Posts Tagged ‘circus’


March 31, 2013

Barbette (né Van der Clyde Broodway, 1898-1973), American born international wire walker, aerialist and female impersonator
(photo: unknown, probably Paris, circa 1924)

Van de Clyde Broodway, known to the world in the 1920s and 1930s as Barbette, was born in Round Rock, Texas, on 19 December 1899. He began his career as a wire-walker with the Ringling Brothers’ circus but drifted into female impersonation after he replaced at short notice an ailing member of the Alfaretta Sisters trapeze act. In 1923 he was engaged for vaudeville by Thomas Barrasford at the Alhambra Music Hall, Paris, before moving on later that year to feature in the Casino de Paris revue, Y a qu’a Paris. Billed in this as ‘Barbette the Enigma,’ he caused a sensation at what proved to be the beginning of a highly successful international career. Broodway returned to the United States at the outbreak of the Second World War, but in 1942 he fell during a performance and sustained a serious injury. He subsequently became a circus producer and died on 5 August 1972.

* * * * * * * *

‘On stage, against black velvet curtains appeared a young woman in a silvery-gold wig topped with plumes and feathers, with a train of rich lamé and silver lace, undressing on a couch of rich oriental carpets. The woman then rose, naked except for the gems on her breast and belly, and began walking a [low] steel tight-rope. Her eyes shaded green, like some mysterious Asiatic jewel, she walked backwards and forwards along the tight-rope, dispensed with her balancing-pole, and contorted her thin, nervous body as the entire audience held its breath… Then Barbette leapt down on to the stage, gave a bow, tore off her wig and revealed a bony Anglo-Saxon acrobat’s head: gasps from the astonished audience, shattered by the sudden brutality of the action.
‘The Music-Hall has always had its female impersonators. But no one went further in the cult of sexual mystification than this young man who transformed himself into a jazz-age Botticelli…’ (Jacques Damase, Les Folies du Music-Hall; A History of the Paris Music-Hall from 1914 to the Present Day, English translation of the original 1960 French edition, Anthony Blond Ltd, London, 1962, p.30)


Martha Cashmore

March 29, 2013

a cabinet photograph of Martha Cashmore (fl. late 1870s-mid 1920s), English equestrienne and circus performer
(photo: Henry Morgan, Crockherbtown, Cardiff, circa 1885)

‘Notice to Circus Proprietors, Managers of First-class Concert Halls, and Others.
‘IKE CASHMORE, Clown; Madame CASHMORE, Champion Tight-Rope Dancer of the World and Scene Act Rider; Miss MARTHA CASHMORE, High Stilts; and Little JOE, one of the Smallest Tumbling Clowns of the day, now fulfilling a Four Months’ successful Engagement with Messrs Powell and Clarke. Will be at Liberty on the 16th. Glad to hear from old friends. Letters to Mary-street, Cork, Ireland. N.B. – Wardrobe and Apparatus good. No objection to America. Should this meet the eye of Mr Joseph Ashby, Equestrian, by sending his address he will hear of something to his advantage.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 10 March 1878, p. 16 d, advertisement)

‘WANTED, Proprietors to know Joseph Henry Cashmore, Comic Knockabout Clown, High Stilts, Juggler, Running Globe, Vaulter, &c., and his talented sister, Martha Cashmore, Slack Wire Artist, also Louisa Cashmore, graceful Tight Rope Dancer, will be at Liberty Oct. 18th for at Home or Abroad. Good dresses and a good appearance. None but responsible Managers treated with. Private address, No. 3, Albert-street, Folkstone.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 25 September 1886, p. 20c, advertisement)

Leicester, March 1890
‘CIRCUS. – Proprietor, Mr. Edwin Croueste. – Nero, with his trained elephant Gipsy, is the big attraction a this place of amusement. Other fresh arrivals are Wallancini, who does some clever tumbling; Joe Cashmore, with his stilt performance; and Miss Martha Cashmore, in her marvellous equilibristic act. The charming spectacle Cinderella continues to be a special feature of the entertainment.’
The Era, London, Saturday, 22 March 1890, p. 15e)

For further information about Martha Cashmore, her father, the equestrian clown Ike Cashmore, and other members of the Cashmore family, see John Turner, Victorian Arena, The Performers, Lingdales Press, Formby, Liverpool, 1995, vol. I, p. 23.


three unidentified clowns, 1870s

March 19, 2013

a carte de visite photograph of three unidentified clowns
(photo: Bernhardt Tilehne, Posen, Germany, probably late 1870s)


‘Lord’ George Sanger

February 27, 2013

‘Lord’ George Sanger (1827- 1911),
English circus showman entrepreneur
and proprietor of his music hall and pleasure garden ‘Hall-by-the-Sea,’ Margate, Kent
(photo: unknown, mid 1880s)

For further information about ‘Lord’ George Sanger, see Julie Goddard’s Oh! What a Circus: ‘Lord’ George Sanger – Son of Newbury. For the ‘Hall-by-the-Sea’ see Dreamland, Margate, Kent. See also the Margate Civic Society’s Newsletter, Spring 2011.

Sanger’s manager at Margate was Gustavus Foster (1847-1901), who was a photographer before becoming a publican and licensed victualler.


Funny Fred Hall, English clown and comedian

January 24, 2013

a carte de visite photograph of Funny Fred Hall (Frederick Tudor Hall, 1857-1898),
English clown and comedian
(photo: Taney & Co, Foreshore Road, Scarborough, and
Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, England, circa 1885)

Boston, Lincolnshire, England
‘CORN EXCHANGE STOODLEY’S CIRQUE. – The Corn Exchange continues to be well fitted nightly, a very good programme having been provided this week. A Night in Pekin is very creditably put on. The horsemanship of Miss and Mr C.W. Stoodley and the Clown business of Funny Fred. Hall evoke merited applause. The notable additions to the company are Henry Brown (jester), and Mdlle. Zara and Libra Adela (equilibrists).’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 2 March 1879, p. 8a)

‘MR. STOODLEY’S CIRCUS. – This source of public amusement, which comprises such an able and talented company, has been largely patronized during the present week. On Tuesday evening a performances was given under the patronage of the Mayor (A.F. Nicholson, Esq.) and other influential gentlemen, there being a full house. Cee-Mee [tightrope walker] continues his ariel performance at an altitude of 40 feet with a great Alpine leap of 25 feet through a fire balloon to a stationery trapeze. This certainly is a most wonderful feat, and is watched by the audience in breathless silence. The horseback riding is excellent, as are also the performances on the bar and flying rings. As regards the clowns, John J. Cooke and Funny Fred Hall still maintain the reputation they acquired here whilst the circus was staying at Ipswich some time back. Abe Daniels, the musical clown, is well worth seeing, he being a complete master of the violin, as he is also of the banjo.’
(The Ipswich Journal, Ipswich, England, Saturday, 12 April 1879, p. 5c)

Frederick Tudor Hall was married in 1881 at St. Saviour, Southwark, to Julia Lucretia Butler.

‘DIED, April 17th, at Liverpool, Henry Tudor Hall, the beloved brother of William Tudor and Funny Fred Hall, age forty-six years. Interred at Everton Cemetery. American papers please copy.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 30 April 1887, p. 7c)

‘HALL. – In ever-loving memory of my dear husband, Frederick Tudor Hall (Funny Fred Hall), who departed from this life, Aug. 28th, 1898. Never forgotten by his loving wife.’
(The Era, London, Saturday, 26 August 1899, p. 14d)


Mlle. Zittella, English circus performer, strongwoman, singer and burlesque entertainer, San Francisco, circa 1880

January 17, 2013

cabinet photograph of Mlle. Zittella (Zittella Jane Green, 1852-1938),
English circus performer, strongwoman, singer and burlesque entertainer
(photo: Houseworth, San Francisco, circa 1880)

Zittella Jane Green, daughter of Edward Green, an artist (later described as an actor and gymnastic artist) of 18 Back Road, Tower Hamlets, London, and his wife, Lucy Sarah, was born on 17 May 1852 and baptised at the church of St. George in the East on 6 June following.

The Canterbury music hall, London, Christmas, 1869
‘… The return of Mr F. Jonghmans to the scene of his former triumphs was certain to be attended with a rapturous welcome. Whether such was expected or not, the reception accorded him was one of which any artiste might justly be proud. ”The Queen of serio-comics,” too, as Miss Annie Adams is called, met with vociferous plaudits; and this was the case, also, with the great patter singer, Mr J.G. Forde. The manner in which Miss Russell (who, alike here and at the National Standard Theatre, where she also performed on Boxing Night, is decidedly a favourite.) Miss Louie Rosalie, and the other artistes executed their several tasks, especially Zitella’s troupe of male and female acrobats, who introduce a variety of movements both novel and daring, was such as to secure in many cases a repetition of their performances …’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 2 January 1870, p. 13d)

‘Skiff & Gaylord’s Entertainment [Masonic Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, 19 April 1872].
‘The patronage last night of Skiff & Gaylor’s combination exhibition, in Masonic Hall, was large. An evidence that it is a pleasure to some gentlemen to accommodate the ladies all they can, was manifested in the alacrity with which the bachelors all gallantly took side seats when requested to do so. An elderly spectator weighing not less than three hundred pounds was the recipient of great applause on entering. The first part of the programme, consisting of vocal and instrumental music and jokes, could in some respects have been very considerably improved. The contortions of Willie Gaylord were not alone wonderful but were gracefully executed. M’lle Zittella’s songs were all rendered in a Lydia Thompson costume consisting of blue satin and white, fringed with gold. The gentle breathings of ”the culled person” who essayed to speak on a variety of topics could have been omitted and no one would have been displeased. He ought to have remembered that this is a State capital and the inhabitants are in the habit of listening to tedious speeches in the winter time. The performances of the Morrell Brothers, assisted by Mlle. Zittella, were lively and worth seeing, embracing as they did an exhibition of a woman literally supporting two strong men. The exhibition will be repeated to-night with a change of programme. They give also a matinee performance commencing at 2 o’clock this afternoon.’
(Nashville Union and American, Saturday, 20 April 1872, p. 4f)

‘Retired Circus Strong Woman Dies in Englewood at 87
ENGLEWOOD, N.J., May 16. – Mrs. Zittella Flynn, an old-time circus and vaudeville strong woman, died in the Englewood Hospital today at the age of 87.
She was born in London and came to this country in 1887 [sic] to perform with an act in which she carried six men.
A niece, Mrs. Edith Bloodgood of New York, survives.’
(The New York Times
, Tuesday, 17 May 1938, p. 23)


Ethardo , Italian-born international acrobat and spiral ascensionist

January 9, 2013

Ethardo (Steve Ethardo, 1835-1911),
Italian-born international acrobat and spiral ascensionist
(photo: E. Gregson, Halifax and Blackpool, England, circa 1865/66)

‘Accident to a Gymnast. – Ethardo, the spiral ascensionist, appeared during a three days’ gala at York last week. His trick is to walk on the top of a globe, which with his feet he takes along with him upon a spiral and ascending platform until he attains a dizzy height. In the accomplishment of this, Ethardo has never yet come to grief, but on Saturday morning his life was endangered in a rather singular manner. He and his coloured servant, named Jacob Simmons, were engaged in taking down the structure upon which the feat had been performed, the mainstay of which was a long pole which is in two parts, the bottom of the upper half being let into a socket in the top of the lower. To get down the upper half another long pole had been fastened to the lower, and upon this Simmons was engaged at an elevation of about thirty feet, and Ethardo a little below him, when one of the stays gave way, and the poles and those upon them came down to the ground with a sudden crash. Ethardo, by his agility, [saved] himself from harm, with the exception of a severe shaking, but Simmons was for long insensible, and had to have surgical attendance. During the day he came round again, but though just able to walk, he appeared to suffer severely from his accident.’
(Sunday Times, London, Sunday, 28 June 1868, p.3f)

For further information, see John M. Turner, A Dictionary of Circus Biography, Lingdales Press, Formby, 1995, p.43. See also a short article from Harper’s Weekly, New York, 10 February, 1866, quoted on the Circus Historical Society web site.