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Stage Curtain Tableau

Stage Curtain Tableau

(1) The earliest show we can trace this wagon to is the Col. Cummins Wild West Show of 1906. That is it was based on a full page ad of that show in the Billboard which the late George Chindahl, well known circus historian, copied some years ago. In a very small and poor photo reproduction is what appears to be this wagon. Prior to that discovery most of us were of opinion that it originated on the Martin Downs Cole Bros. Circus sometime in the period of 1907-09. Bill Woodcock says that assuming that the wagon was on the Col. Cummins Wild West Show that he doubts if it was built new for that show and could have possibly come by way of the 1905 Sig Sautelle-Welsh Bros. Circus. Actually we just don’t know for sure who built the wagon or for what show it was built, or when it was built, but believe it was sometime in this period. Woodcock further opines that in 1907 the wagon possibly could have been on the Fashion Plate Shows, a circus Walter L. Main was interested in. Main, of course, was also principal owner of the Col. Cummins show. 

Stage Curtain Tableau

( 1906 – Conover Set # 2016 – photo # 8 )

We know that positively the wagon was on Down’s Cole Bros. Circus and some years ago Dick Conover, noted circus historian and CHS director, came across a series of post cards advertising a group of wagons for sale by Cole Bros, in the winter of 1909-10. The 1909 season was the last for Cole Bros, and the equipment was sold off shortly after Martin Downs death. The wagon was purchased by J. Augustus Jones and was placed on his Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show for the 1910 season.

Stage Curtain tab

( 1909-1910 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 23 – photo # 24C – Martin Downs owned Cole Bros. winter quarters, Stage Curtain tab in center )

Jones sold the show after only one season with the bulk of the equipment going to Thomas Wiedeman for his new show which went out in 1911 under title of Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show. It is believed Wiedeman got this wagon and used it for the 1911 thru 1914 seasons. This assumption is based on fact that Wiedeman did have for sure another wagon that was on Cole Bros, and also appeared in the post card advertisements mentioned. This wagon was a heavily built bandwagon with a central carving of a man faced lion and was covered in the Circus Wagon History File Sept.-Oct., 1957, issue. After the Kit Carson show went broke in 1914 the equipment was sold at auction March 20, 1915, at Cincinnati. The Billboard stated that buyers of the equipment included the Dodson Carnival, Harry Rice, Rice & Dore, and J. A. Jones. Evidently Jones purchased the wagon for the second time at that sale because the wagon definitely appears again on a Jones owned show in 1916. Although Jones operated 2 car shows in the period 1911-13 after selling his flat car show Buffalo Ranch Wild West after 1910 season he did not return to flat car operation until he put out the Jones Bros, and Wilson Circus in 1914. In 1915 he operated Jones Bros. Circus and in all probability this wagon was there. In 1916 the title was changed to Cole Bros, and for sure the wagon was there as per photo No. 6. The Cole title was continued for 1917 and following the 1917 season the show’s property was sold off in early 1918. This wagon was then purchased by Charles Sparks who also bought elephants and other circus property at the sale. The wagon should have been on the Sparks Circus in 1918 although the first photo I have ever seen of the wagon on the Sparks show is from the W. H. B. Jones set taken of Sparks in 1919.

Stage Curtain Tab

( 1916 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 23 – photo # 47A – Cole Bros. Circus, Stage Curtain Tab )

Sometime between 1916 and 1919 the center carving of the clown and donkey were removed and was replaced by a lyre and a winged head. The wagon kept this general appearance from then on, although from time to time it was painted in different color schemes.

Stage Curtain tab and clown band - William H.B. Jones photo

( 1919 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 38 – photo # 76A – Hattiesburg, MS. Stage Curtain tab and clown band – William H.B. Jones photo )

The wagon served out its days on the Sparks Circus. It was used in the great parades of the late 20’s as the sideshow bandwagon. After Sparks sold the show to the American Circus Corporation following the 1928 season the wagon was still used in the parade of 1929, the one year the show was operated by the Corporation.

Stage Curtain Tab

( 1927 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 38 – photo # 25D – May 1927 Jackson Heights, L.I., NY Side Show Bandwagon – S.H. Barlow III photo )

Stage Curtain Tableau

( 1928 – Conover Set # 844 – photo # 652 – Don Smith photo )

After John Ringling purchased the show in 1929 the street parade was discontinued for the 1930 and 1931 seasons, however the wagon was carried both those years being used as the Grandstand Ticket Wagon.

Stage Curtain Tab

( 1930 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 38 – photo # 59D – Stage Curtain Tab – Maurice Allaire photo )

Following the close of the 1931 season the wagon and the rest of the Sparks property was stored at the Ringling-Barnum quarters in Sarasota where it gradually rotted away until it was burned about 1938.

Stage Curtain Tableau

( 1938 – Joseph Bradbury Album # 13 – photo # 54B – in Sarasota Winter Quarters – Wagon Graveyard )

(1) By Joseph T. Bradbury. Bandwagon, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Mar-Apr), 1962, pp. 9-11.

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