled in the history of the profession. To fill the vacant places caused in their Christmas programme they had to scour practically both hemispheres. The results have proved both satisfactory to the managements concerned and advantageous to British performers, and to those of allied friendly nations. In particular the circus was most “hard hit” by the displacement of foreign talent, this being explainable by the fact that hitherto the greater number of performers in this sphere including acrobats, equestrians (and equestriennes) animal trainers, and others, have been drawn from Austria and Germany, owing to these countries having made circus a speciality. In this country this type of entertainment had decayed until the last year or so, when revivals were staged with encouraging results. One by-effect of the war, it is confidently predicted, will be to stimulate that revival by concentrating on our own native country talent which hitherto has found its main opportunities abroad.

British Talent Disguised as Foreign.

One of the most interesting revelations in regard to this class of entertainers is that not only have many British performers secured world-wide pre-eminence in their several lines, but that, in consequence of their long period during which the circus has been if not dead, at least in a state of “suspended animation” in this country, a great proportion of such British-born artistes, finding their occupation solely abroad, have adopted foreign professional names. “Stars” British to the backbone, have made their reputations under names indicative of Italian, Swiss, or other foreign nationality. These, while retaining the assumed foreign ergonomens whereby they have become known to the public and what is perhaps no less important for them – to the managers of circuses and variety shows, will now find new scope for the exhibition of their abilities in their native land. It may be recalled in the connection that one of the most sensational features of Barnum and Bailiey’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” when it visited Liverpool some years ago, was a simultaneous aerial flying trapeze act executed by several different troupes. The majority of these performers bore very foreign-looking names, but the cleverest troupe of all, which occupied the place of honour in the centre of the high building, was confessedly “all British”, and came from Hull.

Artistes from Friendly Lands.

The German and Austrian elements have been eliminated from the program in Great Britain and replaced chiefly by all British . Recourse will also be had to French, Russian, and American sources. Not only these, but the majority of the British artistes also, would in ordinary courses of events have been engaged abroad….therefore arising out of the war is that British artistes of “the ring” will at last “come into their own” again.        

12 /12/14 Liverpool Daily Post


 American Special War Tax

   A special tax for a circus will not cover any side-show in connection with the circus for admission to which a price is charged additional to the cost of the circus ticket. A separate special tax stamp must be taken out for each such side show. . . .

16/1/1915 New York Clipper




   There is no more patriotic body in the country than the showmen, who, though hard hit by the war, have rallied in large numbers to the support of King and country.

Mr. Patrick Collins, the president of the Showman’s Guild which met at the World’s Fair Islington, to-day, said that more than £5,000 had been contributed to the Prince of Wales’s Fund; two battalions of showmen are at the front, and fifty or more of the Guild’s traction engines are working for the War Office.

   This in spite of the fact that not a few of those who provide open-air amusements for the people have been entirely ruined by the war, and others are keeping their business at a loss.

Fenwick Cutting 20/1/1915 Evening Standard



   The war has probably affected Ireland more than any other country, and things are in a very bad way over there with no prospect of an improvement. Several shows have closed down and there are, at least, two who are crossing to England to try their luck.

30/1/1915 The World’s Fair


   The question of alleged stage cruelty to animals having been the subject of another letter in the “Saturday Review,” Mr. Walter Winans, of Surrender Park, Pluckly, Kent, has replied as follows:—

   “Whilst fully agreeing with Mr. Saint Benno Cunlice that cruelty to animals should be stopped in every possible manner, if his wish that all animal training at circuses, etc.. should be stopped were gratified, one of the chief sources of effective cavalry horses would be stopped also. The Haute Ecole is, to the horse, what conic sections and logarithms are to a student of arithmetic. In this country unfortunately, the public is quite ignorant of Haute Ecole; if a man can stick on a horse’s back over a country he is considered a splendid rider. At the International Horse Show each year it is seen how foreign officers, and a few exceptional English riders, beat the men who ride on the stick-on principle. Now all these officers ride on the circus system, which is the cavalry system (with a little higher training), just as an astronomer knows little more of mathematics that a man who can only multiply, add, and subtract. On the Continent the knowledge of the Haute Ecole enables the public to appreciate good circus riding; in this country it is “unnatural antics,” as Mr. Cunliffe calls it, although it is to the horse what Swedish exercises are to a man’s body- puts it into perfect balance.

   Instead of stopping circus riding, circuses should be encouraged as much as possible; a well broken circus horse is much more calm and confident in its rider than a horse ridden on the stick-on principle, who never knows why his mouth is jerked at or the heels jabbed into his sides.

 6/2/1915 The World’s Fair



   Lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals now at large in tropical forests have reason to bless the present war! There are no sportsmen to shoot or capture them and the shipping companies will not be troubled to bring them to Europe.

   On the other hand, the inmates of zoological gardens in this country and on the Continent would not be pleased if they could hear what London animal dealers say— namely, that their value has since war began gone down no less than 80 per cent. This means that a lion worth £50 before the war could be brought to-day for a paltry £10!

   Mr. John D. Hamlyn, the well-known animal dealer, told “The Daily Mirror” that the trade in wild animals was almost completely at a standstill.

   During the past few months, he said, he had had dozens of letters from the Continent offering him lions and other animals.

   It was impossible for him to buy them, as there was nobody to whom he could sell.

3/4/1915 The World’s Fair




   What has become of all the street performers? They cannot all have enlisted, for most of then were obviously over military age (says a writer in the “London Globe”). It is to be hoped that the British public are not including the peripatetic entertainer among the things that are not necessities, but surely a penny here and there will not be missed. When we thus plead for the street performer we mean genuine article— the artist who actually does give some sort of a show, crude and feeble though it may be. As for the fiends who make the howling of a dismal hymn or the scraping of a dreadful fiddle an excuse for cadging, away with them! We would watch magistrates and constable attending to their affairs with absolute calm—nay, even with a mild satisfaction.

   The genuine performer has been rather scare of late months. Whether business is so bad that he has found it not worth while to continues we have of course, no means of knowing. There was a little old conjuror we used to see in Villiers Street under the arch, whom we have missed lately. He was a cheerful old soul, though his feats were hardly up to the Devant or Bertram standard. He had a little table covered with faded red velvet, quite in the old-fashioned style, and he rattled off the time-honoured conjuror’s jokes in a way that brought back memories of boyhood’s golden hour, when we were delighted with the same flashes of wit in different surroundings. Who knows? Perhaps the old conjuror, with his bald head and his frock-coat nearly to his heels, once was used to the applause of listening music-halls to command, and did his ancient tricks— new then— in evening dress so “immaculate” as to satisfy even a lady novelist. It is months since we came across the old fellow, and we shall be interested to see if he reappears on the paving-stone stage.

   The street-acrobat with his square of carpet, is not often seen now has he enlisted? Surely a body so supple and active could be of use inside a suit of khaki. And the man who was tied up by his assistant in an amazing multitude of knots- the Germans would have hard work to hold him if ever they laid hands on him. Another vanishing performer is the man with a black cloth, which he folded into different styles of headgear.. He has a mobile, rather strong face, which he altered in an interesting fashion. A few quick twists of the piece of cloth, and it became the chapeau de Napoleon. The performer pulled a lock of hair over his forehead, assumed a steady stare and frown, thrust a hand into the breast of his shabby frock-coat (street performers seem to run to frock coats), and behold the Man of Destiny. Another twist, and the black cloth was the shovel hat of a French priest— with downcast eyes and sly looking according. Folding it round his face, the performer became a nun. And there were a dozen other characters, which we have not space to enumerate.

   It was on the confines of Hampstead Heath— near the flagstaff, to be precise that we noticed a thought-reading seance being given in the open-air. We had thought, in our pride and vain glory, that we could enumerate every street performer in London, but this was a new turn to us. A tall girl with a shrill voice stood with bandaged eyes and the centre of the audience, while her partner mingled with the crowd and borrowing small articles, which the thought-reader described rapidly and at once in reply to his questions. No doubt the queries were carefully posed, but the small audience was obviously amused and interested, so the show-folk earned their copper reward. The al-fresco ventrioquist has always appealed to us. He works at such obvious disadvantages compared with his brother-in-art of the music-halls. His patter is threadbare and dismally un-funny, and any fairly close observer can detect sundry movements of his lips. But when one considers that his audience is hardly at arm’s length, and that he has to contend with atmospheric conditions which are unknown to the ventriloquist under cover, his job is not one which all of us would care to accept.

              Let us therefore patronise the diminishing band of London’s open-air entertainers, and hope that the bobby will look the other way when he sees on some open space the little knot of interested folk from the midst of which a persuasive voice issues, saying: “And now, if some gentleman in the audience will lend me his gold watch.”

21/8/1915 The World’s Fair



    A tax of 1 per cent. is now charged on every ticket for a theatre, moving picture show, amusement hall, concert hall, circus, playground, racecourse, or skating rink, in Montreal, the commercial capital of Canada and the most populous city of Quebec Province. The money will be employed for the benefit of charitable institutions in the city, and it is expected that about £50,000 will be realised in the first year.

28/8/1915 The World’s Fair



 Owing to newspapers and periodicals despatched from Great Britain to neutral countries having been used by foreign spies as a medium of communication, the postal authorities now decline to permit such newspapers and periodicals to pass through the mails unless they are despatched by the publisher. Consequently those of our readers who wish to send the “World’s Fair” to neutral countries, such as the United States of America, the Argentine, Switzerland, Scandinavia, etc., are advised during the war to let them be sent direct from these offices.

25/9/1915 World’s Fair




   On Tuesday last before Mr. E. Savile, senior official receiver, the first meeting of creditors was held under the failure re Frederick Emile Ginnett, circus proprietor, of Strawberry Vale Farm, East Finchley, N. The statement of affairs filed by the debtor disclosed gross liabilities amounting to £2,151 6s. 10d., of which £2,114 16s. 10d. was due to unsecured creditors. The assets were estimated to produce £107 10s. 2d., from which £36 10s. had to be deducted for the claims of preferential creditors payable in full, leaving the net assets as £71 0s. 2d., and disclosing a deficiency of £2,043 16s. 8d. The debtor alleged his failure to have been caused through “failure of the Boy Army Show.”

   A creditor asked if there was any probability of “Wild Australia” going on the road again, but debtor replied it would not do to attempt it whilst the war lasted….

2/10/1915 The World’s Fair




   The travelling showmen of the circuses, menageries, and the roundabouts if the fairground, are suffering form war-time conditions, like many other industries. They have suffered more than most people financially.

   The advent if the war on August 4th, 1914, broke right into the showman’s best month, when the principal fairs, feasts, and wakes throughout the country were in full swing.

In normal times, the working staff are composed as the three-fourths of men who are Army and Naval Reservists. Consequently in August, 1914, away went those men to another show- Britain’s show against the oppression of the Huns. This exodus at the height of the season, caused serious inconvenience. Since then, millions of the young men of Britain have responded to their country’s call, and, incidentally, also left this fairground, not as showmen, but as customers of the fair. Consequently the receipts have fallen alarmingly.

   The showmen’s transport by rail was completely cut off, the Government taking control of the railways. One well-known North-Country firm which has a branch in Leeds requires four specials each week in normal times to convey its plant from one town to anther. So it will be seen that Organisation became chaotic. The stringent lighting restrictions had to be obeyed, bringing lights down to a point consistent with safety.

It is computed that there are upwards of 70,000 persons connected and concerned with obtaining a livelihood with the travelling shows and other devises appertaining to the fairground. A leading showman estimates that upwards of one million sterling are invested into the business. Numbers of other industries derive some sustenance from it – those concerned with the supply of traction engines, electrical generators, and kindred accessories. The musical instruments that have developed from the now obsolete hurdy-gurdy at £50 to the mammoth orchestra which reaches high-water mark in the price at about £1,400, playing 112 keys, mostly come from our Allies in France and Italy.

   Lord Derby’s appeal did not fall on deaf ears at the fairgrounds. Almost every man if military age has enlisted. Two D.C.M.’s have been won by showmen – by sergeant R. Dailey, of Bradford, and Private J. Ward, of the Manchester Regiment.

   That showmen are loyal and dutiful subjects of the King has been show in many ways. The presentation, for instance, to King George of a pair of beautiful cream ponies with a Phaeton, for the use of the Royal children, by the aged Lord George Sanger, in the name and behalf of the profession: £2,075 was collected by the showmen towards the Prince of Wales Fund. Now a strong committee of well known showmen, including amongst other names, Messrs. Sanger, Bostock, Thornley, Murphy, Ingram, P. Collins, Marshall, etc., is now engaged, under the chairmanship of Mr. G. Campbell. Leeds, in making arrangements for a “Showman Day” throughout Great Britain when the circus and menagerie, the roundabouts and the smaller fry will once again prove their patriotism by raising a fund for the purchasing of ambulances.

   The Stallholder’s Association, kindred of the showmen, have passed a resolution that in future no goods shall be purchased or displayed in the fairgrounds bearing an enemy trade mark. And despite the hurt to their trade there is optimism. “No, gov’nor,” said one of them, “we ain’t downhearted even if there is only the old people and the little children left for us to cheer up. But wait to Peace Day! You’ll see something if we are all spared, when the clown will kiss the ringmaster, the lions gambol with the lambs, the monkey’s chatter in Esperanto what to do with ‘Kaiser Bill’ and the fat lady will wear a smile bigger than her bulk in radiance. That’ll be the time gov’nor. What a Day! What a Day!!”

11/12/1915 Liverpool Echo

& 14/4/1916 Yorkshire Evening Post





   A special tax for a circus will not cover any side show in connection with the circus for admission to which a price is charged additional to the cost of the circus ticket. A separate special tax stamp must be taken out for each such side show.”

19/1/1916 New York Clipper



    Owing to the National need for economy in the use of paper it is advisable for you to place an order in advance with a newsagent so that you may be certain to obtain your copy of “The Era.” Any newsagent in the country will supply you early on Wednesday morning if you order in advance.

Or “The Era” will be posted to you weekly for three months for 2/9, payable in advance with your order sent to

The Publisher, 5,Tavistock Street, Strand, London, W.C.

9/2/1916 The Era

Arthur Fenwick © Fenwick Family, Tyne & Wear Archives


   Of course this lecture in Newcastle would not have been complete without a short history of the famous Billy Purvis, who, in his day, was Newcastle’s favourite showman.

   Mr. Fenwick finished his lecture with a short resume of all that had been done by the show people for their country during the war, the number of men sent out, the loan of their traction engines, and the money subscribed to the different funds, especially to the Prince of Wales’ Fund.

   The Chairman, in thanking Mr. Fenwick for his lecture, said he felt sure that all present would take very much more interest in travelling shows in the future. Mr. Williams then told some excellent stories and experiences relating to the life of the travelling showmen.

   In conclusion, Mr. John Atkinson, a well-known Newcastle artiste , gave a few personal reminiscences when making life studies on the fair ground and at travelling menageries.

Fenwick Collection 1/3/1916 The World’s Fair




   The offer to the War Office by Mr. F. Ginnett, circus proprietor, horse trainer, and tamer of East Finchley, of a warm and waterproof tent large enough to hold 200 horses has been promptly accepted, not by the War Office, but by an Army Service colonel.

Mr. Ginnett, in making his offer, wrote ” The Army is losing more horses in training camps every day than in the fighting lines in France and Belgium every week.”

   The commanding officer, whose camp is in one of the northern counties, telegraphed the same day asking for the tent. He also sent the following letter; ” I have over 459 horses and mules and stables are not yet built, but I have animals in temporary shelters erected by myself. They are much too crowded, so would like to get your tent if possible, but would like to purchase it so that I could take it with me when I move.

   Mr. Ginnett wrote to the officer saying he would give the tent, not sell it, and would also erect it to prove that a great number of horses that are now dying from exposure and could be saved “if it was somebody’s business to see to it.”

11/3/1916 The World’s Fair




   “Is Charlie Chaplin a slacker?” The answer that he is not is found in “Fall In,” the organ of the Middlesex Territorial Regiment (the Duke of Cambridge’s Own), which is booming, with every indication of sympathy, a letter which it has been enterprising enough to obtain from the greatest film comedian.

   “A patriotic Englishman and a Londoner,” says the editor, in introducing the letter, “Charlie Chaplin explains how his many business ties and contracts prevent him from joining side by side with the ‘boys in the trenches.’

   “That Charlie would if he could there is no doubt. Old England is calling for her sons, and Charlie, like any Tom, Dick, or Harry, hears that thrilling clarion call to arms, and is straining at the leash to get at her foes.”


   Here is the letter from Charlie Chaplin, which he writes from Los Angeles:—

   “In your esteemed letter of February 2nd you ask if, as a former London Man, would I be good enough to send a message to the many London boys in khaki, who are doing ‘their bit’ in Flanders, Salonika, India and Egypt. It is with the greatest pleasure that I comply.

   “Every Englishman— whether he be a London man or not, whether he be from Sydney, or Montreal, Cape Town or Hong Kong— certainly is proud of the pluck and the sheer splendidness with which all the boys have done and are daily ‘doing their bit,’ unflinchingly, without whimper, without stint, and without other than the finest of the good old beef of England spirit. The days of Wellington and Nelson were not lived in vain, for the spirit that underlies present England is no less strong in courage and in absolute fearlessness.

   “I am but a player on the films, a good-natured bit of a clown, a popular comedian if you will, a player but no less a man. I would that I were at the front, as you so strikingly put it, ‘drilling a squad,’ with as you add, a lick from that wonderful foot of mine. ‘Wonderful foot’ if you will— but with a staunch heart too, if I were there. Those of you there have set the proper pace— I would try to meet it.


   “I am sorry that my professional demands do not permit my presence in the Mother Country. I hope that in so saying I do not sound cold-blooded or hiding behind my player’s coat. There are some of us who cannot be ‘at the front’ and there are many of you— London men and all— that can be. We cheer you for your spirit, your courage, and the cheerful way you are each doing ‘your bit.’ Not only can old London be well proud of her many loyal sons, but all England for the men of the hour.

              “If, in my modest sort of way, in occasional bits of cheery nonsense as ‘Charlie Chaplin’ of the films, I can instil a moment of brief relief from the brunt of the fray, this is my contribution to the men at the front, and who may say that it shall not, too, share in ‘doing a bit’ for good England, and in helping things and men over the rough spots.”

1/4/1916 The World’s Fair



   A plea for a circus in London is made to the popular weekly “To-Day” and the writer known as “Up West” gives his experiences with a touring circus. In his article the writer says:—

   It is said that London is to have a circus again. I have heard that report before. I have also heard— many, many times— that man’s evening clothes are hideous, and that the fashion of wearing such things is to change…

… I was grateful for the spectacle. Marceline, the clown— I believe that was his name— was a constant joy to me. I have often wondered why he never got to the pictures.

   Possibly one reason why a circus doesn’t last long in London is because it is generally just a little too good for the people who really like circuses— that is to say, the circuses that travel about the country. I believe it is the rough and tumble life of the travelling circus people that fascinates one— the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the huge tent, the caravans, the life behind the scenes generally…

   Well, I don’t know who the promoters of the London circus are to be, but I should like to beg them to let us have a real circus, not too grand. Let it have the right circus atmosphere and a nice saw-dusty smell everywhere. And if they allow the artists to dress up in overcoats made of blankets— just ordinary blankets— and sell photographs of themselves in between the turns, I for one, will buy some of those pictures and will promise not to accuse artists of lowering the dignity of their profession. My memory tells me that they will be living up to its traditions.

 12/8/1916 The World’s Fair




   A lion taming problem has arisen with one of the showman at Holbeck Feast.

   In the “round-up” conducted by the military authorities on the fairground the other night a young fellow of 24, named Timothy Kayes, described as a lion-tamer, was impressed, but was yesterday granted a fortnights grace by the local recruiting officer before being required to “join-up”. In the interval, his father, who is the proprietor of the show, is faced with the difficulty of finding another lion-tamer, or, alternatively, or finding a purchaser for three lions, the value of which is priced at £400.

   As the proprietor explained to the representative of “The Yorkshire Evening Post” this afternoon he is in a quandary. He himself is getting on in years, and has neither the experience nor the nerve to enter a cage of lions. On the other hand lions are a “drag on the menagerie market.” He sees no chance of selling them, and as they are not the kind of animal that can be “turn out to grass” he is at a loss what to do with them.

   Meanwhile the show will go on for the next fortnight, and young Kayes, “by permission of the Army Authorities,” will perform in the lions den as usual, and will give a cheerful welcome to any man, young or old, who is ready to succeed him, “we don’t anticipate a run of applications,” he added, “in my own case, I became a lion-tamer through force of circumstance. My eldest brother, who used to have the job, joined the army this year along with another brother, and my father, who is the proprietor of the show, was on his beam end to find a man. Standing under 5 feet, I have previously been the circus clown and tumbler in the ring, but I had been about the lions a good deal in assisting my brother to feed them, and so my father asked me if I would go into the cage.

   “I didn’t fancy the job, but I could not see my father “stuck”; and, as two of the lionesses had been well broken by my brother, I took the job on. The first time I ever went into the cage was some months back at Drewsbury, and I shall never forget the night. As soon as I got in, with a chair and a fork held in front of me, the animals knew at once that they had got a stranger, and they gave me a terrifying time. There were two doors to the cage, but the lioness got to the doors, and growling fearfully, seemed determined to keep me there. Finally my father, seeing the predicament I was in, got a brush to one of the animals, and as he forced it to a corner I dashed to the door and got out.”

   “n another cage, where there is an untamable lioness, I had a hair raising experience before I set out. One of the spectators remarked “ Tha’ looks white, lad”, and I admitted I have never felt so “white” before.

   But I have got confidence since then, and lion-taming is alright when you are used to it. Still it is not every man’s job and I feel sorry that I have to leave my father with three lions on his hands and no one to undertake either the feeding or the performing.”

14/8/1916 Yorkshire Evening Post



   Six fresh patients have arrived in place of those who left on the 15th inst. Motor rides have been given by friends in the neighbourhood and much enjoyed. The men were entertained at Fossett’s circus on October 11th.

27/10/1916 Biggleswade Chronicle







   ‘There is not a showman who hasn’t put his ’bit’ in the War Loan”, said M. Patrick Collins, the president of the Showman’s Guild, which held its annual meeting at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, yesterday.

‘We are carrying on with old me and cripples, but we don’t complain and are prepared to make any sacrifices if they are help to win the war. When the railway became congested I placed my engines and men at the service of the Government. The military authorities were astonished at the rapidity with which they did their work.”…

   At the meeting it was announced that the showmen had given eight motor-ambulances to the Red Cross, and that thousands of pounds had been raised by them for patriotic purposes.

Fenwick Cutting 25/1/1917 Daily Mail



Paris, Fr., Feb. 28. Owing to the coal crisis here the government has decreed that all theatres, music halls, cinemas, concert halls, circuses and skating rinks be permitted to open only three days weekly, with a total of five performances, three nights and two matinees. 

7/3/1917 New York Clipper




   Sir,— We have now entered upon the third year of this terrible war, and the circus proprietor is preparing his show for the road. This year it will be a terrible season for all, so a certain well-know circus proprietor remarked to me a few days ago, when with the shortage of labour, the price of food and the restrictions on posters. For advertising is the chief item of the show. No circus, large or small, can make a living without advertising which is the road to success. No matter what the show’s like inside as long as you flood the town with attractive and startling posters the public will certainly flock to see it.

              The new restrictions which come into force on March 11th, 1917, limit the size of posters to 600 superficial square inches which is exactly a double crown size. The only means of advertising the circus now is with day bills window bills and fly posting on the road, and before very long even these will be restricted, for I am given to understand from a most reliable source that all theatrical and amusement bills will have to be dispensed with altogether.

              Now, gentlemen, your living is at stake. It is up to you to try and avoid these new restrictions, The public want amusements and as Mr. Neville Chamberlain said last Saturday, at a meeting in London, it was essential that amusements should be provided for the people.

              Now, gentlemen, the theatrical managers association is looking after your interests in this affair and you must give them all the assistance you can to stop the restrictions on circus posters.—

Yours, etc.,





10/3/1917 The World’s Fair



   With the gathering of war clouds in the United States, circus and carnival men frankly admit that they are worried concerning the outlook for the outdoor show season which is just about to begin. If the war should assume big proportions it would undoubtedly cripple the circus and carnival business to a serious extent, if it does not tie it up altogether. 
    The shipment of livestock to the Allies during the past three years has made horses very valuable. Prices on good animals have risen considerably during the war period. If this country should become involved in the European hostilities and the United States should throw her unqualified support in the Allies, there would be even a greater demand for all the live stock available. In this case, the circuses would be sure to suffer. It is known that circus men possess the best livestock obtainable and, in the event of this country facing actual hostilities, the livestock of the outdoor showmen would, in all probability, be commandeered by the federal government, showmen say. 

   Another problem that would face the circuses in the event of war would be that of transportation. The rolling stock of the circuses might be taken over by the government, which would mean a complete paralysis in the circus world. 
    The engines and engineers which are rented to the circuses by the railroad companies, would, also, probably be among the first to do federal service in transporting troops and supplies, so that even if the circus rolling stock should not be commandeered, it might still be an impossibility to move it. 
    Soup kitchens and tents belonging to circuses would also be most likely comandeered, if actual war should come upon the country.

28/3/1917 New York Clipper


AMERICAN War Tax Bill.

    Edward Arlington, manager, and one of the owners of the Jess Willard-Buffalo Bill Wild West and Circus, exhibiting in Boston this week, fears for the future of circuses if the proposed war tax bill on amusements becomes a law in its present form. “There will not be a circus in existence on August 1 if this bill becomes a law in its present form,” declared Arlington. “Circus owners,” he continued, “are willing to pay their share of the war taxes, and it is right that they should, but the Government will simply be defeating itself if the shows are taxed out of existence. It must be born in mind that the circus is already a very much taxed institution. It pays a revenue tax to the United States of $100 for each State, and the city and State and other taxation is usually about all the traffic will bear. On top of this, it is proposed to levy a ten per cent war tax. 
    “I wonder if the author of that provision really knew what it means? The daily expenses of the largest circuses in the United States average pretty close to $5,000. There are days when they play to $10,000 and $12,000, but the average throughout the season is not much more than $6,000. Out of this apparent profit of $1,000 a day must be paid all costs of wear and tear on the physical property and enough money laid aside to winter the show. 
    “The actual profit on the great investment involved is comparatively small. On average daily receipts of $6,000 the tax for the season of thirty weeks would be $108,000. No circus could stand that tax and live. But that is not all. It is proposed to tax free tickets on their apparent face value. Big circuses give away $100,000 in complimentary tickets every season. This would add $10,000 more to the tax, and on top of that are the taxes on advertising, freight, telegrams, increased postage, boosted railroad transportation and the income tax levied upon the owners. The thing would be absurd if it was not proposed so seriously in Washington. 
    “I have heard the statement made that amusements such as theatres and circuses were not essential industries, and therefore should bear heavier taxation than other enterprises. This was England’s view in the early part of the war. Now England, France and even Germany encourage public entertainment. It is the only relief the public has from the depression caused by the intimate horrors of war.”

6/6/1917 New York Clipper



   Dear Sir, In your issue of May 30 your Boston correspondent predicted that those of military age with Ringling Bros. shows would register in Boston, on registration day. Allow me to state as a self-appointed committee of one, that as fare as this show is concerned there will be very little registering in Boston on that date. As has been extensively explained, those who must register must get their certificates to their home address or voting precinct or in the hands of the proper authority, by June 5. To accomplish this end, the boys of the ages called and secured their cards as soon as they were available, and established a record in Jersey City, Newark and Camden for applying early, filling them out and getting them to their proper destination. If there is any registering in Boston on June 5, when the show is there, it will be done by those who are unable heretofore to get cards, or have hesitated from not knowing the requirements of the law. As there has been a special tent for this work with the show every day, added by city officials in each town visited, Boston authorities need not be surprised if no one applies. We’ve already been there! R. M. Wilson, care Ringling Bros. 

Railroads Paralyse Circuses.

New England Shows Can’t Move 

   What promises to culminate in a complete paralysis of circus and carnival transportation in the United States, has already made itself seriously felt in New England and New Jersey, where outdoor showmen are meeting with the most serious kind of obstacles from the railroads that are moving tent shows with little or no regularity, sometimes completely tying them up, and compelling the cancellation of many important dates. Many shows in New England section are at a complete standstill, and it is predicted by prominent railroad officials that it will be only a matter of weeks until, from one end of the country to the other, circuses, big and small, will find it impossible to move. 
    This situation is the result of a government order, sent out from Washington, asking railroad companies to cooperate with the nation’s executives for the purpose of conserving the supply of coal as much as practical and, to that end, running few or no special trains. The order asks the railroad companies to give the government their best and first service and to keep the lines clear as much as possible in the event that rush orders for the movements of troops or supplies might be necessary. 
    ….. Other shows which are reported to be suffering seriously as a result of the action of the railroads are: Jess Willard and Buffalo Bill Show, playing New England; Colonial Shows, playing Connecticut; Eastern Amusement Shows, Maine and New Hampshire; Great Eastern Shows, New Jersey; Johnny Jones Show, Pennsylvania; K. G. Barkoot Shows, New Jersey; Acme Show, New Jersey; Lee Brothers, Pennsylvania; Travers Exposition Show, New Jersey, and a score of others. 
    Besides the New York, New Haven & Hartford embargo on circuses, it is reported that the following lines have taken similar action, and that other roads are about to follow suit: Erie, Lehigh Valley, Boston & Maine, Boston & Albany. 

Portland, Ore., June 2. Because so many vacant lots have been plowed up and converted into vegetable gardens in this section of the country, circuses touring the northwest will have difficulty in finding ground on which to pitch their tents.

6/6/1917 New York Clipper



   Washington, June 9. Circuses have been hard hit these days by the requisites of the war and are, therefore, delighted at the latest action of the Senate Finance Committee, in adopting an amendment to the war tax bill, providing for the exception of circuses and theatrical companies from the mileage and transportation tax if they own their own railway rolling stock. The proposed transportation tax is 3 per cent on freight and 5 per cent on passenger travel, but those circuses and theatrical companies that own their own railway cars will not have to pay it.

13/6/1917 New York Clipper







   A misapprehension exists among a large number of men who are affected by the Military Service (Review of Exemptions) Act as regards the time during which they may apply to the local tribunal for exemptions. All such application must be made within thirty days after the date of issue of the statutory notice calling them up for re-examination, and not within thirty days – which brings them out of date – of the date of examination of the calling-up notice to the colours.




   After reading the figures in a recent issue of the “World’s Fair” of what Showland has done for outside charities, then the very poor amount so far raised to assist Showland’s own people, has made me wonder what is wrong, and I can’t help thinking, JUST INDIFFERENCE, because it is our own people. It cannot be lack of generosity, as the figures of what has been given to outsiders disprove that. Although not personally known to many travellers, I have always taken the deepest interest in all their affairs since the commencement of the “World’s Fair,” and watched the generous help given to those in trouble from North Wales, West of England, and other places, to travellers who have suffered. Then look how well we have done in giving the Showland’s ambulances, and the capital amount for our splendid boys to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Buffet at Victoria Station. Then, to me, put greatest and most deserving fund of all, the Showland’s Benevolent Fund, I expect to see beat them all, and to my surprise and disappointment up to now it has done practically nothing. It has often been stated there are 70,000 people in Showland, but put it, say, at 10,000, and if all had only given one shilling each, the sum of £500 would have been realised. Yet, somehow, the men don’t seem to see the necessity for something like this, so now I am making an appeal to all the women of Showland to give me their assistance and see what we can do, as I think it is the first time the women have been asked to do something by themselves, and I should like to be able to show the men the lead for once. I am afraid it is the women who suffer chiefly when the pinch of poverty is felt, as the husbands and sons can get out into the world and in that way forget for a time, but the woman has to stay in the wagon or house and just wait and do the best she can, often going without things herself so that the others may have a little more.

   I should like to see women do something to assist this fund as I feel they will be in the majority who will need assistance after the end of this awful war, and also will, in time, be called upon to assist in dispensing the funds. Feeling all this as I do, I wish to appeal to the women of Showland to help to get £100. So are there 2,000 women who will give one shilling each?

   I will start the Women’s Fund with one hundred shillings and the amount aimed at will soon be realised if some readers would take it upon themselves to make a collection on any fair ground where they may be located.

3/11/1917 The World’s Fair