Time Circus Men
It is strange how men
will drift into different kinds of business. Mr.
Cooper was a horse man, and made a contract with
Gardner and Hemming to haul their show through the
country, which marked his entry into the circus
Mr. Forepaugh's was a similar experience. By the
way, Mr. Forepaugh was the first man to place the
animals and circus in separate tents. Mr. Wallace,
of Wallace Circus of the present time, was a livery
stable man. Sells Brothers had a "Yankee Notion"
wagon and traveled from town to town with Hemming
and Cooper's circus, opening up their wagon in the
town square and selling their goods. After two years
they started a show of their own, which passed out
of existence at their death.
Ringling Brothers, owning the largest show of the
present day, started in a modest way and have been
very successful, owning the Ringling show, the
Barnum and Bailey show and a large interest in the
Buffalo Bill show and Sells and Forepaugh show. Mr.
Kohl always told John Ringling that they did not
advertise their best feature; that be considered any
five brothers that could get along without
quarrelling was the greatest feature about the show;
which is surely true.
Of all the old time circus men that I once knew, all
have passed away except W. W, Cole, who is living in
retirement in New York with plenty of this world's
goods to keep him comfortable.
I think the greatest rider that the world has ever
produced was James Robinson. When he walked in the
ring to begin his act, with whip in hand, and jumped
on the back of his bare-backed horse one was
impressed at that minute that he was "it". He had
that style and grace and finish to his act that no
one else ever had that I have seen or heard of.
It was the same with Blondin, the tight rope walker
who crossed Niagara Falls on a tight rope years ago.
I have seen nearly all the tight rope walkers, but
there was only one great artist - he was Blondin.
James A. Bailey was a remarkable man, the greatest
tent showman that ever lived. His proper name was
McGinnis. He was a bell boy in a small hotel in
Detroit at the beginning of the war. Colonel Fred
Bailey was the General Agent of William Lake's
circus at that time. Their route took them through
Detroit. In those days the agent traveled with a
horse and buggy, and one wagon followed carrying the
pictorial papers to be posted as they went along.
(Now-a-days it requires three separate cars.) Their
route took them through Detroit, when young McGinnis
made application to Colonel Bailey to take him
along. Fred Bailey was accompanied by an assistant
by the name of Stephens. The only place they had
where young McGinnis could ride was on the water
bucket between their legs in the buggy, and away
they went. Stephens did not like the idea of
bothering with young McGinnis, or Bailey as we shall
now call him, and wished Colonel Bailey to send him
back to Detroit, but he would not listen to it, and
said: "I am going to make an agent of this boy."
After the season was over they wintered in
Zanesville, Ohio, and Colonel Bailey lived down at
Cincinnati. Having business up at Zanesville where
the show was in winter quarters, he went up there
and found Jimmie, as he called him, learning to be a
circus rider. He immediately took him to Cincinnati,
as he did not wish him to be a circus performer. In
the whirligig of time young Bailey became a regular
agent. He told me his ambition was to receive more
salary than any other agent ever did, which ambition
was realized. Then he had an ambition to become a
proprietor and bought an interest in the Cooper and
Bailey show. In 1876 he started the show for the
West, and along in the middle of the summer decided
to take the show to Australia, something never heard
of before. He made arrangements to ship the circus
and menagerie to Australia and on the 3rd of
November, 1876, we sailed for Australia on the
steamer "City of Sydney," from San Francisco. We
landed at Sydney, went to Melbourne, Adelaide,
Brisbane, and from there back to Sydney. Bailey left
for America and the show started for India by the
way of Java, with me in charge. While I was in
Batavia Bailey cabled me to return to Australia with
the show, which I did. We showed there again, in
Tasmania and in New Zealand. Chartering a sailing
vessel there, we sailed for Peru, South America,
landing at Callao. From there we went up to Lima,
then back down to Valparaiso, Santiago, Montevideo,
Buenos Ayres, and around through the Straits up the
east coast of South America to New York, having been
gone two years. We all landed back home broke.