Sunday, April 29, 2012

New book from Ron Severini

( I received this from Ron Severini today. )


The GREATEST American Circus Clown

AN “OTTO” BIOGRAPHY in Photographs!!!

It is with great pride and excitement that I make the following announcement!

Authorization has been granted by the family of the great American circus clown, OTTO GRIEBLING, to allow me to design and publish a new book, celebrating his life in photographs. Items within the book are taken from Otto’s own personal and private lifetime scrapbooks.

The book is complete!

It is 100-pages, extra-large, 13” X 10”, hard bound, and includes over 200+ hand-selected professional and private photographs, spanning Otto’s circus clown career. Also, included within it’s covers are copies of news clippings, paintings, sketches, autographed photos, personal letters, private documents, celebrity photos and rare old clown alley back lot group photos taken at Cole Bros Circus as well as Ringling Bros Circus. A personal introduction was written by Murray Horwitz; artwork is included by Jim Howle; sketch by Bill Ballantine; a personal note by Steve Smith, as well as recently obtained photos of Otto’s last days of performance in Madison Sq Garden.

The FIRST EDITION is printed in a very limited quantity (100 Copies) and only in a HARD BOUND design. Each FIRST EDITION is signed and numbered. ( Only 32 are left )

"If you find yourself able to make people laugh, it is God's gift. You must do everything from the bottom of your heart!" … Otto Griebling

Payment via PAYPAL. Account:

OR, via Check or Money Order. Payable to: RON SEVERINI

Mailed to:
Ron Severini
5 Pine Street
Windermere, FL 34786

$79.95 - Price INCLUDES shipping.
*Please include your Name and Shipping Address.
Thank you!

John and Mary Ruth

 Leigh Ketchum posted this on the CHS Facebook page last night. What a great evening this will be. I sure wish I lived close enough to be there.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Baraboo Spectacular - coming soon - WAIT!

The Circus Historical Society Convention returns to Baraboo, Wisconsin again this year from June 13 to 16th. Having over 70 people signed up already, it has the makings of the largest Convention in nearly 20 years. With merchandise tables featuring Circus Books and their authors available this year, plus Circus Photo Albums available on CDs, some of the greatest presentations ever heard by the leading circus historians in this country, the great Auction Thursday night, a trip to the Parkinson Library early in the Convention and then the full day at Circus World Museum on Saturday with an after hours picnic and behind the scenes tours, this is going to be fantastic.

Arrive early this year and make the time to visit the International Circus Hall of Fame in downtown Baraboo, the Al Ringling Theater, the Circus Wall of Fame in front of the courthouse and the exquisite dining and shopping opportunities of this magnificient little town.

If you haven't signed up for the CHS Convention yet, its never too late Go to or simply mail your check for $140.00 to the Circus Historical Society, 2707 Zoar Road, Cheraw, SC, 29520-4133.

If you haven't signed up to exhibit at the Circus World Museum with your model display, it's not too late either. Contact Stephen T. Flint. You'll find the form two posts down from here.

See you in Baraboo!

The Baraboo Spectacular - coming soon - WAIT!

I received this from Jim Keiffer who has the entire Circus Kirk reunion under control. "We have 30 to 40 people expected at this point in time and hoping to hear from a few more. Registrations open at 9 AM in the corner store by the Garden Hall upstairs."

The Baraboo Spectacular - coming soon - WAIT!

I got this from Steve Flint, who has the CMB display under control. "We have have about 32 exhibits signed for at present. That gives us about 65-70 people that will be there for the show. They are coming in from Mass, Maine, Penn, Ohio, WI, Florida, Kansas, IL, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, NY and I'm sure a couple more states that I can't remember. Good Times are straight ahead!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Ringling special - From Peggy Williams via Pete Adams

In celebration of World Circus Day on April 21, a new item was added to the Ringling online store. It’s a Franklin Mint metal RBBB collector’s truck replica which can be seen and is now available on . It has many moving parts and looks great from every angle.

There is a $30.00 discount available if purchased prior to May 1st. On May first, the regular price will be in force.

In order to get this discount, please use the offer code CFA

Please forward this information asap to any friends, colleagues, or circus admirers who may have interest in adding this truck to their collection.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Great Detective work # 1

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus changed its format many times over the years. That actually has been a huge help in assisting those that are very knowledgeable to positively date photos and make corrections as needed.

And so our story begins. The infamous 50 elephant photo that was supposedly taken in Chicago in 1933 for the hugely anticipated 50th Anniversary caught good friend and fellow historian, Stephen T. Flint's attention. Something just didn't add up with the story which we already knew but Steve is one of the really good detectives that noticed the photo didn't add up.

Why you ask? The bannerline and the side show acts are a huge research project that Steve has worked on for years. After paying attention to the bannerline in the photo above ( you can double click on it to enlarge it ) Steve knew that the two bannerline wagons in the center and the banners on each end were from the 1925 season. By 1932, RBBB was using all four of the Bannerline wagons.

After studying more photos of the RBBB show, the next two elephant photos popped out as now Steve had an idea of what he was looking for.

Great Detective work # 2

This photo was taken in 1932 in Chicago of the RBBB herd. This is the same set-up as the very next photo. You can see a sidewall background behind the herd at the left side on top of the hill. This is taken from a different angle than the next photo but it is the same elephants on the same hill.

Great Detective work # 3

This photo was taken in Chicago in 1932. Pay close attention to the sidewall in the background.

Great Detective work # 4

As a finished photo, the entire objective was to celebrate the Ringling's 50th Anniversary in 1933. RBBB didn't have 50 elephants on the show and none of their corporation shows were close to Chicago, so some advertising magic was created by the Press staff headed up by none other than Roland Butler. Using the three photos above, this became the infamous 50 elephant photo.

Ironically, in 1954, RBBB had imported and / or bought enough baby elephants to actually own over 50 elephants. By 1955, they took 52 elephants on the road with two of them, Cass and Adele, being out front doing advance work. 3 of the senior members, Eva, Jenny, and Jewel, remained in winter quarters when they were sold in September to Charles Garvin in Bowling Green, KY.

And so, due to the craftsmanship of Mr. Butler, he took the 1925 lot photo as the background, added the sidewalled elephants on the top and then filled in with the same elephants taken from a different angle to magically create the infamous 50 elephant photo. All of this was done with actual photos and razor blades. There was no such thing as computers and photoshop back then. When it says cut and paste, they actually did it.

Great job Steve. Thanks for allowing me to share this with the rest of the world!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Can anyone help?

This photo was sent to by Mary Beth Dugas. Her family had the Smith Greater Shows Carnival. She has been told that this photo is of the elephant named Candy and her trainer John. Does anyone know anything else about Candy or can you identify this picture by year, elephant headpiece, etc?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Foley and Burk Carnival

The Foley and Burk Carnival was a west coast operation. According to Joe McKennon's " A Pictorial History of the American Carnival, Volume II," they were in operation from 1913 till 1969.

They donated one of their Warren flatcars to the Circus World Museum for the Schlitz Circus Parade train. Used in 1972 and 1973, it went on the train carrying the Foley and Burk title.

1973 was the last year for the parade for several years. Although a couple parades occurred in Chicago and Baraboo, the parade was resurrected with the movement by the CWM train again in 1985. The Foley and Burk flatcar was repainted and re-lettered with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey title.

I'm guessing these 5 photos were taken around the 1950's or early 1960's.

Foley and Burk Carnival

On the lot.... Somewhere in the USA.

Foley and Burk Carnival

Some of the show wagons lined up tight against each other.

Foley and Burk Carnival

This coach has been around a long time. That looks like it still has the wooden siding on it.

Foley and Burk Carnival

Two lines of Flatcars.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art presents Center Ring Saturdays


Join the world’s only comic daredevil, Bello Nock, as he takes you behind the scenes and discusses his unusual blend of jaw-dropping daredevil stunts and hysterical comedy. Listen in as Bello describes some of his death defying, yet comedic acts, from hanging by his toes suspended under a helicopter over the Statue of Liberty to repelling off of Madison Square Garden! With Bello… the sky really is the limit!

Developed in partnership with Circus Sarasota, Center Ring Saturdays is your opportunity to go behind the scenes and learn about the art, skills, and science of a circus performance. Your backstage pass will give you access to a sensational center ring star who will share circus secrets. Then join Museum staff for an art activity inspired by today's performer.

Center Ring Saturdays programs occur on the second Saturday of each month from 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Meet under the Big Top entrance to the Tibbals Learning Center. A volunteer will be on hand to direct you to the big event. We promise a program of peerless possibilities for everyone in the family! Program included with regular admission.

RBBB train hits a Dump truck Monday night

OLIVER SPRINGS, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train made an unexpected stop Monday night after colliding into a dump truck stalled on the train tracks.
The accident happened around 10:00 p.m. near the intersection of Marlow Circle and Powder Mill Lane.

The train was carrying 300 employees along with several circus animals.

There are no injuries reported according to Tennessee Highway Patrol.

The train was just passing through Knoxville with no shows planned here in the near future.

Circus Parade

You'll find below some great OLD film of a circus parade. The clip says it is the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1899. Discussion on the CHS Facebook page has indicated that "Movietone" wasn't out in 1899 so it may have acquired the film.

I would go along with the 1899 date as it appears to be FRITZ the big male on the Barnum & Bailey Circus shown clearly with the martingales in place at the front of the elephant line-up with one female in front of him.

Any thoughts on any of this?

Circus Parade - Part 1

Circus Parade - Part 2

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Where are they now?

The Haffner Thrall flatcars were originally purchased by Ringling / Barnum to carry two of the seat wagons. Structurally, that didn't work out very well. After RBBB came of the road from under canvas in 1956, they sold them off to Royal American Shows. When Royal American came off of rails, they offered them for sale. The Circus World Museum bought 6 of them for the Great Circus Parade train. Two of them were actually refurbished and used. The other four are still beside the train sheds at CWM.

Where are they now?

The oldest known show business flatcar still in existance sits outside the train sheds at Circus World Museum. This straight sided flat dates back to the Mighty Sheesley Shows, eventually on Cetlin and Wilson, bought by Royal American Shows, loaned to Circus World Museum in 1971 and eventually donated to the Circus World Museum by the Sedlmayr family.

Where are they now?

This is the stock car that was used on the Great Circus Parade train for many years. It has a set of doors at the end that enabled the loading of a tractor or such. It sits outside of the train sheds at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.

Where are they now?

This is one of the two Strates Stock cars that went to the Circus World Museum. This one was side tracked and never touched.

Where are they now?

The last existing elephant car in the country is sitting BESIDE the train sheds at Circus World Museum. Tony Diano used it for his elephants and eventually donated it to the Museum.

Where are they now?

This old rail car is part of the Historic Train Display at the New York State Fair. This train car, of course, used to belong to the Strates family, of midway rides and carnival shows fame. Now a little bit of history: It was built by Pullman in the late 1920s as a 3 bedroom, 1 drawing room lounge buffet solarium car and was named "Palm Lane". It served many years on the Illinois Central from Chicago to Florida. It was purchased in 1956 by James E. Strates Shows and converted to the private living quarters for the Strates family while traveling with the carnival. It wa donated to the chapter in 1972 after it was filled with water during a flood in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. You will find this exhibit on the train tracks behind the small midway. It is located at the State Fair, off Route 690 in Solvay, NY. (2009)


Where are they now?

This photo was taken in September of 2008 but it didn't say where or by whom.

Where are they now?

This is RBBX 48092 a passenger car at the RBBB Palmetto facility. The photo was taken 5/19/2007 by Neil Stutzman. It's on the website

Where are they now?

John and Mabel Ringling's private car called the JOMAR sits on a siding in Sarasota with three other cars from the Ringling train. Owner Bob Horne has bought a 1947 Pullman, and 1957 Pullman and a 1960 Pullman from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He converted the 1960 Pullman into a restaurant now known as Bob's Train Restaurant. You'll find them all in a former lumberyard at School Avenue and Third Street in Sarasota.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Where are they now?

This photo ( looks like its slighty distorted to me ) was taken in Taft, Florida in 2006. This is referred to as an Solarium car with the larger windows on the left end. The photographer is unknown.

Where are they now?

This former Royal American Shows coach is housed in the Heritage Square of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The photo was taken in 2007 by John Hill. If I undertsnd this correctly, they have two RAS coaches there #54 and this one #35.

Where are they now?

# 71 was built by American Car & Foundry in 191? as Louisville & Nashville 2607. It became 2457 and later sold as RAS 71. It went to Railway Museum of Great Cincinnati and is offered for sale.

Where are they now?

Fillmore & Western Ry has two former RAS cars.

They are:7 Compartment-2 Drawing Room Sleeper, Pullman, 1913, "Raton"Assigned to AT&SF Ry California Limitedex-Royal American Shows #76. Purchased by Short Line Enterprises, Ltd. from Dick Weiner 7/91, Ft. Lauderdale, FLTransfer to Short Line Enterprises, Inc. 1/1/95. Sold to D. A. Wilkinson June 1996.

Cafe Parlor, Pullman, 1928 ex-Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac "Powhatan"ex-Royal American Shows Pie Car #56. Purchased from Dick Weiner 7/91Transfer to Short Line Enterprises, Inc. 1/1/95. Sold to D. A. Wilkinson along with Fillmore & Western Railway, January 1997.

Illinois Railroad Museum has:6 Compartment-3 Drawing Room Sleeper, Pullman, 1926, "Glen Alta"ex-Royal American Shows #81Purchased by Short Line Enterprises, Ltd. from Dick Weiner 7/91Sold to Illinois Railway Museum 10/91.

These cars were purchased in connection with preparation for a 1936 era movie project entitled "Night Ride Down". The film was cancelled in pre-production due to creative differences. Would have been one of the greatest RR movies ever.

From the website:,541820

Monday, April 02, 2012

Where are they now?

Almost became a circus car!

Where are they now?

Located in Bellevue, Ohio, about 20 miles south of Lake Erie is this great railroad Museum. This RBBB car is stored close by but defintely out of sight.

If you have questions regarding the Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum, please contact us at

Side swiped out near Chicago, this coach was given to the Bellevue, Ohio Railroad Museum. All RBBB wanted was the trucks returned to them. When I talked to the Museum personel a couple years ago, they had no intentions of restoring it and it would probably just be sold for scrap metal.

Where are they now?

Here are a few old show cars now housed at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, FL ( about 25 miles north of Sarasota )

ATLANTIC COAST LINE COACH 1116 built by Bethlehem Steel Co. in 1938 for Atlantic Coast Line. Sold to Royal American Shows in 1960's. Purchased from Royal American Shows in 1989. Stored for future restoration.

Where are they now?

Here are a few old show cars now housed at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, FL ( about 25 miles north of Sarasota )

ILLINOIS CENTRAL COACH 2682. Built in 1914 for ICRR. Modernized by IC shops in 1947. Sold to Royal American Shows in 1972. Purchased by museum in 1982. Partially restored for eventual service, car is presently awaiting future exhibition or operation.

Where are they now?

Here are a few old show cars now housed at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, FL ( about 25 miles north of Sarasota )

Pullman Short Leaf Pine, ex-L&N, ex Ringling Bros. Built in 1953, with original furnishings removed by Ringling. Currently being refurbished into a museum display car.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

Good friend Hal Guyon Jr. made the 80 mile trip to Rock Hill, SC to see the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus as owned by Johnny Pugh and Doug Howadel in 1988. Here are some pictures from set-up that day.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

The Cookhouse being laid out.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

Going up!

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

What a Big Top. 3 rings of fun, action and excitement!

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

With Fred Logan in charge they acquired a 10th elephant from Ford Bros. over the winter named Debbie. That gave them Freida, Ola, Bessie, Helen, Jewel, Conti, Pete, Tina, Sue and Debbie on the road in 1988.

Debbie had actually been on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros from 1873 until 1981 when she went to Carson & Barnes.

Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus - ( Hal Guyon Jr. )

I believe the Bale sisters were working the horse acts in 1988.