Sideshow visitors to the Cole Bros. Circus in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 18th 1946, were greeted with this wall of garish posters proclaiming the "unbelievable sights which awaited them on the inside.

With exaggerated words and pictures the banners listed the sideshow attractions.  that season show goers could view the Cole Bros. Circus snake enchantress, the armless boy, the world's smallest midget, magician, Punch and Judy, Mexican bell ringers, fighting lion, world', greatest mystery, mentalist, Chinese jugglers, Mexican musical act and a ventriloquist.

In the days of the large tent circuses, the sideshow was more than a gimmick to keep the crowds interested between shows.  It was a money maker.  Frequently patrons came only to see the "freaks" and never bought a ticket to the big show.  Most circus owners agreed that the take from sideshow ticket sales often supported the company from day to day.

In spite of their popularity, sideshows were once subject to legal restrictions.  Several states had ruled it illegal to exhibit strange or unfortunate people to the public.  In enforcing these laws, it is said that many local officers arrested sideshow managers and used the power of the law to exact payoffs.

With the advent of the new indoor circuses, the sideshow has virtually disappeared from the American scene.  Only at the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros.  Circus, the largest touring tent circus in the country, can the unusual sideshow sights still be viewed by the public.


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