A Lion named Wallace?

On show at the Circus Hall of Fame Sarsota, Florid, USA.

Edward Cross, a notable wild beast merchant of the 19th century, owned and operated the menagerie at Exeter Exchange in London. Among his collection of exotic animals were several lions, and he famously named multiple lions “Wallace.”

Number of Wallace Lions:

It is documented that there were at least three lions named Wallace at different times. Each of these lions gained some degree of fame:

  1. First Wallace: The original Wallace became quite famous during its time, gaining notoriety for its size and demeanor. This lion was a significant attraction at Exeter Exchange.
  2. Second Wallace: Following the death of the first Wallace, Cross named another lion Wallace, continuing the legacy and maintaining the public’s interest in his menagerie.
  3. Third Wallace: A third lion also bore the name Wallace, keeping the tradition alive and ensuring that the name Wallace remained synonymous with the impressive lions of the menagerie.

The practice of reusing the name “Wallace” for successive lions helped build a lasting brand and reputation for Cross’s menagerie, attracting visitors who were familiar with the famed lion by that name. This tradition of naming multiple animals with the same name is not uncommon in the history of menageries and zoos.

George Wombwell was a prominent British showman and the founder of Wombwell’s Traveling Menagerie, one of the most famous traveling animal shows in the 19th century. His menagerie was renowned for its exotic animals, and among them, a lion named Wallace became particularly famous.

Wallace the Lion

Fame and Legacy:

  1. Exhibition: Wallace was one of the star attractions of Wombwell’s Menagerie. The lion was renowned for his size, strength, and the magnificent mane that became a symbol of the menagerie.
  2. Docile Nature: Unlike many other lions in captivity at the time, Wallace was known for his relatively docile and gentle nature. This made him particularly popular with the public and allowed for close interactions, which were a major draw for visitors.
  3. Historical Significance: Wallace was born in captivity in 1812 and became a part of Wombwell’s Menagerie. He lived until 1838, reaching an age of 26 years, which is quite notable for a lion, especially one in captivity during that era.

Impact on Popular Culture:

  1. Public Attention: Wallace’s fame extended beyond the menagerie itself. His image and stories about him were widely disseminated, making him a household name in 19th-century Britain.
  2. Literature and Art: Wallace inspired various artistic and literary works, reflecting the public’s fascination with exotic animals and the adventures of traveling menageries.

Legacy of George Wombwell:

  1. Menagerie Success: George Wombwell’s success with his traveling menagerie was partly due to his ability to create strong public personas for his animals. Wallace the lion was a prime example of this strategy.
  2. Animal Welfare: Although the standards of animal care were very different in the 19th century compared to today, Wombwell was known for his relatively good treatment of his animals, which contributed to their longevity and the success of his menagerie.

Conclusion:

George Wombwell’s lion, Wallace, remains one of the most famous lions in the history of traveling menageries. Wallace’s reputation for being a magnificent and gentle lion made him a star attraction and helped cement George Wombwell’s legacy as a leading showman of his time. The story of Wallace highlights the public’s enduring fascination with exotic animals and the rich history of animal exhibitions in the 19th century.

However, the Wallace depicted above was from the USA, and, according to the card, was from the Wombwell and Bostock Wold Animal Show. Reported to have killed 3 of its trainers and had to be ‘executed’.

It was Frank Bostock that went to the USA in the late 1800s and successfully traveled the country with his Wild Animal Show. He also had a permanent site on Coney Island, New York.

Frank Bostock and His Menagerie in New York

Introduction

Frank C. Bostock, known as the “Animal King,” was a pioneering figure in the world of traveling menageries and animal shows. Originating from a family deeply entrenched in the circus and menagerie business in the UK, Bostock expanded his operations internationally, achieving remarkable success in New York in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Early Life and Background

Born in 1866 in England, Frank Bostock was part of the famous Bostock and Wombwell menagerie family. From a young age, he was immersed in the world of exotic animals and show business. Frank eventually branched out to create his own menagerie, distinct from his family’s legacy, which would go on to become a global sensation.

Arrival in New York

In the early 1890s, Frank Bostock brought his menagerie to the United States, where he quickly made a name for himself. New York, with its burgeoning entertainment industry and appetite for spectacle, provided the perfect setting for Bostock’s grand exhibitions.

Bostock’s Menagerie

  1. Exotic Animals and Training:
    • Diverse Collection: Bostock’s menagerie featured a wide array of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, elephants, bears, and more. His collection was known for its variety and the healthy condition of the animals.
    • Innovative Training: Frank Bostock was renowned for his innovative and humane training techniques. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he emphasized positive reinforcement and developed a deep understanding of animal behavior, which allowed him to perform complex and engaging shows.
  2. Spectacular Shows:
    • Public Exhibitions: Bostock’s shows were a mix of education and entertainment. He showcased not only the animals’ natural behaviors but also their trained abilities. This approach captivated audiences and made his shows a must-see attraction in New York.
    • The Arena: In 1903, Bostock opened a permanent exhibition space known as Bostock’s Arena at Coney Island. The arena was a state-of-the-art facility designed to house his extensive menagerie and host daily shows. It quickly became one of Coney Island’s premier attractions.
  3. Notable Performances and Incidents:
    • Major Public Draw: Bostock’s performances included daring acts such as lion taming, tiger training, and elephant performances. His shows were characterized by their dramatic flair and the close bond he shared with his animals.
    • Fire at Dreamland: In 1911, a tragic fire at Dreamland amusement park, where Bostock had his animals, resulted in significant losses. Many of the animals perished in the fire, marking a somber moment in his career.

Impact on New York and Legacy

  1. Influence on Animal Shows:
    • Setting Standards: Bostock set new standards for animal care and training, influencing future generations of trainers and entertainers. His methods were studied and emulated by many in the industry.
    • Public Perception: He played a significant role in changing the public perception of animal exhibitions from mere curiosities to respected forms of entertainment and education.
  2. Cultural Contributions:
    • Entertainment Industry: Bostock’s success in New York contributed to the growth of the entertainment industry, particularly in Coney Island, which became a hub for amusement parks and attractions.
    • Animal Welfare Awareness: His humane approach to animal training brought attention to the importance of animal welfare, laying the groundwork for future improvements in the treatment of performing animals.
  3. Enduring Fame:
    • Publications and Media: Bostock’s life and career were chronicled in various publications, and his menagerie was frequently covered in the media. His fame extended beyond the United States, cementing his legacy as a global showman.

Conclusion

Frank Bostock’s tenure in New York marked a significant chapter in the history of traveling menageries and animal exhibitions. Through his innovative approach to animal training and showmanship, Bostock captivated audiences and set new standards for the industry. His legacy as the “Animal King” endures, reflecting his contributions to entertainment, animal welfare, and cultural history.

Have you seen my dead elephant?

Wessex Archaelogy are to look for a dead elephant near Kingswood, Bristol. Here’s The Observer link to the report.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jul/02/archaeologists-hunt-for-burial-site-of-famous-19th-century-elephant-in-gloucestershire

I have doubts they will find much other than bones. Bones with lots of ‘hacks’ on them. At £400 a time the late Victorian menagerist, EH Bostock (or in this case his brother in law Frank Bostock (Little Frank*)), would have extracted as much of the meat from the bones to feed to the other beasts in the menagerie.

However, if they do find anything of the elephant, then the forensics would be interesting. The pit would, of course be large and easy to spot methinks!

Psst! There’s an elephant buried on the banks of The Clyde River. Don’t tell anyone.

There’s one buried at Smithfields market too!

*Not to be confused with E H’s brother Frank (Big Frank)

hattip to Heather for these reliable facts.

Recent additions to the archive

An rare monochrome photograph and a monochrome postcard have been added to the archive.

Aquired from the archive of Charles H Dean, it shows the interior of a B&W Menagerie, that was visiting Newcastle upon Tyne

Date unknown, but the menagerie is utilising electric lights. Verso states the menageire was sold at Newcastle.

One of the crowd pullers at the Blackpool Menagerie. Circa 1910

The photographic angle of the second image is interesting: Who’s looking at who!

Nottingham Goose Fair 1929

Recent addition to the collection is this 1929 programme for the annual Nottingham Goose Fair, still taking place in the centre of the city. It includes the layout of the fair and it strikes me that B&W are still the biggest attaction, with their pitch taking up a considerable section of the square. This was one of the last fairs that B&W attended before their demise in the early thirties.

Bostock and Wombwell Band Wagon

A Grand Bostock and Wombwell bandwagon in USA parade at Circus World Museum, Wisconsin where many Victorian Menagerie items are on display/stored. Any B&W items were probably from Frank Bostock’s collection.

Colour printed postcard, verso: This elegant vehicle dates back to 1882 England. A remarkable feature of this wagon are the six-foot diameter rear wheels. The Wombwell name dates back to 1805 when it was used on a travelling menageire. Photo:Jim Morrill

Bostock’s Smallest Horse in the World?

Bostock and Wombwell’s claimed at several times in their history, to possess the smallest horse in the world. Indeed, several competitors made the same claims to draw crowds to their booths.

Where Bostock succeeded was in not quite telling the truth. In this card they show the ‘smallest horse in the world’, but closer examination of the photo-printed card, reveals it is a composite of two photographs. Doctoring photographs for financial gain, is not a new phenomenon and showmen were ‘at it’ here in 1911 (used card, franked Jul 24 11). I doubt anyway, that a horse and a dog would stand still in that position long enough to have their portraits taken!

End of Days: Last Performance Soon by Ringling’s and Barnham’s Circus

Pointed out to me by Terence Ruffle, I think this is well written and quite sad. Possibly not for the animals, but who really knows what they are thinking? The ‘ Greatest Show on Earth’ comes to an end in May 2017. Quite tearful. TJ would be quite angry and George Wombwell the World’s Greatest Showman, George Wombwell would be very sad, and probably wondering how he could capitalise on Barnham’s demise!

A 14-year-old girl named Zazel was the first to be shot out of a cannon, in 1877 London.

On the subject of old ‘trains’, I often wonder if there are any of the caravans that Bostock and Wombwell travelled in, languishing somewhere in a farm outbuilding in the UK? It would make a really good project to refurbish one of them, provide young people with skills training, etc. If anyone knows of one please let us know. Where to look? Farm barns, fields, zoos (Whipsnade, etc.), railyards…

The information age has surely killed live perfomances. Young people will never know what it was like to see tigers and lions,etc.

Antiques Roadshow: Audley End House, Essex

It has been brought to my attention that there will be a feature concerning the Bostock and Wombwell families on The Antiques Roadshow on Sunday 4th September 2016 at 20.00 hours British Summer Time. Heather Payne, E.H. Bostock’s granddaughter, will be ‘grilled’ by the expert and show some of her collection of memorabilia. Worth setting the recorder for that one! Well done Heather for promoting the family business.

Reminder

PS: I have had a conversation with a curator at the Saffron Walden Museum and they are very interested in the new book. If only they could tell us exactly where George was born!

Bostock Circus Film

UPDATE2: It was produced by the ‘Warwick Trading Company’ and BFI has many of their films.

UPDATE: Just noticed the 1911 date on the film.

I discovered this old film on YouTube. It seems to show the end of an elephant to include its funeral pyre. It has German titles and has been translated as ‘Lights and Shades on the Bostock Circus Farm’. As well as an elephant and a bear performing, the participants are aslo acting throughout the film. I would like to think this film is nothing to do with the Bostock and Wombwell outfit, but I know nothing else on the film. It has a permanent logo showing BFI which is the British Film Institute. I will be contacting them to get a history of the film, but if anyone can shed light then let me know. I wonder if it is a travelling outfit on the continent around the 1920s/30s? The keepers do not seem to be very kind to their animals. Was it a Nazi propaganda stunt? Anything is possible.

Bostock Arena: Where was this building?

UPDATE: The whereabouts of this building has now been solved. It was part of the Franco-British Exhibition at White City in London during 1908. It’s architecture fits with the rest of the site, which went on to hold the Olympic Games and is on the same location  where the former BBC Centre still stands. A diary belonging to Kate Frye describes a visit to the Zoo back in 1914. By this date the site had become the Anglo-American Exhibition, which was cut short due to the outbreak of war.

Then John and I by tube to the White City and there we strolled about. I was dead tired and had the rat horribly until we had some dinner when I revived a bit but felt anything but lively and walked about in rather a dead fashion. We did not try many side shows and they were failures. Bostocks Zoo – heaps of performing lions but all very sad. We missed most of it as we went there last but we saw the poor dears fed. We also saw some wonderful racing on a miniature motor track, but John was seized with a panic fear so we came out.  Saturday July 11th 1914

There is every reason to believe that Frank Bostock was responsible for its existence during 1914 as he had returned from America and had exhibited his menagerie under the billing ‘Bostock’s Arena’ as in his Coney Island site in New York.

End

A new addition to the collection gives us a problem as to its location. It is not the Arena in New York’s Coney Island. Nor is it the Arena at Earl’s Court in London. A clue to its whereabouts is in the writing from the sender of the original card:

‘Dear Win this is part of the YMCA It is a big place’,  plus a franked impression marked PADDINGTON.

The other places considered are Glasgow and Sheffield, but it does not have the same architecture of either sites. It is certainly a permanent structure though.

I can see it possibly being in London, but there is no record I have found on its location. It had a full uniformed staff as well. Any information is appreciated including the possible architect, etc.