Old Time Circus Men - 3


Dan. Rice was a circus character that I knew. Everybody in those days knew of Dan. Rice and his one horse show. He played ring master and clown, performed, trained horses, and was as well able to protect himself in a personal encounter as any man I ever knew. I remember Mr. Cooper sending him a telegram one year, offering him five hundred dollars a week to go with his show and play clown. His answer was that the amount would not keep him in whiskey. His great country was up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, with what they called "Steamboat shows".

John O'Brien was a queer character and owned a very large show at one time. Some seasons he had two or three different shows on the road. I remember one Sunday when we were in Philadelphia, we went up to Frankford where Mr. O'Brien lived, and his first salutation to Mr. Cooper was, "How is that 'round the corner grocery circus of yours?" He had a very attractive daughter and to his great disappointment she married Walter Stuart, who was in the side show, having neither arms nor legs. One season he had three different shows out with names unknown in the show business. I asked him where he found the names. He replied they were copied off of tombstones, so he would not be bothered by the people he named them after.

Adam Forepaugh was a fine man who had been in the butchering business. He got the circus fever and started the finest show of that day, became very successful and accumulated a fortune. I will never forget a funny incident that happened in the cook tent. Clarence Farrell was his treasurer. Mrs. Brown had a daughter named Molly, who was the star rider with the Forepaugh circus. The old lady not wishing to lose her meal ticket, noticed that she and Farrell were getting very much in love with each other, and one day while at dinner, in the cook tent, the old lady and Farrell began cross firing at each other, or, to use a slang expression, getting back at each other with hot words, with Mr. Forepaugh sitting there enjoying it very much. Finally, they began throwing plates at each other, when Mr. Forepaugh thought it was time for him to say something, so he called out, "Here, this thing has gone far enough, by -----, these dishes cost money." When they commenced destroying his property he did not see so much fun in it.

Mr. Forepaugh could never forget that he was a butcher. Whenever he arrived in a town he would get into a buggy and make for the meat market, where his meat was contracted for, and get it up on the ground. Then, instead of paying any attention to the tents with the wagons or animals, he would get his knife and saw and go to cutting up the meat. It gave him more pleasure than anything else. He would say some very funny things. In Syracuse one day when the business was very dull, the dead head tickets seemed to come in very fast, and he would take them in and tear them up savagely. Dan Taylor, the boss canvas man said: "Mr. Forepaugh, don't we want some sawdust?" Mr. Forepaugh said: "By -----! No! We will use these torn tickets for sawdust."

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