CIRCUS MEMOIRS
Early Ventures -1

 

Returning to Madison, I decided to go to school a while to a French school master - Monsieur Pierforke - who had lost one arm in his native country in a battle. Having spent three years in the army, when I returned to school reduced in class rank, I felt discouraged, and becoming discontented I soon stopped. After a time I got a position on the wharf boat, Vevay, Indiana, where I remained one year. While here I decided I needed a wife. As the available ones seemed to be going very fast I had a fear that there would not be enough to go around, so I took one unto myself, a Miss Kate Rea. After about eighteen years of wedded life we agreed to disagree.


Returning to Madison I opened a cigar store. After a few months, during which time I was my own best customer, along came an agent for the Grover & Baker Sewing Machine company, of Cincinnati. He gave me the agency of the machine and furnished me a wagon. I sold my cigar store to take up this business and set off through the country to peddle sewing machines. My territory was Southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky. I was fairly successful, but grew weary of it. An opportunity came along to go to Edinburg, Indiana, to manage a hotel. While there in that capacity I met a gentleman living in town, a Mr. John Fulton, who was a circus man. As we got acquainted sitting around the office stove evenings, I made inquiries about the circus business, its opportunities for money-making, etc. His answers struck me favorably; in fact, very favorably. After listening to him a few times, I was so favorably impressed that I informed him I wanted to be a circus man and inquired as to what amount of capital would be necessary for me to take an interest with him. He asked me if I had five hundred dollars. I told him no, but I would try to borrow it, which I did, becoming a half partner in the side show with Hemmings, Cooper & Whitby's Circus and Menagerie, which had already started out for the season from Louisville, Kentucky, April, 1870.


Mr. Fulton took my five hundred dollars and bought the outfit of H. Norman, who was to have gone with the show, but who changed his mind, associating himself with the James Robinson Circus.


We joined the circus at Paris, Kentucky. I drove on to the show lot and proceeded to put up the tent for the side show and unloaded the wagons. I had never been to a circus or side show in my life, so you can readily understand that these things were new to me. Attending to horses, cooking for the people, putting up and taking down the tent, was much like army life, so I was at home in a way. The first man to come to me on the show lot was Mr. James A. Bailey, who proffered his advice and good will, insisting on my calling on him for any information or assistance that I might need. This acquaintance ripened into an association and friendship that lasted through his life.


The outfit that we got from Mr. Norman looked anything but prosperous. When I say that the four horses had one eye, I speak the truth. One eye in four horses, think of it! The wagons and harness were in a dilapidated condition, the tent full of patches and ropes full of knots. The only thing in this outfit for my five hundred dollars was the opportunity to make money.


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