The following oil painting by Charles Halkerston (-1899) is owned by Edinburgh Museums and Galleries(contact direct to see this painting). It was kindly pointed out to me by Dr Tom Normand, School of Art History, St Andrew’s University, otherwise it might have gone unnoticed due to its title.
I cannot find anything concerning the artist, but it looks a fine example of a social historical document painted in 1843.
The menagerie can bee seen to consist of wagons(the yellow/brown slats in the painting, which have been drawn in a square or a rectangle to form the booth. This was possibly an annual fair occurring in Princes Street, Edinburgh.
George Wombwell was often a visitor to Edinburgh, Wallace his famous lion, being born there in 1812. There’s no knowing which menagerie it was of course, but the painting gives the approximate scale of menageries and other booths at these mid century fairs. The elephant and entourage could be the start or the finish of a parade down Princes Street.
by Charles Halkerston dated 1843, Oil on panel, 28 x 47.3 cm
The following ancient photographs were taken from a personal album of a former Luton resident. They were labelled: Sanger’s Circus in Luton, Beds 1931.
“Lord” George Sanger had died many years before, but his circus travelled till 1941 when it was broken up due to food rationing, a ban on performing animals(in case they escaped during an air raid!) as well as labour shortages.
These photographs represent some of the last remaining documents of a travelling circus pre-WWII. The adult elephant may be Sanger’s famous Annie(who lived over 50 years) or her younger companion Alice.
It is not known who the girls are, but they probably rode the elephants during a show. It is interesting to see the continuation of the African theme right into the 1930s. They were obviously very accustomed to handling big cats so they were probably not local Bedfordshire girls. Any further information on them and the elephant keeper in the lower photograph would be gratefully appreciated.
The following is a modern reproduction of an ancient photograph of one of Sedgewick’s American Jungle wagons. Little is known about this outfit. Any assistance is gratefully received.
There’s a distinct American style about the wagon which probably contains animals rather than people. Date of the original photograph is not known.
The following ancient photograph is thought to have been taken in Leeds. It is undated, stamped Leeds Traction Engine Club. It is labelled as the last visit to Leeds and is probably from the late 1920s early 1930s. It may though be earlier.
The following postcard, issued by Frank Bostock at Coney Island, New York, shows Miss (sometimes known as Princess) Ora Cecil training a young leopard.
Cecil once commented:
“…little cats are nicer than the big ones I think, but more treacherous and have to be handled each in his or her own way. They are playful at times and like to be petted, but you never can be sure whether they will hurt you or not.
One funny thing about them though, is that once they have been trained by a woman, they will not work for a man.”
Elmira Daily Gazette, July 20th 1904
Ora Cecil appeared for Frank Bostock at both Coney Island and Atlanta city.
The following cartoon is centred on a menagerie booth (Reise Grose Menagerie) where panic has apparently broken out due to an escaped lion (Lowe Kommt! – Lion Coming!). It probably appeared in a German magazine during the mid nineteenth century.
The following old photograph, taken around the turn of the 20th century, shows a carriage of Sanger’s as part of the arrival of the circus to town. It is thought to be Hereford and is probably taken in Bewell Street with All Saints church in the background.
Generally, showmen coupled several horses to their carriages on such parades. Wombwell is known to have coupled up to eight horses to a carriage on at least one occasion.