Sells Bros. “Brown” Cage / Tableau
The first identifiable photograph of this wagon was taken on the lot of the Sells Bros. Circus in 1895. It appeared in the Bandwagon’s January / February 1964 issue. The builders of this Sells Bros. Circus set of cages is unclear. The cage remained on the newly combined title of Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus through the 1907 season. The show had been jointly owned by the Ringling Bros. and James A. Bailey. With the death of James A. Bailey in 1905, the Ringlings took over controlling interest of the show. The Ringlings also bought the James A. Bailey estate which gave them the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Now having three shows on the road, the Ringlings decided to shutter the Adam Forepaugh and sells Bros. Circus in 1908. At the close of the 1907 season, half of the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus went back to Baraboo and half of it was taken to the Bridgeport winter quarters of the Barnum & Bailey show. This wagon went back to Baraboo.
While the Ringlings did bring back the Adam Forepaugh and Sells Bros. Circus again for the 1910 and 1911 seasons, this wagon was never used. it remained in the Baraboo winter quarters. Following the close of the 1918 season, the Ringlings took the show into the Bridgeport winter quarters and basically left Baraboo for good. This wagon remained in Baraboo until 1927 when George Christy finally bought this and several other wagons.
(1) George Christy bought the Swan Bandwagon, the Lion and Mirror Bandwagon, an 1893 built Moeller Tableau / cage, another tableau / cage, probably the former Forepaugh / Sells Palm Tree tableau and two pony floats on November 14, 1926 for $4,000.00 He picked up this stuff when the Christy show played Baraboo on May 30, 1927. It needs to be explained here that this wagon was called the Brown Tableau. No one really knows for sure who coined the phrase “Palm Tree” Tableau or when, even though that was the central carving.
( 1927 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 6, photo # 72C )
George Christy carried this wagon on his Christy Bros. Circus from 1927 to 1930. When he first received the wagon, carvings were still in place on the mudboard. Those were subsequently removed and the mudboard was lettered Christy Bros. It is suspected that the use of a cage was not needed for a wagon this size on the Christy show and it was converted to a baggage wagon type tableau while in the Christy ownership. The paint schemes changed at least three times in four years on this wagon. From 1931 to 1934, the wagon was left in the S. Houston winter quarters of the Christy show. George Christy then sold this wagon with lots more equipment to the newly formed Cole Bros. Circus that Jess Adkins and Zach Terrell were building.
( 1935 – Conover Set # 468 – photo # 4510 )
During the 1935 through 1938 seasons, the wagon was used in the wardrobe department when not in parade. The wagon was re-painted just about every year while on the Cole Bros. Circus which helps identify the years by the paint schemes. In 1935, the wagon was numbered # 70. The mudboard was lettered Cole Bros. Circus. By 1936, the mudboard had been removed.
( 1936 and 1937 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 37 – photo # 24C – Palm Tree Tab – Melvin collection )
As you can see, the murals were painted out and the entire light area of the background became a solid dark color ( presumably a red ) on this wagon in 1938. The wagon was still numbered # 70.
( 1938 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 68 – photo # 59D – Aug. 3, 1938 at Bloominton, IL. – Tom Parkinson collection )
For the 1939 season, the wagon was re-painted white on both sides and ends. The main Palm Tree carving was removed from the wagon and the words ” Cole Bros. Circus ” were painted in its place. A small drop down board was added at the rear end of the sides in 1939 also. The wagon was re-numbered in 1939 to carry # 62. Sadly, a major winter quarters fire broke out on February 20, 1940 that consumed this wagon and some others as well.
( 1939 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 37 – photo # 9C – June 2, 1939 in Ithaca, NY )
(1) excerpts from “Christy and his Wonder Show” – Bandwagon, July, August 1996, pp. 16-33
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