Al G. Barnes Elephant Tableau
by Joseph Bradbury
(1) We commonly call this wagon the “Al G. Barnes Elephant Tableau”. It was built in the Al G. Barnes winter quarters in Venice, California in the winter of 1920-21 and first appeared on the Barnes show in the 1921 season. The Bode Wagon Works furnished the carvings for this and other Barnes wagons about the some time, but the actual construction of the wagon and the placing on of the carvings was done by the Barnes blacksmith and woodworking crew.
( 1923 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 10 – photo # 30F – Al G. Barnes Parade in CA. – Dr. Chester Hoyt collection )
The wagon served on the Barnes show for the 1921, 1922, 1923, and 1924 seasons for sure and possibly longer. The Barnes show quit parading in mid-season 1924, the last parade being given July 14, at Denver. No parades were given in 1925 and following years, however the steam calliope was carried in 1925 and some claim they saw it on the show as late as 1928, and also the air calliope and some tableaux were carried in later years. Therefore there is a possibility that the wagon may have been carried in the years 1925-28, but I have not seen it in any photos of the show in those years. I have good coverage of the 1928 show in photos and the wagon is not present. It is my opinion, and only an opinion, but 1924 may well have been the last year on the show for the wagon.
( 1950s – Elephant Carving at Jungleland- Richard Conover photo )
After Al G. Barnes quit parading the wagon now becomes “lost” until the elephant carving only shows up some 15 years later. Several old Barnes parade wagons remained for years and years at the old Venice quarters. Jimmy Woods had some at his lot in Venice as late as 1953 when it was sold and the wagons scattered, some being destroyed, others preserved at other locations to this day. The elephant carving off this tableau wagon was recovered from the Woods lot about 1939 and placed on the entrance gate to the World Jungle Compound at Thousand Oaks, California, near Los Angeles. This place has recently become known as “Jungleland”, and the carving is still there. What happened to the rest of the carvings and the wagon itself is not known to this writer but can be safely assumed that they rotted away or were discarded at the Venice lot.
As an update to Joseph Bradbury’s article, the two elephant carvings were removed from the front entrance of Jungleland in the mid 1960s, when Louis Goebel gave them to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Wagon Superintendent, Marv Gauger then used those original carvings to duplicate them and the other carvings. A new wagon was built from the ground up and is on display at the Museums today. While very similar in design to that of the Sells-Floto Elephant Tableau, the most notable difference is the rear wheels being under the body on the Al G. Barnes Elephant tableau.
( 2012 – Bob Cline photo )
The wagon can be seen in person at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin
(1) Excerpts from the Bandwagon, Vol. 1, No. 6 (Dec), 1957, p. 5
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