International Circus Hall of Fame

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Wagons at the Circus Hall of Fame

The International Circus Hall of Fame is comprised of costumes, posters, photographs, artifacts and the wagons. Many of these wagons have a long and rich history to them. Here is a general overview of each wagon in the collection.

 

Sig Sautelle Band Chariot

Built in 1887, by the Sullivan and Eagle wagon Company of Peru, Indiana for the Sig Sautelle Circus, this band chariot is the oldest wagon in our collection. This wagon was used and owned by Sig Sautelle until circa 1915, when he sold it to Harold Curtis. Mr. Curtis used it on his own show, Curtis Bros. Circus and maintained possession of it up to 1959. He donated it to the newly formed Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL in 1959. It has been a part of the Circus Hall of Fame, ever since then.

Two Hemispheres Bandwagon

The Two Hemispheres Bandwagon is the second oldest wagon at the Circus Hall of Fame. It was originally built in the winter of 1902/1903 for the Barnum & Bailey Circus by the Sebastian Wagon Co. in New York. Samuel Robb did most of the carvings with Spanjer adding the medallions. The wagon was sold to Fred Buchanan in 1927 who used it on his Robbins Bros. Circus before abandoning it at his Granger, Iowa winter quarters.

Through the aid of Jacob Wagner and the local Circus Fan Association members, they got this moved to the State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa. They helped restore it. Wagner was granted control of the wagon. Upon his death, he willed this wagon to Zach Terrell of Cole Bros. Circus. About 1945, Zach Terrell gave it to Col. J. D. Palmer ( Chiropractor in Iowa ) who completely restored it. He donated the wagon to the newly formed Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL. in 1959. When the Circus Hall of Fame closed in 1980, John Zweifel purchased it. He owned it until 2016 when he sold it to Peter Gorman. The wagon is on loan to the International Circus Hall of Fame.

American Circus Corporation Cage # 50

The American Circus Corporation cage # 50 is the only wagon in the Circus Hall of Fame that was actually built in the North Wagon Barn around 1924. It is the third oldest wagon in the collection. Many of these arched cages were constructed but this was the only cage with two arches and the rear wheels on the outside of the cage. This cage is 12’0” long, 6’0” wide and was 6’8” tall. This cage was used on the Sells-Floto Circus, the John Robinson Circus and the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. It was sold to the Cole Bros. Circus in 1940 and remained there through 1954 when the remaining pieces of the Cole Bros. Circus were sold to Paul Kelly. This cage remained inside the training barn at the Kelly farm until their large auction in 1988. It was bought by Peter Gorman. It was restored by Bill Gresham. It is currently on loan to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Generator # 112

This wagon was built brand new in the Ringling winter quarters in Sarasota, FL. by Bill Yeske and his crew.  It was used for the first time in 1949. It carried two 60KW Diesel generators in it. It was one of four generator wagons supplying power to the Circus Big Top. After closing under canvas in 1956, the Ringling circus sold the generators. The wagon was then sold to the original Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL in 1959. It has been part of the Circus Hall of Fame ever since.

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus cage # 75

This Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus cage was built in 1935. It is made out of aluminum. This was one of the first wagons to be made with rubber tires rather than the wooden spoked wheels. It was only used through 1948. It was sold to the original Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL. in 1959. It has been part of the Circus Hall of Fame ever since.

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ticket Wagon # 124

This wagon was first used in 1948.  It had the A frame cross bars and flags but no clown.  The 9′ clown was added in 1949. It was used as a Tax collection wagon with the number 124.

It has certain similarities (under gear especially) to the other military wagons that Ringling purchased. The main thing is that it has the slide out I beam under the tongue that held it out straight.  this is made just like the ammo cages and the Fruehauf trailers.

The old tax wagon received the  single number 4 in 1952. It was painted purple. In 1953 it was painted drab green color with a design on the rear. In 1954 the single digit number was changed to number 5 with the triple digit remaining number 124. For the 1955 and 1956 seasons it was changed back to number 124 and number 4 ( Four ticket wagons being used ). In 1956 it received the vertical stripe paint job as did almost everything else on the midway that was well remembered while on display at the Circus Hall of Fame in Florida. It is now restored to it’s 1951 configuration.

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ammo Cage # 74

This was one of the twelve cages that Bill Yeske and his crew built out of former military ordinance wagons during the winter on 1948/1949. This cage was used in the Menagerie displays through the 1953 season. In 1954, it carried the performing chimps. A center panel was added to the side and a glass covering over the bars was added. Following the closing of the show under canvas in 1956, this wagon was not used again. It was sold to the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL. It has been falling apart ever since and was barely able to be brought to Peru where it remains un-restored.

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ammo Cage # 76

This was one of the twelve cages that Bill Yeske and his crew built out of former military ordinance wagons during the winter on 1948/1949. This cage was used in the Menagerie for display and in the backyard when it carried performing bears. Following the close under canvas of the Ringling show, this cage was taken to Madison Square Garden in 1958 as part of the menagerie Display there. It remained at Bob Deitch’s Zoo in New Jersey when not at the Madison Square Garden dates until 1967. It was then shipped to Houston, Texas for a proposed new Circus Park. In approximately 1973, this cage was brought to Florida for the new Circus World Park. After it closed in 1985, this cage was bought by show owner, Allan C. Hill. He kept it through 1991. It was sold to a junk yard in Florida where it remained for a few years before being bought by Peter Gormon. In 2002, it was used as a movie prop in the film, “The Big Fish.” It is currently on loan to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ammo Cage # 77

This was one of the twelve cages that Bill Yeske and his crew built out of former military ordinance wagons during the winter on 1948/1949. This cage was used to carry the Pygmy Hippopotamus from 1949 through 1955. In 1956, it was used for menagerie storage of feed, sawdust and hay.

Following the close of the Ringling Circus under canvas, this cage found its way over to Texas Jim’s Reptile Farm, near Sarasota where it remained for several years. By 1966, this cage had been bought by the Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota. It has been part of the Circus Hall of Fame ever since.

 

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Ammo Cage # 78

This was one of the twelve cages that Bill Yeske and his crew built out of former military ordinance wagons during the winter on 1948/1949. This cage was used in the Menagerie for display and in the backyard when it carried performing bears. Following the close under canvas of the Ringling show, this cage was taken to Madison Square Garden in 1958 as part of the menagerie Display there. It remained at Bob Deitch’s Zoo in New Jersey when not at the Madison Square Garden dates until 1967. It was then shipped to Houston, Texas for a proposed new Circus Park. In approximately 1973, this cage was brought to Florida for the new Circus World Park. After it closed in 1985, this cage was bought by show owner, Allan C. Hill. He kept it through 1991. It was sold to a junk yard in Florida where it remained for a few years before being bought by Peter Gormon. In 2002, it was used as a movie prop in the film, “The Big Fish.” It is currently on loan to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Wardrobe Wagon # 145

This wagon is a former Military radar wagon built by Freuhauf Trailer Co. The Royal American Shows bought these as Military surplus and then sold six of these wagons to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in March of 1947. It is an all aluminum body. This wagon carried the show’s wardrobe until it closed under canvas in 1956. The wagon is twenty feet long. It is not known where this wagon was between 1956 and 1973 but by 1973, it was seen at the Circus World Amusement Park in Florida with # 115 painted on it. When the park closed in 1985, show owner, Allan C. Hill bought this wagon. He had it until at least 1997. It was then sold to a junk yard. A couple years later it was bought by Bob Phebus. It is currently on loan to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Baggage Wagon # 20

This wagon is an all steel construction wagon built in the Sarasota winter quarters in 1948. It replaced a wooden wagon with the number 20 on it. This wagon originally carried part of the concessions and later carried the side poles for the Big Top. After the show closed under canvas in 1956, this wagon sat idle until it was sold to the original Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota in 1959. It has been a part of the Circus Hall of Fame ever since.

Robbins Bros. Circus Baggage Wagon # 40

The Robbins Bros. Circus baggage wagon was built new in 1937 for the Cole Bros. Circus. The Robbins Bros. Circus was their second unit in 1938 when this wagon went there. The Robbins Bros. Circus was only out in 1938. We have never found any photographic evidence to show this wagon was ever used again. Ollie Miller of Peru, Indiana got the wagon from the former Rochester, IN. winter quarters. He kept it until he died. An auction was held in 2002, when Bob and Kay Sapita bought the wagon. They donated it to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Cage # 82

This cage was built for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1944. The exact history is not known. The cage was sold to Tony Diano of Canton, Ohio who took it off the wheels and mounted it to a truck chassis. Years later, the wagon was taken off of the truck and placed on the ground. John Maurer of Mansfield, Ohio found it several years ago and had it placed on a farm type chassis before donating it to the Circus Hall of Fame. It has not been restored.

Cole Bros. Wardrobe # 73

( Top photo is from 1966 – Bottom is from 2016 )

The Cole Bros. Fighting Lion act was first in this wagon in the Side Show in 1946. It was used as a fighting lion act for 1946, 1947 and 1948. It was wagon # 64 at that time. It was not used in 1949. In 1950, this wagon was converted to its current look and used as a Wardrobe wagon carrying the Number 73. After the Cole Bros. Circus closed on the Paul Kelly farm, this wagon was sold to Frank Fisher, a Cole Bros. employee. He sold it to Phil Parsons in 1965. In 2010, Phil Parsons donated this wagon to the Circus Hall of Fame. It hasn’t been restored.

Wixom Cage

The beginning of this cage is uncertain. It was a three den unit. Richard Cline found it sitting on the ground near Ohio Caverns in 1958. A farm vehicle was placed under it for wheels and taken to Sandusky, Ohio where it was rebuilt into a two den unit. Mr. Cline sold the cage to Dick Britton for $ 1500.00 in 2007. Dick Britton donated it to the Circus Hall of Fame in 2008. It was used in the Circus City Festival parade for the first time in 2017.

Knott’s Berry Farm Wagons

The Knott’s Berry Farm wagons was a group of 10 wagons built in Peru and Shipshewana through the collaboration of the Circus Hall of Fame and Knott’s Berry Farm. The under gears and wheels were all built by the local Amish Craftsman. In December of 1990, the wagons were started to be built. John Fugate and Tom Dunwoody designed the small replica wagons. Artists and craftsmen, Kevin Minns, Gilbert Lafflin, Tim Bessignano, Harold Miser, Larry Ewer, Hank Hilmer, Bob Hurley and Quinton Guildon assembled these ten wagons and delivered them to California by May of 1991. After using them for the summer season, Knott’s berry Farm donated them all to the Circus Hall of Fame in September of 1991.

Gil Gray Pumpkin Coach

The golden pumpkin coach was built by veteran showman Gaylord Manor of Florida in the 1960s for the Gil Gray Circus. Having been used by a variety of circuses over the years, animal trainer, Baron Von Uhl bought it and brought it to Indiana. It was sold to Century 21 Real Estate who donated it to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Betty Hutton Trapeze Float

The Betty Hutton Trapeze Float was a design used in Cecil B. DeMille’s classic film, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Following a horrible train wreck, this wagon had a trapeze put on it for Betty Hutton’s character to be on when they made a parade effort after the wreck. This is a re-creation of that float. The chassis is an original Ringling piece that had a different float on it every year from 1948 to 1957. This chassis was used as the American Beauties Float in 1951. This was the one that Betty Hutton rode on in the movie.

Circus Hall of Fame Air Calliope # 98

This calliope was built near Detroit, Michigan by a circus fan. He donated it to the Circus Hall of Fame in 1997. It has a 43 pipe Tangley Air calliope in it. The air calliope unit dates back to the late 1920s early 1930s. It is operated by an air compressor that is being electrified by a generator.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Tunnel Car Bear Cage # 34

This cage wagon was built new in 1965. It was carried inside one of the Tunnel cars on the train. It found its way over to the Circus World Amusement Park. When it closed in 1985, show owner, Allan C. Hill, bought this wagon at auction. This wagon was then taken to a junk yard where it sat for a couple years. Peter Gormon bought this cage in 1997. It is currently on loan to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Cole Bros. Circus Triple Head Stake Driver

This wagon was built in 1937 in the Rochester winter quarters for the Cole Bros. Circus. it was used on the 1938 Robbins Bros. Circus. It was not used in 1939. This wagon was forced into use in 1940 after the disastrous winter quarters fire on Feb, 20, 1940 destroyed the other stake driver.

Of interest is the fact that a gen/set was installed crosswise in the rear portion of the wagon. The wheels were solid disk in front and wood spoked hard rubber tired in the rear. The number was #89. For 1941 the gen/set was removed and “COLE BROS. STAKEDRIVING DEPT.” was applied to the front accordion doors. In 1942 it was numbered #99 and a short wall was added across the rear to contain stakes. In 1943 (3) horizontal slats were added to contain the stakes. Metal wheels were installed in the rear and the old “hit and miss” engine was replaced by a more up to date gas engine mounted crosswise. The radiator actually stuck outside the driver side door opening. The side driver was also removed to accommodate the new engine. By the 1945 season many changes had taken place. Among them the #3 driver was reinstalled, a roof extending 3/4 of the wagon length was added, the cross mount engine was moved over the rear axle. For 1946 the engine was moved to the front compartment, accordion doors were reinstalled, and a wood spoke wheel was installed in the rear. The doors were lettered COLE BROS. CIRCUS STAKEDRIVER.

In 1947 slats were added to hold stakes in the rear compartment, and the doors were lettered COLE BROS. CIRCUS STAKE DRIVER (2 words). In 1948 the full roof was added with a hinged section to provide protection for the driver heads, wheels were 3 steel and 1 wood spoke. By 1949/1950 the front wheels were replaced with single pneumatics. The rear retained the 1 steel/1 wood arrangement. At the end of the 1950 season the wagon was “retired” along with the rest of the equipment at the (Kelly) farm in Peru. IN. It sat there for 46 years until the auction July 27-28, 1996. It was bought by the Circus Hall of Fame.

Cole Bros. Circus Baggage Wagon # 75

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Bandstand # 29

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Bandstand # 29 was built in 1950 in the Sarasota, FL. winter quarters. It is 18 feet long. It had a dual axle on the rear. In 1951 it had the one axle removed from the back. This wagon carried all of the Band instruments, chairs and Music stands. The Organ that was on the front was loaded in the back as well. After the under canvas show closed in 1956, this wagon sat at the Sarasota Winter quarters and was then moved to Venice where it listed in Ringling papers in 1961. Sometime between 1961 and 1966, the wagon came to the Circus Hall of Fame where it was displayed as seen above for another 15 years. By time it came to Peru in 1987, it was in sad condition and has not been restored since.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Giraffe Wagon # 83

( The top photo is from 1952, courtesy of Illinois State University, Special collections,the Sverre Braathen collection – image # BSP1718 – the lower photo is from 2017 – Bob Cline photo )

This Giraffe wagon was built in the Sarasota winter quarters in 1947. It traveled on the Ringling show through the 1955 season. Ringling kept this wagon to transport a giraffe in for many years. As late as 1972, it still was used in the New York area arenas where a menagerie was presented. By 1978, this wagon was at the Circus World Amusement Park, but not on display. At some point, John Zweifel bought this wagon. It was brought up to Peru in 1987 with the rest of the Circus Hall of Fame collection and has been in Peru, ever since.

European Wagon

Known as an Italian Caravan, this was the living quarters for the Star performers. The wheels were large enough for muddy lots and the proper spacing to be loaded on European train cars. When The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus hired the Oscar Konyot family of performers to come to America in 1952, they brought this wagon with them. They soon abandoned living in this and choose to live in the circus train instead. This caravan was donated to the original Circus Hall of Fame in Sarasota, FL. and has been part of the Circus Hall of Fame ever since.

Van Amburg Bandwagon # 88

This wagon was built by noted elephant trainer, Bucky Steele of Texas. Most notable are the old Carousel seat frames attached to the sides of the wagon. He donated this wagon to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Small Cage # 70

Yellow Cage

Eagle Tableau # 67

This wagon was discovered in Wisconsin by John Fugate in the 1990s. Pat Montgomery bought it. John Fugate and Harold Miser went to Wisconsin to bring it back to Peru. Pat Montgomery then donated this wagon to the Circus Hall of Fame.

Coat of Arms Tableau

This wagon was built by Bill Gresham.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Long Performing tigers cage # 92

This cage carried the Performing Tigers. It was originally 23 feet long. When Trevor Bale took over the tiger act a couple more tigers were added. Ringling then added three more fet of cage to the rear end. Not being needed after the Ringling show closed under canvas in 1956, this wagon was sold to the Original Circus hall of Fame in Sarasota. After closing in 1980 and sitting in Florida for seven more years, it came to Peru in 1987. It was completely rotted out and has not been restored since then

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Long Performing lions cage # 94

This cage carried the Performing lion act. It was 23 feet long. Not being needed after the Ringling show closed under canvas in 1956, this wagon was sold to the Original Circus hall of Fame in Sarasota. After closing in 1980 and sitting in Florida for seven more years, it came to Peru in 1987. It was completely rotted out and has not been restored since then.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Spec Floats

The Circus hall of fame has been given two of the spec floats from 1973. One is Blue and silver and the other one is white and red.

# 88 Auburn Band Chariot

Dave Morecraft’s Steam Calliope

Dave Morecraft started construction on this wagon in April of 1993 at his company’s Morecraft Mfg. building in Peru, Indiana. Dave built his own whistles and steam boiler to create this musical piece. He removed the calliope from the wagon on occasion to be on a riverboat.

Circus Model Builder’s Wagon

Moto Wagon

This small wagon built was by Circus Model Builder Sheldon Endy of Walnutport, PA. in 1973. He built it as a generator wagon and had a 5 Kilowatt Generator in it. In 1994, he re-modeled it into the gorilla cage. The wagon is owned today by the Circus Model Builders Museum at the Circus Hall of Fame.

Visit Us Again Wagon

MORE WAGONS TO COME – CHECK BACK OFTEN