Great Circus Wagons

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Pawnee Bill Bandwagon No. 80

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The Pawnee Bill Bandwagon is one of the greatest examples of folk art in existence. Pawnee Bill ordered this bandwagon for his Wild West Show. The Sebastian Wagon Co. of New York City produced this vehicle for the 1903 season at a cost of $4,000. Normally the woodcarving decorations on any parade wagon are the same on both sides. The Pawnee Bill Bandwagon breaks with tradition. The center displays of carvings on each side are different. The left hand panel depicts “The Landing of Columbus in America” it is from Vanderlyn’s famous well-known painting. The right side center panel depicts the historic episode of “Pocahontas Saving Captain John Smith’s Life.” The wagon served Pawnee Bill until 1909 when it was sold to the Mighty Haag Circus. The last half of the 1920’s it was on the 101 Ranch Real Wild West.

Ringling Bell Wagon

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In the 1892 season the Ringling Bros. ordered the Bell Wagon. The Moeller Bros. Wagon Works of Baraboo was contracted to build the wagon. The Centennial Bell Foundry in Milwaukee produced the 9 bronze bells that weighed 4300 pounds. The Milwaukee ornamental Woodcarving Co. produced the carvings. One of the most beautiful wagons of its time. The operator sits in the rear of the wagon pulling on 9 spring levers that are connected to one of the clappers inside the bell. The sounds of the bells could be heard many blocks away. When this wagon was presented in 1892, eight bay Percherons pulled it. Press agents stated that the bells came from Russia and “Continuous Carillons or Tremendous Tones from Tons and Tons of Sweet-Toned Bells. Or, the Largest, Grandest, Heaviest Chimes Ever Heard in America.” They further stated: “These mighty Russian chimes, fill the air for miles with broken but melodious whispers like the tremendous tones of the music of many waters.” (America’s Great Circus Parade by C.P. “Chappie” Fox)

Ringling Cage Number:60

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The wagon was built in Baraboo, Wisconsin by the Moeller Bros. Wagon Works for the Ringling controlled Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus ca. 1909-1910. The four wood carved figures that were removed from another wagon and were stored in Bridgeport, Connecticut winter quarters of the Barnum & Bailey Circus which was now owned by the Ringling Bros. These figures were shipped to Baraboo and installed on the four corners of No 60. The cage wagon appeared in the Ringling Bros. Circus parade in 1913. The Ringling’s gave up their street parade at the end of the 1920 season, however Cage 60 continued with the combined show, Ringling and Barnum & Bailey as a menagerie display. In 1928 the wagon became 77. In the 40’s it took part in the Show’s hippodrome spectacles.

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