Great Circus Wagons

More than just utilitarian wagons that hauled equipment needed for the show. This wagon helped advertise the show through the great circus parades held before the midway was opened for the first show of the day. The parade would give the "towners" a preview of the great events that would unfold in the menagerie tent and the big top. These circus parade wagons not only caught the eye of the parade viewers, their artwork also represented many different aspects of our civilization. "The customs, arts, crafts, legends and superstitions of 19th century man are etched into the sides of these wagons." (America's Great Circus Parade C.P. "Chappie" Fox 1993, Reiman Publication, L.P., Greendale, WI) What would the 19th century woodcarvers carve on the side of these wagons? Scrolls and swirls, gargoyles and griffins, Biblical character, Roman gladiators and soldiers. Legendary figures such as Columbus and John Bull. Fictional characters : robinson Crusoe and Sinbad to Cinderella and Santa Claus. Animals such as lions, elephants, and birds. Many wagons decorated their sides with mirrors or landscapes. Even the color of the horses was planned so they "matched" with the wagon.

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Gollmar Brothers Mirror Bandwagon

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This wagon was built for the Gollmar Bros. Circus in their own winter quarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin in 1903. The mirrors on the wagon gave the wagon a flashing effect reflecting the sun and surrounding sights. The wagon carried a 15-piece band, was 17 feet long, 11 feet high and weighed 3 1/2 tons. It was beautifully designed yet simple in appearance.

Barnum and Bailey Circus Cage Wagon Number: 89

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Cage 89 was built in 1883 for the Barnum Show. The wood carved figures on each corner were all bearded men; this vehicle was then nicknamed “Whiskers.” For five years, 1898 through 1902, the Barnum & Bailey Circus toured England and all the European countries. This cage was with the Circus during that tour. After B&B gave up street parades this cage was put in storage. In the late 1920’s it was on the Christy Bros. show. When parading, one side can be left closed allowing the viewers to enjoy the carvings, however the audience on the other side of the street will have the opportunity to view the animals inside the wagon.

Lion and Mirror BandWagon Number: 1

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This wagon was built for Adam Forepaugh in 1878. During the winter of 1889-1890 the Ringling Bros. Circus purchased the Lion & Mirror Bandwagon from the Forepaugh Show, which was not doing well at the time. This wagon became the Ringling’s No 1 Bandwagon and it was certainly an impressive sight coming down the street. The woodcarvings are massive—the group of lions in the center is 8” in relief. Because lions appeared in many circuses, they became a favorite of the wood carvers.

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