Certainly one of the most interesting forms of popular entertainment America has experienced. Now – with the pandemic and final curtain call for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus…what is next?
Here is a wonderful excerpt from the American Experience special titled “The Circus”.
This four-hour mini-series tells the story of one of the most popular and influential forms of entertainment in American history. Through the intertwined stories of several of the most innovative and influential impresarios of the late nineteenth century, this series reveals the circus was a uniquely American entertainment created by a rapidly expanding and industrializing nation; that it embraced and was made possible by Western imperialism; that its history was shaped by a tension between its unconventional entertainments and prevailing standards of respectability; and that its promise for ordinary people was the possibility for personal reinvention. For many Americans, the circus embodied the improbable and the impossible, the exotic, and the spectacular. Drawing upon a vast and richly visual archive and featuring a host of performers, historians, and aficionados, The Circus follows the rise and fall of the gigantic, traveling tented railroad circus and brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town and its stars were among the most famous people in the country.
By making a gift to Celebration Barn you will give the Barn the critical financial foundation necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. Thank you for being a part of Celebration Barn’s community of artists, audiences and believers!
Featuring the circus collection of Dave & Mary Jane Price, the November sale is slated to include nearly 1000 vintage circus posters, plus costumes, model circus trains, and other relics from bygone wonder-shows. The circus collectibles will be complemented by an array of unusual, uncommon, and unbelievable oddities, sideshow memorabilia, banners, photographs, taxidermy, and relics of the “believe it or not” variety. Highlights include Tom Thumb memorabilia, sideshow electric chairs, and props, and big, bold banners from the masters of the form.
Catalogs ship approximately three weeks before the auction. Previews will be held in our gallery on November 14—15, 10—5 pm.
~Here are a few amazing items from the entire collection being auctioned~
The first item is a side-show banner painted by Coney Island USA‘s own Marie Roberts.
Roberts, Marie. Ravi The Bendable Boy from Bombay. Sideshow Banner. Coney Island, 2004. The vibrant banner shows this contortionist bent inside a trunk, text below and above. Flown at the Coney Island Sideshow. 66 x 57”.
Mule-Face Woman. Sideshow Banner by Snap Wyatt. Tampa, FL, ca. the 1960s. Enormous double-length painted canvas sideshow banner. 240 x 108”. Signed “Snap Wyatt Studios/Rt. 3 Tampa Fla”.
Currier Lithograph of General Tom Thumb. Barnum’s Gallery of Wonders. New York: Nathaniel Currier, ca. 1849. Lithograph colored by hand, the central image after a daguerreotype by Plumbe. 14 x 10 ¼”. Margins trimmed, pale soiling around edges, short tears, and creases.
Buffalo Bill Cody Cabinet Card Photograph. New York: Stacy, ca. 1900. Cody is seen wearing his Stetson hat and embroidered buckskin jacket, with few patches of grey in his hair. Facsimile signature to verso as issued. 6 ½ x 4 ¼”. Few stains to verso, else fine.
San Antonio’s Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Sensation of Vaudeville. Kansas City: Quigley Litho, ca. the 1930s. Color lithograph depicting the famous conjoined twins. 42 x 27 ¾”. Linen-backed. Expertly restored losses and tears in image and margins, rubs and abrasions.
Ripley, Robert. Wilber Plumhoff the Pain Proof Man / Believe It Or Not. N.p., ca. the 1940s. Color poster depicting the performer with nails, pins, and buttons pierced through his skin. 28 x 21”. Linen-backed. Scattered restored losses to edges and along folds. B.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Side Show. Erie Litho, the 1930s. Offset color lithograph poster depicting the circus’s sideshow cast, prominently depicting violin and piano playing conjoined twins, a giant with little people, and others in the background. 18 ½ x 28”. Linen-backed. Restored losses and over-coloring, mostly in margins and edges, some inpainting to tears in image. B.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. Francis Brunn. Greatest Juggler World Has Ever Known. The 1940s. Color lithograph portraying the performer juggling hoops while balancing balls on his fingertips and nose. 27 x 41”. Unmounted. Remnants of date-tail removal from bottom margin, folds, minimal edgewear. B.
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Blacaman Hindu Animal Hypnotist. Erie Litho, ca. 1930s. Offset lithograph poster depicts the performer hypnotizing massive ferocious lions, lightning bolts radiating from the hypnotist’s eyes. 27 ½ x 41”. Linen-backed. Restored losses and tears in margins; a few repaired closed tears in image. B.
World of Mirth Shows. Dolly Jacobs. World’s Foremost Lady Trainer of Wild Animals. Erie Litho, ca. the 1940s. Offset color lithograph showing the female lion and tiger trainer brandishing a whip. 41 x 13 ¼”. Linen-backed. Marginal stains and creases scattered restoration along folds. B-.
Cole Bros. Circus. The Great Grimes. Erie Litho, 1930s. Offset lithograph poster depicts the high-wire equilibrist act in which two men on bicycle balance a woman standing on the shoulders of a man on a chair. 40 x 26”. Mounted to Kraft paper. Old folds. Bright copy. B+.
Cole Bros. Circus. Harold Barnes. Erie Litho, ca. 1935. Offset lithograph circus poster depicts the acrobat on the high wire above cheerleaders in circus sweaters with tennis rackets in hand. 27 x 18”. Mounted to Kraft paper. Scattered losses and tears in image and along folds, dated in ink upper left. C.
Cole Bros. Circus. Getting Ready for the Ring. Erie Litho, 1930s. Offset color lithograph poster shows a man in baggy suit tying the slippers of a beautiful woman of the circus, as a clown and acrobat watch from the tent. 27 x 18”. Mounted to Kraft paper. Old folds. B+.
Cole Bros. Circus. Allen King. Battling, Snarling, Roaring, Man-Eating Wild Animals. Erie Litho, ca. the 1930s. Color offset lithograph. 28 x 41”. Linen-backed. Restored losses and over-coloring in margins; restored small losses and inpainting along folds. B+.
Barnum and Bailey. Cleopatra. Cincinnati: Strobridge Litho., 1912. Intricate design includes eight vignettes, the centermost being portraits of the circus’ founders, P. T. Barnum and J. A. Bailey. “Cleopatra pageant” illustrated in three others. Ornate masthead. 39 5/8 x 30”. Faint tide marks stains in the lower margin. Linen-backed. B.
Al. G. Barnes—Sells Floto and John Robinson. The Human Fly Anna Merkel. Erie Litho, ca. 1938. Color offset lithograph depicts the performer in a feat of upside-down ceiling walking. Date-tail for performance in Decatur. 36 x 21”. Linen-backed. Nice copy; minimal touch-ups along central fold; small losses in margins and image expertly repaired. B+.
Achille Philion. The Marvelous Equilibrist and Originator. Buffalo: Courier, 1898. Color lithograph. 28 ½ x 42”. Older linen backing. Chipping and tears in margins, a few extending into image; restored losses in margins. B. Another version of the poster replaces “An Attraction Without Parallel” with the name of the circus Philion performed for, Adam Forepaugh and Sells Brothers.
Living Wonders! Unprecedented Novelties! American, ca. 1870. Circus sideshow broadside featuring woodcuts of a snake charmer, “The Mammoth Fat Girl” of Illinois, and “The Arab Giant” Col. Routh Goshen, and other living attractions. Matted to 25 x 13”. Minor foxing; very good.
Sarah The Bird Girl performing at Coney Island USA
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With her uncanny resemblance to Minnie, Sarah presents a haunting and visceral account of the beauty of difference and a hidden story of endurance, from the voice of a natural born freak. Koo Koo and the other unlikely stars of Tod Browning’s revolutionary film, Freaks (1932), are also honored in this performance. Significant, because the film was banned for 30 years for being too controversial, yet it is so much part of our history. Minnie went on to work at Coney Island, ensuring she was free from the life of asylums. This is a very special Coney Island show that will give you both answers and leave you wanting more.
As an internationally acclaimed circus and physical theater performer, Sarah has performed for several companies around the world, including Cirque Du Soleil. Most recently she starred as lead female in feature film ‘Reflections in the Dust’ and toured with Extant Theatre UK. She has a TEDx talk and recently spoke at the United Nations. “Koo Koo the Bird Girl” won an Australian Green Room Award 2019 for Contemporary Performance.
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“This is a terrific show – intelligent, emotional and witty, and a direct challenge to the audience’s expectations about performance, identity and what it means to look and be looked at.”
“This is a performance that explores, beautifully, the capacities of the body and the self, rather than letting the differently abled body be shaped by restrictive legal, social and medical strictures that mark ‘deviance’ as a negative thing, instead of a marker of the breadth of human experience.” – New Zealand Theater Review
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“Amazing, moving and revealing… This is an important performance… ” – Express Magazine, Nov 2015
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“Houbolt’s performance evokes a frisson that every misjudged soul can recognise… Evocative… impressive… Houbolt has a gravitas earned through many years performing around the world… Her demonstration of side show is a rare treat.” – Nothing Ever Happens in Brisbane, Nov 2016
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“A show that smashes boundaries between herself and the audience… truly unique” –The Creative Issue Nov 2016
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Excerpt from Tod Browning’s “Freaks” featuring Koo Koo the Bird Girl.
Annie Jones Bearded Lady Cabinet Card Photograph. York, Penn.: Pentz, ca. 1880s. 6 ½ x 4 ¼”. Mount softened and beginning to peel by layers.
Carte de Visite of a Bearded Lady. Baltimore: D.J. Wilkes, ca. 1860s. Original mount, studio imprint to verso. 4 x 2 ¾”.
Betty Broadbent Youngest Tattooed Lady Photo. Boston: H. Golden, ca. 1928. 8 x 10” sepia tone photograph of Broadbent, also known as the “tattoo’d lady.” Crease at top and border damage at corners, not affecting image. In 1927 Betty Broadbent met tattoo artist Charlie Wagner, who alongside several other tattoo artists, including, Tony Rhineagear, Joe Van Hart, and Red Gibbons, would tattoo a bodysuit on her consisting of over 565 images.
Four Sideshow Attraction Cabinet Cards. American, nineteenth century. Including Lewando Baldwin, “Armless Wonder,” (Boston: J. Katz, 1880s); together with Mrs. May L. Baldwin, and photos of unidentified “Skeleton Man,” by Wendt, NJ; Bob McKay, sideshow “Fat Man”; and a “Fat Lady” by Eisenmann of New York. Evidence of wear, biographical information penciled in on verso to some.
Wild Men of Borneo Cabinet Card. New York: Wendt, ca. 1880. Cabinet card depicts sideshow “Wild Men of Borneo.” Identifying back stamp. Very good.
Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo Photograph. Bath, England: W. G. Lewis Studio, ca. 1880s. Sepia tone photo depicts “Carlton and Smaun Sing Hpoo, The Tallest and Shortest Artistes in the Variety Profession.” 8 x 10”. Clipped corners of card.
Charles B. Tripp “Armless Wonder” Cabinet Photograph. York, Pa.: Pentz Studio, 1887. Cabinet card of Tripp with samples of his calligraphy, and other work accomplished through the use of his feet. Signed and dated on verso “Charles B. Tripp. Woodstock Ontario. Age 32 ys”. With an endorsement, also in Tripp’s foot reading “William Kennedy, July 30 ‘87.” Very good.
John Robinson Circus. Group of Photos and Ephemera. Including a female cast photograph on cabinet mount (4 ¾ x 6 ½”); The Bartlett Sisters cabinet photo (6 ½ x 4 ¼”); Millie Irwin Iron Jaw Act halftone card; a cabinet photo of a horse-drawn wagon outside a large tent; a 1906 route card and booklet; and a 1927 program.
Siamese Twins Postcards. Four images, including a RPPC of Siamese twins Mary and Margaret Gibb, as well as Rosa and Josefa, The Hilton Twins, and unidentified RPPC of girl twins.
Siamese Twins Daisy and Violet Hilton Signed Photograph. Studio portrait of the twins posing with a dog, inscribed to the recipient “with love and best luck/always your pals/Daisy + Violet Hilton/Jun-9 1929”. Ornately carved antique wooden frame, overall 14 x 12”.
Skull and Human Bones Chapel Photo. Italy, ca. 1890s. Sepia tone photograph of Roman chapel decorated with skulls and bones, and with skeletons dressed in Capuchin robes. Framed to an overall size of 9 ½ x 12”. Not examined out of frame.
Fox, Johnny. Group of X-Rays Showing Johnny Fox Swallowing a Sword. Five original X-rays depicting the sword thrust down Fox’s throat as seen from various angles. 17 x 14”. Original Johns Hopkins Department of Radiology envelope.
Portfolio of Large Format Modern Sideshow Photos. New York: Val Duarte, 2004. Group of ten original full color photographs (14 x 11”) titled “Very Special People.” Submitted by Val Duarte, a photography student of Amy Arbus, for entry in an exhibition at the Gallery of the School of the International Center of Photography, NY. These include photos of sword swallower Johnny Fox, clown dwarf, dwarf fire eater, tattooed sword swallower, tattooed transgender woman, front and rear pictures of whole body tattooed man, and others. Together with a quantity of over fifty similar size photographs of various sideshow performers, including several of the octogenarian human blockhead, strip tease show, and others. Very good.
Rob Torres was one of the funniest and most professional clowns in the world. Having performed in over 80 countries throughout his life, he brought laughter to thousands if not millions of people creating a fan base that was truly world-wide.
Tragically in late June, Rob suddenly passed away of a heart attack while flying to his engagement in Boston, Massachusetts.
Rob and I were working on a book project tentatively titled “A Clown in Our Town” which included photographs of Rob in many of the cities where he performed using iconic geographical locations to showcase his clown character in that particular town. We shot in Paris (Cirque d’Hiver), St. Louis (Circus Flora) and New York (Big Apple Circus) and had plans to shoot in 6 other cities during his upcoming tours.
While planning this tribute book, I realized that Rob had been captured by many other wonderful photographers. I reached out to a number of my colleagues who had also had the pleasure and opportunity of capturing Rob performing. I am fortunate to have Maike Schulz, Michelle Bates and a few others (names will be announced at a later date) share their own vision through photographs of Rob performing in different venues. Their work will contribute to the second part of the book. I have also contacted his family to contribute photographs of Rob in his early years.
To produce this tribute, funds are needed for graphic design work and publishing. I encourage you to share Rob’s vision and help make this book a wonderful TRIBUTE to Rob Torres – anybody who ever met him or saw him perform knows how much he truly deserves it.
Hardcover book featuring approx. 30+ pages of Color/B&W photographs.
Unique and unrepeatable first edition.
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~ Pledge $75 – 2 copies of the book and a Special Thank You in the book.
~ Pledge $50 – one copy of the book and a Thank You in the book.
~ Pledge $10 – a postcard featuring one of the photographs from the book and a Thank You. ~ Pledge $5 – a Social Media shout out from the photographers in the book. ~ Make a pledge without a reward. Any amount is appreciated!
Estimated delivery date: March 31, 2019 ~ So please, give what you can, tell who you can, and let’s start this journey together. ~
All funds that are donated which exceed the printing/designing costs will be forwarded to the Estudio Búsqueda de Panotmima-Teatro/The Rob Torres Memorial and Scholarship Fund.
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Who is Rob Torres? For those of you that aren’t familiar with this brilliant clown I would like to present a wonderful documentary by Sebastiano Greco and Luigi Marmo. (Thank You Sebastiano and Luigi!)