Gentry Bros. Twin Steam Calliope # 2
by Joseph Bradbury
The third photo shows the air calliope of the John Robinson Circus in parade in Memphis, Tenn. Sept. 12, 1921. Most everyone should recognize this wagon as one of the famous Gentry Bros. twin steam calliope wagons that were built by Sullivan & Eagle of Peru, Ind. about 1902. The history of the other wagon is very well known and we will review it in this column at a later date, but facts concerning this particular “twin” are somewhat obscure. The photo shown is the earliest date I have for this wagon on the Mugivan and Bowers shows. However, it is believed to have gotten to them some years earlier and was no doubt used as a steam calliope before being converted to air. I can only speculate when Mugivan and Bowers got it, but would guess it to have been sometime around 1914. Am sure it would have been available by 1915 at least as Gentry was down to operating only one show that year, but perhaps it was available earlier. Gentry did operate a second show in 1914 but it was only on 5 cars to begin the season and was later cut down to 3 cars, but I hardly think a wagon of this size could have been carried on a gilly show. Mugivan and Bowers would have needed another steam calliope for their second show which they started operating in 1911, although for a couple years the Sangers Greater European Shows was quite small and probably didn’t even carry a steamer.
( 1922 – Conover Set # 924, photo # 361 )
Anyway, if any readers can fill in the missing details as to when and how this Gentry twin wagon got to Mugivan and Bowers please let us know and we’ll print it in a following issue.Anyway, after 1921 the air calliope was used on John Robinson in 1922 and 1923, and may have been there in 1924. It was positively there in 1923 but I doubt seriously if it was there in either 1924 or 1925, as I think the Howes 1921 air calliope was used those two years, but again I am not positive that was the case. In mid-season 1925, Chester Monahan’s 5 car Gollmar Bros Circus was enlarged to 10 cars with the flat car type equipment being leased from Mugivan and Bowers. Some speculate that this air calliope went into the enlarged show which lasted only a short time.
( 1934 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 9, photo # 14A )
For the 1926 season Arthur Hoffman leased equipment from Mugivan and Bowers for a 10 car, flat car type circus, called Heritage Bros., and the air calliope was definitely on this show. Mugivan and Bowers repossessed the equipment late in the season though and returned it to Peru. The air calliope then was stored at Peru until it was renovated and went out on the 1934 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and used in the now famous parade given that year. After 1934 it was stored at Peru until it was burned with a great many other wagons about 1941. I have a photo of it in sad shape resting under a wagon shed minus it’s wheels and looking like it was not long for this world, which indeed it wasn’t.
( 1939 – in the Peru wagon sheds with carvings missing, the calliope and the wheels gone – Conover Set # 932, photo # 4 )
(1) Excerpts from the Circus Wagon History File, Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1960, pp. 3-5
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