August 17, 2022

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James Robinson’s champion circus – The Instances 24-7

Seize some peanuts and popcorn — this week we’re going to the circus!
Once I was researching the final two columns, I couldn’t assist noticing a humongous commercial within the August 26, 1869 Hamilton County Register. It begins out “THE BOSS IS COMING!”
No, Bruce Springsteen didn’t soar right into a time machine and journey again to 1869.
The “Boss” on this advert was a person named James Robinson. His “Champion Circus” was scheduled to go to Noblesville on September 1, together with Gardner & Kenyon’s Menagerie.
That made me curious to see if that was the primary circus to carry out right here.
It wasn’t.
The April 8, 1858 Hoosier Patriot marketed an look by the part-circus/part-theatrical troupe of Fayette Lodawick “Yankee” Robinson.
Different circuses most likely additionally performed right here between 1858 and 1869, and possibly even earlier than that, however so many newspapers from these early years are lacking, it’s practically inconceivable to dig up any particulars about them.
James Robinson’s circus stands out in any case. It was an enormous affair, centered round Robinson himself, a person billed as “The Solely Nice Rider within the World.”
Robinson started life as Michael James Fitzgerald. Orphaned at an early age, he ran away from his orphanage to hitch the circus and finally grew to become apprenticed to well-known circus showman, John Robinson.
John Robinson renamed the boy “James Robinson” and taught him the ropes of circus life, particularly bareback using, at which James proved to be unusually proficient.
In 1851 James Robinson grew to become the second rider ever to carry out a somersault whereas using bareback. He went on to win using championships — and a few huge cash — in America and Europe. In Cuba he was offered with a pure gold, diamond-studded “Champion Belt.”
Robinson was so assured of being the “world’s biggest horseman” that he supplied $10,000 to anybody who may equal him as a bareback rider. ($10,000! . . . in 1869!)
By the point Robinson’s circus hit Noblesville, he’d adopted his personal apprentice, a younger lad named Clarence. Clarence carried out each with Robinson and in an act of his personal on his “pearly pigmy pony.”
Different points of interest within the Robinson circus included a feminine equestrienne, Miss Eliza Kenyon; gymnasts Looking and Matthews; acrobat and contortionist Frank Robinson; “the famend Cloud Swing” (aerialist,) Charles Matthews; and “the In style Mirth-provoking Son of Momus,” Dan Gardner, simply to call a couple of.
(Momus was the Greek god or spirit of ridicule. In different phrases, Gardner was a clown.)
A ticket for the circus was additionally good for admittance to Gardner & Kenyon’s Menagerie. This was primarily a touring zoo crammed with every kind of animals, most of them unique.
Among the many animals in Gardner & Kenyon’s assortment have been a small African elephant named Child Annie, a Bactrian (two-humped) camel, a Bengal tiger, a zebra, a polar bear, African lions, an Asiatic lioness, noticed axis deer and Brazilian tigers — and people are simply those given prime billing within the advert. Many extra have been listed.
Youngsters have been particularly keen on Child Annie, most likely as a result of they have been apparently allowed to pet and feed her. (Child Annie was mentioned to have an “immense capability for nuts and sweetmeats.”)
On the morning of their Noblesville engagement, Robinson’s troupe, accompanied by a cornet band, paraded into the town and arrange their huge tent at “the same old present floor, close to the river.” (That was most likely the world west of North Elementary.)
Two performances have been scheduled — one within the afternoon and one other that night.
The Register anticipated an enormous turnout and suggested these desirous to keep away from the crowds to attend the afternoon present, once they may “benefit from the further privilege of seeing the ‘varmints’ fed.”
All that for a mere 50 cents! (Twenty-five cents for youngsters underneath ten.)

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Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column seems on Wednesdays in The Instances. Contact her at [email protected]