The circus coming to town generated lots of excitement throughout the centuries, even through the first quarter of the 20th century. In times when the major public entertainments were lecturers, singers, some stage theater, and finally silent movies (until 1927 when ‘talkies’ were introduced), the circus brought exotic people, titilating costumes, wild animals, and daring acts to even small towns throughout the land. The circus parade through town as the people, equipment, and animals were unloaded was a fabulous advertising gimmick to get the town wishing to attend, and ready to rush in to buy tickets and explore the shows.
We know the appeal of the circus affected our wishful ancestors, with at least two of them- Max Broida/Buster Brodie and Jefferson Springsteen- running off to join the circus when young. Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie in Hollywood, was likely a performer since he later became an actor; he possibly was a clown as he was very short and very bald, even when young. We do not know what Jefferson Springsteen did as a young man in the circus, however. He was a painter later in life, so perhaps he painted signs, backdrops, etc. Jeff was a good rider as a young man- he delivered mail on horseback through the wilds of early Indiana, so possibly he was a part of the trick riders found in most circuses. It would be great to know more about what they did in the circus- their stories of those times must have been amazing!
We had ancestors in Marion, Ohio (Beerbowers) in 1923, so they would have possibly been a part of this excitement. Those in rural areas would come into town as well, so the circus was a huge community event. Countless more of our ancestors in other towns enjoyed the circus through the years, whether they had seats at a show, wandered through the aisles of the set up circus, or just watched the parade in town.
Old movies show young boys skipping school to go watch the circus set up, but even those children still sitting at their desks likely had their minds elsewhere- and maybe even their teachers did too! So this 1923 article from the Marion Daily Star in Marion, Ohio, gives us a hint at how important circus days were to a town.
Apparently there were requests to close down the school on circus parade day, but the school board thought they would instead follow what had occurred in previous years: parents could write a note to excuse their student to attend the circus. (Can you imagine that in today’s world of high-stakes education??) The board was smart though, as students would likely have more interest in geography and biology after seeing an elephant in person with its exotic Indian trainer, or a tiger jumping through hoops of fire. (Good teachers would have taken advantage of this too.) Persons from around the globe would have been part of the circus as well, and learning more about a ‘Chinaman’ or African pygmy would have been a way to teach students about diversity in a world where little of that existed at that time. (It was probably more of a novelty than diversity training, however.)
Those who didn’t have the pennies to attend the circus were not forgotten- the schools would be notified when the parade started, and students would be allowed to attend the parade before continuing their studies in the afternoon.
April 25, 1923, must have been a very exciting day for our wishful ancestors in Marion, Ohio!
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) School not to be dismissed for the circus. Marion Daily Star, Marion, Ohio, 17 Apr 1923, Vol. XLVII, No. 122, P 12. Used with permission.
2) Max Broida/Buster Brodie and the circus: The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie at http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/10/the-real-max-broida-aka-buster-brodie/
3) Jefferson Springsteen and the circus: There are three parts to the series concerning Jeff’s obituary that includes the circus story- see Wishful Wednesday: Jefferson Springsteen was “Lured by the Sawdust Ring…” at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/10/08/wishful-wednesday-jefferson-springsteen-was-lured-by-the-sawdust-ring/ for the first post.
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