Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vintage Circus Photos

"A group of 20+ circus clowns in 'Clown Alley' posing informally while preparing for the ring."

"'Billy' Winslow, a clown and wire walker with the Barnum & Bailey Show, with a prop he used in his performance." (1910)

"Two early Ringling Brothers' circus clowns, whose photographs appeared in the 'Ringling Annual' under a section titled 'Last of the Old-Time Clowns'." (1901)

"An overview of the Norris & Rowe Circus setup on tour in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The show toured Canada and Mexico and played to packed houses."

"Al G Barnes Circus on Mud Lot" (1935)

"Fred and Ella Bradna, equestrian director and performer for Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey. There are several other performers and a dog, relaxing in their circus wagon." (1890)

"A man and a woman, in the process of getting dressed for a circus performance, pose informally in the back of a circus wagon."

"'Diamond Kitty,' a performer with the Shrine Circus, poses with a large group of people in front of the sideshow tent housing the 'World's Fattest People' attraction."

"A group of 11 circus clowns poses with a pretty young female performer in a circus tent. This could possibly be part of a movie set."

"A clown in the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus stands outside a tent near a wagon, with his left hand holding onto a tent rope. He is wearing a beret-style hat, bow tie, and white shoes."

"Spader Johnson dressed as a clown."

"RKO clown "Toto" distributes cardboard Easter bunnies packed with lollipops from W.T. Grant Company. This event was held in the 2nd floor playroom at UW Children's Orthopedic hospital, 436 N. Randall Street." (1932)

"Erma Ward, a circus trapeze artist, dangles by one hand from a ring high in a circus tent."

"A circus clown sits astride a donkey outside a tent." (1909)

"Five circus performers, female and male, sit or stand astride a horse with a tent as a backdrop."

"RW Cast & Crew (possibly The Clyde Beatty Show)"

"Personnel of the old Miles Orton Circus outside a tent in their 1891-92 New Orleans' quarters."

"Personnel of the Walter L. Main show in 1904 and 1905, photographed outside a tent, include clowns, the driver of a four horse chariot, and air performers. Their contemporary, circus man Frank B. Miller, described the group as 'A bunch of real old time actors, all damn good ones...'" (1905)

Circus Photos at Wisconsin Historical Society [link]
Sideshow World [link]


Anonymous said...

Some fantastic pics/characters

J. W. said...

love these photographs, I am a huge fan of the vintage circus imagery, such as the scenes from the show Carnival. Thanks for posting.

Susanne E. Miller said...

Hello! I LOVE these photos and would like to use them for a research project for a class I am taking. Do you have any secific information about these photos? i.e. who took the photograph, the year it was taken, etc.?

joel. said...

@Anonymous & @J.W. thank you for commenting. i'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. i'm with you J.W. the circus and its imagery has always fascinated me. to see the circus in this era, when the circus culture was still very much alive and well would have been an experience.

@Susanne awesome - that sounds great what kind of research class is it? all of these came from the Wisconsin Historical Society or a page at Sideshow World, and there are many more photos and information at each site.

If you wanted more vintage photos then I would also recommend checking out the following sites:
-circus museum is an amazing collection of circus ephemera and photos [link]
-Circopedia [link]
-a lot of great stuff in flickr pools [link]
-more at Sideshow World [link]

Pete Rosa said...

Susanne, please contact Pete Rosa at

I am a circus showfolk and have toured with three circuses. I have a large collection of circus photos and would be glad to help you by sending you photos and willing to talk with you about circus life.

I would also be glad to talk with you and can send my cell number via email.

Good luck with your project.

Pete Rosa

Princess of glitter said...

I am interested in using some of your photos for some of my artwork. Please send me an email --thank you! Barbara

Female Circus Performer said...

Thanks for your information i appriciate it too much.
Female Circus Performer

anyjazz said...

An excellent assembly. What a life!

Unknown said...

Great pics here! I'm a producer for a Bio Channel show about geneology and the "Billy Winslow Clown" photo from 1910 is of particular interest. I'm looking for someone that can release it for broadcast. Can I ask, where did you find it? Do you know who owns it or has the rights to it's use? Please contact me directly at Thank you very much!

*please cite or link when reposting*