Friday, July 31, 2009


From: Chris Berry

In one of the followup notes from an earlier posting this week there was some discussion about Ringling-Barnum's usage of the title "Combined Shows" as opposed to "Combined Circus". As Richard Reynolds pointed out - "Combined Circus" was first used during the early 1930s when Samuel Gumpertz was running the show during a time of great financial uncertainty.

As I mentioned in a followup message, John Ringling North reinstated "Combined Shows" into the title when he took control of the circus in 1938 and contracted the Strobridge Litho Co. to design a number of very powerful posters that carried that use of the title. Despite the fact that those great Strobridge lithos were used during that tumultuous 1938 season - a number of older pieces were also used on the bill car that year. This particular poster is the third treatment of this elephant artwork. It was printed by Central Print and Illinois Litho although similar designs were executed earlier by Ringling-Barnum by both Strobridge and Erie.

This particular poster marks the performance of "Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Presenting Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Stupendous New Features" in Milwaukee, exactly 71 years ago today. Incidentally, when Chappie Fox gave me this poster over 30 years ago he told me that by 1938 he was 25 years old - and had cut back on the number of posters that he actually pulled out of store windows once the show left town. (I'm glad he saved this one!)

RBBB Gold (From Mike Naughton)

tyler herriott koch, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Working his way through college on his summer vacation is Tyler Herriott Koch at the outside Program Booth. Tyler is the third generation of the American Circus dynasty to be associated with The Greatest Show on Earth. His mother, Heidi, and sister, Cassidy, attend the mini-menagerie supplied by The Commerfords. Heidi and Cassidy answer constant questions from the city-bound New Yorkers. This interaction is very popular with the families. A mini donkey was born while in Coney Island and has been named, "Cyclone" in honor of the famous roller coaster.

"Those of you who know me personally are well aware that I call it like I see it. So be it known that I had a hellavu good time at RBBB Gold under the Big Top. Don't miss it, the show is turbo-charged with energy from the start to the end, the cast has personality plus, the band had my feet tapping several times and the "seen it all" New York audience is just eating it up. The applause is thunderous.
I attended the middle and last shows of a three show WEEKDAY schedule, the houses were 3/4+ full out of 2000+ seats. Those of you who know me also know that I know how to count a house! LOL.
I cannot wait to see it again!
I hope RBBB at Coney Island becomes a regular thing because it will easily establish itself as a summer circus tradition as BIG APPLE is the winter circus tradition in New York City.
Two completely different styles of circus, two vastly difference demographics audiences in one big city. There's enough room for everyone.
The Gold Unit is pure gold."

Coney Island marquee display case

Inside the marquee, the bar on the left, then the concessions, then the entry to the Big Show. On the opposite side is the Animal Open House entry and the Beer Garden. The display case/circus wagon has several circus hats/headpieces from the "Hollywood" era of the Greatest Show on Earth. Well done and you know you are at the circus.

Coney Island Big Top Bar

Coney Island Big Top Bar, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

From the beer garden looking toward the reception tent or marquee. Many tables are set-up for the patrons to enjoy a $6.00 premium beer or $6.00 glass of wine.

Coney Island Big Top Bar inside

RBBB Big Top Bar, note the menu on top. Beer and wine, $6.00 each. Years ago the blue room was hidden out back and now it is brought to the front, classed and flashed up to serve the carriage trade. Dad gets a Heineken, Mom gets a Chardonnay, Brother gets a sno cone, Sis gets a candy floss. Everybody is happy.

Suspended Blankets

Suspended Blankets, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Suspended over the arriving guests in the marquee are several of Ringling trademark animal blankets richly adorned with rhinestone, sequins and elaborate appliques.

Coney Island interior

Coney Island interior, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Just after finale the clean-up crew swarms upon the debris. The fast moving crew has the place cleaned up in about 20 minutes.

Coney Island air condition units

Massive air conditioning units keep pumping cool air inside the big top on a hot and humid day by the boardwalk. The inside was as comfortable as being in a theater.

Coney Island Animal Open House

Coney Island Animal Open House, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Mike Rice and Louie Del Moral visiting from Cole Brothers with Ramon Esqueda at the Animal Open House at Ringling in Coney Island. The entire performing area and backyard was black-topped just for the circus. The industrial fencing's look is softened with colorful banners that are "themed" which adds color and creates an appealing atmosphere.

Coney Island Porta Crappa

Coney Island Porta Crappa, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The Porta Crappas are cleverly hidden with fencing and signage. Just beyond is a stand with bottled water, soda, beer, ice cream, et cetera.
I really hope this becomes an annual booking. I don't think it would conflict with Big Apple at all. If anything it would cannibalize the Ringling dates at Madison Square Garden and the Nassau Coliseum.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Prince El Kigordo (From Buckles)

Scan11919, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Buckles, Who was Prince El Kigordo, the lion tamer?
Lane Talburt

"He was probably the most unassuming lion trainer I ever knew. We were together on the Polack Show for a season and he was a lot of fun to be around. He knew all the latest jokes, always upbeat and I don't recall him ever having a beef with anyone.
The act wasn't bad considering that he was self taught but he had the misfortune of following the likes of Pat Anthony.
The Prince seemed to enjoy driving his truck more than anything. He took great delight in beating me and Joe Zoppe to the next town. Being unencumbered with wife and family he could travel almost non stop.
He narrated a tape, done as tho he was a race track announcer, something like Spike Jones would do, "Around the curve comes Buckles driving the big diesel elephant truck! (lots of roaring sound effects).
"Down the back stretch comes Joe with the screaming diesel horse truck! (more sound effects).
"And bringing up the rear is the little lion truck!" (which of course sounded like a coffee percolator.)
Needless to say who won the race but whenever the Prince spotted either Joe or I approaching, he would quickly turn on the tape player and crank it up as loud as it would go.

St. Louis 1963 #1

Scan11915, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #2

Scan11923, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #3

Scan11916, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #4

Scan11920, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Mr. Sensation

St. Louis 1963 #5

Scan11917, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #6

Scan11921, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #7

Scan11918, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #8

Scan11919, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

St. Louis 1963 #9

SAVE0731, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Ben was entrusted with Curly Joe's cigar during each performance.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Grandkids are growing up!

SNC00151, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Alain Zerbini-owner-Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Hi Buckles,

The Zerbini Circus out of Myakka City, FL has recently been playing dates in the northeast.
I am attaching a few photos that may be of interest showing some of the great folks that are touring with the show this season.

Best regards,

Don Curtis

Letty Zerbini-co owner, Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Abel Rojas, Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Air conditioned dressing room

Air conditioned dressing room, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Gustavo Rimirez, Zerbini Circus

Carmen Rosales, performer, Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Giraro and Jorge Rosales, Zerbini Circus, 2009

Fiaviola Rojas and Maria Cruz, Zerbini Circus, Concessionaires, 2009

Owens, Ossy and Oswald Sanchez, Zerbini Circus, 2009

Melody Rimirez, ringmistress, Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Hugo Palmatorer-Zerbini Circus, 2009 (2)

Alain Zerbini with featured attraction-Cody, 2009

Zerbini cast, 2009

Zerbini cast, 2009, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From Chris Berry #2

Following the posting of the Ringling-Barnum 1919 "Clown Two-Sheet" - Ole Whitey suggested that I post a photo of a similar bill used by Sells-Floto about a decade later. Today we would probably call this a "knock off" - but this litho, produced by Illinois Litho and Central Printing was clearly based on the earlier, more detailed, Strobridge design, and used by Sells-Floto in the early 30s (after the American Circus Corp was purchased by John Ringling

From Chris Berry

It's now been 128 years since "P. T. Barnum's Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome" played its first date back in April of 1871, but more amazing to me is the fact that it has now been 90 years since the season of 1919 when the Ringling Bros combined their show with the Barnum & Bailey circus! With an estimated 75,000 Americans now 100 years old or older - there are a lot of people still living who, though their memories may have dimmed, might have seen that first combined Ringling-Barnum circus. Some of them no doubt on hand for performances during late July of 1919 as the new combined show was traveling throughout Ohio and lower Michigan - the trains arriving in Detroit for a two-day stand 90 years ago today - July 28, 1919.

This poster is another great example of existing artwork being modified to announce the combined show of 1919. This particular bill is a two sheet (approx 56"x42"). The top one-sheet of the clown graphic was originally copyrighted and used by Ringling Bros during the 1915 season. When the combined shows were announced, the artists at Strobridge created the "Barnum & Bailey" lettering for the bottom half and blended some shading so that the two lithos could be fixed together - announcing the title of the larger "Greatest Show on Earth" on an even larger poster.

Route Card #1 (From Buckles)

Scan11911, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #2

Scan11910, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #3

Scan11913, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #4

Scan11895, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #5

Scan11909, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Sunburst Wheel

Scan11914, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

This has been in the family for as long as I can remember. It came as a gift to my dad from the man who send the John Pawling route card above "Sunburst" Charlie Lockier".
It stands upright and looks to be about the same size as a front wheel on my 1" scale model wagons.
Still spins after all these years.

Route Card #6

Scan11907, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #7

Scan11912, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #8

Scan11908, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Route Card #9

Scan11906, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

(reverse side)

Scan11905, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Monday, July 27, 2009

From Gee Gee's albums #1 (Part 16)

Scan11900, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Stevens Sea Lions

From Gee Gee's albums #2

Scan11901, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Mr. & Mrs. Robert Fairchild

From Gee Gee's albums #3

Scan11899, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

Steele's Performing Bears