Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Robinson Elephants #1 (From Buckes)

When the Robinson Family sold their circus they retained four elephants that appeared in Vaudeville for many years.
Here is one such date in 1914 and shows "Tillie" doing the "walk-across" with her trainer Dan "Curley" Noonan.
"Tillie" first appeared with the John Robinson Circus in 1872.
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Bob Cline said...

If the family sold the show in 1911 andd kept these four elephants, were there any elephants included in the sale and if so which ones were they?

Buckles said...

Shortly after the show closed they sent the elephants (including "Ella" and "Basil" a male)to the Selig Zoo where they did movie work, etc.
They were out there for several years and I think "Basil" remained there.
No further record on "Ella".

Anonymous said...

The John Robinson show had been closed for several years before it was sold to the group which later founded the American Circus Corporation. Those smart showmen primarily bought it for the John Robinson title, which they then began to use on their "Robinson's Famous Shows." The old John Robinson equipment was then resold as I recall to Ben Wallace and much of it simply rotted at his place. I don't think any animals were included in either of these John Robinson sales.

Anonymous said...

To Whitey. I was surprised to hear your comment that John Robinson had been closed for many years prior to AMC acquiring such. I doubt if Ben Wallace bought it after AMC because once AMC got H-W it seems Ben Wallace was no longer in the picture. We do know that John Robinson Circus was one of the flagship shows of AMC and was the first show Ringling closed after the purchase, eventually retiring Floto, Barnes and then HW. Ed Ballard always liked to have JR winter in his West Baden tourist, mineral springs etc. Indiana, rather than Peru. We know that the great showpeople of those years served on JR. Believe Sam Dill was Mgr. and then Jess Adkins. Rudy Rudinoff made his initial career with JR. and Robert Thornton was EQus-Director for a couple years. No question it was a major American Circus under both Robinson family and AMC. I had no idea it had been closed for several years in that i9nterim period. We all know the stories of how all the blacks in the south revered "John Robinson Show Day". Itwas my understanding that Ringling closed it first because it had always been a thorn in its side during their southern route each year. Will be interested in hearing your and some historians comment especially that it had lain dormant. Clyde Beatty was a product of Howes Great London and then John Robinson and then HW due to the influence of Manager Jess Adkins of all three shows.

Anonymous said...

Is there any way I could get copies of some of the Robinson photos....we have a historical society here...in Terrace Park where the Robinson Circus wintered. And we're trying to put the story together visually as well... Thanks!

Anonymous said...

John: Be careful not to confuse the two different shows using the John Robinson title.

The John Robinson Circus which did so well for the owners of the American Circus Corporation in the 1920s was not the same show as the John Robinson 10-Big Shows which the Robinson family had operated for many years. That show never went out after 1911.

When Mugivan and associates bought that show and title from John G Robinson in 1916, it was for the purpose of getting the John Robinson title which they proceeded to use on a show they already had- which had gone by the name Robinson's Famous Shows (and which title is another story).

It is well documented that they sold the physical equipment from their purchase to an aging Ben Wallace, who kept a hand in the business by leasing and selling wagons and other equipment to various circuses and
carnivals. Wallace died in 1921 and the Corporation then bought his winterquarters from the estate.

The Corporation continued using the John Robinson title as long as it existed. As you say, after the sale of the corporation shows to John Ringling in late 1929, the show that used the John Robinson title was only continued for one more year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Whitey for your interesting comments in reply to mine. I enjoy hearing detailed info on circus history and it seems so many factors enter in in what seems obvious. I always hearde it was quite a show under whatever actual owner. I am right that three generation all of the name John Robinson in person ran the show. Did Gil Robinson sell the title to Mugivan and Co.? In the above sentence I meant , not I am, but Am I. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


Yes you are right about the three John Robinsons: Ole John, John F and John G, who sold the show to Jerry Mugivan.

Gil visited the corporation version of the Robinson show at the opening of the 1923 season, which would have been the 100th tour if the show had started in 1824 and if it had operated continuously, neither of which was the case. But the press boys certainly took that position.

I am sending some pictures of Robinson material to Buckles, so keep your eyes peeled to this site.

Ree-gards, Ole Whitey

Anonymous said...

When "MARGARET" and I did this trick, I kept my head to the ground and my eyes closed. She was such a grand old elephant.