January 15, 2009

Curious Sideshow George I'm looking for information about old-fashioned circuses, carnivals and traveling shows.

It can be anything - essays, fiction, non-fiction, pictures, photos; from anywhere in the world; the time period is flexible too. Anything that would likely have been advertised in Playbill lettering as "The Greatest Show on Earth", basically. So far I've got World of Wonders, from the Deptford Trilogy, Nights at the Circus, Carter Beats the Devil (all utterly magnificent books if you haven't read them) and The Circus and Victorian Society. Thanks!

  • Get thee a copy of Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women by Ricky Jay. It's a history of novelty, sideshow and "freak" acts of note. Jay, in addition to being just about the best damn slight-of-hand card artist ever, is a walking museum of facts and history regarding magic, sideshows, escape artists, hustlers, and cons. He's on a very short list of people I'd like to hang out with before I die. Anything by him is worth reading, but the good ones are often hard to find. His most famous work, Cards as Weapons, is damn near impossible to find for less than $200US.
  • Just as a note, I believe "The Greatest Show on Earth" is a trademark of Ringling Bros. Good luck in your search!
  • That's looks spot on, mct, thank you!
  • It is, Abby Normal, yes. But it sums it up so nicely :)
  • Ninja love, shall we go see Madame Zingara's?
  • Lots of circus art! I've always been partial to this Chigal And don't forget the great circus horse art of Toulouse LauTrec . I really like this 1908 picture of the circus girl. Interesting 1881 article on training the circus rider. Circushistory.org's Clipper news repro posters
  • The Hydrogen Juke Box performs *CARNIVOLUTION* at The Ellen Powell Tiberino Museum every second Friday, May through October at 3819 Hamilton St., near the Penn campus in Philadelphia. These are friends. Besides their music, this venue features allegorical plays and sideshow activities like fire eating, feats of strength, topless hula hoop demos, etc. Extensive three dimensional murals of a nude bacchanal serve as a backdrop at this open air cul-de-sac.
  • Oh, I like this pic of circus horses bathing from Science and Society Picture Library. You may find something else interesting if you just search on "circus" not "circus horse."
  • We saw Carnivale Lune Blue this summer near Ottawa. An attempt at an authentic recreation of a 1930's carnival. It was pretty good, but still rough around the edges, what with it being the first year for it. It really needed more people running the carnival booths though.
  • Hey! Carter Beats the Devil is one of my all time favourite books!
  • Also, Carnival Diablo , an old-fashioned freak/sideshow based out of Toronto (they were part of Carnivale Lune Blue last year, but have been around for quite a while).
  • The Synthetic Man by Theodore Sturgeon is science fiction, but a good study of carnival types.
  • This is fantastic stuff guys, keep 'em coming!
  • I read that as Carnival Dildo, which I would pay to go see.
  • Freaks: The Pig-Faced Lady of Manchester Quare and Other Medical Marvels is interesting, but I'm not sure it's exactly what you want. There's some related stuff on that Amazon page that could be useful. The movie Freaks maybe worthwhile?
  • *looks suspicious* Hey, we're not doing your homework for you, are we?
  • mmmmmmmmmmmmm, that Circus Contraption's some gooood stuff!
  • DAMN YOU FAIRYWENCH!!! You just cost me CAN$82 with that Circus Contraption link. Fantastic music!
  • Lol, sorry fimbulvetr! Aren't they amazing? And if you ordered hard copies, rather than downloads, the service from CDBaby.com is wonderful! They send the best purchase confirmation emails I've ever gotten.
  • Not doing my homework for me, GramMa, helping me research a hopefully very exciting upcoming project :) Thank you so much everyone, this is all cracking stuff. And fairywench, Circus Contraption are just brilliant!
  • Yeah, those guys are amazing. . . I always buy CDs when I pay for music (I'm still old-fashioned enough to want to end up with a physical object in my hand when I spend money), so I can't wait for them to show up!
  • The Circus, 1870-1950, I looked through it briefly, fantastic details, profusely illustrated, ("670 pages and nearly 900 color and black-and-white illustrations") a wonderful book. Lists for $200 US though it can be purchased for almost 1/2 price and there are always libraries.
  • From the BBC: a sideshow slideshow
  • That was good, Pallas, thank you.