Sonia And Fifi In Scanties Brave Maine Cold For Circus Career


Sonia, Queen of the reptiles, emerges (left, about under the deft brush of Clarence C. "Cad" Hill soon to grace the outside of a road show tent.  Hill and Charles F. Ross, out on the Blackstrap Road in Falmouth, do much of the banner art work for the Country's leading circus.  Ross is shown in the Insert, pausing a moment with his brushes.  At right Ross prepares Fifi, the Beautiful Sheep-Headed Girl, for her forthcoming trip to the Texas Centennial.



World's Most Amay-zing Collection

Of Freaks Found On Blackstrap Hill


But They're On Canvas Painted By Maine Men


Charles Ross And "Cad" Hill In Little Woodshed Workshop Prepare Nation's Circuses For Glittering Season.


Fifi didn't contact pneumonia, although the photographer kept her leaning in the doorway for a good five minutes while the chill April breeze raking Blackstrap Hill whistled about her scantily clad form.


Oh scantily clad, indeed: Fifi wore but the filmiest of whatchamacallits, form the waist down; from the waist up, only a sunny smile.


But Fifi - the full title is Fifi, the Beautiful Sheep Headed Girl - smiled with good reason: soon, now, she'll be off to warmer weather than the kind that breeds on Blackstrap Hill, for they're sending Fifi down to sunny Texas, to  queen it over the other gals in the midway tents of the Texas Centennial.


Behind her, when she bids adieu to the Farmouth hilltop, Fifi will be leaving Sonia Queen of the Reptiles, and certain other exotic characters (including the playful boa constrictor looped around the lissome Sonia's alabaster neck, The frog Boy, and the Parisian Dancing Girls), all of them stranger creatures than you'd find in a day's march anywhere else among the rural Cumberland hills.


This is no hashish-eater's dream reader.  It's just one of the boys work on the typewriter after the City Editor said: "Hop on your bicycle . . . Blackstrap Road . . . Couple painters doing posters for circuses."


Which lets the cat out of the bag. Fifi, Sonia. The Frog Boy and the others are just figures on canvas.  But, Laydeez and Gentlemen.  Each and Every one is The Most Amay-zing,  The Most Fascinating, The Most -


Oh well, leave that to the barkers.  The circus will be coming to town soon now.  And with it will come the dancing girls, the snake-charmers, glass-eaters, sword-swallowers and ad the other amazing people Charles F. Ross and Clarence C. ("Cad") Hill of Falmouth have been putting on their monster canvas banners since snow began to fly.


Widely Known In Show Business


Well known to show people all over North America since the turn of the century.  Hill and Ross...............................................................................................................


Charles Ross and Cad Hill joined forces in 1912, have employed one another turn and turn about, and worked in partnership ever since Ross even as a New painter in Lewiston, painted his first show banner in 1897 for old Ezra Stevens of Bryant's Pond, who operated an early road show in Maine.  Ross was born in Mechanic Falls in 1879.


Hill, 65. native of Sandwich. N. H. got his start in the late Eighties in Lynn Mass, area as a sign painter and scenic-art worker.


In 1890,  Hill did his first show work painting a number of advertising posters for the lobby display of a Lynn theater-museum.  He did this off and on for three or four years.  Meantime he was getting acquainted with show people-performers in fairs and road shows of all sorts making brief stops in Lynn.


Worked At Stone's Museum


By 1894 Cad Hill's work was so well known around Greater Boston he was hired in Austin Stone's Museum the site of the present Gordon's Olympia.  He worked there for seven years painting posters for lobby display and meeting circus people playing at Stones during the "Lay-off months: of late Fall and Winter.


The circus men noted Cad Hill's work and liked it.  And in 98 when the boys were sent  off to fight the War with Spain, Cad took his biggest assignment to date, painting his banners for the John H. Sparks, Walter L. Main and Pawnee Bill Wild West Show.


He went to New York, painting more posters in the layoff months for Barnum and Bailey, Buffalo Bill and the old 101 Ranch.  Coney Island was booming, And Cad Hill was hired on for posters of freaks and dancers and jugglers for Luna Park and Dreamland.


Banner After Banner


The wanderlust caught him  then and he journeyed to San Antonio Texas, and the California coast, turning out banner after banner for all sorts of shows and circuses.  The name of Cad Hill was a by word in  show circles all over the Country. 


Remember the Ubangi natives those African woman whose  lip were expanded by dishes from childhood, hung down to their chins, Cad Hill painted the banners advertising them in an incredulous world of circus fans.


The first freak picture Cad Hill ever painted was one of Millie-Christine the Siamese Twins for the old museum in Lynn back in 1890.


Sine then he's painted banners of "Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Russian Boy", various and sundry Wild Men of Borneo, The Korean Twins, Siamese giants. Fat Ladies, midgets troupes and freaks and monstrosities of every description.


He's been at it steadily, ever since 1890.  Even after the accident which robbed him of his legs.  For four years he sat in a wheelchair - but worked just the same, with his crayon and brushes.


Ross after several years as a sign painter and advertising painter in Lewiston, felt the call of the road too.  He went westward with his paints tackled man-size scenery designing and painting assignments in Buffalo N. Y. and Cleveland O,

where he did the scenery for the then new Hippodrome.  He painted scenery for Lewiston's Empire Theater.  For years as a sign-painter and half-owner of  one of Portland's major outdoor advertising firms, he did much of the poster workd and scenery for Keith's Theater here.


Recalls Old Timers


Ross recalled some of the old-timers he knew in those early years:  Harry Wren, Jack Mann, Max Greenberg, Greenberg, originally for Lewiston, today is a leading scenery man for Paramount Pictures on the West Coast.


Ross employed Hill in the Lewiston sight business back in 1910 Later, Hill preparing down in San Antonio tuned the tables by hiring Ross to work with him.  For years thereafter, they took turn and turn about as employers and assistant, until Ross.....................................................................................................................

was to that door because the kind of mousetrap they build is the best that ever be built - or painted.


"It's all in having friend," they explain.  The friends Ross and Hill made in their early years in show business probed steadfast: because of those friends. the partners find they have just about all they can do season after season to keep one jump ahead of the flood of orders.


Rowboat Making Hobby.


Ross for instance, likes to make rowboats.  It's his hobby. He had one half finished early in the Winter.. but the orders began pouring in so heavily he had to hang the boat on a rafter in the woodshed-studio, and get busy with his business.  That was months ago and the boat's still unfinished.


"In San Antonio" said hill, "we need to start painting in December and work steadily until Starting on posters for Al G. Barnes, Sells-Floto and others big Western shows.


But here in the East, the shows don't seem to get started until much later in the season.


That's when the partners are finishing up a big order for Boekus and Kilonis of Manchester N. H. the only circus with headquarters in New England.  This show will play Portland in a few weeks.  Ten 10 by 14 banners and 21 by 14 putout entrance banner for the Hill and Ross workshop will help the barkers pull the fans in.


A week ago the two shipped 15 big banners to the Conken and Garett Canadian shows.  Only recently the finished off a big order for the Rice Brothers Circus.  Just now the Boekus and Kilonis order, and another for the Texas Centennial - where Fifi the Beautiful Sheep Headed Girl, soon will be wowing the delegates - are keeping them hard at work.  Mrs. Montle Lowell, a near neighbor, in seamstress for them.


Ross and Hill specialize in soft front banners prized by road showmen, because they can be folded compactly without damage.  Only Thursday, already as busy as any two men ought to be, they receive another big order.


Article courtesy of Robert Lapidus


Portland Evening Express - Portland Main - Friday April 10, 1936 - by Edward H. Carlson


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