John H. Sparks Steam Calliope
by Joseph Bradbury
( 1911 – Originally printed in the Billboard – Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1960, pp. 3-5 )
(1) Photo No. 4 shows still another steam calliope built by Sullivan & Eagle. This one which features a spread eagle carving and lyre but differing only slightly in appearance from the others is the least known of the bunch. The illustration, a poor one, but the only one in existence to my knowledge is a reproduction of a photo appearing in the Dec. 16, 1911 Billboard under caption, “John F. Sparks Shows.” Actually that caption just about tells the story of what we know of it. It was built for the John F. Sparks Shows evidently about 1910 when the Sparks show was built into a regular flat or type show. For a few years before that Sparks had been a combination of flat car and gilly show, using a flat, tunnel car, coach etc. For sure the calliope was on the show in 1911 as per date of the Billboard. What happened to this wagon is not known, whether it was destroyed by a wreck, sold to another show or what. It was replaced on the Sparks Circus by the larger and more familiar steam calliope which remained on the show until it stopped parading following the 1929 season. I have never been able to determine the exact year the newer calliope came on the show, but I have always assumed it to be about 1916, a year that Sparks did considerable enlarging, receiving new parade equipment etc.
(1) Excerpts from the Circus Wagon History File, Bandwagon, Vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1960, pp. 3-5
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