Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Ticket Wagon
This wagon was built in the Sarasota, Florida winter quarters of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during the winter of 1947 / 1948. It made its debut during the 1948 season. The undergear in particular is very similar to the military running gear on the ammo cages and such with a slideout “I” Beam under the tongue that held it straight out. In 1948, the wagon had the “A” frames and flags on top but the 9 foot tall clown wasn’t added until the 1949 season. The wagon remained silver from 1948 through the 1951 season. The wagon was built with a 4″ drop in the frame right behind the front running gear. The wagon served as the Tax wagon collecting the taxes due on passes that had been given out.
( 1948 – Bill Elbrin slide )
( This is the restoration for the 1951 season – 2016 at the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, IN. – Bob Cline photo )
Beginning in the 1952, season, the wagon was re-painted a different color and pattern every year until the show folded. In 1952, the entire midway was re-designed with a Purple and Yellow combination. It carried the wagon number 124 with a 4 on the window end of the wagon.
( 1952 -July 26, 1952 – Sverre Braathen slide – Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library. )
Beginning with the 1953 season, the famed steel diamond mesh frameworks were mounted on top of the Wagons. The years are easy to identify because they changed the design colors and words on the frameworks every year through 1956. The main thing to look for are the words “The Greatest Show on Earth” during the 1953 season. As this particular wagon had the Jack in the Box clown on it all these years, the colors on the clown changed every year. This ticket wagon was used to sell the Reserved Seats.
( 1953 – July 7, 1953 – Sverre Braathen slide – Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library. )
In 1954, Bill Ballantine re-painted the show with a more modern artwork. The photos from the 1954 season are very elusive to all the major circus collections. As such, we don’t have a side view, only this end photo of this wagon in 1954. The wagon continued to be numbered 124 but the window end number was changed to the small 5. We do know that the words on the framework changed to “Main Entrance.”
( 1954 – Courtesy of the Stephen T. Flint Archives )
In 1955, we are almost certain that the wagons retained their 1954 paint jobs. The wagon still carried the number 124 with the window end being changed back to 4 again. However, the words on the frameworks were changed again to say “All seats reserved” on the bottom ribbon with the words “Main Entrance added to the top”
( 1955 – July 3, 1955 – Sverre Braathen slide – Used with permission from Illinois State University’s Special Collections, Milner Library. )
On July 16, 1956 in Pittsburgh, PA., the Greatest Show on Earth closed for the final time under canvas. The show was returned to the Sarasota winter quarters. Following a re-organization of the show without a big top, the show continued on playing stadiums and ballparks. The ticket wagon was no longer needed. By 1960, the ticket wagon had been given to the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, Florida. The wagon remained there for twenty years until it closed in 1980.
( This is the way it was painted for the last time in 1956 – Richard Cline photo at the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL in 1966 )
The entire contents of the Circus Hall of Fame was sold to Jan and John Zweifel on May 27, 1980. Most of the wagons, including this wagon, were taken to the Royal American Shows winter quarters in Tampa, Fl. where they remained for the next seven years. In 1986, arrangements had been made with a group of investors to open the new International Circus Hall of Fame up in the old American Circus Corporation winter quarters in Peru, IN. twenty wagons and misc. displays and equipment were loaded on to railcars in Tampa, Fl. on May 12, 1987 to leave for the Peru operation. Now part of the display pieces at the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, IN., the diamond mesh framework has been removed and adorns the front office, while the wagon has been restored to the 1951 season’s appearance.
( 2009 – Bob Cline photo )
The wagon is 15′ 3″ long by 7′ 4 1/2″ wide by 9’3″ tall.
The wagon can be seen in person at the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, Indiana
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