Al G. Barnes Three Mirror Tableau
by Joseph Bradbury
(1) The photo below shows the Al G. Barnes Circus Mirror Tableau wagon in parade in Olympia, Washington. The date of the photo would be either 1921 or 1923 as Barnes routes show Olympia was played those years and from the history of some of the wagons appearing in this parade set we know the correct date would have to be sometime from seasons 1921 thru 1924. This wagon was built in the old Barnes quarters on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco in the winter of 1910-11 and was no doubt among the first bandwagons to be used by the show. It may be recalled that the Barnes show went out on rails as a regular circus playing daily stands in 1911 after being an exhibition “fair type” sort of show for several years. This mirror tableau wagon headed the Barnes parades for many years. It is assumed that it remained on the show through 1924, the final year regular parades were given. Observe the photo appearing in Charlie Puck’s Oldtime Snapshot feature and you can see this wagon at the old Barnes quarters in Culver City, Calif.
( 1921 parade in Olympia, Washington )
What finally happened to this wagon is not definitely known but it is believed that it followed the route of most of the other old Barnes bandwagons, tableaux, and calliopes. After the 1924 season it was stored in winter quarters for several years. In the fall of 1928 Charles Cook, manager of the Al G. Barnes Circus sold these wagons to a Mr. Thoms who operated a studio rental business on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. This outfit rented various props, wagons, vehicles etc. to the movie studios and these wagons were used in many movies with a circus theme. (Note to wagon lovers, don’t miss the old TV movies with a circus background as you nearly always will see some of the old tableaux and baggage wagons. Just recently I spotted several of them in one of the Three Stooges comedies.) Several years later the owner of the studio rental business died and his brother, Archie Thoms, sold the old Barnes wagons to Jimmie Woods of Venice, Calif. Some of the wagons Woods dismantled, others he rebuilt for movie use. About 1953 a few of the wagons were destroyed, but some still remain to this day in Disneyland and in a park in Venice.
(1) Excerpts from the Circus Wagon History Files, Bandwagon, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Jul-Aug), 1959, pp. 3-4.
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