Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Lerches # 1

This is one of several Press Photos that Bill and Gen Lerche used over the years. This particular shot was printed in Southern Sawdust in 1975. Bill Lerche started in show business in 1916 doing comedy routines, traps and rings. He toured on the Hagenbeck-Wallace show, John Robinson, M.L.Clark and Sons, Campbell Bros., and Harris Bros. Shows as well as smaller dog and pony shows, vaudeville dates, and fairs before even meeting Gen in 1924.

The Lerches # 2

This is Bill and Genieve Lerche. Bill met Gen in Upper Sandusky, Ohio on July 4th, 1924 while he was performing with another performer named Betty Zenaro. Betty and Gen had grown up together. Bill and Gen were married in January of 1926. Betty later married Fred Leonard. Betty Leonard and Gen Lerche remained close friends throughout the rest of their lives. Bill and Gen performed up till 1941 when the depression had hurt everyone the worst and settled in Bellevue, Ohio.

The Lerches # 3

This is Bill and Gen working their ring act on the fair circuit around the late 1930's I believe. They offered the clowning routines, the Comedy Table Rock and the Ring act on various shows such as Cooper Bros. ,Haag Bros., Conroy Bros., Zellmar Bros., Cole and Rogers. They also made a living working the vaudeville circuit, fairs and festivals, theaters and night clubs.

The Lerches # 4

This is Billy Lerche doing his Comedy table rock on the fair circuit. The table rock was a comedy of errors in assemblying these four tables on top of each other. We still have them in the barn and trust me they are not light. Once on top of each other, Billy crawled in and out of each one until he reached the top while sitting on a chair and getting the tables rocking back and forth. When they finally were going to fall, Billy rode the chair all the way down, did a somersault with the chair and finished the routine sitting in the chair to the howls and laughter from the entire audience.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

50 years ago, the circus was thought to be changed and ruined. Who could have possibly thought that they would see what is called a circus today. ( Double clicking the image will make it larger to read. )

Believe it or not, this is from a 1978 Circus Program. Really! So how has it changed? Well one show in particular has no rings at all, no cannon act, no flying trapeze, no lions and tigers and Bears, oh My, no High wire, no liberty acts, others have no elephants, no tents anymore, some have no animals at all. Some even call the acrobatic Theater a Circus now. And to think that thirty years ago we wouldn't realize how much it has changed!

Monday, May 22, 2006

This is the 1937 Seils Sterling Clown Band. If the tune is as snappy as the wardrobe, you just know they were a Happy lot. The Hodgini family presented their riding act in the show then doubled in Brass as part of the Clown Band as well.

This is a really serious number being presented by the 1941 Cole Bros. Circus Clown Band. Musical Director was Otto Greibling. Oh how times have changed. There used to be a Clown Band, Minstrel Band, Side Show Band and of course the Big Top Band. Now you can't even find a band.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

This is one photo from the Cecil B. deMille movie the "Greatest Show on Earth". Eugene "Arky" Scott was in charge of the Ringling elephant herd and was represented by the evil Klaus or Lyle Bettiger. Jeannie Sleeter was the foot in the face girl portrayed by Gloria Grahame. If my research is correct, the Ringling show went out in 1951 with 25 elephants while this movie was being made.
This is an extremely colorful ink blotter issued with the showing of the "Greatest Show on Earth" in 1952. Many posters, photos and other memorabilia were produced for the show making it a Great collectors Movie. The newly remodeled Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida shows four of the model Railroad cars used in the wreck scene. All but 5 of them are owned by Howard Tibbals who helped build the huge $5 million dollar Tibbals Learning Center in cooperation with the Florida State University at the Ringling Museums.

Friday, May 12, 2006

1953 - Diano Bros. Circus

The 1953 season saw the introduction to the Circus World of an all new motorized show entitled Diano Bros. Circus. The show was a labor of love for Anthony "Tony" Diano from Canton, Ohio who was an avid animal collector and a prospering businessman in the building trades with his Concrete company. Circus owner Ben Davenport teamed up with some of his elephants and equipment to make the entire show one of the largest animal collections on the road.
The season was hit hard with turmoils, law enforcement interventions and bad business. It only lasted the better part of one season and disbanded with Ben Davenport giving up his male elephant Tommy to Tony Diano as part of the settlement of properties.
The show carried a total of 15 elephants. Ben Davenport owned eight. They were:
Myrtle, Jenny, Cutie, Luna, Hank, Tommy, Tex, and Nellie. Tony Diano owned seven elephants. They were: Mysore, Calcutta, Katy, Young Tusko, Betty, and two female Africans named Uganda and Nackatala. Upon recieving Tommy at the end of the season, Tony Diano kept three of these Tommy, Mysore, and Calcutta along with two others he added later named Minnie and Dolly until he sold them all to the Ringling show in 1985 when his health was starting to fail. Tommy then passed on the Show Business trail as "King Tusk".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Frank "Cheerful" Gardner

Frank Gardner - 1884 to 1952.

Frank was born in Janesville, Wisconsin and started working on the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1903. He was nicknamed "Cheerful" but was anything but according to those that knew him. He learned the trade as a young man under George "Deafy" Denman. By 1906 he had gone to work for the Carl Hagenbach Zoological Exposition in St. Louis. In 1907 he went to work for Ben Wallace when Mr. Wallace bought out the Carl Hagenbach exhibit and promptly started the legendary Hagenbeck and Wallace Circus. He had the Herds over the years on Sun Bros. Circus in 1910 and Cole Bros. World Toured Circus in 1918. By 1923 he had taken over the John Robinson herd and then in 1925 for whatever reason, the John Robinson herd and the Hagenbeck-Wallace herds traded places. He had become a legendary herd boss and trainer known for his swinging pendulum head carry. From 1925 to 1934 he held the entire Hagenbeck-Wallace herd in his control with as many as 29 elephants in 1934. He remained with the elephants under Ringling's ownership until 1943 and continued throughout the rest of his career on various shows. He was inducted into the International Circus Hall of Fame in 1981.

Baby Elephants

This came with three other postcards all issued from the Barnum & Bailey Circus. A Baby elephant is always a welcome sight and one that draws a crowd. This photograph shows a young elephant but not one that was born in the United States.

Over the years, several sucessful births occurred among circuses in the US most notably the Sells-Floto circus having 4 births with their male "Snyder" being the father every time. The Ringling Bros. while still in Baraboo were fortunate enough to have two live births. Thanks to Richard Reynolds III, a distinguished animal historian from Atlanta, evidence has been concretely shown that the Howe's Great London Circus experienced the first birth of an elephant in America in 1875 in St. Joseph, MO. more than 5 years prior to the famed Barnum & London birth.

There have been many a show that claimed to have a newborn elephant this year or that, however it was usually a youngster and an adult exhibited together with the public none the wiser. The importance of a breeding program has intensified tremendously in the last 15 years with successful endeavors such as the African Lion Safari program in Ontario, Canada, The Ringling program in Florida, Gary and Kari Johnson's Have Trunk will Travel in California, the Portland Zoo's program, the Carson & Barnes program, and many others.