In Melbourne, Australia,
while we were showing on the banks of the river
Yarra Yarra, something happened to the eels in the
river, and thousands of them were seen dead,
floating on the river. That night, while the people
who came in carriages and hacks were in looking at
the show, some of the town boys on the outside
thought they would have some fun, and I think they
put dead eels on the seats of every carriage that
was waiting around the show. They had no lights for
the carriages and hacks, and when the people came to
sit down they found themselves sitting on these
slimy, dead eels. I can assure you that things were
very lively around there for a while, between the
screaming of the women, the swearing of the men and
the laughing of the onlookers. The papers in
Melbourne said they thought the death of the eels
was caused by the noise our steam calliope made.
It was in Australia that I first met Harry Keller,
the great magician, who has retired and is now
living in Los Angeles.
I also met Will J. Davis in Australia, and I am
pleased to say the three of us have been good
friends ever since.
We had a funny experience in Australia. In America
circus men have no hour for meals. If the outfit is
delayed its just hustle until the doors are open. In
Australia we were late one day getting in to one of
the interior towns and had to hire a lot of extra
men to unload and get up the tents. Imagine one day
when they all sat down to smoke for half an hour. I
thought Mr. Bailey would go crazy. The idea of them
taking a smoke when we were so late was a new thing
Before the present plan of cook tents the management
and performers stopped in the hotels, the proprietor
generally in the best, the performers in the next
best, etc. When Bailey & Cooper engaged James
Robinson, the rider, to go to Australia he was the
only one available so he dictated his own terms
regarding price, etc. He got $500.00 per week, work
or play, and all his expenses for horses and family.
Robinson also insisted on inserting in the contract
that he was to be put up in the same hotel with Mr.
Bailey at which Mr. Bailey was annoyed. So Bailey to
get even with Robinson, stopped at boarding houses
all the time. He said he was sure to have the
While in Australia we were told about sand storms
but never saw one until we were showing up the
country from Adelaide when one came rolling along in
our direction. When it reached us you could not see
two feet and when it passed on then came a cloud
burst and soon the streams were out of their banks.
Our tents were washed away. Some of the people in
the town did not seem alarmed for the saloons kept
on doing business though the water was two feet deep
in the saloons and the folks standing in the water
up to the bar drinking away. We did not get our
stuff together for several days.
Jos. K. Emmet was playing in Australia while we were
there and he, like many others, once in a great
while got too much aboard. It was announced that the
Governor-General Sir Hercules Robinson was to attend
his performance this night and Emmet was not in
condition to appear, and to the surprise of many
Emmet's business was capacity afterwards; the
curiosity to see the American actor who had the
nerve to disappoint when the Governor-General was to
attend filled the house as long as he stayed.
We were much amused while in one of the interior
towns by a black woman who was carrying her baby in
her arms. Our curiosity to see the black baby was
great, and looking at it very closely, we discovered
that she had mixed some grease and charcoal and
given the baby a coating of it. It was a very warm
day and the heat of the sun had caused the black
grease to run off the baby, which showed the child
to be half white. It struck us that the mother was
ashamed of having a mulatto baby.
Mr. Cunningham, whom I knew over there, had occasion
to bring some aborigines over to the Barnum show the
year I was with it. He told me in crossing from San
Francisco to Omaha they encountered a snow storm.
These natives had never seen snow and of course,
were much surprised, and in trying to make
Cunningham see that they knew what it was, they gave
a motion of the hand as though they were turning a
crank. In a short time Cunningham figured out they
had experienced turning an ice cream freezer and
likened the snow to ice cream.