Old 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 business.
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.

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