Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Wardrobe Wagon # 141
At the end of World War II, the military had much surplus equipment to dispose of. The Tampa, Florida based Royal American Shows bought many of these ex-radar wagons. The Ringling show worked out a deal with Royal American Shows to purchase six of these trailers. The Ringling records located in the Circus World Museum’s Parkinson Research Library indicate they bought all six of these for $9,861.10. Their recorded tax for tax purposes is entered as March 27, 1947. All six of these wagons were 20’0″ long. These wagons had all been constructed by the Fruehauf Van Co.
( Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Records found in the Circus World Museum Parkinson Research Library )
This series of wagons become the 140 series, with all of them being used in the spec / wardrobe departments until the show closed under canvas in 1956. The wagons were numbered 141, 142, 143, 145, 146 and 147. The first year the wagon was used was in 1947. It was used to haul the Wardrobe. The wagon was painted Ringling Red with a block style lettering. While each of these wagons were almost identical there were minor differences such as vent openings or brackets.
( 1949 – Conover Photographic collection )
While Joseph Bradbury, a noted Circus Historian, authored a lengthy coverage of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1949 to 1956 in the Circus Fans Association’s magazine the White Tops from 1988 through 1991, a loading list for 1952 was unavailable. We do not really know if this wagon was used in 1952, but is an assumption that is was since it shows up every other year between 1949 and 1956.
( Taken in 1952, this detailed photograph shows the various vent openings, the brackets at the top near the front where military antennae would have mounted, and the basic steel structure of these military surplus wagons – Conover Photographic collection )
The wagon was re-painted and re-lettered for the 1955 season along with the majority of the front end and menagerie wagons. This lettering was a curved style that would remain with this wagon the rest of it’s days.
( 1955 – Don Smith Photo )
Sadly, after the close of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1956, this wagon was no longer needed. With the closing of the Sarasota winter quarters, this wagon was one of many that was hauled over to the new Venice winter quarters. The Ringling records located at the Circus World Museum’s Parkinson research Library, dated April 15, 1961, include this wagon in a sight inventory at the Venice train yards. The wagon’s history gets very sketchy after that. We know the wagon was moved to the Goodman Salvage Yard about a block from the Sarasota winter quarters. Joseph Bradbury saw it on August 12, 1966 and took a picture of it at the time. We don’t know just when it went there.
( 1966 – Joseph Bradbury photo taken on August 12, 1966 in Goodman’s Junkyard in Sarasota, Florida.)
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was sold on Nov. 11, 1967 to a combined ownership of Irvin and Israel Feld and Judge Roy Hofheinz who called Houston, Texas, his home. Judge Hofheinz had a lot of pull with the huge attraction called Astro World which was right beside the stadium the Houston Astros played in. It was his wish to open a circus themed attraction in his brand new Astro World park which opened on June 1, 1968. The new owners took many of the Ringling wagons that were still around out to Houston as preparation for this park to come. This wagon was in such bad shape that the body was removed and left at the Goodman Junk yard. The chassis was taken to Houston with the thoughts that one day they would build a new body for it. That never happened. Judge Hofheinz sold the Astro World Park to Six Flags in 1975. The Chassis of this wagons was then taken down the street to Texas Salvage on Holmes Road which was just at the end of Kirby Road, the same road that Astro World was on. P. J. Holmes took some pictures at Astro World over the years which he sent to Jim Caldwell. Jim Printed this picture of the Chassis in his article “Where have all the wagons gone”
( 1975 – outside of Astro World – P. J. Holmes photo – published in the Little Circus Wagon, Jan. Feb. 1981, page 22 )
By 1980, Texas Salvage had been closed down and cleared out. Where anything went is unknown but it is certain that it was worthless junk.
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