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sword swallowing injury = sword swallowing injury     Sword swallowers grave - Click to see grave site = known grave site
NAME PERIOD LOCATION BACKGROUND
Indian Fakirs circa 2000 BC (India) Some of the earliest known references to sword swallowing were documented over four thousand years ago in India by fakirs and shaman priests who practiced the art around 2000 BC, along with fire-eating, fire-walking on hot coals, laying on cactus or a bed of nails, snake handling, and other ascetic religious practices, as demonstration of their invulnerability, power, and connection with their gods. Sword swallowing is still performed in certain parts of India today. Sword swallowers in India are known by the term "golewala" or "jolewale" or "jholewale" or "jholawalla" (meaning "juggler" or "street performer") or "jagudar" (meaning "magician" or "miracle worker"). Legend has it that there was said to have been a tribe of sword swallowers known as the Konda-Dora tribe in the state of Andhra Pradesh who would pass on the art of sword swallowing from father to son. Konda-Dora is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Orissa by about 28,000 people. The Konda-Dora are distributed in the Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam and East Godavari districts. According to the 1981 Census, their population was 141,374. They call themselves Pandava Doras or Pandava Rajas. They believe that they are the descendants of the Pandavas of the Mahabharata. Etymologically "konda" means "hill", and "dora" means "headman" or "chieftain", hence "Konda-Dora" means "hill chieftain". The Konda-Dora language, which is also known as Kubi, is closely related to the Kui language of the Khond, and has borrowed vocabulary from Oriya and Telugu. Many Konda-Dora speak Telugu as well as or instead of their native language.

One of the most famous of the Indian sword swallowers was Ramo Samee "The East Indian Juggler" who performed in the UK and US from 1814 to 1850. Seeking photos and more information.

Indian Sword Swallowers
Indian Sword Swallowers
Indian Sword Swallowers (1810 article)
Indian Sword Swallowers (1822 illust)
Indian Sword Swallower (1863-73)
Indian Sword Swallower engraving (1878)
Indian Sword Swallower (1904)
Indian Sword Swallower (1910 card)
South Indian Sword Swallower (1940s?)
Indian Sword Swallower (1950s?)
Indian Sword Swallower (1980s)
Indian Sword Swallower (1980s)
Sword Swallower in Jaipur, India
Sword Swallower in Jaipur, India
Greeks and Romans 1st centuries AD (Greece/Italy) From India, sword swallowing spread to China, Greece, Rome, Europe, and the rest of the world. Sword swallowing was often seen at festivals throughout the ancient Roman empire.
Mayan Indians 1st centuries AD Yucatan Peninsula
(Mexico)
In the Popul Vuh, the Maya myths, there is mention of the two main Mayan heroes doing stilt-walking and sword-swallowing. This suggests that the time of its transmission from oral to written history would have been about 2000 years ago.
Papua New Guineans ? (Papua New Guinea) According to a June, 1939 article in Tops Magazine, an Independent Magazine of Magic entitled "Primitive Sword Swallowing", a primitive tribe in Papua New Guinea uses a form of "vine-swallowing" in the initiation rites of teens being initiated into adulthood. "In an address on anthropology, Mr. G.W. Chinnery told of a new native tribe found in New Guinea. In an initiation ceremony, added Mr. Chinnery, the men pushed lengths of flexible cane into their throats until the cane reached their stomachs." The Matausa tribe cleanse their boys of impurity and help them gain the vitality a warrior needs by sticking two wooden canes down their throats until they vomit. Then, reeds are forced up their nostrils and their tongues are stabbed until their blood has been sufficiently purified. There was a video documentary filmed in the 1970s or 80s on this initiation rite of passage, showing many of the canes or vines being removed from the young men's throats covered in blood. It was reported that several of the initiates die each year from the perforations. Seeking photos and more information.
TopsMagazine article (June 1939)
Matausa cane swallowing
Germans 410 AD Rome
(Roman Empire)
Swordswallowers are mentioned in 410 AD during the Teutonic fight for Rome.
Chinese 750 AD (China) The art and practice of sword swallowing traveled north from India into China around 750 AD.
T'ang Dynasty Illustration mid 8th century
Chinese Ling Troupe 1915
Chinese Sword swallower 1915
Chinese Sword swallower Shanghai 1920s
Chinese Sword swallower Shanghai 1920s
Sword swallower in Shanghai
Chinese Sword swallower 1927
Japanese 750 AD (Japan) Sword swallowing was popular in Japan in the 8th century and was often seen as part of an acrobatic form of entertainment known as Sangaku, which also featured juggling, tightrope walking, contortion, and other related skills. This type of performance art was "street theater" and the performers traveled throughout Japan. Sangaku, like other forms of drama popular in Japan prior to the 11th century, traced its origins to southern China and India.
Japanese engraving 1864
Japanese Sword Swallower
Dervish Rifai Sufis 1182 AD (Middle East) The Dervish Orders of the Sufis reflect the meeting of Islam and Hindu thought in the 8th century. Dervish is Persian for "beggar." Some Dervish orders wander, others beg alms, and others live in Sufi monasteries. Some are religious entertainers hired to chant the zikr dirge, and some only perform Dervish ceremonies on special occasions. Dervishes are known for working themselves into frenzies and committing great feats of strength (this is where we get the term "Whirling Dervishes"). One of the Dervish orders founded in 1182 was the order of Rifais who eat glass, walk on hot coals, and swallow swords.
Ancient sword swallower from Hittite Period in Anatolia
Europe 1200-1893 (Europe) Sword swallowing spread north from Greece and Rome into Europe at the hands of medieval jongleurs and other street performers who performed in public areas. In the Middle Ages, sword swallowers, like magicians, jugglers and other entertainers, were often condemed and persecuted by the Catholic Church. Still, in most places they were popular by the common folk, and the tradition of the wandering entertainer remained strong. By the mid-17th century, performers wandered more freely and became common sights on street corners and at festivals across Europe. Sword swallowing began to die out in Europe and Scandinavia in the late 1800s, when variety shows were formally outlawed in Sweden in 1893.
Sword Swallower on display 1857
Dr. Edward W. Stevens Born St. Croix, Virgin Islands ca 1755
Studied sword swallower 1777
MD at Univ of Edinburgh 1777
Died St. Croix, Sept 26 1834
(St. Croix, US Virgin Islands) It was through the good offices of a sword-swallower that the Scotch physician, Dr. Edward Stevens, was enabled to make his experiments on digestion in 1777. On September 12. 1777 Stevens graduated with his MD at the University of Edinburgh with his thesis paper in Latin "Dissertatio inauguralis de alimentorum concoctione" (1777). As part of his research, Dr. Stevens had a sword swallower swallow small metallic tubes pierced with holes. They were filled, according to Reaumer's method, with pieces of meat. After a certain length of time, he would have the sword swallower disgorge the tubes, and in this way he observed to what degree the process of digestion had taken place. It was also probably the sword-swallower who showed the physicians to what extent the pharynx could be habituated to contract, and from this resulted the invention of the tube of Faucher, the esophageal sound, lavage of the stomach, and illumination of this organ by electric light.

Stevens’ father, Thomas, a prosperous merchant, was reputedly also the father of Alexander Hamilton. Nothing is known of his mother. In his youth, Stevens moved with his family to New York. He graduated A.B. from King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1774; and the following year he began studies at the University of Edinburgh, enrolling in the medical school in 1776 and again in 1777. He graduated M.D. on 12 September 1777.

Stevens’ inaugural dissertation, “De alimentorum concoctione,” (1777) presented with ingenuity and insight his experiments and observations on gastric digestion, and clearly confirmed him as the first investigator to isolate human gastric juice. It removed the confusion and contradictions presented in the doctrines of fermentation and trituration, the latter championed by Leeuwenhoek, Borelli, Pitcairn, and Pecquet, and decried by Astruc and Stephen Hales. It also repudiated such views as those of John Pringle and David Macbride. Stevens’ work formed a vital bridge linking the experiments of Réaumur before him and Spallanzani and later workers after him. Réaumur had shown, in 1752, that digestion was due to the solvent power of gastric juice. Stevens confirmed this, isolated human gastric juice, and performed experiments both in vitro and in vivo in man and animals.

Stevens was admitted to the Royal Medical Society (Edinburgh) on 20 January 1776, and served as its president in 1779 and 1780. In 1778 Stevens read a paper to the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh entitled 'What Is the Cause of the Increase of Weight Which Metals Acquire During Their Calcination." A MS copy is in the library of Edinburgh University. At Edinburgh he was awarded the Harveian prize for an experimental inquiry on the red color of the blood. He returned to St. Croix about 1783 and practiced medicine there for ten years. In 1793 Stevens moved to Philadelphia. where he received public support from Alexander Hamilton and became embroiled in a controversy with Benjamin Rush over methods of treating yellow fever in the great epidemic of that year. On 18 April 1794 he was admitted to the American Philosophical Society, and the following year he was appointed professor of the practice of medicine in King’s College (later Columbia University). It is probable that Stevens’ presence and reputation in Philadelphia, as well as his contributions in gastric physiology, contributed to the marked interest in gastric studies that took place round the turn of the century in that city. Of these studies, that of John R. Young is best-known. He undoubtedly was familiar with Stevens’ work; indeed, his experiments with bullfrogs and small frogs are reminiscent of Stevens’ observations of partially digested small fish inside larger ones.

Stevens was United States consul-general in Santo Domingo from 1799 to 1800. His consular dispatches to Timothy Pickering, Adams, Jefferson, and other leaders, revealing a critical, observant mind, outlined the geopolitical problems facing the United States in the Caribbean at that time. Controversy marred his political life, however, and he returned to the United States in 1801. He made appearances at the American Philosophical Society meetings in 1803 and 1804, probably returning to St. Croix shortly thereafter. Little is known of Stevens’ last years. David Hosack wrote to him in St. Croix on yellow fever in 1809, and in 1823 he wrote Hosack a letter introducing his son, who had also graduated at Edinburgh.

Stevens’ fundamental and sound gastric studies were confirmed by Spallanzani, who augmented and added to them in masterly fashion, assuring that from then on, gastric physiology would be a well-founded science.

Sena Sama
Senaa Samma
First Sword Swallower in America
Performed 1817-1843 St. John's Hall
Pepin's Circus
Pepin and and Breschard's Circus
New York, NY
(USA)
Sena Sama (also spelled Senaa Samma) from Madras. Tamil Nadu, India was reported to be the first known sword swallower in America. An article explains, "Senaa Samma, an Indian juggler from Madras and London put on the first sword swallowing act in America in New York in November 1817". An article dated November 11, 1817 reports, "Senaa Samma appeared at St. John's Hall in New York City in a lovely exhibition of juggling and sword swallowing. Admission to see the performance was $1 for adults." Another report states that Sena Sama put on America's first sword swallowing exhibition in New York City on November 25, 1817. The newspaper account said that he swallowed "a sword manufactured by Mr. William Pye of New York as a substitute for the one lately stolen from him by some villain." Sama worked a short time with Pepin's Circus in 1818, but reports say he was already working previously in America doing theatre cabaret work. Sama is mentioned in both "Annals of the American Circus, Vol.1. 1793-1829" by Stuart Thayer and "Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit" by Robert Bogdan. In 1833, Sena Sama and Hamed Ben-Alla published a 71 page booklet on magic entitled "The Whole Art of Legerdemain or Hocus Pocus" published by N.C. Hafis in NY. In 1843, the book "Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society" mentions that sword swallower Sena Sama came to New York and swallowed a sword that measured 22 inches long. Could this have been Ramo Samee or one of his troupe from Madras and London? Seeking pictures and more information.
Ramo Sami
Ramo Same
Ramo Samee
Ramo Samme
Ramosamee
Ramaswamy
Chief of the Indian Jugglers
Born 1791
Performed 1814-49
Died August 21, 1850
Buried Sept 1, 1850
sword swallowing injury
Pall Mall Street
Salem MA USA
Olympic Theatre
Royalty Theatre
Royal Coburg Theatre
Vauxhall Gardens
Royal Victoria Theatre
Adelphi Theatre
New Strand Subscription Theatre
New England Museum Boston
Theatre Royal
Garrick Theatre
Robert Merry's Museum
London
England
(UK)
Ramo Samee (probably "Ramaswamy") was a 19th century East Indian juggler and magician who starred with his own juggling troupe. In fact, he is considered to be the first "modern" professional juggler, and was by far the most famous juggler of his time.

Samee was born around 1791 in East India, possibly in Madras in Tamil Nadu, and was brought to England in 1814 at around the age of 23. A certain Captain Campbell, returning to England from the Indian colony in 1814, brought a troupe of Indian magicians and performers with him and installed them in Pall Mall Street London, where they demonstrated native juggling, acrobatics, yogic postures, conjuring, and sleight of hand for an audience that was curious about the quaint customs and strange manners of India. "Coming forward and seating himself on the ground in his white dress and tightened turban," the essayist William Hazlitt commented upon seeing one such performance, "the Chief of the Indian Jugglers begins by tossing up two brass balls, which is what any of us could do, and concludes with keeping up four at the same time, which is what none of us could do to save our lives, nor if we were to take our whole lives to do it. Is it then a trifling power we see at work, or is it something next to miraculous?" ("Indian Jugglers" Table Talk).

The inspiration for one of the Western world's fundamental puzzlers, the Needle Swallowing Trick, can probably be traced back to the genius of Ramo Samee. Samee was known for performing a trick he called "Stringing Beads With the Mouth", in which he "swallowed" a handful of beads and a string, then pulled the beads out of his mouth, one by one, tied to the string. Samee's troupe included Kia Khan Khruse, another Indian juggler-magician who first introduced the "Needle Swallowing Trick" to European audiences in 1818. Obviously, this was a more dangerous version of Samee's bead swallowing trick. Samee first presented the Indian needle trick to Western audiences in the 1820's, where he would swallow a hundred needles.

Samee performed in England from 1814 to 1844, with successful tours of the eastern United States in 1817-1819, and again in 1834. An advertisement in the Salem Gazette of October 5, 1819, describes the "East Indian" magician and juggler Ramo Samee as having performed "for some time past in the metropolis of England, and before all the crowned heads of Europe, who have unanimously pronounced him to be the first master of the art in their dominions." Samee closed his act with a demonstration of sword swallowing.

Ramo Samee had a successful run for 35 years, earning £25-£30 per week in England, while according to reports, one of his contemporary sword swallowers earned a mere £3-£4 per week. According to articles in The Times of London dated January 12th, 18th, and 29th, 1821, Ramo Samee "Chief of the Indian Jugglers" was booked at the Olympic Theatre. According to The Times of London dated January 3, 1822, Ramo Samee was booked at the Royalty Theatre in London. Samee also performed on January 15, 1822 at the Royal Coburg Theatre. In 1822, Frederick Gye employed sword swallower Ramo Samee as the "chief attraction" at the Royal Gardens Vauxhall Theatre in Kensington, one of the leading venues for public entertainment in London from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century. Samee also performed at a benefit on February 28, 1825 at the Adelphi Theatre, in 1834-35 at the Royal Victoria Theatre in Borough, and in August 1842 at the Theatre Royal.

In the 1840's Samee created a sensation at the Garrick Theatre in London by performing his feat of swallowing beads and horse hair separately and then regurgitating the former threaded upon the latter. According to an article published in Robert Merry's Museum on January 1, 1849: "The trick of swallowing a sword too (sic) feet long, or rather of thrusting it down his throat into the stomach up to the hilt, has become familiar to us by the public exhibitions of Ramo Samee and his companions, natives of India. Before the arrival in Europe of these jugglers, whose speculation, it is said, was most profitable, attempts had been made, but unsuccessfully, to induce other professors of the art to go to England for the purpose of exhibition." Ramo Samee also gets several mentions posthumously in Henry Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor", published from 1851 to 1862.

According to London press clippings, Ramo Samee died a pauper at the age of 59 on August 21, 1850. According to an obituary in the 1850 The Gentlemen's Magazine, Volume 34: "Aug. 21. At Sidney-st. City-road, in extreme poverty, Ramo Samee, a celebrated Indian juggler. His health had received a severe shock at the death of his only son, who, in attempting to swallow a sword, did himself such injury that he died shortly afterwards. His body was interred in old St. Pancras churchyard."

According to London press clippings, a plea for donations was taken up for his widow, as there was not enough money to bury or creamate him at the time of his death. "THE LATE RAMO SAMEE AND HIS WIDOW -- Sir: Your early insertion of the widow's appeal, under the above head, in last week's paper, reflects the highest credit on you, and in remembrance of the plesure I experienced in the early days at his performance, I beg to hand you 10s from ten friends, collected in the neighbourhood of High Holborn, towards alleviating the sufferings of the poor widow and family... [Surely the managers of theatres and other establishments who have derived so much advantage from the talents of the deceased, ought to contribute to lift his widow, a most respectable woman, from the severe grip of absolute poverty. Poor Ramo is to be buried today, and his funeral expenses have to be defrayed by instalments. The trifle obtained has been handed to Mrs. Samee." Ramoo Samee was buried on September 1, 1850 in St. Pancras, Middlesex, London, England. Seeking pictures and more information.

Ramo Samee Timeline
1791: Born in East India
1814: Arrives in London, performs at Pall Mall Street
1817: Tour of US as Sena Samma in New York?
1819: Oct 5: Salem MA, USA
1821: Jan 12, 18, 29, Feb 8: Olympic Theatre London
1822: Jan 3: Royalty Theatre London
1822: Jan 15: Royal Coburg Theatre London
1822: Aug 15: Royal Gardens Vauxhall Theatre London
1822: Aug 22: Last appearance at Vauxhall Gardens London
1824: Nov 9: Royal Coburg Theatre London
1825: Feb 28: Adelphi Theatre London
1832: April 16: New Strand Subscription Theatre London
1834: Aug 25-30: New England Museum Boston, MA USA
1834: Sept-Nov: Royal Coburg Theatre with Looking Glass London
1835: Dec 13: Royal Victoria Theatre London
1836: Jan 25: Royal Victoria Theatre London
1836: Aug 20: Royal Beulah Spa Norwood
1840s: Garrick Theatre London
1842: Aug: Theatre Royal London
1849: Jan 1: Robert Merry's Museum London
1849-50: Son died of sword swallowing injury
1850: Aug 21: Died at Sidney St andCity Road, London, England
1850: Sept 1: Buried at St. Pancras in London

Ramo Samee Olympic Theatre (1-12-1821)
Ramo Samee Vauxhall Gardens (1822)
Article on Ramo Samee
Ramo Samee bio
Ramo Samee New England Museum Boston (8-25-1834)
Coberg Theatre with Looking Glass (9-14-1834)
Victoria Theatre London (12-13-1835)
Ramo Samee Article (1-1-1849)
Ramo Samee Obituary (8-1850)
Ramo Samee Obituary (8-21-1850)
Saib Khan Ing Performed 1822 Preston
(UK)
According to broadside scrapbooks kept by William Hay in England, one broadside announces the arrival of 'Saib Khan Ing' in Preston in 1822 to 'exhibit his astonishing performances' at juggling, sword swallowing, and, 'chang[ing] himself from an Indian juggler to a British Minister of State' (Hay 11.222).
Signor Tomaso Performed Feb 5, 1833 Richmond Hill Theatre
New York
(USA)
Sword swallower and fire eater Signor Tomaso performed at Richmond Hill Theatre New York on Tuesday, February 5, 1833, Seeking pictures and more information.

Signor Tomaso Richmond Hill Theatre (2-5-1833)
P.T. Barnum's
American Dime Museum
Founded 1841
Burned 1865
Boston, MA
(USA)
In 1841, P.T. Barnum founded the American Dime Museum in Boston, which included oddities and freaks of nature, including working acts such as sword swallowers. The "American Museum" burned down in 1865, at which time Barnum retired from show business.
East Indian Sword Swallowers Performed Nov 27, 1845 Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the Philadeplphia "Pennsylvanian" newspaper dated November 27, 1845: "The rope-dancers, serpent tamers, and sword swallowers of Madras are celebrated throughout India. They will leap over elephants, and even five camels side by side; their bodies are so pliant that they will twine themselves like snakes up and down between the steps of a ladder; they walk over sharp swords; raise heavy burdens with their eyelids; and like Ramo Samee of old, are said to be able to float in the air without any visible support. Even the children exercise themselves in swallowing small sticks of bamboo, in order that they may eventually do the like with swords and daggers."
Miss Martha Mitchell
Champion Lady Sword Swallower
Martha Mitchell
Mrs. Henry Wallis

Born June 12, 1858
Married 1873
Performed mid 1800s?
Died c 1887
England
(UK)
Martha Mitchell was a female sword swallower in England in the mid 1800s, known as Miss Martha Mitchell, England's Champion Lady Sword Swallower. Mitchell was born in her father's traveling van in Coventry on June 12, 1858. In 1873. At the age of 16, around 1873, she married showman Henry James Wallis who was a fairground proprietor and showman of the old school. Wallis was born in Liverpool on May 11, 1854. At first Wallis worked as a photographer on the fairgrounds, but he later became a riding master of some note, and was also the founder of Seaforth Fair and one of the founders of the Van Dweller's Association, which later became the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain. Martha Mitchell's brother was Charlie Mitchell, the famous bare knuckle boxer who fought J.L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett. Martha Mitchell died by the age of 30, circa 1887. Seeking pictures and more information.

Martha Mitchell Birth Certificate
Lawson Peck Performed 1857 Peoria, IL
New York
(USA)
Sword swallower Lawson Peck was known to have performed at the Peoria Museum in 1857. According to the announcement in the Peoria Transcript, dated Oct. 27, 1857, "Shoaf has made engagement with Mr. Lawson Peck from New York, the greatest sword swallower living, to give two performances Friday and Saturday nights at the museum. The sword, 23 inches long, may be inspected by the audience. He will also bare his neck and swallow the sword up to the hilt, a feat never attempted by a living man before. No additional charge to the museum." (page 4, col. 1) In the 1950s, Thurman F. (Jack) Naylor collected a number of interesting photographs, including this rare photo of a sword swallower from the 1860s. Could this have been sword swallower Lawson Peck? Seeking pictures and more information.

Unknown Sword Swallower from 1860s
Forestel
Forestell
Sig. Forrestall
Prof. Forestell
Signor Forestell
Signor Forestelle
Signor Forrestelle
Professor Forestell
Sydney Foerestell
Sydney Forestell
Performed Feb 14-26, 1859
Performed Jan 10, 1876
Performed April 11, 1881
Performed Aug-Oct, 1888
Vannuchi's Museum
107 St, Charles street
New Orleans, LA
John Robinson's Circus
King's Novelty Show
California Dime Museum & Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
(USA)
Sword swallower, knife-swallower and fire eater Signor Forestelle or simply Forestel was featured at Vannuchi's Museum 107 St, Charles street, New Orleans, LA on February 14, 1859 and February 24-26, 1859. According to an article in the Pittsburgh Daily Postdated January 10, 1876: "The Providence Press describes a rather interesting lawsuit that was on trial in that city yesterday. It seems that a traveling company of players gave a show there some time ago, and shortly after all the goods and chattels were seized on a writ against one Poguee for failure to pay his board... All this was interesting of course, but the agony was reached when "Signor Forrestelle" the great sword-swallower was put upon the stand. Signor carried his sword with him and the lawyers wanted to see him swallow it, and so asked if he had any objections to showing his performance. He had none, and down went twenty-seven inches of steel, to the gratification of the lawyers. Signor handed his sword to the admiring legal gentlemen, asking them to examine and see that there was no fraud. He had a very business-like air, and when asked what other branches his business took in, he remarked that it was his habit to eat marbles. Everybody wanted to see him eat marbles, and down went four good-sized "allies." He remarked that the great trick was putting the sword down also and hearing it chink against the marbles, and down went the sword, and the chink was heard. Signor's performance was "immense," and had a jury witnessed this novel exposition of a legal point, his fortune would have been made."

According to a San Francisco Police and Peace Officer's Journal of 1929 reminiscing back 50 years to San Francisco in the 1870s: "And who does not remember the Wild Man From Borneo, a simple soul who allowed himself to be plastered with hair, and stood in a cage, while the visitors propped him with canes? And Signor Forestell, the sword swallower, who performed outside of a museum in the old St. Ignatius building on Market Street where the Emporium now stands. This individual actually slid canes, bayonets and swords down his throat to the amazement of the gathered throng. But this class of fakir was only doing his bit as an entertainer, and harmed no one but himself, while the real simon pure medical fakir was the individual who did untold injury to all those who sought relief from him."

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer dated April 12, 1881, over 4000 people attended John Robinson's Circus inaugural show the night before at Lincoln Park, which included a performance by Signor Forestell. According to the San Bernardino CA Daily Courier dated September 24, 1887, "King's Novelty Show, now holding forth in a large tent on the court house lot... There is a sword-swallower, Prof. Forestell, whose feats are marvelous. He actually swallows solid steel swords and bayonets, also ordinary walking canes with equal facility."

According to the August 27 and September 24 1888 Los Angeles Herald, Professor Sydney Foerestell, champion sword swallower, had a long run at the California Dime Museum & Theatre at North Main Street, near First in Los Angeles, CA from August to October 1888, and on October 1, 1888, he was presented a gold and silver badge inscribed "Professor Forestell, Champion Sword Swallower of the World". Signor Forestelle performed for over 31 years. Seeking pictures and more information.

Signor Forestelle Timeline
1859: Feb 14-26: Vannuchi's Museum New Orleans
1876: Jan 10: Providence RI
1879: San Francisco Museum
1881: April 11: John Robinson's Circus at Lincoln Park
1887: Sept 24: King's Novelty Show, San Bernardino, CA
1888: Aug 25-Oct 23: California Dime Museum & Theatre Los Angeles, CA

Signor Forestelle Vannuchi's Museum New Orleans (2-14-1859)
Forestel at Vannuchi's Museum New Orleans (2-24-1859)
Signor Forrestelle Providence (1-10-1876)
Los Angeles Herald (8-27-1888)
Los Angeles Herald (9-22-1888)
Sallementro
The Snake Swallower
Born c 1843
Performed 1861
London
(UK)
According to the 1861 "London Labour and the London Poor", Sallementro learned sword and snake swallowing at the age of 17 or 18 from his friend Clarke who was also a sword and snake swallower: "I swallow snakes, swords, and knives... It was a mate of mine that I was with that first put me up to sword and snake swallowing. I copied off him, and it took me about three months to learn it. I began with a sword first - of course not a sharp sword, but a blunt-pointed - and I didn't exactly know how to do it, for there's a trick to it. At first it turned me, putting it down my throat past my swallow, right down, about 18 inches. It made my swallow sore, very sore, and I used lemon and sugar to cure it. It was tight at first, and I kept pushing it down further and further. There's one thing - you mustn't cough, and until you're used to it, you want to very bad, and then you must pull it up again. My sword was about three-quarters of an inch wide. At first I didn't know the trick of doing it, but I found it out this way. You see, the trick is you must oil the sword - the best sweet oil, worth 14 pence a pint - and you put it on with a sponge. Then, you understand, if the sword scratches the swallow, it don't make it sore, 'cos the oil heals it up again. When first I put the sword down, before I oiled it, it used to come up quite slimy, but after the oil it slips down quite easy, and is as clean when it comes up as before it went down. The knives are easier to do than the sword because they are shorter. We puts them right down till the handle rests on the mouth. The sword is about 18 inches long, and the knives about 8 inches in the blade. People run away with the idea that you slip the blades down your breast, but I always hold mine right up with the neck bare, and they see it go into the mouth 'atween the teeth. They also fancy it hurts you, but it don't, or what a fool I should be to do it. I don't mean to say it don't hurt you at first, 'cos it do, for my swallow was very bad, and I couldn't eat anything but liquids for two months whilst I was learning. I cured my swallow whilst I was stretching it with lemon and sugar. I was the second one that ever swallowed a snake. I was about 17 or 18 years old when I learnt it. The first was Clarke as did it. He done very well with it, but he wasn't out no more than two years before me, so he wasn't known much. In the country there is some places where, when you do it, they swear you are the devil, and won't have it nohow. The snakes I use are about 18 inches long, and you must first cut the stingers out, 'cos it might hurt you. I always keep two or three by me for my performances. I keep them warm, and I give them nothing to eat but worms and gentles. I generally keep them in flannel or hay in a box. I've three at home now. When first I began swallowing snakes, they tasted queer like. They draw'd the roof of the mouth a bit. It's a roughish taste. The scales rough you a bit when you draw them up. You see, a snake will go into ever such a little hole, and they are smooth one way. The head of the snake goes about an inch and a half down the throat, and the rest of it continues in the mouth, curled 'round like. I hold him by the tail, and when I pinch it, he goes right in. You must cut the stinger out or he'll injure you. The tail is slipppery, but you nip it with the nails like pinchers. If you was to let go, he'd go right down, but most snakes will stop at two inches down the swallow, and then they bind like a ball in the mouth. I generally get my snakes by giving little boys ha'pence to go and catch 'em in the woods. I get them when I'm pitching in the country. I'll get as many as I can get, and bring 'em up to London for my engagements. When first caught, the snake is slimy, and I have to clean him by scraping him with a cloth, and then with another, until he's nice and clean. I have put 'em down slimy, on purpose to taste what it was like. It had a nasty taste, very nasty. When I exhibit, I first holds the snake up in the air and pinches the tail, to make it curl about and twist 'round my arm, to show that he is alive. Then I holds it above my mouth, and as soon as he sees the hole, in he goes. He goes wavy-like, as a ship goes, that's the comparison. I always hold my breath whilst his head is in my swallow. When he moves in the swallow, it tickles a little, but it don't make you want to retch. In my opinion, he is more glad to come up than to go down, for it seems to be too hot for him. I keep him down about two minutes. If I breathe or cough, he draws out and curls back again. I think there's artfulness in some of them big snakes, for they seem to know which is the master. I was at Wombwell's Menagerie of Wild Beasts for 3 months, and I had the care of a big snake, as thick 'round as my arm. I wouldn't attempt to put that one down my throat, for I think I might easier have done down his'n. It was a f'urren snake, all over spots, called a boa-constrictor." Seeking pictures and more information.
James S. Donnell Performed 1862
Died 1886
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Pittsburgh, PA
(USA)
James S. Donnell was sword swallower with a side show in the Pittsburgh area in 1862 and was sought by his mother, Eliza Donnell. He died in 1886 and was buried in the Homewood Cemetery in Allegheny County Pittsburgh PA. Seeking pictures and more information.

Mother seeks James S Donnell
John Sheppard Performed 1863-1866?
Gardner & Hemmings
Thompson, Smith and Hawes (USA)
John Sheppard was sword swallower with Gardner & Hemmings in 1863, and general performer with Thompson, Smith and Hawes in 1866. Seeking pictures and more information.
Benedetti
Benny-Dizzy
Carlo Benedetti
Signor Benedetti
Signor Carlo Benedetti
The Great Sword-Swallower
Born 1849
Performed 1863-98
Died July 26, 1899
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Schumann Company
Paterson, Morris Plains, NJ
(USA)
Carlo Benedetti was born in Norrköping Sweden of Italian immigrant parents in 1849, and in 1862 at the age of 13, he joined a circus as a horseback rider. He became so skilled as a rider that he toured Europe with the circus. Benedetti began learning sword swallowing at the age of 14 in 1863, and eventually became proficient at it by the age of 20 in 1869. After moving to the US, he performed with the Schumann Company in the eastern United States and Cuba as "Signor Benedetti".

According to an article dated May 30, 1874 in the Daily Phoenix: "At the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, on Monday, Prof. Maury introduced to the faculty and students Signor Carlo Benedetti, a professional sword swallower, on whom he proposed to make a surgical examination. Benedetti first swallowed a sword blade twenty-three inches in length, and bending over, completely bent the steel. Next he placed a sabre, measuring twenty-nine inches in length down his throat to the hilt. The medical examiners discovered that the blade of the weapon stretches the oesophagus and distends the lower wall of the stomach. Benedetti then swallowed six thin, light swords at once, then extricated them with such ease as to excite the wonder of all the beholders. He next took an ordinary musket, weighing eleven pounds, with a common bayonet afixed. This bayonet he thrust into his throat by raising the musket butt into the air. When it was in he bowed all around to the company. He then drew the weapon out gracefully and easily, and explained that the point of leverage fell upon his lower jaw and teeth, which are very strong."

An article in the NY Times dated Dec 5, 1874 quotes a Havana, Cuban article dated Nov 29, 1874 stating, "A performance was given at the Tacon Theatre last Thursday evening, by the Schumann Troupe, to a packed house, for the benefit of the sufferers by the recent inundations at Mavari, Bayamo, and other towns of the Eastern District, particulars of which have already been forwarded to you. The Captain General was present, and the novelty of the evening was the feat of the sword swallower, Benedetti, who attempted to cram an umbrella down his throat. He swallowed His Excellency the Captain General's sword, a cane, and other articles, but could not stomach the umbrella."

In 1877-78, Bendetti performed in England. A caricature cartoon of "Benny Dizzy, the Great Sword-Swallower" in the March 16, 1878 issue of the London Punch magazine also mentions "Mr. Benedetti's marvellous performance at the Royal Aquarium". On July 3, 1878, Benedetti also performed at the Crystal Palace in London, according to an ad in the London Times dated July 3, 1878. On August 12 1878, Benedetti was featured at The Canterbury in London.

From October 30 to November 11, 1882, Carlo Benedetti was booked at Bunnell's Brooklyn Museum as the Swedish Phenomenon and the Man Ostrich. In 1883, Benedetti was described swallowing a cane in the September 30, 1883 Atlanta Constitution.

In 1895, the editor of a London magazine described Signor Benedetti who had just performed at the Westminster Royal Aquarium and Canterbury Hall at the age of 46. According to the description, Benedetti stood 5 ft 8 inches tall, and swallowed a blade that was 30.25 inches long, and he had swallowed swords for at least 32 years.

On November 7, 1898, Benedetti was committed to the State Asylum for the Insane at Morris Plains NJ. According to an article in the Trenton Evening Times dated November 7, 1898, "Carlo Benedetti, of Paterson, will be removed this morning to the State Asylum for the Insane at Morris Plains. About one year ago Benedetti began to give evidence that his mind was affected. He imagined he was a millionaire and threw his money away. Fifteen years ago he was famous all over the world as a sword swallower."

Carlo Benedetti died July 26, 1899 at the age of 49 in Morris Plains, NJ, and is buried in Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey. Seeking pictures and more information.

Signor Carlos Benedetti Timeline
1849: Born in Norrköping Sweden
1862: Joined circus as rider
1863: Began learning sword swallowing at 14
1869: Began performing as sword swallower at 20
1874: May 30: Jefferson Medical College Philadelphia PA
1874: June: Brooklyn NY
1874: Nov 29: Tacon Theatre Havana Cuba
1877: Royal Aquarium Westminster London
1878: Jan 9, 18, 25: Royal Aquarium Westminster London
1878: Feb 6, 21: Royal Aquarium Westminster London
1878: March 4: Canterbury London
1878: March 4, 16: Royal Aquarium Westminster London
1878: July 3, Aug 5: Crystal Palace London
1878: August 12: Canterbury London
1880: August 30: Canterbury London
1882: Oct-Nov: Bunnell's Brooklyn Museum Brooklyn NY
1883: May 1: Koster and Bial's Concert Hall New Orleans
1883: Sept 29: New York NY
1895: Westminster Royal Aquarium and Canterbury Hall London
1897: Began losing mental facilities
1898: Nov 11: Committed to mental asylum, Morris Plains NJ
1899: Died July 26 at Morris Plains NJ

Benedetti article (5-27-1874)
Benedetti article (5-30-1874)
Benedetti article Brooklyn NY (6-4-1874)
Benedetti Boston Post history (6-26-1874)
Benedetti article (12-1874)
Royal Aquarium London (12-27-1877) Bendetti London (6-27-1878)
Benedetti Crystal Palace London (7-3-1878)
Bendetti Crystal Palace London (8-5-1878)
Benedetti Canterbury London (8-12-1878)
Benedetti caricature (1878)
Benedetti Bunnell's Brooklyn Museum (10-31 to 11-11-1882)
Benedetti at Koster & Bial's Concert Hall New Orleans (5-1-1883)
Atlanta Constitution (9-29-1883)
Benedetti committed to NJ Mental Asylum (11-7-1898)
Senor Franco Performed 1863-1867
The Great Circus
Manly Beach
(Australia)
San Francisco, California
(USA)
Senor Franco the "sword swallower and stone eater" performed at Manly Beach, Australia on April 4, 1863. Four years later he was performing in San Francisco California on March 12, 1867. He swallowed a 23 inch long sword. Seeking pictures and more information.

Senor Franco, Manly Australia (4-4-1863)
Senor Franco, San Francisco CA (3-12-1867)
James Erwin Born May 15, 1848
Performed 1864-66
Died January 3, 1885
Indianapolis, IN
(USA)
James Erwin was born in Dublin, Ireland on May 15, 1848, but came to America as an infant. He entered the circus business as a sword swallower for a few years around 1865 at about the age of 17. He then became an operator and manager of his own sideshow. During the Civil War, he was twice sentenced to be shot for dissertion; the first time, as a mere boy, he was pardoned by President Lincoln; the second time, succeeded in escaping. In later years, he was considered one of the best shots in Indiana. Erwin was married once, but the union was not a happy one. He died of pneumonia in Indianapolis, IN on January 3, 1885 at the age of 37. Seeking pictures and more information.
William George Drummond Stewart Born February, 1831
Injured October 19, 1868
Died October 26, 1868
sword swallowing injury
(Scotland) William George Drummond Stewart was born in Grandtully, Perthshire, Scotland in February 1831. Stewart was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Stewart was 26 years old, and a Captain in the 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Lucknow. On October 19, 1868, while at Hythe, Hampshire, Stewart was giving a demonstration of sword swallowing. His demonstration went fatally wrong and he died from internal injuries a week later, on October 26, 1868 at the age of 37. Stewart is buried in a vault at St. Mary's Church, Grandtully, Scotland. Seeking pictures and more information.
William Stewart Vault
Schwertschlucker
Schwertfresser
Der Eiserne Heinrich
The Iron Henry
Adolf Kußmaul
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul
Dr. Julius Müller
Developer of Rigid Endoscope
Born 1822
1st Esophagoscopy and
Develpment of Rigid Endoscope
Using Sword Swallower 1868
Died 1902
Wolfshöhle Brauerie Gasthof
Freiburg
(Germany)
The first known mention of sword swallowing in medical literature is of a previously unidentified professional sword swallower, known simply as "Der eiserne Heinrich", ("The Iron Henry"), who while visiting the Wolfshöhle Gasthof und Brauerie in Freiburg, Germany in 1868, gave a demonstration of sword swallowing which was witnessed by a local Freiburg doctor. Dr. Keller was fascinated by the feat and persuaded the sword swallower to visit his clinic and have his throat examined with a laryngeal mirror. His colleague, Dr. Julius Müller, examined the sword swallower and suggested to his professor that the sword swallower would make a suitable subject for esophagoscopy. His professor Dr. Adolf Kussmaul (1822-1902) carefully observed the sword swallower, being especially interested in the way he positioned his head for the passage of the long straight sword, and decided to examine him himself. For this purpose, Dr. Kussmaul had a local musical instrument maker named Fischer fashion tubes 47 cm long and 13 mm in diameter, one being round and the other elliptical in design, the tubes fitted with conical wooden mandarins to facilitate insertion. Using the straight tube, mirrors and a gasoline lamp, Kussmaul inspected the esophagus and the fundus of the stomach, thereby performing the first successful esophagoscopy esophagogastrostomy on a sword swallower in 1868. The sword swallower tolerated the long tubes well, but the examination was disappointing because the light was too weak to illuminate the field so far from its source. Also, despite washing out the stomach, fluid constantly collected around the tube and hindered the view. After considerable experimentation, Kussmaul and Müller managed to improve the light of their endoscope, and subsequently examined a number of patients. However Kussmaul was so pleased with his success that he took the sword swallower with him to perform demonstrations in various clinics, and later enlisted other sword swallowers due to their ability to voluntarily relax the cricopharyngeal muscle and form a straight line from the pharynx to the stomach, allowing passage of the rigid endoscope. Kussmail was Professor of Medicine at Heidelberg (1857), Erlangen (1859), Freiburg (1859) and Strassburg (1876). Today Kussmaul is recognized as the developer of the first rigid endoscope. Kussmaul died in Heidelberg, and his grave is located in a cemetary in Heidelberg, Germany. Seeking more information.
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul (early)
Kussmaul/Müller examine sword swallower (1868)
Kussmaul examining sword swallower (1868)
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (1822-1902)
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul (later)
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul (late in life)
Wolfshöhle Gasthof/Brauerie (1890s) (link)
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul Heidelburg (1900)
Dr. Adolf Kussmaul grave Heidelberg
Dr. Fournle
Examines Sword Swallower
1868 Boston, MA
(USA)
According to an article in "The Youth's Companion" dated October 29, 1868: "When in our youth we were taken to see a juggler who performed the feat of swallowing a sword, we were taught to believe that the weapon, instead of being a rigid rod of metal, was telescopic, and doubled into itself when it was introduced into the man's mouth. A famous French physician lately experimented upon a Chinese conjuror, who swallowed a sword nearly three feet long, and permitted an examination of his body while the blade was in its living sheath. Dr. Fourle (such was the anatomists's name) was thoroughly satisfied with the honesty of the operation. They traced the point along its downward course, and felt it thirty inches from the swallower's mouth. So we may set down sword and poker swallowing as genuine feats of gymnastics." The Youth's Companion was printed from 1827-1927 by Perry Mason & Company in Boston, MA.Seeking more information.
Article (Oct 29, 1868)
First Known Photograph of
Indian Sword Swallower
1863-1873
Madras
Tamil Nadu
(India)
The first known photograph of an Indian Sword Swallower was displayed in England at the South Kensington Exhibition of 1873 in an album of photographs entitled "Trades and Occupations of India" in response to English curiousity about the British Empire in India. Among the many photographers were Nicholas & Curths of Madras, Tamil Nadu, South India, who took a photo of an Indian sword swallower performing the feat sometime between 1863 and 1872.
Seeking photos and more information.
Indian Sword Swallower (1863-72)
Indian Sword Swallower (1863-72)
Ling Look
David Güter
David Guter
David Guder
David Geder
David Gether
Ferdinand Guder
Performed 1872-1878
Died April 14, 1878
Olympic Theatre
New York
(USA)
(Hong Kong)
David Güter performed as a sword swallower in the 1870s under the stage name "Ling Look". According to an article in the New York Herald dated July 15, 1872, and another article in the New York Times dated July 16, 1872, a novel performance was offered at the Olympic Theatre on July 15, 1872 by Ling Look, "who disposes mysteriously but satisfactorily of a blade ninety centimetres in length." For his premier number, he was known to swallow a red glowing sword.

In 1875 a showman named Heinrich Kellar or Harry Kellar put together a show troupe that included Link Look. Kellar began years earlier as assistant to the Fakir of Ava, and then worked later with John Henry Anderson Jr. During this time, Kellar learned some secrets of the business, annd began his solo work until the opportunity came to join the spectacle of the Davenports Brothers in 1867. In 1873, Kellar, 24, along with William Marion Fay, both junior pseudo-spiritualists, left the show and became independent performers, making a tour throughout America and Europe. Kellar and Fay eventually put together a show employing sword swallower and fire-eater Ling Look and his brother, contortionist and escape artist Yamadeva. According to the November 2. 1874 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Ling Look and Ya Ma Di Va the Japenese Man Serpent were again booked at the Olympic Theatre in New York.

In actuality, Ling Look's real name was David Güter, David Guter, David Guder, David Geder, or David Gether, although he also went by Ferdinand Guder. His brother Louis performed under the stage name Yamadeva or Ya Ma Di Va. Ling Look and Yamadeva posed as Chinese and Japanese performers, but in fact, according to various sources, were Hungarian (from Budapest) or Austrian (from Vienna). Ling Look performed as a fire-eater and sword swallower, and went by the title "King of Fire". With his head half-shaved, and the remaining hair in a long braid, he almost looked Chinese. Some of his feats included swallowing hot coals and red hot swords, then blowing fire from his mouth. One of his most spectacular and shocking numbers was swallowing a sword or bayonette halfway down his throat, which was attached to a rifle, which, when fired, propelled the sword down his throat. Meanwhile, Yamadeva was an accomplished contortionist who performed incredible escapes. He was also known as the Snake Man, due to his serpentine or feline movements. According to local press, "The Chinese" performed in Rosario Argentina on August 19th and 20th 1875, with the program consisting of the following:
1. The infernal dinner (fire eating)
2. The poor of India (escape)
3. Yamadeva the snake (contortion)
4 .The fete des Chinoises

After meeting the brothers Ling Look and Yamadeva and the magician Cunard, Kellar formed the performing troup The Royal Illusionists in May 1876. Their show consisted of a spiritualist cabin with Kellar and Cunard performing cage disappearance and escapes from ropes and handcuffs, and contortion by Yamadeva, and for the finale, the fire and sword acts by Ling Look. The group put together a tour that began in the USA, moved on to Australia, New Zealand, Java and Shanghai, China. In early October 1877 in Shanghai, Yamadeva suffered heart pains while playing a 10-pin bowling game. Four days later, he died while onboard a ship bound for Hong Kong. Six months later, his brother Ling Look the fire-eater and sword swallower died on 14 April 1878, just six months after the death of his brother. Both brothers were buried in adjacent graves at the cemetery in Hong Kong.

In 1882, an ad in the December 20 1882 Belfast Morning News advertized Ling Look performing at the AlhambraTheatre of Varieties iin Belfast Ireland. In 1883, a commentary in the newspaper La Capital de Rosario, dated August 9, 1883, gave news of an artist with an exotic name who was performing in town. It was Ling Look, who it was claimed, had worked as director of a great illusionist and acrobatic troupe, in their inimitable work with the infernal dinner, and swallowing swords. The same name and the same routines, the one who so successfully passed through Rosario with his brother Yamadeva in 1875? But this was not possible, unless the advertised Look Ling had risen, or was a phony. In 1879, a fakir, who claimed to be the original Ling Look, with the same Chinese look, the same routine and hair and costume style appears in England. This performer claimed that the news of his death in 1878 was not true, and that he was still alive. The litmus test was when this Ling Look clashed with Kellar, who had buried the original Ling Look in 1878. At that time, the imposter broke, confessing that he was a younger brother of one member of the Royal Illusionists. Kellar would later confess to Harry Houdini, that the resemblance between the two was such that if he had not been present when Ling Look died in Hong Kong in 1878, he would almost be unable to refute or verify that this was another person in 1879. This story was referenced by Harry Houdin in his book Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, written in 1920. Seeking photos and more information on Ling Look.

Ling Look and Yamadeva Timeline
1872: Olympic Theatre New York
1873, Harry Kellar puts together show troupe
1874: Olympic Theatre New York
1875: Harry Kellar books tour to Rosario Argentina
1876: May: The Royal Illusionists troupe formed
1876-77: Toured Australia, New Zealand, Java and Shanghai, China
1877: Oct: Yamadeva Louis Guter dies in Shanghai
1878: April 14: Ling Look David Guter dies in Hong Kong
1879-83: Ling Look imposter appears in UK
1882: Dec 20: Ling Look imposter in Belfast Ireland
1883: Aug 9: La Capital de Rosario reports Ling Look alive in Argentina
1887: Aug 27: "Look Ling" in Sydney Australia

Ling Look
Yamadeva
Olympic NY Herald (7-15-1872)
Olympic NY Times (7-16-1872)
Olympic Theatre (11-2-1874)
Yamadeva (1876)
The Royal Illusionists
Belfast Ireland (12-20-1882)
Sydney Australia (8-27-1887)
Professor Costello Performed 1871
Sheldenburger & Co.
(USA)
Professor Costello was sword swallower with Sheldenburger & Co. in 1871. Seeking photos and more information.
August Zorner Performed 1874 New York, NY
(USA)
August Zorner was a professional juggler and sword swallower in New York City in 1874. He and Charles Zorner were arrested as witnesses to a murder on New Years night 1874. Seeking photos and more information.
August Zorner (1-5-1874)
Signor Wandana
Signor Wandanna
Signor Wandonna
Signor Wandanus
Signor Waudanus
Signor Waudanna
Signor Wandanone
Signor Wanhanna
"The Wonderful Sabre, Bayonet, and Sword-Swallower"
Performed 1870s
Died May 9, 1875
sword swallowing injury
Indianapolis, IN
Gibb's Zoological Exhibition
Calais, ME
(USA)
Signor Wandana (Signor Wandonna or Signor Wandanone) was known as "The Wonderful Sabre, Bayonet, and Sword-Swallower" in the 1870s. Signor Wandana died on May 9, 1875 of internal injuries sustained after a sword swallowing feat went wrong. His obituary was published in the May 10, 1875 Philadelphia Times and the May 11, 1875 Chicago Tribune entitled "Death of a Sword Swallower":
"Calais, Me, May 10---Signor Waudanus, the sword-swallower, while performing at Calais last week cut himself internally; Inflammation ensued, and he died last evening."

According to the May 10. 1875 Boston Post "Signor Wandonna, a sword swallower, with Gibb's Zoological Exhibition, while performing at Calais, Me., last week, accidentally cut himself internally. Inflamation resulted and he died last evening." According to an article in the Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette dated May 11, 1875, "SIGNOR WANHANNA, a sword swallower, while performing at Calais, Me., last week, cut himself internally. Inflammation ensued and he died last Sunday evening."

This photograph was taken by Hugraham & Claflin's New Photographic Rooms, 32 1/2 East Washington St. Indianapolis, Ind, and is now part of the collection of sideshow historian and author Richard Flint of Baltimore MD. Could Wandana be buried in the Calais Cemetery in Calais, Maine under a different name? Seeking photos and more information.

Signor Wandana (1870s)
Death of Signor Wandanone (5-9-1875)
Death of Signor Wandonna (5-9-1875)
Signor Wanhanna death (5-11-1875)
Piotr Nikitin Born 1846
Performed 1873-80s
Retired 1890s
Died August 20, 1921
Russian Circus of the Nikitin Brothers
Nikitin Brothers's Russian Circus
Circus Nikitin
Moscow
(Russia)
Tbilisi
(Georgia)
In nineteenth-century Russia, circus was extremely popular among the aristocracy and the people alike, but the Russian circus was developed mostly by foreigners whose names -- Ciniselli, Truzzi, Salamonsky -- became synonymous with Russian circus. There was one notable exception, however: The Nikitin brothers, Dmitri (1835-1918), Akim (1843-1917), and Piotr Nikitin (1846-1921), who became the first true Russian circus entrepreneurs of note, and would remain so until the Bolshevik revolution. The Nikitin brothers were born to Aleksandr and Alina Ivanovna Nikitin, who were serfs bound to one of the vast lands belonging to the Crown. Tsar Nicholas I began to ease the condition of the serfs of his Imperial estates in 1842, when he established the "quit-rent" system, which allowed them to leave the land to which they were attached in exchange for a rent paid to their landowner, the Tsar. Aleksandr Nikitin immediately took advantage of this new, if limited, freedom and became an itinerant organ grinder. His first son Dmitri, who had learned to play the balalaika, followed him on the road. Akim and Piotr were born shortly thereafter, and almost as soon as they were able to walk and do a rollover, they joined forces with their father and elder brother, entertaining passersby from village squares to street corners.

In time, the Nikitin brothers developed specific performing talents: Dmitri became a strongman; Akim, a front bender, a juggler, and an auguste (playing the Russian folk character of Ivan the Fool, always popular among the provincial audiences); and Piotr, a sword swallower, tumbler, and a foot-juggler. They also formed an acrobatic trio together, and created a puppet show. The Nikitin brothers were versatile and hard working. When Tsar Alexander II finally freed the serfs by his ukase of February 19, 1861, they began to find work on the country's fairgrounds in the balagans fairground itinerant theaters. In time, they would create their own fairground show. However, the Nikitins were also ambitious; they intended to escape the stigma of their former serfdom, and move upward. But work on the fairgrounds, even in the best balagans, had no glory. The circus was something else altogether: It was attended and enjoyed by the upper classes, and great circus artists received respect and, sometimes, even riches. Nicolas I had, in his time, created an Imperial Circus, and more recently, Carl Magnus Hinné and Gaetano Ciniselli had established themselves with great success in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Although they were illiterate, the Nikitins were shrewd and had honed on the road a remarkable talent for scheming and survival. The foreign directors who ran the Russian circuses might have appeared well introduced in aristocratic circles, but the Nikitin brothers knew that, in actuality, they didn’t have much more formal education than themselves. Thus the former serfs and balagan entertainers didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t grab their own part of the circus pie. Dmitri, Akim, and Piotr Nikitin had saved money during their years of performing on the road; with it, they acquired the equipment of the Austrian circus of Emanuel Beránek (Beránek was Czech, but Czechoslovakia was then part of Austria), which had been touring the Volga region in the early 1870s. The purchase had come replete with tent, carriages, costumes, and horses, and on December 23, 1873, the Russian Circus of the Nikitin Brothers (Russian Circus of the Nikitin Brothers) gave its first performance in the city of Penza. It was, at long last, the first genuinely Russian circus operating in the Russian Empire.

The Nikitins’ Russian Circus toured the provinces with good success. Money was coming in, and three years later, in 1876, they were able to build their first permanent circus in Saratov, in southern Russia. Located in the center of the city, it was an elaborate wooden structure that stood until 1928. (It was demolished, and a stone circus was built in its place in 1931; in 1963, RosGosTsirk, the central Soviet circus agency, replaced it with a brand new, state-of-the-art building, erected in a different part of the city. This latter circus, which still bears the name of Nikitin Brothers’ Circus, remains active.)

Owners of a permanent circus building and managing a touring company, the Nikitin brothers had finally entered the circus world’s big league. While Dmitri and Akim increasingly took care of the business, Piotr developed into a remarkable bareback rider (he is said to have achieved the somersault on horseback), a flying trapeze and horizontal bars gymnast, a gifted mime, and even a quick-change artist. Then the Nikitins struck gold: On the occasion of the coronation of Tsar Alexandre III in May 1883, they were invited to erect a temporary hippodrome at Khodinskoye Pole, an old parade ground in Moscow. Their hippodrome was a large open-air arena, inspired by the famous Hippodrome Franconi at the Barrière de l’Etoile in Paris, but whose actual configuration, with its two rings separated by a central stage, owed more to P.T. Barnum’s version of it.

There, the Nikitins produced equestrian extravaganzas themed after old Russian legends, as well as chariot races and other traditional hippodrome fare. At the end of their run, which had been successful, they were awarded the Andreev Order’s Silver Medal by the City of Moscow. Then, they hit the road again. But now that they had experienced the great Russian metropolis—and its business potential—they longed to return.

Meanwhile, the brothers were trying to expand their circus empire. In 1884, they built their second permanent circus in Minsk. It passed under city ownership the following year (it was destroyed during WWII, a replaced later by another building), but others would come. Then, the wily brothers saw another golden opportunity in Moscow: The old Panorama (today, the Mir Theatre), adjacent to the circus Albert Salamonsky had built on Tsvetnoy Boulevard in 1880, was available. The circular building, which had once housed a panoramic painting depicting The Storming of Plevna, was an ideal fit for a circus, and its location on Moscow’s most popular promenade, in the midst of other places of amusement (including an already popular circus!) seemed perfect—at least to Dmitri, Akim, and Piotr Nikitin.

Thus the Nikitin Brothers’s Russian Circus opened in its new Moscow building in 1866. Their show certainly didn’t have the splendor of Salamonsky’s productions, nor his superb equestrian presentations, but the Nikitins knew how to attract a popular audience, and they met with increasing success. Salamonsky was not amused and he finally bought out the Nikitins in 1887 for 30,000 rubles, a considerable sum for the time. He also had the Nikitins sign an agreement stating that they wouldn’t compete with Salamonsky in Moscow. To protect himself from another unwanted neighbor, Salamonsky used the old Panorama for horse training and equestrian exhibitions.

Salamonsky’s precautions proved useless: The following year (1888), the brothers returned to Moscow, where they rented the old Circus Hinné on Vozdzvizhenka Street (which belonged to Andrea Ciniselli). Furious, Salamonsky reminded the Nikitins of their agreement; but Akim and Piotr were quick to point out that it was Dmitri who had signed the agreement… Dmitri, as it happened, had just left his brothers and gone his own way. (He had created the Panoptikon, a traveling “museum” and menagerie.) Therefore, the Russian Circus of the Nikitin Brothers was not bound anymore by Dmitri’s agreements. Luckily for Salamonsky, the Nikitins didn’t do great business on Vozdzvizhenka Street and, before the end of the year, they left Moscow for Tiflis (today Tbilisi, in Georgia), where they built a wooden circus on Golovinsky Prospect (today Rustaveli Prospect). Tbilisi became their homebase, and from there, they created a touring circuit for which they used circuses of bricks or wood that they built over the years in several Russian cities. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Nikitins’ circus empire—and their well-oiled annual tour—included circus buildings in Tiflis (today Tbilisi in Georgia, which was the Nikitins’ home base), Baku and Astrakhan (where Circus Nikitin spent the winter season), Tsaritsyn (today Volgograd), Saratov, Samara, Kazan, Nizhniy-Novgorod, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, and Kharkov.

Piotr Nikitin, the great artist of the family, retired from the circus in the 1890s. (He died on August 20, 1921, having outlived his brothers.) Akim was left alone at the helm of the Nikitin Brothers’s Russian Circus. When his flagship circus in Tbilisi burned down, Akim finally decided to build a permanent circus in Moscow, where he found a vacant lot on Triumfalnaya Plaza and Bolshoya Sadovaya Street. Designed by the architect Bogdan Mikhailovich Nilus, Circus Nikitin was a large stone building in the Art-Nouveau style with an imposing façade; it was equipped with a revolving ring that could sink to reveal a swimming pool—in the manner of Paris’s famous Nouveau Cirque—and which allowed the presentation of water pantomimes. Inaugurated in 1911, it has survived to this day as the Variety Theatre (formerly Theatre of Satire), but only its old circus cupola, still visible behind its new façade, betrays its circus origins. Seeking photos and more information.

Dmitri, Piotr, Akim Nikitin (c.1880)
P.T. Barnum's
Greatest Show On Earth
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Started 1871
Merge with Ringling Bros 1918
Brooklyn, NY
(USA)
In 1871, P.T. Barnum established "P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus", a travelling combination of circus, menagerie and museum of "freaks". In 1872, P.T. Barnum and W.C. Coup's Circus travels on a special circus train, and by 1872 was billing itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth". It went through a number of variants on these names: "P.T. Barnum's Traveling World's Fair, Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show On Earth", and after an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James Hutchinson, "P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show On Earth, And The Great London Circus, Sanger's Royal British Menagerie and The Grand International Allied Shows United", was soon shortened to "Barnum & London Circus". In 1881 Barnum & Bailey's first three-ring circus was staged in New York City. Barnum and Bailey split up in 1885, but came back together again in 1888 with the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth", later "Barnum & Bailey Circus", which toured around the world. P. T. Barnum died on April 7, 1891. Delno Fritz was the sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus from 1896 to 1899.

From December 27, 1897 to April 2, 1898, Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth wintered at the Olympia in England, and from December 26, 1898 to April 8, 1899, again wintered at the Olympia in London. In May 4-5, 1899, the Barnum and Bailey Circus played Nottingham, England and travelled between cities on 4 huge trains, each with 17 carriages. Delno Fritz was the featured sword swallower in 1899. In 1900, Mlle Amy was the sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus in Germany. In 1901, Edith Clifford joined Barnum and Bailey in Vienna, and performed with Barnum and Bailey Circus through 1906. On April 11, 1906, owner James Bailey died. In 1907, Ringling Brothers bought Barnum & Bailey Circus, but the two shows continued to tour separately. In 1907, Marie DeVere was the new female sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus. Capt. Fritz Lecardo performed with Ringling Brothers on a European tour, and was possibly along with Edward Smith part-time sword swallowers with Barnum and Bailey Circus possibly during the years 1908 to 1918. In 1915, Slivers Bowden, sword swallower, joined the Barnum & Bailey Show at Omaha, Nebraska. In 1918, Ringling Brothers combined with Barnum, & Bailey Circus to become one combined show, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus. The Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus performed their first combined show in New York on March 29, 1919, with their new sword swallower, Edith Clifford. In the Spring of 1919, Harry Houdini came specifically to watch sword swallower Edith Clifford with the combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, and he wrote a raving review in his book "Miracle Mongers" published in 1920.

Barnum and Bailey Circus Timeline, Routes, and Sword Swallowers:
1896: Route: US. Sword Swallower Delno Fritz in US
1897: Route: US. Sword Swallower Delno Fritz in US
1897-98: Winter shows at Olympia in London England
1898: April 2: Final show at Olympia in London before touring Great Britain
1898: Route: UK. Sword Swallower Delno Fritz in England
1899: Route: UK. Sword Swallower Delno Fritz in England
1900: Route: Germany. Sword Swallower Mlle Amy in Germany
1901: Route: Europe. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford joins in Vienna, tours Europe
1902: Route: Europe. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford and Rob Roy in US
1903: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford and Rob Roy in US
1904: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford and "Veno" Nelson C. Barned
1905: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford
1906: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford
1906: James Bailey dies April 11, 1906
1907: Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey but tour separately
1907: Route: US. Sword Swallower Marie DeVere
1908: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1909: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1910: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1911: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1912: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1913: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1914: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1915: Route: US. Sword Swallower Slivers Bowden joins in Omaha
1916: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1917: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford in Atlanta GA
1918: Route: US. Sword Swallower Mlle Edith Clifford
1918: Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus merge to become one combined show
1919: March 29 Houdini watches Edith Clifford with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey

Seeking more information on sword swallowers with Barnum & Bailey Circus

Demetrius Longo
Russian Fakir and Sword Swallower
Born 1872
Performed 1890-1970s
Died after 1972?
Russian Circus
Nizhegorodsk District, Moscow
(Russia)
According to a Brownsville Herald article dated January 25, 1972: "Demetrius Longo spent most of his life swallowing swords, walking on nails, drinking molten tin, and pulling out his eyeballs. It did him no harm. Longo will turn 100 next week. The Soviet magazine Yunost (Youth) said Longo, a "famous fakir and dervish," is writing memoirs of his long career as a sideshow artist in Russian circuses. The magazine publishes excerpts from the memoirs in connection with Longo's 100th birthday. In his heyday, the magazine said, Longo "walked barefoot on burning coals and on points of Persian spears or Turkish sabres. He lay down on beds of nails, drank molten tin and conjured spirits. "For him, swallowing a sword was a mere trifle... he could even remove his own eyeball and put it back." In his memoirs, Longo revealed the secret of sword swallowing - it involves feathers and goose fat - and he described some of his more spectacular stage tricks. He also offered a reason for his long life. "He says he reached such an incredible age because he never feared death," the magazine said. "He quoted his favorite poet, Omar Khayyam: You will die but once so it is not worth worrying about it."

Longo said he began his career at the age of 11 in the town of Nizhegorodsk where he joined a carnival as a roustabout, ticket taker and part-time magician. Later he said, he teamed up with a 9-foot giant, and a 20-inch lady. This was in the 1890s, he said, and it was about then that he acquired a French-speaking parrot named Ara. "Ara was five years older than me at the time," he said. "He still lives so that makes him 105 years old now." Longo, Ara, the giant, and the midget toured Russian cities with their act, he said and it gradually expanded. He once had a family of acrobatic cockroaches that performed tricks in a miniature playground."

Seeking photos and more information.

Russian SwSw Demetrius Longo turns 100 (1972)
Lady Margurite
Lady Marguerite
Lady Margaret
Mlle. Margaret Davis
Mlle. Marguerite Davis
Marguerite Davis
Margaret Davis
Margaret Fiedler
Marguerite Davis Fiedler
Mrs. Jesse R. Fiedler
Performed 1890s-1920
Married 1920
Mighty Haag Show
Howe's Great London Show
John Robinson Circus Side Show
Davenport, IA
(USA)
Lady Margurite was a female circus sword swallower who may have performed in the late 1800s. This photo was taken of her in Davenport, Iowa. According to the October 17, 1914 Billboard: "Annie Christ, professionally known as Trixie Christie, is a new addition to the Oriental department of the Mighty Haag Shows. She joined at Middleton, Delaware. Margaret Davis is doing the sword swallowing in the Haag Auxiliary. Slivers Bowden, side-showman is the power of this department." In 1915, "Marguerite Davis, sword swallower, who was in the last season with the Mighty Haag Show, has signed with Howe's Great London Show". According to Billboard Volume 29 dated May 9, 1917: With John Robinson's Circus in Cincinnati Ohio, "Marguerite Davis, sword swallower and slights." According to the January 3, 1920 Billboard: "Jesse R. Fiedler and Marguerite Davis, both members of the John Robinson Circus, were married in Pensacola, Fla., November 15, 1919. Mr. Fiedler has seen considerable service "Over There." According to the Billboard dated May 8, 1920, Mlle. Margaret (Davis), was featured as sword swallower John Robinson Circus Side Show of 1920. According to the Billboard dated September 18, 1920: John Robinson Circus. Margaret and Jess Fiedler rejoined the show at Pueblo. They opened with the show in the spring, but were compelled to leave on account of Mrs. Fiedler's health. Jess is selling tickets for the big show, while Margaret is working in the kid show. Seeking photos and more information.

Lady Marguerite Margaret Davis Timeline:
1914: Mighty Haag Shows Auxiliary
1915: Howe's Great London Show
1916: ?
1917: John Robinson's Circus Side Show
1919: John Robinson's Circus Side Show
1919: Nov 15: Married to Jesse R. Fiedler in Pensacola FL
1920: John Robinson Circus Side Show

Lady Margurite
Lady Margurite (different scan)
Cliquot
Chevalier Cliquot
"Watch Swallower"
"The World's Greatest
Sword Phenomenon"
Fred Cliquot
Fred McLand
Fred McLone
Francis McLone
Frederick McLoan
Frederick McLone
Born 1862
Performed 1878-1902+
Buried March 10, 1939
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers grave
Globe Dime Museum
Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum
Palace Museum
Harry Davis Eden Musee
Huber's Museum
Boston Lyceum
Westminster Royal Aquarium
Forepaugh Circus
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Oldham, England
(UK)
First well-known North American sword swallower, Chevalier Cliquot was one of the most prominent sword-swallowers of his time and was known by the description "The World's Greatest Sword Phenomenon". In actuality, Cliquot was an American named Frederick McLone, Fred McLand or Francis McLone who was born in Chicago, IL, although the story was perpetuated that he was a "French-Canadian" born in Quebec, Canada in 1862 who ran away from home in Quebec at an early age to join a travelling circus bound for South America. On seeing an old man swallow a small machete in Buenos Aires, he allegedly took up learning sword swallowing around 1878-80 at about the age of 16 (Photo reportedly of Cliquot holding two swords taken in Montevideo Uruguay on July 18, 1880).

According to Census records, in 1891, Fred and Edith Cliquot lived in Cardiff Wales in 1891. According to ship passenger records, on February 15, 1892 Fred and Edith Cliquot arrived by ship in Philadelphia, PA. According to the Chicago Inter Ocean dated May 8, 1892, "At the Chicago Globe Dime Museum there will be seen during the week (May 8th, 1892) Mme. Carver, the fat woman, and her midget son, Major Heard and son, diminuitive dwarfs; Cliquot, the sword swallower, and Clios Adams, the armless man." According to the May 15 1892 Cincinatti Enquirer, Cliquot was booked at Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum in Cincinatti OH the week of May 15, 1892.

Cliquot told Harry Houdini that Delno Fritz was his sword swallowing pupil in the early 1890s. According to an ad dated May 23, 1892 in the Scranton Republican, Cliquot was booked at the Palace Museum in Scranton PA the week of May 23, 1892. On Sept 18, 1892, Cliquot performed at the World's Museum Theater in Pittsburgh according to the Sept 18, 1892 Pittsburgh Dispatch. According to a December 31, 1892 article in the Harrisburg Daily Independent, Cliquot was booked at the Harry Davis Eden Musee in Harrisburg, PA the week of December 26-30, 1892, and was assisted by Mlle. Cliquot. It was about this same time that Delno Fritz also claimed he studied sword swallowing from Cliquot while Fritz was also working at the Harry Davis Eden Musee in Harrisburg. According to an article in the Dec 12, 1893 New York Evening World, Cliquot also performed at Huber's Museum in New York in Dec 1893 (Delno Fritz perfomed at Huber's Museum a year later in December 1894 and 1895).

On January 19, 1894, while swallowing 14 nine-inch swords at once in New York, Cliquot had the misfortune to have a skeptical audience, one of whom, a doctor who should have known better, rushed forward and impulsively pulled out the swords, inflicting injuries on Cliquot which incapacitated him for months. According to a January 20, 1894 article in the Ottawa Journal, "A French Canadian sword swallower named Cliquot was severely cut internally in a private exhibition at New York yesterday by a doctor who undertook to draw out fourteen swords that he had swallowed all at once, instead of singly. The sufferer is lying unconscious at an hospital."

A New York Times article dated January 21, 1894 states, "'The Chevalier Cliquot' astonished doctors at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital. When he seemed in pain with fourteen swords down his throat, Dr. Hope yanked them out in a bunch. McLone in bed under morphine's influence. 'Oh, I'm all right,' groaned Frederick McLone, "the Chevalier Cliquot" sword swallower, as he tossed uneasily on a bed in Room 66 of the Union Square Hotel last evening, when his manager, William Howell asked him how he was getting along. McLone was under the influence of morphine administered by Dr. William Shannon, who believes his exhibition of sword swallowing at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital at 351 West Thirty-fourth Street on Friday brought about slight inflammation of the stomach and oesophagus, and that there are slight lacerations of the throat. McLone is a handsome little man, with a physique that is like that of Rowell, the walker. He was born in Quebec in 1862, and when a schoolboy became fascinated with a circus show and ran away from home to become an acrobat. A family of saltimbancos attached to a circus took an interest in him, and taught him to tumble and do feats of strength. He had just become expert enough to be worth a salary when he saw Battin the sword swallower perform some of his feats, and detected him in trickery. McLone experimented with himself, first with a wire with a knob at the end, until he had overcome the muscular and nervous resistance of his throat. Then he practiced with a sword until he was able to swallow a blade of about twenty inches up to its hilt. Constant practice made his throat callous to or familiar with intrusion, and fourteen years ago, when the United States man-of-war Lancaster was at Algiers, and a minstrel show was given on board, he appeared as the "American Acrobat" and gave an exhibition of sword swallowing without using a "sheath" or any device to lessen the severity of the ordeal to which his throat was put. His pseudonym was given him two years later in a Paris cafe, after a bottle of "The Widow's" had been splashed over him. He last appeared in public in Pittsburg three weeks ago and was to appear in Montreal to-morrow, but the date has been canceled. To kill time, he and his manager had gone to Boston, and his ability to swallow almost anything, except an insult, was demonstrated before Dr. Bowditch, Professor of Physiology at Harvard College, and others in B.F. Keith's office in the Gaiety Theatre. Dr. Bowditch, at the end of the exhibition asked: "Can you swallow anything?" "Yes," replied McLone. "Then swallow my cane." "I will if you'll wipe the ferrule." This was done, and the cane was pushed 22 inches down the Chevalier's throat, and the spectators marveled. The staff at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital deny that McLone was invited to appear before them. They say that he was brought there by his manager. They are familiar with the feats that a throat accustomed to distension will endure, and say that, physically considered, what McLone did on Friday was startling, but not especially wonderful. He first caused the 22 inch blade of a Chassepot sabre to disappear up to the hilt, and then swallowed four sword blades twenty inches long. The swords were made for the purpose, and the hilts were in the same plane as the blades, which fitted into each other like a nest of spoons. Then, taking the sabre, Cliquot fastened at right angles to the hilt a hollow rod of iron, four feet long, and to each end of the rod attached a dumbbell maker "14 pounds." Then, raising the rod until the point of the sabre was in his mouth, he swallowed it again, as he had done when nothing was attached to it. While the sabre was in his oesophagus McLone gave the bar a half twist, something he had never before attempted, according to Manager Howell. The doctors were asked if they wished to see a fowling piece attached to the bar and discharged while four inches of the sabre were out of the juggler's mouth, so that the sabre would force the blade down to the hilt, but they declined, and McLone prepared to do the next feat, that of swallowing fourteen swords, the blades of which were like those used in the second feat. Howell admits that when the sabre with the bar and the dumbbells was drawn from its living sheath, McLone appeared to suffer and retched, and that he should have then desisted, or have been made to do so. The fourteen swords were swallowed like the bunch of four, and the ordeal was little more severe, except that the distention of the throat was greater. Before swallowing the swords, McLone said that if any one wanted to draw them, it should be done one by one and not in a bunch. The swords were not half their length in McLone's economy when he appeared to be suffering and turned pale. Howell had turned his back when they were beginning to disappear, and he heard one of the doctors say, "My God, this is going too far." He turned to see Dr. G. B. Hope grasp the swords by the butts, and sharply withdraw them, instead of pulling them out quickly, one by one, as a card player deals cards, and as McLone does on stage. McLone gave a groan and leaned forward. He appeared to be in great agony, and could not speak for several moments. He then complained of severe pain in the stomach and throat. After a hypodermic injection of morphine had been given to him he was taken to his hotel in a cab. It was at first feared that either his throat had been lacerated or that there was a puncture of the stomach, and that an operation would be necessary, but there was no hemmorhage, and his condition had so far improved yesterday afternoon that he was able to drink some kumyss. Manager Howell was convinced that the new trick of turning the sabre with the bar and dumbbells attached was too great a strain for organs that had been strained and stretched to fit them for abnormal uses. He expected, however that McLone would be able to go to Toronto to fill an engagement at the end of this week. His wife, who aids him in his performances, was so satisfied with his condition that she went out for a walk with a friend. The staff of the hospital say they were not responsible for McLone's collapse. Before he gave his exhibition, his throat was examined, and while it was found to have become distended, it appeared to be healthy. McLone admitted that frequently after he had been idle for some time, he swallowed food with difficulty, and had several times been almost choked by food. He also suffered from dyspepsia when not "in practice", but found relief when he swallowed a sword. He was advised not to attempt any feat that would tax his throat more than it had been, and to keep it exercised." A follow-up story in the NY Times dated Jan 22, 1894 stated, "Frederick McLone, the sword swallower known on the stage as Chevalier Cliquot, who is suffering from inflammation of the stomach through the twisting of a sabre he had pushed down his throat at an exhibition, had greatly improved yesterday. Dr. William Shannon, his physician, says McLone may sit up in bed today."

In February 1895, Cliquot was in Mexico City, Mexico. According to the March 9, 1895 article in the Chicago InterOcean, Cliquot did a demonstration for the senior class anatomy students at Rush Medical College in Chicago, IL on March 8, 1895. March 9, 1895 Chicago Daily Tribune account of Cliquot demonstration at Rush Medical College Chicago. According to an article in the Chicago InterOcean dated March 20, 1895: "Manager Hall of the McVicker's Theatre Casino has enlarged and strengthened the programme at that house since Sunday, the new people being Chevalier Cliquot, a sword swallower, and Gigmac and Pavese, the swordsmen. The sword swallower act is a remarkable one, the Chevalier passing blades twenty-one inches long down his throat and then bending his neck in all directions." From October 7-11, 1895, Chevalier Cliquot and his wife Mlle Cliquot were featured at the Boston Lyceum in Boston swallowing 14 swords (coincidentally only a few weeks after his competition "Chevalier Fritz" performed in Boston swallowing 11 swords in September, 1895) according to an ad in the October 6, 1895 Boston Post and followed by an article in the Boston Post.

On November 10, 1895, an unnamed 35-year old European sword swallower who had performed for over 20 years was featured in an in-depth article on the art of sword swallowing in the Pittsburgh Daily Post. Based on the description of the sword swallower and details of the feats described, this must have been Cliquot.

On January 17, 1896, Cliquot debuted at the Westminster Royal Aquarium in London England, according to the Westminster Budget dated January 17, 1896. On February 21, 1896, Cliquot was still pulling in the crowds at the Westminster Royal Aquarium by swallowing 14 swords and a watch according to an article in the Westminster Budget dated February 21, 1896.

By 1902, Cliquot had swallowed up to 22 inch blades nearly every day for over 23 years at least and possibly beyond that. Cliquot could swallow a 22-inch cavalry sword without difficulty, and his act included swallowing an electric light bulb connected to an 8-volt battery, up to fourteen 19-inch bayonet swords at one time, and his major trick was to swallow a bayonet sword, weighted with a cross-bar and two 18-pound dumbbells. In another feat, he would partially swallow a bayonet weighted with a crossbar, and allow the rest of the blade to be "kicked" by the recoil of a rifle which was fixed to a spike in the center of the bar and then fired by his sister. Cliquot was known to have performed with the Forepaugh Circus, did lectures and demonstrations before physicians and students at the University of of Liverpool in England, and finally "reformed" and ended up as a music hall agent in England.

Edith McLone died in March 1917 at the age of 47, and was interred in the county of Staffordshire England. According to an article in the July 7, 1939 New Castle News, "Francis McLone who in pre-war days was well known as Chevalier Cliquot, sword swallower, has died at the Royal Infirmary in Oldham, England. After a demonstration many years ago before the Chicago College of Surgeons, he was offered a life pension if he would agree to leave his body for research purposes. He refused, but a few days before his last operation, he bequeathed his body to the Oldham Infirmary." McLone died in 1939 at the age of 72, and was buried March 10, 1939 in the Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, Metropolitan Borough of Greater Manchester, England, Plot: TConsecrated 1075. Seeking photos and more information.

Chevalier Cliquot Fred McLone Timeline
1862: Born in Chicago, IL?
1864-65: Born according to passenger manifests
1867: March 24: Born in Quebec Canada?
1868-69: Wife Edith born in Brockton, Stafford, Staffordshire England
1878-80: Learned sword swallowing at 16
1880: July 18: Montevideo Uruguay
1891: Fred and Edith Cliquot live in Cardiff Wales
1892: Feb 15: Fred and Edith Cliquot arrive by ship in Philadelphia, PA
1892: May 8: Globe Dime Museum Chicago IL
1892: May 15: Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum Cincinatti OH
1892: May 23-28: Palace Museum, Scranton, PA
1892: Delno Fritz meets Cliquot in Pennsylvania, gets passionate about sword swallowing
1892: Aug 17: Mr. & Mrs. Cliquot move to Scranton PA
1892: Sept 15: Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg PA
1892: Sept 18: World's Museum Theater in Pittsburgh PA
1892: Dec 26-30: Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg PA
1893: Dec 12: Huber's Museum NY
1894: Jan 19: Injured at Metropolitan Throat Hospital NY
1894: Oct 14: The Wigwam, San Francisco, CA
1894: Oct 30: Court witness against The Wigwam, San Francisco, CA
1895: February: Mexico City Mexico
1895: March 8: Rush Medical College Chicago, IL
1895: March 20: McVicker's Theatre Casino Chicago
1895: Oct 7-11: Boston Lyceum Boston, MA
1895: Nov 10: In-depth article in Pittsburgh Daily Post
1896: Jan 1: Delphos Daily Herald article
1896: Jan 17: Debuts at The Aquarium in London
1896: Feb 21: Westminster Royal Aquarium London
1896: Harper's article
1897: Chevalier and Mrs. Cliquot arrive in Liverpool England
1902: Still sword swallowing
1903: Nov 17: Gets US Passport
1917: March: Edith McLone dies at 47, interred in Staffordshire, England
1939: Fred McLone Cliquot dies at 72 at Oldham Infirmary in Oldham England
1939: March 9: Buried in Southern Cemetery Oldham England

Cliquot in Uruguay front (1880)
Cliquot in Uruguay back (1880)
Cliquot at Globe Dime Museum Chicago (5-8-1892)
Cliquot at Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum Cincinatti (5-15-1892)
Palace Museum Scranton (5-23-28-1892)
Cliquot Watch Swallower (6-19-1892)
Cliquot moves to Scranton PA (8-17-1892)
Cliquot at Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg (9-15-1892)
Cliquot at Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg (12-31-1892)
Cliquot injury article 1 (1-21-1894)
Cliquot injury article 2 (1--22-1894)
Cliquot injury article pdf (1-1894)
The Wigwam San Francisco (10-14-1894)
Witness against The Wigwam San Fran (10-30-1894)
Cliquot demonstration at Rush Medical College Chicago (3-8-1895)
Cliquot demonstration at Rush Medical College Chicago (3-8-1895)
Cliquot Chicago InterOcean (3-20-1895)
Cliquot ad Boston Lyceum (10-6-1895)
Cliquot article Boston Lyceum (10-6-1895)
Pittsburgh Daily Post article (11-10-1895)
Cliquot article (1-1-1896)
Cliquot debuts at London Aquarium (1-17-1896)
Cliquot swallowing 22 inch cavalry sabre (1896)
Cliquot swallowing weighted sword (1896)
Chevalier Cliquot (1896)
Chevalier Cliquot (1896)
Cliquot with Forepaugh Circus
Cliquot Poster (1899)
Cliquot Poster (1902)
Francis McLone dies in Oldham England (1939)
Harry Parsons Performed 1880
Died December 20, 1880
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers grave
Cleveland, OH
(USA)
A Cincinnati Enquirer articles dated January 17, 1880 reports on a Cincinnati sword swallower who was injured in January 1880. Could this have been sword swallower Harry Parsons? According to obituaries in the NY Times and the Leavenworth Times, both dated Dec 24, 1880, "Harry Parsons, a professional sword-swallower, fatally injured himself while performing the feat in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday." Harry Parsons died on December 20, 1880, and is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio. Seeking photos and more information.

Cincinnati sword swallower (1-17-1880)
Harry Parsons obituary (12-24-1880)
Harry Parsons obituary (12-24-1880)
Gustaf Westerlund
Gustaf Gustafinpoika Westerlund
Brothers Westerlund
Born Sept 26, 1854
Performed 1880
Died 1917
Brothers Westerlund
(Finland)
Gustaf Westerlund (born Sept 26, 1854 in Oulu Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland) and his brother Alexander Westerlund (born Sept 6, 1859) were born to Gustaf Westerlund and Maria Kaisa, and performed together as circus performers in Finland under the name "Veljekset Westerlund" (Brothers Westerlund) doing an acrobatic act which also included sword swallowing. An advertisement from August 5, 1880 states that Westerlund "...swallows in wonderful accuracy 24 inch long iron swords". Westerlund died in 1917, and is buried in plot #11in Oulu Cemetery in Oulu, Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland.Seeking photos and more information.
Alexander Westerlund
Barnum & Bailey's Circus 1881 New York, NY
(USA)
Barnum and Bailey's first three ring circus is staged in New York City in 1881. Barnum and Bailey split up in 1885, but came back together again in 1888 with the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth", later "Barnum & Bailey Circus", which toured around the world. P.T. Barnum died in 1891.
Prof. Bauman
Professor Bauman
Performed March 12-14, 1881
Turnverein Hall
Los Angeles, CA
(USA)
According to a March 9, 1881 article in the Los Angeles Herald, "Prof Willio, a world renowned Prestidigitateur and Necromancer will give three entertainments in this city, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday eve'gs, March 12, 13, and 14. The Professor outrivals the Davenport tricks, swallows molten sealing wax, and performs many new and astonishing feats. He is accompanied by PROF. BAUMAN, the great sword-swallower, gymnast, and contortionist." Seeking photos and more information.
Prof, Bauman (3-1881)
Frederick Smith Born c. 1864
Performed 1883
Injured August 1883
sword swallowing injury
St, Thomas Hospital
London, England
(UK)
The book "The World of Wonders: A Record of Things Wonderful in Nature, Science, and Art" (1891) gives an account of sword swallower Frederick Smith who sustained a serious injury in the spring of 1883: "A still more recent performer, named Frederick Smith, met with a serious accident in the spring of 1883. While swallowing a sword, it became embedded in the gullet, and he by motions requested one of the audience to withdraw the weapon. The man thus appealed to place his hand on the hilt, causing the blade to penetrate the intestines, and the juggler was removed to St. Thomas' Hospital, where he was for a considerable time in a very dangerous condition."

According to an article in the August 21, 1883 issue of The Royal Gazette, Bermuda Commercial and General Advertiser and Recorder: "A singular case, which may terminate fatally, has come under the notice of Mr. Mason, surgeon at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. A young man named Frederick Smith, aged 19 years, residing at No. 6 White Hart Street, Drury Lane, has of late been giving exhibitions as a sword swallower. While performing his extraordinary feat before a large audience, the blade of the sword, which is blunt on either side, becoming embedded in the thorax, the performer, by gesture, requested one of the audience to withdraw the weapon for the purpose of testing his bona fide performance, instead of which the party so requested placed his hand on the hilt, causing the blade to penetrate the intestines. The juggler suddenly collapsed, and it was with difficulty that the sword was extracted. He was immediately attended by the local surgeon, who deemed it expedient to have the sufferer removed to the above institution, where he now lies." Seeking more information.

Frederick Smith injury (Spring 1883)
Frederick Smith injury (August 1883)
Unknown Sword Swallower Performed Dec 20, 1883
Injured Dec 20, 1883
Died Dec 28, 1883
sword swallowing injury
(USA) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities", in 1883 Gussenbauer gives an account of a juggler who had an accident on December 20, 1883. When the juggler turned his head to bow an acknowledgment of applause while swallowing a sword, he thus brought his upper incisors against the sword, which broke off and slipped into his stomach. To relieve suffocation, the sword was pushed further down. Gastrotomy was performed, and the piece of sword 11 inches long was extracted; as there was perforation of the stomach before the operation, the patient died of peritonitis on December 28, 1883.
Prof. Rohelhorn Performed June 21-23, 1884
Great National Circus
Oakland, CA
(USA)
According to an article dated June 18, 1884 in the Oakland Tribune, "Everybody will be there next Saturday afternoon and evening (6-21-1884), and also on Monday evening (6-23-1884) to witness the unparalleled exhibition known as the "Great National Circus and Equine Paradox of Educated Horses". It is the most thoroughly trained circus that has visited Oakland for years, containing, as it does, the world famous Morosco Brothers, the Marvels of Peru, Signior Hudson, the daring and graceful bareback rider, Frank Ashford, the amusing Irish comedian, Prof. Rohelhorn, the sword-swallower, Harry Lamott, the Indian rubber man, the clever Irwin brothers late of John Robinson's Circus, and Mons. Milo, the Iron-jawed man." Seeking photos and more information.

Prof. Rohelhorn National Circus (6-21-1884)
Prof. Rohelhorn National Circus (6-21-1884)
Ringling Brothers Circus Founded in 1884 Baraboo, WI
(USA)
John Nicholas Ringling starts Ringling Brothers Circus in Baraboo Wisconsin in 1884.
LeTort
Le Tort
Joseph LeTort
Joseph Le Tort
Joseph H. LeTort
Professor LeTort
Professort Joseph LeTort
Joseph H. Bartlay
Born 1825
Died November 22 1880
(Denmark/Sweden) Joseph H. LeTort was born in 1825 as Joseph H. Bartlay. He died in poverty on November 22, 1880 in Svendborg, Denmark.

There was also a magician named Niels Edvard Jacobsen who was born in 1856 and in 1891 took the stage name "LeTort". There is speculation that the two magicians met in 1880 and Niels Edvard Jacobsen bought some of Joseph H. Le Tort's props and even his name, which was not an uncommon practice at the time. In 1891 Niels Edvard Jacobsen requested from the king that he be allowed to take the stage name "LeTort", and at first he was known as Niels Edvard Jacobsen Letort.

Professor Joseph H. Le Tort vara född år 1825. Hans rätta namn var Joseph H. Bartlay. Han dog den 22 november 1880 i fattigdom i Svendborg, Danmark, där han tänkt ge föreställningar. Han var i sina yngre dagar en av de flitigaste trollkarlarna här i Norden och gjorde överallt mycken lycka men tog inte vara på sina inkomster.

Joseph H. Le Tort var en liten, livlig, mörklagd man med mörkt, lockigt hår, välvårdade mustascher och pipskägg, och han uppträdde klädd i frack. Han hade en rikhaltig, effektfullt anordnad apparatuppsättning och bjöd på en omväxlande repertoar. Le Tort kallade sig engelsman i reklamen (”från London”, ”från Dublin”, ”från England”), men han kunde göra sig förstådd på de skandinaviska språken.

”Beklagligen började den skicklige trollkarlen låta sig för mycket frestas av glasets njutningar, varför det kunde hända att han vid utförandet av ett bland sina praktnummer, den omtalade schalkonsten, osäkert fubblade så att publiken fick alltför stora inblickar i dess hemligheter och därvid upptäckte att han t.ex. inför västen gömde vattenskålarna, hvilka voro övertäckta med s.k. guldslagarehinna, hvarigenom vattnet kvarhölls.” (S:t Eriks årsbok 1909)

Ett häfte på 24 sidor med titeln ”Trettioen utmärkta konststycken utförda av Professorerna Döbler och Bils samt flera andra Konstnärer, och hvilka Konststycken hvar och en fullkomligt kan lära sig, tydligt och lättfattligt framställda av J. Le Tort.”, utdelades till publiken vid föreställningen i Stockholm den 18 januari 1852. Häftet är prytt med ett träsnitt av Le Tort.

1869 utgavs i Köpenhamn häftet ”Fireogtyve Taskenspiller kunster udförte af Professor Le Tort, utgivne i Trykken af hans medhjaelper”. Le Tort uppges vara författaren men vem hans ”medhjaelper” var är okänt. 1904 utgavs i Köpenhamn häftet ”Professor Le Tort´s berömte tryllekunster”, som har samma text och innehåll – endast konststyckenas antal skiljer. Nedan följer en förteckning över föreställningar, som Joseph H. Le Tort enligt tidningsannonser, affischer och omnämnanden har gjort. 1851 i Sverige: 2 maj i Nyköping tillsammans med Professor Carl Bils. Norra Tivoli, Norrtullsgatan, Stockholm (med Bils). Manegen på Djurgården och på Djurgårdstivoli (med Bils). Mosebacke (troligen ensam) under sommaren (13 maj är känt). Under vintern på Hornungs figurteater, Jakobsbergsgatan, Stockholm (4, 14, 18, 21 oktober är känt). Upsala 30 december. 1852 sejouren i Stockholm avslutades 1 februari. Till Danmark: mitten av juli – 8 september Tivoli, Köpenhamn. Aalborg, Randers, Fredericia. 1853 i Sverige (bl.a. Stockholm 27 december). 1854 i Sverige – med avstickare till Norge. 1855 i Sverige. 1856 i Sverige. Borås, Gillets salong, 3 januari. Stockholm 31 maj. Till Finland – minst 6 föreställningar i september (bl.a. den 12 september ”å härvarande Teater” i Helsingfors). Till St. Petersburg. Le Tort åtföljs nu av hustrun Clara och dottern Maria. 1857 i Sverige. 10 augusti ”föreställning inför det unga hofvet på Ulriksdal”. I september Ladugårdslands-theatern, Stockholm. 1858 i Danmark. Premiär i Tivoli, Köpenhamn 3 maj, därefter landsorten. 1859 i Danmark och Sverige. Premiär den 4 juni i Göteborg. 16 oktober (för sista gången) K. Humlegårds-Teatern, Stockholm (tillsammans med Mr. Philippe). 1860-1862 ? 1863 i Danmark. 29 mars, Theatret i Aalborg (på sin genomresa till Randers). 1864-1865 ? 1866 i Danmark. 1867 i Sverige och Finland. Wexiö, Stockholm. 27 september premiär i Helsingfors, därefter 2, 4, 5, 6 oktober. 11, 13 oktober Fredrikshamn (”på genomresa till Ryssland”). Le Tort har nu sällskap av nya hustrun Henriette och dottern Emma Jane samt en dansk assistent (?) Carli. 1868-1876 i Amerika. Den 12 augusti 1876 ges avskedsrepresentation i Amerika (”varit i de flesta amerikanska städer”) – åter till Sverige. 1877 i Sverige. Premiär på Ladugårdslands Teatern, Stockholm den 4 mars – till april. 12 augusti Kalmar. Sejour i Kristianstad och här blev Le Tort den 22 oktober överfallen i förstugan i det hus han tillfälligt bodde i. 1878 i Sverige. Göteborg i början på mars. 14, 17, 19 maj föreställningar på Teatern i Arvika. 10 och 31 maj samt 2 juni Cirkus Eqestres lokal i Karlstad. 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, 16, 20 juli (tre förest.) och 21 juli (tre förest.) i Westerås. 1879 i Sverige. 1880 i Danmark, bland annat tillsammans med danske trollkonstnären F. Bland.

Seeking photos and more information.

Joseph H. Bartlay Letort Timeline
1825: Born
1851: May 2: Nyköping Sweden with Professor Carl Bils. Norra Tivoli, Norrtullsgatan, Stockholm (med Bils). Manegen på Djurgården och på Djurgårdstivoli (med Bils). Mosebacke (troligen ensam) under sommaren (13 maj är känt). Under vintern på Hornungs figurteater, Jakobsbergsgatan, Stockholm (4, 14, 18, 21 oktober är känt). Upsala 30 december.
1852: Stockholm until Feb 1. Till Danmark: mitten av juli – 8 september Tivoli, Köpenhamn. Aalborg, Randers, Fredericia. 1853: Sweden (Stockholm 27 december)
1854: Sweden med avstickare till Norge
1855: Sweden
1856: Sweden. Borås, Gillets salong, 3 januari. Stockholm 31 maj. Till Finland – minst 6 föreställningar i september (bl.a. den 12 september ”å härvarande Teater” i Helsingfors). Till St. Petersburg. Le Tort åtföljs nu av hustrun Clara och dottern Maria.
1857: June 11-13: Hotel de Russie, Helsinki Finland
1857: Sweden. 10 augusti ”föreställning inför det unga hofvet på Ulriksdal”. I september Ladugårdslands-theatern, Stockholm
1858: Denmark. Premiär i Tivoli, Köpenhamn 3 maj, därefter landsorten
1859: Danmark och Sverige. Premiär den 4 juni i Göteborg. 16 oktober (för sista gången) K. Humlegårds-Teatern, Stockholm (tillsammans med Mr. Philippe)
1860-1862: ?
1863: Denmark. 29 mars, Theatret i Aalborg (på sin genomresa till Randers)
1864-1865: ?
1866: Denmark
1867: Sweden and Finland. Wexiö, Stockholm. 27 september premiär i Helsingfors, därefter 2, 4, 5, 6 oktober. 11, 13 oktober Fredrikshamn (”på genomresa till Ryssland”). Le Tort har nu sällskap av nya hustrun Henriette och dottern Emma Jane samt en dansk assistent (?) Carli.
1868-1876: America. Den 12 augusti 1876 ges avskedsrepresentation i Amerika (”varit i de flesta amerikanska städer”) – åter till Sverige.
1877: Sweden. Premiär på Ladugårdslands Teatern, Stockholm den 4 mars – till april. 12 augusti Kalmar. Sejour i Kristianstad och här blev Le Tort den 22 oktober överfallen i förstugan i det hus han tillfälligt bodde i.
1878: Sweden. Göteborg i början på mars. 14, 17, 19 maj föreställningar på Teatern i Arvika. 10 och 31 maj samt 2 juni Cirkus Eqestres lokal i Karlstad. 3, 5, 7, 12, 14, 16, 20 juli (tre förest.) och 21 juli (tre förest.) i Westerås
1879: Sweden
1880: Denmark with Danish magician F. Bland
1880: Nov 14: Last performance Rudköbing Theater
1880: Died November 22 in Svendborg, Denmark

Joseph LeTort, Helsinki Finland (6-11-13-1857)
Prof. LeTort (11-9-1871)
Niels Le Tort
Professor LeTort
Niels Edvard Jacobsen
Niels Edvard Jacobsen LeTort
Born April 29, 1856
Performed 1871
Married 1881
Divorced 1896
Died Feb 7, 1929
(Denmark/Sweden) Niels Edvard Jacobsen was born April 29, 1856 in Tröröd, Sölleröd Sogn, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. He started poor, and after military service, began studying hatmaking with a hatmaker in Copenhagen. In 1880, he may have met up with magician Professor Joseph H. Le Tort and bought some of his props. In 1881, Niels Edvard Jacobsen got married, and upon his first child's birth in 1883, he gave up his hatmaking occupation for the life of an artist.

By 1887 Jacobsen was working as a sword swallower (his seven swords are preserved in a collection). In 1891 Jacobsen requested from the king that he be allowed to take the name "LeTort". At first he was known as Niels Edvard Jacobsen Letort. There was also a magician named Professor Joseph H. Le Tort who was born in 1825 and performed in 1880 before dieing in Swedborg Denmark on November 22 1880. There is speculation that the two magicians met in 1880, and Niels Jacobsen got to buy some of Joseph H. Le Tort's props and even his name, which was not an uncommon practice at the time.

In 1893, Niels Jacobsen LeTort showed a banner at a fair, and at this point became a sideshow tent owner. In 1895 he displayed a giant woman, and in 1896 he traveled around with a "hairy woman", but he also continued to work as a magician. In 1896, he and his wife were divorced.

Niels Jacobsen Letort travelled around Denmark, and in 1899 he toured further into Malmö and other areas of Sweden, where he became very popular. In October, 1900 he returned to Denmark, but didn't receive as much publicity there as he did in Sweden. He returned to Sweden, and toured as far as Finland, where he didn't receive quite the success that he did in Sweden. He even performed at the Follies-Bergère in Paris (he was well-known even in France and could speak some French). Letort was very elegant - tall, with pointed mustache, white tie with diamond pin, and rings on his fingers. At a performance in Gävle, Sweden in 1901, Letort met a French engineer, showman, fellow magician and mechanic, Joseph Couprant, who was showing "living picture" films. They decided to join up, so Couprant could strengthen Letort's program by showing films. They opened a business for photographic articles in Stockholm, where they started the "American Theater", Stockholm's first "standing theater". Letort thrived here also, together with his second wife and assistant, Miss Hetty Dené Moore, who was English, 22 years younger than Letort, whom he had met during a tour to England, fell in love with, and married. In May 1902, Letort and Couprant moved to Göteborg, Sweden, where they opened the first cinemagraphic theater in the city and combined variety acts with film. Letort and Couprant returned to Stockholm where they continued their photo business. 1904 Letort moved to Malmö and became the city's movie pioneer. After a while, be moved back to Copenhagen, where he also became a movie pioneer. Letort had made good money as a magician, but had even better success with the new film industry. Around 1910, Letort and his wife moved to her homeland of England. In 1924 the couple moved back to Odense, Denmark, where Niels died on February 7, 1929 at the age of 73. His wife lived until May 12, 1962. Seeking photos and more information.

9th & Arch Museum
Ninth and Arch Museum
Ninth and Arch Dime Museum
Opened 1869
Reopened 1883
Reopened 1885
Sold 1910
Ninth and Arch Dime Museum
Ninth and Arch Streets
Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
Ninth and Arch Dime Museum For more than half a century, the corner of 9th and Arch streets sustained Philadelphians with opportunities for diversion, education and voyeurism. The public came and went - and so did the owners. First was Colonel Joseph Wood in 1869, fresh in town having been burnt out of his Chicago emporium. The Colonel opened the doors on a relatively simple affair: menagerie plus performance space, and called it Colonel Joseph H. Wood's Museum.

By 1883, the venue re-launched under the new ownership. Hagar, Campbell & Co. New Dime Museum advertised "Entertainment Designed Expressly for Ladies and Children," and claimed they had the "only great show in town." It featured everything from "Barnum's Original Aztecs," the "Che-Mah Chinese Dwarf," the "Cannibal Fan Child," the "Living Skeleton" and the "White Moor." Hagar and Campbell piled on the attractions, adding "Dens of Serpents," "the Merry Monkeys", Punch and Judy, Johnson's Original Tennessee Jubilee Singers, and "a multitude of other attractions." (.pdf)

Even so, audience demands and museum costs, proved too high. The Dime Museum soon changed hands again. This time, Charles A. Bradenbaugh re-invented the destination as the 9th and Arch Museum. And this time, place and the public connected. Bradenbaugh kept the audiences coming from 1885 to 1910.

What would a visitor see behind Bradenbaugh's colorful façade? “On the first floor,” Joseph Jackson tells us, “there were numerous forms of apparatus for testing grips, lungs, lifting power, etc. “On the second floor were cages of monkeys, a prairie dog ‘Village,’ and a few other menagerie specimens.” The third floor provided a lecture hall packed with a series of platforms, with living “human freaks.” Regulars came to know “The Skeleton Man,” “The Fat Woman,” the “Real Zulus,” “The Human Bat,” “The Bearded Lady,” “The Elastic-Skin Man,” “The Glass Eater,” "The Sword Swallower," and “The Dog-Faced Boy.” Every hour, the gawking public would be invited back down to the main auditorium where they'd sit for a popular play that, no matter the length of the original, was condensed into forty minutes, give or take.

In the 1890s, Bradenbaugh dabbled in movies, allowing his visitors to enjoy that emerging medium. But the Dime Museum’s array of 19th-century offerings remained a complicated and layered activity for the public. The simpler experience of the 20th century movie house required, and got, a venue all its own.

A decade into the new century, Bradenbaugh saw the writing on the wall and sold out. Soon enough, the new owners of the 9th and Arch Museum recognized the same reality and did their best to turn it into an opportunity. In 1911, the museum’s new manager, T.F. Hopkins, and his press agent, Norman Jeffries, engineered (literally) a favorite local legend: the Jersey Devil.

After giving birth to her 12th child, the story goes, “Mother Leeds” declared that the 13th, if she had it, would be the Devil. Lo and behold, one dark and stormy night in 1735, Mrs. Leeds gave birth to her 13th. As promised, it immediately transformed into “a creature with hooves, a horse’s head, bat wings and a forked tail.” The newborn “growled and screamed, then killed the midwife before flying up the chimney. It circled the villages and headed toward the Pines.”

According to Andrea Stulman Dennett in Weird & Wonderful: the Dime Museum in America, the headlines screamed: “The Fabulous Leeds Devil Reappears after an Absence of Fifty Years.” A “monster with long hind legs, short forelegs, a tail, horns on its head and short wings” had reportedly been captured by a farmer in New Jersey “after a terrific struggle” and would soon be “placed on exhibition at the Ninth and Arch Museum

“Caught!!! And Here!!!! Alive!!! THE LEEDS DEVIL, read Hopkins and Jeffries posters. “Swims! Flys! Gallops! … Exhibited securely chained in a Massive Steel Cage. A LIVING DRAGON more famous than the Fabled Monsters of Mythology. Don’t Miss the Sight of a Lifetime.”

In fact, the museum's short-lived center of attention was a kangaroo with wings attached. And the audiences this mutant marsupial drew to 9th and Arch kept the doors open for only a few more weeks. The day of the Dime Museum had passed. Frank Dumont soon bought the building for his thriving troupe of minstrels. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers at Ninth and Arch Dime Museum.

Sword Swallowers at Ninth and Arch Dime Museum
1869: Opens under Colonel Joseph Wood
1883: Sept 3: Opens under Hagar, Campbell & Co.
1885: Opens under Charles A. Bradenbaugh
1895: Mar 3-17: Delno Fritz
1895: Oct 13: Delno Fritz
1895: Dec 15: Delno Fritz
1896: Dec 13: Delno Fritz
1897: Oct 10: Delno Fritz
1897: Nov 7: King Sabro
1898: ?
1899: April 2: Victorina
1901: Ocotber 17: Victorina
1905: Marie DeVere
1908: Marie DeVere
1909: Marie DeVere
1910: Frank Dumont buys building for his troupe of minstrels

Ninth & Arch Museum (1885-1910)
Delno Fritz (12-15-1895)
Ninth & Arch Museum History
Austin & Stone's Museum
Austin & Stone's Dime Museum
Performances 1895-1902 Austin & Stone's Dime Museum
Boston, MA
(USA)
Austin & Stone's Dime Museum, Boston, MA

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers at Austin & Stone's Dime Museum.

Sword Swallowers at Austin & Stone's Dime Museum
1895: Sept 9-13: Chevalier Delno Fritz
1896: July 7-Aug 2: King Sarbro
1897: Feb 7: Delno Fritz and Mlle. de Aldine
1901: March 27: Victorina
1902: Feb 2: Victorina
1905: Marie DeVere
1906: Marie DeVere
1907: Marie DeVere
1910: Marie DeVere

Frank A. Robbins Shows
Frank A. Robbins Circus
Tours 1890s-1915 Frank A. Robbins Shows
Jersey City, NJ
(USA)
Frank A. Robbins Show

1915: Winter quarters: Trenton, New Jersey. Business bad, closes early. Horses sold at auction by Fiss Doeur & Carroll, New York, September 20, 1915

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers at Frank A. Robbins Show.

Sword Swallowers with Frank A. Robbins Show:
1898: Charles Griffin
1909: Marie DeVere
1910: ?
1911: Marie DeVere
1912: Route: Marie DeVere
1913: Route: ?
1914: Route: ?
1915: Route: ?
1915: Winter quarters: Trenton, New Jersey. Business bad, closes early in Sept. Horses sold at auction in New York, Sept 20
1915: Frank A. Robbins retires from circus business
1920: October 10, 1920: Frank A. Robbins dies

Frank A. Robbins Circus Side Show banner (c 1905-1915)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Toured US 1883
Toured Europe 1903-06
Toured US 1907-1911
North Platte, NE
Cody, WY
(USA)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show captivated audiences for a total of 30 years from 1883 to 1913. After opening on May 19, 1883 in Omaha, Nebraska, the show traveled on a nearly perpetual tour all over the east of America. In 1887, "Buffalo Bill" Cody took the show to London as part of the American Exhibition in celebration and the Jubilee year of Queen Victoria. The entire troop of 200 passengers, including 97 Natives, 181 horses, 10 mules, 4 donkeys, 18 buffalo, 10 elk, 5 longhorn Texas steers, 2 deer, and the Deadwood Concord stagecoach crossed the Atlantic on several ships. In 1887, Queen Victoria requested and attended a command performance of the show at Windsor Castle. Buffalo Bill's Wild West show closed its successful London run in October 1887 after more than 300 performances, with more than 2.5 million tickets sold. The show continued on to Birmingham and Salford near Manchester, where it stayed for five months before returning to the US in May 1888 for a short summer tour.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West returned to Europe in May 1889 as part of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France. When the show opened in Paris on May 14, 1889 as part of the Universal Exhibition, ten thousand spectators gave it an enthusiastic reception. The tour moved to the South of France and Barcelona, Spain, then on to Italy. While in Rome, a Wild West delegation was received by Pope Leo XIII. Buffalo Bill was disappointed that the condition of the Colosseum did not allow it to be a venue; however, at Verona, the Wild West did perform in the ancient Roman amphitheater. The tour finished with stops in Austria-Hungary and Germany. In 1891 the show toured cities in Belgium and the Netherlands before returning to Great Britain to close the season. The show's 1892 tour was confined to Great Britain; it featured another command performance for Queen Victoria. The tour finished with a six-month run in London before leaving Europe for nearly a decade.

In 1893, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, draws a crowd of 18,000, the largest ever, at thr Chicago World's Fair of 1893. James Bailey becomes involved in 1898, and begins employing sword swallowers starting in 1898-1899. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show tours Europe again from 1903 to 1906, beginning with a return to England in December 1902 with a fourteen-week run in London, capped by a visit from King Edward VII and the future King George V. The Wild West Show traveled throughout Great Britain during the 1902-03 tour as well as the 1904 tour, performing in nearly every city large enough to support it. The 1905 tour began in April with a two-month run in Paris before moving into the rest of France, where it performed mostly one-night stands, concluding in December. The final tour of 1906 began in France on March 4, and quickly moved on to Italy for two months. The Wild West Show traveled east: performing in Austria, the Balkans, Hungary, Romania, the Ukraine and Russia, before returning west to tour in Poland, Bohemia (later Czech Republic), Germany, and Belgium. The sword swallower during the 1906 European tour of Germany, Poland and Russia was probably Polish or Russian sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured the US from 1907 to 1911. The show was declared bankrupt in 1913. In 1916, an elderly Buffalo Bill toured with Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show. On January 10, 1917, Buffalo Bill Cody died in Denver, CO.

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Sword Swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show:
1883: May 19: Show opens in Omaha, Nebraska
1887: Tours UK
1888: May: Returns to US, short summer tour in US
1889: Show returns to Europe to tour France
1890: Entire cast in Milano Italy
1891: Show tours Belgium, Netherlands, and Great Britain
1892: Show tours Great Britain
1893: Chicago World's Fair to crowds of 18,000
1898: James Bailey becomes involved in show
1899: Route: Sword swallower: Victorina
1900: ?
1901: ?
1902: December: Show tours Europe, starts with 14-week run in London
1903: Professor Charles E. Griffin in Europe
1904: Professor Charles E. Griffin in Europe
1904: Mighty Ajax in Europe
1905: Professor Charles E. Griffin in Europe
1906: Professor Charles E. Griffin Manager in Europe, Julian Putzjewitsch, sword swallower
1907: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1908: ?
1909: ?
1910: ?
1911: Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin
1913: Show declared bankrupt
1916: Buffalo Bill tours with Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show
1917: Jan 10: Buffalo Bill dies in Denver, CO

Unknown Sword Swallower Born c 1855
Died 1885
sword swallowing injury
(England) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities", Gross speaks of a 30 year old sword swallower in 1885 who was in the habit of giving exhibitions of sword-swallowing in public houses, and who injured his esophagus to such an extent as to cause abscess and death.

According to a March 3, 1885 article in the New York Sun, "The professional sword swallower does not pursue his business, as it is supposed, with impunity. A sword swallower lately died of hemorrhage in an English hospital, and the medical opinion seems to be that all of these men trifle with and shorten their lives." Seeking photos and more information on 1885 sword swallower death.

British sword swallower dies (pre-March 1885)
Signor Bartino Performed 1885
Johnson, Simpson & Co.'s Consolidated Circus and Museum
Wa-Keeney, KS
(USA)
According to an August 15, 1885 article in the Western Kansas World, "Johnson, Simpson & Co.'s Consolidated Circus and Museum will exhibit at Wa-Keeney, Saturday, August 22nd, afternoon and evening. This combined organization contains twenty-five of the most prominent artists in the arenic profession. ...In the museum department will be found Madame Devere, the Kentucky Bearded Woman, (her first name was either Janice or Jane Devere, born in 1842 from Brooksville KY, and her career may have lasted into the 1900's - Could this be a relative of Marie Devere?); Sylvia Zobriskie, the Circassian Lady, the wild men of Borneo, Signor Bartino, the Fire Eater, sword swallower and magician, Col. Johnson, manager." Seeking photos and more information.

Signor Bartino (8-15-1885)
William Griffin
Bill Griffin
Performed 1871-1889
Injured July 1, 1889
Arrested Feb 1, 1890
Died July 20, 1903?
sword swallowing injury
Santa Cruz, CA
San Francisco, CA
Bridgewater, ME
(USA)
William Griffin apparently began sword swallowing around 1871. According to a July 1, 1889 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "William Griffin, who for the past eighteen years has been eking out a precarious existence as a sword swallower, very nearly came to grief yesterday afternoon out on the beach near the Cliff House. He had been amusing people all morning, and at about 2:30 o'clock had three swords down his throat, the largest measuring twenty-eight inches, when he commenced to cough, and when he withdrew them, they were covered with blood. The exhibition stopped immediately, and Griffin started to crawl back to his room on Howard, near Sixth. There he became very sick, and about 9 o'clock last night he was brought to the receiving hospital for treatment. Dr. Enright examined the man and found that his throat was ulcerated, and that the sword had lacerated it. He was given medicine and sent back home."

According to an article in the July 2, 1889 Santa Cruz Sentinel, sword swallower William Griffin suffered a serious injury with severe bleeding when he punctured his stomach while swallowing a three foot long sword. Griffin was from Santa Cruz, CA.

According to a San Bernardino CA Daily Courier article dated February 1, 1890, "A man named Griffin, belonging to a traveling circus combination, was arrested yesterday, at Colton, on a message from the Chief of Police of Los Angeles, being wanted in that city on a charge of petit larceny. Griffin is a sword-swallower and is accompanied by a small boy who, he claims, is his son. An officer will arrive from Los Angeles this morning to return him to that city."

According to an article dated July 20, 1903 in the Janesville Daily Gazette: "Bridgewater, Me: Bill Griffin, a sword swallower died here from injuries received while doing his turn in the side show of a circus which showed here. Griffin was using a long knife when his foot slipped and the knife pierced his windpipe. He died after intense suffering."

Could William Griffin of Santa Cruz CA have been the same sword swallower as Bill Griffin who died in Bridgewater, Maine? Seeking photos and more information on sword swallower Bill Griffin.

William Griffin injury (7-1-1889)
William Griffin injury (7-2-1889)
Griffin arrested in Colton CA (2-1-1890)
Bill Griffin obituary (7-20-1903)
Chas. E. Griffin
Charles E. Griffin
Mons. F. Le Costro
Monsieur F. Le Costro
Yankee Yogi
Professor Griffin
Prof Chas. E. Griffin
Prof Charles E. Griffin
Professor Chas. E. Griffin
Professor Charles E. Griffin
Charles Eldridge Griffin
Born June 16, 1859
Married c 1897-1898
Performed 1889-1907
Died Jan 3, 1914
sword swallowers grave
Hilliard & DeMott's Circus
Paris Pavilion Shows
Pullman & Mack's Circus
Sells Brothers Circus
Hurlburt & Hunting Circus
Bob Hunting Circus
Frank A Robbin's Circus
Ringling Brothers Circus
Buffalo Bill's
Wild West Show

Albia, IA
Baraboo, WI
(United States)
(Europe)
Charles Eldridge Griffin was born on June 16, 1859 in St. Joseph, MO. (Some inaccurate accounts erroneously claim he was born in New York City on December 17, 1862). Throughout his lifetime, Griffin performed as a lecturer, magician, illusionist, conjurer, yogi, ventriloquist, contortionist, fire-eater, sword swallower, hypnotist, and manager with a variety of shows, including Bob Hunting Circus, Ringling Brothers Circus Sideshow and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

By 1862, his family had moved to Albia, Iowa, while Griffin was a child. His father John W. H. Griffin (1833-1916) was Monroe County Superintendent of schools and county clerk of courts. His mother Fannie Hall Morse (1836-1913) was a musician, and Charles and his 3 siblings were outgoing extroverts with a penchant for performing (his brothers Frank S. Griffin (1869-1927) and Fred I. Griffin (1873-1928) later worked in the circus business, and his sister became a popular platform speaker).

At the age of 16, Charles Griffin toured school houses, town halls, and county fairs with his own "one man valise troupe" where he probably began to perfect his talents as a magician and ventriloquist. In 1881, Griffin joined Hilliard & DeMott's Circus as a magician and lecturer. After it folded in 1881, he traveled to France at the age of 22 to become general manager of the Paris Pavilion Shows. Little is known about Griffin's time in France, but he resurfaces in the United States two years later with Pullman and Mack's Circus as "The Comic Yankee Conjurer" throughout its short-lived existence in the 1884-1885 season. In 1885 Griffin joined the Sells Brothers Circus as a "lecturer in side show and featured in concert (Fire Act)." In 1886, he left Sells Brothers to become a member of of the newly formed Hurlburt & Hunting Circus in New York City (later known as the Bob Hunting's New York Circus).

1886 marked a crucial turning point for Griffin, as he left Sells Brothers to join the newly formed Hurlburt and Hunting Circus in New York City, which would later be known as Bob Hunting's New York Circus. During the twelve years that he spent with Hunting, Griffin set up his own New York Conjuring College and added writing and publishing to his growing list of accomplishments. The first of many instruction manuals that he was to produce for aspiring circus performers was his self-published (1887) Griffin’s Book of Wonders. A year later, the first of his two memoires (1888) Traveling with a Circus: A History of Hunting's N.Y. Cirque Curriculum for Season 1888, came off the Van Fleet presses in New York. These were followed by booklets on snake charming (1890a), using dumb bells (1890b), conjuring (1896a & 1897a), how to be a contortionist (1896b), fire eating (1896c) and his (1897b) The Showman's Book of Wonders, a compendium on “magic, ventriloquism, fire eating, sword swallowing and hypnotism”. The entrepreneurial Griffin was publisher for all but one of these (1896c) which were sold on site at the circus for 10 cents a copy.

In 1889, at the age of 26, Griffin began performing as "Professor Griffin, the Yankee Yogi, Magician and Sword Swallower" on the Bob Hunting Circus according to the 1889 Hunting route book, and he was also listed on the Bob Hunting Circus program as "Manager All Privileges". The front of the program offers for sale a "Large book, 10 cents" that Griffin wrote that teaches "Magic, Ventrioloquism, Fire Eating, Sword Swallowing, and Hypnotism". In the 1892 Hunting route book, Griffin is listed as the "Illusionist and Ventriloquist", and he was also known to have performed as a fire-eater. In the 1890s, Griffin published the "Showman's Guide", the "Showman's Book of Wonders", and he was the founder of Griffin's Conjuring College in New York City. In 1896, Griffin published a booklet entitled "How To Be A Contortionist! Bending Made Easy: A Practical Self-Instructor by a Well-Known Professional".

On October 28, 1889, Charles E. Griffin and Mlle. Olivia the Snake Charmer were both working on "Prof. Charles E. Griffin's & Co's Bohemian Glass Blowers and Wizard Novelty Artists" in New Castle PA, according to the New Castle PA Daily City News dated October 29, 1889.

Griffin worked with the Bob Hunting Circus for 12 years from 1886 to 1898 where he eventually owned and operated the sideshow. In 1898, he held a similar position with the Frank A Robbin's Circus. It was during this time around 1897-98, that he met a young snake charmer named Olivia who worked with the show as "Octavia, The Serpent Enchantress". The couple married in 1897-98, with Charles Griffin at about the age of 39, and Oliva about the age of 16-17 (born c 1882).

In 1899, Griffin became stage manager with the Ringling Brothers Circus Side Show based in Baraboo, WI, where he worked for 4 years from 1899 to 1902 as magician, ventriloquist, as well as "Lecturer and Sword Swallower". Griffin's wife Olivia also worked with the show as Octavia, "The White Witch" or as a snake charmers as "Octavia The Serpent Enchantress" (1901), while his brothers, Frank Griffin and Fred Griffin worked with the show, with Fred's wife Julia performing as a mind reader. In the Ringling Brothers Route book of 1901, Chas. E. Griffin is listed as sword swallower, and his wife Octavia is listed as the "Snake Enchantress".

At the end of Ringling Brothers 1902 season, James A. Bailey, who was a major owner of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, visited the show in Canton Ohio in June of 1902 and invited Griffin and his family to tour with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Europe. In December 1902, the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sailed for England. On March 16, 1903, Griffin and his family left Albia, Iowa for New York to join the show in England (Ottumwa Daily Courier dated March 16, 1903). On March 28, 1903, Griffin, his wife Olivia and son set sail for Liverpool England on the Cunard steamer Etruria to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Manchester England. After landing in Liverpool England, Griffin and his family joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Manchester, where Griffin began performing his "Yankee Magic" in the sideshow as the "Yankee Yogi and Conjuror" with his son, while his wife Olivia performed as Mademoiselle Octavia the Yankee Snake Charmer (photo taken c 1903 by W. Davey, in Islington, a borough of London England).

In 1904, when manager Lew Parker decided not to rejoin the show for the 1904 British tour, Griffin was a ready-made replacement to act as manager for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, and in 1904, Griffin took over as manager of the show. In April 1905, the show opened in Paris where it ran through June 4, 1905. From November 1905 through March 1906, the show wintered in Marseilles France. 1905 pitchcard shows Prof. Griffin swallowing three swords with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in France in 1905, and his wife Olivia's pitchcard featuring Mademoiselle Octavia the Yankee Snake Charmer.

The final season for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Europe opened in March 4, 1906 and during 1906, the show toured Italy, Hungary, Russia, Germany, and Belgium. In 1906, Chas. Eldridge Griffin is listed as "Supt. of side shows" with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on July 7, 1906. The sword swallower during the 1906 European tour of Germany and Russia was probably Polish or Russian sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch.

The Griffins returned to the United States on October 20, 1906 aboard the steamer Lucania at New York, when the age of Charles Griffin was listed as 47 and his wife Octavia as 24. After returning to the US, Griffin began writing the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill" in late October 1906. Shortly after arriving back in the US, Griffin suffered a mild stroke. However, he rejoined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for the 1907 season. Octavia worked with the Jones show late in 1906 or maybe 1907, and possibly with the Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Ranch Show. In the fall of 1907, Griffin returned to Albia, Iowa, where he focused on writing and publishing, occasionally entertaining local residents with performances at Albia's Opera House. In 1908, he finished writing the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill", of which 500 copies were published in Albia, Iowa in 1908. Griffin suffered a more serious stroke and died in Albia, IA on January 3, 1914 at the age of 54. Griffin is buried at Oakview Cemetery in Albia, Monroe County, Iowa. Griffin's name also appears in the list of persons associated with Buffalo Bill Cody, referencing Sarah J. Blackstone's book "Buckskins, Bullets, and Business: A History of Buffalo Bill's Wild West" (Greenwood Press, 1986), though he and his autobiography are only briefy mentioned there. More substantial information was found in the William F. Cody Collection in an article from Palimpsest by H. Roger Grant, based on interviews with Charles Griffin's nephew, John W. Griffin. It is titled "An Iowan, with Buffalo Bill: Charles Eldridge Griffin in Europe, 1903-1906., is 13 pages long, and references Griffin's stage and pen name of Mons. F. Le Costro. In the booklet, Griffin gives instructions for both fire eating, and nine books listed that he authored for vaudeville acts. Seeking photos and more information.

Charles E. Griffin Timeline
1859: Born June 16, 1859 in St. Joseph, MO
1862: Family moves to Albia, IA
1870: Lives in Albia, Monroe County, Iowa
1875: Tours school houses, town halls, and county fairs at 16 with his own "one man valise troupe"
1880: Lives in Troy, Monroe County, Iowa
1881: Joins Hilliard & DeMott's Circus as magician and lecturer
1881: Becomes general manager of Paris Pavilion Shows in France
1884-85: Pullman & Mack's Circus as "The Comic Yankee Conjurer"
1885: Joins Sells Brothers Circus as side show lecturer and fire act
1886: Leaves Sells Brothers Circus, joins Hurlburt & Hunting Circus in New York
1887: Bob Hunting's New York Circus as magician and sword swallower
1887: Publishes Griffin's Book of Wonders
1888: Bob Hunting's New York Circus as magician and sword swallower
1889: Bob Hunting's New York Circus as magician and sword swallower
1889: Oct 28: Prof. Charles E. Griffin's & Co's Bohemian Glass Blowers and Wizard Novelty Artists with Mlle Olivia in New Castle, PA
1890: March 3: Prof Griffin's Bohemian Glass Blowers with Mlle Olivia at Salem, OH
1892: Feb 11-22: Charles Griffin's Bohemian Glass Blowers at Riddle's Opera House, Altoona, PA
1892: Bob Hunting Circus as illusionist, ventriloquist, and fire-eater
1893: Jan 9: Prof Chas Griffin & Co's Bohemian Glass Blowers in Newark, OH
1896: Publishes booklet on contortion
1897: Publishes The Showman's Book of Wonders
1897-98: Owns and operates Bob Hunting Circus sideshow
1897-98: Marries Olivia, snake charmer Octavia
1898: Operates Frank A Robbin's Circus sideshow
1899: Becomes stage manager with Ringling Brothers Side Show Baraboo, WI
1900: Ringling Brothers manager, lecturer, sword swallower, ventriloquist, magician
1901: Ringling Brothers manager, lecturer, sword swallower, ventriloquist, magician
1901: Ringling Brothers Mlle Octavia, Snake Enchantress
1902: Ringling Brothers manager, lecturer, sword swallower, ventriloquist, magician
1902: Ringling Brothers Mlle Octavia, Snake Enchantress
1902: Dec: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sails for England
1903: March 16: Griffin and family leave Albia Iowa to join Buffalo Bill Show in UK
1903: March 28: Griffin, wife Olivia and son set sail for Liverpool on Cunard's Etruria to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
1903: July 24: Sword swallower Griffin and Serpent Enchantress Mlle Octavia with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Yeovil UK
1904: Griffin takes over as manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Manchester England
1905: April-June 4: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Paris France
1905: Nov: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show winters in Marseilles France
1906: March 4: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show tours Italy, Hungary, Russia, Germany, and Belgium
1906: October 20: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show returns to New York
1906: Census lists Chas. E. Griffin as "Mgr Priv" & "Supt Side Shows", Buffalo Bill, Frank Griffin: Ticket Seller
1906: Begins writing book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill"
1906: Suffers mild stroke
1907: Rejoins Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
1907: Fall: Returns to Albia, IA
1908: Finishes writing "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill", published in Albia IA
1913: July 2: Mother Fannie Griffin dies in Albia, IA
1914: Jan 3: Charles Griffin suffers stroke and dies in Albia, IA at age 54
1916: March 30: Father John W.H. Griffin dies in Albia, IA

Professor Griffin (1889)
With Mlle Olivia in New Castle PA (10-28-1889)
With Mlle Olivia Snake Charmer Salem OH (3-1-1890)
Olivia Griffin as Octavia, Serpent Enchantress (c 1898)
Olivia Griffin as Octavia, Serpent Enchantress (c 1898)
Professor Griffin with Ringling Bros (c 1900-1901)
Olivia Griffin, Mademoiselle Octavia with Ringling Bros (1901)
Griffin and family leave Iowa for UK with Buffalo Bill (3-16-1903)
Olivia Griffin, Mlle Octavia Yankee Snake Charmer Buffalo Bill (1903-1905)
Mlle Octavia Olivia Griffin Buffalo Bill's Yankee Snake Charmer UK (1903-1904)
Mlle Octavia Olivia Griffin Buffalo Bill's Yankee Snake Charmer UK (1903-1904)
Olivia Griffin, Mlle Octavia Yankee Snake Charmer Buffalo Bill (1903-1905)
Prof. Griffin with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show France (1905)
Charles E. Griffin (1908)
Charles E. Griffin (1908)
Charles E. Griffin gravesite in Albia Iowa
A.E. Welsh
Circassian Sword Swallower
Performed 1880s-90s? New York, NY
(USA)
The "Circassian Beauty", "Circassian Woman" or "Circassian Girl" was a "made" human oddity from the 19th century, also known as a "Moss-Haired Girl". In actuality, the Circassians are a Caucasian people, a North Caucasian ethnic group native to Circassia, who were living in the Caucasus region before being displaced in the course of the Russian conquest of the Caucasus region in the 19th century, especially after the Russian-Circassian War in 1864. The term "Circassian" includes the Adyghe and Kabardian people.

Today there are about 700,000 Circassians remaining in historical Circassia (the republics of Adygea, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and the southern half of Krasnodar Krai), as well as a number in the Russian Federation outside these republics. The Circassians mainly speak the Circassian language, a Northwest Caucasian language with numerous dialects. The Circassians also speak Turkish and Arabic in large numbers and various other languages of the Middle East, having been exiled by Russia to lands of the Ottoman Empire, where the majority of them live today, and to a lesser extent neighboring Persia, where most of them came either deported en masse by the Safavids and Qajars, or to a lesser extent as muhajirs in the 19th century like in Ottoman Turkey. The predominant religion among Circassians is Sunni Islam.

P.T. Barnum exhibited his first "Circassian Girl" in 1864, and after that many other Dime Museums and sideshows followed suit. The pitch that usually accompanied the act involved kidnapping by "Arabs" and being forced into harem life, followed by a harrowing escape resulting in refuge in the sideshow. In order to create a "Circassian Girl" for sideshow exhibition, a white woman would stiffen and bush her hair in the style of the 'Afro' hairdo, which was held in place by the use of beer. (In reality, actual Circassian hairstyles bore no resemblance to the sideshow fantasy hairstyle.)

"Circassian" Sword Swallower A.E. Welsh was photographed by Charles Eisenmann in New York, probably in the 1880s-1890s. While it was somewhat common to see "Circassian" women who worked as snake charmers in the late 1800s, it was extremely rare to find a "Circassian" who worked as a sword swallower. It is unknown if any "Circassian Sword Swallowers" could actually swallow a sword, and this article from 1874 implies that the sword swallowing might have been more of an attention-grabbing tease than an actual performance part of the show. Could this an unknown Circassian sword swallower be a later photo of A.E. Welsh? Seeking photos and more information.

A.E. Welsh
A.E. Welsh (enlarged)
A.E. Welsh (face close-up)
A.E. Welsh signature
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower with sword
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower with sword
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower with sword
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower, later A.E. Welsh?
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower, later A.E. Welsh?
Mlle Zenobia, "Circassian Sword Swallower" McGinley Show (1874)
Description of Circassian Sword Swallower Clark St. Chicago (6-9-1874)
Patrick Mulraney
Patrick Mulroney
Died June 29, 1891
sword swallowing injury
Columbus, OH
(USA)
According to an obituary in the NY Times dated June 29, 1891, "COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 1891 -- Patrick Mulraney, a juggler and sword swallower, injured himself fatally yesterday during his performance at Olentangy Villa. Instead of using the slender sword he was accustomed to, Mulraney took for use in his sword swallowing act a violin bow. Twice he essayed to swallow this, but failed each time, desisting on account of the intense pain caused by inserting the bow in his throat. He immediately commensed vomitting blood, and continued to have these paroxysms until this morning, when he died." According to an article in the June 30, 1891 Indianapolis News, "At Columbus, O., Patrick Mulroney, a sword-swallower, died from the effects of putting a violing bow down his throat." Seeking photos and more information.
Patrick Mulraney obituary (1891)
Patrick Mulroney obituary (6-30-1891)
Patrick Mulraney obituary (6-30-1891)
Sword swallower dies by violin bow
Cavaradassi Performed Jan 17, 1892 Doris Museum in Eighth Avenue
New York, NY
(USA)
According to the January 17, 1892 New York Sun: "In the curio halls this week (of the Doris Museum in Eighth Avenue) are the Patagonian giant with two heads; Cavaradassi, contortionist and sword swallower; Cavalier and Brunhilda, albino twins, Seeking photos and more information..
Kohl & Middleton's
Dime Museums
Opened 1880
Opened Clark Street
Opened State Street 1893
Opened others
Kohl & Middleton's
Dime Museums

Globe Dime Museum
Clark Street
State Street
Chicago, IL
Milwaukee, WI
Cincinnati, OH
Louisville, KY
St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN
Cleveland, OH
(USA)
Kohl & Middleton's State Street Globe Museum, located on State Street in Chicago, included a curio hall, and was opened to the public by George Middleton and C.E. Kohl.

In 1880 George Middleton went out with Adam Forepaugh's circus, and just before the season closed, headed to New York and started a dime museum. Having an acquaintance with curiosities, and managed a circus as well as the side shows, Middleton was familiar with how to run a side show, Middleton rented a room and opened up a dime museum, one of the first in the United States. It proved a success from the start. Middleton continued for about two years, then gave away his dime museum to go back on the road with a circus.

Middleton went out the following season with John O'Brien's circus, which was not very successful. The circus left a trail of plunder behind to pay off debts or as security for debts incurred, that reached from St. Louis to Winnipeg, where Middleton met C.E. Kohl and formed a partnership.

Kohl and Middleton decided there was an opening in Chicago for a dime museum, so they formed a co-partnership and Middleton went on to Chicago to find a location, which he found at 150 West Madison Street, just east of Halstead. It was an instantaneous success, and operated there many years. The next year they opened a Dime Museum at 150 Clark Street, which was also very successful.

During the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, they opened the State Street Dime Museum at 300 State Street, which was also a success. They also established Dime Museums in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Cleveland. All except Cleveland paid handsomely, which was their only failure in the dime museum business.

For three weeks in the late summer of 1895, Kohl & Middleton's Clark Street Dime Museum in Chicago was among the first entertainment venues to show projected moving pictures, featuring the Latham's Eidoloscope.

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers at Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museums.

Timeline of Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museums
1892: May 8: Globe Dime Museum Chicago Cliquot
1892: May 15: Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum Cincinnati Cliquot
1893: Opened State Street Globe Museum during Chicago World's Fair
1894: April 8: State Street Globe Museum Dick Adams
1894: Oct 22: Clark Street Dime Museum Victorina with earliest-known performance by young magician "Houdin"
1895: April 21: State Street Globe Museum Delno Fritz
1895: May 8: Clark Street Museum Delno Fritz
1895: Late summer: Clark Street Dime Museum first to show moving pictures
1902: April 13: Sword swallower Prof. De Roche Middleton's Clark Street Museum Chicago IL

Cliquot at Globe Dime Museum Chicago (5-8-1892)
Cliquot at Kohl & Middleton's Dime Museum Cincinatti (5-15-1892)
Dick Adams at Kohl & Middleton's State Street (4-8-1894)
Victorina with Houdin at Kohl Chicago (10-22-1894)
Delno Fritz at State Street Globe Museum Chicago (4-21-1895)
Delno Fritz at Clark Street Museum (5-8-1895)
Harry Davis Eden Musee
and Family Theatre
Opened Sept 5, 1892
Fire 1897
Harry Davis Eden Musee & Family Theatre
Locust Street near Third Street
Harrisburg, PA
(USA)
Harry Davis Eden Musee and Family Theatre, located at Green Avenue and Eleventh Street in Pittsburgh, included a menagerie, a curio hall, and Theatorium, and was opened to the public on September 5, 1892 by Harry Davis, Manager of the 5th Avenue Museum in Pittsburgh.

Born in Black Friar's row in London in 1861, Harry Davis came to Pittsburgh as a boy in 1870. His father, a millwright, came to Pittsburgh to help create the first tin-plate mill in America. Davis grew up in the Strip District and attended O'Hara public school until the age of 11 when he took a job in a florist shop. He worked as a traveling carnival barker before he became a promoter in Pittsburgh. In the 1880s his first profitable enterprise was promoting sporting events called "walking matches" at the old Grand Central rink on Penn Avenue. Using his $900 in profits he leased the O'Brien Dime Museum on Fifth Avenue renaming it the Eden Musee. The Musee offered a freak show museum and a Theatorium where lecturers and musicians performed. Earning $20,000 a year in ticket sales, Davis continued to invest in Pittsburgh entertainment, and Pittsburgh became one of the most important theatre centers in the country when 25,000 to 30,000 people attended his downtown theatres daily. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers at Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg.

Timeline of Harry Davis Eden Musee and Family Theatre
1892: Sept 5: Eden Musee opens under Harry Davis
1892: Sept 15: Cliquot
1892: Dec 31: Cliquot
1893: Dec 31: Delno Fritz
1894: Jan 8: Delno Fritz & Maud Churchill
1894: Oct 29-31: Delno Fritz & Maud Churchill
1894: Dec 22: Delno Fritz
1897: Fire

Cliquot at Harry Davis Eden Musee (12-31-1892)
Delno Fritz at Harry Davis Eden Musee (1-8-1894)
Delno Fritz & Maud Churchill at Harry Davis Eden Musee (10-29-1894)
Delno Fritz & Maud Churchill at Harry Davis Eden Musee (10-30-1894)
Delno Fritz & Maud Churchill at Harry Davis Eden Musee (10-31-1894)
Delno Fritz at Eden Musee (12-22-1894)
Annie Roy
Anna Roy
Anna E. Roy
Mrs. Rob Roy
Annie Wiser
Anna Elizabeth Wiser
Anna Elizabeth Wright

"Albino Sword Swallower"
"White Madagascar Moor"
Born March 15, 1863
Married 1891
Performed c 1893-1897
Died Nov 8, 1941
sword swallowers grave
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Ringling Brothers Circus
(USA)
Annie Roy was one of the first female sword swallowers with Ringling Brothers Circus and Barnum and Bailey circuses in the mid 1890s.

Born an albino as Annie Elizabeth Wiser on March 15, 1863 (probably in Cochrans Mills, PA) of John Wiser (1829-1909) and Martha Frick Wiser (1827-1909), Annie was the sister of albino entertainer Lewis Wiser (born Aug 25 1865 in Cochrans Mills, PA photo at 30, died 1951), who may have later reinvented himself to become known as "Unzie The Albino".

In 1891 at about the age of 28, Annie Wiser was married to an albino gentleman of Scotch-Irish descent named Rob Roy or Robert Roy. In actuality, this albino was said to be born as John Campbell in Glasgow, Scotland around 1861, and when he started in show business, he took the name of the famous Scottish folk hero, Rob Roy. However, Rob Roy himself later states in a 1916 letter that he was born in New York City.

In 1893, Annie was listed in the Barnum and Bailey Circus route book as the "White Madagascar Moor", a "silent stander", an albino who could pose as statuary without the white makeup. Annie appeared for Ringling Brothers Circus as the "White Madagascar Princess", her description in the 1893 Official Program tying her skin tone to classical themes and beauty. "In appearance, Annie resembles very much the sculptured female godliness of Grecian art. Her snow white hair and alabaster complexion, together with her graceful form, if clad in flowing robes of white, such as Grecian maidens wore in ancient times, would make an excellent imitation of marble." Other photos show Anna and Rob Roy together in 1893 and 1894. In 1894, Rob Roy was listed with Ringling Brothers Circus, and a photo of Annie and Rob was featured in the Ringling Brothers World's Greatest Shows route book.

On March 26, 1894, the albino couple gave birth to their first and only son in Pennsylvania, also albino, who they named King Charles Roy, possibly in honor of Charles I the king of Scotland. King Charles Roy was promoted as "The First Albino Born in the US" of albino parents because at the time it was thought that albino parents always had normal-pigmented children. (Rob Roy letter)

Between 1894-1897 Rob Roy performed as "The Albino Dislocationist" with Barnum and Bailey Circus, and then from 1897-1901 he performed with Barnum and Bailey in Europe. (Delno Fritz was featured as the sword swallower with Barnum & Bailey during this period in Europe, and there is no mention of Annie Roy during this period). In a May 21, 1903 article in "The Realm Magazine of Marvels", Rob Roy and sword swallower Mlle Edith Clifford were featured together with Barnum and Bailey Circus, and in 1904, Rob Roy and Mlle Edith Clifford were featured together on a Barnum and Bailey poster in Madison Square Garden, NY. In 1911, Rob Roy, the Albino Wonder was featured on the Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show.

In a letter dated March 15, 1916, albino Robert Roy writes to Dr. C. B. Davenport in New York: "Dear Sir: I received your kind letter and cheque. I give you permission to use the manes[sic] of myself and family along with the photographs. Mr. Robert Roy - Mrs. Annie L. Roy - and son, King Charles Roy. But do not forget to mention in your book that King Charles Roy is the first and only Albino child born in the United States of Albino Parents, as we have no record of any other. Both his mother and himself were born in the state of Pennsylvania. I was born in New York City. If there are any other particulars you would like to know, I shall be glad to inform you. Yours respectfully, Robert Roy." (No further information on Rob Roy found after 1916).

In 1912, Anna Roy bought a farm in Crawford County, PA which she later gave to her son King Charles Roy. King Charles Roy was known as "The First Albino Child Born of Albino Parents in the US.". He performed with various circuses as an "Albino Contortionist", and was good friends with Frank Lentini, the "Three Legged Man".

There is a story that one of King Charles Roy's children was born on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train that later had a wreck at 4am on June 22, 1918 in Ivanhoe near Hammond IN, and King Charles was presumed dead, although he later turned up alive. In fact, King Charles' oldest son was born in a hospital, and the rest were born at home, and King Charles Roy's bags made it on the train, but he somehow missed the train which led to the speculation of his demise in the accident.

On December 8, 1926 King Charles Roy was married to his first cousin Minnie Belle Wiser (born 1904 in Apollo, Indiana County, PA, died 1991), daughter of his uncle George Wiser. The firstborn child of King Charles and Minnie Roy was Prince Everett Roy who was born on August 28, 1927 at Dreamland Circus Side Show, Coney Island, New York. (This information came from Minnie Roy's own journal written in her own hand-writing that she kept from 1927 until 1932). The couple had nine children, six of whom had the albino trait.

In 1928, King Charles and Minnie bought a house in Jamestown, PA, and retired from the circus in 1932.

In 1938-39, Annie Roy moved in with her son King Charles Roy. According to her obituary, on November 8, 1941 at 10:30 am Annie Roy died at the age of 78 in Jamestown, PA. Her obituary and the deed to the Jamestown house list her name as "Anna Elizabeth Wright". Anna E. Roy is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery in Jamestown, PA. Annie Roy had two sets of swords and bayonets, one with a pearl handle, and another etched with a lion's head. Annie's swords were sold by Glenn Roberts around 2002 or 2003 in Sharon PA in a time of hardship to pay bills, and they are now owned by Lyle Tuttle.

Annie's son King Charles Roy owned several businesses including a barbershop and the Jamestown Bait Hatchery which he owned and operated for 35 years before retiring in 1960. King Charles and Minnie had 9 children, 6 of whom were albinos, and 3 who were not. King Charles Roy died on February 26, 1980 at the age of 86 in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Surviving are his wife, the former Minnie B. Wiser, whom he married Dec. 8, 1926; five sons, Prince E., Raymond J., Russell E., and Larry L., all of Jamestown, and Richard C., Beaver, Pa.; four daughters, Mrs. Harold (Alice) Hoover, Mercer; Mrs. Ed (Helen G) Salisbury, Harker Heights, Texas; Mrs. Ray (Evelyn R.) Smith, Erie; and Miss Juana J. Roy at home; nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Seeking photos and more information on Anna Elizabeth Wiser Wright, Annie Roy.

Anna Wiser Annie Roy Timeline
1863: March 15: Born Annie Elizabeth Wiser in Cochran Mills, PA
1865 (69?): Brother Lewis Wiser born in Cochran Mills, PA
1891: Married to albino Rob Roy
1893: Barnum and Bailey Circus route book as "White Madagascar Moor"
1894: March 26: Albino son King Charles Roy born
1894: Rob Roy with Ringling Brothers Circus, Annie and Rob featured in Ringling Brothers World's Greatest Shows route book
1894-1897: Rob Roy performed as "Albino Dislocationist" with Barnum and Bailey Circus
1897-1901: Rob Roy performed with Barnum and Bailey in Europe
1903: Rob Roy and Mlle Edith Clifford featured with Barnum and Bailey
1904: Rob Roy and Mlle Edith Clifford featured on Barnum and Bailey in Madison Square Garden, NY
1911: Rob Roy at Dreamland Circus Side Show Coney Island NY
1912: Anna Roy buys farm in Crawford County, PA, gives to son King Charles Roy
1916: Rob Roy writes letter about albinism
1926: Dec 8: King Charles Roy marries first cousin Minnie Belle Wiser
1927: King Charles Roy works with Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show
1927: Aug 28: Prince Everett Roy born to King Charles at Dreamland Circus Side Show Coney Island NY
1928: King Charles and Minnie buy a house in Jamestown, PA
1932: King Charles Roy retires from circus life
1938-39: Annie Roy moves in with her son King Charles Roy
1941: Nov 8: Annie Roy dies at the age of 78 in Jamestown, PA
1960: King Charles Roy retires after 35 years from Jamestown Bait & Hatchery
1980: King Charles Roy dies at the age of 86 in Jamestown, PA

Annie Wiser Roy
Annie Roy
Annie Roy
Louis Wiser at 30
Lewis Wiser "Unzie The Albino"
Rob Roy
Rob Roy
Rob & Annie Roy, Ringling Routebook (1893)
King Charles Roy
Rob Roy letter (3-15-1916)
Chicago World's Fair 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Chicago World's Fair
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Between May 1, 1893 and October 31, 1893, an estimated 27 million people attended Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition -- officially planned to celebrate the European discovery of the New World -- and marvelled at the Exposition's neo-classical vision of ordered community, cultural displays, and artistic exhibits. The World's Columbian Exposition, situated on a 1.3 mile long strip in Jackson Park, Chicago, and introduced a wealth of inventions to America and the world. It was at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair that sword swallowing was first introduced to America at large, and it was here that sword swallowing first became accepted as popular in America by being one of the hit features of the fair. The Chicago World's Fair became so popular in 1893, that it was later replicated again with the Chicago World's Fair of 1933-1934 where sword swallowing was again one of the most popular highlights.
Albert Heiling
Albert Heling
Born Aug 24, 1873
Injured Jan 26, 1895
Died Jan 27, 1895
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers grave
Lee's Circus
Muskegon, MI
(USA)
According to an article in the NY Times dated Jan 27, 1895: "MUSKEGON, Mich., Jan. 26 - Albert Heiling aged twenty-one, while practicing a sword-swallowing act, drove the sword into his stomach beyond his reach. Physicians were called and cut him open as the only means of recovering the sword. Heiling may die." According to an article in the Abilene Daily Reflector dated January 28, 1895: "Albert Heiling, a professional fire eater and sword swallower, in practice in his room inserted an 18-inch sword in his throat and started to put in a seond. The latter struck the end of the first, driving it below the palate into the stomach. Then he climbed a ladder and called for help over the transom and afterward walked nine blocks to a doctor's office and then home. His recovery is doubtful."

According to the January 28 1895 St. Paul Globe: "Albert Heiling, a professional fire eater and sword swallower, recently with Lee's circus, swollowed an eighteen-inch sword at the opera house last night while practicing for the Elks minstrels, and will probably die. In order to do the work better, Heiling locked himself in a room by himself and proceeded to put three swords down his throat. He had inserted one safely, but the second sword struck the end of the first, driving it below the palate into the stomach. Then he climbed a ladder and called for help over the transom. Heiling afterward walked nine blocks to a doctor's office and then home. An operation was performed by Drs. Denslow, Garber, and Vanderlaan. Believing the point to be at the base of the stomach, they made an incision there, but Heiling had walked so far the sword had sunk into the lower abdomen, necessitating another incision. Heiling is twenty-one years old, and though he is strong, his recovery is doubtful."

According to an article in the Edenton NC Fisherman and Farmer dated Feb 8, 1895, "At Muskegon Michigan, Albert Heiling, who swallowed an eighteen-inch sword while practicing for an amateur entertainment, died in terrible agony. His intense suffering turned his hair from a dark brown to a light grey."

Albert Heiling died on January 27, 1895 in Muskegon Michigan at the age of 21, and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Muskegon, Michigan, USA, Plot: 4-18-1. His parents, August and Katrina Heling were both born in Germany. Seeking photos and more information.

Albert Heiling injury article (1-1895)
Albert Heiling injury article (1-28-1895)
Albert Heiling injury article (1-28-1895)
Albert Heiling death article (2-8-1895)
Albert Heling grave site
Dick Adams Performed April 8, 1894 Kohl & Middleton's State Street Globe Museum
Chicago, IL
(USA)
According to an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune dated April 8, 1894: "Chauncey Moreland and his wife, known in museum circles as the "married mastodons," will make their first appearance at Kohl & Middleton's State Street Globe Museum this week. Other attractions will be the black Sampson, Charlie Adams, the armless painter, and Dick Adams, a sword swallower." Seeking photos and more information.

Dick Adams at Kohl & Middleton's (4-8-1894)
Lieutenant J. J. Hooper
The Champion Sword Swallower
Performed May 20, 1894 The Midway Plaisance
Picayune, LA
(USA)
According to an article in the Times-Picayune dated May20, 1894: "As the entr' act Lieutenant J.J. Hooper, "the champion sword swallower" performed some wonderful feats" at The Midway Plaisance. Seeking photos and more information.

Lt. J.J. Hooper at The Midway Plaisance (5-20-1894)
August Reicke Born 1844
Attempted suicide Oct 31, 1894
New York, NY
(USA)
According to an article in the Alexandria Gazette dated October 31, 1894: "A Sword Swallower Out of Work - August Reicke, a professional sword swallower, 50 years old, has not had work in his line for some time. He had a family to support at 16 Willet Street, and he became despondent. Monday night he took an old cavalry sabre blade twenty-three inches long and started to plunge it down his throat. His hand was not steady and the sword cut his throat. The pain made him cry out, and, whirling it around his head, lunged about the room. The screams of his wife and children startled one of the tenants in the house, who peeped in the door. Seeing Reicke with the sword in his hands and the wife and children in fear, he slammed the door and ran yelling to the street for a policeman. Officer Fallon opended the door of Reicke's room and saw him swing the sword. "What are you trying to do?" asked Fallon. "I've killed seven people and have buried their bodies, and I'm ready for more," Reicke replied. He was sent to Bellevue. -New York Herald" Seeking photos and more information.

August Reicke attempts suicide (10-31-1894)
James Reilly Attempted suicide Feb 27, 1896 Clark and Polk Streets
Chicago, IL
(USA)
According to an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune dated February 29, 1896: "Detective arrests James Reilly because his act resembles suicide. James Reilly is a professional sword swallower. On Thursday evening (February 27, 1896), he was entertaining a crowd at Clark and Polk streets when Detective John McMahon thought the man was about to commit suicide and arrested him. Justice Richardson discharged him."

According to an article in the March 4, 1896 Bangor Daily Whig and Courier: "A Chicago dispatch says James Reilly, a sword swallower, had the laugh on Detective John McMahon in Justice Richardson's court at the armory. Reilly was arrested last night with his outfit of swords in a satchel. He visited Clark street as soon as he emerged from the train and was soon in a happy frame of mind. At Polk street he undertook to entertain a crowd of several hundred persons by his mystifying feats. Detective McMahon came along just in time to see Reilly place a huge sword in his mouth to swallow it. McMahon rushed through the crowd and grasping the surprised Reilly, said: "Come along now, my man; you can't commit suicide while I'm around, and in the presence of so many people." In vain, Reilly protested that he could swallow a dozen swords at once, but he carried off to the Harrison street police station. To-day McMahon explained to Justice Richardson that he saved Reilly from committing suicide. Reilly explained to His Honor his profession, and loud was the jeering and laughter the officer was forced to submit to from his brother officers." Seeking photos and more information.

James Reilly arrested for attempted suicide (2-29-1896)
James Reilly article (3-4-1896)
King Salvo
King Sabro
King Sabbro
King Sarbro
Prof. Sarbro
Senor Sarbro
Signor Sarbro
Professor Sarbro
Born c. 1954
Performed July 1896-1897
Huber's 14th Street Museum
Austin & Stone's Museum
Clark's Combined Shows
Atlanta Exposition
9th & Arch Museum
Barcelona
(Spain)
King Salvo the sword swallower was featured at Huber's Fourteenth Street Museum in New York on July 5, 1896. On July 27 and 30, King Sarbro, champion sword swallower performed at Austin & Stone's Museum in Boston. On July 31, 1896, King Sabbro the sword swallower was featured as appearing soon with Clark's Combined Shows in St. Genevieve Missouri. On August 1-2, 1896, King Sarbro was featured at Austin & Stone's in Boston.

According to an article dated December 17, 1896 in the Charlotte Observer: "Prof. Sarbro, of Barcelona Spain, arrived here yesterday, and last night, at Dr. Hawley's office, gave an exhibition of sword swallowing. Dr. E. C. Register was an interested spectator. The professor is a great one. Given an army sabre 34 inches long, he swallowed 29 inches of the blade. He swallowed a strip of iron three feet long and bent it in his throat. He swallowe swords of various lengths, allowing different ones in the audience to draw them out. There is no trick about the business, Sarbro being a real sword swallower. Dr. Register said he had heard and read of these artists, but this is the first one he has had personal knowledge of. Sarbro is 42 years old. He was at the Atlanta Exposition."

On November 7, 1897, King Sabro was advertized at 9th & Arch Museum in Philadelphia PA. Seeking photos and more information.

King Salvo at Huber's 14th Street Museum (7-5-1896)
King Sarbro Austin & Stone's Museum (7-27-1896)
King Sarbro Austin & Stone's Museum (7-30-1896)
King Sarbro Austin & Stone's Museum (8-1-1896)
King Sarbro Austin & Stone's Museum (8-2-1896)
King Sabbro at St. Genevieve MO (7-31-1896)
King Sarbro in Charlotte NC description (12-17-1896)
King Sabro at 9th & Arch Museum (11-7-1897)
P. Widowski
Paul Widowski
Paul Widowsky
"World Champion Sword Swallower"
Performed 1890s-1930? Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 68 IV
Berlin
(Germany)
Paul Widowski or Paul Widowsky was known as "World Champion Sword Swallower" of his time (also labeled "Schwertschlucker" or "Sword Swallower" in German). Widowski was listed in 1930 in a Berlin address book as "Paul Widowski, Artist, Pankow, Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße 68 IV, Berlin". Seeking photos and more information..

Paul Widowski (1890s)
W.H. Turner
William H. Turner
One-Armed Sword Swallower
Born c. 1845
Photo July 1, 1938
Gettysburg, PA
(USA)
After serving in the Union Army and working with the circus, one-armed Union Army veteran sword swallower W.H. Turner was still amusing audiences by swallowing swords at the age of 93 on July 1, 1938 at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Originally from Lebanon, MO, Turner was a former circus performer. Seeking photos and more information.
WH Turner (1938)
WH Turner (info)
Hope F. Roland
J.B. Roland A. Tyers
Died July 18, 1897
sword swallowing injury
Prince Albert, Sask
Winnipeg, Manitoba
(Canada)
"Hope F. Roland, of Prince Albert, an amateur sword swallower, who came to the city last Thursday to obtain an engagement at the fair, died Sunday morning (July 18, 1897) at the General hospital. On Friday afternoon he was giving a private exhibition of his powers, and he successfully performed a number of his acts; he then attempted to swallow a long sharp edged sword; unfortunately he allowed it to go too far, with the result that he injured himself internally. Upon withdrawing the weapon, he immediately commenced to vomit blood. He was removed to the General hospital, where little hope was entertained of his recovery, owing to the doctors being unable to get at the seat of his injuries. He suffered uncomfortably and continued to vomit blood until the end came. The deceased came to Canada only a short time ago, and was engaged in farming, and he intended to give up this work, and follow sword swallowing profession. He has a brother at Ellisboro, who has been communicated with in regard to the funeral arrangements. The dead man was registered at the Clifton house, where his effects are at the present time." This information from an article in the Winnipeg Tribune dated July 19, 1897.

Another article in the July 20, 1879 Ottawa Journal stated: "Winnipeg, Man: J.B. Roland, of Prince Albert, who has gained some repute as an amateur sword swallower, arrived in this city a few days ago, and to keep in training practised swallowing swords quite frequently. On Friday, he made some slip which caused a rupture of some of his internal organs. He was taken to the general hospital, where he suffered intense agony. Owing to the strange manner in which the injury was inflicted, the doctors could do nothing for the man, and he died Sunday."

"The remains of the late A. Tyers, the unfortunate sword swallower, were forwarded to Portage la Prairie to-day for interment" according to the July 28, 1897 Winnipeg Tribune. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.

Bizarre Medical Abnormalities Published 1897
sword swallowing injury
(USA) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities" published in 1897: "There are many cases on record in which injury to the stomach has been due to some mistake or accident in the juggling process of knife-swallowing or sword-swallowing. The records of injuries of this nature extend back many hundred years, and even in the earlier days the delicate operation of gastrotomy sometimes with a successful issue, was performed upon persons who had swallowed knives. The physiologic explanation of sword-swallowing is quite interesting. We know that when we introduce the finger, a spoon, brush, etc. into the throat of a patient, we cause extremely disagreeable symptoms. There is nausea, gagging, and considerable hindrance with the function of respiration. It therefore seems remarkable that there are people whose physiologic construction is such that, without apparent difficulty, they are enabled to swallow a sword many inches long. Many of the exhibitionists allow the visitors to touch the stomach and outline the point of the sabre through the skin. The sabre used is usually very blunt and of rounded edges, or if sharp, a guiding tube of thin metal is previously swallowed. The explanation of these exhibitions is as follows: The instrument enters the mouth and pharynx, then the esophagus, traverses the cardiac end of the stomach, and enters the latter as far as the antrum of the pylorus, the small culdesac of the stomach. In their normal state in the adult these organs are not in a straight line, but are so placed by the passage of the sword. In the first place the head is thrown back, so that the mouth is in the direction of the esophagus, the curves of which disappear or become less as the sword proceeds; the angle that the esophagus makes with the stomach is obliterated, and finally the stomach is distended in the vertical diameter and its internal curve disappers, thus permitting the blade to traverse the greater diameter of the stomach. According to Guyot-Daubès, these organs, in a straight line, extend a distance of from 55 to 62 cm., and consequently the performer is enabled to swallow an instrument of this length. The length is divided as follows:

Mouth and pharynx.....10 to 12 cm.
Esophagus.................25 to 28 cm.
Distended stomach.....20 to 22 cm.
Total..........................55 to 62 cm.

These acrobats with the sword have rendered important service to medicine. It was through the good offices of a sword-swallower that the Scotch physician, Dr. Stevens, was enabled to make his experiments on digestion in 1777. He caused this assistant to swallow small metallic tubes pierced with holes. They were filled, according to Reaumer's method, with pieces of meat. After a certain length of time, he would have the acrobat disgorge the tubes, and in this way he observed to what degree the process of digestion had taken place. It was also probably the sword-swallower who showed the physicians to what extent the pharynx could be habituated to contract, and from this resulted the invention of the tube of Faucher, the esophageal sound, lavage of the stomach, and illumination of this organ by electric light."

Diagram of Sword Swallower (1894)
Diagram of Sword Swallower (1897)
Enno Strauss-Hassan
Enno Strauss-Hanson
"The World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
? England
(UK)
Enno Strauss-Hassan (or Hanson) was one of England's greatest sword swallowers, and at one time, was known as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". He was one of the first to experiment with swallowing glass neon tubes which eventually killed him. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Karmi
Kar-mi
Prince Karmi
Kar-mi Victorina
Joe Van Victorina
Joseph B. Hallworth
Joseph Bryant Hallworth
Miss Victorina
Kitty Fisher
Kitty Fischer
Katie B. Fischer
Kitty Fisher Hallworth
Kitty Fischer Hallworth
Katie Fischer Hallworth
Katherine Bertha Fischer
The Victorinas
The Victorina Show
The Victorina Troupe
The Great Kar-mi Troupe
Born April 30, 1872 (1874?)
Married Oct 15, 1891
Performed 1890-1914
Joseph died 1954 (1956?)
Katie died 1969
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers gravesword swallowers grave
Berlin
(Germany)
Lowell, Massachusetts
(USA)
The Victorinas were a performing husband and wife team in the 1890s, where husband Joe Van Victorina (better known as "Kar-mi") and wife Miss Victorina (Katherine, Katie Fischer or Kitty B. Fischer) both swallowed swords in their acts. In the highlight of his act, Kar-mi would swallow a loaded gun barrel, and while it was down his throat, would shoot a cracker off a man's head, while Miss Victorina was said to have swallowed a record 16 swords at once around the turn of the century. In one of Miss Victorina's early photos from the 1890s (possibly while she was still working in Berlin?), the caption says in German: "Victorina - Die berühmteste Schwert-Verschlingerin in der Welt" ("Victorina - The Most Famous Sword Devourer in the World!") In 1899, the Victorinas put out a "Text Book On The Art of Sword Swallowing - Explaining How To Do It Sixteen Different Ways" with some mythical tips on how to swallow swords, some written in an untranslatable ancient script. The Boston Herald of December 28th, 1902, described Victorina's performance: "By long practice she has accustomed herself to swallow swords, daggers, bayonets, walking sticks, rods, and other dangerous articles. Her throat and food passages have become so expansive that she can swallow three long swords almost up to the hilts, and can accommodate a dozen shorter blades." On one occasion, while Miss Victorina was sword-swallowing in Boston, a sword pierced a vein in her throat. The blade was half-way down, but instead of immediately pulling it out, she pushed it further in. She was laid up in a hospital for 3 months after this performance.

But who were KAR-MI and Miss Victorina? KAR-MI was the stage name of performer Joe Van Victorina, born Joseph Bryant Hallworth (1872-1956), an itinerant entertainer who worked in Wild West shows, circuses, dime museums, riverboats, vaudeville, movie houses, and other venues from the 1890s up until World War I. In actuality, the more accurate answer is more complicated and less than precise. Magic historians and enthusiasts know KAR-MI from the many vintage posters, theater cards, and ephemera that often appear on the antiques market. The posters present KAR-MI as the prince of India and high priest of conjurers and spirit workers. They advertise a number of KAR-MI's sword-swallowing, knife-throwing, mind-reading, and conjuring feats, proclaiming "Swallows a loaded gun barrel and shoots a cracker from a man's head," "KAR-MI was buried alive for 32 days," and "Swallows a table leg two feet long." Other posters refer to KAR-MI, his wife, and two sons as the Victorina Show or Victorina Troupe, in which Miss Victorina swallows swords and razors. Still other posters advertise motion picture shows featuring spectacular train wrecks and automobile accidents of cars "traveling at 1,000 mph!" Aside from the exaggerated posters and Hallworth's reminiscences that appeared in the early 1950s, not much reality is actually known about KAR-MI.

Joseph Bryant Hallworth was born April 30, 1872 (1874?) to Thomas Leigh and Anna Harriet Hallworth in Chelsea Massachusetts. The story that Joseph Hallworth told about himself and his showbiz family always began with his claim to have learned to read at the age of three, as his parents worked in the field of public education. At six years old, he claimed to have read the classics and had an "intimate knowledge of Shakespeare, Fielding, Byron, Swift, Balzac, and many others." (Remember, he was an entertainer, and nothing entertains as well as a good story.) In 1886, Hallworth ran away from home at the age of 14, and for a few years, worked out West as a fur trapper, prospector, and cowboy. Hallworth began his show business career in a "one-ring wagon circus in Kansas, and went on to perform as a sharp-shootin', knife-throwin' cowboy in a medicine show, a Wild West show, and the Chatham Square Museum in New York. According to the Who's Who in America: HALLWORTH, Joseph Bryant, author; b. Chelsea, Mass., Apr. 30, 1872; s. Thomas Leigh and Harriet Anna H.; ed. pub. schs.; married New York, Oct. 15, 1891, Katie B. Fischer. Ran away from home at 14, traveled all over West as cowboy; became engraver 1892; now engaged in Vaudeville magic, travelling with his family known as "Victorina Troupe of Hindoo Wonder Workers." Author: Arline Valerie, P3. Address: Belle Av., Lowell, Mass."

After marrying Katie B. Fischer (Katherine Bertha Fischer, better known as Kitty Fisher), a German sword swallower from Berlin, on October 15, 1891 in Manhattan, New York, Hallworth became an engraver in 1892. Soon thereafter, Hallworth and his wife began performing together as "Kar-mi" and "Miss Victorina" in traveling shows as "The Victorinas" or "The Victorina Troupe", adding song-and-dance routines, snake charming, fire eating, and fortune telling, along with acts of magic, illusion, and mind-reading. Fischer was born in Germany where she claimed to have learned sword swallowing at the age of 12. Their sons joined the family business too - one dressed as a female assistant to assist in KAR-MI's illusions, the other as the young Hindu beauty that KAR-MI appeared to make float in midair.

According to an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune dated October 21, 1894: "Lady Sword Swallower, and Houdin, Magician" at Kohl & Middleton's Clark Street Dime Museum in Chicago. In Chicago Miss Victorina had an even narrower escape. One day while performing at the Dime Museum on Clark Street with a very young Harry Houdini, Victorina passed a long thin dagger down her throat. In withdrawing it, the blade snapped in two, leaving the pointed portion some distance in her passage. Dropping the hilt on the floor, she leaned forward, and placing her finger and thumb down her throat, she succeeded in catching the end of the blade and pulled it out.

In 1898, the Hallworths gave birth to their daughter Pearl. According to the Philadelphia Times dated April 2, 1899, "First Appearance in America of Victorina The Viennese Venus, the Only Woman Sword Swallower in the World" at Ninth and Arch Dime Museum in Philadelphia, PA.

On May 27, 1901 and February 2, 1902, the Victorinas were booked at Austin & Stone's Museum in Boston. On October 17, 1901, Victorina was featured at the 9th and Arch Museum.

In 1910, "Mr. and Mrs. Joseph B. Hallworth and son performed together in Vaudeville". In 1914, Joseph B. Hallworth was recorded as being buried alive in Chicago.

Joseph Hallworth ended his performance career when his two sons were drafted to serve in World War I. The Hallworth family retired to the small town of Lowell, Massachusetts where Hallworth returned to printing and engraving.

A collection of KAR-MI props and posters are housed in the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester New York. All the information about KAR-MI - including his own account - is fascinating because it gives context to the collection of Kar-mi props and posters, and a better understanding of sensationalist marketing, showmanship, and public entertainment in the early 20th century. On the other hand, KAR-MI's life story may be as much an illusion as KAR-MI's act itself. Seeking photos and more information.

Joe Hallworth (1874-1954) and Katie B. Hallworth (1883-1969) are buried together in Hillside Cemetery in Issaquah WA. They had a daughter named Pearl Hallworth Sargent who was born in 1898, and married to Chauncey W. White on January 1, 1945.

Joseph and Katie Hallworth Timelines
1872 (1874?): Joseph Bryant Hallworth born April 30 in Chelsea MA
1883: Katherine Bertha Fischer born in Berlin Germany
1886 (1888?): Joseph runs away from home at 14
1880s: Chatham Square Museum New York
1891: Oct 15: Marries German sword swallower Katie Kitty B. Fischer in Manhattan NY
1892: Joseph becomes engraver
1890s: Begin performing as Karmi and Miss Victorina, The Victorinas
1894: Oct 22: Victorina with earliest-known young magician Houdin at Kohl & Middleton's Clark Street Dime Museum Chicago
1898: Daughter Pearl born
1899: April 2: 9th and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1899:
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
1899: Mar 7: Huber's Museum NY
1900: Huber's Museum NY
1901: May 27: Austin & Stone's Museum Boston
1901: Oct 17: 9th and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1902: Feb 2: Back from Europe, at Austin & Stone's Museum Boston
1910: Perform with son in Vaudeville
1914: Joseph buried alive in Chicago IL
1914: Sons drafted into WWI
191?: Retire in Lowell, MA to printing and engraving
1956: Joseph B. Hallworth dies, buried in Hillside Cemetery Issaquah WA
1969: Katie B. Hallworth dies, buried in Hillside Cemetery Issaquah WA

Kar-Mi Flyer (1890s)
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina holding sword (1890s)
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina swallowing 10 (1890s)
The Victorinas? (1890s)
Victorina's Booklet (1899)
Kar-Mi Poster (1899)
Kar-Mi Poster (1899)
Victorina at Austin & Stone's Boston (5-27-1901)
Victorinas at Austin & Stone's Boston (2-2-1902)
Kar-Mi Poster (1914)
Kar-Mi Poster (1914)
Kar-Mi Poster (1914)
Kar-Mi Poster (1914)
Kar-Mi face
Joseph B. Hallworth Who's Who bio
Kar-Mi props
Katie and Joe Hallworth Gravesite
Frank Skerbeck
Frank Sherback
Born June 15, 1847
Learned 1859
Married 1869
Performed 1859-1898
Died June 15, 1921
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers grave
Skerbeck Family & Co.
One Ring Circus

Dorchester, Wisconsin
(USA)
Frank Skerbeck (or sometimes Frank Sherback) was proprietor and manager, and performed sword walking and sword swallowing on the Skerbeck Family and Co. One Ring Circus. Frank Skerbeck was born in Austic, Austria, on June 15, 1847, and learned sword swallowing at the age of twelve in 1859 and entered the circus ring. Skerbeck always laid claim to the fact that he was the first man to perform this feat, which was never disputed. On Feb. 22, 1869 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Tillie and 16 children were born to them, eight of who are dead and eight living; three sons, Joe, Gust and Frank, and five daughters, Antonette, Annie, Clara, Amanda and Pearl. The Skerbeck family resided in the village of Dorchester, Wisconsin during the winter and were on the road with their amusement company in the summer. Notes from the Skerbeck Family and Co. One Ring Circus: "We are in our third week since our opening at Dorchester, Wisconsin, playing the northern part of Wisconsin for four weeks longer, then on boat runs in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. We have the Dwyer Bros.' balloon ascension and parachute jumping. . . . Frank Skerbeck is proprietor and manager; Joe Skerbeck, equestrian director; Gus Skerbeck, bareback rider; Anton Skerbeck, principal clown; Miss Mandy Skerbeck, contortion; the Skerbeck children, Frankey and Perine, acrobatic and ground and lofty tumbling; Prof. Williams and his trained horse; Billy Morrow and his troupe of dogs... Johnny Fox, equilibrist; Dwyer Bros., balloon ascension. Sideshow under the management of Prof. W. R. Jones: W. R. Jones, magician, ventriloquist and orator; Mrs. Vida Jones, mind reading and second sight; Miss Clarrie Skerbeck, snake enchantress; Frank Skerbeck, sword walking and sword swallowing. Concert, under the direction of Johnny Fox: Johnny Fox, jig dancing on his hands; the Nelsons, John and Ella, musical turn; Fred Given, black face comedian; W. R. Jones and Nida, in afterpiece. Band: Prof. Joe Nerda, leader, with six people; Slim Davis, boss canvasman with fourteen assistants; Joe Berey, boss cook with four flunkeys. We eat on lot, sleep at hotels." New York Clipper, May 28, 1898, p. 213. During wedding festivities of his granddaughter, Tillie Sebold, on his 74th birthday, Frank Skerbeck in his genial way, suggested a ride to add to their joy riding on his merry-go-round at Oshkosh. During the ride, he quietly slipped away into the land where trouble never follows, and died on his 74th birthday on June 15, 1921. He is buried in Dorchester Memorial Cemetery, Dorchester, Clark County, Wisconsin. Seeking photos and more information.

Frank Sherback death (6-17-1921)
Joe Riley
"Sensational Sword Swallower"
Joseph Riley Fleming
Born c. 1866
Performed 1898-1914
Lived to 1929
Died ?
Andrew Downie Circus
Hillburn, NY
Ramapo, NY
Rockland County, NY
(USA)
Joe Riley was born as Joseph R. Fleming around 1866 in Hillburn, NY where he lived most of his life with the exception of when he was on the road performing with his own show or on vaudeville. Joe started out as a pencil artist and did some of his best artwork around 1892. His first stage performance took place around the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898 when he was 32 years old. According to his pitch card, he was known as the "Sensational Sword Swallower", and his act was described as "presenting a realistic and thrilling scientific exhibition in the art of "Swallowing of the Swords", also carving-knives, daggers, shears, saws, cimeters (sic), curved swords, bayonets and other allied props and various other articles of steel without any deception at all." In 1905, the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published May 20, 1905 states that "Joe Riley is with the Andrew Downie Circus, doing his sword swallowing act in the side show, also his Irish specialty and rapid picture drawing act in the concert. He reports success, also that the show is doing a very nice business, despite the past recent cold and rainy weather." Riley's performing career ended in 1914 during World War I when his eyesight began to grow dim and he began to go blind. In 1929 when he was 63 years old and living in Ramapo, NY, an article was written about him that said that he was totally blind and had learned Braille, learned how to walk with a white cane, and was survived by only one brother. It is not known exactly when he died. Seeking photos and more information.
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Riley pitchcard
Joe Riley article (1929)
Joe Riley article (1929)
Huber's Museum
Huber's 14th Street Museum
Opens 1888-1890
Closes 1910
Huber's 14th Street Museum
106 East 14th Street
Greenwich Village
New York, NY
(USA)
Huber's 14th Street Museum operated at 106 East 14th Street in Greenwich Village, New York under the management of owner George F. Huber. From 1888 to 1910, Huber's 14th Street Museum was home for variety and freak shows that included sword swallowers such as Cliquot (1893), Delno Fritz and Maud Churchill (1894-1896), King Salvo (1896), and Marie DeVere (1905), before Huber sold it in 1910 to Albert Lüchow to become Lüchow's Restaurant.

Later in the early 1920's, another museum with a similar name, Hubert's Dime Museum, opened in Manhattan on 42nd Street near Times Square which operated into the 1960s, also featuring freaks and well-known sword swallowers. See also Hubert's Dime Museum on 42nd Street. Seeking photos and more information.

Sword Swallowers at Huber's 14th Street Museum:
1888: Huber's opens
1891: Harry Houdini performs at Huber's early in his career at age 17
1893: Dec 5: Chevalier Cliquot
1893: Dec 12: Fred McLone, Cliquot
1894: August 25: Delno Fritz and Maud Churchill
1894: Sept. 2: Delno Fritz and Maud Churchill
1895: Aug 25: Delma Fritz and Maud Churchill
1896: February 9: "Delmo Fritz"
1896: July 5 : King Salvo
1899: Mar 7: Mlle Victorina
1900: Dec 4: Mme Victorine
1900: Dec: Mlle Victorina
1903: Mar 1: Neeme, Sword Swallower
1903: Mar 15: Mlle. Amy
1904: Feb 9: Mlle. Amy
1905: Marie DeVere
1908: Feb 8: Edith Clifford and The Cliffords
1909: March 7: Edith Clifford and The Cliffords
1910: July 15: George F. Huber sells Huber's Museum to Albert Lüchow to become Lüchow's Restaurant

Early Huber's advertisement
The Cliffords at Huber's (3-7-1909)
Huber's Museum Sold (7-16-1910)
Delno Fritz
Delmo Fritz
Delma Fritz
DeLno Fritz
Delano Fritz
Will Fritz
Chevalier Fritz
Prof. Delno Fritz
William Delno Fritz
William Delano Fritz
William Sherman Fritz
Born February 16, 1871
Learned 1882-92
Performed 1893-1925
Married 1894
Divorced Mar 9, 1896
Married Sept 1899
Wife died 1920
Died July 14, 1925
Buried July 16, 1925
sword swallowing injurysword swallowers grave
Sultan's Retreat New York
Harry Davis' Eden Musee
Huber's 14th St. Museum
Ninth and Arch Museum
State Street Globe Museum
Clark Street Dime Museum
Austin & Stone's Museum
Wonderland Musee & Theatre
Miller Bros 101 Wild West Ranch
The Hippodrome New York
The Olympia London
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Greater Norris & Rowe Circus
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Hagenbeck-Wallace
Al G. Barnes Circus
John Robinson Circus Side Show
Dreamland Theatre Pittston
E. K. Fernandez Shows
Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus
The World Museum Los Angeles
Ashley, Wilke-Barre, PA
Los Angeles, CA
Wilkes-Barre, PA
(USA)
William "Delno" Sherman Fritz (1871-1925) was born on February 16, 1871 in Ashley, Luzerne County, Wilkes-Barre, PA, one of 17 children of the family of Martha Stevens Fritz (of Hallsetown, Cornwall, England 1846-1915), and Nathan Delong Fritz (1838-1919). (William Delno Fritz had a younger brother named Nathan D. Fritz Jr. who was born in Ashley PA (1886-1953), and a younger sister named Ada Fritz (1873-?) who married Robert Price in 1893 to become Mrs. Robert Price, mother of sword swallower Edna Price.

At the age of 11, Delno Fritz lost a leg while hopping a freight train in Wilkes-Barre, PA, so he wore a wooden leg and walked with a cane the rest of his life. Delno Fritz claimed to have learned sword swallowing in 1882-83 at the age of 11 from his father who was reportedly also a sword swallower. Fritz also claimed to have studied sword swallowing later in the early 1890s (1892?) under Chevalier Cliquot when they both worked at the Wonderland Museum in Scranton, PA (Fritz' first known performance as a fire eater and sword swallower Sept 6, 1892), and Harry Davis Eden Musee in Harrisburg, PA (Cliquot performed there 9 days later on Sept 15, 1892). The two sword swallowers were constantly competing and performing within weeks of each other in performances and medical examinations in competing museums, medical centers and Dime Museums in Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, and eventually England.

On January 29, 1893, sword swallower "Will Fritz" performs with Evaleen as a "curious constellation" in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Fritz must have been playing with variations of his name at this early time in his career. In August and September 1893, Delno Fritz was featured as the fire eater at Sultan's Retreat in New York. According to an article published on January 13, 1894 in the Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, PA): "In the curio hall of the Harry Davis' Eden Musee, Coffey, the dude skeleton, will hold receptions, as will Delno Fritz, a famous sword swallower." According to an article in the New York Evening World dated August 25, 1894, "Manager Huber, at the Fourteenth Street Museum, promises for the coming week, Prince Tinymite, "the smallest living man on earth;" the Cranks Convention, Delma Fritz and Maud Churchill, sword swallowers; Ida Smith with a den of alligators, and others..." According to an article in the NY Times dated Sept. 2, 1894: "Huber's 14th St. Museum - First apprearance here of LEONZO BROTHERS and their famous company of players in the grand local drama, The Dog Spy. A great production, curio halls, HINDOO GIANTS 8 feet tall, PRINCE TINYMITE, 19 years old and 21 inches high, MICHAEL Strong Man, Prof. HORN trained birds, DELMO FRITZ and MAUD CHURCHILL, sword swallowers, EMMA BROWN, spotted girl, ROSE CALLAHAN, bearded lady." Another article from the Sept 2, 1894 New York Sun reports performing at Huber's 14th St. Museum "Delmo Foutz and Maud Churchill, sword swallowers". While performing together sometime between September and November 12, 1894, sword swallower Delno Fritz married 16-year-old actress Maud Churchill at the New York City Hall. On November 12, 1894, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reported that Prof. Delno Fritz was heading to the Wonderland Musee and Theatre in Philadpelphia, PA with his new wife Maud Churchill to perform there the week of December 3-7, 1894. "Mr. Fritz intends to retire in the near future, as his feats are injuring his health."

In early 1895, Fritz suffered a serious injury while performing in Boston, MA. According to the March 3, 1895 Philadelphia Times, "Delano Fritz, the sword swallower who nearly bled to death in Boston a few weeks ago, has recovered and will be seen for the first time since the accident" at the Ninth and Arch Museum in Philadelphia. On May 8, 1895, Delno Fritz was featured at Clark Street Dime Museum in Chicago.

After working closely or competing with Chevalier Cliquot in Pennsylvania and Chicago, it appears that in September of 1895, Fritz decided to begin to market himself as an exotic Frenchman from Paris and take on a title similar to that of "Chevalier Cliquot" by calling himself "Chevalier Fritz". From September 9th-12th, 1895, "Chevalier Fritz", the "Parisian Sword Swallower" was featured at Austin and Stone's Museum in Boston according to articles in the Boston Post. An article dated September 12, 1895 reports that "Chevalier Fritz" swallowed ticking watches and eleven swords at once at Austin and Stone's Museum in Boston. On September 28, 1895 a drawing of "Chevalier Fritz" was featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer dated Septmeber 28, 1895. (A few weeks later, Chevalier Cliquot was also featured in Boston swallowing fourteen swords at once).

On October 13, 1895, Delno Fritz was again featured at Ninth and Arch Museum in Philadelphia according to an ad in the Philadelphia Times dated October 13, 1895. On November 22, 1895, Delno Fritz was featured at Park Street Opera House in Bordentown NJ. In December 1895, Delno Fritz was again featured in the curio hall of the Ninth and Arch Museum in Philadelphia, according to an article in the December 15, 1895 Philadelphia Times: "Delno Fritz, who is beyond question, the most daring and versatile of living sword-swallowers, will raise a big crop of goose flesh upon everybody with sufficient hardihood to gaze upon his blood-curdling performances. Some of the razor-edged weapons which Delno Fritz thrusts down his throat are long enough to penetrate several inches beyond the stomach. A startling climax to his act is the firing of a heavily loaded gun, balanced upon a sharp bayonet, which rests in Fritz' interior."

According to an article in the February 4, 1896 Scranton Republican, "Maud Fritz, better known locally as Maud Churchill, through her counsel, Mr. Scragg, asked for a divorce from William Fritz. She is an actress and he also connected with the stage. They were married in City Hall, New York in 1894, and she now desires a separation because of alleged cruelty. The father and mother of the petitioner allege that on one occasion Fritz and his wife started to quarrel before them and then retreated to another room. They heard her scream, and rushing in, found Fritz choking her. When he was reprimanded, he said he could do as he pleased with her, kill her if he wanted to. The father swore that he heard Maud say in the presence of her husband that she was locked in a room in Boston without food for three days and three nights (Sept 9-12, 1895?) and had to pawn her watch and opera glasses to keep from starving. Fritz explained this by saying that he went out with the boys and got drunk, played poker and lost all his money." On March 9, 1896, their divorce was final according to an article in the April 16, 1896 Scranton Tribune.

One month later, on April 14, 1896, Maud Churchill was remarried to Conductor Wm. C. Edwards by Rev. L.C. Floyd in Scranton, PA according to an article in the Scranton Republican dated April 17, 1896, and the April 16, 1896 Scranton Tribune: "William C. Edwards and Miss Maude Churchill were united in marriage Tuesday evening (April 14, 1896) by Rev. L.C. Floyd, D.D. presiding elder of the Binghamton district, at her home, 102 Adams avenue. The bride, though only 18 years old, was divorced on March 9, 1896 from William Fritz, an actor, who ill-treated and abandoned her, making her condition intolerable and life a burden. Mr. Edwards is a conductor in the employ of the Scranton Traction company, and lived at 520 North Bromley avenue."

According to an article dated February 9, 1896 in the New York Times, "Delmo Fritz" performed at Huber's 14th St. Museum in New York with Eli Bowen the legless wonder. In 1896, Delno Fritz was featured as the sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus.

On February 7, 1897, the Boston Post reports about upcoming shows at Austin & Stone's Museum in Boston, "Chevalier Fritz will be an attraction. Chevalier is a sword-swallower, not one of the every-day sort, but a sword swallower who doesn't stop with one sword, but who actually swallows a dozen at one time. He has been a long-time attraction at the London Aquarium where he acquired the name of the human ostrich. Fritz also borrows watches from persons in the audience, and they slip into his stomach as easily as the swords. Patrons of Austin & Stone's Museum will have the chance to see a man swallow watches this week, for the management has secured for one of its attractions the famous Chevalier Fritz, whose feats at swallowing swords, watches, rapiers, razors, and stilettos have made him a world-wide reputation. Chevalier Fritz's watch swallowing got him into serious trouble at the London Aquarium, where he was for a long time one of the leading attractions. It is the chevalier's custom to borrow a watch and chain from someone in the audience when he does the act. On the occasion referred to, he was given a large gold watch, attached to a light chain. The chevalier promptly swallowed the watch, holding onto the end of the light chain until as many as desired had place their ears to his chest and heard the ticking of the watch within. Then the chevalier pulled gently on the chain to bring the watch to the surface, so to speak, when, to his horror, the chain broke. But Fritz was gritty. He told the audience that the watch was stuck in his stomach, and that he would have to cut his act short. He was in a delicate situation, and the audience realized it, but they were more excited than he. A physician was sent for, and with a long pair of forceps he extracted the watch from the man's stomach. Such an operation would have half-killed an ordinary man, but it did not disturb Chevalier Fritz, the sword swallower. He smiled as he passed the watch back to its owner, and said he hoped it would keep as good time as before. It did, and the owner afterward told the sword swallower that he was proud of showing his friends his watch, the only one that had ever been taken from a man's stomach by a physician. Chevalier Fritz does his remarkable work with the greatest nonchalance. He is the prince of sword swallowers, and he does not expect his swallowing will ever lead him to a "cure", as his wonderful throat does not suffer at all from the tax he puts upon it. The chevalier is attended at each performance by a very handsome woman, Mlle. de Aldine."

On October 25, 1897, a farewell party was thrown in Ashley, PA for "Sword Swallower Smith" before Fritz left to join Barnum & Bailey Circus in Europe according to the October 26, 1897 Wilkes-Barre Evening News. The Wilkes-Barre Record dated October 26, 1897 reported, "Last night a surprise party was given by Mrs. Humphreys of Wilkes-Barre to her brother, Delano Fritz of Ashley, the noted sword swallower upon the eve of his departure for Europe with the Barnum & Bailey show. Humphreys's Wilkes-Barre Mandolin Club furnished the music and there were many of Delano's friends from all over the valley present."

On March 10, 1898, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a story called "Two Curious Freaks" which was taken from the Feb 2, 1896 article published in the Lancet magazine, which included an "account of two sword swallowing performers (Delno Fritz and Young Herrmann the Expansionist) with the Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Olympia" in London (December 27, 1897 to April 2, 1898?). According to an 1898 review in Gaillard's Medical Journal (Volumes 68-69, page 286): "One of the entertainers, whose name is Delno Fritz, is a sword swallower, and asserts that he can swallow longer swords than have ever been swallowed before... To those who know the surface markings of the abdomen and the situation of the stomach it is a little short of apalling to see this man pass a sword down his gullet until the hilt impinges upon his teeth and then withdraw the weapon and demonstrate by outside measurement that in the erect posture the point falls some inches below the usual line of the curvature of the stomach. What really happens, of course, is that Delno Fritz has learnt, consciously or unconsciously, to stretch the somewhat loose and elastic tissues between the lips and the cariac orifice of the stomach, so that these tissues will lie along his blunted sword in a condition of extension, while a protruded chin assists in the prolongation of the pharynx. It should be added that the solidity of the weapon with which the feat is performed is beyond question."

During the winters from December of 1897 to April of 1898, and December of 1898 to April of 1899, Barnum and Bailey Circus wintered at Stoke-on-Trent England, and the show was booked at the Olympia in London. Then from April 1898 to November 1898, and again in 1899 Barnum and Bailey Circus toured throughout England and Wales (Scotland in September and November 1899). and then settled in for the winter at their winter quarters each winter at Stoke-on-Trent, England. In 1898-99, Fritz taught sword swallowing to 13 year old Edith Clifford who would go on to become a famous sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus in her own right. On May 5-6, 1899, the Barnum and Bailey Circus performed in Nottingham, England and travelled between cities on 4 huge trains, each with 17 carriages, with Delno Fritz as the featured sword swallower. According to an article in The English Illustrated Magazine, Delno Fritz had "been swallowing swords, bayonets, and such delicacies for 14 years (since 1885?). His first appearance, at the age of 11, was made with his father, for Fritz inherits his peculiar appetite, his father having been a famous swallower of swords, walking-sticks, and umbrellas. Fritz is a devoted cyclist, and something of an amateur baseball player." During this time, Fritz was known for swallowing a bayonet attached to a rifle, which when fired, would drive the sword down his throat.

While touring in Scotland in 1897, Delno Fritz met his future wife, Maude D. Auldin in her hometown of Paisley Scotland, where they were later married, probably while the show was in nearby Glasgow Scotland from September 25-29, 1899. Fritz was photographed on October 3, 1899 in Scotland. According to the 1901 British Census in England, Delno Fritz was listed as a 29 year old US citizen, married, with his occupation listed as "Music Hall Artist" in Lockwood, Yorkshire, England.

According to a June 25 1907 Pittston Gazette article, "Mrs. Delno Fritz, wife of Prof. Delno Fritz, arrived in Ashley yesterday morning (June 24, 1907), from Paisley Scotland, where she was born and raised, having met the professor in her native land ten years ago when he was on a tour of the world with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Prof Fritz settled in Scotland and stayed there managing a theater for nine years, coming home to Ashley about two months ago, and his parents prevailed upon him to stay there. Mrs. Fritz assisted her husband in his act, that of sword swallower and fire eater."

According to the October 3, 1908 Billboard: "Delno Fritz, sword swallower, with the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, will return to Europe at the close of the present season. He has made arrangements to furnish an attraction for the Waverly Market Annual Winter Fair at Edinborough, Scotland."

According to a Janurary 23, 1909 article: Performing at the Star Rink in Chanute Kansas on January 25, 1909: "Maud DeAulden and Delno Fritz in their sensational novelty acts." According to the November 29, 1909 Daily Times of New Philadelphia, OH, "Maud D'Aldin and DeLno Fritz, The Great European Novelty Act" were booked at the Bijou November 29, 30 and December 1, 1909. According to the April 25-26, 1910 US Census of the Norris & Rowe Circus during its 2 day stay in Louisville, KY, Delno Fritz was working in 1910 with the Greater Norris & Rowe Circus, he was 39 years old, and had been married for 11 years since 1899. (Greater Norris & Rowe Circus operated from 1902 until May 9, 1910, when, due to "Bad weather, poor business, salaries and debts unpaid, show attached, shipped to Peru, Indiana, where it was sold in lots by the Peru Trust Co" Col. Ben. E. Wallace, of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus had the Norris & Rowe train with all equipment taken to Peru, Ind., and the property was offered at auction sale in June, and another sale in August 1910).

According to the May 20, 1911 New York Clipper, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin, performed as sword swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1911. Also in this issue: "It is rumored about the show that Delmo Fritz has discovered the fountain of youth. He seems to be growing younger day by day. It may be caused by the recent purchase of a toupee that fits so well that it looks natural, which is rather unusual." On February 2, 1912, Delno Fritz and Maude D. Auldin performed in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Later in 1912, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin or Mlle. D'Aulin were booked as sword swallowers on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Sideshow where they performed "Sword and Gun Manipulation" together in 1912. In 1915, Delano Fritz and Maud D'Auldin were featured as sword swallowers on the Al G. Barnes Circus.

An article in the Los Angeles Times dated Feb 1, 1916 states, "Mrs. Francis Fritz (38 years of age) who makes her living by shoving swords down her throat at Brook's Museum, No. 116 South Main street, early last night swallowed one sword too many and landed in the Receiving Hospital. The sword swallower declared last night that for over twenty years she had been entertaining people by swallowing swords and knives and never before injured herself. But last night, after she had swallowed and then pulled a long sword from her throat, Mrs. Fritz discovered that she had been injured, and was taken to the Receiving Hospital and later to the County Hospital, and according to doctors, she is in a serious condition." In 1916, Delno Fritz and Maud D.Auldin were featured as sword swallowers on the John Robinson Circus Side Show, while their 17-year-old niece Edna Price was featured as "floating lady". According to the October 25, 1917 Pittston Gazette, "The World's Greatest Sword Swallowers Maude D'Auldin and Delno Fritz in the Most Wonderful Act Before the American Public Today!" at Dreamland Theatre, Pittston, PA.

Delno Fritz was also a personal friend of Harry Houdini, who in his 1920 book "The Miracle Mongers", wrote about Fritz, "Delno Fritz was not only an excellent sword-swallower, but a good showman as well. The last time I saw him he was working the 'halls' in England. I hope he saved his money, for he was a clean man with a clean reputation, and, I can truly say, he was a master in his manner of indulging his appetite for the cold steel." Fritz had family in the UK, as his mother Martha Stevens Fritz was born in Cornwall, England. During his time in the UK, Delno Fritz bought and owned a few theatres in Scotland during the ten years he lived in the UK.

In 1920, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin were featured at World's Museum in Philadelphia, PA. In 1920, Fritz's wife Maude D'Auldin died from a sword swallowing accident caused by a nicked blade during a command performance onboard a ship before the King and Queen of England. Fritz then taught sword swallowing to his 21 year old niece Edna Price around 1920. According to family stories, in the 1920's, when his niece Edna wanted to go out on a date with someone that "Uncle Delno" did not approve of, Edna would hide his wooden leg in order to make her escape. According to circus route books, Fritz and Price performed together with the Al G. Barnes Circus during the 1920 and 1923 seasons, and with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1923 and 1924. According to ship's records, Delno Fritz departed on the ship "Manao" from San Francisco, California on December 7, 1921, and arrived in Honolulu Hawaii on December 14, 1921. According to an article on page 24 of the March 2, 1922 Wilkes-Barre Record in Wilkes-Barre, PA: SWORD SHIMMIES IN HIS ESOPHAGUS! "Delno Fritz, formerly of Ashley, PA now in Honolulu, Performing When Wave Hits Ship. Delno Fritz, who arrived this morning on the Manao with a troupe of entertainers, is billed as the 'world's greatest sword swallower.' But sword swallowing and the swells of the briny deep don't go well together, Fritz reports. He tried it out on the trip down. Monday night Fritz was displaying his ability before an admiring audience on the Manao. He had managed to stow away 18 or 20 inches of sharp steel sword. Then the Manao hit a big swell, and the sword did something it does not do when the performer is on terra firma. Fritz isn't sure what it did - but he is certain it did something. He will have an x-ray photograph taken today to determine whether he was injured when the sword and the swell jumped in unison.". According to the October 21, 1922 Billboard: "Delno Fritz, well known sword swallower, who recently completed an eight months' engagement in Honolulu and the Hawaiian Islands, under the management of E. K. Fernandez, has joined his niece, Edna Price, who is with the Ringling-Barnum Circus."

A Los Angeles Times article dated Dec 7, 1924 stated, "Los Angeles is to have a school for sword swallowers. Delno Fritz, internationally known eater of steel, has come to Los Angeles to settle down after years with circuses and carnivals. He is preparing to open a class teaching how to swallow swords. His primary classes for beginners will start with table knives and desk shears, with advanced courses to be given later in actual consumption of full-length army sabres. At present he is enrolling his classes at the World Museum, opposite the Rosslyn Annex on Main street, where he is also giving demonstrations in the art to curious spectators."

Apparently Fritz' time in Los Angeles California landed him some movie roles in Hollywood. In 1925, "Delmo" Fritz was featured as the sword swallower in the Tod Browning film "The Unholy Three" (released August 16, 1925) (photo) with Lon Chaney. (Actor Lon Chaney took a fascination to sword swallowing and learned sword swallowing from Delno Fritz in 1925, and performed it in the film "West of Zanzibar" (1928)). Delno Fritz was also featured in the 1928 film "The Man Who Laughs" (photo), and in the 1932 cult classic movie "Freaks" that was filmed from October to December 1931, and premiered at the Fox Criterion in Los Angeles on February 20, 1932. (Clip of Fritz in Freaks)

In May 1925, Delno Fritz returned home to Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. From June 5 to July 14, 1925, Fritz was treated in his home on 311 South Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania by Dr. Fred Tongue. On July 14. 1925, Delno Fritz died in his Wilkes-Barre home on 311 South Street from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54 according to information provided by his sister Mrs. Robert Price on his death certificate. Some reports indicate Fritz had developed a case of pneumonia that developed as a result of a screw that came loose and lodged in his lung while testing a bronchoscope for doctors in Philadelphia Pennsylvania that developed into pleurisy. According to Fritz' obituary in the July 15, 1925 Wilkes-Barre Record: "NOTED CIRCUS PERFORMER DIES. William Sherman Fritz Mystified People Throughout the World With Sword Swallowing Act. Operated Theatres Abroad. Ran Away from Ashley Home When Boy of Eleven Years to Follow Chosen Career. William Sherman Fritz, internationally known in the vaudeville and circus worlds as Delno Fritz, formerly of Ashley, died yesterday afternoon at 1:15 o'clock in Wyoming Valley Homeopathic Hospital after a ten weeks' illness. He was the son of the late Nathan and Martha Fritz, of 27 Green Street, Ashely. Delno Fritz was perhaps one of the greatest showmen that Luzerne County ever produced; a man who followed the trail of canvas and sawdust from coast to coast and into every civilized country on the globe. During his career as a circus performer, he gained the distinction of being the original and greatest sword swallower in the world. He appeared before many of the Europe's nobility and during his stay in Europe, operated several theatres. Fritz was the son of the late Nathan and Martha Fritz of Ashley, and at the age of eleven lost a leg on Ashley planes. A few months after the accident a traveling troupe appeared in which there was a Mexican, who claimed to be a sword swallower. Fritz, like many a boy, crawled under the canvas and watched the performance. He returned to his home and conceived the idea of swallowing swords. He first tried to force lead pencils down his throat, and finding it difficult, hoaxed his parents into believing he had a sore throat and had them use a spoon during the examination as mothers do when their children are afflicted. Finally he found that his throat responded and that he could swallow the handles of a spoon without suffering ill effects. In company with another boy who later became a physician, Fritz ran away to Philadelphia. Delno's father went to the museum where he was appearing and brought his son home. Three times the lad ran away and when he was sixteen years of age, he told his parents he intended to win fame in the career he had chosen. His parents gave their consent and he started on his travels which ended at his home town yesterday. One of his early triumphs was with the Robinson Circus in the west when in the days of the real "wild west", the cowboys dashed on the showgrounds threatening to "shoot the show up." Robinson, the owner, informed the cowboys that if they had a man in their midst who could do "as one of his men could, they could have the show." The test was on. Fritz was ordered to the ballyhoo and while the circus crowd looked on, he swallowed not only one but several swords. The feat won the day and peace for the circus."

"From the Robinson shows he joined Barnum and Bailey and it was with that circus that he leaped into fame. In those days, the people believed sword swallowing a hoax, but such is not the case. Rather it is a bonafide act. The Hippodrome, goal of all performers, threw open its doors and Fritz appeared there for a long time, amazing the New Yorkers. He traveled with circus after circus and then accompanied Barnum & Bailey on a tour of Europe. While in Europe, the late Queen Victoria commanded the amazing American to appear before her and the royal family. His act, at that time one of the most mystifying won the favor of the queen and he was "made" in Europe. He leaped into favor, left the circus and appeared in all the principal theatres. Later he became owner of several theatres, but this did not stop him from journeying from country to country. He went so far as to swallow watches, rods with electric bulbs attached, sharp, long swords, and repeatedly appeared before scientists who heard the watches ticking, saw the gleam of light through his throat and recognized it as real. Following his return to America, he continued to follow the circus life until he was taken ill of pleurisy in Philadelphia ten weeks ago. Fritz was brought home. While ill here at the residence of his sister, Mrs. Robert Price, 311 East South street, Ringling Brothers circus appeared here and all the prominent performers and managers visited their companion. He recovered sufficiently to walk to Public Square, but suffered a relapse, a clot formed on his brain, and he was removed to Homeopathic Hospital where he passed away surrounded by all his close relatives. He has appeared in this city in theatres and with circuses and is well known by the older amusement seekers of the country. During recent years his partner has been his niece, Miss Edna Price, of this city. She was notified of his death yesterday and is hastening here from Detroit, where Ringling Brothers circus is appearing."

According to an article in the Gettysburg PA Times dated August 1925, "Sword Swallower Buried Near Town Where He Was Born -- Wilkes-Barre, Pa. -- In a grave here overlooking the town where he was born and where he obtained the inspiration that made him a world figure, the body of William Sherman Fritz, sword swallower and premier circus performer, now rests. Fritz, whose feats thrilled thousands including such distinguished heads as Queen Victoria of England, died from complications developing from an attack of pleurisy."

Delno Fritz was buried on July 16, 1925 in the Fritz family plot in Ashley Cemetery (Maple Hill Cemetery?) in Luzerne County near Wilkes-Barre, PA. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.

Delno Fritz Timeline
1871: Born Debruary 16, 1871 in Ashley, Wilkes-Barre, PA
1882: Lost a leg in Ashley PA at age 11
1882-3: Learned sword swallowing at age 11
1891: Aug 18, 25: New York Times
1892: Studied sword swallowing under Chevalier Cliquot
1892: Sept 6: Wonderland, Scranton, PA
1893: Jan 29: "Will Fritz" and Evaleen perform in Wilkes-Barre, PA
1893: Sept 2: Sultan's Retreat New York, NY
1893: Dec 31: Harry Davis' Eden Musee Harrisburg, PA
1894: Jan 8: Harry Davis' Eden Musee Harrisburg, PA
1894: Jan 13: Harry Davis' Eden Musee Harrisburg, PA
1894: Marries actress Maud Churchill in New York City Hall
1894: Aug 25-26: Huber's Museum New York with Maud Churchill
1894: Sept 2: Huber's Museum New York with Maud Churchill
1894: Oct 30: Harry Davis' Eden Musee Harrisburg, PA with Maud Churchill
1894: Dec 3-7: Wonderland Musee Theatre Philadpelphia, PA with wife Maud Churchill
1894: Dec 22: Harry Davis' Eden Musee Harrisburg, PA
1895: Injury in Boston
1895: March 3-17: Ninth and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1895: April 21: State Street Globe Museum Chicago, IL
1895: May 8: Clark Street Dime Museum Chicago, IL
1895: Sept 9, 12: Chevalier Fritz at Austin & Stone's Museum Boston
1895: Sept 28: Cincinnati Enquirer
1895: Oct 13: Ninth and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1895: Nov 22: Park Street Opera House Bordentown NJ
1895: Dec 13: Ninth and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1895: Dec 15, 17: Ninth and Arch Museum Philadelphia PA
1896: Feb 4: Maud Churchill files for separation
1896: Feb 9: Huber's Museum New York
1896: March 9: Divorced from Maud Churchill
1896: April 14: Maud Churchill remarries
1896: Dec 13: Ninth and Arch Dime Museum Philadelphia PA
1896: Barnum & Bailey Circus with Young Herrmann US
1897: Feb 7: Austin & Stone's Museum Boston with Mlle. de Aldine
1897: Barnum & Bailey Circus US tour
1897: Oct 10: Ninth and Arch Dime Museum Philadelphia PA
1897: Oct 25: Farewell party in Wilkes-Barre, PA
1897: Oct 26: Leaves Ashley PA for European tour with Barnum & Bailey Circus
1898: Barnum & Bailey Circus in England
1898: April 2: Final show of Barnum & Bailey Circus at Olympia before touring Great Britain
1899: Barnum & Bailey Circus Olympia in London
1899: May: Barnum & Bailey Circus Nottingham England
1899: Teaches Edith Clifford
1899: Sept: Marries Maud D. Auldin in Scotland
1901: Lives in Yorkshire, England
1907: April-May: Returns from 10 years in England and Scotland
1908: Miller Bros 101 Wild West Ranch Ponca City, OK
1909: Jan 4: Delno Fritz & wife send greetings from Mercado Calina, Mexico (12-1908)
1909: Jan 25: Star Rink Chanute KS with Maud DeAulden
1909: Waverly Market Winter Fair Edinborough, Scotland
1909: Nov 29: Bijou New Philadelphia, OH with Maud D'Auldin
1910: April 25-26: Greater Norris & Rowe Circus Louisville KY
1910: May 9: Greater Norris & Rowe Circus closes
1911: Mar 3: Reidsville, NC with Maud D'Auldin
1911: May 20: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with Maude D'Auldin
1912: Feb 2: Savoy Theater Wilkes-Barre PA with Maude D. Auldin
1912: Hagenbeck-Wallace Sideshow with Mlle. Maud D'Aulin
1915: Al G. Barnes Circus with Maude D'Lean
1915: Mother Martha Stevens Fritz dies
1916: Feb 1: Brooks Museum, Maud D'Auldin injured
1916: John Robinson Circus Side Show with Maude D'Lean & Edna Price
1917: Oct 25: Dreamland Theatre, Pittston, PA with Maude D'Auldin
1919: Sept 30: Father Nathan Delong Fritz dies
1920: Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin at World's Museum, Philadelphia, PA
1920: Maude D'Auldin dies from sword swallowing injury on King's ship in England
1920: Teaches niece Edna Price
1920: Al G. Barnes Circus with Edna Price
1921: Dec 7-14, 1921: Sails to Honolulu Hawaii, works with E. K. Fernandez
1922: May 2: Lihue, Hawaii with E.K. Fernandez
1922: Sept: Returns by ship from Honolulu Hawaii
1922: Oct: Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus with Edna Price
1922: Dec 9: Returns by ship from Port au Prince Haiti to New York NY
1923: Al G. Barnes Circus with Edna Price
1923: Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus with Edna Price
1924: April 9: Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus with Edna Price
1924: Dec 7: Opens sword swallowing school at World Museum Los Angeles
1924-25: Films "Unholy Three", "Man Who Laughs", "Freaks"
1925: May: Returns home to Wilkes-Barre, PA
1925: Dies July 14. 1925 in Wilkes-Barre, PA
1925: Buried July 16. 1925 in Ashley, PA
1925: "Unholy Three" released August 16, 1925
1928: "Man Who Laughs" released
1932: "Freaks" released February 20, 1932

Fritz at Wonderland Scranton (9-6-1892) Delno Fritz at Sultan's Retreat, NY (9-2-1893)
Fritz at Harry Davis Eden Musee Harrisburg (1-8-1894)
Delmo Fritz & Maud Churchill at Huber's NY (9-2-1894)
Delmo Foutz & Maud Churchill at Huber's NY (9-2-1894)
Delno & Maud at Eden Musee Harrisburg (10-29-1894)
Delno & Maud at Eden Musee Harrisburg (10-30-1894)
Delno & Maud at Eden Musee Harrisburg (10-31-1894)
Wonderland, Phila, PA with wife Maud Churchill (11-12-1894)
Fritz at Eden Musee (12-22-1894)
Delano Fritz at Ninth and Arch (3-3-1895)
Delno Fritz at State Street Globe Museum Chicago (4-21-1895)
Delno Fritz at Clark Street Museum Chicago (5-8-1895)
Chevalier Fritz, Parisian Sword Swallower at Austin & Stone's Boston (9-9-1895)
Chevalier Fritz at Austin & Stone's Boston (9-12-1895)
Chevalier Fritz, Cincinnati Enquirer (9-28-1895)
Delno Fritz at Ninth and Arch (10-13-1895)
Delno Fritz at Bordentown NJ (11-22-1895)
Delno Fritz at Ninth and Arch (12-15-1895)
Separated from Maud Churchill (2-4-1896)
Delmo Fritz at Huber's Museum New York (2-9-1896)
Divorced from Maud Churchill (3-9-1896)
Maud Churchill remarries (4-14-1896)
Delno Fritz at 9th & Arch (12-13-1896)
Delno Fritz and cane with Barnum/Bailey (1896)
Chevalier Fritz with Mlle de Aldine at Austin & Stone's Boston (2-7-1897)
Delno Fritz at 9th & Arch Museum (10-10-1897)
Fritz Leaves Ashley PA for Barnum Bailey European Tour (10-26-1897)
Gaillard's Medical Journal (1898)
Delno Fritz (1898-99)
Delno Fritz with Barnum/Bailey in England (1899?)
Delno Fritz (1899?)
Delno & Maud move to PA (6-25-1907)
Delno & Maud in Mercado Calina Mexico (12-1908)
Delno Fritz & DeAulden, Chanute KS (1-23-1909)
DeLno Fritz & Maud D'Auldin, Bijou, New Phila, OH (11-29-1909)
Delma Fritz & Maud D'Aldin, Reidsville, NC (3-3-1911)
Delno Fritz & Maud DeAuldin Wilkes-Barre PA (2-2-1912)
Mrs. Fritz injury (2-1-1916)
John Robinson Shows program (1916)
Delno Fritz & Maude D'Auldin, Dreamland Theatre, Pittston PA (10-25-1917)
Delno Fritz in Lihue Hawaii (5-2-1922)
Delno & Edna with Ringling Brothers (4-9-1924)
Delno Fritz with Ringling Bros (1924)
Delno Fritz article (12-7-1924)
Delno Fritz in Man Who Laughs
Delno Fritz in Unholy Three (1925)
Delno Fritz in Freaks
Delno Fritz in Freaks
Delno Fritz in Freaks
Delno Fritz during filming of Freaks
Delno Fritz in Tod Browning's Freaks video
Delno Fritz face with toupee (1925)
Delno Fritz death certificate (7-14-1925)
Delno Fritz Obituary (7-15-1925)
Delno Fritz Obituary (7-15-1925)
Delno Fritz Obituary (7-15-1925)
Delno Fritz Obituary (7-15-1925)
Delno Fritz Burial (8-15-1925)
Delno Fritz IMdb listing
Edith Clifford
Mlle. Edith Clifford
Mille Edith Clifford
Nellie Clifford
Edith Morris
Edith Holmes
Edith W. Bauer
Miss Edith Holmes
Edith W. Clifford Bauer
"Champion Sword Swallower of the World"
Born Nov 22, 1886
Performs 1899-1922
Marries 1901
Thomas Holmes dies Feb 1910
Marries April 18, 1912
Retries 1922
Dies Sept 3, 1942
sword swallowers grave
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Walker's Museum
Huber's Museum
Great Wallace Shows
Gollmar Bros Circus
Hippodrome Boston
Great Clifford Circus
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
Boston, MA
Massillon, OH
Canton, OH
(USA)
Edith W. Clifford was born in London England (some reports list Boston Massachusetts) on November 22, 1886 (some reports 1884) to Captain John Clifford and Emily Rivers-Clifford, who later emigrated from London England to Boston Massachusetts. According to Clifford, her father was Caption in the 2nd Life Guards, and she taught herself sword swallowing at the age of 13 in 1899 using her Captain father's military sword, with tips from sword swallower Delno Fritz who was the sword swallower with Barnum & Bailey Circus in London England in 1898-1899. (Clifford's history of her learning sword swallowing at 13 in London).

Edith Clifford was said to be "generously endowed" and "possessed of more than ordinary personal charms, a refined taste for dressing both herself and her stage, and an unswerving devotion to her art", and she "perfected an act that found favor in the Royal Courts of Europe". Clifford performed under the name "Mlle. Edith Clifford, Champion Sword Swallower of the World", and was said to have swallowed 18 to 20 inch blades without a problem, and longer blades up to 26 inches long, as well as 10, 16, and up to 24 swords at one time. In 1900, Mlle Edith Clifford was featured with Barnum & Bailey Circus in Germany at the age of 14. Edith Clifford posed for a photo swallowing 3 swords at a studio in Stuttgart Germany, probably during their time there September 24-27, 1900. In 1900-1901, at around the age of 15, Clifford married 33-year old Thomas Holmes (born in Copenhagen NY in 1859, died Feb 22 1910) who worked for Barnum and Bailey Circus under the stage name "James Morris" or "James Maurice" as the "Elastic Skin Man". They adopted the stage name "The Cliffords", and they joined Barnum & Bailey Circus at their winter quarters in Vienna Austria sometime between November 25, 1900 to February 24, 1901, where Clifford became famous for swallowing razor blades, scissors, saw blades and bayonets. The couple worked with Barnum & Bailey Circus for five years from 1901 through 1906. During this time, they had two daughters, Margaret Emily Holmes (1903-2003) and Edith Holmes (1906-?).

In a May 21, 1903 article in "The Realm Magazine of Marvels", Clifford and albino sword swallower Rob Roy were featured together in the Barnum and Bailey Circus. On June 3, 1903, in Providence RI, 15-year-old Edith Clifford gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Margaret Emily Holmes (later Mitchell) (1903-2003). According to the December 6 1903 Boston Post, featured at Walker's Museum Boston, "In the curiou halls will be seen the Cliffords, L'Aveleuse de Sabres, in their highly sensational sword swallowing exhibition. Miss Clifford is the only lady who swallows a bayonet, having attached it to a loaded canon, and while the canon is supported by the bayonet that is down the throat the piece is discharged. James Morris, the famous elastic skin man is also featured." In 1904, Edith Clifford and Rob Roy were featured together on a Barnum and Bailey poster in Madison Square Garden, NY. Apparently Thomas Holmes also learned sword swallowing, as Thomas was also sometimes billed as "swaller of swords" and the couple was billed as "The Cliffords, sword swallowers". According to the February 24, 1906 New York Clipper, "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, and James Morris, Elastic skin man, have signed with the Great Wallace Shows for next season."

Sometime around 1906, the couple apparently gave birth to their second daugther Edith W. Holmes in Pawtucket, RI.

In the February 23, 1907 New York Clipper: "Notes of Gollmar Bros' side show for next season: The side show for next season will be much larger and grander than Gollmar Bros. have ever attempted in the past. As the side show is strictly in keeping with the big show, everything is gilt edged. Our top is 60 feet, with two 30s, twelve feet stage, fourteen paintings and three boxes. Roster includes: James Morris, elastic skin man, and Mille Clifford, sword swallower, who is a feature. Conceded by press and public of both hemispheres to be the greatest act in her line ever seen. Side show band will consist of 6 mouth pieces and 2 drums. Taking into consideration that Gollmar Bros.' Shows consists of 25 cars, this undoubtedly will make the strongest side show ever carried by a firm of this size." According to the November 9, 1907 Bilboard: "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, closed with the Gollmar Brothers' Show, and will open in vaudeville November 25 at the Palace Theatre, Memphis, Tenn."

In 1908, The Cliffords worked again with Gollmar Bros Circus with James Morris as the elastic skinned man, and with "Mlle. Clifford, sword swallower, in gorgeous costume". According to an article from Billboard dated April 25, 1908, Edith Clifford mentored her pupil Marie DeVere in sword swallowing: "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, were presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers during their engagement at the Hippodrome, Boston, Mass., while Mlle. Clifford was presented with a beautiful pearl ring by her pupil, Marie DeVere." According to the July 11, 1908 Bilboard: Working on the 1908 Gollmar Bros. Side Show was Mademoiselle Clifford, sword swallower, James Morris, elastic skin man. According to the December 26, 1908 Bilboard: "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, have been engaged with the Gollmar Brothers Circus for season of 1909, their third year with that show."

On March 7, 1909, The Cliffords were engaged to perform at Huber's Museum in New York, according to an article in the March 7, 1909 New York Sun. In the 1909 season, "Nellie Clifford" was featured as sword swallower with Gollmar Bros Circus. According to the November 20, 1909 Billboard: "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, closed a successful season with Gollmar Bros. Show. They open in vaudeville at Huntington, Ind., week of November 22 (1909)." In 1910, the Gollmar Bros Circus featured the sword swallower as "Edith Morris" (since she was married to Thomas Holmes, also known as "James Morris").

Then according to the March 7, 1910 Indianapolis Star, Elastic Skin Man, known in professional life as James Maurice, known in real life as Thomas Holmes, died at Carney Hospital in Boston after being sick for six months. He and Miss Edith Clifford were married on a European tour (1901?), and he built a home in Pawtucket, RI, where his two little girls were brought. While Holmes/Morris had earned good money in his time with Barnum and Bailey, his popularity dwindled and due to a slight drinking and gambling problem, he took a second job as a barber opening a shop in New York City. According to an article in the Feb 26, 1910 Cambridge Sentinel: "David Corcoran, the undertaker of Boylston street, was called upon to take care of the body of Thomas Holmes, famous in former years as Barnum's "elastic skin" man, who died this week at the Carney Hospital. Mr. Holmes, who has won fame as "swaller of swords," directed that the body be sent to Pawtucket for burial." According to an article in the New York Clipper, dated March 19, 1910: "Thomas Clifford, husband of Edith Clifford, the sword swallower, whose death was noted in last week's Clipper, passed away Feb. 22, 1910 at the Carney Hospital, South Boston, Mass., from paralysis of the bladder and kidney trouble. He was born in New York State, forty-two years ago (1868?), and for twelve years he traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and for years with the Wallace Show. Under the name of James Maurice, the "Elastic Skin Man," he traveled for the past three years with Gollmar Bros.' Show, and was re-engaged with them for the coming season. In private life he was known as Thomas Holmes. Interment was in the family plot at Pawtucket, R.I. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, four brothers and three sisters."

According to the April 8, 1911 Billboard: "While Mlle. Clifford, the celebrated sword swallower, was in Pawtucket, she purchased the Conway's Circus property, and had it shipped to her winter quarters in Canton, Ohio. She intends to put a one-ring circus show on the road about June 1. It will be known as the Greater Clifford Shows. Roster of the Great Clifford Circus: Mlle., Karl A., Walter J., Jno. F., Clifford and Stephen A. Clifford, owners; Karl A. Clifford, manager; Mlle. Clifford, treasurer; Jno. Clifford, advance agent and press representative; Walter Clifford, equestrian director; Stephen Clifford, boss hostler; Jno. Bauer, privileges; Ralph Tiese and R. Landes, candy butchers; Carl Bauer and Walter Miller, front door; Steve Cross, boss of properties; Bill Tetlow, ring maker; George Tetlow, reserved seats; S. Brodie, boss canvasman; Edith Holmes, wardrobe lady; Joe Cross, chandelier man. The performers include the Original Zanton Bros., ring gymnasts; Mlle. Clifford and Company, sword swallowers; LaJones, wire artists; Zanzar Bros., acrobats and hand balancers; Two Wirtzs, contortionists; House and House, double trapeze; Hart and Hiff(?), revolving ladder; Snipe, Hook, Bushey, Bowery and Sikes, clowns. K. A. Clifford, manager of the Great Clifford Circus, has purchased another baggage wagon. The show is in winter quarters at Canton, Ohio. Steve Cross, clown, late of the Gollmar Bros.' Circus, has signed for the coming season with the Great Clifford One Ring Circus. The Zanzar Bros., acrobats and equilibrists, will this season be with the Great Clifford Show." Billboard, April 8, 1911, p. 24.

On April 18, 1912, Clifford was married in her second marriage to Karl Andrew Bauer (1887-1962), a German circus trapeze artist, who served as Edith's assistant when the couple married, performing together under the stage name "The Cliffords". According to an article dated April 18, 1912 in the Salem OH News: "CANTON, April 18 --Mlle Clifford, the sword swallower, whose every day alias is Miss Edith Holmes, and Signor Zanton, the acrobatic hand balancer, known here as Karl Bauer, were married Thursday morning in St. Peter's Catholic Church here. Although the ceremony was commonplace, the romance which preceded it in the sawdust rings of Barnum & Bailey's Circus was thrilling enough to satisfy even a sword swallower. While mademoiselle was swallowing any number of jagged swords, some said to be 20 inches long, Signor Zanton, arrayed in red tights, was balancing a lighted lamp on the end of one finger in the main ring. They fell in love."

Apparently the Great Clifford Circus never materialized as Edith had planned. In 1912 and 1913, The Cliffords worked for Gollmar Bros Circus again, and wintered in Canton, Ohio. According to a January 18, 1913 Billboard article: "Mlle. Clifford, sword swallower, wintering at Canton, Ohio, will again be with Gollmar Bros. Circus the coming season." During this time, Edith's two daughters Edith and Margaret grew up with an aunt in Pawtucket, RI.

On September 27, 1917, Mlle Edith Clifford was again featured with Barnum & Bailey Circus in Atlanta, GA. According to the May 18, 1918, Billboard: "Barry Clifford, husband of Mlle. Clifford, sword swallower, has charge of the door with the Barnum & Bailey annex." In the spring of 1919, Barnum & Bailey Circus combined with Ringling Brothers Circus to form the combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus with their big debut in New York City featuring sword swallower Mlle Edith Clifford. Harry Houdini visited the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus to see one of Clifford's performances on March 29, 1919, where Clifford swallowed a bayonet that was shot down her throat with a gun. By this time, she had been sword swallowing for over 20 years. Clifford's show so impressed Houdini that he wrote about it in 1920 in his book "Miracle Mongers and their Methods": "The sensation of her act was when the point of a bayonet 23 1/2 inches long and fastened to the breech of a cannon was placed in her mouth and the cannon discharged with the recoil driving the bayonet down her throat". Clifford worked with the new combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919, 1920, and 1921. It wasn't until she retired from performing in 1922 at the age of 36 after swallowing swords for 28 years that she and her husband Karl Bauer took her daughters home to live with them in Canton, OH.

After moving to 3rd Street NE in Canton, OH, Clifford went by her married name Edith Bauer and she and her husband Karl Bauer ran a corner grocery store. Clifford did not mention her circus history to most of her neighbors, but she received lots of visitors whenever Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to Canton in the 1930s and circus performers and sideshow acts would roam in and out of their home on Third Street NE. According to her death certificate, at the time of her death Clifford lived at 221 36th St. NW in Canton OH. She died at Aultman Hospital on September 3, 1942 at 7:48 am at the age of 55 of a "cancerous right ovary" that she had been treated for since May 1, 1942. She was buried on September 7, 1942 in West Lawn Cemetary in Canton OH. According to her obituary, Edith Clifford was active in the Women's Republican Club and other interest groups, but the obituary mentions nothing about her circus background. Her husband Karl Andrew Bauer was born in Germany December 23, 1887 and died in Canton, OH on January 2, 1962. In 1954, Karl Bauer served as Canton city councilman for 4 terms (1925-37) and as a Republican State Representative for Ohio (1942, 1946, 1950, 1952) (bio). The couple was survived by two daughters Margaret Emily Morris-Mitchell (born June 3, 1903 in RI, died at age 99 on Feb 4, 2003 in Leaburg OR) and Edith W. Holmes (b. 1906?) from Pawtucket, RI, and three grandchildren: Paul Spinden (deceased), Karl A. Spinden (born 1927, lived in Massillon OH), Grace Spinden (married name Underbrink, now living in California), Gloria Spinden (deceased, married name Lensman), and Delores Spinden (married name Belt). Clifford's grandson Karl Spinden, from Massillon, OH "doesn't remember his grandmother ever talking about her past in show business, and he never saw her swallow a sword. He worked in his grandparents' grocery store as a child, and knew her mostly as a typical nice, sweet grandma", but he keeps one of her swords in a closet at his home. Edith W. Clifford Bauer is buried at West Lawn Cemetary in Canton, OH, section M.

Edith Clifford-Bauer swallowed a variety of swords, bayonets, a serpentine blade, large straight razor, giant hand saw, and a sword sandwich of up to 24 swords at once. The full collection of Clifford's swords, bayonet, saw, photos, and death certificate are owned by sword swallower Dan Meyer and are preserved in the archival collection of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Museum and Hall of Fame. From September 25, 2010 to January 9, 2011, Clifford's swords and artifacts were featured on display in an exhibit entitled "Science and the Circus" at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, and in a lecture presented on Clifford's life, Dan Meyer swallowed many of Edith Clifford's swords, giant saw and straight razor. Meyer continues to swallow Clifford's giant hand saw and straight razor regularly in his act. Clifford was also immortalized in a documentary called Mysteries of Magic: The Impossible Made Possible, filmed in 1997 and put out in 1999 by the Discovery Channel featuring sword swallower Amy Saunders who played the part of Clifford. Seeking photos and more information.

Edith Clifford Timeline:
1884?: Edith Clifford born in London (or)
1886?: Nov 22: Edith Clifford born in London?
1899: Teaches herself sword swallowing at 13 in London using Captain father's sword
1899: Learns from Delno Fritz in London at 13
1900: Performs with Barnum & Bailey Circus in Germany at 14
1901: Marries Thomas Holmes at 15
1901: Joins Barnum & Bailey Circus in Vienna at 15
1902: Barnum & Bailey Circus France
1903: Featured with Rob Roy on Barnum & Bailey Circus US
1903: June 3: Daughter Margaret Emily Holmes (Mitchell) born in Providence RI
1903: Dec 6-8: Walker's Museum with James Morris Boston MA
1904: Featured with Rob Roy on Barnum & Bailey Circus US
1905: Barnum & Bailey Circus
1906: Great Wallace Shows
1906: Gollmar Bros Circus
1906: Daughter Edith Holmes born in Pawtucket, RI
1907: Gollmar Bros Circus
1907: Palace Theatre Memphis, TN
1908: Feb 8: Huber's Museum, New York NY
1908: April: Hippodrome Boston, MA
1908: Gollmar Bros Circus
1908: Mentors Marie DeVere
1909: March 7: Huber's Museum, New York NY
1909: May: Gollmar Bros Circus
1909: November 22, Huntingdon, Indiana
1910: Feb 22: Husband Thomas Holmes dies in Boston MA
1910: Feb 26: Article on Thomas Holmes death
1910: Gollmar Bros Circus
1911: Gollmar Bros Circus
1912: April 18: Marries acrobat Karl Bauer at St. Peter's Catholic Church Canton OH
1912: Gollmar Bros Circus
1913: Gollmar Bros Circus
1914: Gollmar Bros Circus
1917: Sept 27: Barnum & Bailey Circus Atlanta, GA
1918: Barnum & Bailey Circus
1919: March 29: Harry Houdini watches Edith at combined Ringling Bros B&B Circus
1920: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1920: US Census residence: Stark OH
1921: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1922: Retires to Canton OH
1922-42: Runs grocery store in Canton OH, active in Women's Republican Club
1925-37: Karl Bauer serves as Canton city councilman
1942: May 1: Edith treated for cancerous right ovary
1942: Sept 3: Edith dies in Canton OH
1942: Sept 7: Buried in West Lawn Cemetary Canton, OH
1942: Nov: Karl Bauer elected Ohio State Representative
1946: Nov: Karl Bauer elected Ohio State Representative
1950: Nov: Karl Bauer elected Ohio State Representative
1952: Nov: Karl Bauer elected Ohio State Representative
1962: Jan 2: Karl Bauer dies in Canton, OH
2003: Feb 4: Daughter Margaret Emily Mitchell dies

Edith Clifford
Edith Clifford
Edith Clifford face
Edith Clifford with teddy bear
Edith Clifford bloomers
Edith Clifford postcard standing (1898-99?)
Edith Clifford postcard standing (1898-99?)
Edith Clifford postcard autographed from London (1898-99?)
Edith swallowing 3 swords
Edith Clifford swallowing 10
Edith Clifford swallowing 10 swords
Edith Clifford swallowing saw
Edith Clifford with saw
Edith Clifford with saw
Edith Clifford poster swallowing saw
The Cliffords at Walker's Museum Boston MA (12-3-1903)
The Cliffords at Walker's Museum Boston MA (12-3-1903)
The Cliffords poster (c 1901-1906)
Huber's Museum, NY (3-7-1909) Edith Clifford on Messer's Chewing Gum (1910)
Edith Clifford handbill (1910)
Edith Clifford autograph
Edith Morris with Gollmar Bros (1910)
Edith Clifford face (1910)
Thomas Holmes death (2-26-1910)
Mlle Clifford with Barnum & Bailey (9-25-1917)
Edith Clifford gives her history of learning sword swallowing at 13 in London (5-4-1918) Edith Clifford in Hamilton Journal (1923)
Edith Clifford-Bauer's death certificate (9-3-1942)
Edith Clifford-Bauer's swords
Grandson Karl Spinden with sword
Dan Meyer swallowing Edith Clifford razor
Dan Meyer swallowing Edith Clifford saw 100 years later (2010)
Dan Meyer swallowing Edith Clifford hand saw
Amy Saunders as Clifford swallowing razor blade (43 mpg)
Edith Clifford-Bauer headstone
Karl Bauer bio (10-30-1954)
Deodata Performed 1900 (Italy) Deodota, an Italian magician, was also a sword-swallower of more than average ability who performed around the turn of the century. He finally succumbed to the lure of commercialism, and ended up in the jewelry business in the "downtown district" of New York City. Seeking photos and more information.
Julian Putzkewitsch
Julian Putzjewitsch
Der Russische Schwertschlucker
Performed 1904-1906? Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Lübeck
(Germany)
According to a German postcard from Lübeck Germany, Julian Putzkewitsch or Julian Putzjewitsch performed as "Der russische Schwertschlucker Konkurrenzolos auf dem ganzen Kontinent im Wild West Zirkus Bill Daberkow", ("The Russian Sword Swallower concurrently running the entire continent with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus"). The postcard shows a sword swallower in Russian costume. Julian Putzkewitsch was billed as coming from Russia and probably toured on the 1906 European tour of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Post card printed in Lübeck Germany. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch with BBWWS.
Julian Putzkewitsch postcard (c 1906)
Veno The Electric Sword Swallower
Nelson C. Barned
Born 1884
Performed 1904
Barnum and Bailey Circus
Essex, NJ
(USA)
Nelson C. Barned reportedly performed as "Veno" the Electric Sword Swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1904. Nelson C. Barned was born in 1884, was married at 21 (in 1905?), had a daughter named Isabelle Dora Barned Vogler in 1916, and lived in Essex, NJ in 1930. Seeking photos and more information.
Abdullah Hatschi
Equilibristischer Schwertschlucker-Akt
Performed 1909 (Germany) Abdullah Hatschi was a sword swallower in Germany apparently in the late 1800s. He would balance chairs upon the swallowed sword down his throat. His pitchcard read "Abdullah Hatschi - Equilibristischer Schwertschlucker-Akt in höchster Vollendung" ("Abdullah Hatschi - Balancing sword swallower act at it's finest") Seeking photos and more information.
Abdullah Hatschi balancing chairs on swallowed sword (3-21-1909)
Vsevolod Ivanov Born Feb 12, 1895
Performed 1909-1916?
Died Aug 15, 1963
sword swallowers grave
Moscow
(Russia)
Vsevolod Ivanov was born February 12, 1895 in a remote village near the border of Siberia and Turkestan. Ivanov ran away from home at the age of 14 around 1909, and led a picaresque life as a clown in a circus, a sword-swallower in county fairs, an itinerant salesman, and a manual laborer. In 1917 he joined the Red Army and fought in southeastern Russia, where the Civil War was particularly brutal. Considered one of the leading Soviet authors of the 1920's, his best work deals with guerilla warfare in Asiatic Russia after the 1917 Revolution, written in a vivid, exciting, colorful style. The novella "Armored Train 14-69" (1922), about a band of Red partisans laying siege to a White Guard locomotive in Mongolia, is viewed as his greatest achievement. It was adapted into a hit play that remained in the repertory of the Moscow Art Theatre for 70 years. He later noted, "I have travelled the road of death and my only joy is that I am still alive". By 1921 he was in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and a member of Yevgeny Zamyatin's famous literary group, "The Serapion Brothers". Ivanov's early collections of short stories and novellas, "Partisans" (1921), "Colored Winds" (1922), "Skyblue Sands" (1923), "The Child" (1924), and "Exotic Tales" (1925), established him as a pioneer of Soviet prose. His descriptions of physical sensations are so intense that Zamyatin once joked, "Ivanov writes with his nostrils". With the rise of Stalinism in the 1930's, Ivanov was bullied into writing according to the demands of Socialist Realism, which made his work flat and pedestrian. Of his later books only the unfinished autobiographical chronicle "Adventures of a Fakir" (1935) has merit. (bio by: Bobb Edwards) Vsevolod Ivanov died August 15, 1963, and is buried in Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, Russia. Seeking photos and more information.
Mighty Haag Shows
Mighty Haag Circus
Started 1890s
Closed 1938
Mighty Haag Shows
Mighty Haag Circus

Shreveport, LA
(USA)
Mighty Haag Shows - The Mighty Haag Circus was started by Ernest Haag in the 1890s in Louisiana as a wagon show, and became one of the best known southern circuses over a course of forty years. Early on, Haag bought a small tent and a few ropes for $20 from an old side-show man by the name of Squire Bowman and used it for a side show on fairgrounds while along the Red River at Shreveport, LA. He moved up to a floating flat barge, and eventually a two-wheel cane cart drawn by three mules under the name "The Big Show". In 1909, the show began using the name Mighty Haag Shows, and moved from wagons to rails. Hard times hit in 1914, forcing the show to return to wagons. In 1918, the circus began adding trucks for transportation. Mighty Haag Shows opened the 1920 season February 4 at Marianna, Florida, with more than one hundred horses and mules, eight trucks, four touring cars, and a menagerie consisting of eleven cages, three elephants, and two camels. By 1929 all wagons had been replaced by trucks. The 1921 show consisted of 28 wagons, 10 cages of animals, 9 trucks, and 6 passenger cars. Ernest Haag died February 1 1935 of heart failure at the age of 68, but his circus continued to show it's southern route three more years until 1938.

According to the August 5, 1911 Billboard: "Roster of the side show with the Mighty Haag Shows: E. J. Kelly, manager and announcer; Mlle. Amaza, lady sword swallower; Del Fuego, fire king; Mrs. E. J. Kelly and her cockatoos". According to the October 17, 1914 Billboard: "Annie Christ, professionally known as Trixie Christie, is a new addition to the Oriental department of the Mighty Haag Shows. She joined at Middleton, Delaware. Margaret Davis is doing the sword swallowing in the Haag Auxiliary. Slivers Bowden, side-showman is the power of this department." In 1915, "Marguerite Davis, sword swallower, who was in the last season with the Mighty Haag Show, has signed with Howe's Great London Show".

Sword swallower Charles Anderson also performed with the Mighty Haag Show, season unknown.

Sword Swallowers with Mighty Haag Shows:
1890s: Started in Louisiana by Ernest Haag as a wagon show
1909: Moved from wagons to rails, begins using name Mighty Haag Shows
1911: Route Mlle Amaza
1912: Route
1913: Route
1914: Route Lady Margurite Davis
1914: Hard times hit, forcing the show to return to wagons
1918: Begin adding trucks for transportation
1929: All wagons replaced by trucks
1935: Feb 1: Ernest Haag dies of heart failure at the age of 68
1938: Show closes after 43 years

Vivian Myrtle Mourer
Mrs. Vivian Groat
Mrs. John L. Groat
Married 1911
Performed 1911
J. H. Eschman European Circus
Eschman Shows
Oelwein, Iowa
(USA)
According to the March 4, 1911 Billboard: "John Laverne Groat, of Jamestown, N.Y., and Miss Vivian Myrtle Mourer, of Oelwein, Ia., were quietly married at Minneapolis, Minn., on Jan. 6, 1911. After the ceremony they received a reception at the headquarters of the J. H. Eschman European Circus, Mr. Groat having been in the employ of that organization last season. Mrs. Groat is a musician and sword swallower. They will both be connected with the Eschman Shows, season 1911." Seeking photos and more information.
Mlle. Amy
Amy Murphy
Mlle. Amy Murphy
Mrs. Thomas McAvoy
Born c. 1885?
Performed 1900-1914
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Hagenbeck Circus
Forepaugh-Sells Show
J.T. McCaddon's Show
Joe McCaddon's Great Int'l Circus
Huber's Museum
John Robinson Big Shows
Hagenbeck-Wallace Show
(USA)
In 1900, the Barnum and Bailey Circus performed in Germany, and published the book "Das Buch der Wunder" ("The Book of Wonders"). Barnum and Bailey produced editions of the book in every country they visited, and it sold for double the price of a program, and half the price for a medium-priced seat at the show. Mlle Amy was featured as "the female sword swallower" in the German edition published in 1900 especially for Germany, and she was featured on the Barnum & Bailey Circus posters in Germany in 1900.

On February 9, 1904, "Amy the Sword Swallower" was the featured sword swallower at Huber's Museum in New York.

In 1905, both the January 14, 1905 Billboard and the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published January 21, 1905 state that "Mlle. Amy, sword swallower, formerly of the Forepaugh-Sells Show, has signed with J.T. McCaddon's Show for the European tour." Joe McCaddon's Great International Circus left New York in April 1905 for a 5 year tour of Europe with a company of 427 performers, canvasmen, and other employees and landed in Dunkirk. However, in August 1905 the McCaddon show ran into a lack of interest from the French audience due to heavy competition from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and the Barnum and Bailey Circus that had saturated the European market over the previous year. The September 23, 1905 New York Clipper reported that starting August 17, 1905, the McCaddon Great International Circus was stranded for a few weeks in Grenoble, France, where the show was left in the hands of receivers, and many of the performers who saw ahead had already forsaken the show, including sword swallower Mlle Amy. Boss canvasman Thomas McAvoy was one of the 100 performers left stranded in Grenoble in 1905, while about 300 returned to New York in September 1905 on the ship Roma and a few others managed to land odd jobs on ships.

In 1906, Mlle Amy is listed as the sword swallower with the Hagenbeck Circus in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on February 10, 1906 and July 7, 1906. According to a December 1, 1906 Billboard article: "Mlle Amy, sword swallower, closed Nov. 7 with the Hagenbeck Show at New Orleans and is spending the winter in New York City, where she is entertaining her mother, who recently arrived from England." According to the February 23, 1907 Billboard: "With the John Robinson side show this season will be Cal Towers, manager; Prof. Harnmann, lecturer and magician; Pietro and Rasie Donatella, knife throwers; Miss Blaser, snake charmer; Mlle. Amy, sword swallower." According to a May 25, 1907, Billboard article: "Thomas McAvoy writes to state that Mlle. Amy is still his lawful wife and that there has been no trouble whatever between them." According to a November 8, 1907 Billboard article: "Mlle. Amy, sword swallower, arrived in New York Oct. 27, after a season with the John Robinson Shows." In 1908, Mlle Amy again performed with John Robinson's Big Show Side Show but according to the June 27, 1908 Billboard, was injured when a tent blew down during bad weather on June 13, 1908: "Mlle. Amy, sword swallower, was in the midst of the falling poles, and was badly bruised." According to the March 13, 1909 Billboard: "Roster of the John Robinson Side Show of season of 1909: Mlle. Amy, sword swallower." In 1913, Mlle Amy performed with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Show again, and the 1914 Hagenbeck-Wallace Show route book lists "Amy Murphy". Seeking photos and more information.

Mlle. Amy Murphy Timeline:
1900: Barnum and Bailey Circus Germany
1901: Forepaugh-Sells Show
1902: Forepaugh-Sells Show
1903: Forepaugh-Sells Show
1904: Feb 9: Huber's Museum New York
1904: Forepaugh-Sells Show
1905: April-Aug: Joe McCaddon's Great Int'l Circus in Europe
1906: Hagenbeck Circus
1907: John Robinson's Shows
1907: Oct 27: Arrives in New York after season with the John Robinson Shows
1908: John Robinson's Shows injured in blow down
1909: John Robinson's Shows
1913: Hagenbeck-Wallace Show
1914: Hagenbeck-Wallace Show

Maurice Eugene
"Sword and Rifle Stylist"
Performed early 1929-1939 Al G. Barnes Circus
Cole Bros. Circus
(USA)
Maurice Eugene was known as the "Sword and Rifle Stylist". He was known for balancing swords and rifles and swallowing swords. In 1929, Eugene was the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes Circus. In 1939, Maurice Eugene was featured as sword swallower with Cole Bros Circus. Seeking photos and more information.
Maurice Eugene
Eugene (1929)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Started 1898
Toured Europe 1903-06
Toured US 1907-11
(Europe) Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show first toured the US starting in 1883. In 1899, James A. Bailey of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame added his influence to the Wild West Show by hiring midgets, a giant, a snake charmer, a magician, and a sword swallower in the show for an additional admission charge. Professor Charles E. Griffin worked as the sword swallower and manager of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sideshow when it toured Europe from 1903 to 1906, where he performed as the "Yankee Yogi and Conjuror", with his wife and son working with him. In 1904 the sword swallower with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Europe was "The Mighty Ajax". At some point in the European tour (1906?), Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show employed Russian sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch. After returning to the US in 1907, Charles Griffin authored the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill" which was published in 1908. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with BBWWS.

Sword Swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show:
1899: ?
1900: ?
1901: ?
1902: ?
1903: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1904: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1904: Mighty Ajax in Europe
1905: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1906: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1906: Julian Putzjewitsch ?
1907: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1911: Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin

Mons. Karlo Performed 1905 Campbell Bros Consolidated R.R. Show
(USA)
According to the New York Clipper dated June 17, 1905, Mons. Karlo was the sword swallower with the Campbell Bros Consolidated R.R. Show. Seeking photos and more information
"The Amazing Hernando" Performed early 1900s? Entertainment Troupe and Traveling Show
Lynchburg, TN
(USA)
According to a Jack Daniel's poster, the "Entertainment Troupe and Traveling Show" was scheduled to perform "starting Monday, June 16, for 6 days and nights in the square of Lynchburg, TN. (Courthouse chairs, 37 cents)" According to the poster, "The Amazing Hernando will shoot a gun while it is DOWN HIS THROAT! Hernando will load a gun with powder and ball, swallow the barrel two feet down his mouth, and then DISCHARGE THE GUN, breaking with a single bullet a small drinking glass placed upon the head of HIS OWN CHILD!" Note: This poster appears to be a fictional Jack Daniels promotional poster recreated to look like the traditional circus poster, but there is no proof the poster or "The Amazing Hernando" were in fact real. Seeking more information.
Paul Macini
Paul Mancini
Performed c 1890s-1910s (Italy? Germany?) Sword swallower Paul Macini or Paul Mancini was featured on a German postcard circa late 1890s or early 1900s. Seeking photos and more information.
Paul Macini (circa 1890s-1910)
Feretta
The Man with the Iron Throat
Der Mann mit dem eisernen Schlund
Charles Feretta
Charles Fred
Performed 1889-1910 (Germany) In the December 17, 1889 El Paso International Daily Times and the January 1890 East Hampton NY Star, there were articles about "Feretta, The Man with the Iron Throat". In the September 22, 1891 Harper's Young People magazine, The Man With the Iron Throat was mentioned: "Of late years, the Man-with-the-Iron-Throat has attracted to himself considerable attention, for there lurks in human nature a depraved taste for the horrible." According to an article in the October 3, 1891 Cincinatti Enquirer: "Lee Van Hance has been telling Harper's Young People about the wonderful feats done by the Man-With-The-Iron-Throat. He had seen him thrust a solid steel sword twelve inches long down his throat, but thought it a mere trick of the stage. He says: Some time ago I struck up an aquaintance, first with the manager of the show and then with the sword-swallower himself, who was induced to give a private exhibition for my benefit. There was -- there could be -- no trick. The act was done too openly, too slowly, to admit of deception. I felt the sword when it was down the man's throat. "So now are you satisfied that the feat is square?" queried the sword-swallower. "Yes, but the pain in your throat must be considerable." "Once in a while I feel a little pain, and if it becomes too great, I always give up sword swallowing for a few days. No matter how easy the operation seems I never forget to go very slowly and very carefully. For it is only with extreme care that injury to the throat or stomach can be avoided. The muscles of my throat are now so hardened that they allow almost anything to go down. See here," said the sword-swallower, growing confidential, "I will show you something else." Taking a stone about the size of a small hickory-nut, he placed it on his tongue, rolled it around, made a pretense of chewing it, closed his mouth tightly, and the stone was gone. In like manner, two more pebbles were swallowed. "Do you keep them down and digest them?" I inquired. "Oh no; that is one of the secrets of our trade. Do the stones ever give me any trouble? Not at all. I have never been bothered with dyspepsia."

Sword swallower Charles Fred was featured in a German postcard circa 1910 as "Der Mann mit dem eisernen Schlund" ("The Man with the Iron Throat"). Seeking photos and more information.

Feretta The Man With The Iron Throat (12-17-1889)
Feretta The Man With the Iron Throat (3-24-1890)
Man With The Iron Throat in Cincinnati Enquirer (10-3-1891)
Charles Fred postcard (c 1910)
Charles Fred postcard (c 1910)
Slivers Bowden Performed 1915 Mighty Haag Shows
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Omaha, Nebraska
(USA)
According to the October 17, 1914 Billboard: "Annie Christ, professionally known as Trixie Christie, is a new addition to the Oriental department of the Mighty Haag Shows. She joined at Middleton, Delaware. Margaret Davis is doing the sword swallowing in the Haag Auxiliary. Slivers Bowden, side-showman is the power of this department." In 1915 Slivers Bowden, sword swallower, joined the Barnum & Bailey Circus in Omaha, Nebraska. Seeking photos and more information..
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus 1884 Wallace Circus
1903 Carl Hagenbeck Circus
1907 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
1936 closed
1938 closed
Peru, IN
(USA)
At its peak, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, based in Peru, Indiana, was the second-largest circus in America next to Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Benjamin Wallace, a livery stable owner from Peru, Indiana, and his business partner, James Anderson, bought a circus in 1884 and created "The Great Wallace Show". Wallace bought out his partner in 1890 and the name was changed to the "B. E. Wallace Circus". According to the February 24, 1906 New York Clipper, "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, and James Morris, Elastic skin man, have signed with the Great Wallace Shows for next season." In 1907, Wallace purchased the Carl Hagenbeck Circus from its founder and owner Carl Hagenbeck (1844-1913), an animal trainer who pioneered the use of rewards-based animal training as opposed to fear-based training. The combined circus became known as the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1907, even though Carl Hagenbeck sued to prohibit the use of his name, but lost in court.

In the infamous Wabash River Flood of 1913 in Peru Indiana, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus lost 8 elephants, 21 lions and tigers and 8 performing horses. In 1913, Wallace sold his interest in the circus to Ed Ballard of French Lick, Indiana. On June 22, 1918, another tragedy struck the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus when a locomotive engineer fell asleep about 4am in Ivanhoe near Hammond, Indiana, and ran his empty troop train into the rear of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train. A fire broke out from the kerosene lamps used for lighting the sleeping cars of the circus train. The fire quickly spread through the wood-constructed cars. As a result of the collision and subsequent fire, 86 people died and another 127 were injured. (photo) Many victims were burned beyond recognition. Most are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois in a section set aside as Showmen's Rest.

In the spirit of "the show must go on", several competing circuses, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, lent equipment and performers to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus so that only two performances were canceled as a result of the tragedy, the one in Hammond and the next stop in Monroe, Wisconsin. After the tragedy, circus entrepreneurs Jeremiah Mugivan and Bert Bowers acquired the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, adding it to a long list of circuses they owned, including Sells-Floto Circus and John Robinson Shows. A year later, Mugivan and Bowers asked Ballard to join them and the trio formed the American Circus Company. The successor company of the American Circus Corporation was sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with Al G. Barnes Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, John Robinson Shows, and Sparks Circus. In 1935, the circus split from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and became the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, with sword swallower Prince Charles Prester. In 1936, the show did not tour, but resumed again in 1937. The Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus finally ceased operations in 1938. The building that formerly housed the winter home of Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus now serves as the home of the International Circus Hall of Fame on the banks of the Wabash River in Peru Indiana.

Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Timeline:
1884: Benjamin Wallace and James Anderson create The Great Wallace Show
1906: Edith Clifford with Great Wallace Circus
1906: Mlle Amy with Hagenbeck Circus
1907: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus merge
1912: Delno Fritz/Maud D'Auldin with Hagenbeck-Wallace
1913: Wabash River Flood Peru IN
1913: Mlle Amy
1914: Amy Murphy
1918: June 22, Great train wreck, Hammond, IN
1920: Millie Dearcy
1921: Milly Dearcy
1922: Milly Dearcy
1923: Milly Dearcy
1923: Prince Laurie
1929: Bought by American Circus Corporation
1929: Bought by John Ringling, merges with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
1930: Harry Lewiston managed sideshow, Show closed late August from poor sales due to Great Depression
1931:
Route Lineup Female sword swallower
1933: Señor Laraway the Sword Swallower
1934: Señor Laraway the Sword Swallower
1935: Prince Charles Prester
1936: Closed - Circus did not tour
1937: Prince Charles Prester
1938: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus closes

Gollmar Brothers Circus 1891-1916 Baraboo, WI
(USA)
Gollmar Brothers Circus wintered out of Baraboo, Wisconsin from 1891-1916. Walter, Fred, Charles, Ben, and Jake Gollmar were the proprietors. They were also known at one point as Gollmar Bros. and Schumann's Circus. According to the February 23, 1907 New York Clipper: "Notes of Gollmar Bros' side show for next season: The side show for next season will be much larger and grander than Gollmar Bros. have ever attempted in the past. As the side show is strictly in keeping with the big show, everything is gilt edged. Our top is 60 feet, with two 30s, twelve feet stage, fourteen paintings and three boxes. Roster includes: James Morris, elastic skin man, and Mille Clifford, sword swallower, who is a feature. Conceded by press and public of both hemispheres to be the greatest act in her line ever seen. Side show band will consist of 6 mouth pieces and 2 drums. Taking into consideration that Gollmar Bros.' Shows consists of 25 cars, this undoubtedly will make the strongest side show ever carried by a firm of this size." In 1908, the Cliffords worked again with Gollmar Bros Circus with James Morris as the elastic skinned man, and with "Mlle Clifford, sword swallower, in gorgeous costume". In 1909, "Nellie Clifford" performed as sword swallower with Gollmar Bros Circus. In 1910, the Gollmar Bros Circus featured the sword swallower as "Edith Morris" (since she was married to Thomas Holmes, who was also known as James Morris). According to the March 19, 1910 New York Clipper: "Thomas Clifford, husband of Edith Clifford, the sword swallower, whose death was noted in last week's Clipper, passed away Feb. 22, 1910 at the ?? Hospital, South Boston, Mass., from paralysis of the bladder and kidney trouble. He was born in New York State, forty-two years ago, and for twelve years he traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and for years with the Wallace Show. Under the name of James Maurice, "the elastic skin man," he traveled for the past three years with Gollmar Bros.' Show, and was re-engaged with them for the coming season. In private life he was known as Thomas Holmes. Interment was in the family plot at Pawtucket, R.I. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, four brothers and three sisters." In 1912, Edith Clifford was married in her second marriage to a German circus trapeze artist named Karl Bauer, who served as Clifford's assistant when the couple married, performing together with the Gollmar Brothers Circus under the stage name "The Cliffords" in 1912 and 1913.

Sword Swallowers with Gollmar Brothers Circus:
1900: none listed
1907: Mille Clifford
1908: Mlle. Clifford
1909: Nellie Clifford
1910: Edith Morris
1911: Mlle Edith Clifford
1912: Mlle Edith Clifford
1913: Mlle Edith Clifford
1914: Mlle Edith Clifford

John Robinson's Shows 1842 begins touring
1929 bought out by John Ringling
(USA) The John Robinson Circus toured from 1842 until 1911 (69 years), it was one of the longest running family owned circuses in the United States. The circus was owned and managed by four generations of "John Robinsons". In 1929, the John Robinson Shows were purchased by the American Circus Corporation and later sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, and Sparks Circus. The Ringlings continued to operate the circus until 1938.

John Robinson Side Shows Timeline::
1842: John Robinson Circus begins touring
1869: Unknown sword swallower (article)
1881: Signor Forestell
1898: Leased by the Ringling Bros. Circus and managed by Henry Ringling
1905: Marie DeVere
1907: Mlle Amy
1908: Mlle Amy
1909: Mlle. Amy
1911: Route Great Lorenzo
1912: Show did not go out
1913: Show did not go out
1914: Show did not go out
1915: Show did not go out
1916: Purchased by Jerry Mugivan and Albert C. “Bert” Bowers
1916: RouteDelno Fritz and Maud D. Auldin
1920: Route Lady Marguerite Margaret Davis marries Jesse R. Fiedler on show
1923: Fred Marcineau
1927: Route
1928: Route
1929: Route bought out by John Ringling
1930: Route

Al. G. Barnes Circus 1895 Al G. Barnes Circus starts
1929 Bought by American Circus Corporation
1929 Merged with Sells-Floto, John Robinson Shows and Sparks Circus
1929 John Ringling merges with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1931 Al G. Barnes Stonehouse dies
1938 Al. G. Barnes Circus closes
Peru, IN
(USA)
Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse started the Al G. Barnes' Circus in 1895 with a pony, a phonograph, and a stereopticon. In 1929, the circus was purchased by the American Circus Corporation and later sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, John Robinson Shows, and Sparks Circus. The circus finally ceased operations in 1938.

Sword Swallowers with Al G. Barnes Circus:
1914: none listed
1915: Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin
1920: Delno Fritz and Edna Price
1922: Bob Roberts
1923: Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1924: none listed
1925: The Great Laurie
1926: The Great Laurie
1927: Ethel Price Edna Price ?
1929: Eugene
1929: John Ringling buys American Circus Corporation - Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, Al. G. Barnes Circus, John Robinson's Circus, Sparks Circus & Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
1931: Al G. Barnes Stonehouse dies
1938: Mimi Garneau
1938: Al G. Barnes Circus closes

Professor A.J. Pierce
A.J. Pearce
Albert J. Pierce
Allan J. Price
Allen J. Price
Chief Yellow Bear
Prince Yellow Boy
Pierce the Yellow Boy
Born 1868
Performed 1904-1913
Injured April 15, 1908
Injured May 30, 1909
Died July 16, 1913
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Bangor, Maine
Allman Carnival
Hotel Trafalgar
New York, NY
Died Bismark, ND
(USA)
In 1905, a Professor A.J. Pierce was the star sword swallower of a show run for several days out of a vacant storefront on Harlow Street in Bangor Maine. "He runs swords and small saws and scissors and bayonets down his throat until it seems that it must slash his vitals; but he gets through all right and smiles at the frightened spectators. He chews and swallows glass, eats hot pitch and rosin and sealing wax, swallows tacks and does other stunts that cause the observer to wonder what his insides are composed of... He finished his stunt by swallowing about 16 inches of a snake," wrote a reporter for the Bangor Daily News on Nov. 11, 1905. Pierce performed with two other colleagues who performed similar feats of daring. LaCrosse, the Human Stone Crusher, let people break stones on his stomach with a sledgehammer, while Madame LaMonte, the Hindoo rope juggler, freed herself after being bound in 50 feet of hemp. The show took place in East Market Square (near where City Hall is today) in what the reporter referred to facetiously as "the tenderloin," a reference to urban neighborhoods known for vice and graft. The show was operated by Professor H.H. Perkins, a scholar of bizarre amusements like his partner Professor Pierce.

According to an article in the Mt. Carmel PA Daily News dated April 15, 1908, "Sword Swallower Ate One Too Many -- Waterbury, Conn., April 15 -- A.J. Pearce, a sword swallower, while swallowing a sword pierced his stomach, and the hospital doctors say he will die. Pearce is known as "Chief Yellow Bear" among circus men."

An article in the NY Times dated May 30, 1909 states, "Albert J. Pierce of No. 2076 Lexington Avenue, a sword swallower, is in Harlem Hospital in serious condition. While doing his usual stunt in a Fourteenth-street show last night, the sword got too deep and cut the lining of his stomach. Dr. Cassini of the hospital says he is suffering from a gastric hemmorhage."

According to an obituary for Allen J. Price in the Atlanta Constitution dated July 17, 1913: Sword Swallower Dead - Bismarck, ND, July 17, 1913 - Allen J. Price, 45 years old, sword swallower and snake charmer, died here yesterday from drug poisoning. It was learned some time ago that he sold his body to be delivered after death to a university at Baltimore. His widow lives in New York city.

According to a July 16, 1913 article in The Bismarck ND Daily Tribune: Albert J. Pierce, sword swallower with the Allman Carnival show in the city, died in a tent Wednesday morning about 7:30 from the effects of morphine poisoning. Pierce had been with this carnival company for the past six weeks and gave some startling demonstrations and also gave an exhibition with live snakes, but outside of the extremely large doses of morphine he had taken externally with a needle and hyoscine, he had taken internally in tablet form, his body seemed to be in a perfectly normal condition. He had been ill on Tuesday and while at a local hospital before he could be prevented, he took a dose of morphine large enough, it was said, to have killed six men. He had on a daily average used about 10 grains of either morphine or hyoscine, and always took extremely large doses, and he had kept up this habit for the past 24 years, but he took an overdose of morphine Wednesday morning and death ensued shortly afterwards. The manager of the carnival was with Pierce at the time of his death, and Dr. Smythe, the county coroner, had the body removed to the undertaking parlors of Traux Brothers where an autopsy was held and death was pronounced to have been caused from morphine and hyoscine poisoning. From what could be learned of Pierce's past history, he was 45 years of age and was a Frenchman by birth. He has a wife, a Chinese woman, who lives in New York City, which place is Pierce's home. He also has three sons there. At one time he had studied medicine and was well posted as to the uses of strong opiates. It seems that some time ago he had contracted with a large hospital in New York to have his body delivered there after his death, as that institution desired to make an examination of what effects these strong drugs have had. The management of the carnival is attempting, by telegraph, to locate Pierce's family and his body which has been embalmed will either be shipped back to New York or buried in Bismarck."

According to an article posted Thursday, July 17, 1913 in The Bismarck ND Daily Tribune: "SWORD SWALLOWER DIED FROM USE OF MORPHINE. Had Been Giving Exhibitions With Carnival in Bismarck This Week. Was a Constant Slave to Drug Habit and Died From an Overdose. Autopsy Held and Embalmed Body May be Shipped to New York City. Pierce had disposed of all papers that would have given any information regarding his affairs, but the management of the carnival company knowing that New York City was his home, learned yesterday that Hotel Trafalgar in that city was his headquarters, and a message from the clerk of that hotel last night read as follows: "Chief of Police, Bismarck, N. D.: "I understand that John Hopkins University at Baltimore, Md. owns the body of Pierce the Yellow Boy, but I know nothing more." RAYMOND T. CONDON, Clerk, Hotel Trafalgar". It was stated last night that Pierce had often told of having sold is body to that university, and that he had some time ago received the sum of $500, and that his body was to be delivered there after his death. It was not certain last night just what would be done with the remains."

According to a July 18, 1913 article in the Bismarck Daily Tribune: Prince Yellow Boy, the carnival freak, who died Wednesday morning from morphine poisoning, was buried Thursday afternoon in the Fairview Cemetery at Bismarck. No word could be received from his relatives in New York City as to the disposition of his remains, neither was there any response to a message sent to the Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore, which institution was supposed to have paid the Yellow Boy $500 for his body to be delivered after death, and it was decided that it was useless to hold his remains here any longer. Prince Yellow Boy's name was Albert J. Pierce, and he was probably one of the greatest freaks that ever gave an exhibition in this section of the country. He had a great layout of swords of all shapes and sizes, and gave some wonderful demonstrations in swallowing them. He was also a sensational snake charmer, and the day before he died, he received a consignment of new snakes from Texas. These snakes, without their fangs being removed, he handled in a most thrilling manner. These exhibitions he gave at Fairley's museum here with the Allman Carnival company, and the doctors, as well as the general public who saw this man perform, were completely baffled. His outfit is still at the museum, and has been exhibited and explained every night by Mr. Fairley since Yellow Boy died. The expense of his funeral was provided for by Mr. Fairley personally."

A.J. Pierece was buried at Fairview Cemetery in Bismarck, ND. The grave is unmarked and it's location is unknown. Seeking photos and more information.

A.J. Pearce injury (4-15-1908)
Albert Pierce injury article (1909)
Albert J. Pierce obituary (1913)
Allan J. Price obituary (1913)
Allen J. Price obituary (1913)
The Great Lorenzo
Dr. Benevente Pardo
Lon Young
Performed 1908-22 Vaudette Vaudeville Theatre
Lyric Theater
Robinson's Famous Shows
Family Sideshow
Sells-Floto Circus
World's Fair Museum
(USA)
According to the Chicago Englewood Economist dated November 10, 1908, the Great Lorenzo performed at the Vaudette Vaudeville Theatre in Chicago in 1908 as the "human gas jet". According to the Mattoon Illinois Journal Gazette dated April 12, 1909, the Great Lorenzo was featured as a "Novelty Fire Act" at the Lyric Theater in 1909. According to the New York Clipper, dated May 13, 1911, The Great Lorenzo performed as fire eater and sword swallower with Robinson's Famous Shows Family Sideshow in 1911. In 1922, Lorenzo was featured as the sword swallower with the Sells-Floto Circus on May 27, 1922 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

For two weeks in December 1936, the Great Lorenzo was featured as a mental mind-reader with the World's Fair Museum in Ogden, Utah, along with Capt. Albert Peterson, King of all Sword Swallowers, and 17 other freaks. According to an article dated December 1936, "Dr. Benevente Pardo, the Man with the Sixth Sense, professionally known as the Great Lorenzo, hails from Amsterdam Holland, but was reared and educated in Sumatra, the Dutch East Indies, one of Holland's richest possessions. It was there that Dr. Pardo learned the art of telepathy and of foretelling the future from the Hindus. Dr. Pardo became so efficient in this line of occult mysticism, that he was asked to perform before the queen of Holland, who later decorated him for his remarkable and astounding performances. He now delights American audiences on stage and radio by his accurate predictions and goes even so far as to call perfect strangers by their surnames without a word being spoken by the spectator. This remarkable man is now being consulted at the World's Fair Museum, 2646 Washington, where he tells one's past, present, and future accurately." Their run at the World's Fair Museum was extended until at least January 16, 1937. Seeking photos and more information..

Coney Island
Steeplechase Park
Luna Park
Dreamland
Luna Park opens 1903
Dreamland opens 1904
Dreamland burns 1911
Dreamland Sideshow opens 1911
World Sideshow opens 1922
World Sideshow closes 1941
Luna Park damaged by fires 1944
Luna Park closes 1945
Coney Island
Dreamland Circus Sideshows
Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow
David Rosen's Wonderland Circus Side Show
Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore
Coney Island
Brooklyn, NY
(USA)
Between 1880 and World War II, Coney Island was the largest amusement area in the United States, attracting several million visitors per year. At its height it contained three competing major amusement parks, Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park, as well as many independent amusements.

Luna Park was an amusement park that opened in 1903 in Coney Island Brooklyn, NY. Built partly on the grounds of Sea Lion Park (1895), Luna Park was one of the three original iconic large parks built on Coney Island, the other two being Steeplechase Park (1897) and Dreamland (1904). Luna Park was located on the north side of Surf Avenue on a site between 8th street, 12th street and Neptune Avenue. A pair of fires in 1944 damaged Luna Park, destroying much of it. It was not rebuilt and did not open for the 1945 season. After a legal battle and a third fire in 1946, the land was used for other purposes. The original Luna Park now houses a five building cooperative apartment complex and is still called Luna Park to this day.

Although the first "freak show" atConey Island opened in 1880, the golden age of the village's sideshows began in 1904 when Samuel W. Gumpertz opened Lilliputia, an entire miniature city scaled for its dwarf and midget inhabitants at Dreamland. Lilliputia became such a popular tourist attraction at Dreamland, that Gumpertz spend many years afterwards finding and promoting human oddities.

Dreamland was the grandest and most ambitious amusement park at Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City from 1904 to 1911. Opened on May 15, 1904, Dreamland was a park in which everything was reputed to be bigger and more expansive than in neighboring Luna Park. Dreamland was the last, and considered the grandest, of the three original iconic large parks built on Coney Island. The Dreamland Circus Sideshows were owned by the Dicker family, who also owned the hotel next to the park. There was also a display of baby incubators, where premature babies, triplets who were members of the Dicker family, were cared for and exhibited. The doctors advised the family of the new incubators, but because incubators were not approved for use in hospitals, the triplets were placed in the incubators in the side show, which was allowed. Two survived and lived on to have full lives until their death.

In preparation for the 1911 season, Samuel W. Gumpertz (later director of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus) was put in the park's top executive post. The buildings, once all painted white in a bid for elegance, were repainted in bright circus colors. On the night before opening day over Memorial Day weekend, a concession called Hell Gate, in which visitors took a boat ride on rushing waters through dim caverns, was undergoing last-minute repairs by a roofing company that caulked several leaks with tar. At about 1:30 am on May 27, 1911, the light bulbs that illuminated the operations began exploding, possibly due to an electrical short. In the darkness, a worker kicked over a bucket of hot tar pitch, and soon Hell Gate was in flames.

The ensuing fire quickly spread throughout Dreamland Park. The buildings were made of frames of thin strips of wood covered with a moldable mixture of plaster of Paris and hemp fiber. Both materials were highly flammable, and as they were common in the Coney Island amusement parks, fires were a persistent problem there. Because of this, a new high-pressure water pumping station had been constructed at Twelfth Street and Neptune Avenue a few years earlier, but on that night it failed. Water was available, but there was not enough to contain the fire that enveloped Dreamland. The Dicker family's adjacent hotel also burned down in this fire.

Chaos broke loose as the park burned. As the single-armed Captain Bonavita the big cat trainer strove to save his big cats with only the swiftly encroaching flames for illumination, some of the terrified big cats escaped. A lion named Black Prince rushed into the streets, among crowds of onlookers, and was shot by police. By morning, the fire was out, Dreamland was completely destroyed, and about 60 animals had died. Early editions of the New York Times claimed the incubator babies had perished in the flames, but the paper later corrected their story and reported that all incubator babies had been saved by Sgt. Frederick Klinck of the NYPD, who made several trips into the burning structure to rescue the incubator babies.

The owners of Dreamland had suffered a $3,500,000 loss and decided not to rebuild. More than 2500 people (1600 at Dreamland alone) had lost their jobs.

Samuel Gumpertz decided to put together a new Dreamland Circus Side-Show under a 40 x 80 foot tent along Surf Avenue while the park's embers were still smoldering. Gumpertz had no trouble convincing Coney's freaks to join his operation. It was a matter of economics; they needed a job. Most preferred the low but steady seasonal pay versus being constantly on the road in search of more lucrative one night stands. Besides most freaks liked the sense of community, of living at Coney Island among their abnormal peers. Best of all he stroked their egos by treating them as something special and displaying them as something unique. It didn't matter if they were dwarfs, giants, ugly, amazingly obese, had three legs, no arms or legs; the public would pay money to stare at them and gaze in awe.

The 1911 Dreamland Circus Side-Show exhibited Ursa the bear girl; Bonita, the Irish fat midget; Fatima, the the Nubian woman; Rob Roy, albino wonder; Captain Copp, human tattooed art gallery; Baby Alpine 615 pounds; Schrief Afendl, human salamander. The new Dreamland Circus Side Show became an instant success. From 1917 to 1926 the featured sword swallower with the Dreamland Circus Side Show was Mighty Ajax, the Arabian Sword Swallower, and in 1927, the Dreamland Circus Side Show featured Marie DeVere as sword swallower (dressed just like Mighty Ajax, the Arabian Sword Swallower!).

The popularity of the freaks at Dreamland Circus Sideshow led to many other side shows at Coney Island. In 1922 "Professor" Sam Wagner opened the rival Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show and World Circus Freak Show. Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show was a sideshow owned and operated by "Professor" Samuel Wagner from 1922 to 1941 on Surf Avenue, Coney Island, New York. Other sideshows soon opened, including the Steeplechase Circus Big Show, George Hamid's Playland Circus, Hubert's Museum, the Strand Museum, the Mammoth Wonder Show, and Dave Rosen's Wonderland Circus Side Show.

In 1929, Gumpertz left Coney Island to run Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. David Rosen's Wonderland Circus Side Show displayed an array of living human oddities in 1930. However, starting in 1930, business dropped considerably during the Great Depression. While it was possible to attract 20,000 customers/day back in 1915, showman were lucky to attract 8,000 customers a day by the beginning of the Depression. Showmen dropped their prices, but then the quality of the freaks began to suffer. It became hard to compete for freaks with the circuses and traveling carnivals.

In the late 1930's Robert Moses, who was the New York City Parks Commissioner, tried to ban ballyhoo and outside lecturers. In 1938 three major sideshow operators were brought to trial for violation of the ordinance: Sam Wagner (World Circus Side Show), Dave Rosen (Coney Side Show), and Fred Sindell (Palace of Wonders Freak Show). Known as "The Godfather" of the Coney Island Freak Show, Sam Wagner endured a legal fight against the famed Robert Moses, who believed the age of sideshow entertainment was over and banned "Ballyhoo and Outside Lecturers", which eventually put the sideshows out of business.

In 1955, David Rosen was still operating Wonderland Circus Sideshow and Palace of Wonders. Although there was much less interest in freaks, he persisted for a few more years.

Over the decades, additional sideshows have worked at Coney Island, including John Bradshaw's Sideshow, Bobby Reynolds' International Circus Museum, and Dick Zigun's Sideshows by the Seashore. Human oddities who worked in circuses and other traveling shows enjoyed the relative stability and permanence of Coney Island.

Today Coney Island is home to Sideshows by the Seashore. Founded in 1986, Sideshows by the Seashore was the brainchild of Dick Zigun who, as founder and artistic director of Coney Island USA (CIUSA) in 1980, is largely responsible for Coney Island's recent renaissance. Since its creation in 1986, the Sideshow has grown into an international hub for the weird under the guidance of its parent organization Coney Island USA, which is run out of the same building. The operation also teaches sideshow skills under the name Coney Island Circus Sideshow School.

For decades, the sideshows at Coney Island were legendary as seasonal homes for human oddities and sideshow freaks, including sword swallowers Prince Milo Milse Laraway, Marie DeVere, the Mighty Ajax, Edna Price, Melvin Burkhart, Shumpert Eko, Slim Price, Bobby Reynolds, Lady Diane Falk, Baron Bill Unks, Todd Robbins, Fredini Kahl, Heather Holliday, and others.

Seeking photos and more information.

Sword Swallowers at Coney Island:
1903: Luna Park opens
1904: Dreamland opens
1910: Dreamland: Prince Milo Milse
1911: May 27, 1911 Dreamland fire breaks out
1911: Dreamland closes
1911: New Dreamland Circus Sideshow starts under tent
1916: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Marie DeVere
1917: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1918: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1919: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1920: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1921: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1922: Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow opens
1923: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax, Marie DeVere
1924: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1925: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1926: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1927: Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow Mighty Ajax
1927: Dreamland Circus Side Show Line-up: Marie DeVere, King Charles Roy
1927: Prince Everett Roy born August 28, 1927 to King Charles Roy at Dreamland Circus Side Show
1928: Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow Mighty Ajax
1929: Gumpertz leaves Coney Island to run Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1930: Great Depression hits
1932: Dreamland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1937: George Hamid's Playland Circus: Edna Price
1937: Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow Edna Price
1938: Robert Moses attempts to ban sideshow ballies
1941: Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow closes
1944: Mammoth Wonder Show: Mighty Ajax
1944: Luna Park Wonderland Circus Sideshow: Mighty Ajax
1944: Luna Park damaged by 2 fires
1945: Luna Park closed
1955: Dave Rosen still operates Wonderland Circus Sideshow and Palace of Wonders
1980: Dick Zigun founds Coney Island USA
1986: Sideshows by the Seashore founded by Dick Zigun
1989: Sideshows by the Seashore: Lady Diane Falk
1990: Sideshows by the Seashore: Lady Diane Falk
1991: Sideshows by the Seashore: Lady Diane Falk
1991: Sideshows by the Seashore: Baron Bill Unks
1991: John Bradshaw Sideshow: Tisha Vudie

Dreamland Circus Sideshow
Ajax with Dreamland Circus Sideshow (1920s?)

Marie DeVere with Dreamland Circus Sideshow (1927)
Dreamland Circus Sideshow (1931) video

Ajax
Mighty Ajax
Professor Ajax
J.M. Ajax
Joe Milana
Joseph Milana
Joseph P. Milana The Pirate
Arabian Sword Swallower
Mexican Sword Swallower
King of Sword Swallowers
King of Swords
Born December 6, 1884
Performed 1904-1959
Died April 27, 1959
sword swallowers grave
Miles Orton Big Southern Railroad Shows
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Texas Bill Wild West Side Show
Hubert's Museum
Boyd & Wirth's Circus International
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
Coney Island
Dreamland Circus Sideshow
Mammoth Wonder Show
Luna Park Wonderland
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Brooklyn, NY
(USA)
The "Mighty Ajax" was born of Italian descent as Joseph Milana on December 6 1884 in Washington DC; According to 1900 US Census records, both his parents were born in Italy, and his mother, Maria Milana became a US citizen in 1884, the same year that Joseph was born. According to 1900 US Census records, Joseph only received a 4th grade education. In the 1900 US Census, there is no mention of his father, but at the age of 15, young Joseph Milana was working as a "jeweller" in Brooklyn to help support his mother as the oldest of four children:
Joseph Milana: 15,
Salvatore Milana: 13,
Kate Milana: 10, and
Frank Milana: 6. (1896-1961)

Sometime between 1900 and 1904, young Joseph started his career in entertainment as a pigeon trainer in "Dime Museums", and ended his career in show business as a "Punch and Judy man". Ajax claimed to have taught himself sword swallowing, presumably around 1903-1904 at about the age of 17-18. Jospeh Milana is first listed as the sword swallower with the Miles Orton Big Southern Railroad Shows in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on March 5, 1904. (film c.1904-05) Later in 1904, the Mighty Ajax toured Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at the age of 18. The earliest known photo of the Mighty Ajax, The Arabian Sword Swallower was taken around 1905, after having just returned from touring Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. According to the December 9, 1905 Billboard: "Notes from the side show of the Texas Bill Wild West Show. We have just closed our thirtieth week, during which time our roster has not changed. We have played twelve states and two territories. We expect to be out all winter. We have at present twenty-six people among whom are... Prof. Ajax, Mexican sword swallower". When he performed his sword swallowing act, Ajax would stand on the bally, swallow a sword, and put it back in its scabbard. When audience members would claim, "Fake, fake!", Ajax would offer them a challenge: "If anyone doubts that I'm really swallowing a sword, bring me your own sword, and I'll swallow it, with the provision that if I swallow it, I get to keep it!" When Ajax performed for King George V of England, King George did not believe Ajax really swallowed the sword. So Ajax offered him his challenge. King George produced a sword, which Ajax carefully swallowed. As a result, the King was convinced, and Ajax was allowed to keep the King's sword.

Ajax's first wife Marie Milana also performed fire-eating and "double knife cutting" with him. Ajax's first son by his first wife Marie was named Bernie Milana, but he died of a head injury as a young man when he fell from a ladder and injured his head around 1917. Ajax performed in Vaudeville with Al Jolson and Eddy Cantor. Ajax was famous for his long run season after season at Coney Island's Dreamland Circus Side-Show. According to the June 2, 1917 Billboard: "Coney Island, N.Y. May 26 -- When one walks into the Dreamland Circus Side-Show, he is instantly struck with the idea that he is in a dream. In reality, and instinctively, he pinches himself to see if he is awake. The management of this famous side-show has certainly eclipsed all previous efforts, and the results have justified his efforts. Manager Salih walks around with a broad, good-natured smile these days, for altho the season is very backward and Coney Island has only had a day or two of decent weather, the Dreamland Circus Side-Show has been visited by everyone on the Island, and all visitors have to admit that it is the greatest ever. Here are the attractions: ...Ajax, sword swallower, Eli Bowen, legless man..." Ajax's Coney Island banner read, "Robert Ripley says, 'The only man in the world who can swallow a red hot sword!' " Ajax would heat up a sword in a charcoal fire until the sword was red hot, then put the sword in a scabbard and swallow both the sword and the scabbard at the same time. Ajax had to remove the sword quickly before it transferred the heat to the scabbard. According to reports, other sword swallowers later died while trying to imitate Ajax's feat.

From 1917 to 1922, Ajax lived in Brooklyn and worked at Dreamland Circus Side-Show in Coney Island Brooklyn, NY. During this time, Ajax met 18-year-old Sarina Emmanuel, and on September 4, 1919, they were married. In 1921, Ajax's second son, Victor Milana was born. (Victor Milana lived until the 1970s, and is survived by his wife Vivian). In 1922, Mighty Ajax performed with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus. On February 3, 1924, Ajax and Sarina gave birth to their third son, Richard Ernest Milana (1924-2012). In 1927, Mighty Ajax returned to perform with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus (1927 lineup). In 1928, Ajax performed for Hubert's Museum in NY, and had an x-ray taken with a sword down his throat in New York City. In 1932, Ajax the Sword Swallower was featured with Boyd & Wirth's Circus International. In 1939, Ajax was also known as "The Pirate" due to his distinctive trademark pirate bandana that he was known for wearing. The February-March 1939 issue of "Your Body" magazine featured an x-ray of Ajax with sword down his throat. According to the 1940 US Census, 55 year old Joseph Milana was married to 38 year old Sarina, when Ajax reported that he made $600/year working 10 hours/week and only 26 weeks per year (Comparatively, others in the 1940 Census report made $500-$700 per year working 50-52 weeks per year). According to a Sep 19, 1942 Billboard article: "World Circus Side Show employees helped Ajax, "King of Swords," and Sarina Milana, electric girl, celebrate their 23d wedding anniversary September 4th. Their two sons, Victor and Richard Milana, the former a staff sergeant at the Naval Military School, Washington, and the latter with the Marines abroad, sent wires of congrats." According to the June 10, 1944 Billboard, the Mammoth Wonder Show at Coney Island included Ajax the sword swallower in its 1944 lineup. In the 1940s, Mighty Ajax was able to swallow up to 5 swords at one time. According to a Coney Island article in the August 5, 1944 Billboard: "Two attractions named Ajax are confusing to associates. One is Ajax, the "King of Sword Swallowers" at the Mammoth, who says he came by the title first, and the other is a strong man and an accordian maker and player at Wonderland in Luna. Both unrelated to the lightning god of ancient history..." According to a July 15, 1944 Billboard article on Coney Island: "Ajax has left the Mammoth Freakery and shelved sword swallowing to move into Wonderland to become a Frankenstein impersonator in place of Art Dorner who departed last week." In 1948, Ajax taught Slim Price how to swallow swords in a doorway between shows.

According to a June 24, 1950 Billboard article: Coney Island "Ticket sellers are Amine Abbott, Joe Milana, (formerly AJAX, Sword King)..." According to an article in the 1952 Leatherneck: "Joseph Milana, whose circus name was Ajax, swallows a sword for fellow MCFA members". According to the July 12, 1952 Billboard, "Joseph (Ajax) Milana recently became a grandfather for the second time (June 20, 1952)". According to the July 4, 1953 Billboard, "Edith Purdin, inside lecturer at the Palace of Wonders celebrated the first anniversary of her grandson, Van Allen Milana, June 20, at the home of the youngster's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Victor Milana, New York. Dad Victor is a TV engineer, and grandfather is Ajax, former sword swallower." In the mid-1950s, Ajax performed for Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not. According to a 1955 Ripley's article, "Mrs. Ajax also swallows hardware, but hers has jagged metal edges". According to the April 29, 1957 Billboard: "Roosevelt Field, huge shopping community on Long Island, started a six-day circus promotion Monday (April 22), with acts including several booked through Ray Beaudet. Included are ...Ajax, fire-eater and sword swallower. They put on 22 shows at five spots at the shopping center." According to Ajax's son, Richard Milana, the most swords Ajax ever swallowed simultaneously was 7 swords at once; he claimed Ajax never incurred any serious injuries from sword swallowing, as he was always very careful while sword swallowing. Ajax died in Brooklyn NY on April 27, 1959 at the age of 74 after performing over 54 years. His obituary in the April and May 1959 Billboard states: "MILANA, Joseph, 74, known in outdoor show business as Ajax the Sword Swallower, April 27, in New York. He had spent a lifetime as an act and pitchman, much of it in the New York area working for Dave Rosen, Hubert's Museum, and Ringling in Madison Square Garden. Survivors include his widow, two sons, two grandchildren, a brother and a sister. Services May 1 in Brooklyn, with burial in Pinelawn Cemetery, Amityville, NY." Ajax is buried next to his wife Sarina (1901-1979) in Pinelawn Memorial Park Farmingdale, NY. When he died, Ajax's swords were willed to Jimmy Lucky Ball II, and before she died in 1979, his wife Sarina said "he sold his swords to a young fellow sword swallower" when his son Richard was in the military service. Some info courtesy Ajax' son Richard E. Milana and his wife Natalie Milana; Richard Ernest Milana was born Feb 3, 1924, graduated in 1950 from Cornell University, retired in January 1996 at the age of 82, died Jan 1, 2012 in San Diego, CA. His son, Ajax' grandson, Joseph Milana, was a physical engineer who graduated from Cornell in 1982 with a PhD from SUNY, Stony Brook on Long Island, who worked in high-particle research for very low pay--and left academia for industry. Other info courtesy of grandson Van Milana, Brooklyn NY. Seeking photos and more information.

Mighty Ajax Timeline:
1884: Born Joseph Milana on December 6 in Washington DC
1900: Worked as jeweller in Brooklyn NY
1903-04: Learned sword swallowing
1904: Miles Orton Shows
1904: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Europe
1905: Texas Bill Wild West Side Show
191?: Marries Marie Milana
191?: First son Bernie Milana dies
1917: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1918: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1919: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1919: September 4, 1919, marries Sarina Emmanuel
1920: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1921: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1921: Second son Victor Milana born
1922: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1923: Coney Island Dreamland Side-Show
1924: February 3, 1924, second son Richard E. Milana born
1924: Coney Island Dreamland Side-Show
1925: Coney Island Dreamland Side-Show
1926: Coney Island Dreamland Side-Show
1927: Coney Island Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow
1927: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1928: Coney Island Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow
1928: Hubert's Museum NY
1932: Boyd & Wirth's Circus
1932: Jan 9: Circus Day at Grand Theatre, Coney Island
1932: Coney Island Dreamland Side-Show
1944: Coney Island Mammoth Wonder Show
1944: Coney Island Luna Park Wonderland
1948: Taught Slim Price
1950: Coney Island selling tickest
1952: June 20, Grandson Van Allen Milana born
1955: Ripley's Believe It or Not!
1958: Mighty Ajax video
1959: Mighty Ajax dies April 27 in Brooklyn NY

Young Ajax (1904-05)
Young Ajax (1905)
Young Ajax (video c 1904-5)
Ajax and wife Marie (1910-18)
Ajax (early)
Young Ajax with sword shield
Ajax Night at Coney Island (1927-28?)
Ajax Night at Coney Island (1927-28?)
Ajax Night at Coney Island (1927-28?)
Ajax Night at Coney Island (1927-28?)
Ajax with Dreamland Circus Sideshow (1920s?)
Ajax with Ringling Bros (1927)
Ajax at Hubert's (1928)
Ajax X-ray (1928)
Ajax X-ray (1928)
Ajax x-ray (1939)
Ajax swallowing 5 (1940s)
Mighty Ajax with sword pin (1940s)
Mighty Ajax with sword pin closeup (1940s)
Mighty Ajax at Ripley's (1955)
Mighty Ajax (video c.1958)
Joseph Milana gravesite
Joseph Milana headstone
David Berlino
(David Bäck)
Born 1886
Performed 1905-20
Died 1972
(Sweden) David Bäck was born in Brevik, Skaraborg, Sweden in 1886, and performed throughout southern Sweden under the names "David Beck" and "David Berlino" as sword swallower, fire-eater and juggler with a circus he half-owned between about 1905 to about 1920. David Berlino Bäck died in Stockholm Sweden in 1972 at the age of 86. Sök efter fotos och upplysningen.
Dr. Max Cremer
1st Esophageal Electrocardiogram
1906 (Wales) German doctor Dr. Max Cremer records the first oesophageal electrocardiogram performed in Wales which he achieved in 1906 after enlisting the help of an unnamed professional sword swallower. Seeking more information..
Ringling Brothers Circus 1907 (USA) Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907, but tour separately until 1918.
Oesophagoscopy
in a Sword Swallower
1908 Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences published in Philadelphia, PA in November 1908: Hald reports his observations in oesophagoscopy upon a sword swallower. The oesophagus had been very largely distended in consequence of the professional feats, and the cricoidean zone of the pharynx was patent and much larger than normal. There was an excoriation upon the posterior wall of the cricoid cartilage. Curiously, the patient could not support the examination any better than ordinary subjects, his oesophagus seeming to have become habituated to flat foreign bodies, but not to cylindrical ones. The mucous membrane was of a deep violaceous red, the result of chronic inflammatory condition, likewise the result of his sword swallowing. The tube could be introduced 45 cm. without reaching the cardia. Seeking more information..
Article (Nov 1908)
Edward Smith
Edward Burnap Smith
Edward Bernap Smith
Edward Berner Smith
Edward Bernard Smith

Born 1890
Performed 1900s-1918
Died September 22, 1946
sword swallowers grave

Barnum & Bailey Circus
Buffalo, NY
Younkers, NY
(USA)
Edward Burnap (or Bernap or Berner) Smith was born around 1890 either in New Jersey, or Buffalo, NY. He was orphaned at a young age when his parents were both killed in a train crash en route to the New Jersey Shore around 1893. He was very young when his parents died and he never really knew if his name was his real name from birth, an adoptive name, or one his circus family gave him. As a small child, he ran away from his adoptive family and joined Barnum & Bailey Circus as a water boy, possibly in or around Buffalo, NY. As he grew up in the circus, he learned to perform various circus acts, including trapeze artist (catcher), tightrope walker, sword swallower, fire eater and juggler. At a later time (early 1900's) Smith worked as a cowboy roping cattle in the western US in the off-season (perhaps when Barnum & Bailey returned to the US in 1902 and headed west in 1905?). Smith spoke an American Indian dialect fluently, possibly learned from his friend, a Chief of the Lakota or Nakota Sioux. He was also self-taught on 6 different musical instruments. Upon leaving Barnum & Bailey Circus, Smith worked briefly with a partner in Vaudeville. By 1918 he was no longer in show business. On June 19, 1918, Smith married Sarah Alice Noble and they resided in Harlem, NY, then Yonkers, NY with their daughter Alice, who was born in 1924 and died in 1988. Smith used to juggle milk bottles in the kitchen, and he taught his daughter Alice to walk a tightrope when she was a child. His daughter Alice Elizabeth Smith McCullough said he was very strong with dark features. Although he had been a strong man, Smith died of tuberculosis on September 22, 1946 at the age of 56 in Yonkers NY. He is buried in Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hartsdale, New York, Plot: St. Peter section, grave 224. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Edward Burnap Smith
Otto Stiefel Born Oct. 1886
Performed 1908
Died 1921
sword swallowers grave
Edon, OH
(USA)
Otto Stiefel was born in October 1886 in Edon, OH to Albert Stiefel and Emma Huber Stiefel. Otto Stiefel was featured as a sword swallower and blade walker in the Feb 29, 1908 New York Police Gazette. Otto Stiefel died in 1921 in Edon, Ohio, and is buried in Edon Florence Township Cemetery in Edon, Ohio. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Otto Stiefel article (1908)
Otto Stiefel grave
Johan Nestor Laaksonen Born 1876
Performed pre-1906
Moved to USA in 1906
Died 1926
sword swallowers grave
Turka
[Finland]
Quincy, MA
Virginia, MN
Brimson, MN
(USA)
Johan Nestor Laaksonen was born in Turka Finland in 1876, and was a member of the Temperance Society there in his late youth. Johan's parents' had a farm in Rusko, Finland which provided only a low income. Johan had worked for awhile in the circus as a contortionist, sword swallower, tumbler, tight-rope artist, acrobat, and clown. Johan was also an actor, and he and his friend Rosa Lumme were typically cast in leading roles together, which led to them falling in love. Rosa was born in Finland about 1874. From her late youth, Rosa was also a member of the Temperance Society in Turka, Finland. Rosa was an actress, sang and eventually became director of the plays. Rosa also talked her father into joining the Temperance Society, which helped him overcome drinking alcohol. Rosa and Johan were married and Johan took over the director role once Rosa started having children. About 1906, Johan worked as a baker and borrowed money from fellow baker Gronlund to go to America. Gronlund came to America shortly after. Once in America in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Johan worked as a baker and directed plays at the Finnish Saima Hall. He managed to save enough to bring his family over within a year. In December 1907, Rosa and children started out for America from Turka, Finland. The children were ages: Urho 9, Ilmari 7, Irja 4 1/2, and Ilma 2. They took a train to Hanko to board a ship to Hull, England. At Hull, England they took a train to Liverpool to board the ship White Star Liner, Arabic. They arrived in America January 1908 and spent several days at Ellis Island. Johan then developed health problems working as a baker and had to quit baking. So Johan worked away from his family at the Finnish Cooperative Store while also directing some plays at the Finn Hall in Quincy, MA. The Finn Hall in Quincy then offered Johan a full-time directing job, so the family moved there. Rosa's brother Mauno was living in Virginia Minnesota and felt Minnesota was so much like Finland. Mauno convinced Rosa and Johan to move there. In spring 1912, Mauno sent a letter to Johan letting him know about opportunities in Virginia: business for sale and Virginia’s Finnish Group needing a play director. Johan and his family moved to Virginia, MN in spring 1912 where they lived for about one year. Then on May 12, 1913. Johan, Rosa and family moved to a farm they bought in Brimson, MN, closer to the North Shore of Lake Superior. Johan Nestor Laaksonen died in 1926, and is buried in Brimson Cemetery in St. Louis County, Minnesota, USA. (For more extensive information on Johan and Rosa’s life, read the book “Echos From the Past” by Irja Beckman) Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
William Meltons
"Schwertkünstler"
Performed 1910 (Germany) William Meltons performed in Germany as a "Schwertkünstler" ("Sword Artist") around 1910. Seeking photos and more information.
William Meltons (1910)
Lawrence Bowden Performed December 1913 LaSalle, IL
Kenosha, WI
(USA)
Sword Swallower Lawrence Bowden of LaSalle, IL made it on the front page of the Kenosha Evening News on Dec. 29, 1913. Accordint to the article, on Saturday evening, Dec. 27, 1913, Bowden dropped into a downtown saloon and began entertaining his fellow imbibers by swallowing pieces of metal found in the establishment. They were in awe, and Bowden decided to pass the hat so his new friends could show their proper appreciation. It was about this time that a police officer walked in and decided to haul Bowden in for vagrancy and for not having a license for his free show. Bowden was well dressed and had money in his pocket for the fine, but he declared that swallowing a sword was not a crime. The night sergeant at the desk convinced him to sleep it off in lockup, and, because Bowden was a little tired, he complied. On Sunday morning, Police Chief Owen O’Hare came to the station and saw there was an inmate booked on a charge of “sword swallowing.” He immediately had Matt Zievers, the desk sergeant, send Bowden up from his cell. The newspaper reported what happened next: “‘Well, get busy and let’s see you swallow some swords,’ the chief yelled, and without a sign of hesitation Bowden gulped down an old-fashioned broad sword and followed it with an army bayonet. “The police were mystified, but Bowden declared that he had only begun. “He continued to crowd away in his esophagus any number of things metallic, and finally he made the proposition to the chief that he would swallow eight swords at once, if liberty was guaranteed to him. “‘Get right to swallowing!’ was the only reply of the chief, and Bowden picked up eight swords, and laying them blade for blade, he put them away in his gullet. “‘I guess there is no doubt but that you’re a real sword swallower,’ declared the chief, and he got up and gave Bowden the hearty hand clasp of a brother and sent him on his way rejoicing.” Seeking photos and more information.
Max Schlepsig Performed 1913
(Germany)
(Albania)
In 1913, at the time when Albania was looking for a king and hoped that prince Halim Eddine (Halim Etti), nephew of the sultan of Constantinople, would agree to ascend the throne, a 42 year old German, Otto Witte, circus clown and magician by profession who happened to resemble the prince, arranged to have a telegram sent from Constantinople to the head of the Albanian army announcing the arrival of the prince by boat. Witte and his accomplice, Max Schlepsig, a sword swallower promoted to "aide-de-camp" in the interest of the cause, disembarked at Durazzo (Durrës) dressed up in theatre uniforms, and inspected the Albanian guard who presented arms to them. A few days later, after establishing a harem of 25 women, the versatile circus performer and usurper Witte succeeded to be crowned King Otto the First of Albania on August 13th, 1913. The hoax lasted five days. The truth came out when Halim Eddine sent a telegram from Constantinople in which he said he was astonished to be crowned king of Albania without even being aware of it. With the assistance of the young women of the harem, Otto Witte and Max Schlepsig managed to flee from the palace just in time to escape on a fishing boat to Bari. Witte died in Hamburg, Germany exactly 45 years later on August 13th, 1958. Seeking photos and more information..
Anatomisches Wunder
Anatomical Wonder
Performed circa 1916? Circus Shumann
Berliner Theater
Berlin
(Germany)
The Anatomisches Wunder (the Anatomical Wonder) was a German soldier and Schwertschluker (Sword swallower) who served in the German military in Kaiser Alexander Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 1. The Anatomisches Wunder performed for 15 days in the Berliner Theater, and for one month with Circus Schumann, and was photographed and x-rayed while swallowing a sword in uniform. According to the photo: "A talented member of Kaiser Alexander's Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr.1 demonstrates his talent for sword swallowing by downing a Hirschfänger, a long double-edged hunting knife used to kill deer and boar." (Kaiser Alexander Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr. 1, briefly Alexander-Regiment or Alexandriner) was an infantry regiment of the Guard Corps within the Royal Prussian Army and a Guards Grenadiers regiment of the Imperial German Army. After World War I, the regiment was demobilized on 27 November 1918). Could this have been Captain Heinrich von Bablitz? Seeking photos and more information.

Anatomicshe Wunder mit Kaiser Alexander (c.1916?)
Capt. Heinrich von Bablitz
"Dare Devil Sensationest"
Performed ?

(Germany)
Sword swallower Capt. Heinrich von Bablitz was known as the "Daredevil Sensationest". Seeking photos and more information.
Capt. Heinrich von Bablitz
Borovik
B. Ivanoff
B. Ivanhoff
Cossack Sword Dancer
Kazakh Sword Dancer

"World Champion Sword Dancer"
Performed 191?s-30s
Russian Royal Circus
[Russia]
Russian Tea Room
New York, NY
[USA]
Seeking information on Borovik, who performed as a sword swallower with the Russian Royal Circus and apparently left Russia at the fall of the Czar in 1917. It is not known for sure if he moved to or performed in the US.
However, there was also a Russian Sword Swallower named B. Ivanoff or B. Ivanhoff, who was known as a "World Champion Sword Dancer" with a troop of Russian "Cossacks" or Kazakhs known for their demonstration of horsemenship and dancing, who performed at the Russian Tea Room in NY in the 1920s. Could this have been the same person? Or was this the "Flaming Dagger Dancer" Dimitry Matvienko who performed at the Casino Russe, 157 W. 56th St., located in the Carnegie Hall Building in New York City? Seeking photos and more information.
Unknown Russian SwSw (1926)
Russian Cossack B. Ivanhoff (1926)
Russian Cossack B. Ivanoff
Flaming Dagger Dancer Dimitry Matvienko
Alexander Joseph Dourof Born 1881
Performed 1917?-40s?
Died Jan 12, 1949
Russian Royal Circus
(Russia)
(Wales)
London
(UK)
Alexander Joseph Dourof was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1881 into the well-known Dourof Circus family. The Dourofs were initially animal trainers, and Alexander Dourof was allegedly one of the first trainers to train a bear without breaking its back. "The Dourof Family" performed as part of a non-staterun circus in Russia, and in the Russian Royal Circus until the Russian Revolution in 1917 when they escaped as refugees to the UK, settling for a short period in Wales. Their first performance in the UK was with a circus in Barmouth, Wales, and after a short time (the circus came to an end in Wales around 1925), the family later moved to England. Alexander was married to Sophia Elsa Dourof, who was born in Russia in 1888 and died in the UK in 1967. They had ten children who were born in various countries, with the eldest five becoming UK nationalized citizens, including a daughter named Sarah, and a son named Harry Phillip Dourof who was born in the UK and died in 1986. When they first landed in the UK, both Alexander and Sophia entertained British troops, as she was a tight rope walker and the eldest two children were performing acrobats in the ring. After immigrating to the UK, Dourof was required to join the military and was recruited into the Light Cavalry, where as an animal trainer, he handled horses with great skill, and as a sword swallower, he was a master with the saber. The Dourof family traveled together as a family circus and eventually settled down in Peckham England, where they were well-known and well-liked. There was a book written in Russian about Alexander Dourof and his family, but it is out of print and unavailable in English; There is also a plaque commemorating Dourof the sword swallower's assistance in the development of the stomach pump at the renowned Guys Hospital near London Bridge. The original 1943 film "The Man in Grey" (starring James Mason), featured Alexander Dourof in the background swallowing a sword during a carnival scene, although the original film was ruined, and the later version released on video does not include Dourof's scene. Dourof died in England at the age of 68 on January 12, 1949. Alexander Dourof and his wife Sophia are buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak Park in southeast London. On his headstone, Dourof is hailed as being "A Great Showman and the Last of the Sword Swallowers". Seeking photos, dates, and more information
Alexander Dourof - gravesite
Alexander Dourof - headstone
Alexander Dourof - face
Sophia Dourof - headstone
Sophia Dourof - face
Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show
Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Ranch
Toured US 1907-1916 Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show
Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Ranch

Ponca, OK
(USA)
Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show Sword swallowers with the Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Ranch included Delno Fritz and Maude D'Auldin in 1908, and Marie DeVere.

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with Miler Brothers 101 Wild West Show.

Sword Swallowers with Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show:
1908: Delno Fritz and Maude D'Auldin
19??: Marie DeVere
1916: Elderly Buffalo Bill tours with Miller Brothers 101 Wild West Show
1917: Jan 10: Buffalo Bill dies, show does not tour on road
1918: Show does not tour on road
1919: Show does not tour on road
1920: Show does not tour on road
1926: Buys Walter L. Main Circus equipment and goes back on road

Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus Combined Show 1918 (USA) In 1918, Ringling Brothers Circus and Barnum and Bailey Circus combine to become one combined show, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBB&B). On March 29, 1919, the combined "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows" debuted in New York City. The posters declared, "The Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions." John Nicholas Ringling purchased the American Circus Corporation for $1.7 million, thereby absorbing five major shows: Sells-Floto Circus, Al G. Barnes Circus, Sparks Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, and John Robinson Circus.

On July 6, 1944, the infamous Hartford Circus Fire happened while RBB&B was performing in Hartford, CT. In 1951, Lady Patricia Zerm was filmed as the sword swallower with the 1951 edition of the Ringling Brother B&B Circus in Cecil B. DeMille's film "The Greatest Show on Earth" which was filmed on location with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1951 and released in 1952. In July 1956, RBB&B ended its last season under canvas. In the spring of 1957, RBB&B begins performing in auditoriums. In the fall of 1967, Irving and Israel Feld buy the RBB&B circus from the North and Ringling family interests for $8 million. In 1968, RBB&B eliminates the sideshow and menagerie when RBB&B Circus moves into the new Madison Square Gardens above Penn Station. 1968, Irvin Feld establishes "Ringling Brothers Clown College."

Sword swallowers with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus include Annie Roy, Charles Griffin, Capt. Fritz Lecardo, Edward Smith, Edith Clifford, Mighty Ajax, Delno Fritz, Edna Price, Joseph Grendol, Mimi Garneau, Curly Frisbie, Edward Willis, Alex Linton, Lady Patricia Zerm, Lady Beth Bancroft, Ricky Richiardi Lee Bradley, Estelline Pike, Jim Lucky Ball II, Francis Doran, and Lady Sandra Reed

Ringling Brothers Circus Timeline, Routes, Sword Swallowers:
1890: Route Sword Swallower Annie Roy?
1891: Route Sword Swallower Annie Roy?
1892: Route Sword Swallower Annie Roy?
1899: Route & Staff Sword Swallower Professor Charles E. Griffin
1900: Route & Staff Sword Swallower Professor Charles E. Griffin
1901: Route & Staff Sword Swallower Professor Charles E. Griffin
1902: Route & Staff Sword Swallower Professor Charles E. Griffin
1903: Route & Staff Sword Swallower: none listed
1904: Route: US. Sword Swallower ?
1905: Route: US. Sword Swallower ?
1906: Route: US. Sword Swallower ?
1907: Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey but tour separately
1907: Route: US. Sword Swallower Capt. Fritz Lecardo?
1908: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1909: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1910: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1911: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1912: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1913: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1914: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1915: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1916: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1917: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1918: Route: US. Sword Swallower Edward Smith?
1918: Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus become combined show
1919: March 29 Houdini watches Edith Clifford perform with RBB&B
1920: Edith Clifford
1921: Edith Clifford
1922: Mighty Ajax
1923: Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1924: Line-up Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1925: Line-up Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1925: July: Delno Fritz dies
1926: Rubel and Edna Price
1926: John Ringling abolishes animal acts
1927: Line-up Mighty Ajax and Edna Price
1928: Balmung and Edna Price
1929: Line-up "Glendol" (Joseph Grendol)
1930: Edna Price
1931: Line-up Edna Price
1932: Edna Price
1933: Edna Price?
1934: ?
1935: Gendol
1936: Mimi Garneau
1937: none listed
1939: Miss Patsy Smith
1940: Alex Linton
1941: Miss Patricia Katts
1942: Miss Patricia
1942: possibly Curly Frisbie? or Edward Willis ?
1943: Miss Patricia Mrs. Speedy Smith
1944: Miss Patricia
and Miss Louise Long
1944: Hartford Fire July '44
1945: Lady Patricia Zerm
1945: Alex Linton
1946: Alex Linton
1947: Alex Linton
1948: Lady Patricia Zerm
1949: Alex Linton
1950: Lady Patricia Zerm
1951: Lady Patricia Zerm filmed
1952: "Greatest Show on Earth" movie released
1952: none listed
1953: Lady Beth Betty Bancroft
1954: Lady Beth Betty Bancroft
1955: Ricky Richiardi
1956: Ricky Richiardi
1956: Alex Linton
1956: Last season under canvas ends July '56
1957: RBB&B begins working in auditoriums
1957: Estelline Pike at Madison Square Garden
1958: Estelline Pike/Jim Lucky Ball II at Madison Sq Gardens
1959: Estelline Pike
1960: Estelline Pike
1961: Estelline Pike
1962: Estelline Pike
1963: Estelline Pike
1964: Estelline Pike
1965: Estelline Pike
1966: Estelline Pike
1966: Sir Thomas Thomas
1967: Estelline Pike
1967: Irving & Israel Feld buy RBB&B
1968: RBB&B Sideshow eliminated
1969: Francis Doran neon tube burst in Houston
1973: Lady Sandra Reed
Seeking more info on sword swallowers with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus

Maude D'Lean
Mlle de Aldine
Maud D'Aulin
Maud D'Auldin
Maud D.Auldin
Maud DeAuldin
Maud D'Aulden
Maude D'Auldin
Mrs. Delno Fritz
Mrs. Francis Fritz
Born c. 1878
Married 1899
Performed 1899-1920
Died 1920
sword swallowing injuryDied from sword swallowing injury
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Greater Norris & Rowe Circus
Miller Bros 101 Wild West Ranch
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Al G. Barnes Circus
Brook's Museum
John Robinson Circus Side Show
Dreamland Theatre
World's Museum Phila
(USA)
Maud D'Auldin (sometimes spelled Maud D'Aulin, Maud D'Auldin, Maude D'Auldin, Maud D.Auldin, Maud DeAuldin, Mlle de Aldine, Maud DeAulden, Maud D'Aulden, Maude D'Lean or Mrs. Maude Fritz) was born around 1878 in Paisley Scotland.

In 1897, sword swallower Delno Fritz met Maud D'Auldin in Scotland while touring the UK with Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1899, Delno Fritz married Maud D'Auldin in Paisley, Scotland probably between September 25-29, 1899 while Barnum & Bailey Circus was performing earby in Glasgow Scotland. The Fritz family lived in the UK another 8 years where Fritz bought and operated a few theatres, before they moved to Ashley Pennsylvania in June 1907.

In 1912, the couple performed an act known as "Sword and Gun Manipulation" with the Hagenbeck Wallace Sideshow. In 1915, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin were booked as sword swallowers on the Al G. Barnes Circus.

In 1916, Maude D.Auldin and Delno Fritz were featured as sword swallowers on the John Robinson Circus Side Show, while their 17-year-old niece Edna worked as the "floating lady", according to the 1916 John Robinson Shows program. An article in the Los Angeles Times dated Feb 1, 1916 states, "Mrs. Francis Fritz (38 years of age) who makes her living by shoving swords down her throat at Brook's Museum, No. 116 South Main street, early last night swallowed one sword too many and landed in the Receiving Hospital. The sword swallower declared last night that for over twenty years she had been entertaining people by swallowing swords and knives and never before injured herself. But last night, after she had swallowed and then pulled a long sword from her throat, Mrs. Fritz discovered that she had been injured, and was taken to the Receiving Hospital and later to the County Hospital, and according to doctors, she is in a serious condition." Maud died in 1920 at the age of 42 after she and DelnoFritz gave a command performance onboard a ship before the King and Queen of England. It was her practice to pass out her sword to the crowd for examination so they could see that it was real. Apparently someone in the crowd nicked the blade which resulted in an injury that led to her death. Their niece Edna Price took up sword swallowing in 1920 and continued the act with "Uncle Delno" beyond his death in 1925. Seeking photos and more information.

Maud D'Lean D'Auldin D.Auldin DeAuldin Timeline
1878: Born circa 1878 in Paisley Scotland
1897: Meets DelnoFritz with Barnum & Bailey Circus in UK
1899: Sept: Marries DelnoFritz in Paisley Scotland
1901: Live in Yorkshire, England
1907: April-May: Moves from UK to Ashley PA
1908: Miller Bros 101 Wild West Ranch Ponca City, OK with DelnoFritz
1909: Jan 25: Star Rink Chanute KS with DelnoFritz
1909: Waverly Market Winter Fair Edinborough, Scotland
1909: Nov 29: Bijou New Philadelphia, OH with DelnoFritz
1910: April 25-26: Greater Norris & Rowe Circus Louisville KY
1910: May 9: Greater Norris & Rowe Circus closes
1911: Mar 3: Reidsville, NC with DelnoFritz
1911: May 20: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with DelnoFritz
1912: Feb 2: Savoy Theater Wilkes-Barre PA with DelnoFritz
1912: Hagenbeck-Wallace Sideshow with DelnoFritz
1915: Al G. Barnes Circus with DelnoFritz
1916: Feb 1: Injured at Brooks Museum
1916: John Robinson Circus Side Show with DelnoFritz & Edna Price
1917: Oct 25: Dreamland Theatre, Pittston, PA with DelnoFritz
1920: World's Museum, Philadelphia, PA with Delno Fritz
1920: Dies from sword swallowing injury on ship

Mrs. Fritz injury (1916)
John Robinson Shows program (1916)
Cuban Mack Performed 1924 Sells Floto Circus
(USA)
Cuban Mack was the sword swallower and knife thrower with the Sells Floto Circus on June 8, 1924 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Herschel Allen Performed 1920s
Pennsylvania
(USA)
Herschel Allen was a sword swallower with a circus in Pennsylvania in the 1920s. Seeking photos and more information.
William Moody
The Sword Swallower
Born c. 1905
Injured 1928
Died Jan 2, 1928
Buried Jan 13, 1928
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Kansas City, MO
(USA)
According to an article dated January 2, 1928 in the Miami OK Daily News Record, "Kansas City: William Moody, 23 years old, a professional sword swallower, died today in a hospital where he was taken Friday after injuring himself with a butcher knife while demonstrating his ability in a restaurant. Influenza developed, and it was believed this caused his death."

According to information listed on his grave site: "Unknown date of birth, "guess" of age on death certificate is 35 yrs. White male. His last residence is given as 505 Delaware. There is a "loft" currently listed for #505, 509 Delaware St., Kansas City, MO. Possibly same. Died of "Bilateral Lobar Pneumonia". Place of death is listed as Jackson County, Kansas City General Hospital, Kansas City. Occupation is listed as: "Showman". No next of kin listed. Burial Maple Hill Cemetery on 13 Jan 1928. Undertaker: Eylar Funeral Home, 1800 Linwood." Seeking photos and more information.

Anastasia Humeniuk
Anastasia Lewchuk
Performed 1920-1968?
Died January 2005
N.P. Lewchuk Sideshow
Saskatchewan
(Canada)
Anastasia Humeniuk married sideshow operator Nicholas Paul Lewchuk in 1916 and learned to swallow 7 swords. Their N.P. Lewchuk Sideshow Midway was Canada's largest travelling sideshow and performed around Canada from 1920 to 1968. Anastasia died in January 2005 in Canora, Saskatchewan. Seeking photos and more information.
Anastasia Humeniuk
Sankala
Bruno E. Sankala
Born 1889?
Performed 1920s-30s
Died after 1959
Kemi
(Finland)
Bruno E. Sankala was born around 1889 and performed as a magician and fakir around 1920-30's. Finnish sword swallower Timo Tuomivaara met Sankala in Kemi's retirment home in 1959. Sankala was approximately 70 years old in 1959.
Curly Brown
Curley Brown
The Sword Swallower
Born c. 1892
Performed 1922-28
Died April 2, 1943
sword swallowers grave
E.E. Bonham Circus
Prairie du Sac, WI
(USA)
Curly Brown was the sword swallower and fire-eater for the E.E. Bonham Circus from 1922-1928. According to his obituary in the April 13, 1943 Chicago Daily Tribune entitled "Circus Pals To Bury Curly in Own Valhalla": "Curly Brown the Sword Swallower, is to get a burial today with the great and near-great of the circus and carnival world instead of an unmarked Potter's field grave to which his remains were apparently destined before some of his pals learned of his death. By action voted yesterday by directors of the Showman's League, Curly will be interned in Showman's Rest, a huge plot in Woodlawn Cemetery maintained by the league as sort of a Valhalla for distinguished members of the outdoor showman's profession. It is a 600 grave plot whose boundaries are marked by four huge granite elephants and 300 veterans of the sawdust rings and flying trapeezes of the outdoor circuits already are buried there.

Curly died of pneumonia 10 days ago in a South State street hotel and his body was taken to the county morgue. Curly, 51, was alone in the world and there were no claimants to the body. Preparations for a Potter's grave burial were taking their routine course when members of the league heard of his death. Pall bearers will be clowns, performers, press agents, and bill posters who remember Curly as one of the best sword swallowers of them all." Curly Brown was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Forest Park, IL. Seeking photos and more information.

Capt. Albert Peterson
King of All Sword Swallowers
Performed Dec 1936 World's Fair Museum
Ogden, UT
(USA)
Capt. Albert Peterson was featured as the "King of all Sword Swallowers" with The Great Lorenzo, the "mental marvel of Radio fame" and 17 other freaks for two weeks in December 1936 at the World's Fair Museum at 2464 Washington in Ogden, Utah. Seeking photos and more information.
Charles Anderson Performed 1930s-1940s
Died 1988
Tom Mix
Mighty Haag Shows
Texas Jack's Wild West Show
Scranton Shrine Circus
Carbondale, PA
(USA)
Charles Anderson was a side show performer and concessionaire. He toured in the 1930s-40s as a sword swallower and bally performer with Tom Mix, Mighty Haag Shows (1930-1938?), Texas Jack's Wild West Show (1901-1905), and the Scranton PA Shrine Circus. Charles Anderson died in 1988 at Carbondale, Pennsylvania, according to Circus Report, June 27, 1988, p. 3. Seeking photos and more information.
Gene Hemingway
Gene Hemmingway
Eugene Hemingway
Eugene B. Hemmingway
Born Dec. 28, 1896
Performed 1930s-1949
Died June 8, 1949
sword swallowers grave
Los Angeles, CA
(USA)
Eugene B. Hemmingway was born in South Carolina around 1893, and both of his parents were born in South Carolina. According to the 1930 US Census, Eugene Hemmingway was living in Los Angeles, CA and working as a sword swallower at the age of 37. In 1954 Gene Hemingway was featured in the 1954 Who's Who of the Circus as performing up to 1949. Eugene Hemmingway died on June 8, 1949, and was buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA. Seeking photos and more information.
William Miller
Sonny Miller
William "Sonny" Miller
Sonny the Sword Swallower
Performed 1923-33
Miller Circus
Miller Bros Circus
Miller Brothers Circus
Miller Bros. Wild Animal Shows
Alabama?
(USA)
William "Sonny" Miller was a sword swallower and founder of the Miller Bros. Circus along with his brothers Earl Miller and Claude Miller. His wife Rose Miller was the snake handler and gypsy palm reader and fortune teller who went by the stage name "Madame Minge". or "Madame Menge". She also was the half snake/half woman attraction. Sonny Miller and his brother were horse traders in the south. On May 11, 1923, the Miller Bros. Wild Animal Shows played at DeQuoin, Illinois. On May 26, 1933, The Miller Bros. Shows played in Stockton, Missouri. At some point after the circus closed, an alligator from the circus was given to the Prichard Alabama Zoo, and he became quite old and a big attraction at the zoo. Seeking photos and more information.
Peter Kortos Performed 1925 (USA) In 1925, Peter Kortos was featured as the sword swallower in the Tod Browning film "The Unholy Three". (1925, MGM 76mins. 7 reels. BW. silent with tinted sequences, US). Seeking photos and more information.
Professor Wishart
"Sword Swallower Extraordinaire"
Born c 1845
Performed 1926-1929?
Adelaide
(Australia)
"Professor Wishart" was born around 1845 and performed sword swallowing in Adelaide Australia in 1926 at the age of 84 under the billboard "Professor Wishart, Sword Swallower Extraordinary, Entertainer to the Royalty and Crowned Heads of Europe and the East". In 1929, Professor Wishart was described as a thin old man with long gray whiskers who "dressed flashily, with glitter trousers, a red cummerbund and a green velvet jacket". He finished his act by swallowing a large tent peg. Wishart is mentioned in the book The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. Seeking photos and more information.
Birkenshaw Performed 1926-1929? Adelaide
(Australia)
Birkenshaw was an English escapologist and sword swallower who worked in Adelaide, Australia around 1926-29. He would escape from padlocked trunks and then swallow up to 5 swords at once. He taught Owen Lloyd how to swallow swords around 1926-27. Birkenshaw is mentioned in the book The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. Seeking photos and more information.
Owen Rutherford Lloyd
"The Boy From Buninyong"
Born 1907
Performed 1926-79
Died 1980s
Buninyong
(Australia)
Owen Rutherford Lloyd was born in Buninyong, Australia in 1907. In the mid 1920s Lloyd turned to busking for his livelihood. He worked first as a fiddler with Dr. Richard Rowe and Mystic Mora, where he learned the skills of street busking. Then around 1926 at around the age of 19, he moved to Adalaide where over the course of a month he learned sword swallowing from the English escapologist and sword swallower "Birkenshaw". Lloyd learned how to swallow up to three swords at once, and eventually added swallowing a lit "narrow electric lightbulb" to his act. Lloyd and Birkenshaw performed together in Adelaide from around 1926 to 1929. During the course of his life Lloyd also learned fire-eating, illusions, animal training, and virtually every other act associated with show life. In the 1940s Lloyd toured with a circus to Durban, South Africa, and after returning, travelled to New Zealand, where he performed under the stage name "The Baron" and was both celebrated as a healer and condemned as a devil worshipper. Lloyd spent the last years of his life in Sydney, Australia busking by the El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross. In 1979 he won the ABC "Best of the Buskers" competition, and in the early 1980s retired to Papakura, Auckland, New Zealand to spend his last few years living happily with his children. He later moved to Gisborne where he lived with his daughter Elizabeth until his death. He is buried in the Taraheru Cemetary in Gisborne, New Zealand. In 1993 a book was written about his life called The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. It is known that he is survived Kupu Lloyd, and a granddaughter Patricia Lloyd. Seeking photos and more information.
Owen Llloyd book
Unknown Performed 1927 Christy Brothers Minstrel Show
(USA)
The Christy Brothers Minstrel Show roster included a sword swallower in 1927. Could this have been Delno Fritz? Seeking photos and more information.
Balmung Performed 1928 Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
(USA)
Balmung performed as a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1928. Seeking photos and more information.
Little Prince
John H. Smith
Born c. 1915-1918
Performed late 1920s?
Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
(USA)
The Little Prince performed as a snake charmer and sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in the late 1920s or early 1930s. His real name was John H. Smith, he was African-American, he was a snake charmer and sword swallower, and he performed with Ringling Brothers Circus when he was 12 years old, approximately in the late 1920s, and with other shows after that. He also performed with a monkey named Bobo. Seeking photos and more information.
Ludvig Larsson Born 1894
Performed ?
Died 1980
(Sweden) Ludvig Larsson was a Swedish sword swallower born in 1894 and died in 1980. Seeking photos and more information.
Olga Boyd Performed 1920s (USA) Olga Boyd was a female sword swallower in the 1920's. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Olga Boyd
Nelson the Sword Swallower
Professor Nelson the Sword Swallower
J.P. Nelson ?
Performed 1921
Performed 1927
Performed 1942-43
Santos & Artigas Circus
Sparks Circus Sideshow
World's Fair Museum
(USA/Canada)
According to the November 5, 1921 Billboard: "The Santos & Artigas Circus opened at the Payret Theater, Havana, Cuba, October 7, to capacity business," and the sword swallower featured was Prof. Nelson, sword swallower. Nelson was the sword swallower on the Sparks Circus sideshow during the 1927 season. Could this be J.P. Nelson the sword swallower? According to the Feb 13, 1943 Billboard Magazine, Professor Nelson was the featured sword swallower on the lineup with the 1943 World's Fair Museum in Jacksonville, FL. The World's Fair Museum show ran for 8 weeks (early December 1942 to February 6, 1943), and was booked to continue its run until March 15, 1943. Seeking photos and more information.

Prof. Nelson World's Fair Museum Billboard (2/13/1943)
Jack Lilja
(Johann Lilja)
Performed 1920s-30s (Australia) Johann Lilija was a colorful character who came to Australia from his native Sweden in the early 1900's (around 1916?), where he became known as Jack Lilja. He became known as an accomplished circus performer and entertainer, sword swallower, knife thrower and part time tattooist, and performed into the 1930s. Seeking photos and more information.
Johan Lilja
Johan Lilja
Johan Lilja
Capt. Fritz
The Great LaCardo
Capt. Fritz Lecardo
Capt. Fritz Lacardo
Fritz Le Cardo
Fritz LeCardo
Fritz Lacardo
Fritz LaCardo
Fritz Lecardo
Born 1876
Performed 1919-1959
Died Aprl 13, 1959
sword swallowers grave
Ringling Brothers
Sells-Floto Circus
Mighty Haag Shows
Frank Forest Museum San Francisco, CA
(USA)
Fritz Lecardo was born in 1876 and performed as a sword swallower in 1919 and the 1920s under the name "Capt. Fritz Lecardo", and into the 1940s under the name "The Great LaCardo".

LaCardo was known for swallowing a sword and hanging a chair over the hilt of the sword, and later for swallowing a neon tube. A September 1943 Billboard article states, "Fritz Le Cardo, who was released from a San Francisco hospital recently, has joined the Frank Forest Museum in that city as ticket taker."

Fritz Lecardo's obituary in the April 13, 1959 Billboard states: "LECARDO, Capt. Fritz, tattooed sword swallower, knife thrower, and weight lifter with many major circuses and carnivals, April 13, 1959 at San Francisco. He made the trip to Europe with the Ringling Show and was with Sells-Floto, Mighty Haag, and other shows. He was a charter member of Showfolks of America."

Fritz Lecardo is buried in Olivet Memorial Park, Colma, California, USA. The banner depicting The Great LaCardo, estimated at $4,000 to $6,000, was bid to $3,800, but apparently did not sell. It was offered by Pook & Pook of Downington, Pennsylvania, during an auction on September 8, 2011. Seeking photos and more information.

Capt. Fritz LaCardo timeline
1876: Born
1919-43: Performed with Ringling Bros, Sells-Floto, Mighty Haag
1943: Hospitalized from injury in San Francisco
1943: Ticket taker at Frank Forest Museum San Francisco, CA
1959: Died April 13 at 83 in San Francisco, CA
1959: Buried at Olivet Memorial Park, Colma, CA

Fritz Lecardo with chair (1920s)
Fritz Lecardo with chair (1920s)
Fritz LaCardo banner (1940-50s)
Fritz Lecardo gravesite (1959)
Fritz Lecardo headstone (1959)
Miss Vivian
Lady Vivian
Lady Vivian Dunning
Vivian Dunning
Vivian W. Dunning
John Dunning
Johnny Dunning
John W. Dunning
John Wolcott Dunning, Jr.
Champion Sword Swallower
Born c 1901 (John)
Born c 1909 (Vivian)
Performed 1920s-49
A.J. Budd's Shows
Harry Lewiston's Traveling Museum
Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow
Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks
Bessie Bessette's Side Show
Palace of Oddities
Conklin and Garret Shows
William Glick Shows
Johnny J. Jones Carnival
Canadian National Exposition
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Dodson Imperial Shows
Princeton, MN
Charleston, SC
Earlington, KY
(USA)
John W. Dunning was born around 1901 in South Carolina. Vivian Dunning was born in Princeton, MN around 1909. According to Vivian Dunning when describing how she got into sword swallowing, "I came from Princeton, Minnesota. I got sick of farm life. One night I went to a dance in the town hall. There was a carnival In town. I met the sword swallower. He asked me to join the show. So I joined the show, first as an illusion girl, and then I married him. I thought working on a carnival show would be a pleasant way to see the world." Her husband, John Dunning the sword swallower, who doubled as the Iron Eyelid Man with a hook in his eyelid (once he had been able to drag a motor car through any level Main Street), taught her to swallow swords.

Lady Vivian performed in the 1920's and 1930's under A.J. Budd's Shows. Lady Vivian swallowed multiple swords, and would partially swallow a sword with a pistol mounted on the end of it which, when shot, would ram the sword down her throat. Lady Vivian was seen in a number of photographs swallowing swords with her contemporary, Mimi Garneau. In 1935, John and Vivian Dunning's residence was listed as Charleston, SC. In late 1937, Harry and Rose Lewiston left Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus to form their own organization, and brought several circus freaks with them, including Grace McDaniels the "Mule-Faced Woman", tattooed girl Stella Grassman, Clico the African pygmy, "Human Balloon" Art Hubbell, Disco the magician, Lady Johanna the mentalist, Melvin Burkhart the "Anatomical Wonder", who subsequently developed his "Human Blockhead" act while working in this show, and sword swallowers John and Vivian Dunning. Harry Lewiston's Traveling Museum (also known as "Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow", "World's Fair Freaks", and "Palace of Oddities") featured a variety of sideshow and freak performers, a "girlie show," and snakes. They initially paired up with the Conklin and Garret Shows and performed at venues throughout the United States and Canada, including the Canadian National Exposition. While Rose Lewiston ran her "Palace of Knowledge" at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and 1940, Harry Lewiston continued to take his Traveling Museum on tour, traveling with organizations including truck carnival William Glick Shows and Johnny J. Jones Carnival. Lewiston ran an enlarged side show, including his snakes, plus a freak animal show. While traveling with Jones in Warren, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1940, Harry Lewiston's sword swallower Lady Vivian Dunning was profiled in the local Warren Times-Mirror. Lady Vivian also performed with the Johnny J. Jones Exposition, and with Ripley's Believe It or Not! in Canton, OH on Feb 7-8, 1941, where she swallowed neon tubes. A February 26, 1944 Billboard shows Vivian Dunning performing as sword swallower with Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks in Ohio and West Virginia, with Charles Zerm as Superintendent. According to the Sep 7, 1946 Billboard: "Line-up on Bessie Bessette's Side Show on Jones Greater Shows follows: Andrew Udseth, talker, Johnny Dunning, sword swallower." An ad in the March 26, 1949 Billboard shows John W. Dunning of Earlington, KY searching for additional sideshow acts. On June 23, 1949, a group portrait was taken of Roundy Couglin and members of the Dodson Imperial Shows at Camp Wawbeek, Wisconsin, where they had gone to entertain the 93 children camping there. Front row, left to right: Harold Saxton, driver; Flash Ford, tap dancer; Poodoo, fire eater; "Jigsaw" Jackson, dancer. Back row left to right: Joe LaCrosse, and Chuck Doring, drivers: Mrs. Goodman, Roundy's secretary; Butter Beans and Susie, comedy dance team; Mrs. Norman Wang, Fun Fund committee member; Roundy; Chick Franklin, manager of Imperial Shows; Harold Smith, water glass musician: John Perry, pianist; the Great LeRoy, magician; and holding five swords is John W. Dunning, Champion Sword Swallower. Seeking photos and more information.

Lady Vivian (1920s-30s)
Lady Vivian with Mimi Garneau (20s-30s)
Lady Vivian with Mimi Garneau (20s-30s)
Rochester NY article (1939)
Rochester NY article (1939)
Warren Times-Mirror PA article (1940)
Ripley's World Fair in Canton OH (2-3-1941)
John Dunning (1949)
Leo
The Italian Sword Swallower Leo Olivetai
1920s-30s?
Injured March 1936
sword swallowing injury
Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the Greenville PA Record-Argus dated March 30, 1936, "Philadelphia -- It's real, genuine sword-swallowing when Leo Olivetai goes to work. Olivetai, a professional sword swallower, was being treated for an injury received while practicing. The blade he was swallowing pierced his chest wall." Seeking photos and more information on Leo Olivetai the Italian Sword Swallower.
Leo the Italian Sword Swallower
Leo Olivetai injury (3-30-1936)
Chief Willie Bowlegs
Chief Willey Bowlegs
Willy Bowlegs
Born Jan 31, 1896
Died Dec 5, 1964
Everglades, FL
Ringling Brothers
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Willie Bowlegs was a Seminole Indian, alligator wrestler, sword swallower, knife thrower, and juggler who was born in the Florida Everglades on January 31, 1896 (or possibly 1894). His father was Willie Cornelius and his mother was Florida Tommy, who later became a Juvenile Judge in Illinois. He married his wife Irene Bowlegs Pyawassit in the Everglades, and they had one son named Buddy who died tragically in Louisiana in 1944. He performed as Chief Willie Bowlegs and traveled with various medicine shows and circuses including Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus out of Kansas. Bowlegs also peddled a remedy that had his picture on the bottle, as well as other items from the trunk of his Cadillac, from Chicago to Del Rio, Texas. Although he was said to be Seminole, he dressed like a plains Indian, and was said to walk around in his Native American attire and full head dress in Cook County, IL. He and Irene lived in Chicago, IL for many years until his death on December 5, 1964. After a 35 year marriage to Bowlegs and 12 years after his death, his wife Irene was remarried to Wallace Pyawassit in 1976. Seeking photos and more information.
Willie Bowlegs
Willie Bowlegs
Prince Lucky Ball
John G. Ball
John Gregory Lucky Ball
Born Dec 29, 1898
Married 1928
Learned 1933
Performed 1933-48
Died May 1978
Clark's Greater Shows
Broadbeck Shows
Clyde Beatty Circus
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Claysville, NY
Utica, NY
Hoxie, KS
Wadsworth, OH
(USA)
Lucky Ball was born John Gregory Lucky Ball in Claysville, NY on December 29, 1898. Over the years from the 1920's through 50's Ball worked with a number of travelling sideshows and circuses including Clark's Greater Shows in San Diego in 1942, Broadbeck Shows (1943?) or Brodbeck & Schrader Shows (1950-54?) to Clyde Beatty Circus (1945?). Ball originally worked as a big cat trainer, but after being injured in a big cat act, he began sword swallowing in 1933 and began working under the name "Prince Lucky Ball".

On August 16, 1928, Ball married Estelline Lovin (better known later as Estelline Pike) in Hoxie Kansas, and taught her sword swallowing there in 1928. In the early 1930's he gave Alex Linton tips on how to swallow swords. On June 28, 1935, his son Jim Lucky Ball II was born to Estelline Pike in San Diego, CA. In 1937, Lucky Ball appeared with Shirley Temple in the 20th Century Fox film "Wee Willie Winkie" under the stage name "Mohammed Ali" where he swallowed 3 swords at once. He later swallowed a record 16 swords in 1937, and was featured in the May 1937 "Look" magazine. In 1937, he was also photographed with actor George Bent. An article in the December 11, 1938 The Ogden Standard Examiner reports that Ball "...quit taming lions and started swallowing swords in 1933 after a lion seriously injured him. Ball cites the fact that not once since he started swallowing swords five years ago has he been bothered with a sore throat. His wife, one of the few women sword swallowers in the country, likewise has not suffered from throat trouble although she has unusually large tonsils." According to an article in the August 19, 1937 The Daily Courier: "Ball is a versatile fellow with the swords, and entirely self-taught. He practiced with the sword swallower's weapons until he could down a 26-inch blade with ease. Since then he has taught his wife to swallow swords and he himself has developed a side-line as a fire-eater."

Around 1939, Lucky and Estelline split up, and were eventually divorced in the 1940s, possibly around 1946. According to a November 28, 1948 article in the Indianapolis Star, Lucky Ball taught sword swallowing to Hawaiiian sideshow dancer Maxine Logsdon in the mid-1940s. The last time Lucky Ball was known to have performed was at the Kansas State Fair in 1947.

Lucky Ball was known for swallowing swords up to 26 inches in length, the large cork screw, neon tubes, and for sword swallowing while sitting down, and was recognized by his colleagues as "The World's Greatest Sword Swallower". Lucky Ball died in Wadsworth Ohio in May 1978. He was survived by his son, sword swallower Jim Lucky Ball II, and 2 daughters. Seeking photos and more information.

Lucky Ball in Wee Willie Winkie (2-11-1937)
Lucky Ball with George Bent (1937)
Lucky Ball article (8-19-1938)
Lucky Ball article (12-11-1938)
Lucky Ball (postcard)
Lucky Ball (pitchcard)
Lucky Ball (Ripley's Cartoon)
Maxine Logsdon learned from Lucky Ball (11-28-1948)
Fred Marineu Performed 1923
John Robinson's World of Wonders
Peru, IN
(USA)
According to the official John Robinson's Circus staff list, Fred Marineu was the sword swallower with John Robinson's Circus World of Wonders sideshow in 1923. Seeking photos and more information.
Bob Roberts
Robert Roberts
Born May 25, 1875
Performed 1922-1936
Died June 4, 1936
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Al G. Barnes Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus
Carnival Sideshows
Jacksonville, IL
Milwaukee, WI
(USA)
Robert Bob Roberts was born in Slatington, Pennsylvania on May 25, 1875, and performed as a carnival sideshow sword swallower for 14 years from 1922 to 1936. According to the 1922 Official Season Route Book and Itinerary of the Al G. Barnes' Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus, Bob Roberts worked as the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes' Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus during the 1922 season. As part of his act, he would swallow a shotgun barrel and ignite a fuse, causing an audible explosion. He died at the age of 61 on June 4, 1936 in Jacksonville, IL from injuries sustained after his feat went wrong. His obituary was published in the June 5, 1936 Chicago Tribune entitled "Sword Swallower's Gun Fuse Backfire: He Dies": "Jacksonville, Ill, June 4 -- (AP) Bob Roberts, 61, sword swallower for a carnival, died today when his major trick backfired. His widow said that for 13 years he entertained crowds by swallowing a shotgun barrel and igniting a fuse that caused an explosion audible within the side-show tent. Tuesday night something went wrong and Roberts' stomach was burned." Robert Roberts died June 4, 1936 in Jacksonville, IL at the age of 61, and he was buried June 6, 1936 in the Jacksonville East Cemetery in Jacksonville, IL. His wife's name was Annette Roberts, and their home address was 1828 A. No 24th Place, Milwaukee, WI. Seeking photos and more information.

Bob Roberts Obituary (6-1936)
Jude
Mimi Garneau
Mimi Garneaw
Mimi Gayneau
Mimmi Garneau
Mimi J. Garneau
Hazel Kirk Thomas
Hazel Jude Thomas
Born Jan 27, 1894
Married 1910
Married 1916
Married 1920s
Performed 1923-70s
Died Feb 22, 1986
Chicago World's Fair
Great Lakes Exposition
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
Al G. Barnes Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
Wonder Shows of America
Hippodrome Pan American Show
Bessie Bessette Side Show
Folk Celebration Shows
Conklin's Canadian National Exhibition
Gran Circo de Variedades
E.K. Fernandez Hippodrome Show
Lou Dufour Sideshow
Sam Alexander's Sideshow
Ripleys Believe It or Not!
Steve Allen Show
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Mimi Garneau was born Hazel Jude Kirk Thomas on January 27, 1894 (some show 1893) in Centre County in Philipsburg, PA, just outside Bloomberg, PA. Her mother Jennie E. Thomas, was born in Union County Pennsylvania in July 1861, and her father Moses Thomas was born in Wales (some reports claim Pennsylvania) and died in 1899 in Pennsylvania. According to the 1910 census, 16 year old Hazel Kirk Thomas (b. Jan 1894, d. Jan 1986) lived in Philipsburg PA in Centre County in 1910 with her widowed mother Jennie E. Thomas (b. July 1861, d, 1943), and her four siblings (older brother John (b 1887), sister Bella (b. 1890), and younger brothers Harmon Peter (b. 1895, d. 1984) and Daniel (b. 1899, d 1953). Later in 1910, at the age of 16, Hazel married George J. Hamilton. On August 27, 1913, Hazel gave birth to her first son, Billee Lavergne Hamilton (1913-1943). Around 1916, Hazel got married in her second marriage to Walter Hartshorne (1894-1941). By 1920, according to the 1920 census, Hazel was married to Walter Hartshorne. Hazel's second husband Walter was an engineer from Pennsylvania who worked at a steam plant, and they had three sons; Edwin Albert (1916-1922), Harmon Thomas (1918-2009), and William ("Billee" Lavergne Hamilton, from her 1910 marriage, 1913-1943). Based on the age of the two younger boys, Hazel and Walter probably married around 1916.

On December 28, 1922, Hazel's second son Edwin Albert Hartshorne died at the age of 6 from the Spanish Flu at the Cottage State Hospital in Rush PA just three days after Christmas, on 28 December 1922, from acute dilation of the heart with the contributory cause of empyema. The most likely candidate for this is pneumonia, like the Spanish Flu that had been going around for a few years. (death certificate)

Around 1923, Hazel began sword swallowing at about the age of 29, and began performing under the name "Jude" by the late 1920s. In the late 1920's, she gained acclaim as "the first woman to swallow the neon tube".

In the late '20's, Hazel also met Fred N. Garneau, and by the late 1920s or early 1930, they were married and living in Detroit Michigan. According to the 1930 Census, Hazel had divorced Walter Hartshone, and was now married Frederick Napoleon Garneau, who was born 23 May 1891 in Philipsburg, the son of a French Canadian father and a Pennsylvanian mother. Both of Hazel's remaining sons, Billee Hamilton and Harmon, were living with them in Detroit, where Fred worked at an automobile factory, and Hazel worked as a sales lady at a candy store.

Sometime in the early 1930s Hazel adopted the stage name Mimi. In 1933, Mimi became a big hit performing with Ripleys Believe It or Not in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair "Century of Progress", and with Ripleys Believe It or Not in the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego in 1935-36. The 1935 US Census lists Mimi J. Garneau and Fred M. Garneau living in San Diego in 1935. Later in 1936 Mimi was the featured sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1937, Mimi performed with Ripleys Believe It or Not in Cleveland, Ohio at the "Great Lakes Exposition" from May 29 to Sept 6, 1937. She worked with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1936, possibly until the union strike shut down Ringling Brothers in June 1938, when she moved over with other Ringling performers to the Al G. Barnes Circus & Sells Floto Circus which closed in 1938, and then went on to work with Cole Brothers Circus later in 1938, with winters working in Hawaii in the late 1930's. The 1940 US Census lists Mimi J. Garneau and Fred M. Garneau living in San Diego in 1940, where in 1939 Fred had earned $700/year on a grade 8 education, and Mimi earned $840/year on a high school education.

The early 1940s proved to be a difficult period for Garneau. Mimi's son Billee Hamilton enlisted for World War II on March 8, 1940, was shipped off to Puerto Rico in 1940, was promoted from Private to 2nd Lieutenant, before he died in Sicily, Italy on August 23, 1943. Mimi's husband Fred N. Garneau died on April 11, 1941 from a "subdural hemorhage" that he had sustained 16 days earlier (from a circus accident?) (death certificate). In 1949, Billee’s body was shipped back for reburial in Arlington National Cemetery.

After Fred Garneau's death in 1941, Mimi teamed up with Woodrow F. "Woody" Dutton who also worked with sideshows. In 1945, Mimi worked for Douglas Aircraft for a brief period of time before returning to perfoming. According to the Feb 2, 1946 Billboard: "Jimmy Hurd, side show manager, Wonder Shows of America, has booked Frank Lentini, three-legged man, Mimi Garneau, sword swallower and blade box, Grady Stiles, lobster boy, Schlitzie, pinhead..." Later in 1946, Mimi Garneau worked with the Hippodrome Pan American Show and with the Bessie Bessette Side Show Folk Celebration Shows where Mimi did lectures for Bessie Bessette, "The Russian Wonder" or "The Russian Enigma".

According to the March 14, 1951 Danville Bee, "A performer billed as the "Dean of Women Sword-Swallowers" will gulp four sword simultaneously for all to see on Dumont's "You Asked For It" Friday at 8:30 p.m. Televiewers will be able to see the swords inside Mimi Garneau's gullet by means of a fluoroscope." According to the Sept 22, 1951 Billboard: "Mimmi Garneau" was sword swallower with Conklin's Canadian National Exhibition while Woody Dutton worked the front. On March 5, 1952, Mimi worked with the Gran Circo de Variedades in Cuidad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

In January 1955 Mimi was living and performing in Hawaii, later in Kauai, Hawaii from October 27, 1955 to November 10, 1955 with the EK Fernandez Hippodrome Show, and she lived in Honolulu up to at least November 1956. Sometime in the 1950s, she taught sword swallowing to Toni Del Rio and gave her some of her swords. In 1958, Mimi Garneaw (sic) was featured as sword swallower with the Dufour and Alexander Side Show, along with Woody Dotton performing magic. According to the Aug 10, 1959 Billboard: Mimi Gayneau (sic) was featured as sword swallower with the Dufour and Alexander Side Show, with W. F. Dutton as manager.

In 1961, Mimi Garneau worked with the Dick Best Show at the Canadian National Exhibition, and later in 1961 was on the Steve Allen Tonight Show where she swallowed swords and was interviewed by Steve Allen. Toward the end of the 1960s Mimi finally hung up her swords, but continued traveling for several years with her talented parasites, her trained fleas. In 1967, Mimi Garneau and Woody Dutton operated Lou Dufour Women's Show on the Gooding's Million Dollar Midway that they took over from Lou Dufour in 1966 or 1967. Garneau continued to perform with her flea circus, complete with specially designed props and real fleas. In 1978, Mimi and her Flea Circus were booked on Sam Alexander's Sideshow in Belmont Park in Montreal Canada for the season of 1978.

Mimi stopped performing in the late '70's. In 1978, Mimi retired her flea circus when she left Montreal and returned to Tampa in 1978. Mimi and Woody Dutton owned a home in Tampa together, as he was her friend and companion for many years and took great care of her. Her address in Tampa was 910 E 120th Ave, Tampa, FL. Her social security number was 265-09-4305.

Mimi did many remarkable things in her long life, including living and working in Hawaii and Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other areas of Central and South America. On August 8, 1985, Woodrow F. "Woody" Dutton died in Tampa Florida. Within six months, Mimi Garneau died on February 22, 1986 at the age of 92 in Tampa, Florida, and both of them are buried at Showman's Rest in Tampa, FL. Mimi had three sons, Edwin Hartshorne (1916-1922), who died in the Spanish influenza pandemic outbreak in 1922, Billee Lavergne Hamilton (1913-1943), who died in World Was II in Sicily Italy in 1943, and Harmon Thomas Hartshorne (b. c. 1918-1919 to 2009) who died on November 15, 2009 at the age of 91 in Tampa, FL. One of Mimi Garneau's swords is owned by sword swallower Dan Meyer and resides in the archival collection of the Sword Swallowers Association International, while most of her other swords and photos are in the private collection of a documentary producer. Seeking photos and more information.

Mimi Garneau Hazel Jude Thomas Timeline:
1894: Born January 27, 1894 in Bloomberg, PA
1899: Father dies
1910: Lives with widowed mother Jennie E. Thomas and 4 siblings in Philipsburg PA
1910: Marries George J. Hamilton at age 16 in PA
1913: Aug 27: Son Billee Lavergne Hamilton born
1916: Marries Walter Hartshorne
1916: Nov 30: Son Edwin Albert Hartshorne born
1918: July 28: Son Thomas Harmon born
1922: Dec 28: Son Edwin dies of Spanish flu in Rush PA (death certificate grave)
1923: Hazel learns sword swallowing at 29
1930: Marries Frederick Napoleon Garneau and living in Detroit, selling candy
1933: Ripleys Believe It or Not Chicago World's Fair
1934: Ripleys Believe It or Not Chicago World's Fair
1935: Ripley's Believe It or Not California Pacific Exposition San Diego CA
1936: Ripley's Believe It or Not California Pacific Exposition San Diego CA
1936: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1937: Ripley's Believe It or Not Great Lakes Exposition
1938: Al G. Barnes Circus (closes in '38)
1938: Cole Bros Circus
1940: Census: Living with Fred Garneau in San Diego, CA
1940 April 1: Census: Living with Fred Garneau in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky
1940: March 8: Son Billee Hamilton enlists in Army as Private, ships off to Puerto Rico
1941: April 11: Husband Fred Garneau dies in Wichita Falls, TX (death certificate grave)
1941: Aug 18: Ex-husband Walter Hartshorne dies in PA
1943: Mar 12: Mother Jennie E. Thomas dies in Philipsburg, PA
1943: Aug 23: Son Billee Hamilton killed in Sicily, Italy
1943: Nov 20: Lives in Culver City CA
1945: Works at Douglas Aircraft
1946: Wonder Shows of America
1946: Hippodrome Pan American Show
1946: Bessie Bessette Side Show Folk Celebration Shows
1946: Sept 25-Oct 3: Cruises from San Francisco CA to Honolulu HI
1949: Son Billee Hamilton's body shipped for burial in Arlington National Cemetery
1950: April: Lives in Philipsburg, PA
1951: Mar 14: X-ray demonstration on Dumont's "You Asked For It"
1951: Sept 22: Conklin's Canadian National Exhibition Canada
1952: Gran Circo de Variedades Dominican Republic
1955: EK Fernandez Show in Kauai, Hawaii
1958: Dufour and Alexander Side Show
1959: Dufour and Alexander Side Show
1961: Dick Best Show at the Canadian National Exhibition
1961: Steve Allen Tonight Show
1963: April 18: Steve Allen Show
1978: Flea Circus at Sam Alexander's Sideshow, Belmont Park Montreal Canada
1978: Retires from sword swallowing in Tampa FL
1985: August 8: Woody Dutton dies in Tampa FL
1986: Feb 22: Hazel Thomas Mimi Garneau dies February 22, 1986 in Tampa, FL
2009: Nov 15: Son Harmon Thomas Hartshorne dies at the age of 91 in Tampa, FL

Edwin Albert Hartshorne death certificate (12-28-1922)
Mimi Garneau & unknown male SwSw (1920s)
Mimi Garneau & Lady Vivian (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau & Lady Vivian (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau early neon (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau saw (1935)
Mimi Garneau 3 swords to Fred, San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau composite, San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau neon in Spanish (1935)
Mimi Garneau Ringling postcard (1936)
Mimi Garneau Ringling composite (1936)
Mimi's Great Lakes Expo pass (1937)
Mimi with Al G. Barnes Circus (7-23-1938)
Mimi Garneau poster (pre-1940)
Mimi Garneau with banner (1940s)
Mimi Garneau with banner (1940s)
Fred Garneau death certificate (4-11-1941)
Mimi Garneau on Hippodrome (1946)
Mimi Garneau, Armless Marvel Jose de Leon (194?)
Mimi Garneau pitchcard (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau X-ray (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau X-ray demonstration Danville
Mimi Garneau sideshow (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau neon (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau Dom Republic (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau with saber (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau with saber (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau with bayonet (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau with saw (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau holding swords (1950-60s?)
Mimi Garneau 4 swords (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau 5 swords (1950s-60s)
Mimi Garneau retired with Fat Lady (1970s?)
Mimi Garneau Hazel Thomas bio
"Stoney" St. Clair
Leonard St. Clair
Born Nov 9, 1912
Joined Cole Bros in 1927
Performed until 1950
Died Dec 3, 1980
Cole Bros. Circus
(USA)
Born on November 9, 1912 in West Virginia, and wheelchair bound with arthritis at 4 after a bought with rheumatoid arthritis in 1916, Leonard "Stoney" St. Clair joined the Cole Bros Circus in 1927 and learned sword swallowing at the age of 15 from a drunken German sword swallower named Gretchen. Stoney got hired on the Cole Bros Sideshow in 1927 at $75/week, with stateroom on the train, two meals a day. Stoney swallowed 18 inch and 19 inch swords, and later sold his swords to Capt. Don Leslie. Stoney learned tattooing in 1928, and stayed on with the circus 33 years until 1950, when he became a well-known tattooer in the South until his death on December 3, 1980 in Columbus, Ohio. Book and film "Stoney Knows How" produced on his life of tattooing.
Cole Bros. Circus
Cole Brothers Circus
Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1884 Cole Brother Circus founded
1906 Cole Bros Circus name used
1945 Clyde Beatty Circus opens
1959 Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1981 Renamed Cole Bros Circus
DeLand, FL
(USA)
Cole Brothers Circus founded in 1884 as "W.W. Cole’s New Colossal Shows", by William Washington Cole. In 1906, the name "Cole Bros Circus" was used. According to the August 22, 1908 Billboard, E. J. Kelly is managing the ticket boxes of the Cole Brothers Side Show and his wife, Mlle. Amoza is sword swallower. In 1935, animal trainer Clyde Beatty (1903-1965) joined the Cole Brothers Circus as a teen as a cage cleaner, and became famous as a lion tamer and animal trainer. During the winter of 1944-1945, Clyde Beatty purchased the Wallace Bros. Circus, and in April of 1945 the "Clyde Beatty Circus" was opened. In 1957, Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus converted from rail cars to trucks and moved to new winterquarters in DeLand, Florida. In 1959, the name was changed to the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus. In 1981, owner Jerry Collins donated the show in its entirety to Florida State University stating his disire to "..benefit people of all ages. I want to preserve the tented circus for children and also to help the students at Florida State." Johnny Pugh, who had been a manager on the show since the mid-60's, purchased the circus from FSU and has been operating it ever since, dropping "Clyde Beatty" from the title and operating the show again under the Cole Bros Circus name.

Sword Swallowers with Cole Bros and Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus:
1884: Cole Brother Circus founded by W.W. Cole
1906: "Cole Bros Circus" name used
1908: Mlle. Amaza
1927: Edna Price
1927: Stoney St. Claire joins show
1934: Joseph Grendol
1935: Clyde Beatty featured with Cole Bros Circus
1936: renamed "Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus"
1936: Alex Linton
1936: Charles Prester
1937:
Line-up Charles Prester
1938:
Mimi Garneau
1939: Maurice Eugene
1940: Joseph Grendol
1941: Leatha Smith
1942: Leatha Smith
1944: ?
1945: Leatha Smith
1945: Clyde Beatty Circus opens
1946: ?
1947: ?
1948: Leatha Smith
1949: Leatha Smith
1950: Leatha Smith
1950: Alex Linton
1951: Leatha Smith
1950s: Capt Don Leslie
1957: Converted from rail cars to trucks, moved winterquarters to DeLand, FL
1959: Name changed to Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1959: Alex Linton
1960: Alex Linton
1961: Alex Linton
1962: Alex Linton
1963: Alex Linton
1964: Alex Linton
1965: Alex Linton
1966: Alex Linton
1966: Francis Doran, Rick Dennis added as "World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
1967: Francis Doran, Rick Dennis, Jackie Lynn Looney
1968: Jackie Lynn Looney, Rick Dennis, Baron Bill Unks
1969: Rick Dennis and Baron Bill Unks
1972: Lineup with Baron Bill Unks
1974: "Bron the Sword Swallower", Baron Bill Unks
1976: Francis Durant
1978: Jackie Lynn Looney and Rick Dennis
1979: Jackie Lynn Looney and Rick Dennis
1979: Lady Sandra Reed
1981: Donated to Florida State University
1981: Jackie Lynn Looney works with John Bradshaw
1981: John Pugh becomes owner of Cole Brothers Circus
1981: Renamed Cole Bros Circus
2004: May 22 stops using elephants

Madam Amoza
Mlle. Amaza
Mrs. E. J. Kelly
Learned 1906
Performed 1906-1913
Died October 8, 1913
Cole Brothers Shows
Howe's Great London Shows
Forepaugh-Sells Show
Mighty Haag Shows
(USA)
According to the August 22, 1908 Billboard, E. J. Kelly is managing the ticket boxes of the Cole Brothers Side Show and his wife, Mlle. Amoza is sword swallower. According to the February 6, 1909 Billboard: "E. J. Kelly, formerly with the Cole Brothers Shows, will manage the side show with the Howe's Great London Shows the coming season. His wife, Madam Amoza, will join him in a sword swallowing act and other features." According to the August 28, 1909 Billboard: "Roster of the side shows with Howe's Great London Shows: E. J. Kelly, manager and concert announcer; Mlle. Amaza, sword swallower." According to the December 17, 1910 Billboard: "E. J. Kelly, side show manager of the Forepaugh-Sells Show, with his wife, Mlle. Amaza, will spend the winter in Chicago." According to the August 5, 1911 Billboard: "Roster of the side show with the Mighty Haag Shows: E. J. Kelly, manager and announcer; Mlle. Amaza, lady sword swallower; Del Fuego, fire king; Mrs. E. J. Kelly and her cockatoos". According to the February 8, 1913 Billboard: E. J. Kelly, who formerly handled the side show with the Forepaugh-Sells Show, will fill the same position with the Downie & Wheeler Shows the coming season. Fred Kenno will again be principal producing clown, his second season. Ed M. Jackson, will again be on the business end. Charles (Pop) Evans will again be superintendent of stock. (no mention of Mrs. E.J. Kelly or Mlle Amaza) According to the October 18, 1913 Billboard: Louisville, Ky., Oct. 8. Mrs. E. J. Kelly, wife of E. J. Kelly, side show manager with the Mighty Haag Shows, died after a long illness of a complication of diseases at the Deaconess Hospital here yesterday morning. Mrs. Kelly was well known in the profession, having done a sword-swallowing act for the past eight years with several large circuses. Funeral services will be held from the Broadway Christian Church, Thursday morning, at 10 o'clock. Interment in St. Louis Cemetery, this city. Seeking photos and more information.

Madam Amaza Timeline:
1906: Learned sword swallowing
1908: Cole Brothers Shows
1909: Howe's Great London Shows
1910: Forepaugh-Sells Show
1911: Mighty Haag Shows
1912: ?
1913: Died October 8, 1913, buried in St. Louis Cemetery Louisville, KY

Marie DeVere
Marie De Vere
Marie Ellmore
Marie Ellmore De Vere
Born May 2, 1874
Performed 1905-1920s
Injured 1905
Died April 9, 1941
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
John Robinson's Ten Big Shows
Huber's 14th St. Museum
Austin & Stones
9th and Arch
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Young Buffalo's Wild West Show
Miller Bros 101 Wild West Show
Col. Weeks Wild West Show
Frank A Robbin's Circus
Jack Kelly Sideshow
Sig Sautelle Show
Hubert's Dime Museum
Coney Island
Dreamland Circus Side Show Richmond, RI
(USA)
Marie Ellmore, was born May 2, 1874, in either England or Ireland, and after coming to the United States, lived in Wyoming, Rhode Island. It was reported that Marie might have been a cousin of Mae West's father, Jack West, although the story is unsubstantiated. It is said that Marie spent her early childhood in a home for girls, and later performed under the stage name Marie DeVere, strutted in chorus lines, acted in sketches, and posed with her sisters in ads for Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Tonic. It is said that she wanted to become a sword swallower at a very young age and would practice with silverware to master the gag reflex. It is also said that she became a sword swallower at the age of 14 (around 1888?). There is also family history that Marie paid a show person a substantial amount of money to learn the "art" of sword swallowing. It may have been Edith Clifford, as an article from Billboard dated April 25, 1908 has her as a pupil of Clifford: "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, were presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers during their engagement at the Hippodrome, Boston, Mass., while Mlle. Clifford was presented with a beautiful pearl ring by her pupil, Marie DeVere."

The first real confirmation of Marie is in an article from The NY Clipper, dated March 4, 1905 as a sword swallower with Huber's Museum on 14th Street in New York. In June 1905, Marie DeVere worked as a sword swallower with John Robinson's Ten Big Shows. It appears, she may have sustained two injuries in 1905, one in Malone NY at the end of June, and another in Burlington VT. According to an article dated June 30, 1905 in the New York Morning Telegraph, "MALONE, NY, June 30 - While John Robinson's Show was exhibiting here to a large crowd, Aime, the Lion Queen, was attacked by one of the beasts with which she was performing. She was bitten about the head and her right arm was broken. It may have to be amputated. Marie Devere, sword-swallower with the show, was taken ill here and may die. She was not able to accompany the show when it left here." According to an article in a 1905 The Boston Herald, DeVere "broke an incandescent light while performing, and it was feared she would die. It took a team of four doctors to remove all the broken glass from her stomach." According to the New York Clipper dated July 15, 1905, "Marie De Vere, at Burlington, Vt., in swallowing a glass sword, broke the sword off within her. Physicians successfully removed the broken part from her throat."

In 1907, Marie DeVere performed with Barnum & Bailey Circus, following in the footsteps of her mentor Edith Clifford, who had been featured with Barnum & Bailey from 1901 to 1906. According to an article in Billboard dated April 25, 1908, "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, were presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers during their engagement at the Hippodrome, Boston, Mass., while Mlle. Clifford was presented with a beautiful pearl ring by her pupil, Marie DeVere." In 1909, DeVere performed with Frank A. Robbin's Shows which opened its 29th annual season at Jersey City, NJ. According to the July 2, 1910 Billboard, Marie DeVere was sword swallower with Young Buffalo's Wild West Show, and at another time with 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

In 1910, sword swallower Marie DeVere, Barnum and Bailey Circus circus strong woman Barbara Rose, and world renowned fencer and sharpshooter Helen Englehart (or Engelhardt) pooled their savings together and bought a farm on Teft's Hill in Richmond, RI. (Dec 25, 1910 article in Brooklyn Eagle Daily Sun) While living in Wyoming, RI, Marie Devere was a communicant of St. Joseph's Church in Hope Valley, RI, where she gifted a statue of the Sacred Heart to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hope Valley in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. The statue was placed on one side of the altar on a wall bracket which was shaped like the head of an angel, where it still stands today. DeVere was also a member of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, also in Hope Valley, RI. Devere lived in Richmond RI from late 1909 until her death in 1941.

According to the New York Clipper, dated May 4, 1912, DeVere worked as sword swallower for the Frank A Robbin's Shows again in 1912. Marie DeVere was hired as the lady sword swallower for the Jack Kelly Sideshow in 1915. According to the 1918 Billboard: "The Sig Sautelle Show opened at Newport, R.I. in May, and will play the New England States the balance of the season. The show is transported overland by trucks and trailers. Marie De Vere, sword swallowing." According to the March 29, 1919 Billboard: "Crompton, R. I., March 21. The two carloads of wagons purchased by the Irwin Bros. from the Sun Bros. Circus have arrived at the winter quarters here, and the painters and decorators have started to apply the new color scheme the show is using this year. Jack Kelly and wife will arrive next week to put the side show in shape. Kelly will have Princess Beatrice, tattooed lady; Ursa, bear lady; Prince Oskazuma, head hunter and fire king; Marie DeVere, lady sword swallower."

In the 1920s, Marie DeVere was employed as a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in NY (possibly as early as 1919?), and again in 1926 and 1927. Also, in 1927, Marie DeVere worked as sword swallower at Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show, filling in for ( and dressed exacly like) the Mighty Ajax, who had moved on to the competing Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow in 1927.

Marie Devere had one son named James G. Kennedy, who may have been adopted, and who had 6 children of his own, one of whom was a son named Frank Patrick Kennedy (Marie's grandson). James Kennedy died in an auto accident on Dec. 28, 1930, and is buried in Saint Sebastian Cemetery, Westerly, Rhode Island, USA.

Marie Devere was a communicant of St. Joseph's Church in Hope Valley, RI and a member of the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, also in Hope Valley, RI. Marie Devere died at the age of 67 on April 9, 1941 at the Cranston State Infirmary after a long illness, and her swords were sold off after her death. She is buried in the Saint Sebastian Cemetery in Westerly, Washington County, Rhode Island. Seeking photos and more information.

Sword Swallower Marie Ellmore DeVere Timeline:
1874: Born May 2, 1874 in either England or Ireland
1888: May have learned sword swallowing at the age of 14
1896: May 5: Howard Atheneum Boston as a chorus girl
1905: John Robinson's Shows, Huber's, 9th and Arch, Austin & Stones, Nickelodeon
1905: June: Injured on John Robinson's Show when glass sword broke inside her, Malone NY
1906: Wonderland, Nickelodeon, Austin & Stones
1907: Barnum & Bailey Circus, Austin & Stones
1908: Cole Bros Show, Austin & Stones, 9th and Arch
1909: Frank A Robbin's Shows, 9th and Arch, Nickelodeon
1910: Young Buffalo's Wild West Show, New Nickelodeon, Austin & Stones
1910: Buys farm on Teft's Hill, Richmond, RI with Barbara Rose and Helen Engelhart
1911: Frank A Robbin's Shows, New Nickelodeon
1912: Frank A Robbin's Shows
1913: Young Buffalo Wild West Show, Fred Cummins Far East Show, Sig Sautelle Show, Wonderland
1914: Young Buffalo Wild West Show and Cheyenne Days
1915: Jack Kelly Sideshow
1916: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show
1917: Revere Beach
1918: Sig Sautelle Show
1919: March 21: Irwin Bros. Jack Kelly side show RI, Hubert's Museum NY
1920: Col. Weeks Wild West Show
1921: Riverview Park
1923: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show NY
1925: Grotto Circus, Palisades Amusement Park
1926: Hubert's Museum NY
1927: Line-up: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show NY
1927: Johnny J Jones Southern Expo, Hubert's Museum NY
1927: Dec 31: Josephine/Joseph Big Circus Side Show State Monday Harrisburg PA
1928: Josephine/Joseph Big Circus Side Show
1930: Dec. 28: Son James Kennedy dies after auto accident
1934: The Strand Theatre Hope Valley, RI
1935-1940: ?
1941: Marie DeVere dies April 9, 1941 at Cranston State Infirmary, RI
1941: Buried in St. Sebastian Cemetery, Westerly, RI

Marie DeVere injury w John Robinson's Show (6-20-1905)
Marie DeVere (c 1905-1912)
Marie DeVere (c 1905-1912)
Marie DeVere & Edith Clifford in Billboard (4-25-1908)
Marie & 2 other show women buy Teft Hill Farm (12-25-1910)
Marie & 2 other show women buy Teft Hill Farm (1-20-1911)
Dreamland Side Show Banquet (8-26-1923)
Dreamland Side Show Banquet Pt. 2 (8-26-1923)
Marie DeVere with Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side Show (1927)
Marie DeVere w Josephine Joseph Sideshow in PA (12-31-1927)
Estelline Pike
Estelline Ball Pike
Estelline Lovin
World's Greatest Lady Sword Swallower
Born June 5, 1908
Married Aug 16, 1928
Learned 1928
Performed 1928-67
Died June 8, 1990
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Hoxie, KS
Lauro Brothers Side Show
Royal American Shows
Chicago Riverview Park
Ringling Bros Circus
Hubert's Museum
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
New York, NY
(USA)
Estelline Pike was born June 5, 1908 as Estelline Lovin, the daughter of a railroader in Amarillo, TX and raised in Hoxie, Kansas. Estelline graduated as valedictorian of her class at Hoxie High School, went to Brown-Mackie Business College in Denver, and was working as a legal stenographer for an attorney in Hoxie, KS when sword swallower Lucky Ball spent a winter in Hoxie around 1927 working for a local farmer and doing an occasional local show. Estelline and Lucky met, he whisked her off her feet, they got married in Hoxie, KS on August 16, 1928, where she learned sword swallowing from him there in 1928 at the age of 20. They went on the road together, and after about a year of married life, Estelline was "holding her own" like a veteran performer. She became so proficient at swallowing swords that she and Lucky began performing together, and it was as a sword swallower that she gained her notoriety.

On June 28, 1935, their son Jim Lucky Ball II was born in San Diego, CA. After splitting from Lucky Ball around 1939 and eventually divorcing him around 1946, Estelline later married D.W. "Blackie" Pike, who passed away December 2, 1947. In 1947, Estelline taught her son Jim Ball to swallow swords at the age of 12, and he was known as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". In 1948 and 1949, Estelline worked with Lauro Brothers Side Show on the Royal American Shows. According to the Oct 29, 1949 Billboard: "Estellle Pike, sword swallower, will winter in Dallas, following the windup of the State Fair of Texas there October 23."

According to the May 21, 1955 Billboard, Estelline Pike was on the personnel roster of the 1955 Royal American Shows. According to an article in the July 9, 1955 Billboard, "Estelline (Ball) Pike, sword swallower on the Royal American Shows, letters that when she became ill of food poisoning recently when the show played Evansville, Indiana, her 19-year old son, James, stepped in and did a professional job of subbing for her. Tbe lad's father, John G. (Lucky) Ball, was a well-known sword swallower of a few years ago..." Around 1955, Pike moved to New York at the request of Hubert's Museum on 42nd Street to ply her talent. She was a featured performer at Hubert's Dime Museum for many years, taking her vacation in the Spring to work with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus sideshow during their Madison Square Garden engagement for six weeks each Spring from 1957 to 1967, returning to Hubert's Museum for the remainder of the year. According to the April 27, 1957 Billboard Magazine, "There are nine side show acts in use by Ringling in the Madison Square Garden basement. Last year, there were 17, which was an unusually large number in comparison with previous years. Acts include... Esteline, sword swallower." According to the November 25, 1957 Billboard Magazine, "Estelline Pike, sword swallower with Ringling-Barnum in New York and Boston, and with the Royal American Shows for the remainder of the season, is back in Tampa for the winter, and is booked to play Hubert's Museum in New York over the holidays." In 1958, Estelline and her 22-year-old son Jim Ball appeared on the popular TV show "What's My Line?" as a sword swallowing team. According to records, Estelline Pike worked at Hubert's Dime Museum on Nov. 18, 1958.

Estelline Pike had the distinction of being the last American sword swallower to perform in Cuba before Fidel Castro took over on January 1, 1959. The revolution was in full progress while she was there, and at one point while she was performing, grenades were exploding in the parking lot.

After returning home from Cuba, according to a photo in the February 26, 1959 Circleville OH Herald, "Mrs. Estelline Pike, sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in New York, is working her act without her sword swallower son, James (Lucky) Ball, who is practicing with a rifle rod in Korea." On March 2, 1959, a UPI photo was released of Estelline Pike eyeing four swords at Hubert's Museum: "With a confident grin, Estelline Pike, a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in New York City, eyes four blades she plans to have as a midafternoon snack. This savorer of sabres is also a mother and grandmother. Her relish for cold steel is apparently hereditary -- her son, U.S. Army Pvt. James (Lucky) Bell, was a sword swallower, too, in civilian life. Now stationed in Korea, he has to limit his metallic munching to rifle cleaning rods, with an occasional Japanese officer's sword for dessert.". According to a Billboard article dated September 26, 1960, "Estelline Pike, sword swallower, is in New York after a long junket thru the West that took her to visits with Royal American, with her daughter Melba and family, with friends at the Nu-Pike in Long Beach, with show clubs in Los Angeles, and with her daughter Ramona. Now in New York, she's with her son James, who is currently at Hubert's Museum." According to a December 31, 1960 Billboard Magazine article, "Estelline Pike, sword swallower with Ringling-Barnum in New York and Boston, and with the Royal American Shows for the remainder of the season, is back in Tampa for the winter, and is booked to play Hubert's Museum in New York over the holidays."

Estelline Pike worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Sideshow on a variety of fairs and circuses from 1960 to 1967. During this time, Pike sold a pitchcard of herself swallowing a sword with a small hole punched where she inserted a little plastic sword cocktail skewer. According to Ward Hall, the pitchcards with cocktail swords were a huge seller. According to an article published in 1961, at 53 years of age, "Mrs. Pike could smoothly slide a 22-inch sword down her throat". Her throat was so "educated" that it didn't gag when she came to the climax of her act -- swallowing six swords at once. She said, "The trick to sword swallowing is to be completely relaxed. You have to relax to control your throat and your emotions." A widow and a grandmother, Mrs. Pike had already been swallowing swords for 33 years.

According to an article by Estelline's friend John Chapman in the Chicago Tribune dated September 15, 1963, "...She will bring with her a spangled evening gown and 15 assorted swords, including a dress sabre from the Civil war, an English cadet s blade and a Masonic grand master's sword. She will wear the gown morning, noon and night, and she will swal low the swords - as many as four at a time, 15 or 20 times a day. "All you have to do to swallow a sword is to relax," she says. She is my old gadabout friend Estelline Pike, who has been guzzling cutlery for 35 years. Her 42d street theater is Hubert's Museum, also known as the flea circus. She always is happy to settle down for the winter in a modest west side Manhattan hotel room, but when good weather comes she is off and away somewhere. She is a good correspondent, too. Real letters, not saying "X marks my room" or "Wish you were here." I got a letter from her last spring postmarked Hilo, Hawaii, and another last week from London, Ontario. It was getting cool in Canada and she was worring about the snakes in the sideshow she's been traveling with. She says, "I have cared for and been concerned about them, but I'm sure that they most likely will die with the cold in the next spot. So I might as well quit thinking about them - they are not mine. "We have a good show. It's with the Conklin Shows. We have been very, very busy- 18 to 20 shows a day, from 9 a.m. to midnight. Manzini, the escape artist, is sitting in his section of our under-stage, strumming his guitar. Harris, the magician, is busy making up an item for his pitch. "The alligator skin twins, Carl and Christine, are sitting on the stage, about ready for their next presentation. Albert, the rubber skin boy, is performing. Next will be the blade box. Then the electric act is performed - lighting torches from a gir' s finger tips. She gets a little tingle and the audience gets excited. I work after that, and then the big snakes... Will be so glad to get back to N.Y. about the 15th." Estelline began swallowing swords because she got mad one day long ago. Must have been 1928. She'd been a legal stenographer in Hoxie, Kan. She went to a sideshow there and saw, met and married a sword swallower named Lucky Ball. One time her husband was performing on a street and she was watching him when she heard a woman say the act was phony and couldn't be done. Her dander was up, the bride challenged, "Want to bet five dollars?" When the woman said she would Es took one of her husband s swords and swallowed it, and collected the five. Right then she decided this was an easy way to make a living. When Estelline checks in at the flea circus - and I expect she will, for the master of ceremonies told me last week he needs a sword swallower - I'll drop down and ask her to introduce me to some of her wonderful friends."

Estelline Pike worked with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus sideshow for six weeks each spring, starting in 1957 until 1967, with the exception of 1963. In 1963, Pike worked briefly with a circus sideshow operated by Sam Alexander in Hilo, Hawaii, but the next year she returned to her regular schedule in New York. The last time Ringling Brothers had a sideshow at Madison Square Garden was in 1967, as the sideshow and menagerie were eliminated when Irving and Israel Feld bought Ringling Brothers Circus in 1967, and Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey moved into the new Madison Square Garden above Penn Station in 1968. Pike continued for several more years at Hubert's Museum, and she lived in an efficiency apartment at the Belvedere Hotel on West 48th Street in New York. While working at Ripley's Believe It or Not in New York, her swords, sword case, sword board and all her props were stolen. When Hubert's Museum side show closed in the mid 1960s, Pike remained on to work as cashier for the arcade at the same location until the end of her life in 1990. Pike was known to say, "I don't want to go on the road. I love it here! I'm a New York girl!" Pike swallowed neon tubes, and up to six swords at once. She was also a jazz pianist, an accomplished songwriter who had written over 50 songs, and she enjoyed authoring numerous children's books in her spare time which were in demand by the publishers. Besides her son, sword swallower Jim Lucky Ball II, Pike also had two married daughters, Ramona and Melba, and five grandchildren when she died in New York on June 8, 1990 at the age of 82. Her Social Security number was 512-12-6319. Estelline Pike is buried in the Hoxie Cemetery in her hometown of Hoxie in Sheridan County, Kansas. On the grave, there is a photo on the headstone of Pike with her swords along with the inscription, "Estelline took her final curtain June 8, 1990. Remembered by many as the World's Greatest Lady Sword Swallower. Sadly missed by her son James, and daughters Ramona and Melba." Seeking photos and more information.

Estelline Pike Timeline:
1908: Born June 5, 1908 in Amarillo, TX
1927: Meets Lucky Ball in Hoxie, KS
1928: Marries Lucky Ball on August 16, 1928 in Hoxie, KS
1928: Learns sword swallowing
1935: June 28, 1935, son Jim Lucky Ball II born in San Diego, CA
1939: Split up and perform separately
1946: Divorced from Lucky Ball
1947: Husband D.W. Blackie Pike dies Dec 2, 1947
1947: Teaches son Jim Lucky Ball II to swallow swords at the age of 12
1948: Lauro Brothers Side Show, Royal American Shows
1948: Kansas State Fair
1949: Lauro Brothers Side Show, Royal American Shows
1949: October 23, State Fair of Texas, winters in Dallas, TX
1955: Royal American Shows, gets food poisoning in Evansville, IN
1955: Moves to New York
1955: Hubert's Museum
1956: Hubert's Museum
1957: Hubert's Museum
1957: Royal American Shows
1957: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1958: Hubert's Museum
1958: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1958: With Jim Lucky Ball II on "What's My Line?"
1958: In Cuba before Fidel Castro took over January 1, 1959
1959: Feb 26: Hubert's Museum
1959: March 2: Hubert's Museum
1959: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1960: Hubert's Museum
1960: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1960: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1960: Royal American Shows
1960: Chicago Riverview Park
1960: Winters in Tampa, FL
1961: Hubert's Museum
1961: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1961: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1962: Hubert's Museum
1962: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1962: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1963: Hubert's Museum
1963: Sam Alexander Sideshow in Hilo, Hawaii
1963: Conklin Shows in London, Ontario Canada
1964: Hubert's Museum
1964: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1964: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1965: Hubert's Museum
1965: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1965: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1966: Cashier at Hubert's Museum
1966: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1966: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1967: Cashier at Hubert's Museum
1967: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1967: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey at Madison Square Gardens
1967: Irving and Israel Feld buy Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1968-1990: Lived in an efficiency apartment at Belvedere Hotel W 48th St, New York
1970s: Worked at Ripley's Believe It or Not New York
1990: Died in New York on June 8, 1990

Estelline Pike (early)
Estelline Pike on Royal American
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike (pitchcard)
Estelline Pike (pitchcard)
Estelline Pike (pitchcard with cocktail sword)
Estelline Pike (autograph)
Jim & Estelline "What's My Line?" (1958)
UPI photo (March 2, 1959)
UPI photo back (March 2, 1959)
Estelline Pike at Hubert's Museum (1958-62)
Estelline Pike at Hubert's Museum (1958-62)
Estelline Pike article (May 15, 1961)
Estelline Pike at Hubert's (1961)
Estelline Pike (1961)
Estelline Pike (1962)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike (1960s-70s)
Estelline Pike (1960s-70s)
Estelline Pike (headstone)
Estelline Pike (headstone detail)
Estelline Pike (headstone detail)
Hubert's Museum
Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus
Operated 1926-1965 Hubert's Dime Museum
228-232 West 42nd St
Times Square
Manhattan
New York, NY
(USA)
Hubert's Dime Museum operated at 228-232 West 42nd St near Times Square in New York for nearly four decades as a legendary seasonal home for well-known freaks and sword swallowers from 1926 until 1965. Nobody is quite sure how Hubert's Dime Museum got its name, since nobody named "Hubert" ever owned or managed Hubert's Dime Museum. It may have been named Hubert's simply to capitalize on the name of the previously established "Huber's 14th Street Museum" that had operated at 106 East 14th Street from 1893 to 1910 that had also featured fearks and sword swallowers. (See also Huber's 14th Street Museum).

The building that housed Hubert's Dime Museum at 228-232 West 42nd St was originally a schoolhouse built in the 1880's by prestigious architects McKim, Mead & White. The building had also been the location of Murray's Roman Gardens, a legendary "lobster palace" closed by prohibition, before becoming Hubert's Dime Museum in 1919 to 1920. Then from the early 1920s to 1965, Hubert's Dime Museum became legendary as the seasonal home for side show freaks for nearly four decades. At Hubert's, for 25 cents, you could catch a glimpse of Olga, the Bearded Lady, whose facial hair measured more than 13 inches. And the Man From World War Zero, who had a terribly deformed face. Well-known sword swallowers who made Hubert's their home included Marie DeVere, the Mighty Ajax, Charlie Lucas, Rosita Reverdy, Alex Linton, Melvin Burkhart, and Estelline Pike.

However, it was in the 1950s, that Hubert's manager, inside talker, and former sword swallower Charlie Lucas was befriended by a female photographer Diane Arbus, who was moving from shooting fashion to shooting those on society's fringes. Lucas became Arbus's friend and collaborator during the five years she photographed at Hubert's from 1958 to 1963. Lucas became her link to the freaks and performance artists and, in a larger sense, to the culture and traditions of the freak show. Lucas made the introductions for Arbus and in some cases set up photographic shoots with the performers. The freaks especially appealed to Arbus. She counted performers like Lucas and Suzy the Elephant Skin Girl among her friends. Argus was completely serious in her study of this archaic form of American entertainment. In her 1962 application for a Guggenheim Fellowship, she listed sideshows as one of her subjects, and specified "Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus" among her working locations.

Revelations published a 1956 photo of the entrance to Hubert's showing the upstairs penny arcade and the Hubert's ticket booth, bright lights and skeeball, posters advertising Susie the Elephant Skin Girl, Lydia Suarez the contortionist, and Princess Sahloo (aka Woogie). Behind it all, off to the left, was the stairway leading down to the strange world of Hubert's Musem. "We had our awe and our shame in one gulp," Diane Arbus wrote of watching the assorted freaks and sideshow performers who populated Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus, a celebrated basement phantasmagoria on 42nd Street in Manhattan where she began shooting in the late 1950s as she was beginning to hone her stark signature style. Tiny Tim started out singing at Hubert's. Famous freak Zip the Pinhead did time there as well. Even Bob Dylan and Jon Voight made pilgrimages to Hubert's. In a poignant 1966 obituary about the museum, which had mostly closed in 1965, Diane Arbus added, "What if we couldn't always tell a trick from a miracle?" Today Hubert's Museum has been replaced by a Starbucks. Seeking photos and more information.

Entrance to Hubert's Museum
Hubert's wall featuring Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike at Hubert's Museum (c 1960)

Sword Swallowers at Hubert's 42nd St Dime Museum:
1919: Marie DeVere
1926: Marie DeVere
1927: Marie DeVere
1928: Mighty Ajax
1947: Alex Linton
1948: Alex Linton
1950: Charlie Lucas
1951: Charlie Lucas
1952: Charlie Lucas
1953: Charlie Lucas
1954: Charlie Lucas
1955: Charlie Lucas
1956: Charlie Lucas
1956: Alex Linton
1957: Alex Linton
1957: Estelline Pike and Jim Ball
1958: Estelline Pike
1959: Estelline Pike
1960: Estelline Pike
1961: Estelline Pike
1962: Estelline Pike
1963: ?
1964: Estelline Pike
1965: Estelline Pike
1965: Hubert's Museum closes, moves to the basement of Playland

Charlie Lucas
Richard "Charlie" Lucas
Richard Charles Lucas
Born 1909
Performed 1924-1960s
Died 1991
Conklin Circus
Chicago World's Fair
Hubert's Dime Museum
New York, NY
(USA)
Born in Mississippi in 1909, Richard "Charlie" Lucas was a sword-swallower, fire-eater, hot-coal walker, blade-walker, and African wild man in sideshows across the country. Lucas, a black man who lived in Chicago, had been working circuses and sideshows in the US and Canada since 1924, but he got his big break at the Century of Progress at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. During the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, Charlie Lucas presided over the "Darkest Africa" exhibit as "African Chief of the Duckbill Women," a.k.a. "WooFoo, the Immune Man". The core of his "tribe" was composed of 14 authentic Ashantis who had migrated to Manhattan, where they had been hired. The rest of the "natives" were rectruited from Chicago pool halls, many of them decked out in leopard-skin sarongs and zebra-hide shields furnished by Brooks Costume Company of New York. Lucas himself wore a bone through his nose, was dressed in ostrich feathers, spoke gibberish, swallowed fire, and climbed the blade ladder. (Lucas in center of photo with finger held to his eye). (The fair that year celebrated, without irony, a "Century of Progress."). Charlie and his wife Woogie found frequent employment with the Conklin Circus, a show that traveled in Canada and appeared in Toronto every year at the Canadian National Exposition. The CNE had an "African Village" in the 1940s and 50s, but Charlie and Woogie also performed the "Dance of Love." Judging by the two publicity photos that have survived, it must have been a fairly sizzling routine. By the 1950s, Lucas and his wife, the beautiful Woogie, settled in New York, and Lucas found work managing Hubert's Dime Museum & Flea Circus, where Lucas worked as manager and inside talker for the assortment of human curiosities on display, and Woogie performed her snake-charming act alongside Sealo, Professor Heckler's Flea Circus, Mildred the Alligator Skin Girl, a Russian midget named Andy Potato Chips and Eddie Carmel, the Jewish Giant. It was there at Hubert's that Lucas was befriended by female photographer Diane Arbus, who was moving from shooting fashion to shooting those on society's fringes, and who talked her way into the homes of his colleagues and shot what would later become iconic photos of, among others, Andy Potato Chips and two other midgets in his Uptown living room, and Eddie Carmel the Jewish Giant bent beneath the ceiling of his Bronx apartment, his parents looking like frightened Lilliputians beside him. Lucas became Arbus's friend and collaborator during the years she photographed at Hubert's, and Lucas was her link to the freaks and performance artists and, in a larger sense, to the culture and traditions of the freak show. He made the introductions for Arbus and in some cases set up photographic shoots with the performers. Charlie Lucas died in 1991. Seeking photos and more information.

Charlie Lucas, Chicago World's Fair (finger to eye) (1933)
Charlie Lucas Woofoo & Woogie with Conklin Circus (c 1940s)
Charlie Lucas (c 1940s)
Charlie Lucas (c 1950s-60s)
Charlie Lucas (c 1950s-60s)
Sylvester
The Sword Swallower
Performed 1930 (USA) In 1930, Sylvester was featured as the sword swallower in the Jack Conway remake of the film "The Unholy Three". (1930/MGM) 74mins. BW. US). Seeking photos and more information.
Sword Swallower Leroy
Billy Leroy
Buddy Leroy
Performed 1931-51 Loca Conklin's Side Show
Korie's Side Show
Milo Anthony Side Show
Los Banos, CA
(USA)
In 1931, Sword Swallower Leroy was sued when his partner claimed he didn't get his fair share of the money in a "buried alive" stunt. According to the November 20, 1948 Billboard: "Line-up of Korie's Side Show includes: Lady Jean, snakes; Buddy Leroy, sword swallower;" According to the April 16, 1949 Billboard, "Line-up on the Loca Conklin's Side Show on Husted's Central Amusement Company includes Billy Leroy, iron tongue, sword ladder and sword swallower, Lola Conklin, annex". According to the May 12, 1951 Billboard, Buddy Leroy was swallowing swords with the Milo Anthony Side Show at the 1951 Crafts Exhibition in Los Banos, California. Seeking photos and more information.
Milo Milse
Milo Larway
Milo Laraway
Milo Laroway
Prince Milo
Laurie
Prince Laurie
The Great Laurie
Señor Laraway
The Spanish Sword Swallower
World's Greatest Sword Swallower
World's Greatest Enegma
and Fire King
Born March 6, 1881
Learned c. 1890?
Performed c 1910?
Performed 1923-1934
Coney Island
Dreamland Circus Side-Show
Al G. Barnes Shows
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Detroit, MI
(USA)
Milo Milse (also known as either Milo or Milse) and according to one pitchcard, was born in Russia on March 6, 1881, and started swallowing swords at the age of nine (around 1890?). He was billed as the "World's Greatest Sword Swallower" for swallowing up to 9 swords at once when he performed at the Dreamland Circus Side-Show, Coney Island, New York, probably in 1910. From the back of this pitch card, apparently his address at the time was 1043 Washburne Ave, Canal, NY. Another pitchcard bills him as "The World's Greatest Enegma and Fire King". This pitchcard states that he had "traveled around the world 3 times" and had "mystified over 50,000,000,000 people". It also states that he swallowed swords from 16-24 inches, and up to 24 swords at once.

Prince Laurie performed as the sword swallower with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1923. According to route books for 1925 and 1926, the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes Shows in 1925 and 1926 was The Great Laurie, "the world's foremost sword swallower". Señor Laraway or Milo Laraway or Milo Laroway or Milo Larway or Laurie was the sword swallower on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus during the 1933 and 1934 seasons. According to a 1950 Billboard article, sword swallower Milo Larway, was a guest at Dailey Bros Circus in 1950, and as "sword swallower, he had performed with all the big ones, and many of the little ones...". According to the Jan 17, 1953 Billboard: "The Wilson family, Dell Williams, and Kenneth Waite spent New Year's Eve (1952) with Milo, former sword swallower at the latter's home." According to the Sept 11, 1954 Billboard: "Friends gave Milo, retired sword swallower, a surprise birthday party at his Detroit home recently." Seeking photos and more information.

Prince Milo Laurie Laraway Timeline:
1880: Born March 6, 1881 in Russia
1890: Learned at age 9 (?)
1910: Coney Island Dreamland Circus Side-Show
1923: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
1925: Al G. Barnes Shows
1926: Al G. Barnes Shows
1933: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
1934: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
1950: Dailey Bros Circus
1954: Retired in Detroit MI

Milse at Coney Island Dreamland
Milse signature and address
Milse pitchcard front
Milse pitchcard props
Milse pitchcard back
Michael Gherlas Died 1934
sword swallowing injury
Bucharest,
Romania
According to the NY Southern Cayoga Tribune dated October 5, 1934: Bayonet Is Fatal to Knife Swallower - Bukharest -- If it wasn't for an over-sceptical gendarme, Michael Gherlas, local fakir and sword swallower extraordinary, would still be bringing down the house by gobbling three good-sized daggers, one after another. But when he was faced by the hard-boiled officer who presented the magician his bayonet and demanded that he swallow it "just to show there was no fake," Michael was in a quandry. If he refused, the crowd would jeer him out of the hall and his job, and if he accepted, he was taking a long chance with a weapon he had never "swallowed" before. Michael took the chance. He got it down all right, but in bringing it back up something went wrong. A stream of blood welled out, and a few moments later, he collapsed on the floor. Michael Gherlas died in the hospital the same night of internal injuries." Seeking photos and more information.
Michael Gherlas death (1934)
George Dixon Born 1869
Performed pre-1936
Lord Sanger's Traveling Circus
Pontypridd
(Wales)
George Dixon was born around 1869 and performed as sword swallower with Lord Sanger's Traveling Circus (which traveled the UK from 1853-1900). At the time this photo was taken on May 22, 1936, Dixon was 67 years old, retired from sword swallowing, and living in a stone hut in Pontypridd, Wales. He was unique at being one of the few negroid sword swallowers of his time. Seeking photos and more information.
George Dixon at 67 (1936)
Prince Neon
William G. Knoll
Born c 1909
Performed 1930s
Injured July 7, 1936
Died July 1936
sword swallowing injury
Reading, PA
(USA)
Prince Neon was one of the first sword swallowers to popularize swallowing neon tubes in the 1930s. Born William G. Knoll around 1909 in Reading, PA, 27 year old "Prince Neon" suffered an injury in Anderson, Indiana on July 6, 1936 when a neon tube burst inside him. According to the July 7, 1936 Oakland Tribune, Knoll's act included turning on the electricity in the tube after he swallowed it, but Knoll didn't get that far before the accident occurred. Knoll was taken to St. John's Hospital in Anderson to have 12 inches of glass surgically removed from his stomach. According to Daniel Mannix' 1944 article "How to Swallow a Sword", a tube had broken inside of Prince Neon and he died in the hospital a week later. Seeking photos and more information.
Prince Neon injury article (1936)
Otto van der Ville
Otto Ernst Wilhelm van der Ville
Performed 1923-56
Died December 23, 1956
Schippers & van der Ville
Altona
(Germany)
Schippers & van der Ville was the name of a German amusement company founded in Hamburg in 1912 that flourished between WWI and WWII. Created by founders Joseph Schippers and Otto Ernst Wilhelm van der Ville, they were . Josef Schippers was a fairground attraction known as the "Tallest Guard Soldier of all time" (he was 2,12 meters or 6' 9" tall, 2,39 meters or 7'8" tall with helmet). Otto Van der Ville's career as a showman began as a tight rope walker and sword swallower. Schippers and van der Ville started by operating a small 5 meter stage show known as Schippers and van der Ville. In 1923, they aquired a piece of land in Altona just outside of Hamburg, where they built a factory and built and repaired their rides. They constantly developed new models, and a mountain railway was built in 1929 in Altona, which was the then largest transportable amusement ride in the world. Josef Schippers died in 1948, and his son, Josef Schippers II (nicknamed "Jupp"), took over his father's position working with Otto van der Ville. In 1953 the Schippers and van der Ville amusement company traveled with 16 vehicles and 130 permanent employees, and employed an additional 200-300 temporary workers each month, and in the 1950s, they were regarded as „Könige unter den deutschen Schaustellern" ("Kings of the German Showmen "). Over the decades, more than 52 different rides were operated by the company Schippers & vd Ville. Otto van der Ville died on 23 December 1956. Seeking photos and more information.
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair
May 27-Nov 12, 1933
May 26-Nov, 1934
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair
Chicago, IL
(USA)
The 1933 Chicago World's Fair reflected a burst of optimism in the depths of a depression felt around the globe. Celebrating a Century of Progress, the 1933 Chicago World's Fair marked scientific triumphs including the telegraph, telephone, automobile, and airplane. For Chicago, the Fair proved, as did the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition fifty years earlier, that the city of Chicago had truly risen from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871. In 1933, Mimi Garneau performed in the original Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium at the Century of Progress Expo. Additionally, sword swallower Edna Price also swallowed her neon tube at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, while Joseph Grendol, Chester Dolphin, and Prince Yucon also tooks stints at swallowing swords. The Chicago World's Fair was originally scheduled to open in May 27, 1933 and close November 12, 1933, but due to the popularity of the Century of Progress Expo, the fair reopened the next year on May 26, 1934 as an effort to earn enough money to help recoup some of its debts, with Joseph Grendol returning as sword swallower again with the 1934 Ripley's Odditorium. At the end of the 1934 show, the Century of Progress closed with a small profit, a rarity for ventures like these at the time, with a grand total of 48,769,227 attendees for the two years. As part of its legacy, the Chicago World's Fair inspired New York to mount its own New York World's Fair in 1939-1940.

Edna Price prepares for 1933 World's Fair (5-27-1933)
Edna Price
Edna Irene Price
Edna Price Harris
Queen of Sword Swallowers

Born Sept. 12, 1899 (1900?)
Performed 1920-39
Injured Oct 1937
Died Oct. 17, 1987
sword swallowing injury
John Robinson Circus Side Show
Al G. Barnes Circus
Cole Bros Circus
Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show
Coney Island
George Hamid's Playland Circus
Ringling Bros Circus
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Chicago World's Fair
New York World's Fair
Ashley, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Melbourne, FL
(USA)
Edna Irene Price was born on September 12, 1899 (1900?) in Ashley, PA near Wilkes-Barre, PA as the second of six children of Robert J. Price (born in Wales in 1868-?) and Ada Fritz Price (born in Pennsylvania in 1873, sister of sword swallower Delno Fritz). Of her five siblings, Edna's closest sister was Anna Price Jones (1903-1973).

At the age of 16, Edna got her start in the field of entertainment as the "floating lady" with John Robinson Circus Side Show in 1916 while her uncle Delno Fritz and aunt Maude D'Auldin worked as sword swallowers on the John Robinson Side Show. Edna Price was niece to Delno Fritz and Maude D'Lean or Maud D'Auldin, and learned sword swallowing in 1920 at the age of 20 from her uncle Delno Fritz, after her aunt Maude passed away from a sword swallowing accident while performing onboard a ship during a command performance before the King and Queen of England in 1920. In the 1920's, when Edna wanted to go out on a date with someone that Uncle Delno did not approve of, Edna would hide his wooden leg to make her escape. According to the October 21, 1922 Billboard: "Delno Fritz, well known sword swallower, who recently completed an eight months' engagement in Honolulu and the Hawaiian Islands, under the management of E. K. Fernandez, has joined his niece, Edna Price, who is with the Ringling-Barnum Circus." According to circus route books, Delno Fritz and Edna Price performed together with the Al G. Barnes Circus during the 1920 and 1923 seasons, with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1923 and 1924, and after Delno Fritz died in 1925, Edna alone with Ringling Brothers in 1925, part of 1927, then with Cole Brothers Circus for the remainder of 1927, then back on Ringling Brothers in 1928 and 1930-1932 (Ringling 1931 line-up). Edna never performed in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, PA, as she had a phrase in her contract with Ringling Brothers that stipulated she would never be required to perform in her hometown so she could spend time with family and friends. Edna had many sideshow friends, and was a close personal friend of Major Mite and Harry Houdini. According to an April 20 1932 article in the Pittston Gazette, Edna Price was performing with Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Gardens in New York and entering into her 10th year with the Ringling Show in 1932.

According to a May 27, 1933 article in the Wilkes-Barre Record, Edna Price prepared for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Edna performed at the Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 and again in 1934. On July 1, 1933 Edna's family made the trip up to Chicago to visit Edna Price at Ripley's Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. In 1934, Edna returned to work with the Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair of 1934.

In 1937, Edna swallowed neon tubes at Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show and George Hamid's Playland Circus at Coney Island in 1937. Oct 8, 1937 article on Miss Edna Price swallowing neon tubes. Edna Price home after neon tubes break (10-8-1937)

In 1939, Edna Price was featured again by Robert Ripley at Ripley's Believe It or Not at the New York World's Fair (1939-1940). Edna was known by Ripley's as "Queen of Sword Swallowers" and the "First Woman to Swallow the 'White' Neon Tube"., and she would swallow up to 12 practice swords at the same time, removing the blades one at a time. She made it a practice to have her swords chromed each year to protect against nicks and scratches. Edna swallowed swords for about 20 years until she retired from sword swallowing after the New York World's Fair in 1939. Edna Price worked with Ripley's Believe It or Not! in Atlantic City as a hostess, and later moved to Miami Beach, Florida where she worked as a hostess in the 1950s. In 1970 she moved from Miami Beach to Melbourne, FL. Edna Price had four sisters, Margaret Price, Martha Price (b 1905), Catharine Price (b 1907) and Anna Price Jones (1903-1973), and Edna later remarried a boxer named John "Jack" Harris.

Edna Price died in Melbourne, Florida at the age of 88 on October 17, 1987. Her obituary in The Orlando Sentinel dated October 18, 1987 reports: EDNA PRICE HARRIS, 88, 1857 Harrison Ave., Melbourne, died Saturday (October 17, 1987). Born in Ashley, PA., she moved to Melbourne from Miami Beach in 1970. She was a retired sword swallower for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and was a Baptist. Survivor: sister, Anna R. Jones, Bethlehem, PA. Graveside services will be held at a later date in the Palmer Township in Pennsylvania. Davis Funeral Home, Melbourne. Price is buried in the family plot in the Northampton Memorial Shrine in Palmer Township, PA. Price's swords and neon tube were kept in a large trunk owned by her sister Anna Price Jones (1903-1973), and were dispersed after her death. Seeking photos and more information.

Edna Price Timeline:
1899: Born Sept. 12, 1899 in Ashley, Luzerne County, PA
1916: Lives at 348 S. River, Wilkes-Barre, PA
1916: John Robinson Circus Side Show with Delno Fritz and Maude D'Lean
1920: Aunt Maude D'Auldin dies
1920: Lives at Ward 13, Wilkes-Barre, PA
1920: Learned sword swallowing from Delno Fritz
1920: Al G. Barnes with Delno Fritz
1923: Al G. Barnes with Delno Fritz
1922: Ringling Brothers with Delno Fritz
1923: Ringling Brothers with Delno Fritz
1924: Ringling Brothers with Delno Fritz
1925: Uncle Delno Fritz dies July 14, 1925
1925: Ringling Brothers
1926: Ringling Brothers
1927: Cole Brothers
1927: Ringling Brothers
1928: Ringling Brothers
1929: Ringling Brothers
1930: Ringling Brothers
1931: Ringling Brothers Line-up
1932: Ringling Brothers at Madison Square Gardens
1933: Ripley's Odditorium Chicago World's Fair
1933: July 1: Family visits Edna Price at Ripley's Odditorium Chicago World's Fair
1934: Ripley's Odditorium Chicago World's Fair ?
1937: Coney Island George Hamid's Playland Circus
1937: Coney Island Sam Wagner's World Circus Sideshow
1937: Oct : Injury swallowing neon tubes
1939: Ripley's Odditorium New York World's Fair
1939: Retired from sword swallowing
1940s: Ripley's Atlantic City NJ as Hostess
1950s: Moved to Miami Beach, FL
1970: Moved from Miami to Melbourne, FL
1973: Sister Anna Price Jones dies
1987: Died October 17, 1987 in Melbourne, FL

John Robinson Shows program (1916)
Edna Price with Major Mite (1920s)
Edna Price - Globe Swallower (1920s)
Edna Price with Cole Bros (video) (1927)
Edna Price Postcard (1930s)
Edna Price Poster (1930s)
Edna Price w Ringling (1931)
Edna Price with Ringling at Madison Sq Garden (4-20-1932)
Edna Price with Ringling at Madison Sq Garden (4-20-1932)
Edna Price prepares for World's Fair (5-27-1933)
Family to visit Edna Price at Chicago World's Fair (7-1-1933)
Edna Price World's Fair (1933)
Edna Price swallowing Neon Tube (1933)
Edna Price swallowing Neon for Ripley's (May 1933 article)
Edna Price returns home after Ripley's Chicago World's Fair (12-3-1934)
Edna Price swallowing Neon Tube for Ripley's (film) (1933? 39?)
Edna Price Coney Island Playland Circus (1937)
Edna Price Coney Island Playland Circus (1937)
Edna Price swallowing neon tubes article (10-8-1937)
Edna Price home after neon tubes break (10-8-1937)
Edna Price NY World's Fair Poster (1939)
Edna Price with great nephew (1969)
Edna Price grave
Edna Price grave
Grendol
Gendol
Glendol
The Great Grendol
Joseph Grendol
Performed 1929-40 Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
Dick Best's Sideshow
Royal American Shows
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair

Cole Bros Circus
C. E. Webb's Russell Brothers Circus
Chicago, IL
Worchester, MA
(USA)
In 1929, "Glendol" the Sword Swallower (Joseph Grendol) was featured as the sword swallower featured with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. On September 7, 1933, Grendol the Sword Swallower was featured with Dick Best's Sideshow on Royal American Shows at the South Dakota State Fair in Huron SD. In 1933-34, Grendol was the sword swallower with Ripley's Odditorium at the 1933-34 "Century of Progress Expo". In his act, Grendol would swallow a bayonet attached to the butt of a rifle which when fired, would propel the bayonet down his throat. In 1934, Grendol performed as sword swallower with the Cole Bros. Circus. In 1935, "Gendol" performed as sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Circus In an April 1935 article about Grendol with Ringling Brothers in NY, it adds that he was from the Grendol family of Worchester, MA, and his wife was Miss Virginia, the Iron-Tongued Girl. In In 1937, Grendol worked as sword swallower with C. E. Webb's Russell Brothers Circus, and in 1940, he returned to work as sword swallower with Cole Bros. Circus again. Seeking photos and more information.

Joseph Grendol Timeline:
1929: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
1933: Ripley's Odditorium, Chicago World's Fair
1933: Sept 7: Dick Best Sideshow on Royal American ShowsHuron SD
1934: Ripley's Odditorium, Chicago World's Fair
1934: Cole Bros. Circus
1935: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
1937: Russell Brothers Circus
1940: Cole Bros. Circus

Joseph Grendol with sideshow (early 1930s)
Grendol with Dick Best on Royal American (9-7-1933)
Joseph Grendol (1934)
Joseph Grendol (1934)
Joseph Grendol (1934)
Joseph Grendol pitchard (1934)
Grendol with Ripley's (9-27-1934)
Joseph Grendol Ringling Bros (1935?)
Article on Grendol with Ringling Bros (April 1935)
Frank Boulware Born 1886
Learned 1901
Performed 1901-1949
Retired 1949
Royal American Shows
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Decatur, IL
(USA)
Frank Boulware was born in Noble Illinois around 1886, grew up in Decatur, Illinois, and first learned sword swallowing in 1901 at the age of 15 when he sneaked into a sword swallower's tent to practice. Boulware performed with a variety of shows including Royal American Shows and Ripley's Believe It or Not over a period of 48 years from 1901 to 1949, when he retired at the age of 63 in Decatur, Illinois. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallower Frank Boulware.

Frank Boulware article
Jack Manning Performed 1940

Steelton, PA
(USA)
Jack Manning the sword swallower was one of the circus sideshow guests attended the wedding of Monkey Girl Priscilla Lauther and Alligator Boy Emmitt Bejano in Steelton PA on May 10, 1940 according to the May 10, 1940 Harrisburg Daily News. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallower Jack Manning.

Vernon LeFeber
Vernon George LeFeber, Jr.
Born Feb 24, 1899
Married 1928
Performed 1913-1951
Died March 17, 1951
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave

Marion, IN
(USA)
Vernon LeFeber worked with circuses from 1913 to the late 1940s as a lion trainer, fire-eater, sword swallower, and glass eater. Vernon George LeFeber Jr was born February 24, 1899 in Fairmount, Grant County, Indiana to Vernon LeFeber Sr. (1876-1954) and May Elma Ross LeFeber (1875-1961). In August 1913, according to articles published in the August 25-28, 1913 Indianapolis Star, 14 year old Vernon LeFeber Jr and his friend Wylie Flick ran away to work with a circus. Young Vernon sent a postcard to his father informing him that he had run away with the circus, and eventually called his father, just as his father was preparing to put out a state-wide search for his son. Vernon Jr. went on to serve in World War I in Luxembourg, a tiny European country bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. Per a letter written by Vernon LeFeber posted in the April 10, 1919 issue of the Clinton County Review in Colfax, IN, LeFeber was housed during WWI in Evacuation Hospital #13 in Luxembourg.

When he returned from WWI, Vernon LeFeber was married in his first marriage to Eva Veatrice Males Radcliff (1901-1984). In 1918, they had their first child Eva Viola LeFeber Wolfe (1918-2003), and in 1920, they had a son named Vernon Raymond LeFeber (1920-1920) who died the day he was born in April 23, 1920. In 1921, the couple had another son named Lloyd LeFeber (1921-1921) who also died on the same day he was born on April 6, 1921. In 1924, they had a daughter named Doretta Eileen LeFeber Tissot Sease who currently lives in Ohio. It was also in 1924 that Vernon began seeing Mildred Hutchison Shane.

In 1928 Vernon LeFeber married Mildred L. Hutchison Shane (1910-2001) who also worked in the circus as a snake-charmer while Vernon worked as a lion tamer. In 1930, the couple had a daughter named Verna Joan LeFeber who was born on August 11, 1930, and died 2 months later on Oct. 21, 1930. In 1931, the couple had a son named Vernon George LeFeber, who currently lives in Michigan. In 1934, the couple gave birth to Harry Edward LeFeber (1934-2014) in Marion, IN on August 7, 1934. In 1935, Vernon and Mildred divorced, and Mildred went on to marry a man named Robert "Bob" Wales.

In 1941, Vernon LeFeber later married his third wife, a little person named Edith May Martin (-LeFeber -Hayes) (1922-2003), while he was working in the circus as a fire-eater, sword swallower and glass-eater. The circus was owned by Gene Gordon, and Vernon also worked as a "barker" and Mildred worked as a "snake charmer". In 1942, the couple gave birth to a daughter Dorothea May LeFeber Reidy (1942-2010), who died in 2010. In 1944, the couple gave birth to Albert Vernon "Butch" LeFeber (1944 - 2008) in Indianapolis, IN, also a little person like his mother.

Vernon LeFeber Jr. died on March 17, 1951 at the age of 51, and is buried at Sutherland Park Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. Seeking photos and more information.

Vernon LeFeber holding son (1931)

Vernon LeFeber gravesite (1951)
Chester Dolphin
Champion Swallower of Swords
Charles H. Dolphin
Born June 3, 1907
Performed 1933-1948
Died March 2, 1986
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Ripley's Odditorium
Chicago World's Fair
Royal American Shows
Worcester, MA
(USA)
Chester Dolphin was a sword swallower, juggler, unicycle rider, and handbalancer who performed first with his brother in circuses and fairs in the mid 1930s as "Chester Dolphin, Champion swallower of swords, carpenter saws and stove pokers", and later in the late 1940s with his wife Charmon Dolphin as Chester Dolphin and Co. Chester Dolphin was known for swallowing sabers, long scissors, a stove poker, and a 23 inch long-toothed carpenter saw early in his career, and later for performing a free headstand balance trick with seven rings.

The Dolphin brothers started in Worchester, Massachusetts and worked with circuses and fairs in the early 1930s. A third brother helped the other two brothers in making props, a unicycle, and the balance globe, but he did not perform with them. On October 28, 1934, Chester Dolphin was featured with Royal American Shows in Biloxi, MS with 15 other acts who were brought directly from a successful run with the Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair Century of Progress of 1933-1934. The two brothers served in the military together in Weisbaden, Germany in the 1940s, and eventually traveled the world performing with their acts, since neither had any children. After the war, Dolphin performed with his talented wife, Charmon Dolphin. According to the Juggler's Bulletin 1948: "Chester Dolphin and Co. were at the Hipp Theatre the week of September 9th to 15th (1948). A customer was in my shop and told me there was a juggler there that had some great comedy, but did not do a lot of juggling. So I went over to see. The customer was right to an extent, the comedy and gags were terrific and kept the audience in howls all through the act, but the juggling was wonderful. After a comedy egg and cane balance, he did a three ball routine, four and five ball routine, and then a great gag on nine balls (not the old one of having the balls fastened together in threes) but something else of his own. Then the head stand bouncing four balls on drum while upside down. Some fine routines with three Lind clubs. A bottle balanced on his head is jerked to back of the neck, and he does a hand stand balancing bottle and picks up a glass of liquid in teeth back to feet, and drinks from glass as he jerks bottle back to top of head. Then does headstand on revolving globe ball and spins rings on each leg and each arm and one on stick in mouth. Company is Mrs. Dolphin who adds "cheesecake" to the act and a few comedy bits. Went over great, and was a delightful conversationalist as we had a bite together after the show."

Charles H. Dolphin died on March 2, 1986 and is buried with his wife Lillian S. Hanson Dolphin (1911-2007) in All Faiths Cemetery in Worchester MA. Seeking photos and more information.

Chester Dolphin (1934)
Chester Dolphin juggler/balancer (1940s)
Sid Marion
Sidney Marion
Born Sept 14, 1900
Performed 1934-35
Died June 29, 1965
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Hollywood, CA
(USA)
Sidney "Sid" Marion was born September 14, 1900 in Massachusetts. He performed as the sword swallower in the films "The Mighty Barnum", (1934) and "Magnificent Obsession" (1935), and as an actor in "Beau James" (1957), "The Five Pennies" (1959), "My Fair Lady" (1964) with Audrey Hepburn, and "The Outlaws Is Coming" (1965) with The Three Stooges. He died June 29, 1965 in Hollywood CA of a heart attack. He is buried in Home of Peace Memorial Park in East Los Angeles, CA. Plot: Between Corridor of Harmony and Benovolence, Niche 57-E111. Seeking photos and more information.
Sid Marion signature 1959
Red Pepper Joe
Joseph A. Sweet (Souilliere)
Born ?
Performed 1934-1963?
Died?
Circus Shaw
Sweet Weldon Variety Co
Seil-Sterling Circus
Russell Bros. Circus
(USA)
Joseph A. Sweet (Souilliere) performed as a sword swallower under the name Red Pepper Joe. He performed with Circus Shaw, with Russell Bros. Circus on June 18, 1934 in Hudson, NY, and with the Seil-Sterling Four Ring Circus on August 23, 1936 in Ripon, Wisconsin. According to the Hobby-Bandwagon dated May 1949, Joe Sweet is also listed as sword swallower on the 1936 Seil-Sterling Circus program. Joe Sweet was also known to have appeared in photos dated as late as 1963. Seeking photos and more information.
Joseph Sweet
Joseph Sweet
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet swallowing sword
Joe Sweet with Poster
Joe Sweet with Indians (1963)
The Amazing Blondini
Mike Blondini

"World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
Born 1922
Performed 1935-50s
Died 1980s
Originally Ireland
British Fairgrounds
(Ireland/UK)
Mike Blondini was an Irish sword swallower who was born in 1922 as the son of a fairground strongman (The Mighty Atom), and took up sword swallowing at the age of 13 in the mid 1930s. At thirteen, it was believed that Mike had become the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower"; at fifteen he could eat flaming torches with ease. A book has been written about his life called "Bed of Nails- The Story of the Amazing Blondini", by Gordon Thomas, set in the British fairgrounds and first published in 1950, and later published by Allan Wingate in 1955. Blondini died in the 1980s.
Carson and Barnes Circus 1937 Carson and Barnes Circus founded Hugo, OK
(USA)
Carson and Barnes Circus

Sword Swallowers with Carson and Barnes Circus:
1937: Carson and Barnes Circus founded
1978: Jackie Lynn, Rick Dennis, John Stevens
1979: Jackie Lynn, Rick Dennis, John Stevens
1981: Jimmy Rapp

Johnny Nugent
Johnnie Nugent
John Adam Nugent
Born November 24, 1914
Performed 1930s-70s
Died May 27, 1980
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Johnny's "Claw and Fang"
Jungleland Zoo
Bartok Circus
Hoxie Brothers Circus
King Brothers Circus
Petersburg, VA
(USA)
Johnny Nugent was born on November 24, 1914 in Petersburg, VA, and lived most of his life in the Colonial Heights/ Petersburg area when he wasn't on the road or in the military. A circus made its winter quarters in the fairgrounds at Petersburg, and Johnny started spending time there every winter as a teen, probably around 1927-29, just before the Great Depression. There was a sword swallower on the show and Johnny was really intrigued, and even carved some wooden bayonets to match what he'd seen. He began practicing with a fly swatter and either was taught sword swallowing by someone on the show, or learned enough to take it on himself. When the Depression hit, Johnny went off with the circus. No jobs were available then, and the circus would at least get him from town to town and make sure he was fed, even if there wasn't any money to pay him. Times were hard. Nugent performed as a sword swallower with various shows doing sword swallowing and other acts until about 1936-38 when he formed his own traveling reptile show, Johnny's "Claw and Fang" Jungleland Zoo. He then toured with various circus and carnival shows until World War II, when he was drafted into the US Army, sold the show, and went to war. In World War II, he was a Sergeant in the US Army, and was injured severely in a munitions dump explosion where he lost his right eye and his legs were so badly damaged they said he would never walk again. But he learned to walk again, and learned to walk without a limp. After the war, he started another reptile show for a few years, but got tired of traveling with it, and set up a permanent location in Colonial Heights, VA called "Johnny's Jungleland Zoo" which was open to the public. About 1955-57 he got tired of dealing with the public and closed down the zoo. At this time, Nugent got a part time Civil Service job working at Ft. Lee, VA, and started working part time with circuses and sideshows during the show season, where he performed several different acts besides sword swallowing, including fire eating, knife throwing, magic, trick and fancy roping, whips and trick riding. Nugent generally didn't stay with the same show all season. He would travel out and meet up with a show headed toward Virginia, then travel with it for a while. When it would start getting too far away from home, he would head back and connect with another show passing up or down the eastern seaboard, a few weeks at a time with each show, sometimes big tops, sometimes sideshows or carnivals. Nugent never married or had any children while he was on the road. When asked why he never married, he would always respond, "I was in one damn war, that was enough!" However, it appears he may have been married at one time to Helena C. Nugent (1890-1970). According to a White Tops circus report, "Johnnie Nugent" filled in as a sword swallower with Hoxie Bros Circus in 1961. He was known as the "Expert Snake Catcher" as well as under the nickname "Bobo" when he semi-retired from the sideshow business in the mid-1970s, died May 27, 1980 at the age of 65, and is buried in the family cemetery plot at Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Petersburg, VA. He is survived by a brother in Sevier County, just outside Gatlinburg, TN, and a nephew who used to perform with him. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Nugent snake handler (1950s)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent postcard (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1961-62)
Johnny Nugent with horse (1970)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent's swords (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent with swords (1975)
Johnny Nugent (1975)
Johnny Nugent eating fire (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent knife thrower (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent at home (late 1970s)
Johnny Nugent article (1979)
Johnny Nugent grave (1980)
"Prince Tracey"
"World's Smallest Sword Swallower"
Bob Tracy
Bob Tracey
Gilbert Tracy
Gilbert Tracey
Gilbert (Bob) Tracey
Howard Gilbert Tracey
Leonard Tracey
Leonard Tracy

Born May 3, 1907
Performed 1930s-40s
Died May 15, 1968
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Coleman Brothers Circus
Bentley's All-American Shows
Tracey Bros Side Show
Texas
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Howard Gilbert "Bob" Tracey was born on May , 1907. At 4 foot 2 inches tall, Gilbert (Bob) Tracey performed in the 1930s and '40s as "Prince Tracey", the "World's Smallest Sword Swallower" on the Coleman Brothers Circus Midget Sideshow with his brothers Leonard Tracey and Arthur Tracey. Gilbert swallowed a large scissors and a number of Masonic Knights of Columbus swords, and Leonard and Arthur performed as the midget boxers "Mo" and "Ko" of the "Mo and Ko Boxers". A September 2 1944 Billboard article states: "TRACEY BROS' SIDE SHOW closed with Bentley's All-American Shows and joined the Crescent Amusement Company. Present line-up includes Gilbert Tracey, manager and magic; Anna Williams, lady of swords; Leonard Tracy, sword swallower". Gilbert Bob Tracey was married to Norma Tracey (1904-1972). Gilbert Bob Tracey died on May 15, 1968 at 61 years old, and is buried in Showmans Rest Cemetery in Gibsonton, FL. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Sword Swallower Gilbert Bob Tracey
Tracey Brothers with Coleman Midget Sideshow
Prince Gilbert Bob Tracey
Gilbert Bob Tracey grave
Prince Charles
Prince Charles Prester
Chas Prester
Charlie Prester
Charley Prester
Charles Prester
Charles A. Prester
Anne M. Prester
Born April 24, 1913
Married 1935
Performed 1931-38?
Died Sept 25, 1990
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
World of Mirth Show
Dodson's Worlds Fair Shows
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Forepaugh-Sells Sideshow
Cole Bros Circus
Garfield, NJ
Fort Pierce, FL
(USA)
Charles A. Prester was born of Hungarian parents in Garfield, New Jersey on April 24, 1913. In 1931, Charlie Prester learned sword swallowing at 18 years of age from sword swallower Alex Linton (pitch card from Alex Linton to Charley Prester signed January 7, 1932 in NYC). In 1934, at the age of 21, Charles Prester worked with the World of Mirth show with 18 year old Anne A. Mukosey. Anne was born in Springfield, MA on December 22, 1916 of Russian heritage. In 1935, Charles and Anne were married in Chicago in Cook County, IL when Charles was about 22 and Anne was about 19. Sometime after they got married in 1935, Charles and Anne worked with Dodson's World Fairs, and the address on their ID cards showed that they lived in Garfield, NJ. Anne Prester worked primarily as a contortionist, and worked illusion acts such as the bladebox and as The Headless Wonder, but in some early photos, there is evidence that Anne may have also performed as a female sword swallower with Charles in their early years together.

From 1935 to 1938, Charlie and Anne Prester performed with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Forepaugh-Sells Combined Circus Sideshow. In 1935, the circus split from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and became the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, which did not tour in 1936. In 1936 and 1937, Charles and Anne traveled with Cole Brothers Circus (Charles Prester with Cole Bros Circus in 1937), then went back with Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus for its final 1938 season. Charles Prester swallowed up to 5 swords at once, and displayed his props on two sword shields that contained swords, knives, bayonets, long nails, fire pokers, and a keyhole saw. The 1940 census shows Charles and Anne Prester living on Boulevard Drive in St. Lucie Florida.

In 1941, Charlie and Anne moved to Fort Pierce, FL when Charlie was around 25 years old and Anne was about 21. In 1954, Charlie and Anne had one daughter named Annette, who they raised in Fort Pierce where they lived the rest of their lives. Charles and Anne were married for 55 years before Charles died on Sep. 25, 1990 at the age of 77 in Fort Pierce FL. At the time, Charles was survived by his wife, Anne M. Prester, daughter Annette McMullian, grand-daughter Debra Shaffer, and a great-grandson Alex Shaffer, all of Fort Pierce; two sisters, Theresa Pantess of Garfield, NJ and Julia Grap of Patterson, NJ. Charles A. Prester is buried at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens in Fort Pierce, FL. Anne M. Prester (1916-2006) passed away on December 15, 2006. Survivors include their daughter, Annette McMullian of Fort Pierce, FL, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Seeking photos and more information.

Charles Prester Timeline:
1913: Born April 24, 1913 in Garfield NJ
1931: Learned from Alex Linton
1932: Jan 7: NYC
1934: World of Mirth Sideshow with 18 year old Anne A. Mukosey
1935: Married Anne Mukosey in Chicago IL
1935: Hagenbeck-Wallace Forepaugh-Sells Combined Circus Sideshow
1936: Cole Bros Circus
1937: Cole Bros Circus
1938: Hagenbeck-Wallace Forepaugh-Sells Combined Circus Sideshow
1939: Dodson's World Fairs Shows?
1940: Lived on Boulevard Drive in St. Lucie FL
1941: Moved to Ft. Pierce, FL
1954: Daughter Annette Prester born in Fr. Pierce, FL
1990: Sep. 25: Charlie Prester dies in Fort Pierce FL
2006: Dec 15: Anne Prester dies in Fort Pierce FL

Young Charles Prestor with sword shield (1931)
Alex Linton signed pitch card (1-7-1932)
Charles Prester with sword shield
Charles Prester & Alex Linton with sword shield
Chas Prester Dodson's World Fair ID
Anne Prester Dodson's World Fair ID
Anne Prester contortionist
Anne Prester with swords
Charlie and Anne Prester swallowing swords
Charlie & Anne with Hagenbeck Wallace (1935?)
Charles Prester with Cole Bros (1936-37?)
Charles Prester Cole Bros Circus (1937)
Charles and Anne Prester with Forepaugh-Sells (1935? 38?)
Charlie Prester with sideshow
Charles Prester with sword shields
Charles Prester swallowing 5 swords
Charles Prester performing in tent
Charlie Prester sword shield
Charlie Prester sword shield
Charles Prester grave
Maria Cortez Performed 1930s-40s? (USA) Maria Cortez swallowed a variety of swords in a miniature video. Seeking photos and more information.
Maria Cortez video (low res 1.4M .wmv)
Maria Cortez video (hi res 15M .wmv)
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
New York World's Fair
April 30 to Oct 1939
April to October 27, 1940
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
"The World of Tomorrow"
New York World's Fair
New York, NY
(USA)
The 1939-1940 New York World's Fair, which covered 1,216 acres of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (same location as the later 1964-1965 New York World's Fair), was the second largest American world's fair of all time, exceeded only by St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Many countries around the world participated, and over 44 million people attended its exhibits in its two seasons. The NYWF of 1939-1940 claimed to be the "first" exposition to be based on the future, with an opening slogan of "Dawn of a New Day", which allowed visitors to take a look at "The World of Tomorrow".

Sword swallower Edna Price, who was a big hit at the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair was brought back by popular demand for the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorim at the New York World's Fair of 1939, where she swallowed her neon tube at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium.

The New York World's Fair was open for two seasons, from April to October each year 1939 and 1940. To get the fair's budget overruns under control before the 1940 season and augment gate revenues, the fair management in the second year replaced the president of the fair committee with a banker, and placed much greater emphasis on the amusement features and less on the educational and uplifting exhibits. The fair attracted over 45 million visitors and generated roughly $48 million in revenue. Since the Fair Corporation had invested $67 million (in addition to nearly $100 million dollars from other sources), it was a financial failure, and the corporation declared bankruptcy. The New York World's Fair officially closed its doors forever on October 27, 1940.

Jimmy Kuhn
Jimmy Gene Kuhn
James Gene Kuhn
"World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
Born April 9, 1931
Performed 1944-1970s
Married 1951
Died October 23, 1979
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Carmi, IL
(USA)
Jimmy Gene Kuhn was born in Carmi, IL on April 9, 1931. Kuhn started sword swallowing around 1944-1945 at the age of 13 to 14 years old, was billed as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". He performed with circus sideshows as a fire-eater and sword swallower for many years. Kuhn was married in 1951 to Betty Jean Holland (born 1934, died Nov 13, 2009 in Cisco, GA), served as a PFC in the US Marines in Korea, and they had two children, a son, Jimmy Ray Kuhn (born February 13, 1952, died Nov 1994), and a daughter, Tyronta Kuhn (born in 1953). Kuhn performed for around 25 years until the late 1960s or early 1970s. He died on October 23, 1979 in Gooding, Idaho at the age of 48, and is buried at Kuykendall Cemetery in Carmi, IL. Seeking photos and more information.
Alex Linton
Alex Lonton
Alec Linton
Alex Lang
Alexander P Linton
"The Young Ajax"
"Prince of Swords"
Born Oct 25, 1904
Performed 1920s-60s
Died Sept 2, 1972
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
World of Mirth
Cetlin & Wilson
Ringling Bros
Clyde Beatty Circus
Cole Bros Circus
Hubert's Museum
Sells & Gray Circus
Cavalcade Variety Shows
Sarasota, FL
(USA)
Alex Linton (sometimes spelled "Alec Linton" or "Alex Lonton") was born Alexander P. Linton in Roscommon, Boyle County, Ireland on October 25, 1904, and moved with his family to the United States (possibly arriving in Washington DC in 1919). Alex Linton learned sword swallowing at the age of 12 around 1916 from his father who was a sword swallower who died at the age 84. Linton was tattooed by Charlie Wagner in 1927. He performed under the name "Alex Linton, Prince of Swords". Linton also claimed to have studied sword swallowing under Lucky Ball in the early 1930's.

On January 7, 1932, Alex Linton signed a pitch card for 18 year old sword swallower Charley Prester who had also recently learned the art of sword swallowing. Linton's first major booking was with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Early in his career, he performed under the stage name "The Young Ajax" to capitalize on the reputation of the renowned sword swallower "The Mighty Ajax" (Joseph Milana) who had become popular in the early 1900s. During his early career, Linton performed with a sword shield of 20 different swords. In 1936, Linton performed as the sword swallower with the Cole Bros Circus. During World War II, Linton was enlisted at Camp Bowie, Brownwood, TX as "Pvt. Alex Linton", where he put on a sword swallowing show for his buddies of the 27th Signal Construction Battalion in 1944. Linton was hired to perform with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in Beaumont Texas in late 1945 to replace Lady Patricia Zerm who was ill. Alex Linton returned again to Ringling Brothers in 1946, '47, and '49, and with Clyde Beatty Circus in 1948 and the early 1950s, with the Cavalcade Variety Shows in 1953-1954. According to a January 6, 1948 article in Stars & Stripes: Swallowing Swords is Simple, But Long Hours Get Al Down -- New York (UP) -- It's not the long blade that bothers Alex Lonton (sic), 43, as he goes about his daily chore of swallowing 100 swords. It's the long hours that get him down. "You come in around noon on this job," he complained, wiping down a bayonet blade with a dry cloth before performing his act at Hubert's Museum, "and you never get away before 11:30 p.m." Lonton, only a few inches taller than most of his working tools, has been swallowing swords since he was 12. "My father was in the trade before me," he said, "and he died at 84. I guess the business didn't do him too much harm. The first time I tried it, I gagged and became ill. Afterwards it started getting easier though. I got tired of telling other kids my old man was a sword swallower, and that's why I started. They thought I was lying." Lonton swallows four 27-inchers at the same time. He swallows another two with a flaming cigaret sandwiched between them. He said the swords don't cut his throat because the edges arene't sharp. "But I can swallow a blade with only one sharp edge without any trouble," he added. "If both edges are sharp, then I've got to be careful."

Alex Linton was married to Betty Broadbent (1909-1983), the most famous tattooed lady who worked with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1939, the New York World's Fair of 1939-40, and many other shows. Alex Linton and Betty Broadbent performed together on shows from 1946 to at least 1960. On Wednesday, May 1, 1946, the entire Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus show was televised in black and white, featuring Alex Linton in the sideshow, marking the first time that a full circus performance was aired.

In 1947, Linton appeared in the film "Nightmare Alley". Linton also taught sword swallowing to 16 year old Bobby Reynolds in 1947-'48 in the boiler room of Hubert's Dime Museum. Linton performed at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York in January 1948, with the Royal American Shows Sideshow in May 1948. In 1950, Linton was on the roster for the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus. In 1951, Linton worked at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York, and was photographed by photographer Irving Penn.

In 1952, Alex Linton worked with Lorow Side Show, and in 1953 with Royal American Shows: "...swallowing the blades of three swords at one gulp, is "King of the Sword Swallowers" Alex Linton, Sarasota, Fla. Alex is a top feature of the Congress of Freaks of the Royal American Shows mammoth midway attraction..." In March 1954, Linton was sword swallower with Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus and taught sword swallowing to Capt. Don Leslie in 1954. In 1956, Alex Linton and Betty Broadbent worked for Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus Sideshow in New York. In 1956, Linton returned to work with Hubert's Museum in New York from Dec. 5, 1956 through April 3, 1957. In 1959, Bill English, manager for Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus and Sells and Gray Circus hired Linton for the Clyde Beatty sideshow in 1959. In May of 1960, Alex Linton and Betty Broadbent worked for Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus, and Linton continued to work on the Beatty show from 1959 until 1966, when English hired him for the Sells and Gray show.

Linton retired officially in 1966, but continued to swallow swords up until his death in 1972. Linton was well-liked by many circus and sideshow performers, and was a close friend to "Half Man" Johnny Eck. "He was a quiet, little guy, always pleasant, and with never a bad word about anybody," English claimed about Linton. Linton was 5' 3" tall and "pure energy", and tattooed over nearly every inch of his body. Linton was tattooed by Charlie Wagner of the Bowery, who inked many of the first tattooes on Betty Broadbent. (Broadbent also became a prolific tattoo artist, and created some of the tattooes on Linton). Linton performed many unique feats in his day that were innovative for his time. He was known as a Guinness World Record Holder for swallowing four 27 inch blades: "The longest length of sword swallowed by a practiced exponent is Alex Linton who was 5-foot-3-inches tall and swallowed four 27-inch swords at one time." Linton would routinely do a "sword-sandwich" of six blades, all full sized, and he was known for swallowing as many as 7-8 thick-bladed swords. His feature was a trick he called the "Shimmy-Shawabble", which was where he swallowed a plated layout pin bent into a series of "S" curves that made his Adam's Apple visibly wobble from side to side when he passed the pin up and down his throat. Linton liked to finish his act by throwing his final sword into a block of wood on the stage, a nice no-comment way to say it was real. Linton lived in Sarasota Florida on Beeridge Road with his friend, tattoo artist Capt. Al Wrigglesworth, neighbors to the famous "Doll Family" who lived next door to Linton. Linton's close friends continued to call him by the nickname "Ajax" until his death. Prop hand and ticket seller Dave Delaney helped Linton in his later years up until his death. In spite of the fact that he had been bleeding internally for many months, Linton continued to swallow swords up to his death. Some sources claimed that Linton died on June 6, 1971 on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus. However, his obituary in the Naples, FL Daily News dated Sept 19, 1972 reports that Linton died of a stroke on September 2, 1972 in Sarasota FL where he lived. He was 68 years old. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Dept, and the County Medical Examiner's Office began a search for relatives to claim his body, but Linton's remains laid in the Sarasota Hospital Morgue over a weekend and police said it appeared that he would be claimed by the county anatomical society for medical research and a pauper's grave. (There was talk that Linton had a son in New Jersey, but no information was found to corroborate this). However, a local organization of retired performers called Show Folks of Sarasota called a meeting at the hospital and voted to underwrite expenses to insure that Linton received a proper burial. Alex Linton is buried at Bee Ridge Presbyterian Church Memorial Gardens in Sarasota, FL.Seeking photos and more information.

Alex Linton Timeline:
1904: Born October 25, 1904 in Ireland
1916: Learns basics of sword swallowing at age 12 from father
1919: Immigrated to Washington DC
1927: Tattooed by Charlie Wagner
1930s: Studied sword swallowing under Lucky Ball
1936: Cole Bros Circus
1944: Stationed at Camp Bowie Brownwood, TX
1945: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1946: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1947: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus, Hubert's Museum
1947: Films "Nightmare Alley"
1947: Teaches Bobby Reynolds at Hubert's Museum
1948: Royal American Shows Sideshow
1948: Hubert's Museum
1948: Cole Bros Circus
1949: Cetlin & Wilson World of Mirth Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1950: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1951: Hubert's Museum NY

1951: Photographed by Irving Penn in NY
1952: Lorow Side Show
1953: Royal American Shows Sideshow
1954: World of Mirth Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1954: Teaches Capt. Don Leslie
1955: Hubert's Museum
1956: Hubert's Museum
1956: Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1957: Hubert's Museum
1959: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1960: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1961: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1962: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1963: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1964: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1965: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1966: Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus
1966: Sells & Gray Circus
1966: Retires from sword swallowing at 62
1972: Dies Sept 2, 1972 at 68 years old in Sarasota, FL

Early Alex Linton eating razor blades
Early Alex Linton with 20 swords
Early Alex Linton with sword shield
Early Alex Linton
Charles Prester & Alex Linton with sword shield
Tattooed by Charlie Wagner (1927)
Alex Linton playing cards
Alex Linton article (12-17-1947)
Alex Lonton article (1-6-1948)
Alex Linton photographed by Irving Penn NY (1951)
Later Alex Linton swallowing 5 swords
Alex Linton tattooed on Capt Don's hand
Alex Linton Obit (9-1972)
Melvin Burkhart
The Anatomical Wonder
The Human Blockhead
Clarence Melvin Burkhart
Maria Gonzalez Burkhart
Born Feb 6, 1907
Performed 1930s-1989
Died Nov. 8, 2001
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Conroy Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Circus
Harry Lewiston's Traveling Museum
Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow
Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks
Palace of Oddities
James E. Strates Shows
Hubert's Museum
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Coney Island
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Melvin Burkhart was born Clarence Melvin Burkhart, in Louisville, KY in 1905 (or Atlanta, GA on Feb 6, 1907?). He began working with sideshows in the 1930s in a variety of roles. Over his long career, he performed as a sword swallower, fire-eater, snake wrestler, and knife thrower, but he is best known for his acts as the Human Blockhead and the Anatomical Wonder that he developed while traveling with Harry Lewiston's Traveling Museum, Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow, and Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks. According to the Nov 26, 1942 Billboard Magazine, a Maria Gonzalez Burkhart was the sword swallower with Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks Museum in South Bend, Indiana, while Burkhart the Magician was featured, and Melvin Burkhart was the Anatomical Wonder. For 30 years from 1955 to 1985, Burkhart was the emcee for both Slim Kelley's Museum of Natural Mistakes and Sutton's Circus Sideshow, the 10-in-one shows of the James E. Strates' Shows midway, where he would introduce himself as four of the acts. During his 60+ year career, he performed with numerous circuses and sideshows including Conroy Brothers Circus, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, James E. Strates Carnival, Hubert's Museum, Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditorium, and Coney Island Sideshow. Melvin Burkhart retired to Gibsonton, FL, where he died of a stroke on Nov 8, 2001. Burkhart was cremated, and his ashes were scattered into the bay off of Coney Island, New York.
Melvin Burkhart Anatomical Wonder (early)
Melvin Burkhart Human Blockhead (later)
Melvin Burkhart Anatomical Wonder
Melvin Burkhart Human Blockhead
Paul Le Merveilleux Performed 1940s
Died mid 1990s
Montreal, Quebec
(Canada)
Paul Le Merveilleux had a long, unremarkable and unillustrious career as a local variety performer in Montreal Quebec, and in the 1940's would perform stunts by climbing the surface of buildings as a precursor to Spiderman. Gaston Auger, a talent agent, once saw Paul Le Merveilleux inside a cage featured as the wild man. Besides eating fire and doing climbing stunts, Paul Le Merveilleux also swallowed swords and bayonettes but never became great - just a local Montreal talent who hung around for years but never really made it big.

In June 1942, actress Angela Lansbury performed at the age of 16 at a Montreal nightclub called the "Sama Bar" with a Yugoslavian singer, a Spanish dancer, a slavic band, and an unknown sword swallower. Could this have been Paul Le Merveilleux? Seeking photos and more information.

Ray "Heavy" Case
Heavy Case
Ray Case
Raymond Case
Performed 1940s
James E. Strates Shows
(USA)
Ray "Heavy" Case was the head tentsman, strongman, fire-eater and sword swallower with the James E. Strates Shows in the mid 1940s. He later married one of the burlesque dancers who went by the name Leilani, and lost a leg by the 1970s. Seeking photos and more information.
Bunsterbaum
Sword Swallower
Performed March 1942
(USA) According to the March 21, 1942 Billboard magazine, there was a circus sword swallower in 1942 by the name of Bunsterbaum the sword swallower. Seeking photos and more information.
Prince Yucon
Algerian Mystic
Performed 1933-1941 Ripley's Odditorium
Chicago World's Fair
San Antonio, TX
(USA)
According to a San Antonio Light article dated February 10, 1941: "Prince Yucon, The Algerian Mystic was treated at the Robert B. Green Hospital Monday after collapsing at the corner of Crockett and Press Streets. Attendants said his weakened condition had been caused by influenza. The prince said he climbed ropes, swallowed swords, and ate fire at Ripley's Odditorium at theChicago World's Fair (1933-1934). He stated he was visiting here after a trip to California." Could this be sword swallower Joseph Grendol or Chester Dolphin? Seeking photos and more information.
Dailey Bros Circus
Dailey Brothers Circus
1940 - 1950 Aransas Pass, TX
La Grange, TX
(USA)
Dailey Brothers Circus owner Ben Davenport began his circus career in 1914, working as an animal trainer. He had his own touring animal exhibits, wrestled bears and operated Medicine shows. In 1935 with only two truck Davenport took out a "sidewall" (no tent), circus which he named "Davenport Society Circus". The small circus did well and grew, and Davenport operated under the name until 1939.For the 1940 season Ben and his wife Eva renamed the truck show the "Dailey Bros. Circus". They then purchased their first elephant "Nemo" from Honest Bill Newton's Circus, and later bought a second elephant "Rosie" from Newton. After the opening pains of the first year, the 1941 season was very successful, and the show had added acts and front end personnel. The circus wintered that year in Aransas Pass, Texas. For the 1942 season, the circus grew to 16 trucks. World War II had begun and people found circuses to be a needed diversion from the war. The Dailey Bros Circus focused on performing in towns that had large defense plants where the money would be plentiful. At the close, the circus winterd in La Grange, TX. During the winter of 1943-1944 Davenport began buying railroad cars from various circuses and carnival. For the 1944 season, Davenport converted his truck show to a 10 car railroad circus. During the course of the 1944 season, Davenport purchased even more rail cars to be used the following year. The circus opened that year in Yoakum, TX. In 1945 the circus had grown to a 15 car railroad show, also Ben opened a second unit called the "Austin Bros. Circus". The Dailey Bros. Circus continued untill it closed 1950. After the close of the Dailey Bros. Railroad Circus, Davenport took out several more truck shows, the Campa Bros. Circus in 1951, Wallace Bros. Circus in 1952 and Diano Bros. Circus in 1953.

Sword Swallowers with Dailey Bros Circus: (complete routes)
1940:
1941:
1942:
1943:
1944: Route
1945: Route
1946: Route Lady Patricia Zerm
1947: Route No Sword Swallower
1948: Route No Sword Swallower
1949: No Sword Swallower
1950: Janet Roselle

Unknown Sword Swallower Injured Aug 4, 1940
sword swallowing injury
Butte, MT
(USA)
According to the August 5, 1940 Salt Lake City Tribune: "BUTTE, Mont., Aug. 4 UPI -- The carnival man "who would not fool the public" (that's the way the dodgers read) jammed his sword down his throat. The public got more than it's money's worth -- for the sword, a long glass tube containing an illuminating gas, broke. A piece of it lodged in the exhibitionist's esophagus. At a hospital, they tied his legs to a table, then tipped it up so that his head hung down. He coughed. Out came a nine-inch piece of the tube. The sword swallower opined that he'd prefer a job of watering the elephants. P.S. Carnivals are known for pulling out of town in a hurry after concluding their stay, and no one thought to get the fellow's name." Seeking name, photos and more information.

Sword Swallower injury in Butte MT (8-5-1940)
Curly Frisby
Curly Frisbie
Curley Frisby
Curley Frisbie
(Lowell E. Frisbie)
Born March 17, 1927
Learned 1942
Performed 1942-?
Died May 19 or 29, 1987
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Roberts Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Sideshow
Preacher and Deacon Monroe's
Monroe's 10-in-One Shows
Peter G Hennen's Hells Belles Show
Dean Potter's Circus of the Fantastic
Jeff & Sue Murray's World's Fair Freaks
Harmur Sideshows

Freso, CA
(USA)
Lowell E. Curly Frisbie was born in California on March 17, 1927. His career began at the age of 15 around 1942 in his family's Roberts Bros Circus. Curley Frisbie was later employed by Ringling Brother Circus Sideshow where he was billed as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower" (possibly 1943-44?). Curly was a well-known all-around sideshow performer and performed fire-eating, fire-breathing, human blockhead, pincushion, and was known as a one-time holder of the "World Championship in Sword Swallowing". He served in the US Army, and was also associated at various times with Preacher and Deacon Monroes's 10-in-One Shows, Peter G. Hennen's Hell's Belles Show, Dean Potter's Circus of the Fantastic, and Jeff and Sue Murray's World's Fair Freaks. He was last associated with Jeff and Sue Murray on Harris Amusement Lucky Land Shows in California and Nevada, having worked with Jeff and Sue Murray from 1983 until his death in 1987. Frisbie died in Fresno at the age of 60 of complications following heart bypass surgery on May 29, 1987, and his remains are located at the Belmont Memorial Park in Fresno CA. Seeking photos and more information.

Curley Frisby fire-breathing
Lowell Frisbie Gravesite
Pat Smith
Patsy Smith
Patricia Smith
Miss Patsy
Miss Patricia
Mrs. Speedy Smith
Lady Patricia
Patsy Zerm
Patsy Zurm
Patricia Katts
Patricia Zern
Patricia Zerm
Patricia Zurm
Patsy Nellie Kennedy
Patricia Nellie Kennedy
Neon Tube Artist
Neon Tube Swallower
Born Sept 1, 1910
Performed 1939-76
Retired September 1, 1976
Died January, 1986
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus
Peter Kortes Circus Side Show
Penn Premier Shows
Reynolds & Wells World of Today Shows
Dailey Bros Circus
Mickey Mansion-Stanley Baebet Sideshow
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Lexington, KY
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Patricia "Patsy" Nellie Kennedy was born on September 1, 1910, and early in her life she called Lexington, KY her home. In 1939, she performed under the name "Patsy Smith" with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey sideshow at the age of 29 and was known as Pat Smith and Mrs. Speedy Smith in 1942 and 1943. An article in the October 7, 1942 Iola Register reported that Miss Patricia Smith the sword swallower and the fat lady Baby Betty were called to court to settle a dispute in the dressing room tent when Miss Patricia cut the fat lady with a pop bottle. Miss Patricia worked as the sword swallower with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey sideshow in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945. From 1942-1944, Miss Patricia performed as the sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey sideshow under the name "Patricia Katts" or "Miss Patricia", although she was later often billed as "The Neon Tube Swallower" or "The Neon Tube Artist". According to the Aug 21, 1943 Billboard: "Ringling Side Show Notes: Patricia (Mrs. Speedy Smith), sword swallower, has been on the sick list, but is expected back shortly." A month later in the Sept 18, 1943 Billboard: "Ringling Side Show Notes: Patricia (Mrs. Speedy Smith), sword swallower, terminated her engagement in Detroit due to an illness and left for home in Lexington, Kentucky." (C. D. Speedy Smith of Lexington KY was ticket taker with the Ringling show from 1941 to 1947). The 1944 Ringling Brothers route book listed "Miss Patricia" under the billing of "Neon Tube Artist" since Ringling also featured Lady Louise Long as their main sword swallower in 1944.

In 1945, "Miss Patricia" married Ringling ticket seller and assistant manager Charles Zerm (1883-1968), who was at one time the manager of the 10-in-1 sideshow for the Worthan & Rice Show in 1918. After getting married, there was an effort to change her stage name from "Miss Patricia" to bill her as "Lady Patricia", although the stage name of "Miss Patricia" was often used interchangeably as well and stuck with her throughout her entire career. To her friends, she was simply known as "Patsy". In 1946 Charlie and Patsy Zerm ran the sideshow on the Reynolds and Wells "World of Today Shows" with Harry Leonard. When their route closed in September 1946, Harry Leonard joined Dailey Bros Circus where they met Ward Hall. In 1947 Charlie and Patsy Zerm were with the Mickey Mansion-Stanley Baebet Sideshow and left about halfway through the season. "Miss Patricia" went back to work with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey in 1948, 1950, and 1951. According to the Sep 25, 1948 Billboard: "Miss Patricia, sword swallower, her husband, and Rasmus Nielsen, tattooed man and weight lifter, all of the Ringling show, were recent guests at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Owen Jensen in Los Angeles. Mrs. Jensen, (Dainty Dotty) was a fat lady with the Big Show." In 1949, Patricia and Charlie Zerm worked for Peter Kortes Circus Side Show.

According to the Apr 15, 1950 Billboard, the personnel on the 1950 Ringling Brothers Kid Show includes Emmett and Priscilla Bejano, monkey girl and alligator skin man, Patricia Zern (sic), sword swallower, Charles Zern, as lecturer and ticket seller. In 1951, Lady Patricia was photographed in front of her banner holding a neon tube.

In 1951, Lady Patricia was also featured as the sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in Cecil B. DeMille's film "The Greatest Show on Earth" which was filmed on location with Ringling Brothers and released in 1952. In February 1955, Lady Patricia worked the Tampa Fair for Bobby Hasson on the Royal American Shows show. In the next few years the Zerms had an office-owned show on Lloyd Serfass "Penn Premier Shows".

On January 2, 1968, Charlie A. Zerm died at the age of 85 (1883-1968). Lady Patricia then worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders from 1969 to 1975, where she also swallowed neon tubes. According to Ward Hall, "Miss Patricia was known for always wearing beautiful formal gowns. Patsy had a twangy voice with a Kentucky accent, and because of this, she never spoke in her act, but instead would perform silently to the song "Fascination" while the lights went low for her neon tube act. It was incredible! Patsy was a great cook and she always cooked for Chris and me and Emmett Blackwelder, The 'Turtle Man' ". Ward Hall says in his book "My Very Unusual Friends" that Patricia said she was going to retire on her 65th birthday. On September 1, 1976, she stuck to her promise, she walked up to Ward, reminded him that it was her 65th birthday, and politely retired on the spot.

Lady Patricia owned a home in Gibsonton, FL, as did her sister whose late husband had been a carnival electrician. After she retired, Patricia and her sister both sold their homes and moved from Gibsonton to Tampa, FL "never venturing near a show again". They moved into an apt at the Baptist retirement home in central Tampa (Tampa Baptist Manor?), where they lived out the rest of their lives. They had both become devout Baptists and didn't associate with their old friends. Lady Patricia Zerm died in Tampa, Florida in January 1986 at the age of 76. Charles Zerm and Patricia Zerm are buried in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa, Florida. Seeking photos, dates and more information.

Patricia Zerm Timeline:
1910: Born September 1, 1910
1939: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1940: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey ?
1941: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey ?
1942: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1943: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1944: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1945: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1945: Married Charles Zerm
1946: Reynolds and Wells World of Today
1946: September: Dailey Bros Circus
1947: Mansion-Baebet Sideshow
1948: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1949: Peter Kortes Circus Side Show
1950: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1951: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
1951: Greatest Show on Earth movie airs
1952: ?
1953: ?
1954: Penn Premier Shows
1955: Royal American Shows
1956: Penn Premier Shows
1957: Penn Premier Shows
1959: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1960: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1961: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1962: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1963: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1964: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1965: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1966: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1967: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1968: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1968: Charlie Zerm dies
1969: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1970: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1971: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1972: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1973: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1974: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1975: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1976: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1976: Retired Sept, 1, 1976
1986: Died January 1986 in Tampa, FL

Miss Patricia Courtroom brawl (10-7-1942)
Patricia Katts RBBB (1944)
Miss Patricia Katts RBBB (1944)
Miss Patricia Katts RBBB (1944)
Miss Patricia banner
Lady Patricia banner RBBB (1948)
Lady Patricia Zerm
Lady Patricia with neon in Phila (1951)
Rita Roselle Performed 1943 Coney Island Freak Museum
Riverview Park
(USA)
According to a June 27, 1943 article in the Chicago Tribune, Rita Roselle was a blonde model turned sword swallower who worked with the Coney Island Freak Museum at Chicago Riverview Park in 1943. Could this be the Rita Roselle who was in the 1931 film "Beauty Secrets from Hollywood"? Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Tribune article (1943)
"The Great Zadma"
Daniel Mannix
Daniel Pratt Mannix IV
Born October 27, 1911
Performed 1944?
Died January 29, 1997
Sunnyhill Farm
Malvern, PA
(USA)
Daniel Pratt Mannix IV was born on October 27, 1911 in Bacton Hill, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Mannix was a Philadelphia blue blood whose paternal grandfather was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Mannix' first job after college was traveling with a carnival sideshow where he was a fire-eater and sword swallower, and a journalist who wrote with the help of his actress-writer wife, Jule Junker Mannix, books on a variety of subjects, from carny life to big-game hunting to the history of torture. Mannix grew to be over 6'5" tall, and he and his wife Julie traveled the world, hunted with eagles and falcons, raised exotic animals, and wrote numerous books and magazine articles:
  • "Raiders of the Night" in St. Nicholas Magazine (Aug 1930)
  • "Two Texas Goblins" in St. Nicholas Magazine (June 1933)
  • "Gladiators of the Gods" in The Saturday Evening Post (May 25 1935)
  • "Hunting Dragons with an Eagle" in The Saturday Evening Post (Jan 18 1941)
  • "Death on Swift Wings" in The Saturday Evening Post (Nov 8 1941)
  • "We're in the Money" in The Saturday Evening Post (Jan 16 1943)
In the 1940s, Mannix served in World War II in the Armed Forces as a Naval Lieutenant with the Photo-Science Laboratory in Washington DC. In the early 1940s, Mannix worked with a carnival sideshow as a fire-eater and sword swallower under the name of "The Great Zadma" (possibly 1943 or early 1944?) as described in articles co-written with his wife Jule Junker Mannix entitled "How to Swallow a Sword" by "'The Great Zadma' as told to Jule Junker Mannix" which was published in "Colliers" magazine (July 22, 1944 and again on Dec 2, 1944). In the article, Mannix claims to have held the American record for the longest sword swallowed (26 inches) for many years, due to his height. He also claimed to have simultaneously swallowed a 16 inch pair of scissors, a bayonet and 2 sabers at the same time, but there are no photos or proof to back up his claim. Variations of this article also appeared in other magazines around that time, including "Fire-eating is Fun" by "The Great Zadma" published in the UK in the Pocket Book Weekly (Feb 3, 1945) and "How to Swallow a Sword" by "The Great Zadma as told to Julie Junker Mannix" which was published in the March 1945 issue of Reader's Digest magazine. The story was later expanded into the book "Step Right Up" (1950), reprinted as "Memoirs of a Sword Swallower" (1964) available at Amazon.com. Mannix also wrote the article "Tracked by Bloodhounds" in The Saturday Evening Post (Apr 9 1949), and his book "King of the Sky" (1953) was made into the movie "King of the Sky" (1953) with Mannix credited as Writer, Director, Producer and Actor playing himself as "Bird Trainer". His wife Jule Mannix wrote the book "Married to Adventure" (1954) as her autobiography about her adventurous life married to Mannix. In 1957, Mannix was one of the 16 charter members who founded the Munchkin Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club. Mannix also continued to write other books:
  • the non-fiction "Those About to Die" (1958) which was the inspiration for the movie "Gladiator"
  • "Killers of Kilimanjaro" (1959)
  • "The Hell Fire Club" (1959)
  • "A Sporting Chance, Unusual Methods of Hunting" (1967)
  • and the children's book "The Fox and the Hound" (1967, reprinted 1981) on which the Disney film "The Fox and the Hound" was based.
Mannix was sent a membership card from Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, although like Marcel Duchamp and Groucho Marx, he was not a joiner, preferring to remain staunchly independent. From 1950 onward, Daniel and Jule Mannix lived in the same house in East Whiteland, near Malvern, Pennsylvania, where Mannix retired and wrote the book "Freaks: We Are Not As Others" (1990). Jule Mannix (born 1914), died on May 25, 1977 and is buried at Church of the Redeemer Cemetery in Bryn Mawr, PA. Daniel Mannix died on January 29, 1997, at the age of 85. He was survived by his son, Daniel Pratt Mannix, V, and a daughter, Julie Mannix Von Zernick, (born 1944, Redbook article about daughter Julie Mannix Von Zernick), three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, after having written over 20 books and at least two movies. Seeking photos and more information.

Daniel Mannix
Daniel Mannix
Daniel Mannix X-ray
"How to Swallow a Sword" (March 1945)
Lady Louise
Miss Louise
Louise Long
Performed 1944-54 Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey
Royal American Shows
(USA)
Louise Long was listed as the sword swallower with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus Sideshow in the 1944 Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey route book. According to the 1944 route book, Fred Smythe was Manager, Charles A. Zerm, Assistant Manager, Ticket Sellers were Chas. A. Zerm, Geo, Johnson, Robt. Ellis, Jack Elkins; Lecturer was Judson L. Langill. Other attractions on the 1944 sideshow were Senorita Carmen, Snake Trainer; Mr. and Mrs. Fischer, Giant and Giantess; Freda Pushnik, Armless and Legless Girl; Mo-Lay, Comedy Juggler; Miss Patricia, Neon Tube Artist; Kutty Singlee, Fire Proof Man; Baby Thelma, Fat Girl; Egan Twist, Rubber-Armed Man; Hanka Kelter, Long Haired Girl; Alex Demeroff, Arabian Gun Spinner; Percy Pape, Living Skeleton; Nabor Feliz, Pueblo Indian Sculptor; Tinytown, World's Smallest Performers; and Joseph Nawrath, Midget Musician. Louise Long was also featured on a Colgate Palmolive card dated 1946. According to the Jun 5, 1954 Billboard, the lineup for the 1954 Royal American Shows in Joliet includes Lady Louise, sword swallower. Seeking photos and more information.
Louise Long pitch card (1944)
Louise Long card (1946)
Louise Long
Bill Baldwin Performed 1945-1950 Bartholomew Fair
(USA)
Bill Baldwin was the sword swallower at the Bartholomew Fair featured in the Jack Dadswell book "Hey There, Sucker!" published in 1946. Bill Baldwin was also still sword swallowing in 1950. Seeking photos and more information.
Bill Baldwin (1945-46?)
Tony Marino
Tony Mareno
Tony Moreno
Anthony Moreno
Tony Donato Cuellar
Anthony Donato Cuellar
Born May 13, 1913
Performed 1929-60's
Injured June 17, 1947
Married July 2, 1949
Died December 21, 1997
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Circus of the Fantastic
The Pike
Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow
Harry Lewiston's Traveling Museum
Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks
Royal American Shows
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Dallas, TX
(USA)
Anthony Tony Donato Cuellar was born on May 13, 1913 in Bastrop, TX to Pablo and Eugenia Donato Cuellar. Tony worked with Harry Lewiston's World's Fair Freaks at the age of 16 in 1929, and served in WWII as a supply clerk in the early 1940's. According to a June 17, 1947 Troy New York Times Record, "Detroit (AP) - Sword swallower Anthony Mareno has a sore throat today. Performing in a sideshow act at Eastwood Park he substituted a neon tube for his cutomary sword. The tube broke. Mareno was taken to Saratoga General Hospital for treatment of cuts to his throat." A June 19, 1947 article in Stars and Stripes reported, Sword Swallower's Bow Breaks Neon Tube Inside Him -- Detroit (AP) June 18 (UP) -- As Anthony Moreno, one-time sword swallower passed a glowing neon tube down his throat at a Detroit fairground, the crowd burst into applause. Moreno bowed acknowledging the applause, and the tube burst into pieces. Doctors today said they were getting glass fragments from his mouth and throat and that there were severe cuts. Time Magazine reported in their July 7, 1947 article entitled "Something He Ate": "In Detroit, Sword Swallower Tony Marino gulped a two-foot length of lighted neon tube, glowed at his appreciative audience, bowed, thereupon went out like a light, and was hustled to a hospital for removal of the shattered tube." The incident happened while Marino was working on the Harry Lewiston Show in Detroit on June 17, 1947. According to Harry Lewiston's autobiography "Freak Show Man", after two weeks of recuperation, including treatment with a stomach pump, milk of magnesia, and oatmeal, Marino was back to performing with Lewiston's Museum.

On July 2, 1949, Marino married Ruby Wallace (1928-1988) in Detroit, MI, and they briefly lived in Ponce, PR. They moved to Long Beach, CA in the 1950's and lived there in the early 1960's, where Tony worked with various shows swallowing swords and neon tubes under the name Tony Marino, Tony Mareno, and Tony Moreno. Tony Marino is listed as sword swallower with the W. G. Wade Shows at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit in the Oct 23 1954 Billboard Magazine. In 1957, while working as the manager of The Pike at Long Beach, Marino swallowed swords and neon tubes, taught tattooist Lyle Tuttle to swallow his bayonet, and hired the Amazing Vanteen as magician. He also worked in the Dominican Republic and Florida and throughout much of the US and Canada. Besides performing as a sword swallower, Marino also performed as a fire-eater and knife thrower, and he performed in an episode of Bonanza in the 1960's. Marino later moved to Dallas, TX where he worked at the Texas State Fair in the late 60's and early 70's in October of each year, performing one season with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show. He retired from US Cement Pipe at age 70, and died at his home in Dallas, Texas on December 21, 1997 at the age of 83. Cuellar is buried in the Calvary Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Dallas TX. He is survived by 5 children: Lawrence, Victor, Gail, Toni and Nancy. Seeking photos and more information.

Tony Marino at 16 (c 1929)
Tony Marino w Harry Lewiston
Tony Marino w Harry Lewiston
Tony Marino (c 1940s)
Tony Marino
Tony Marino
Tony Marino (later in life)
Tony Cuellar grave
Leatha Smith
Letha Smith
Miss Letha Wade
"Lady Sword Swallower"
Performed 1938-1964 Cole Brothers Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
John L. Ward's World Fair Shows
Al Wagner's Cavalcade of Amusements
Arthur Sturmark's Biller Bros Circus
Witte Musuem
San Antonio, TX
(USA)
Leatha Smith (sometimes "Letha Smith") was married to Marvin E. Smith, the "Anatomical Man" and manager of the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus Sideshow, and together they performed with sideshows for many years. In 1941, Leatha was featured as the "Lady Sword Swallower" with the Cole Brothers Circus, and again in the 1942 in the Cole Brothers Circus route book. From 1945 to 1951, Leatha and Marvin worked together on the Clyde Beatty Circus Side Show. The April 7, 1945 Billboard lists Leatha Smith as sword swallower with the Clyde Beatty Kid Show. From an April 1946 Jacksonville Journal article: "Anyone can do it", the sword swallower said to the reporter. As though anyone would want to. Leatha Smith swallowed a small sword for breakfast, a corkscrew for lunch and a "long, piercing weapon" for dinner, she told Jacksonville Journal reporter Joy Reese Coleman. "And with no sauce," Coleman observed. "Sometimes, if she is really hungry, she gulps down two or three at a time." Leatha Smith gobbled cutlery for the John L. Ward's World Fair Shows. She was the new sword-swallower in town. The World Fair Shows wintered in Jacksonville in the 1940s. It was on the left bank of Show Biz. The common man would call it a freak show. The World Fair Shows was one of a series of carnie coterie that called Jacksonville home over the years in the first half of the century. Come April, they would slap fresh paint on the wagons, load up the Calliope and the chimps and head north to astound and amaze the multitude. Indeed, it was a special time for all America, Coleman wrote the April of 1946. The war was over. It was showtime in the spring of peace. "Folks are entertainment hungry," said show boss Ray Cramer. "We have better talent than at any time during the war. Old employees are back and we have many new ones." Leatha Smith fit both bills. With 8 years under her belt, literally, she was considered one of the best in her profession, wrote Coleman."

The April 22, 1950 Billboard lists Marvin and Leatha Smith as performing with Arthur Sturmark's Biller Bros Circus following the old Cole Bros Circus route, with Leatha Smith as sword swallower. On August 25, 1951, Leatha Smith was sword swallower on the roster of Al Wagner's Cavalcade of Amusements. On November 18, 1960, Leatha Smith performed at the 18th anniversary party of the Harry Hertzburg collection of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX. In the mid to late 1960's, Leatha and Marvin Smith lived in San Antonio, Texas, where they attended the Trinity Assembly Church. Leatha's swords, sword shield, and two dresses are in the private Harry Hertzburg collection of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX. Seeking photos and more information.

Leatha Smith Timeline:
1938: Began sword swallowing
1941: Cole Brothers Circus
1942: Cole Brothers Circus
1945: Clyde Beatty Circus
1946: Clyde Beatty Circus ?
1946: John L. Ward's World Fair Shows
1947: Clyde Beatty Circus ?
1948: Clyde Beatty Circus
1948: Waukesha Wisconsin
1949: Clyde Beatty Circus
1950: Biller Bros Circus
1951: Clyde Beatty Circus
1951: Al Wagner's Cavalcade of Amusements
1960: Hertzburg Collection at Witte Museum

Leatha Smith
Leatha Smith
Leatha and Marvin Smith
Leatha and Marvin Smith Xmas Card
Leatha and Marvin Smith Xmas Card
Leatha Smith with Cole Bros? (1942)
Leatha Smith with Cole Bros? (1942 movie)
Leatha Smith (1960s)
Leatha & Marvin Smith (1960s)
Leatha Smith display at Witte Museum (2004)
Arthur Plumhoff
Wilbur Plumhoff
Dick Plumhoff
Arthur August Plumhoff
Born 1903
Performed 1933-1946
Died 1963
sword swallowers grave
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Chicago World's Fair
New York World's Fair
Ray Marsh Brydon's Side Show
Gold Medal Shows
Arthur Plumhoff was best known as "The Human Pincushion" and "Pain-Proof Man", but he was also known to have performed as a sword swallower. Arthur August Plumhoff was born in 1903. At the age of 30, Plumhoff was a big hit at Robert Ripley's Believe-It-or-Not Odditorium at A Century of Progress at the Chicago World's Fair International Exposition held in Chicago from 1933 to 1934. According to the Martin County Minnesota birth registry of 1935, Arthur A. Plumhoff and his wife Lila A. Eichoff gave birth to a daughter Charlotte Yvonne Plumhoff on 25 Oct 1935 in Martin County Minnesota. Robert Ripley ran posters and advertized "Wilbur Plumhoff" as the Human Pincushion and Pain-Proof Man at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and 1940. According to the August 3, 1946 Billboard, Dick Plumhoff was the sword swallower and human pincushion with Ray Marsh Brydon's Side Show on the Gold Medal Shows in 1946. According to Edward Meyer, historian at Ripley's Believe It or Not, Wilbur Plumhoff performed as the Pain Proof Man at Ripley's Believe It or Not Steel Pier Atlantic City NJ in the 1950s. Ward Hall knew of Arthur Plumhoff in the 1950s, and according to Ward Hall, apparently Plumhoff retired in 1957. Arthur August Plumhoff died at the age of 60 in 1963, and is buried at the Lake Belt Cemetery Ceylon, Martin County, MN USA. Seeking photos and more information.

Wilbur Plumhoff
Arthur Plumhoff Ripley's Chicago World's Fair (1933-34)
Arthur Plumhoff Ripley's Chicago World's Fair (1933-34)
Wilbur Plumhoff NY World's Fair (1939-40)
Charlotte Hoyer
Schwertschluckerin
1930s-50s?
(Germany) Charlotte Hoyer was a tatooed female sword swallower from Germany who performed sometime from the late 1930s into the 1950s. Hoyer was tattooed and may have also been a tattoo artist and photographer. Seeking photos and more information.
Charlotte Hoyer
Charlotte Hoyer
Charlotte Hoyer
Slim Price
(Jerry Pickard)
Born January 29, 1935
Performed 1948-1949
Died June 13, 2006
Coney Island
Cavalcade Variety Show
El Cajon, CA
(USA)
Jerry Pickard was born January 29, 1935, and started in the sideshow business at the age of 14 as a shill for a show on Coney Island. He was eager, young, and wanted to know it all. He performed under the stage name "Slim Price" and claimed he was passable as a fire-eater, loved snakes, had good hands as a magician, understood the principals of the human dynamo act, loved to talk and work the mike on the grind, and did a myriad of other jobs on the show. Even though Shumpert Eko was their inside sword swallower, Price learned the basics of swordswallowing around 1948 from the Mighty Ajax, a huge Irishman who worked as sword swallower on another show. The Mighty Ajax gave Price some tips on sword swallowing as well as one of his own bayonets, which was the only "sword" Price ever used in his act. Price also worked with Alex Linton for a time when they were both working with Walter Wanous where Price learned some additional sword swallowing tips from Linton. As a sword swallower, Price claimed, "I was the king of the mediocre; I never got good enough to do anything but work the bally, and the fire-act was much more dramatic". Price mostly worked as a bally talker, and only performed sword swallowing occasionally for a limited time around 1948-1949. In October 2000, at the age of 65, he married his 27 year old bride Krista from England. In August 2005, Slim and Krista left their apartment in El Cajon, CA to tour the United States, attending the Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA over Labor Day weekend September 1-4, 2005, where he was presented the honorary "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Sword Swallowers Association International. As Moderator of Slim's Sideshow Digest, Price always reminded others to "keep the candle burning" for the sideshow arts. Slim Price died on June 13, 2006 at the age of 71, and was remembered by sword swallowers and other sideshow performers in a special candle light memorial tribute at the 2006 Sideshow Gathering. Seeking photos and more information.
Bobby Reynolds
"Greatest Showman in the World"
Born Oct 5, 1931
Performed 1948-51
Hubert's Museum
Coney Island
Filmore, CA
(USA)
Bobby Reynolds was born on October 5, 1931. In the 1940's, he worked at Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus in New York, where he learned the art of being a "talker", fire-eater, and more. Bobby learned sword swallowing from Alex Linton in 1948-49 at the age of 15 or 16 when Linton taught Reynolds how to swallow a metal bar in the boiler room of Hubert's Museum. After working with various circuses in the 1950s and 60s, Bobby Reynolds opened his own show at Coney Island with his partner Jack Waller in the 1960s. Reynolds went on to manage several sideshows over the years, and later taught sword swallowing to George the Giant McArthur. Bobby Reynolds is now semi-retired and lives in Filmore, CA. Seeking photos and more information.
Bobby Reynolds pulling sword from Dan Meyer in Las Vegas (12-9-2014)
Bobby Reynolds pulling sword from Dan Meyer in Las Vegas (12-2-2015)
Duke Alphonse
Alphonse Curatolo
Performed 1948-1960 Ringling Brothers Circus
Cristiani Brothers Circus
Chicago, IL
(USA)
A Chicago Daily Tribune article dated May 19, 1960 states, "Alphonse Curatolo, known in circus life as "Duke Alphonse", fire-eater, sword swallower, and escape artist, will get out of University of Illinois next month with a degree in architecture. Since he was 11 years old, he has worked with circuses to help pay his tuition. Curatolo, who lives at 1446 Polk St., graduated from Crane Technical High School. Curatolo picked up his first job in 1948 with Ringling Brothers Circus. A master of sleight of hand, he was billed as the "world's youngest magician." His friends taught him to eat fire and swallow swords. Duke Alphonse's most sensational stunts today are his escapes from straightjackets, handcuffs, and locked safes. He learned these tricks from Harry Hardini, a safe expert, and former rival of Harry Houdini. Curatolo once considered being a professional boxer. As an amateur, he won 49 of 52 bouts - 11 by knockout - and was the 1955 Golden Gloves champion in the featherweight division. Curatolo won a scholarship to the Art Institute and later enrolled in the University of Illinois at Navy Pier. He transferred to the Urbana campus in 1957. As a student at Urbana, Curatolo only performed once when he entertained at a university fine arts club dance, to the amazement of the students. Between semesters this year, Curatolo flew to California and appeared on Art Linkletter's television show. Next summer, he will perform with Cristiani Brothers Circus. Curatolo is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Curatolo of the Polk Street address. His brother is a juggler and tumbler with the Cristiani Brothers Circus." Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Trib article (1960)
Lucky Ball II
Jim Ball
Jimmy Ball
James Ball
Jim Lucky Ball
World's Youngest Sword Swallower
Born June 28, 1935
Learned 1947
Performed 1948-date
Riverview Park
Dick Best's Side Show
Royal American Shows
Hubert's Museum
Ringling Brothers
Bob Hammonds Traveling Shows
Oakley, KS
(USA)
Born into the sword swallowing family of Prince Lucky Ball and Estelline Pike in San Diego, CA on June 28, 1935, Jim Lucky Ball II learned to swallow swords from his mother Estelline Pike in 1947 while in the 7th grade at the age of 12, earning him the title "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". Ball's first professional paying show was a Saturday Night jubilee with Madame Burlison's Colored Girl Show Revue in 1948 at the age of 13. His next full professional show was in 1951 at the age of 16 at the Calgary Exhibition in Calgary, Canada, where he had been working as a talker and selling tickets with his mother, and eventually working swords on the outside bally, while Estelline did the inside show.

Ball studied at Fort Hays State University. In 1953, Ball worked as sword swallower for Dick Best at Riverview Park in Chicago, and in 1955-56, Ball worked as manager of Riverview Park. In 1957, Ball was booked at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York, where his mother Estelline Pike was working. According to a September 3, 1958 article in the Alton ILL Evening Telegraph, "Fort Dix, NJ -- AP - Pvt. James Ball of Hoxie Kan., started his Army career by plunging a 26-inch rifle cleaning rod down his throat, but people who know him won't be concerned by the news. He's a professional sword swallower."

In 1958, Ball worked with his mother Estelline when she performed with Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden, and appeared with her on the TV program "What's My Line?" as a sword swallowing team in 1958. When sword swallower Mighty Ajax died in 1959, he willed his swords and sword board to young Jimmy Lucky Ball. In 1959, Lucky served with the US Army in Korea. On March 2, 1959, a UPI photo was released of Estelline Pike eyeing four swords at Hubert's Museum: "With a confident grin, Estelline Pike, a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in New York City, eyes four blades she plans to have as a midafternoon snack. This savorer of sabres is also a mother and grandmother. Her relish for cold steel is apparently hereditary -- her son, U.S. Army Pvt. James (Lucky) Ball, was a sword swallower, too, in civilian life. Now stationed in Korea, he has to limit his metallic munching to rifle cleaning rods, with an occasional Japanese officer's sword for dessert.". In 1960, after he returned from Korea and got out of the military, Ball worked for Dick Best's Side Show for Royal American Shows in 1960 as the talker and sword swallower. According to an article in the July 6, 1960 Milwaukee Journal, Jim Lucky Ball was working his way through college as a sword swallower.

In 1963, after working at a Show Bar club in New Orleans, LA, Jim Ball picked up his buddy, Eduardo Adriani, and they headed "north". After stumbling upon a carnival with a sideshow in Wheeling WV, Ball looked over the tease curtain to see Jim Beech, his old canvas boss with Bobby Hasson, working on equipment. They needed help, and Jim signed on with the Jim Beech Circus Sideshow, while Eduardo continued on. From Wheeling, the Jim Beech Circus Sideshow ran its route, working in Panama City, FL, where Jim found himself working 4 different shows at once. In 1963, he worked wtih Bob Hammonds Traveling Shows with Judy Ball. In 1964, he auditioned for Diamond Jim's Casino in Las Vegas, NV. During his audition, everything in the casino stopped - the slots, bartenders, everyone - to watch Jim swallow swords. The casino operator told him, "I can't afford to hire you... I'd lose business!" Later in 1964, Jim taught Judy Ball how to swallow a sabre in a trailer in Wichita, Kansas.

In 1965, Jimmy Ball's wife Judy also swallowed swords, when Ball, his wife Judy, and his mother Estelline Pike were known as the "World's only sword swallowing family". In 2005, Ball was invited to perform on a recreated version of "What's My Line?" in Hollywood, CA where Ted Lange removed the sword from his throat. Ball currently works as an independent life and health insurance agent in Oakley, KS, and still performs sword swallowing. At the age of 80, Jim Ball holds the distinction of having been the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower", the "World's Oldest Sword Swallower", and the "World's Longest Performing Sword Swallower" by performing for over 67 years. On "World Sword Swallower's Day" February 28, 2008, Ball was inducted into the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame and awarded the SSAI Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallower's Association International for his years of service to the art of sword swallowing.

Jim Lucky Ball II Timeline:
1935: Born June 28, 1935 in San Diego, CA
1947: Learned sword swallowing at age 12 from his mother Estelline Pike
1948: Did first professional show at age 13 for Madame Burlison's Colored Girl Show Revue
1951: Calgary Exhibition in Calgary, Canada at the age of 16 with Estelline Pike
1953: Worked for Dick Best at Riverview Park in Chicago
1955-56: Worked as manager of Riverview Park Chicago
1955: Royal American Shows
1957: Hubert's Dime Museum New York
1958: Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden with Estelline Pike
1958: "What's My Line?" with mother Estelline Pike
1958: Sept 3: Fort Dix, NJ
1959: Served in US Army in Korea
1960: Discharged from Army
1960: Dick Best's Side Show for Royal American Shows
1963: Show Bar club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans
1963: Jim Beech Sideshow in Wheeling WV with his buddy magician Eduardo Adriani
1963: Panama City, FL operating 4 different shows at once
1963: Wintered in New Orleans LA
1963: Bob Hammonds Traveling Shows with Judy Ball
1964: Lived in a travel trailer in Wichita, Kansas, taught Judy Ball to swallow a sabre
1965: Dick Best's Side Show in Riverview Park in Chicago with Judy Ball
1990: Mother Estelline Pike dies June 8, 1990 in NY
2005: "What's My Line?" in Hollywood, CA
2008: World Sword Swallower's Day Feb 28, 2008, inducted into Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame
2015: Still swallowing swords at 80

Jimmy Ball II (1950s)
Jimmy Ball II (1956)
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball & Estelline Pike "What's My Line?" (1958)
James Ball II article (9-3-1958)
Milwaukee Journal Article on Jim Ball (7-6-1960)
Jim Ball II "What's My Line?" (2005)
Jim Ball sword swallowing at 79 (2015)
Jim Ball with swords (4-2015)
Judy Ball Born June 1, 1941
Performed 1964-70s
Bob Hammonds Traveling Shows
Dick Best's Side Show
Riverview Park
Cut 'n Shoot, TX
(USA)
Judy Ball was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 1, 1941, and graduated from Wayzata High School in 1958. In 1963, while working as an exotic dancer under the name of "Zuzette" in a New Orleans club on Bourbon Street, Judy met sword swallower Jim “Lucky” Ball who was performing in the club at the time. Judy noticed him and "fell in love". The pair left New Orleans and toured with Bob Hammonds traveling shows in the summer of 1963. During the winter of 1964, they lived in a travel trailer in Wichita, Kansas, where Jim Ball taught Judy how to swallow a 26 inch curved calvary sabre. Because the trailer was so small, Judy had to get on one knee on the floor to be able to put the sword down her throat. Jim said he taught her with the most difficult sword first so that she would later be able to swallow just about any sword. In 1965 Judy Ball was the bally person and swallowing swords on Dick Best's Side Show in Riverview Park in Chicago. She also was the inside talker announcing the acts, and performed as Electric Woman and worked the Sword Box and a Head on a Ladder illusions, with Jim "Lucky" Ball managing and doing the talking, and Jim's mother, Estelline Pike swallowing swords on the inside. Jim and Judy Ball toured for many years with numerous traveling carnivals. Jim and Judy Ball and Jim's mother Estelline Pike were billed as the "World's Only Sword Swallowing Family". During this time, Judy also worked with Strecho, Hoyt Shoemaker, Armless and Legless Wonder, Sadie Anderson the Leopard Skinned Woman, Pop-Eye, Tommy Thompson, Vernon Goins the Tattooed man, Ester Blackman, the Alligator Skinned Woman, Yvonne and Yvette the Siamese Twins. The only injury Judy sustained was not a sword swallowing injury. At one time, while she was on the bally in Chicago with Pop-Eye, a black performer who could pop his eyeballs out of their socekts, a racist threw a brick at the performers. The brick bounced off Popeye and hit Judy on the temple. The performers didn't react until they got off the stage and saw that she was bleeding. After Jim and Judy were divorced, Judy traveled by herself and with her two sons, Scott Ball and Paul “ Red” Ball, and eventually quit sword swallowing. When Estelline Pike's swords were stolen in New York, Judy Ball sent her swords to Estelline. Judy Ball was one of the first women in the Lions Club International, with a 19 year membership in the Cut ‘n Shoot Family Lions Club. She is also the Trustee for the "Lions Project for Canine Companions" in Texas, and in 2007, was awarded the title "Trustee of the Year" nationwide by LPCCI. Judy Ball has 5 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, and is now retired and living in Cut 'n Shoot, TX with her grandson Chain Ball and her three great grandsons. She enjoys raising Border Collies, is the author of several nationally sold cookbooks, and is in the process of writing her life story. Seeking photos and more information.
Frank Lyons Performed 1940s? Washington DC
(USA)
In an August 23, 1952 article in the Saturday Evening Post, Drug Agent Gon Sam Mue writes, "I knew Frank Lyons was pushing (drugs), and I was deeping chagrined when, after stripping him naked, I couldn't find a single grain. In talking to him, I noticed a small red spot between his teeth, at the gum line. Then I remembered that in palmier days, Frank had been a circus sword swallower. Examining the red spot closely, I found that it was red string. Hooking the red string out of his mouth, I found on the other end a rubber finger stall, full of hop, which he had swallowed." Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Sat Evening Post (1952)
Butch Trout
Clifford Trout
Performed 1940s-69 Royal American Shows
Ringling Brothers Circus
Deggeller Attractions
Central Florida Fair
Stuart, FL
(USA)
Clifford Trout was a sword swallower in the 1940's to late 60's. He worked as a sword swallower, but also performed a knife throwing act and traveled with Royal American Shows, Deggeller Attractions, and even performed with Ringling Brothers Circus in Madison Square Gardens in New York. Trout performed at least up until the Central Florida Fair in Orlando, FL in 1969, and possibly into the 1970s. Seeking photos and more information.
Ricko the Great
Ricky Libhart
(Fredrick Hiram Libhart
Frederick Hiram Libhart)
Born Sept 11, 1929
Married Sept 2, 1950
Performed 1950s-60s
Died March 3, 1990
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
West Coast Shows
Butler Shows
Foley and Burke Shows
Vancouver, WA
Santa Rosa, CA
Port Angeles, WA
(USA)
Fredrick Hiram Libhart was born September 11, 1929 in Duluth, MN. He worked with carnivals on the west coast and in the Pacific Northwest as a sword swallower and fire-eater under the stage name Ricko the Great. After Libhart dropped out of school in the sixth grade, he joined a circus, where he learned to eat fire and swallow swords. At the age of 16, he joined up with a carnival around 1945, which is where he met and became friends with the carnival fat lady, "Jolly G", (Gladys Laverne Ruoff, who was born November 1, 1929 in Port Angeles, WA). Ricky and Gladys were married on September 02, 1950. They worked with carnivals around Ohio during the 1950s, with Butler Shows for 1 year, with West Coast Shows from 1951 to 1957 in Eugene, Salem, and Portland OR, and for 3 years with Foley and Burke Shows in California at the end of their career in the late 50's from 1957 to 1960. In his show, Libhart swallowed up to 3 swords at once. One evening, just after he had finished eating a cherry pie for dinner, the announcer called him to come out and perform his act. Libhart did not want to perform because he knew his dinner had not digested yet, but the announcer was persistent, so Libhart came out and swallowed his sword. When he went to pull the sword out, it was stuck. So he pulled a little harder, and out came the the sword along with 3 half-digested cherries. This ended up making it into a news story in the local newspaper. Ricky and Gladys had to leave the carnival business in 1960 when Gladys became pregnant. The Libharts moved to Orchards WA, a suburb of Vancouver WA, where Gladys gave birth to a set of twin boys, Curt and Carl on Sept.7, 1960, and later another son Rick on January 26, 1963 in Vancouver, WA. Because Gladys was so large (at one time weighing 621 lbs), they had to hypnotize her for the births. Ricky and Gladys did not talk much about their circus/carnival careers. Ricky said he did not want his children to travel with a carnival and refused to teach his sons sword swallowing. Ricky contracted tuberculosis around 1962 and was treated at the VA Hospital in Livermore, CA around 1964. Eventually, the family moved to Santa Rosa, CA, where Gladys died on August 11, 1976 at the age of 46. Ricky moved that night after the funeral, but lived with his sons in Santa Rosa for a year after Gladys' death. To support his family, Ricky became a male nurse in Santa Rosa CA, after graduating from Sonoma State University. Around 1977, Ricky and the boys moved to Port Angeles, WA. During a trip to Vancouver WA, Ricky met Maxine Ross, whom he later married and lived with until his death in Vancouver, WA on March 3, 1990 at the age of 60. Ricky Lubhart is buried at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver, WA. One of his swords is owned by his son Curt Libhart. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Gladys Ruoff and her father Carl Ruoff
Eli Radtke Performed 1949 Royal Bros Circus
(USA)
Eli Radtke was the sword swallower with the Royal Brothers Circus in 1949 until the circus closed in Montclair, New Jersey on July 6, 1949. Seeking photos and more information.
Amir Rahvis
The White Fakir
Maurice Jarvis
Performed 1949-57 West Ham, London
(UK)
Amir Rahvis performed from around 1949 to 1957 and was known for driving a 6 inch nail into his nose and swallowing an 18 inch neon tube. He underwent examinations at the Royal Cancer Hospital, where for two hours he swallowed objects for doctors while being xrayed, sliding a tube down his throat and into his stomach. He did this five times, retaining the tube internally for periods of from one to two and a half minutes while being xrayed. He would also lay on a bed of nails and allow three women to stand on top of him. He was also featured in the 1954 edition of "Would You Believe It!" He originally came from West Ham, London, his real name was Maurice Jarvis, and before he was a sword swallower, he was an Income Tax official at Bow. He said that lighted 18-inch neon tubes were a lot easier to swallow than some of the tales he was told by the tax dodgers, and far more profitable. Seeking photos and more information.
Amir Rahvis (Maurice Jarvis)
Amir Rahvis bed of nails
Amir Rahvis (Maurice Jarvis)
Unknown French Sword Swallower Performed 1950s Paris, Brussels
(France) (Belgium)
In 1950, a sword swallower performed in Paris, France swallowing up to 4 swords and bayonets at once. There is another photo of a sword swallower swallowing a bayonet and swords in France in the 1950s. The Expo 58 World's Fair opened in Brussels Belgium from April 17, 1958 through October 19, 1958, and on April 23, 1958, a similar looking sword swallower was filmed swallowing a bayonet. Could this be the same sword swallower? Seeking photos and more information.
Sword Swallower 4 swords in Paris (1950)
Sword Swallower in France (1950s)
Sword Swallower at Expo 58 in Brussels (4-23-1958)
Shumpert Eko Performed 1950-1951 Cavalcade Variety Show
Coney Island
Brooklyn, NY
(USA)
Originally from East India, Shumpert Eko had 2 wives and swallowed neon tubes. He worked with Cavalcade Variety Show as well as Coney Island Sideshow in NY. Seeking photos and more information.
Yrjö Lehvonen Born 1938
Performed 1950-64
Died 19??
(Finland) Yrjö Lehvonen was born in Finland in 1938 and was possibly the best-known sword swallower in Finland, performing from around 1950 into the 1960's. In 1964 Lehvonen swallowed a 63 centimeter long blade to the hilt, which Kotiposti magazine claimed was a world record at the time for Finland. Lehvonen also performed as a contortionist. Seeking photos and more information.
Yrjö Lehvonen
Ali Kabah
Aly Kabah
"Fakir Magician Aly Kabah"
(Gerald Gerry Holmes)
Born March 29 1922
Performed 1942-1980s
Died February 10, 2009
Sydney
(Australia)
Aly Kabah was born in Melbourne Australia on March 29, 1922 as Gerald Holmes. At the age of 12, Holmes began experimenting with self-hypnosis, which enabled him to hammer a nail through his tongue and pierce his body with needles. In 1942 at the age of 20, he taught himself sword swallowing and learned to bow to the audience while the sword was down his throat. He combined fakir feats with magic and became known as the "Fakir Magician Aly Kabah" (sometimes "Ali Kabah"). In the late 1950s he began performing in hotels and clubs around Australia. In 1964 he began working overseas and performed in England, France, Germany, Lebanon, Cyprus, Italy, Pakistan, Iran, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sarawak, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Tahiti, Noumea, Fiji, and New Zealand. In 1973 he performed in Canada and the US at the World Festival of Magic and Occult at Madison Square Gardens in New York. In 1977 he returned to perform in the US again at Richiardi's Festival of Witchcraft and Magic at Konova Hotel Miami. In the early 1980s he preformed a regular show at The Broadbeach International Hotel on the Gold Coast Australia. In 1983 he worked in Bahrain with frequent trips back and forth to Australia. He retired from performing in the late 1980s. His show was a combination of magic and mysticism, and included fire-eating, glass-eating, body piercing, and sword swallowing, where he swallowed a single 24 inch long sword. He was retired and living in Sydney, Australia. According to a death notice in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Holmes died on February 10, 2009 at the age of 86. Seeking photos and more information.
Aly Kabah poster
Ali Kabah clipping (1973)
Aly Kabah photo
Aly Kabah article
Aly Kabah video (1960s)
Aly Kabah video (1975)
Lennart Pettersson
Lenart Pettersson
Born ?
Performed ?
Died 1976
Umeå
(Sweden)
Lennart Pettersson was born in Umeå Sweden. He performed as a fakir, and swallowed swords, ate light bulbs, swallowed razor blades, drove skewers through his face, sewed his mouth shut, and had x-rays taken of his stomach with bits of glass inside. He lived his life in Umeå where he worked as a caretaker in a school. He had three children with his first wife Astrid - Inger, Lena, and Bengt. He had two other daughters, Jenny and Sara, with his second wife. Pettersson died in his early 60's in 1976. Looking for photos and more information. Sök efter fotos och upplysningen.
Petterson as fakir with skewer
Petterson as fakir with skewers
Petterson sewing mouth shut
Last known photo of Petterson
Otto Butkus Born 1904
Performed 1939-1959
Died 1993
Cathay Restaurant
(Singapore)
Sydney
(Australia)
Otto Butkus (1904-1993) was a fakir, magician, fire-eater, hot coal eater, sword swallower, neon tube swallower, and collector and manufacturer of magic apparatus. Butkus performed a show called 100 Minutes China Fantasy where he performed in flashy Asian costume, ate fire and hot coals with chopsticks, swallowed a Tai Chi sword and neon tubes. A Singapore Straits Times article dated March 24, 1959 reads: 3,000 Volt Neon Tube is Just Breakfast for Otto While Otto Butkus, world-renowned magician, stood calmly swallowing a lighted glass neon tube filled with gas and charged with 3,000 volts, his audience sat perspiring. At a preview today in the Dragon Room of the Cathay, Butkus fascinated as well as horrified his audience. In his act, he also swallows a sword, razor blades, and fire. Nothing like that for breakfast, he told reporters. Later Butkus confessed that swallowing the neon tube is his most complicated act. If the tube breaks or explodes, it will mean the end of him. "I always get a strange feeling when I do this act, but the show must go on," said Butkus, who has been performing for more than 20 years. He will be performing nightly at the Cathay Restaurant for four weeks before he goes to the Federation. In the September 14, 1964 Sydney Morning Herald, when striptease artist Valerie Ford was being questioned about her title, "Valerie, the Hottest Girl Alive", Otto Butkus, entertainer, of Glen Street, Milson's Point, denied that he had hoped Mrs. Ford would do strip tease acts before native audiences in New Guinea. Butkus said this title referred to a fire-eating act, and an act that involved electricity, although the term "hottest girl alive" also referred to Mrs. Jones' figure." Butkus retired to Sydney Australia, where he sold one of his neon tubes to Orchante before he died in 1994 at the age of 89. Seeking photos and more information
Otto Butkus Tai Chi sword
Otto Butkus Tai Chi sword
Otto Butkus pitchcard
Otto Butkus eating coals
Otto Butkus eating coals
Otto Butkus eating coals
Otto Butkus swallowing neon
Otto Butkus swallowing neon closeup
100 Minutes China Fantasy poster
The Great Arlos
The Sword Swallower
Performed 1944
Altoona, PA
(USA)
The Great Arlos the Sword Swallower performed at a Lion's Club party in Altoona PA on October 3, 1944. According to an article in the Altoona Tribune dated Oct 3, 1944: "Charles W. Kline, chairman of the entertainment committee, presented The Great Arlos, the sword swallower, who mystified the group by swallowing straight and curved weapons which varied in length from 18 to 24 inches in length, singly and several at a time. The program ended with Arlos swallowing a ten-inch neon bulb which shone very brightly when the lights were turned out." Seeking photos and more information on The Great Arlos
The Great Arlos Sword Swallwer Altoona PA (10-3-1944)
Lady Louise
Louise Chavanne
Louise Chevanne
Louise Chavanee
Louise Chevaney
Louise Cheveney
Louise Chavaney
Louise Chivanne
Louise Chibanny
Lois Chibanny
Louise Crane Chavanne
Louise Crane "Hazel" Chavanne
Born 1904
Performed 1945-71
Died 1982
sword swallowers grave
Johnny Bejanos Sideshow
Sterling Crown Shows
Royal Crown Shows
Kelly-Sutton Show
James Strates Shows
Pete Kortes Show

Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Louise Crane "Hazel" Chavanne (sometimes spelled "Lois Chevanne", "Chevaney", "Chaveny", "Chivanne", or "Chibanny") was married to Jimmy Chavanne (1891-1965), who was the front talker while Louise was inside lecturer on Johnny J. Bejanos Sideshow from the mid 1930s through 1945. At Bejanos' death, they took management of the office and owned the sideshow on Dolly Young's "Royal Crown Shows". Louise first swallowed swords after 1945 and performed in the late 1940's and early 1950's on the Sutton Show. According to the November 1, 1952 Billboard, "Upon conclusion of the Muskogee Oklahoma Fair, Jimmy Chavanne and his side show joined the Sterling Crown Shows at Russellville, Alabama. Line-up includes Louise Chavanne, emsee and sword swallower." After Jimmy's death in 1965, Louise Chavanne continued working as the sword swallower on the Kelly-Sutton Sideshow with James E. Strates Shows. Louise worked in the Kelly/Sutton Show as late as October 1968 before Sandra Reed started working with the show in 1969. Her last season performing as sword swallower was with Pete Kortes in 1971. After a few remarks, Louise would first take a chrome fireplace poker and swallow that, than she would swallow a single sword or two, than she swallowed 2 swords at once and called it a "sword sandwich". Pulling them out, wiping them off, she concluded, "Sword swallowing is a lot of fun; you should try it sometime." In 1971 she recalled that on one or two occasions, the swords pierced her stomach, and she was rushed to the hospital, and made the news wire services. She was known by those she worked with as a very gracious, fine Southern lady. Her age and slightly matronly appearance gave her a grandmotherly persona that was charming and appealing. Louise Chavanne lived in a trailer in Gibsonton, FL, died in 1982, and is interred in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa, Florida. Her husband, Jimmy James "William" Crane Chavanne, died in 1965, and is buried in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Tampa, Florida. Seeking photos and more information.

Louise Chavanne
Arthur Kliwert Performed 1950 Cumberland, MD
Frederick, MD
(USA)
According to a newspaper article in the Frederick Post dated December 30, 1950, sword swallower Arthur Kliwert of Cumberland, MD had recently arrived in Frederick to perform, when he was picked up by the police for being a vagrant. When he got to the police station, he proved he was not a vagrant by opening his suitcase and displaying two swords, a small dagger and a larger 20" sword, and a set of fire-eating torches. He swallowed the dagger first, and then the longer sword, and offered to eat fire, but the police were convinced. Because he had no money, they offered him a free night in jail, even though he was technically free to go on his own reconnaissance. Seeking photos and more information.
Arthur Kliwert article (1950)
Arthur Layfield Born c. 1930
Performed 1952
Shot August 27, 1952
Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer dated August 28, 1952, "Arthur Layfield, a professional sword swallower shot and critically wounded himself last night, police said, at 5th St. and Columbia Ave. "I was unhappy over all my past mistakes," Arthur Layfield, 22, of 1638 E. Eyne St., told Detectives Robert Hamilton and Robert Nugent at Stetson Hospital where he was under treatment for a .32-caliber bullet wound in his left side." Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Beth
Lady Betty
Miss Betty
Buckskin Betty
Betty Bancroft
Mrs. Fred Bancroft
Elizabeth J. Bancroft
Elizabeth Jane Bancroft
Elizabeth Jane Wrisley
Elizabeth Jane Hudson
Elizabeth Jane Housel
Elizabeth J. Wrisley Hudson Housel-Bancroft
Born January 15, 1902
Married 1924
Performed 1953-54
Died March 1, 1985
Fred Bancroft's Circus Side Show
Golden West Shows
John R. Ward Shows
Wallace Bros Shows
Royal Crown Shows
Blue Grass Shows
Dick Slayton Shows
Rowe Brothers Circus
Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey

Forrest City, AR
(USA)
Betty Bancroft was born Elizabeth Jane Wrisley on January 15, 1902, and may have originally been from Ashtabula, Ohio (in some reports, she later claimed to be from North Hampton, MA where she may have been living at the time.) In 1926, under her married name Elizabeth Jane Housel gave birth to her daughter Betty Jane Housel. After marrying Fred Ford Bancroft (1885-1963), Elizabeth changed her daughter's name to Zoe Ann Bancroft.

By the 1940s, Fred and Betty Bancroft of Forrest City, Arkansas owned their own sideshow "Fred Bancroft's Circus Side Show" and traveled with several different circuses throughout the years, performing under the names "Colorado Fred, the Knife Thrower", and "Buckskin Betty", or under the combined name as the "Shooting Stars". The highlight of their early act was when "Colorado Fred" threw knives at "Buckskin Betty" while she was spinning on the "Wheel of Death". Besides being an "impalement artist" and target for Fred, Betty also performed as trick rifle sharpshooter, a rope spinner, and whip artist, and later as a sword swallower. In 1940, they worked with Rowe Brothers Circus. In March, 1942 Fred Bancroft's Side Show performed in Louisiana; in June 1942, Fred and Betty Bancroft performed with the Golden West Shows in Minnesota. On October 16, 1942, their daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft married concessionaire William Brown. In 1943, Fred and Betty were signed to perform as the "Shooting Stars" as well as manage the office of their Bancroft's Side Show which toured Indiana and Illinois. On January 25, 1945, their daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft was married to Thomas P. Mangos in Pensacola, FL, but Zoe Ann continued to work the sideshow with her parents while her husband was deployed overseas. In May 1945, Fred Bancroft's Side Show worked the John Marks midway with "Buckskin Betty" sharpshooting, "Colorado Fred" doing impalement, and daughter "Zo Anne" Bancroft working the blade box. From 1944-48, the Bancrofts worked with Wallace Bros Shows, Cetlin and Wilson Shows and John R. Ward Shows, and with the Royal Crown Shows in 1948. According to the August 14, 1948 Billboard listing, "Mrs. Elizabeth Bancroft of the Circus Side Show with the Royal Crown Shows, writes denying any knowledge of an Ed S. Torbert, who it was reported in the Billboard, was employed by her and Fred Bancroft as a calliope player. She said she has no responsibility since May 30 for any salaries or any other indebtedness contracted by Fred Bancroft." In 1949, the Bancrofts worked with the Blue Grass Shows in Kentucky. In 1951, their daughter Zoe Ann was married to Jim Wolff. According to July 26, 1952 Billboard, "Fred and Betty Bancroft, also of the same back-end unit, took delivery of a Chevrolet town car recently."

The first mention of Betty Bancroft performing as a sword swallower is in April 18, 1953 with the Dick Slayton show on the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Sideshow. Betty Bancroft first appears on the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus route book as their sword swallower in 1953 while her husband Fred Bancroft appears as the knife thrower with Betty as his target. According to the Dec. 5, 1953 Billboard, the 1953 Ringling Brothers season ended well, and Manager Dick Slayton has been signed for 1954 season. Fred and Betty Bancroft spend their winter quarters in Rattlesnake, FL. The Bancrofts returned again for a second season with Ringling Brothers again in 1954, when Betty performed as their sword swallower in Madison Square Garden in New York under the stage name "Lady Beth". She was also known to swallow a neon tube. In 1954, Elizabeth J. Bancroft appeared on episode #201 of the popular TV show "What's My Line?", filmed April 4, 1954, and aired a week later on April 11, 1954. A description of the TV episode says, "Mrs. Elizabeth J. Bancroft - "Sword Swallower" (salaried; she performs with the Ringling Brothers Circus which is currently in NY; from North Hampton, MA; She has such a severe case of laryngitis that she can barely speak!)" (video)

In 1955, Fred and Betty Bancroft do their Wheel of Death knife throwing act in the Paul Flanagan show. Their son, Harry L. Bancroft, was a tattoo artist and had a trained chimp named "Cheeta" who was supposed to have been the offspring of Cheeta on Tarzan, and another son, Raymond Bancroft helped out with the show. Fred Bancroft died in 1963 at 78. (grave) Elizabeth Jane Wrisley Hudson Housel Bancroft died on March 1, 1985 in North Fort Myers, Florida at the age of 83. (Could this be the grave of Elizabeth Jane Hudson Bancroft?)Seeking photos and more information on Elizabeth Jane Wrisley Hudson Housel Bancroft.

Buckskin Betty Elizabeth Bancroft Timeline
1902: Jan 15: Born Elizabeth Jane Wrisley
19??: Marries Hudson
1924: Elizabeth Wrisley Hudson - Thomas Housel marriage
1926: Daughter Betty Jane Housel born
19??: Betty marries Fred Bancroft, changes daughter's name to Zoe Ann Bancroft
1936: June 23-27: Colorado Fred and Buckskin Betty perform in Massillon OH
1940s: Live in Forrest City, Arkansas and own their own sideshow "Fred Bancroft's Circus Side Show"
1940: Rowe Brothers Circus
1940: July 27: Colorado Fred and Buckskin Betty perform in Harrisburg PA
1942: Feb 4-6: Colorado Fred and Buckskin Betty perform in Warren PA
1942: March: Fred Bancroft's Side Show performs in Louisiana
1942: June: Fred and Betty Bancroft perform with Golden West Shows in Minnesota
1942: October 16: Daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft marries concessionaire William Brown
1944-48: Bancrofts work with Wallace Bros Shows, Cetlin and Wilson Shows, John R. Ward Shows
1944: Aug 26: Fred and Betty Bancroft report good grosses with World's Fair Oddities
1945: Jan 25: Daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft marries Thomas P. Mangos
1945: Daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft marries Roy E. Deerman
1948: Royal Crown Shows
1949: Blue Grass Shows in Kentucky
1950: Live in Owensboro, KY
1951: Aug 14: Colorado Fred and Buckskin Betty perform in Monroe WI
1951: Daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft marries James Jimmie Ned Wolfe
1952: July: Fred and Betty Bancroft take delivery of a Chevrolet town car
1953: April 18: With Dick Slayton on Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Sideshow
1954: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Sideshow Madison Square Gardens NY
1954: April: "What's My Line?", filmed April 4, 1954, aired on April 11, 1954
1954: Oct 2: Betty Bancroft was slightly injured when the knife board fell on her
1955: Fred & Betty Bancroft do Wheel of Death knife throwing act in Paul Flanagan show
1963: Fred Ford Bancroft dies
1985: Elizabeth Jane Bancroft dies March 1, 1985 at 83

Betty & Fred Bancroft
Betty & Fred Bancroft (1940s)
Betty & Fred Bancroft gun & knives (c 1940s)
Lady Beth & Fred Bancroft RBBB (1954)
Lady Beth RBBB in NC (1954)
Lady Beth RBBB (1954)
Elizabeth Bancroft on What's My Line? (4-4-1954)
Betty Bancroft swallowing neon
Miss Betty Sword Swallower banner
Fred Ford Bancroft grave (1885-1963)
Marion Dempsey Performed 1953-56
(USA)
Marion Dempsey was the featured sword swallower in the films "Houdini" (1953) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" (1956). Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Abbdurama Performed 1954
(Sweden) Abbdurama performed as a sword swallower in Sweden in 1954. Sök efter fotos och upplysninging.
Carlos Leal
Carlos Lial
Born about 1914
Performed early 1950s-60
King Cristiani Show
King Brothers Circus
Cristiani Bros Circus
(Argentina)
(USA)
Carlos Leal was originally from Argentina and worked mainly as a fire act on shows such as the King Cristiani show. Leal taught Capt. Don Leslie how to swallow swords in the mid 1950's. In May of 1954, there is mention of Carlos Leal from Scranton, PA at the age of 40 working as fire-eater with the King Brothers Circus. The "The Times Recorder" article says Leal was pulling a house trailer and was "passing another auto on the West Pike some six and a half miles from Zanesville, OH, when it hit the median strip and went out of control careening into the ditch. The house trailer was demolished and the car damaged. Leal was not hurt, the patrol said." According to an April 1960 article on the King Bros Circus in the Bandwagon, "Carlos Leal does outside fire-eating and bally, and does fire and sword acts inside." Carlos Leal apparently had a brother named Joey F. Lial. Seeking photos and more information.
Carlos Leal fire-eating
Capt. Don
Capt. Don Leslie
Donald Paul Leslie
Born Dec 26, 1938
Performed 1954-1994
Injured 1989
Died June 4, 2007
sword swallowing injury
King Brothers Circus
Cristiani Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers
Ringling Brothers Circus
Tommy Hart Show
Kyle Taylor
Dick Best
Norman Brooks
Slim Kelly/
Whitey Sutton
Jeff Murray
Bill English
Ward Hall
Charlie Cox
Harmur Shows
O.C. Buck Shows
Reithoffer Shows
Coleman Bros. Amusements
Fiesta Shows
Murphy Bros. Shows
Conklin Amusement Carnival

Orig Boston, MA
Died Chico, CA
(USA)
Donald Paul Leslie was born on Dec 26, 1938 in Boston, MA. Like many boys of his day, he dreamed of running away from home to join the circus. In 1952, at the age of 14, Leslie ran away and joined the King Brothers Circus where he ran the pony ride which was across the midway from the sideshow bally stage. In 1953, when he was just 15 years old, Leslie got his first tattoo from Carol Nightingale while the circus was performing in Washington DC.

In 1954, at the age of 16, Leslie learned fire-eating from the Argentinian fire eater and sword swallower Carlos Leal while working with the Cristiani Brothers Circus. It wasn't long before Leal taught Leslie how to swallow swords, teaching him to cough and gag and make a big production to add drama to his sword swallowing act. In 1955, while his family was wintering in Los Angeles, Leslie wandered into a tattoo parlor on Main Street where he got his "Rock of Ages" tattoo on his back by Leroy Minugh.

After working a variety of circus jobs in concessions, animal care and general labor, Leslie eventually worked his way into becoming a circus sideshow performer. He worked with the Cristiani Bros Circus from 1956 to 1959. During the off-season when the circus was in winter quarters, Leslie made a name for himself by working as a tattooist. In 1956-1957, while being tattooed by Lyle Tuttle in Californa, Leslie and Tuttle became friends, and Leslie taught some of the basics of sword swallowing to Tuttle with a stove poker.

When he was 18, Leslie hung up his swords and did a brief stint in the Marines. In 1957 at the age of 19, he returned to the circus life and picked up where he had left off. In 1957, Harry Doll of the famous Doll Family of performing midgets christened Leslie with the name "Captain Don" after telling the young sword swallower he needed a catchy stage name. In 1958, "Capt Don Leslie" was featured as the sword swallower with the Doll family on Cristiani Bros Circus. Doll also introduced 19-year-old Leslie to legendary sword swallower Alex Linton who was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time. Linton gave Leslie some valuable tips on sword swallowing, teaching him how to swallow swords smoothly and not gag while adding flair to his show. At the time, Linton held the record for swallowing four 30 inch swords at once until Capt. Don later broke his record by swallowing five 30 inch swords in 1979.

In October 1961, Capt. Don married his first wife Sherry in Key West, FL, and on November 22, 1962, their first son Don Lee was born in Ft. Lauderdale FL. On January 31, 1964, their second son Daryl Wayne was born in Dallas, TX.

In 1979, Capt. Don became known for swallowing a sword sandwich of five 30 inch swords with the blades perpendicular to the tongue instead of flat on the tongue, a feat he performed for 10 years from 1979 to 1989. For most of the 1980s, Capt. Don performed on the streets of Boston and was a regular on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

In the late 1980s, after recovering from alcoholism, Capt. Don worked with Jeff and Sue Murray on the Harmur Shows. During this time, Capt. Don brought out his son and daughter from his second marriage who also worked the show with him in New England.

From October 1988 into 1989 Capt. Don and sword swallower Lady Diane Falk did a boat tour of the Micronesian Islands and Guam in the South Pacific. Then in 1989, Capt. Don sustained his most serious injury while swallowing five swords while performing before a packed house at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Seattle, WA for the opening of the photo exhibit for the book "Modern Primitives". While performing his grand finale sword sandwich of 5 vertical blades, the blades scissored and lacerated his esophagus, causing a serious injury with internal bleeding that nearly killed him. After the accident, Capt. Don gave up sword swallowing and gave most of his swords to Lady Diane Falk. In 1990, Capt. Don performed in the Hollywood film "The Problem Child" with John Ritter. In the early 1990s, Capt. Don built a sideshow for $60,000 that he took on tour in Canada for the Conklin Amusement Carnival Shows. Leslie managed the show and performed all the acts but sword swallowing, so he hired Lady Diane Falk as his sword swallower.

Capt. Don found it hard to give up performing, and he started swallowing swords periodically again around 1997 at tattoo conventions, where he was known as a bit of a celebrity. Capt. Don semi-retired in Chico, California after having spent over 51 years with most of the major circuses and carnivals that trekked the US and Canada from the 1950's through the early 1990's. Over the course of his life, his acts included Sword Swallower, Fire-Eater, Human Pin Cushion, Human Blockhead, Escape Artist, Tattooed Attraction, Electric Chair, Bed of Machetes, Bed of Glass, Sideshow Manager, and Master of Ceremonies. Besides being known for his long circus and sideshow background, Capt. Don was also a musician and a songwriter (his first record was called "Tattoo Songs By A Tattooed Man"), and he was featured in two Hollywood feature films, "The Problem Child" with John Ritter (1990), and "Beloved" with Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover (1998) (Don's banner painting).

Up to the last few weeks of his life, Capt. Don still made occasional appearances at tattoo conventions and other events, occasionally performing with his favorite 1863 saber. His last appearance was in CA in February 2007, but he didn't swallow his favorite bayonet. By then, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the throat and jaw, and doctors had given him only four months to live. He hung in for six months. Capt. Don Leslie died at the age of 68 at his home in Chico, CA on June 4, 2007, six months after being diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer brought on by decades of ingesting fire-eating fuel. He was a confirmed atheist, had no use for Christianity, and ran off anyone trying to convert him to the faith. It was said that "he smoked like a Frenchman, wore his hair long like a rock star and had more tattoos than a sailor". Capt. Don is survived by his ex-wives, Sherry and Joannie, four children, Don Leslie Jr. of Finland, Darryl Wayne Leslie of Phoenix, AZ, David Leslie of Boston, MA and Stephanie Leslie of Quincy, MA, and by six grandsons. According to his peers, his death closes the golden age of circus sideshow sword swallowing. Seeking photos and more information.

Capt. Don Leslie Timeline:
1938: Born on Dec 26, 1938 in Boston, MA
1952: Ran away at age 14 and joined King Brothers Circus where he ran pony rides
1953: Got his first tattoo from Carol Nightingale at age of 15 while performing in Washington DC
1954: Learned fire-eating from Carlos Leal on Cristiani Bros Circus at age 16
1955: Learned sword swallowing from Carlos Leal on Cristiani Bros Circus at age 17
1956: Cristiani Bros. Circus, brief stint with Marines?
1957: Cristiani Bros. Circus takes on name "Capt. Don", gets tips from Alex Linton
1958: Cristiani Bros. Circus
1959: Cristiani Bros. Circus
1961: Married his first wife Sherry in Key West, FL
1962: November 22: their first son Don Lee was born in Ft. Lauderdale FL
1964: January 31: their second son Daryl Wayne was born in Dallas, TX
1979: became known for swallowing five 30-inch swords with blades perpendicular to the tongue
1980s: Performed on the streets of Boston and was a regular on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Late 1980s: worked with Jeff and Sue Murray on the Harmur Shows
1988: October 88 into 1989: Boat tour of Guam and Micronesian Islands in South Pacific with Lady Diane Falk
1989: Quit sword swallowing after sustaining bad injury while swallowing five swords at Center for Contemporary Arts in Seattle, WA
1990: Performed in Hollywood film "The Problem Child" with John Ritter
1990s: Built a sideshow and toured Canada with Lady Diane Falk on Conklin Amusement Carnival Shows
1997: Began swallowing swords again periodically at tattoo conventions
1998: Featured in film "Beloved" with Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover
1998: Semi-retired in Chico, California
2007: February: Last professional appearance in CA, diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer
2007: Died June 4, 2007 at his home in Chico CA at the age of 68

Capt. Don Leslie (1955)
Capt. Don Leslie (1955)
Capt. Don Leslie (1957)
Capt. Don Leslie (1960s)
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don on the Midway
Capt. Don swallowing 5 30" swords (1983)
Capt. Don's Banner (1998)
Capt. Don's Banner
Capt. Don's back tattoos
Alex Linton tattooed on Capt Don's hand
Timo Tuomivaara Born April 7, 1938
Performed 1955-58
Died Aug 3, 2004
sword swallowing injury
Rovaniemi
(Finland)
Timo Tuomivaara was born in Finland on April 7, 1938, and lived his childhood in Posio, Finland. He performed his shows all over Finland so he lived in several places, but Rovaniemi was the city which was his base and where he lived most time of his life. Even though he was best known as an escape artist under the nickname the "Scandinavian Houdini" for his escapes and other stunts, Tuomivaara also taught himself sword swallowing in 1955 at the age of 17. He got the idea of swallowing swords from a magazine article and started practicing on his own. His first sword was a fencing foil, but he also swallowed a broadsword. He said that the last thing he swallowed was a rifle ramrod when he was in the Finnish army in 1958. He performed sword swallowing from 1955 until an accident caused him to give up sword swallowing in 1958. He helped teach Jari Tapanainen how to swallow swords. Timo died on August 3, 2004 at the age of 66. Seeking photos and more information.
Timo Tuomivaara (1955-58)
Linda Lopez ? TX
(USA)
Seeking photos and more information.
Rosita Reverdy
Queen of Swords
Performed 1945-1950s? Clyde Beatty Circus
Hubert's Museum
New York, NY
(USA)
Rosita Reverdy performed the blade ladder on the new Clyde Beatty Circus in 1945, and was known as the "Queen of Swords" when she appeared at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York City. Seeking photos and more information.
George Dalton Born 1930s?
Performed 1954-55?
Hunt Bros Circus
(USA)
George Dalton worked as a sideshow canvasman for the Hunt Brothers Circus in 1954. The show had an American Indian fire eater and sword swallower in the sideshow (Chief Willie Bowlegs?) whose family performed an act with the sideshow and who exhibited a menagerie of animals (foxes, raccoons, etc.). The family was quiet and kept to themselves, but they took Dalton under their wing and they taught fire-eating and sword swallowing to Dalton during the last half of the 1954 season. Sometime in 1954 or '55 Dalton was hospitalized with severe burns (possibly internal) while practicing fire-eating, and was never heard from again. Tom Mac Dermott worked as a peanuts and crackerjack butcher with the Hunt Brothers Circus in 1953-54, and Johnny Meah worked as a candy floss butcher with the show in 1954-55 before working his way into clowning and sword swallowing. Seeking photos and more information.
Jonda The Great
Henry A. Burns
Henry Amedeo Burns
Born March 6, 1930
Performed 1950s-61
Injured Oct 9, 1959
Died February 1989
sword swallowing injury
The Pike, Long Beach, CA
EK Fernandez Shows
Honolulu, HI
(USA)
"Jonda The Great" was born as Henry Amedeo Burns on March 6, 1930 in San Francisco, CA. He was of Italian background, dark-haired, short-statured at about 5'6", had a pierced ear and an eagle tattooed across his chest, and performed as a sword swallower in the late 1950's and early 60's at the Pike in Long Beach, CA with sword swallower Tony Mareno.

In 1960, Burns worked in Honolulu Hawaii with the E K Fernandez Shows. Among other things, he swallowed a curved sword and a saw, but his claim to fame was swallowing neon tubes. It was also his claim to failure, as twice the tubes broke during performance and he was hospitalized. According to an article in the Pasadena CA Independent dated Oct 12, 1959, "LONG BEACH - UPI - Sword Swallower Henry A. Burns looked up from his hospital bed yesterday and vowed to stick to swords from now on. Burns, 29, works at a beach fun zone. Friday night he tried his act with two 21-inch neon tubes -- both plugged in and lighted. He swallowed the tubes -- then hiccuped. Doctors at Seaside Hospital where he is being treated for a throat laceration said he was improving." An article in the Stars and Stripes dated October 12, 1959 reads, "Sword Swallower Finds Neon, Esophagus Tubes Won't Mix - LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- Sword swallower Henry A. Burns got the hiccups during his act -- and a bad sore throat too. Burns decided to use 21-inch neon tubes instead of swords. He placed the tubes, a half-inch in diameter, in his throat. Then he plugged the wires into a socket. The neons glowed. Then Burns hiccuped and caused a short circuit. One of the tubes burst. He quickly removed the good tube and spit out what he could of the other one. He rushed to a hospital, where doctors removed minced glass from his throat. His condition was good. From his hospital bed he vowed to stick to swallowing steel swords."

An article in the Holland MI Evening Sentinel dated February 22, 1960 described his second neon tube injury on Friday, February 19, 1960: HONOLULU (UPI) -- "It might be a good idea for sword swallower Henry Burns, billed as Jonda the Great, to seek a different profession. He was hospitalized Friday after swallowing an 18-inch neon tube and then making the mistake of bending over. It was his first performance since recovering from internal injuries -- suffered when he made the same mistake earlier."

Burns quit sword swallowing professionally around 1961 after his second neon tube injury, but would perform impromptu acts for children and audiences on the beach on occasion. His competitive nature led him from sword swallowing into motorcycle racing and eventually yacht racing. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 58 in February 1989 on the sailboat that he called home for the last 10 years of his life in Long Beach Harbor, CA. He was buried at sea. His daughter Carolyn Bass Burns is writing a book loosely based on his life, entitled "The Sword Swallower's Daughter". Seeking photos and more information.

Henry Burns aka Jonda the Great
Henry Burns injury article (Oct 12 1959)
Henry Burns injury article (Oct 12 1959)
Henry Burns injury article (Feb 22 1960)
Aleksander Casso
(Johannes Hyvärinen)
Born June 2, 1933
Performed 1950s-60s
Died Nov 13, 1976
(Finland) Born Johannes Hyvärinen, Casso worked as a magician, learned sword swallowing from Yrjö Lehvonen, and performed sword swallowing from the 1950's to 60's. He started under the stage name Carambo. It is said that Casso swallowed a sword that was 63 centimeters long.
Johnny Eagle Performed 1950-60s London, England (UK) Johnny Eagle was a well-known Gypsy Strongman in 1950s-60s in the UK. He was known as the king of the showmen at the Lee Gap Fair, the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbrian, and other fairs throughout the UK. He performed sword swallowing and other fakir stunts regularly on Tuesdays at Tower Hill in London during the late 50s and early 60s, and was probably in his 50s or 60s at the time. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Eagle in 1960s
Janet Roselle
"The Lady Sword Swallower"
Performed 1950 Dailey Bros Circus Sideshow
(USA)
Janet Roselle performed as "The Lady Sword Swallower" with the Dailey Bros Circus Sideshow final year in 1950. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Jean Performed c 1955-60s? Texas
(USA)
Lady Jean is featured as a sword swallower on a banner in the Baraboo Circus World Museum. Lady Jean had dark hair and swallowed swords, a saw, and neon tubes. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Jean poster
Lady Jean banner
Lyle Tuttle Born Oct 7, 1931
Performed 1956-90s
Ukiah, CA
(USA)
Lyle Tuttle learned the basics of sword swallowing on a stove poker from Capt. Don Leslie in California in 1956 when Tuttle was tattooing Capt. Don. Tuttle later learned the finer points of sword swallowing from Tony Mareno in 1957 at The Pike in Long Beach, California using Marino's WW I bayonet, which he still owns. Tuttle usually swallowed 24 inch blades, and occasionally neon tubes about a dozen times in his life, but did not make neon tubes a regular part of his act. In 1960, he opened a tattoo shop in San Francisco, CA, and in 1969, he was featured on the TV programs "What's My Line" and "To Tell The Truth" in New York. Tuttle is now mostly retired from sword swallowing, but still enjoys tatooing in Ukiah, California.
Lyle Tuttle
William Morgan
"The Yanqui Commandante"
William Alexander Morgan
Born April 19, 1928
Performed 1956-57
Died March 12, 1961
Cleveland, OH
(USA)
Havana
(Cuba)
Thirty-three years before his brutal execution in a desolate Cuban field, William Alexander Morgan was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 19, 1928. The son of affluent parents, Morgan was a particularly troubled teen-ager. He was expelled from four high schools, repeatedly ran away from home and was arrested on grand larceny charges, all before his 16th birthday. Shortly after his 17th birthday, he was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, where he had hitchhiked as a lark. He was returned to Toledo, Ohio, where police suspected him of armed robbery. One law-enforcement official later described the blond-haired, blue-eyed youth as "a superannuated juvenile delinquent." After he turned 18 years old, in a bid to begin anew, Morgan enlisted in the Army. He took basic and advanced infantry training stateside and then shipped out to occupied Japan, where he spent time at the Atsugi Army-Air Force base. After only a few weeks in Japan, Morgan married an attractive Japanese woman who worked in a nightclub. A short while later, he went AWOL at least twice, was court-martialed on Nov. 7, 1947, and thrown into the Kyoto stockade for three months. He promptly escaped after overpowering a guard and stealing his uniform and weapon. Recaptured, he was again court-martialed, found guilty of escape, assault and robbery, and sentenced to five years of hard labor. Declared a "recalcitrant military prisoner," Morgan was transported to the maximum-security disciplinary barracks at Camp Cooke, California (today Vandenberg Air Force Base). At Camp Cooke, he entertained other prisoners by spinning fanciful stories about his being a direct descendant of another William Morgan who, in 1826, became quite notorious after vanishing from his upstate New York home. Morgan's chatter soon earned him the nickname "Gabby." After his sentence was reduced to three years, Morgan was transferred to the federal correctional institution in Chillicothe, OH. There he was placed in solitary confinement for attempting to escape, fighting and refusing to work. He spent his last months of imprisonment at the federal facility in Milan, MI, and was released on April 11, 1950. A confidential FBI memorandum dated May 5, 1959, states that Morgan was given a dishonorable discharge from the Army in 1950, and that "he reportedly is [a] veteran of the Korean War and is described as a judo expert." Oddly, none of Morgan's surviving family remember his being in Korea. His brother-in-law, Edric Costain, said, "I don't know where that came from. He was an Army veteran, not one that anyone is very proud of, who had been in Japan, not Korea." Following his release from prison, Morgan headed back to Toledo, Ohio, where he had grown up. After a succession of menial jobs, he took up a nomadic lifestyle. Morgan's wanderings took him all over the US and included a stint as a sword swallower in a traveling carnival. He fell in love with the carnival's snake charmer, Teresa Bethel, who he married. By 1957, the couple had two children together, a son, William Jr., and a girl, Anna. But fatherhood did nothing to quell Morgan's wanderlust and, after failed attempts to work in electronics, he began disappearing for months at a time, leaving his family to live with his parents. About this time, Morgan reportedly developed a keen sense of righteous indignation and a longing for social justice. He is said to have despised the oppressive regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Baptista. In the 1950s, Havana served as a hedonistic playground for the world's elite, producing huge gambling, prostitution and drug profits for American Mafiosos, corrupt law-enforcement officials and their politically elected cronies. Morgan arrived in Cuba in late 1957, a precipitous time in the island's rapidly shifting political and economic climate. The conventional story about why Morgan journeyed there turns on the age-old tale of consummate adventurer drawn to the place of action, like a moth to the flame. But the real story is more involved than that. In 1956, Morgan began popping up in Tampa, FL and points further south in the Florida Keys. According to Michael Falcone, a former numbers runner for the Trafficante crime family, Morgan "was a familiar face around here in the mid-'50s. He was with the outfit that was running guns to Cuba, a pretty lucrative undertaking back then." Other sources confirm Morgan's gunrunning and say that for about 16 months, he traveled between Tampa and Miami, and occasionally to Houston, Texas, and Hope, Ark., arranging large shipments of Cuba-bound weapons. Morgan is also believed to have been involved in the arms-smuggling operations of Cleveland mobster and twice-convicted gunrunner Dominick E. Bartone. Morgan's first several months in Cuba are shrouded in mystery, but if one is to believe the highly fictionalized account of his life portrayed in Alex Abella's novel, "The Great American", an unwitting Morgan was literally recruited off Havana's streets for work with the CIA. It is more likely that Morgan was vetted for covert work while still in the United States. Indeed, in interviews with journalists in Cuba, Morgan vaguely alluded to contacts he had in Florida with the militant group Directoro Revolucinario, which operated with CIA support. Former intelligence officials say that while Morgan was in South Florida, he also had contacts with CIA operatives there that included future-Watergate burglars Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, and Mafia go-between Johnny Rosselli. In February 1958, Morgan turned up in Cuba's lush highlands in the Escambray Mountains looking to join the anti-Batista rebels headquartered there. Former rebel Roger Redondo told a Time magazine correspondent that he suspected Morgan worked "for the CIA or FBI" but that Morgan was allowed to stay and assist with training. Within a few weeks, "the gringo from Ohio" was leading rebel bands in ferocious attacks against Batista's troops and was quickly promoted to the rank of major in the National Second Front of the Escambray. Fidel Castro praised Morgan at the time and said that he was "the kind of American that Cuba needs." As news of his exploits filtered out, Morgan became an international celebrity and media darling. Accounts of his exploits were sensationalized by New York Times reporter Herbert L. Matthews, who dubbed Morgan "the Yanqui Commandante." Matthews failed to mention Morgan's dismal Army record and dishonorable discharge and embellished Morgan's allure by telling readers that he was a master paratrooper and Korean War veteran, thus confusing even the FBI. Many young Americans idolized Morgan, including a Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald. Like Morgan, Oswald was stationed in Japan at the Atsugi base. Edward Jay Epstein has reported that in August 1959, Oswald's hero, as expressed to fellow Marine Nelson Delgado, was William Morgan. Oswald was especially attracted to Morgan's achievements as "a double agent." Further, Oswald suggested to Delgado that they both go to Cuba and "emulate Maj. Morgan." Delgado, a Cuban-American, reported that Oswald actually wrote to and visited the Cuban consulate in Los Angeles in pursuit of this objective. Gen. Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban State Security and today an adviser to Castro, claims that he has a thick intelligence dossier on Morgan that firmly establishes he was a CIA agent under the control of the agency's former Western Hemisphere Division chief, Col. Joseph Caldwell King. However, Escalante says, Morgan's cover legend of being a chronic disciplinary problem for the Army and perennial outsider was too close to reality, and Col. King and CIA personnel operating out of the embassy in Havana were unable to control him. Writes Escalante: "Morgan was undisciplined and reported little, greatly displeasing the CIA station, which complained about him constantly." The CIA's displeasure soon prompted the agency to dispatch another agent to Cuba who could watch over the unpredictable American. That agent, operating under the alias John Maples Spiritto, was a former "special employee" of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. Morgan and Spiritto met on a regular basis at Havana's Capri Hotel. Paul D. Bethel, who was the press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Havana during Castro's rise to power, revealed in his 1969 book entitled "The Losers" that William Morgan produced great consternation among U.S. officials in 1959 when he began "keeping company with a very unwholesome American who lived at the Capri Hotel," whom others described as a "gangster." In September 1959, the U.S. State Department, at the insistence of Pennsylvania Rep. Francis E. Walter, revoked William Morgan's citizenship. Walter, chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, demanded the action based on a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that forbids U.S. citizens to serve in foreign armies. Morgan was said to be devastated by the action. He argued that he had never done anything against the interests of the U.S. But, several months prior, Morgan had publicly declared that he would "kill any American Marines" who attempted to invade Cuba or to interfere with Castro's objectives. Following Castro's takeover of Cuba – which was duly celebrated when William Morgan marched arm-in-arm with Che Guevara and Castro down Havana's main streets as thousands cheered – Morgan reportedly decided to settle down and raise a family. Earlier, in November 1958, Morgan had married a 23-year old Cuban rebel named Olga Rodriguez. With a $70,000 loan from Cuba's Agricultural Ministry, he and Olga began developing a frog farm. By early 1960, they had nearly a half million croaking frogs ready for export. But the past wouldn't leave Morgan alone. Morgan was ordered arrested by Castro on Oct. 16, 1960. The charges against him to this day remain vague but appear to have turned on his perceived betrayal of Castro. Some Cuban officials say bluntly that Morgan was "a traitor" to his adopted country, reminding people that the American had been officially bestowed Cuban citizenship by Castro. Victor Dreke, a former Cuban rebel who went on to fight with Guevara in the Congo, says that after Castro's victory Morgan "took up arms against the revolution." Further, Dreke claims that Morgan, at the direction of his CIA handlers, "murdered peasants and raped women during the war in the zone where the [Escambray Front] operated." Others, who knew Morgan and fought alongside him, deny this as "communistic nonsense" and say that Morgan was "a freedom fighter" who, for the sake of "political expediency," was "betrayed by [U.S. Ambassador to Cuba] Philip Bonsal." To support this charge, they point to once-secret State Department documents that reveal that, shortly before Morgan's arrest, Bonsal surreptitiously sent word to Castro that Morgan was organizing a secret army to push Castro from power. After his arrest, Morgan was confined to La Cabana prison in Havana, where he eventually was tried and sentenced to death. William Morgan was executed on March 12, 1961, one month before 1,500 US-backed counterrevolutionaries invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Fidel and Raul Castro attended Morgan's execution, which took place in the middle of the night. Over the years, there have been reports that Guevara was also present, but this has never been confirmed. According to eyewitnesses, Morgan was led out into an open field to face a firing squad of seven men. Standing with his hands tied behind his back, several floodlights were focused on him. A voice, out of the darkness, ordered him to kneel down. Morgan refused by shaking his head. "Kneel and beg for your life," the voice again commanded. "I kneel for no man," Morgan shouted back. Then an order was given, some say by Castro himself, and a member of the firing squad stepped forward and shot Morgan in his right knee. Morgan still did not go down, and another round was fired into his left knee. Morgan fell to the ground withering in pain. Forcing one of his wrists into his mouth, he bit down hard so as not to cry out in pain. With Morgan on the ground, the voice shouted, "There! You see, we made you kneel." Morgan spat blood in response, and another marksman fired a round into his right shoulder. When Morgan still made no sound, his left shoulder was shattered by another bullet. Then the captain of the firing squad approached and fired a full clip from his machine gun into Morgan's chest. Needlessly, another soldier fired five revolver rounds into Morgan's head. A local priest, Rev. Dario Casado, who helped bury Morgan's body in nearby Colon Cemetery, said that there was nothing left of Morgan's face. The location of Morgan's body, like that of the 19th century namesake he bragged about at Camp Cooke, is today unknown. Sometime after 1971, Morgan's grave was disturbed and his remains taken to an undisclosed site or destroyed. Morgan's Cuban-born wife, Olga Goodwin (she has remarried) announced that she was going to petition the Cuban government for the return of her husband's body. Goodwin, who today lives in Morgan's boyhood city of Toledo, Ohio, says she also wants the U.S. government to restore her husband's citizenship. Cuban officials have yet to respond to Goodwin because they say they "have received nothing official about Morgan from anyone." The State Department and the CIA are remaining silent about Goodwin's anticipated requests and refuse to discuss Morgan. One State Department spokesperson, who declined to speak on the record, said "Morgan is ancient history, and we'd like to see him stay that way." Seeking photos and more information.
Rahnee Matie Performed 1957
(USA)
Rahnee Matie was a female sword swallower featured in a sword swallowing article entitled "Cold Steel For Dinner" in the March 5th, 1957 issue of the magazine "Tempo", Volume 8, Number 5. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Rahnee Matie
Rahnee Matie
Rahnee Matie (Xray)
Don Ward Performed 1957-60s Pete Kortes Show
Arizone State Fair
(USA)
Don Ward worked for Helen Golden as the sword swallower for her Freakshow when they performed at the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix AZ in 1957. Ward was the inspiration for Stan Marye who learned sword swallowing from studying Ward's performance and from conversations with Ward. Stan Marye later worked with Don Ward again for a few days in 1964. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Toni Del Rio
(Nilo Garrido)
Born April 2, 1924
Performed 1950s-80s
Died April 28, 1987
Lou Walters Show
William D. Stanley Shows
Johnny Howard Sideshow
Dean Potter's Sideshow
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Toni Del Rio was originally born into a Cuban family in Tampa, Florida on April 2, 1924 as Nilo Garrido. Nilo grew up as boy, but was a pseudo hermaphrodite, so before WW II, he worked with circuses and sideshows as a "Half and Half" as well as a sword swallower. During WW II, as he was working as a registered nurse in Hawaii, his breasts began to grow, and he was given a medical discharge from the Navy, so he had transgender surgery done and became the second person in the US to become transgendered. After WW II, he changed his name to Toni Del Rio and went back to working with circuses and sideshows.

Toni learned sword swallowing from her uncle and from Mimi Garneau while in winter quarters in Gibsonton, Florida, and Mimi gave Toni some of her swords. In the 1950s and 60s Toni worked as a female sword swallower and swallowed a 17 inch bayonet. Toni worked with Johnny Meah on the Lou Walters show in the late '50's, and taught sword swallowing to Eddie Miller in the early 1960s (1963-64), and to Red Stuart in 1967. In 1969 she worked with the Johnny Howard Sideshow. According to an article in the Dixon Evening Telegraph dated September 22, 1971, Toni Del Rio was bitten by a South American Anaconda in Little Rock, Arkansas on Monday September 20, 1971. In 1982, Toni Del Rio worked as the Half and Half on Dean Potter's Sideshow.

Toni Del Rio died on April 28, 1987 at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Florida at around the age of 63, and is buried in an unknown Potter's field. Toni's sister gave her swords to Red Stuart after Toni's death. In 2003, one of her swords was presented by Red Stuart to Dan Meyer and is now in the archival collection of the SSAI Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame. Seeking photos and more information.

Toni Del Rio Timeline
1924: Born April 24 in Tampa, FL as Nilo Garrido
1940s: Discharged from Navy
1940s: Transgendered, changed name to Toni Del Rio
1950s: Learned sword swallowing from Mimi Garneau in Gibsonton FL
1950s: Worked with Johnny Meah on Lou Walters show
1963-64: Taught sword swallowing to Eddie Miller
1967: Taught sword swallowing to Red Stuart
1969: Johnny Howard Sideshow
1971: Bitten by Anaconda on William D. Stanley Shows Little Rock, AR
1982: Dean Potter's Sideshow
1987: April 28: Died in Tampa, FL, Buried in Potter's field

Toni Del Rio
Toni Del Rio bitten by anaconda (8-20-1971)
Toni Del Rio bitten by anaconda (9-21-1971)
Toni Del Rio (1982)
Toni Del Rio (1982)
Toni Del Rio's last sideshow
Toni Del Rio Gibtown Show Museum (1985-86)
Count Desmond
Evel Knievel of the Sword
Spiderman
(Edward Benjamin)
Born July 30, 1941
Performed 1957-94
sword swallowing injury
Circus Bartok
Royal Hanneford Circus
Worldwide Indoor Circus
Guinness World Records Museum
Gillett, PA
(USA)
Born "Edward Benjamin" on July 30, 1941 in Binghamton, NY, Count Desmond learned to swallow coat hangers in Binghamton, NY from King Brothers Circus sword swallower Stan Marye at about the age of 15 or 16 in 1956-57. It was 6 months before he was able to master the art. Once he was comfortable with coat hangers, he moved on to swallowing swords. His swords were handmade surgical steel swords measuring 26" from the lips down. He performed from about 1957 into the 1990s and retired around 1993-94. In August 1967, he was working on the Circus Bartok sideshow bally doing fire-eating and sword swallowing, as well as announcing in the big top and managing the show for Milton (Doc) Bartok, while his wife Loretta was a hair-hanging artist. In 1970-71 he worked for the March of Dimes in Binghamton, NY at various fundraisers with his assistant "Princess Eustasia". In 1975, he taught sword swallowing to Dale Pritchard, and during the winter of 1977, he taught sword swallowing to Rhea Roma. During the summer of 1979, he performed at The Bowery and the Guinness Book of World's Records Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC. An article in the Canadian "Globe and Mail" dated Saturday, March 22, 1980 with the headline "Stabs himself in sword act, man in hospital" reports his injury: "Guelph -- Count Desmond, a sword swallower, is in hospital after stabbing himself during a performance at the Royal Hotel here. The Count, whose real name is Edward Benjamin, was half-way through his act when one of the three-foot-long swords punctured his esophagus. A spokesman at Guelph General Hospital said yesterday that his condition is satisfactory but tests are being done to see whether fluids are leaking into the lungs. Steven Hindmarsh, a waiter at the hotel, said that when the sword swallower withdrew the blade, the last 10 inches of it was covered with blood. Mr. Benjamin attributed his bad judgment to an inflamed throat caused by a cold. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records three times for sword-swallowing feats. He said he began his career in Binghamton, NY at the age of 10 by swallowing coathangers." Count Desmond defied superstition by swallowing a sword up his throat while hanging suspended upside down under a helicopter 200 feet over Niagara Falls on Friday the 13th of June, 1980, making him Niagara Falls' only living aerial daredevil. Count Desmond swallowed coathangers (a record 18 at one time for Guinness), pool cues, canes, neon tubes, a frying pan handle, rat-tail file, and up to 13 swords at one time. He was known for being a three-time Guinness World Record holder - first for swallowing 5 swords and 3 coathangers, then for swallowing 10 swords, and finally for swallowing 13 swords at once a few weeks later once on July 6th, 1980. It was after he set this record 13 swords that Guinness closed the category for sword swallowing after Count Desmond removed his swords with blood on the blades. Other special feats he performed include swallowing a coat hanger while riding a mechanical bucking bull, and swallowing a "live" microphone to hear his heartbeat (first onstage with "Alabama" at the Bowery in Myrtle Beach, SC). Among other appearances, he performed with Circus Bartok with his friend Rick Dennis in the late 1960's and early '70's and again in 1990, was Ringmaster with the Royal Hanneford Circus, performed with the Worldwide Indoor Circus, Von Brothers, and various carnival and nightclub shows across the US and Canada, sometimes appearing with his friend Rick Dennis. TV appearances included the "David Frost Guinness Special", "That's Incredible", the new "You Asked For It", a Soviet television interview, "20/20 News Magazine", "PM Magazine", "I've Got A Secret", and as one of the 15 top daredevils in the world on the "Saturday Top Special" in Japan where he swallowed a sword while spinning suspended upside-down. He was known professionally as the "Evel Knievel of the Sword", and over the years, he encountered a few injuries. At one time, a table knife accidentally slipped from his fingers into his stomach and had to be surgically removed. When doing live shows, part of his act consisted of allowing a stranger, preferably a skeptic, to come up on stage and push a blade down his throat while the Count was blindfolded. One time a young man jammed the blade down the Count's throat, brushing his heart and ripping his esophogus, sending him directly to the nearest emergency room. He has been described as being rather thin, with a red goatee and a huge red afro style hair style as big as a beach ball. He wore crimson, complete with a crimson cape even as street clothes when he was not performing, and he was known for his trademark 3 inch blinking medalion containing a spider with a sword through it with his blood mixed in with the spider's blood, which is how he got his nickname "Spiderman". He was seen mowing his lawn on his riding lawn mower while wearing his trademark crimson cape at his home in northern Bradford County, Pennsylvania, outside of Towanda. Count Desmond was seen doing a performance at Athens Area Middle School in Athens, PA in Bradford County in 1990. Count Desmond retired around 1994 and lives in northeastern PA, but still performs on occasion. On Sept 4, 2005, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l. Seeking photos and more information.

Count Desmond
Count Desmond on David Frost
Count Desmond's
1980 Guinness World Record Certificate
For Swallowing 13 Swords (1980)

Museum exhibit of Count Desmond
Johnny Meah
"The Czar of Bizarre"
John Francis Meah
Born 1937
Performed 1957-date
King Bros Circus
Cristiani Bros Circus
Hunt Bros Circus
O.C. Buck Shows
Ross Manning Shows
Ward Hall Show
Safety Harbor, FL
(USA)
Johnny Meah was born in Bristol, CT in 1937 as John Francis Meah. In 1952 at the age of 14, he spent his summer vacation from school with the Zachinni family, traveling with the King Bros Circus and the Cristiani Circus. In 1954, Meah joined the Hunt Bros Circus as a candy butcher where he sold candy floss. Two of the clowns, Ray Sinclair and Paul Kaye got Meah to participate in an act about a quarter of the way through the season. Meah was on the track with his floss and the clowns started clowning around him. He started to run, and one of the clowns grabbed the back of his breakaway pants, pulled them off, leaving Meah to run out the back door in his skivvies, still holding the board of floss cones over his head. During this time, Meah worked with George Dalton, who also worked as a candy butcher with the Hunt Bros Circus in 1954, and who began learning sword swallowing during that season. Meah continued learning sword swallowing in 1955 while clowning with the Hunt Brothers Circus, but didn't start performing professionally as a sword swallower until 1957 while employed by Leola Tracy who had the sideshow with Ross Manning Shows.

Johnny Meah began painting sideshow banners in the late 1950s, and during the next two decades, he worked with numerous circuses and sideshows, but garnered the majority of his notoriety as a banner painter, forcing him to balance his focus between the two arts.  In 1980 Meah returned to performing full-time as a sword swallower with the Hall & Christ World of Wonders Show. He worked for Ward Hall for several years until 1994.

Meah has been especially known over the years for both his sideshow banner art and sword swallowing, and he still enjoys clowning on an occasional basis. Meah wrote a novel about carnival life called "Polidore" (2003). Johnny Meah is semi-retired and living in Safety Harbor, FL with his wife, Mary, where they enjoy the theater and studying Eastern philosophy. On "International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day" February 28, 2008, Meah was awarded the SSAI Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallower's Association International for his years of service to the art of sword swallowing. Seeking photos and more information on Johnny Meah.

Johnny Meah website
Harvey Eldred Injured 1958
sword swallowing injury
Kalamazoo, MI
(USA)
A Chicago Daily Tribune article dated Aug 24, 1958 states, "Harvey Eldred, professional sword swallower, was in the hospital Saturday. He had a sore throat." Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Trib article (1958)
Ricky Richiardi
Ricky Richardi
Ricky Ricciardi
Ricky Riccardi
Ricky Rickiardi
Born 1932
Performed 1955-69
Died January 30, 1970
sword swallowers grave
Ringling Brothers Circus
Hoxie Bros Circus
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Richard Richiardi, also known as Ricky Richiardi or Richardi was born in Atlanta, GA in 1932. He performed as a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in Chicago IL as early as July 23, 1955 at the age of 23. Richiardi swallowed up to 4 swords at one time as early as 1958, was a friend of sword swallower Mimi Garneau, and worked with Hoxie Brothers Circus from 1965 to 1969. According to some descriptions, Ricky was "...very good looking, very dark skinned, with black hair, and very smooth when he performed his act". Besides being known as a sword swallower, Richiardi also performed as a wire walker, cloud swing artist, and was reputed to have done a great "Lionel The Lion Faced Boy" pit show. In the fall of 1969, he taught sword swallowing to Sandra Reed in Gibsonton, Florida, made Sandra's sword shield, gave her some of his old swords, and taught her how to put together her act. Richiardi lived in Gibsonton, Florida, and was killed by a hit-and-run driver in a pickup truck while walking south of town near Moore Haven, Florida on January 30, 1970 at the age of 38. He was a member of the Greater Tampa Showman's Association, and the International Independent Showman's Association. He was survived by his parents, five brothers and two sisters, and his remains are interred at Showman's Rest in Gibsonton, FL. Seeking photos and more information.

Ricky Richiardi Pitch card
Ricky Richiardi
Ricky Richiardi with Hoxie Bros
Ricky Richiardi
The Baron
The Barron
Bron the Sword Swallower
Baron Dudley of the Blades Baker
Bill Unks
William Unks
Born Nov. 17, 1923
Performed 1959-91
Died March 12, 1998
sword swallowers grave
Amazing Vanteen's Circus of the Fantastic
Vanteen & Lee Collins Side Show
Capell Bros. Carnival
Foley and Burke
Hoxie Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Coney Island Sideshow>
New York, NY
York, PA
(USA)
Bill Unks began working with Amazing Vanteen's Circus of the Fantastic in January 1959 as their fire-eater. In 1959, Unks learned sword swallowing in Oakland California at the age of 18. According to a June 8, 1959 Billboard article, "Vanteen and Lee Collins' Side Show personnel on Foley and Burk also includes Bill Unks, Fire and Sword Swallower." Later in 1959, Unks joined Capell Bros. Carnival at their winter quarters in Coolidge, AZ. In May, 1960, he booked back on Foley and Burke with Gary Hearn. Unks continued to work with the show in 1964, 1966, and 1967, when he was featured in the film "She Freak". Unks continued to work with Vanteen and Lee through 1969, until they had an altercation and Unks left the show in Sioux Falls, SD in 1970. Sometime in the 1960's during the off season, Unks happened to be working in a Los Angeles County Hospital where he found the sad and depressed sideshow performer Schlitzie had been committed. Schlitzie missed the carnival, missed his friends and the adoration of the crowds. Hospital authorities eventually determined that the best care for Schlitzie would be to make him a ward of Unks' employer, showman Sam Kortes, which they did until Schlitzie's death in 1971. Bill Unks worked under the stage name The Baron with Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus in 1972 (Bill Unks with CBCB in 1972) and 1974, with Hoxie Bros Circus in 1976 to 1978 and into the '80s as sword swallower and fire-eater, and worked with Bobby Reynolds in the 1980s. In 1977, sword swallower Bill Unks and magician Bobby Reynolds were booked as sideshow acts for the MGM Hotel anniversary party in Las Vegas. In 1985, Bill Unks attempted to teach Penn Jillette how to swallow a sword for the Penn and Teller Public TV show "Penn and Teller Go Public". In 1991, Unks visited and worked at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. When he worked at Coney Island, he only swallowed swords while sitting down, as he had been partially retired from sword swallowing for a while after earlier injuring himself. Bill Unks taught sword swallowing to Frank Hartman around 1993-94, and Hartman later bought some of the Baron's swords. Baron Bill Unks died March 12, 1998 at the age of 75, and is buried at Sea Pines Memorial Gardens, Edgewater, Volusia County, Florida, USA. Seeking photos and more information.
Baron Bill Unks (1951??)
Baron Bill Unks on sideshow
Baron Bill Unks with Cole Bros (1972)
Baron Bill Unks with Hoxie Brothers
Bill Unks teaching Penn Gillette (1985) (video)
Sir Frances Durran
Sir Frances Doran
Sir Francis Doran
Frances Doran
Francis Doran
Francis Duran
Francis Durran
Francis Durant
Francis Doram
Frankie Dorn
Frankie Doran
Francis P. Doran
Born April 10, 1918 (1908?)
Learned 1960
Performed 1960-1979
Injured June 1969
Died October 18, 1979
sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
Dick Hard's Side Show
Reynolds & Wells Shows
Anderson Side Show
Bailey Bros Circus
Duke Del Rio Side Show
Dailey Bros Circus
Robbins Bros. Side Show
Charles Rourke's Side Show
Hall and Leonard Side Show
Buff Hottie Shows
Barney Tassell Shows
Francis Doran Side Show
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Hoxie Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
John Bradshaw Sideshow Aransas Pass, TX
(USA)
Francis Doran was born on April 10, 1908 (some sources claim 1918). Early in his career, Doran originally worked with several sideshows as a half-and-half under the stage name "The Original Maxine". According to the Jan 9, 1943 Billboard, "Formerly with Dick Hard's Side Show on Reynolds & Wells Shows, Francis Doran is a welder in a Richmond (Calif.) shipyard. According to the Feb 3, 1945 Billboard, with the Anderson Side Show, "...The Side Show will be under the management of Leon Bennett. Francis Doran will be with it... and the cookhouse will be managed by Mrs. Doran." According to the Oct 19, 1946 Billboard: "Francis Doran recently left Bailey Bros.' Side Show and joined the Duke Del Rio Side Show on the Sunflower State Shows." According to the Jun 7, 1947 Billboard: "Francis Doran reports the biggest season of his career in show biz" in 1947 while performing with the Dailey Bros Circus that winter quartered in Aransas Pass, Texas. According to the Sep 25, 1948 Billboard, "Francis Doran annex attraction, and mother join Charles Rourke's Side Show." According to the Oct 30, 1948 Billboard "Bailey Bros Side Show: Francis Doran and her mother, and the Del Rio Trio, Aransas Pass, Texas." In 1949, Francis Doran did the Half-and-Half in the Robbins Bros. Side Show. According to the May 20, 1950 Billboard, Francis Doran performed in the annex with the Dailey Bros Circus in its final 1950 season.

When Ward Hall acquired his first side show, the first one to join was Frankie Doran and his mother Ivy Doran who always traveled with him and worked in the cookhouse and as a ticket taker. According to the Jan 13, 1951Billboard: "Ten years ago in 1941, Francis Doran was framing a new Side Show in Parsons, Kan..." According to the Sept 1, 1951 Billboard, "Francis and Ivy Doran have joined the Hall and Leonard Varieties on American Midway Shows." A dynamic speaker who butchered the English language, Frankie was a big attraction and a money maker. Despite this, Frankie and his mother Ivy seldom had much money because Frankie would trade for a new house trailer three or four times a year. Deep sea fishing was his hobby, so Frankie and Ivy wintered at Aransas Pass, Texas in order to indulge his hobby. According to the Dec 22, 1951 Billboard: "Ward Hall and Harry Leonard, of Hall and Leonard Shows, info from winter quarters in New Orleans that they recently took delivery on a new trailer. Francis Doran of the same org is also sporting a new trailer." According to the Feb 9, 1952 Billboard: "Hall and Leonard Side Show joined Barney Tassell Shows in Bowling Green, Fla., recently. Francis Doran is featured and Ivy Doran is handling tickets." According to the June 14, 1952 Billboard: "Glen Hall recently joined the Hall and Leonard Side Show on Buff Hottie Shows. Also with the unit are Ward Hall, Harry Leonard, Dave Curtis, Millie Curtis, Francis Doran, Ivy Doran, the Original Maxine." According to the Sep 6, 1952 Billboard, Leonard and Hall Side Show has Ward Hall as vent, Harry Leonard, punch, and featuring the Original Maxine, double bodied girl presented by Francis Doran and Ivy Doran. When Ivy became ill and could no longer travel, Frankie and Ivy opened a sporting goods store at Aransas Pass, TX. According to the May 26, 1956 Billboard, Francis Doran ran his own Francis Doran Side Show in 1956 while performing as Maxine: "Personel on the Francis Doran Side Show on Central States Shows includes Pete Schuch, George Choate, Jack Frost, James Allen and Maxine."

In 1959, Francis Doran's mother Iva Doran (1885-1959) died on February (21?), 1959 at the age of 73. After his mother died, Francis became so despondent that he attempted suicide. His priest advised him to go back on the road. He went back on the road with Ward Hall's Show as a front talker, but was unhappy not being a performer. Explaining that he no longer wanted to work in drag, he asked Ward Hall to teach him to swallow swords. Even though Ward had never swallowed swords, Ward agreed to teach Frankie on condition Frankie would never swallow neon. In 1960, Ward Hall taught Francis Doran the basics of sword swallowing, and Francis Doran performed as sword swallower with Ward Hall's World of Wonders from 1960 to 1965. He then went on to perform with Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus in 1966 and 1967, with Ward Hall's World of Wonders from 1967 to 1969.

On June 16, 1969, while appearing under different management with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Houston Astro Hall in Houston, TX , Francis Doran swallowed a neon tube that exploded inside him. On June 17, 1969, an article and photo circulated the US with the caption "Francis P. Doran, 61, rests in a Houston hospital following surgery for removal of a 36-inch long neon tube from his stomach. About 200 persons were watching the sideshow performer when the tube exploded inside of him, releasing gas and glass into his system. Doran was performing at the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus at Astrohall when the mishap occurred." According to Charles Keeler, "Life became very interesting in the Astro Hall. We were open by 12 and had to work until about an hour before the first Circus performance. The first 2 weeks they wouldn't let the Astrodome tours into the Astro Hall. Business was terrible. We had the entrance, a slight intermission, the interval between first and second show and show's end. After the second week they made many changes. The tours were allowed to come into the Astro Hall which now made for a full day. Now we had a morning tour, the circus, another tour, the blow off and second circus. Between shows when it was slow, we visited with the sideshow people. We all became pretty close friends. One day Francis Doran the sword swallower was celebrating his birthday quite early and every one was helping him. The 12 hour days were getting a little boring during the slow period. My help and I were standing outside my joints, when we heard this scream from the sideshow. We ran over right away as it was a different scream from that of the gorilla crowd. Francis had tried to swallow a neon tube in the show and in his inebriated condition had some how bent his body and broke the tube inside. We laid him down and called for 911. They arrived and took him to the hospital. All the performers were shook up. They had tried to talk him out of swallowing the neon tube as he had been drinking all day. He had done the act before but he had also had one break before, but he insisted he was able to do it. Anyway, they took him to the hospital and they removed the glass, and three days later he was back again. It was a while before he was able to work again, but not long. June 17, 1969 article on Francis Doran surgery.

After that life went on as though nothing out of the ordinary happened." Doran recovered enough to return to his act after a few months, but was never quite completely well again. After recuperating from his injury, Doran returned to work with Ward Hall's World of Wonders from 1969 to 1973, when he taught Jimmy Rapp how to swallow swords on Rapp's first attempt while they were both working with Ward Hall's World of Wonders. In the mid 1970s (1974-76?), Francis Doran went on to work with Hoxie Bros Circus (Francis Doran with Hoxie Brothers Circus circa 1974-76). In 1976, John Bradshaw started his own 10-in-1 show without a sword swallower, but hired Sir Frances Durran/Francis Doran in 1977. Doran worked 2 seasons with John Bradshaw's Sideshow in 1977 and 1978, until his health began to fail. In 1978 Lady Sandra Reed began working on stage with Doran when Doran's health began to fail. In 1978 Diane Falk started as John Bradshaw's "Bally Girl", and during the 1978 season, Doran began teaching Diane how to swallow swords. Francis Doran gave most of his collection of swords to Diane Falk later in 1978, when she began filling in as Bradshaw's sword swallower in 1978 and 1979 under the stage name "Lady Diane". The 1979 John Bradshaw Sideshow line-up included 110 feet of banners, most by Snap Wyatt, with John Bradshaw as inside talker, "Sir Frances Duran" as sword swallower, "Lady Diane" as Bally Girl and part time sword swallower, Otis Jordan, Albert Short, Eddie Miller, Big John Conner as Fat Man, and Sandy Reed Conner as Albino Lecturer and later sword swallower.

Francis Doran died on October 18, 1979 at the age of 71 from pneumonia that resulted from the neon tube injury that had happened ten years earlier in June 1969 when the neon tube exploded inside him, causing his lungs to fill with fluid. Francis Doran and Iva Doran's joint grave is located in Prairie View Cemetery Aransas Pass, TX. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.

Francis Doran Timeline:
1908: April 10: Francis Doran born
1941: Francis Doran frames a sideshow in Parsons KS
1943: Dick Hard's Side Show on Reynolds & Wells Shows
1943: Welder in Richmond CA shipyard
1945: Anderson Side Show
1946: Bailey Bros Circus
1946: Duke Del Rio Side Show
1947: Dailey Bros Circus
1948: Charles Rourke's Side Show
1948: Bailey Bros Side Show
1949: Robbins Bros. Side Show
1949: Dailey Bros Circus
1950: Dailey Bros Circus
1951: Hall and Leonard Varieties
1952: Hall and Leonard Side Show
1956: Francis Doran Side Show
1959: Feb 21(?): Mother Iva Ivy Doran dies
1960: Learns sword swallowing from Ward Hall
1960: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1961: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1962: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1963: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1964: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1965: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1966: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus with Rick Dennis
1967: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
1967: Lineup Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1968: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1969: Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Houston Astro Hall
1969: June 1969: Neon tube injury with Ringling Brothers at Houston Astro Hall
1969: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1970: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1971: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1972: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1973: Ward Hall's World of Wonders
1973: Taught Jimmy Rapp
1974: Hoxie Bros Circus
1975: Hoxie Bros Circus
1976: Hoxie Bros Circus
1977: John Bradshaw Sideshow
1978: John Bradshaw Sideshow with Landy Sandra Reed
1978: Taught Lady Diane Falk
1979: John Bradshaw Sideshow with Lady Diane Falk and Landy Sandra Reed
1979: Died on October 18, 1979

Early Francis Doran as Maxine
Early Francis Doran as Maxine
Francis Doran swallowing multiples
Francis Doran (early)
Francis Doran holding sword
Francis Doran swallowing in bow (1964)
Frances Doran banner with Clyde Beatty Cole Bros (1966)
Francis Doran with Ward Hall Show (1967)
Francis Doran on stage
Francis Doran seated
Francis Doran swallowing 1
Francis Doran swallowing 3
Francis Doran surgery Houston Astro (6-17-1969)
Francis Doran banner Hoxie Bros (1970s)
Francis Doran behind Stu Miller (1974?)
Francis & Iva Doran Grave, Aransas Pass, TX
Orchanté
Tommy Orchard
Tom Orchard
Born 1943
Performed 1961-96
Doncaster
(UK)
Born part Maori in 1943 in Auckland, New Zealand, Tom Orchard began sword swallowing in 1961 at the age of 17, the youngest sword swallower at the time. He toured the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland at least twice a year as Orchanté, working in various clubs, discos, and hotels performing sword swallowing, fire-eating, blockhead, and the string out of the stomach routine from 1987 up to 1996. He had a regular slot every morning on Sydney's Channel 10 Television, performing close-up magic. The programme "Good Morning Australia" was broadcast live nationwide, so there was no room for mistakes. Orchanté was also working close-up magic 3 or 4 nights a week at Sydney's most exclusive restaurant The Manor House. He bought a neon tube from Otto Butkus in Sydney Australia, before Butkus died in 1993, but his wife Veronica refused to let him swallow it on national TV. Orchante retired to Doncaster, UK in 1996, and currently lives in New Zealand, where he is in the process of writing the autobiography of his life. Seeking photos and more information.
Don Carlos Performed 1962 Sells and Gray Circus Sideshow
TX
(USA)
Don Carlos performed as fire-eater and sword swallower on the Sells and Gray Circus Sideshow in 1962. Seeking photos and more information.
Chuck & Leila Fuller with SwSw Don Carlos (1962)
Mike Burford
Michael Burford
Born Sept 3, 1956
Performed 1962-?
Henry Valentine Shows
Austin, TX
(USA)
Mike Burford was born in Waterloo, Iowa on Sept 3, 1956. He grew up on the sideshow midway with his father, Henry Valentine, who had 3 different sideshows, an illlusion show, and many grind shows. Mike began to learn sword swallowing and fire-eating from his father at an early age, and was performing on stage as sword swallower and fire-eater by the time he had turned 6 around the year 1962. By the time Burford had reached his 15th birthday, he had played every major state fair in the US. On Sept 3, 1972, Burford celebrated his 16th birthday while working on the Hall and Christ Sideshow as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". A cake was presented to him onstage at the Ohio State Fair, and it went over so well that they repeated the stunt at every show that day - eight times in all. Burford later served in the U.S. Army in Korea and elsewhere in the Orient. Upon discharging from the service, Burford returned to a society he didn't fit into. The traditional carnival sideshows had just about died out, so Burford went in search of a new "midway" where he could put his "carnie education" to good use. His search eventually landed him in Austin TX, which was home to a sizeable "artist's community" and it was here where his experience with the carnival, and the knowledge gained from his old tattoo artist friends on the midway that he was to form a partnership with old time Carnie tattooist Singapore John Anderson, where he had the perfect opportunity to use his unusual life experiences in a whole new venue, on a brand new stage on a new kind of freak show. Mike and Singapore John opened their first studio, Singapore John's Tattoo Arcade. By 2001, Burford had 10 studios in Austin and one in San Marcos, TX. But the stress of managing the studios, along with Austin's urban sprawl, crime, and drug-abuse was taking its toll. So Burford closed down the shops, and took over management of a historic TX roadhouse, Henry's Hideout, located near the TX Renaissance Festival. Mike and Ed opened their first studio Ol Poop & Rudy's Olde School Tattoo and Professional Piercing, in Bryan, TX in Dec. 2003, and their second studio, Pinky's New School Tattoos and Exotic Piercing in College Station in May 2005. Burford now runs several tattoo parlors throughout TX. To view photos and read stories of Mike's days on his dad's shows, visit www.mburford.com
Seeking photos and more information.
Eddie Miller Performed c 1963-79? Toni Del Rio
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
John Bradshaw Sideshow
(USA)
Eddie Miller learned sword swallowing from Toni Del Rio in the early 1960s (1963-'64), and did several acts such as knife throwing with a number of shows. Miller did his sword swallowing and knife throwing act with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show in 1973. John Bradshaw added Eddie Miller to his show as knife thrower at the Midsouth Fair in Memphis in 1979, and David Sweeney lectured for Eddie Miller on the John Bradshow Sideshows in 1979. Miller dressed in a black western costume resembling Johnny Cash and had a very flashy knife act using butcher knives. In 1973, Miller had a pregnant woman assistant with him who was beginning to show her pregnancy and was ultimately too nervous to stand against the board that Miller threw his knives at. Because she and other women with the show were concerned about Miller's performing after drinking, it was difficult if not impossible to get a female assistant to be part of Miller's knife throwing act. So front talker Diego Domingo volunteered to be his assistant for an extra $10 dollars a week for his heroism. If Domingo tried to watch the knives being thrown towards him, he would flinch in the wrong direction, so he closed his eyes, and only moved when he felt Miller's hand on his shoulder indicating the end of the act so he could go back to working the front. Eddie Miller only filled in with sword swallowing on a few occasions, but when he did, it was memorable. He stepped foward with a sword and two knives. "It says on the tape that I swallow daggers, swords, and bayonets..." He swallowed the dagger, then the sword. "...and bayonets. Watch how high the bayonet goes..." He got down on one knee, swallowed the K-Bar, then flicked it with his thumb about eight feet in the air and stood up so the blade stuck in the floor between his feet. Sir Frances Doran commented that "...it was a pretty act". In 1981 Eddie Miller wintered in Gibsonton, FL with sword swallower Lady Diane Falk. It has been rumored that Eddie Miller was last known working at a telemarketing job sometime in the early 80's. Seeking photos and more information.
Danny Larsen
Danny Raymond Larsen
King Daredevil
Born Dec 18, 1943
Performed 1963-2003
Died Jan 29, 2008
sword swallowing injury
Royal American Shows
Ringling Bros Sideshow
Independent Midways
Royal Canadian ThrillSeekers
Abbottsford, British Columbia
(Canada)
Danny Larsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 18, 1943. He learned sword swallowing in 1963 at around the age of 21 in the Vancouver area, and performed under the stage name King Daredevil. Larsen performed as a sword swallower, contortionist, fire-eater, fire-breather, and human blockhead. Larsen had his worst sword swallowing accident early in his career in a Vancouver nightclub around 1963-64 at the age of about 21 when someone surprised him while swallowing a sword, causing him to split his neck and vocal cords, and leaving him with a 14" scar on the right side of his neck. Larsen performed sword swallowing for over 40 years from 1963 to 2003 with shows such as the Thomas West Coast Amusement Show, Royal American Shows, Independent Midways, Ringling Brothers Sideshow, and his own Royal Canadian Thrill Seekers Show which he toured Canada with for many years. Over his career, Larsen swallowed neon tubes, the serpentine "snake" sword, long swords up to 30" in length, and multiple sword sandwiches up to 12 swords with 23" (58,4 cm) blades. In September 1979, Larsen performed on the TV show "Beyond Reason", where he set the Guinness World Record for swallowing twelve 23" long swords at one time, and for swallowing swords up to 30" long, both of which were admitted into the 1980 and 1981 Guinness World Record books. At one point, Larsen was knighted by the King/Queen of his native Denmark. He resided with his wife Esther in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, where he worked as an advocate for the disabled until his death of lung cancer at the age of 65 on January 29, 2008 at MSA General Hospital in Abbottsford BC. Danny Larsen is buried at Hazelwood Cemetery in Abbotsford, British Colombia, Canada, plot 322-13. Seeking photos and more information.

Danny Larsen gravesite
Edward Ernest Willis, Sr. Born July 4, 1924
Married Dec. 28, 1964
Died Aug 14, 1995
sword swallowers grave
Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
Portland, OR
(USA)
Edward Ernest Willis Sr. was born on July 4, 1924 in Seaside, OR, and moved to Portland as a child, where he graduated from Raleigh Hills High School and later served as a US Merchant Marine. According to his obituary in the The Oregonian (Portland, OR) dated August 17, 1995: EDWARD ERNEST WILLIS SR. Mr. Willis died Aug. 14 1995 in Milwaukie at age 71. He traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus as a sword swallower before returning to Portland. He worked as a paramedic for Bucks Ambulance and then for Boeing Company for 20 years. He retired in 1986. He married Margaret Brackenbury on Dec. 28, 1964. They moved to Oroville, Calif., in 1987. Mr. Willis was a member of the New Life Christian Center in Thermalito, Calif. A funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, 1995, in Bateman Carroll Funeral Chapel in Gresham. Interment will follow in Willamette National Cemetery. Survivors are his wife; sons, Leslie Bohrer of Deer Lodge, Mont., and Edward Jr. and Harold, both of Oroville, Calif.; daughters, Bernice Nolen of Portland, Jeannette Brackenbury of Fairview, and Cindy McKinnon, Sharon McKinnon and Nona Fox, all of Oroville; sister, Jeannette Schnelting of Fairview; 24 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Seeking photos and more information.
Royal American Shows
Started 1933
Closed 1997
(USA/Canada) Royal American Shows was founded in 1933 by Carl J. Sedlmayr and became one of the largest American carnivals throughout most of the 20th century.

Royal American's first contract with the Calgary Stampede was in 1934. However, during the Second World War, the company was unable to travel to Canada from 1942 to 1945, as it relied on a large train (up to 90 rail cars) for transportation. During the war, use of the rail system was restricted by the US government to the movement of military personnel and equipment.

In 1967, Royal American Shows was at its pinnacle in terms of size -- over 800 people along with livestock and equipment and over 80 railroad cars. By 1971, Royal American Shows carried the greatest number of flatcars ever carried by any traveling amusement organization in the world. The show traveled with a full complement of carpenters, canvas men, electricians, painters, full working machine shops with mills, lathes, drills, welders, mechanics, cookhouse, portable showers, and mail department.

Royal American Shows' history took a turn as the changing economy in the 1970's led to a loss of revenue due to longer distances in travel, equipment seized from a 1975 tax issue in Edmonton and Regina, and the loss of its Canadian route in 1977 causing Royal American to be locked out of Canada. The carnival equipment seized from the 1975 tax issue at Edmonton and Regina was held in storage until the mid-1990’s, at which time the assets were sold at auction and the proceeds were used to pay the outstanding fines. Royal American Shows continued to operate in the United States for the next 20 years, diminishing in size over time; its last show was in Lubbock, Texas in October 1997.

Known sword swallowers with Royal American Shows include Joseph Grendol on Dick Best Sideshow (1933?), Chester Dolphin (1934), Frank Boulware (1940s?), Alex Linton (1948, '53), Lady Louise Long (1954), Lady Patricia Zerm (1955), Estelline Pike (1948-50, 1955-60), Jim Lucky Ball II (1955, '57), Stan Marye (1958), Tony Mareno, Danny Larsen, Clifford "Butch" Trout and Billy Costello. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with Royal American.

Sword Swallowers with Royal American:
1933: Joseph Grendol
1934: First contract with Calgary Stampede
1934: Chester Dolphin
1942-45: Show unable to travel to Canada
1948: Alex Linton
1948: Estelline Pike
1949: Estelline Pike
1953: Alex Linton
1954: Lady Louise Long
1955: Estelline Pike
1955: Jim Lucky Ball II
1955: Lady Patricia Zerm
1957: Estelline Pike
1958: Stan Marye
1960: Estelline Pike
1960: Jim Lucky Ball II
1960: Sir Thomas Thomas
1967: Billy Costello
1967: At peak with 800 people and 80 cars
1975: Tax issue, equipment seized at Edmonton and Regina
1977: Locked out of Canada
1997: October: Final show in Lubbock, Texas

Kelly-Miller Circus
Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
Al G. Kelly Miller Bros Circus
Founded 1938 (USA) Kelly Miller Brothers Circus

Started in 1938 by Obert Miller and his sons, Kelly and Dory, the Al G. Kelly Miller Brothers Circus, is now known as Kelly Miller Circus. The Miller family devoted their lives to their circus, and through talent and hard work, built it into America's 2nd largest big top show.

From 1984 through 2006, third generation circus performer David Rawls, directed the Kelly Miller Circus as president and manager. In 2007, the show was purchased by John Ringling North II. Mr. North's great uncles were the famous Ringling Brothers, his grandmother, their only sister. Born into this most famous of circus families, John grew up on the "Greatest Show on Earth", learning circus operation from his father Henry Ringling North, and Uncle John Ringling North. Mr. North can be seen at most Kelly Miller Brothers shows watching the show with a critical eye.

The Kelly Miller Circus travels on a fleet of 36 vehicles and requires an area of 350' by 350' to set up on. The colorful circus big top has a seating capacity of 1100 and is made of waterproof vinyl. The tent is 120' by 120' and is 40' high and is supported by more than a quarter of a mile of heavy gauge aluminum tubing as well as several miles of rope, steel cable and chain.

Known sword swallowers with Kelly Miller Brothers Circus include Tommy Thompson (1950), Stan Marye (1962-63), Jim Scott (1965-66?), and Rosemary Puente (1967).

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with Kelly Miller Brothers Circus.

Sword Swallowers with Kelly Miller Brothers Circus:
1938: Obert Miller starts Al G. Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
1950: Tommy Thompson
1962: Stan Marye
1963: Stan Marye
1965: Jim Scott
1967: Rosemary Puente
2007: Bought by John Ringling North II

Stan Marye
Stanley Andrew Marye
Born Oct. 18, 1937
Performed 1958-65
sword swallowing injury
Glades Amusements
Helen Golden
AZ State Fair
Royal American Shows
James E Strates
Kelly/Sutton
Kitty Kelly
Johnny Howard
Pete Kortes
Noel Lester
Bill Chalcus
Robie Del Mar
Jerry Lipko
Charlie Roark
Stu Miller
Vanteen & Lee
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
RB Thomas Shows
King Brothers Circus
Kelly Miller Bros
Wellsville, NY
Binghamton, NY
Whitney Point, NY
(USA)
Stan Marye was born in Portland OR on October 18, 1937, and began learning sword swallowing at the age of 14 after reading the condensed version of the Daniel Mannix book "Step Right Up" in Reader's Digest. Marye ran away from home in Wellsville, NY in 1954 at the age of 16 and worked as a canvas tramp for Tiny Cowens with Glades Amusements. One of the first sideshow acts Marye learned was fire-eating, which he learned by using cotton as a wick on a coat hanger with acetone for fuel. Marye saw his first sword swallower, Don Ward, in 1957 when Marye and Ward both worked for Helen Golden at the Arizona State Fair for a week in Phoenix, AZ. There were actually two sideshows playing the same midway at the same time, with Helen Golden's sideshow on the side, and Pete Kortes' Freak Show on the back end. After watching and talking with Don Ward for a week, Marye studied the Mannix article "Step Right Up", the book Gray's Anatomy, and practiced with a coat hanger until he managed to swallow his first sword in 1958. He claims he "learned the art by trial and error - mainly error!"

Stan Marye first began sword swallowing professionally with a carnival at the age of 20 when he performed the bed of nails and fire-eating, and eventually worked in sword swallowing. At 6'2" and 145 pounds, he was known as "the only sword swallower who didn't swallow a sword", as he used to begin his act by swallowing a bent coat hanger, then a stove poker, a long handled spoon, and a bayonet, but not a full-sized sword. Eventually, he worked in swallowing a Toledo blade. He complained that working without a public address system sometimes gave him laryngitis, and he always stayed underweight, as "there are no calories in a stove poker." In 1958 Marye worked for Kitty Kelly on the James E. Strates/Kelly/Sutton Show in Garden City, KS. In 1958, he also worked as the sword swallower for Royal American Shows, sometime after Estelline Pike had left. Her son, Jimmy Lucky Ball II visited and performed once with Royal American Shows once during a visit in 1958. According to the November 24, 1958 Billboard: "Pete Kortes, playing the date (Arizona State Fair) for the third consecutive year with his Side Show, had a larger gross than last year. His attractions include fat man Vernon (Tiny) Miller, Jesus Gonzalez, seal boy, Stanley Marye, sword swallower, Jules Gauburt, pinhead, Eko and Iko, sheephead.." In 1959, Marye again worked for Pete Kortes. On Election Day 1959, he and two other sideshow performers were featured on TV on Art Linkletter's House Party which was televised live from the AZ State Fair. In 1959, Marye also worked for Ward Hall and Harry Leonard for one week at the La Porte County Fair in La Porte, IN, and for Vanteen and Lee at a street fair in El Paso, TX. In 1960, Marye started the year working for Noel Lester who did a mermaid illusion show on the James E. Strates show. In 1960, Marye worked for Jerry Lipko with Fat Lady Sword Swallower Vickie Pope who swallowed some of Marye's swords, including his 1860 Cavalry saber. Vickie Pope was billed as the "Fat Lady Sword Swallower", but both she and Marye swallowed swords with the show. In 1960 Marye met a girl in Whitney Point, NY and they got married in 1960. Together they worked carnivals with Jerry Lipko and finished the year out in November 1960 working a sideshow with Bill Chalcus in Jacksonville, FL. In 1961, they started the year working for Robie Del Mar in central Florida, then worked in Texas for Gary Hearn, and eventually worked for Johnny Howard on RB Thomas Shows. Marye swallowed a neon tube for a few years until one day in 1961 when he was performing a free show in front of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. At the time, Marye had no extension cord for the transformer for his neon tube, so he set the transformer on a chair and had to get down on his knees to swallow the tube. As he was swallowing the tube, the light suddenly went out, and he knew something had gone wrong. After very carefully removing the tube, he began to check the tube to locate the crack, but was surprised when he found no crack at all. Apparently, the tube was not broken, but the cord has just pulled loose. After this scare, he was never able to swallow the neon tube again.

From 1962-1965 Marye and his wife worked for Charlie Roark with King Brothers Circus. In December 1962 through January 1963, they worked for Stu Miller who was sideshow manager for Kelly Miller Brothers Circus in Kingston Jamaica. According to a newspaper article, Marye was "an omnivorous gent who downed broadswords like they were oysters". As part of his show, he would swallow a parade sword with a blade length of 27 1/2 inches, a 20 inch stove poker, a 22 inch barbeque skewer, an 18 inch tri-cornered Civil War bayonet, an 18 inch broadsword that was 1.5 inches wide, and a 15 inch Army serving spoon. He would also swallow a "Hot Sandwich" of two swords with a lit cigarette wedged between them, then remove the swords and continue smoking the cigarette. He also swallowed a multiple sword sandwich of up to 5 swords, until he had an injury in 1962 while swallowing 5 swords in Cadiz, KY. After this, he would swallow a sword sandwich of 3 swords - 1 wide broadsword with a blade 1 1/2" wide in the middle between two narrower swords. In 1965, he watched Count Desmond swallow his first sword in Binghamton, NY. In 1965, he got a "real job" in construction, but returned to show business in 1968 working with a tented theater in Bridgeport, CT. He and his wife moved back to Binghamton NY in 1972. In 1976 he was hired to work for 8 weeks as the tent manager for Disney for the largest tented circus in Johannesburg, South Africa, but the job stretched out longer and he and his family didn't leave until 20 months later. In 1987, he swallowed a coat hanger for the crew of "Kool and the Gang". Stan Marye and his wife reside in Whitney Point, NY. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.

Stan Marye Timeline:
1937: Born October 18, 1937
1951: Began learning sword swallowing
1954: Ran away from home to work Glades Amusements
1957: Watched Don Ward at Arizona State Fair
1958: Swallowed first sword
1958: James E. Strates/Kelly/Sutton Show
1958: Pete Kortes at Arizona State Fair
1958: Royal American Shows
1959: Pete Kortes at Arizona State Fair
1959: Art Linkletter's House Party
1959: Ward Hall and Harry Leonard in La Porte IN
1959: Vanteen and Lee in El Paso TX
1960: James E. Strates show
1960: Married
1961: RB Thomas Shows
1962: King Brothers Circus
1962 Injured while swallowing the 5 swords in Cadiz, KY
1962: Kelly Miller Brothers Circus in Kingston Jamaica
1963: Kelly Miller Brothers Circus in Kingston Jamaica
1963: King Brothers Circus
1964: King Brothers Circus
1965: King Brothers Circus
1965: Watched Count Desmond swallow his first sword in Binghamton, NY
1965: Got a "real job" in construction
1968: Returned to show business with tented theater in Bridgeport, CT
1972: Moved back to Binghamton NY with his wife
1976: Hired as tent manager for Disney circus in Johannesburg South Africa
1977: Left South Africa
1987: Swallowed a coat hanger for "Kool and the Gang"
Today: Retired in Whitney Point, NY

Stan Marye swallowing 3 swords
Stan Marye article
Harry Wagner Performed 1960 Bill Chalicus
(USA)
Harry Wagner worked as the sword swallower for Bill Chalicus in 1960. Seeking photos and more information.
Bella Haich Performed 1960 ?
[USA]
Bella Haich was x-rayed as a sword swallower and the image was published on May 23, 1960. Seeking photos and more information.

Bella Haich being x-rayed (5-23-1960)
Vickie Pope
"The Sword Swallowing Fat Lady"
Performed early 1960s Jerry Lipko
Jim Steinmetz
Goodings Magic Midway
Ward Hall's
World of Wonders

(USA)
Vickie Pope worked as "The Sword Swallowing Fat Lady" for sideshow manager Jerry Lipko in 1960 with sword swallower Stan Marye. Pope was billed as the "Fat Lady Sword Swallower", but both she and Stan Marye swallowed swords with the show, and Pope swallowed some of Stan's swords, including his 1860 Cavalry saber. At one point, Pope's neon tube broke inside her, and after she removed it, she commented, "That's going to cost me $7 for another one!" (At that time, they only made about $5/week). Pope also worked for Jim Steinmetz on Goodings Magic Midway in the 1960's, and for Ward Hall's World of Wonders show in later years. Seeking photos and more information.
Vickie Pope as Fat Lady
Dingi
Cherokee Sword Swallower
Performed early 1960s Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Oklahoma
(USA)
Dingi was a Native American Cherokee sword swallower from Oklahoma who worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show in the 1960s as an Indian fakir. Seeking photos and more information.
Dingi
Sir Thomas Thomas
Arthur Thomas
Born circa 1933-34
Performed 1961-66?
Dick Best's Side Show
Royal American Shows
Ringling Brothers Circus
East Rutherford, NJ
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Arthur Thomas worked on the canvas crew for Dick Best's Side Show for Royal American Shows in 1960 when Jim Lucky Ball II was the talker and sword swallower with the show. It is believed Thomas learned sword swallowing from Ball's mother Estelline Pike between 1960-62. According to an Appleton, WI Post Crescent article dated January 1, 1966, Sir Thomas Thomas had taught sword swallowing to Jim Scott of Crystal Falls, MI in Chicago in 1962, and in 1966 Sir Thomas Thomas was a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Seeking photos and more information.

Sir Thomas Thomas pitchcard to Estelline Pike
Hoxie Bros Circus
Hoxie Brothers Circus
Started 1943 (USA) Hoxie Brothers Circus On November 17, 1943, Hoxie Tucker started the Hoxie Bros. Circus and opened the show in Greenville, FL. Hoxie played mountainous towns in the southern states-where other shows would not go. In the late 50s and 60s the Hoxie Circus became known for its trucks unusual lavender color. The story goes that Betty Tucker pulled into a gas station and noticed one of the pumps painted in an unusual purple color. She immediately fell in love with the color, returned to the lot and told Hoxie she had found a new color or the show: purple! From then on, the trucks, signs, and even route arrows used their signature purple color, which became the Hoxie Brothers signature color that everyone always seemed to remember!

For the 1962 Hoxie teamed with Milton "Doc" Bartoc who had operated medicine shows for many years. Hoxie and Doc combined their equipment and operated the 1962 season as the Hoxie-Bardex Bros Circus. In the early 1970s, John Hall became manager of the show and a new era began for the circus. Hall brought new ideas and breathed new life into the Hoxie Bros. Circus. The purple trucks were repained to a much brighter color, and much of the aging equipment was replaced.

The new format was a huge success and Hoxie Bros. now competed with the bigger circuses. In 1972, Hoxie Bros. Circus was featured in the March 1972 edition of National Geographic magazine.

For the 1976 season, the color theme featured a red, white and blue bicentennial spectacular with a patriotic themed performance. Also in 1976, the sideshow featured "Mongo the Gorilla", the first true gorilla to be exhibited in a circus in many years.

By the late 1970s the Hoxie Bros. Circus had grown, making money and playing larger towns. Hoxie decided to open a smaller second unit that could play the smaller towns that the Hoxie show had outgrown. The name of the new show was Hoxie's Great American Circus.

On September 17, 1999, Leonard Basil "Hoxie" Tucker died at the age of 89.

Known sword swallowers with Hoxie Brothers Circus include Johnny Nugent (1961), Henry Thompson (early 60s?), Ricky Richiardi (1965-69), Joe Abrams Eric Tauber (1973), Sir Francis Doran (1974-76?), Baron Bill Unks (1976-78, 80s?)

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with Hoxie Bros Circus.

Sword Swallowers with Hoxie Brothers Circus:
1943: November 17, 1943, Hoxie Tucker starts Hoxie Bros. Circus
1961: Johnny Nugent
1962: Hoxie-Bardex Bros Combined Circus
1962: Henry Thompson ?
1963: Henry Thompson ?
1964: Henry Thompson ?
1965: Ricky Richiardi
1966: Ricky Richiardi
1967: Ricky Richiardi
1968: Ricky Richiardi
1969: Ricky Richiardi
1970: Eric Tauber / Joe Abrams with manager John Hall ?
1971: Eric Tauber / Joe Abrams with manager John Hall ?
1972: Eric Tauber / Joe Abrams with manager John Hall ?
1973: Eric Tauber / Joe Abrams with manager Stu Miller
1974: Sir Francis Doran with manager Stu Miller
1975: Sir Francis Doran
1976: Sir Francis Doran
1976: Baron Bill Unks
1977: Baron Bill Unks
1978: Baron Bill Unks
1979: Baron Bill Unks ?
1980: Baron Bill Unks ?
1981: Lineup with manager Roger Boyd Jr.
1999: Leonard Basil "Hoxie" Tucker dies on September 17 at 89

Lee Bradley
Lee Roy Bradley
Born Jan 14, 1914
Performed 1942-1962
Died May 4, 1967
sword swallowers grave
Hamid-Morton Circus
Sells Bros Circus
Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus
Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
Hoxie Bros Circus
Hunt Brothers Circus
Hugo, OK
(USA)
Lee Roy Bradley was born Jan 14, 1914 and worked with Hunt Brothers Circus in 1941 with Lou Barton (photo). According to a Billboard dated May 1942, "Barton has the Hunt Side Show - Side Show is in charge of Lee Barton, who has lined up a good selection of acts and specialties. A Hawaiian native show, featuring Lewella and Tonita, is a new addition to Barton's show, and Bradley the sword swallower is still with it." According to a Billboard dated Dec 4, 1943, Lee Bradley and Jim Stutz worked with the Hamid-Morton Circus in Atlanta, GA in 1943. According to a Billboard dated Dec 11, 1943, Lee Roy Bradley, was concessionaire with Hunt Bros. Circus. According to Brownwood Bulletin dated November 17, 1953, an 18 foot python escaped from Lee Bradley, sideshow operator for Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros Circus as he was giving it a bath in Hugo OK. According to a March 14 1956 article in the Paris TX News, "Two showmen from Hugo leaving to join Clyde Beatty Circus, opening Wednesday in Deming, NM were Lee Bradley and Freddie Claus. Both are with the circus business department."

In 1961, Lee Bradley and his wife Hazel worked on the Hoxie Bros. Show in 1961. Lee had the side show and he and his wife Hazel presented a riding mechanic/bareback act in the main show. Later on Hazel had age and weight stands. According to Bandwagon, Vol. 6, No. 3 (May-June), 1962, pp. 12-13, with the Sells Bros Circus, "Nucleus of the show-owned rolling stock came from the Stevens and Sterling Bros Circuses. Lee Bradley has his two sideshow trucks on for a few dates." According to the Bridgeport CT Post article dated June 18, 1962, "Sword swallower Lee Bradley with the Hunt Brothers Circus was "stuck" when a child ran off with his 14-inch silver sword".

Lee Bradley reportedly died a painful death from burns when he climbed to the top of a big top to waterproof the canvas, and apparently the big top caught on fire, with Bradley dying in the resulting fire. Lee Roy Bradley died on May 4, 1967 at the age of 53. According to family reports, Bradley may have worked as sword swallower and glass eater with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at some time, dates unknown. Lee Roy Bradley is buried in Showman's Rest in Mount Olivet Cemetery Hugo, Choctaw County, Oklahoma, USA. Seeking photos and more information.

Lee Bradley Timeline:
1914: Born Jan 14, 1914
1941: Hunt Brothers Circus with Lou Barton
1942: Hunt Brothers Circus Side Show with Lou Barton
1943: Dec: Hamid-Morton Circus Atlanta GA
1943: Dec: Hunt Bros. Circus
1944: Jan: Mr. & Mrs. Lee Bradley with Hunt Brothers Circus
1945: Bob Dickman Circus in transportation and sales
1953: Nov: Al G. Kelly & Miller Bros Circus
1956: Clyde Beatty Circus
1961: Hoxie Bros. Show with wife Hazel
1962: Sells Bros Circus
1962: June: Hunt Brothers Circus
1967: Died on May 4, 1967 at the age of 53

Sword Swallower Lee Bradley on Hunt Brothers (1941)
Sword Swallower Lee Bradley
Peanuts the Sword Swallower
(?)
Performed 1962-65 Sells and Gray Circus Sideshow
Bob Earl Show
(USA)
Peanuts worked as the sword swallower and fire-eater with the Sells and Gray Show in 1962, and as the sideshow operator for the Bob Earl Show in 1965. Peanuts lived in a Plymouth sedan with his dog. The entire back seat of the car was full to the windows with stuff, and he had a blade box lying on top of the pile about window level. That meant that Peanuts' living space was the front seat of the car, which he shared with his dog. Peanuts was short several of the essential amenities of life, and he looked it. He was always unkempt. After many years of traveling without washing facilities, the dirt had ground into him and his skin was a swarthy color. In all the years that he had been a fire eater, he had burned out all his taste buds. When he came to the dining top cookhouse, he would sit down and start pulling from his pockets all kinds of bottles of hot sauce, which he would pour liberally on the food, just so he could taste something. Seeking photos and more information.
David L. Vaughn Born c 1916
Performed June 1965
Cristiani Wallace Bros Circus
Greensboro, NC
(USA)
David L. Vaughn of Greensboro, NC was sword swallower and contortonist with Cristiani Wallace Bros. Circus in June 1965. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Wäinö Hamari Born April 29, 1943
Performed 1965-76
(Finland) Finnish magician Wäinö Hamari bought a sword from Aleksander Casso, and performed sword swallowing in Finland from 1965-1976.
Jim Scott Performed 1965-66 King Reid Shows
Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
Royal Canadian Shows
Vanteen and Lee
Crystal Falls, MI
Marquette, MI
(USA)
Jim Scott graduated from Crystal Falls, MI High School in 1962, and went to Chicago, where he learned sword swallowing from Ringling Brothers sword swallower Sir Thomas Thomas. In 1966, he was a junior at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI and worked on the summer show circuit where he performed fire-eating and sword swallowing. Before that, he had worked with King Reid Shows, Kelly Miller Brothers Circus and Royal Canadian Shows. In the summer of 1966, he was scheduled to work with Vanteen and Lee Sideshow, a part of Century 21 Shows on the west coast. According to a January 1, 1966 article in the Appleton, WI Post Crescent, "The learning process was slow," Scott said. "The hardest part was overcoming the impulse to gag when I'd lower something down my throat. I began by swallowing a small, flat iron bar. After I became accustomed to the bar, I next worked with bayonets, and then finally graduated to swords". He took his apprentice sword-swallowing from Sir Thomas Thomas, sword-swallower with Ringling Brothers. Through constant practice, Scott now can swallow four swords at a time. He also swallows an interesting variety of other articles including corkscrews, keyhole saws, giant shears, and neon tubes. "The thing I hate most to swallow is neon." Scott said. "I used tubes in one of my acts for a while, but there is always the great danger of one shattering when it is inside your mouth or body that it just isn't worth taking the chance." Seeking photos and more information.
Chris M. Christ Born Feb 23, 1948
Performed 1966-72
Hall & Christ
World of Wonders Show

Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Chris M. Christ learned sword swallowing from Francis Doran in 1966-67 when he co-managed the Hall & Christ World of Wonders Show with Ward Hall and performed as a sword swallower until about 1972. At one point early in his career, around 1966 to 1967, while Christ was swallowing a sword, his dentures came loose and dropped down the back of his throat, lodging the sword in place. With the help of sideshow electrician Red Trower (who later became a sword swallower himself), they managed to remove the sword and dentures from his throat.

Over his long career in the sideshow business, Christ taught sword swallowing to Dale Pritchard, Edward Robinson/ Phoenix Blaze, Matthew Bouvier (2000), and many other sword swallowers. Together with Ward Hall, they produced sideshows for Circus Vargas, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, and countless state fairs over the decades. Christ continues to operate the World of Wonders show with his partner Ward Hall out of Gibsonton, FL. (more info)

Doc Blood
Ricardo the Sword Swallower
Rick Dennis
Born June 5, 1952
Performed 1966-94
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Carson & Barnes Circus
Sells & Gray Circus
Circus Bartok
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Vestal, NY
(USA)
Rick Dennis was born on June 5, 1952 and grew up in Vestal, NY where he started his career as a magician and juggler at the age of 10. During the summer of 1966, Dennis got hired on the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus lot in New York at the age of 13 where he was booked as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". During the summer of 1966, Dennis learned fire-eating from Andy Brisky on the Clyde Beatty show. It was also during the summer of 1966 that Dennis worked with and studied Francis Doran perform sword swallowing, and secretly taught himself how to swallow coathangers and eventually swords during the summer of 1966 at the age of 13. In the Fall of 1966, Dennis taught Joe Prosch ("De Lion") how to eat fire and swallow swords.

Dennis worked with Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus again the following summers of 1967 to '69, where he got to work with and study sword swallowing with The Baron Bill Unks when they both worked with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1968 and '69. In 1968, at the age of 16, Dennis sustained a severe fire-breathing injury in front of a live audience in New York that left him with second and third degree injuries and put him on his back in the hospital for 6 weeks, requiring 7 skin grafts where doctors took skin off his thigh and grafted it to his chest. Eventually Dennis recovered and returned to fire eating, but left out the fire-breathing "blast".

In about 1970, Dennis worked a short season with his fellow sword swallower Count Desmond for Circus Bartok before they began working night clubs together in the early 70s. In 1973, Dennis worked with the Sells and Gray Circus. According to a April 16, 1973 Circus Report, "Jon Friday, sideshow manager with Sells & Gray Circus reports they have the world's youngest sword swallower - he's 20 year old Rick Dennis." In the mid 1970s, Dennis worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders under the "European Illusion Theater" from 1974 to 1976. In 1977, Dennis put together his own 10-in-1 show which worked with Coleman Brothers in New England. Around 1978 Dennis taught John Stevens how to swallow swords and eat fire behind his garage. Dennis also worked with Jackie Lynn on Carson and Barnes Circus Sideshow in 1978-79 under Jim Steinmetz, and with several other shows until 1987. In 1988 Dennis put together four grind shows with fold-out panels and worked with J & J Amusements in Allentown, PA. Besides sword swallowing his favorite 22" nickel-plated blade given to him by Count Desmond, Dennis also did fire-eating, knife throwing, juggling, bed of nails, suspended straight jacket escape, low wire walk, was the sideshow talker, and occasionally the Big Show announcer. Dennis is semi-retired from sword swallowing, but still takes his shows out on the road about 6 months every summer. Seeking photos and more information.

Rick Dennis Timeline
1952: June 5: Born in Vestal, NY
1962: Starts career as magician at the age of 10
1966: Spends 7 weeks on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus at age 13
1966: Summer: Learns fire-eating from Andy Brisky on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1966: Studies Francis Doran, secretly teaches himself to swallow coathangers
1966: Billed "World's Youngest Sword Swallower" at 13 on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros
1966: Fall: Teaches Joe Prosch "De Lion" how to eat fire and swallow swords
1967: Clyde Beatty Cole-Bros Circus
1968: Clyde Beatty Cole-Bros Circus with Baron Bill Unks
1968: Hospitalized for 6 weeks after fire-breathing injury in NY required 7 skin grafts
1969: Clyde Beatty Cole-Bros Circus with Baron Bill Unks
1970: Worked a short season with Count Desmond for Circus Bartok
1970s: Worked night clubs with Count Desmond in the early 70s
1973: Worked with Sells and Gray Circus
1974-76: Ward Hall's World of Wonders "European Illusion Theater"
1977: Put together his own 10-in-1 show with Coleman Brothers in New England
1978: Taught John Stevens how to swallow swords and eat fire
1978-79: Worked with Jackie Lynn on Carson & Barnes Circus
1988: Put together four grind shows with J & J Amusements in Allentown, PA

Rick Dennis article (1974)
De Lion
Joe Prosch
Performed 1966 Endicott, NY
Melbourne, FL
(USA)
Joe Prosch learned fire-eating and sword swallowing in the Fall of 1966 from Rick Dennis. Prosch went on to perform in his own night club act as a magician, fire-eater, sword swallower and stand-up comedian under the stage name "De Lion". He was known to have performed his sword swallowing as the Magic Bartender at the Glass Onion in Rochester, NY in the late 70s, and eventually owned his own large club in Syracuse, NY. He is now living in Melbourne, FL. Seeking photos and more information.
Jan Refne Borge Born June 23, 1953
Learned 1966-67
Performed 1967
Nestlun
(Norway)
Jan Refne Borge was born on June 23, 1953, and learned sword swallowing in 1966-67 at the age of 13. He lives in Nestlun, Norway. Seeking photos and more information.
"Red" Stuart
John Stuart XXVIII
Born March 21, 1951
Performed 1967-date
Toni Del Rio
Johnny Howard
Pete Kortes
Gary Hearn
Wm D Stanley
Jimmy Dixon
Bernard Thomas
Ward Hall's
World of Wonders

American Dime Museum

Philadelphia, PA
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
John "Red" Stuart was born in Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on March 21, 1951. When he was 4, his mother put him up for adoption in Philadelphia, PA. He grew up in an orphanage and foster homes from 1955 to 1966. In the winter of 1966, he graduated with a GED from Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences, a magnet high school in Roxborough, Philadelphia. In January 1967, he began hitchhiking across the US, until he got a job with Ted's Rides at a carnival in Choctaw, Louisiana on Easter weekend 1967. On Good Thursday of Lent in early 1967 at the age of 16, Red learned sword swallowing and fire eating and all the other sideshow feats from a gypsy sideshow owner named Toni Del Rio. Over the next 48+ years, Stuart has performed with a number of shows, including working for Toni Del Rio Sideshow ('67-'68), Johnny Howard ('69), Pete Kortes ('69), Gary Hearn ('70), William D. Stanley Shows ('72-'73), Jimmy Dixon on Mighty Thomas Shows ('74), with Bernard Thomas Shows ('76-'78), Ward Hall's World of Wonders ('89-'91 and 2005-date), and the American Dime Museum, and often wintered in Gibsonton, FL.

In 1976, Red was known as Lizard Red, the caretaker and sleeping bag bedmate of Haa-Soo, the smallest of 8 Komodo dragons in captivity in the US (photo taken in Leithbridge Alberta, Canada in 1976). In 1977, the clown Skippy Siegel offered to sell Red an A-frame that he could use to lower a car axel down his throat, but Red couldn't afford the A-frame at the time. Instead Ward Hall got Red a Model A car axle, which Red swallowed on the Ward Hall's World of Wonders 1977-78 season, and continued to swallow on Ward Hall's World of Wonders until 1990. In 1991, he went out with a show as an electrician.

Red Stuart is known for swallowing multiple swords, kriss blades, wide broadsword blades, fire pokers, sword sheaths, and the car axle. He has taught sword swallowing to a number of other sword swallowers, including Charon Henning in 2002. On September 3, 2005, he swallowed 25 swords at one time, with each sword at least 18" long x 1/2" in width, which was recognized by Guinness World Records as part of the group mass swallow Guinness World Record (video). On Sept 4, 2005, Red was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Dan Meyer of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Red Stuart has now been swallowing swords for over 40 years, and is one of the top 20 oldest sword swallowers still performing in the world. Red retired from the road in 1996, and is now semi-retired in Gibsonton, FL when he is not performing with Ward Hall's World of Wonders. Several of Red Stuart's swords and his car axle belong to sword swallower Dan Meyer and are housed in the archival collection of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l.

Red Stuart Timeline:
1951: March 21: Born in Camp Kilmer, NJ
1955: Put up for adoption in Philadelphia, PA
1955-66: Grew up in an orphanage and foster homes
1966: Received GED from Walter Biddle Saul High School of Agricultural Sciences in Roxborough PA
1967: Jan: Began hitchhiking across US at age 16
1967: Feb: Got work with Ted's Rides at a carnival in Choctaw, Louisiana
1967: March 23: Good Thursday: Learned sword swallowing, fire eating and other sideshow arts from Toni Del Rio at 16
1967-68: Worked for Toni Del Rio Sideshow
1969: Johnny Howard Shows, Pete Kortes Shows
1970: Gary Hearn Shows
1972-73: William D. Stanley Shows
1974: Jimmy Dixon on Mighty Thomas Shows
1976: Known as Lizard Red, caretaker of Haa-Soo, a rare Komodo dragon
1976-78: Bernard Thomas Shows
1989-91:
Ward Hall's World of Wonders, Gibsonton, FL
1991: Went out with a show as an electrician
1996: Semi-retired
2002: Guiness World Record for participating in most sword swallowers at Sideshow Gathering Wilkes-Barre PA
2002: Taught sword swallowing to Charon Henning
2005: Sept 3: Swallowed 25 swords at once as part of Guinness World Record mass swallow, Sideshow Gathering Wilkes-Barre PA
2005: Sept 4: Received SSAI Lifetime Achievement Award from Sword Swallowers Association Int'l
2005-date: Ward Hall's World of Wonders, Gibsonton, FL

Red Stuart with Lorette Faulkner
Red Stuart, Fridley MN (1970s)
Red Stuart, Waterloo IA (1972)
Red Stuart with Komodo dragon (1976)
Red Stuart, Huron SD (1977)
Red Stuart, Lost Angeles set (1980s)
Red Stuart (1980-90s)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathering (2002)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathrinng (2002)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathering (2002)
Red Stuart swallowing Mimi Garneau's sword (2002)
Red Stuart swallowing serpentine (2004)
Red Stuart swallowing car axle
Ward Hall's
World of Wonders Sideshow

Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Ward Hall's World of Wonders Sideshow Seeking dates, photos, and more information.

Sword Swallowers with World of Wonders Sideshow
1959: Lady Patricia Zerm, Stan Marye
1960: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden)
1961: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden), Francis Doran
1962: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden), Francis Doran
1963: Francis Doran
1964: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden), Francis Doran
1965: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden), Francis Doran
1966: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden)
1967: Estelline Pike (Ringling Bros Madison Square Garden), Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1968: Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1969: Lady Patricia Zerm, Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1970: Lady Patricia Zerm, Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1971: Lady Patricia Zerm, Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1972: Lady Patricia Zerm, Francis Doran, Chris Christ
1973: Ringling Show Washington DC 1973: Cast Photo Lady Patricia Zerm, Francis Doran, Lady Sandra Reed, Eddie Miller
1974: Lady Patricia Zerm, Rick Dennis, Jimmy Rapp, Chris Christ
1975: Lady Patricia Zerm, Rick Dennis, Jimmy Rapp, Chris Christ
1976: Lady Patricia Zerm, Rick Dennis, Jimmy Rapp, Chris Christ
1977: Lawsuit for pickled punks at Lake County Fair, IL
1977: Lineup Jimmy Rapp
1978: Jimmy Rapp, John Stevens
1979: Jimmy Rapp, John Stevens, Red Trower
1980: Smithsonian Institute
1981: Smithsonian Institute Johnny Meah
1982: Smithsonian Institute
1983:
1984:
1985: Red Trower (Ringling Bros), Jackie Lynn Looney
1986: Red Trower, Jackie Lynn Looney (with Circus USA)
1987:
1988:
1989: Johnny Meah, Red Stuart
1990: Johnny Meah, Red Stuart, Capt Don Leslie
1991: Johnny Meah, Red Stuart
1992: Johnny Meah, Red Trower
1993: Johnny Meah, Red Trower, Butch Schutte
1994: Johnny Meah, Lady Diane Falk, Butch Schutte
1995:
1996:
1997:
1998: Red Trower
1999:
2000: Matthew Bouvier
2001: Matthew Bouvier
2002: Matthew Bouvier
2002: Aug 29-Sep 1: Ward Hall retirement party Sideshow Gathering Wilkes-Barre PA
2003: Retired, Show did not go out
2004: Johnny Meah
2005: Show sold/leased out for Tampa, then reverted back to Ward
2005: Red Stuart at Florida State Fair Tampa, 2005: Tommy Breen, Loren Foley, Charron Henning, Alex Kensington, Professor Chumly John LeBrun
2006: Red Stuart, Lady Diane Falk, Tommy Breen, Loren Foley
2007: Cast photo Red Stuart, Lady Diane Falk, Tommy Breen, Loren Foley
2008: Red Stuart, Lady Diane Falk, Tommy Breen, Loren Foley
2009: Red Stuart, Lady Diane Falk, Tommy Breen
2010: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen
2011: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen
2012: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen
2013: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen
2014: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen
2015: Red Stuart, Tommy Breen

World of Wonders Sideshow Gibsonton FL (1973 or 1974)
World of Wonders Sideshow 1977 with Jimmy Rapp, Red Trower (1977)
World of Wonders Sideshow Tampa State Fair (2007)
World of Wonders Banner Line (20??)

Rosemary Puente
Rose Maria Puente
Born Sept 3, 1943
Performed 1968
Injured February 25, 1968
Died February 27, 1968 sword swallowing injury sword swallowers grave
King Reid Shows
Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
Royal Canadian Shows
Vanteen and Lee
Dallas, TX
(USA)
Rose Maria Puente was born on September 3, 1943 in Harlingen, TX, and performed as sword swallower Rosemary Puente with shows including King Reid Shows, Kelly Miller Brothers Circus, and Royal Canadian Shows with Vanteen and Lee. Rosemary and her husband Arthuro Puente lived at 1819 S. Marsalis in Dallas, TX with their two children, Aaron and Michelle Puente. On February 25, 1968, while practicing at home with a bayonet performing for friends of her husband, Rosemary suffered a tiny injury from a quarter-inch nick in her esophagus. After the accident, Rosemary laid down on a bed to rest while her husband Arthuro went off to work on his nightshift job. When Arthuro returned home from work in the morning, he found Rosemary laying in the same position, and discovered that she was dead and that rigormortis had set in. According to a March 2, 1968 obituary in the Washington Post Times Herald: "DALLAS, Texas, March 1 (AP) -- An infection in a tiny cut in the throat caused the death of a sword swallower, Rosemary Puente, County Medical Examiner Earl Rese said today." An article in the March 1, 1968 Odessa American reported: "DALLAS (UPI) - A medical examiner said Thursday a tiny, infected cut in the esophagus caused the death of 25-year-old Rosemary Puente, a female sword swallower. The cut, less than a quarter-inch long, was inflicted during a sword swallowing practice session Sunday. Mrs. Puente was given an examination after the accident but showed no sign of Illness. The cut became infected and she later became ill and died. She was found dead Tuesday afternoon." Rosemary Puente died on February 27, 1968 at the age of 25. The death certificate stated the cause of death was "Acute purulent mediastinitis and infection of soft tissue of neck due to lacerated esophagus while demonstrating sword swallowing". Puente was buried on February 29, 1968 in Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. She was survived by her husband, Arthuro Puente, and two children, Michelle, (who was 20 months old at the time of her death), and Aaron Garcia, (3 years, 2 months, and 18 days old at the time of her death) who now lives in San Diego, CA. Seeking photos and more information.
Rosemary Puente
Rosemary & Arthuro Puente Wedding
Rosemary & Arthuro Puente
Rosemary Puente & Children
Dallas Location of Death
Bed that Rosemary Puente died in
Rosemary Puente Death Certificate
Rosemary Puente headstone
Rosemary Puente News articles
Rosemary Puente Obituary
Clinton Ross Born Jan 8, 1948
Performed 1969-1989
Plymouth, MA
(USA)
Clinton Ross was born on January 8, 1948 and learned sword swallowing from a book around 1969 at the age of 21. He swallowed a sword with 24 inch long blade for over 20 years. Ross retired from sword swallowing around 1989. "No photographs... only memories." The town of Plymouth MA had "Sword Swallowing" listed as his profession for over the past 11 years. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Josef Zehetbauer
Joe Jagger
Schwertschlucker
"Most Famous Man of Mauerberg"
Born August 26, 1947
Performed 1980s-90s
Died May 31, 2007
Reeperbahn Hamburg
Mühldorf Fair
Münchner Biergarten
Garching an der Alz
Mauerberg, Bavaria
(Germany)
Joe Jagger was born Josef Zehetbauer on August 26, 1947 in Mauerberg in Garching an der Alz, Bavaria, Germany. When he performed, Jagger wore tailored black pants and a leopard print vest over bare skin. No one knows how or when he learned sword swallowing. Even though he was not world famous, he became quite famous in his community and region and came to be called "The Most Famous Man of Mauerberg". During his career as a sword swallower and fire-eater, Jagger performed shows at the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, at the Münchner Biergarten Munich Beergarden, and as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada. Early in his career, his performance was professional and he was paid a "considerable" fee for his art. As proof of his art, he displayed x-rays of him swallowing swords, and he let audiences check out his sword before performances. The sword was forged from one piece. When he returned to the region after a long absence, he refused a bottle of beer at the tavern bar, shrugged his shoulders and shouted, "Hey bartender! I just came straight from Las Vegas! Bring on a carton of whiskey and an arm full of bubbly!" That was Jagger at the height of his career. Years later, when his fame had faded, a table was placed in marquees where the art of sword swallowing was celebrated. If the Kapellmeister had not been there, he would have been totally drunk and fallen off the stage with his sword in his throat. When Jagger turned 40 years old, he began drinking again in 1987. He drank more than he could handle and eventually began missing engagements. His market value fell, and for a liter of beer he would make a fool of himself. Jagger also owned an ape and a python. The life of the primate came to an abrupt end when the monkey tried to feed the reptile, as he had always done when Jagger was on tour, and the snake caught and devoured the monkey. Jagger earned good money during his career, and would have been successful had he been more disciplined. During his finals years, the sword swallowing did not matter to him. He began being seen wearing makeup, women's clothes, nylons, high heels, and riding a bicycle with a trailer on which a coffin was attached. This is how he presented himself at rural German folk festivals. He traveled his last years with a coffin on wheels, pulled by the bicycle. His home was an old caravan which burned down at some point. Joe Jagger died at the age of 60, drowned in a shallow pond at Park Muhldorfer moat on May 31, 2007. No one knows exactly how he died, but one can only guess. For more infomation on Joe Jagger, get the book "Fünf originale mit dem Namen Josef" by Anneliese Kiermeier. Seeking dates, photos, and more information on Sword Swallower Joe Jagger.
Joe Jagger
Joe Jagger on motorcycle
Joe Jagger at Mühldorf Fair
Joe Jagger at Volksfest (1995)
Joe Jagger at Volksfest (1995)
Joe Jagger at Volksfest (1995)
Joe Jagger at Volksfest (1995)
Joe Jagger (c. 1995-95)
Joe Jagger (c, 1995-96)
Joe Jagger (video)
Tommy Dworzack Born c 1957
Performed 1969-?
Starr Bros Circus Sideshow
(USA)
Tommy Dworzack started sword swallowing at the age of 12, and now runs the sideshow for Starr Brothers Circus. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Crazy Horse Performed 1969-71 Laguna Beach, CA
(USA)
Crazy Horse was a towering street performing hippie sword swallower with Tomothy Leary's Laguna Beach Brotherhood in Laguna Beach, CA in the late 1960's who wore a safety pin through his nose. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Crazy Horse with Laguna Beach Police Officer Neil Purcell (1969)
Lady Sandra
Queen of Swords
Sandy Reed
Sandra Reed
Sandra Spohn
Sandy Conner
Sandra Dee Reed
Born 1945
Learned 1969
Performed 1969-80
Kelly/Sutton Show
James E. Strates Shows
Ringling Brothers
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Circus Vargas
Circus World
John Bradshaw
Ward Hall's World of Wonders
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Sandra Reed was an albino sword swallower known as Lady Sandra, "Queen of the Swords". Born Sandra Dee Reed in 1945 to Dora and King Reed (married 23 Sept 1933 in Hermon, near the Adirondacks in New York state), Sandy Reed grew up in Hermon, NY. Along with her sisters, Doreene Reed (also albino) and Rita Reed (mentally handicapped), Sandy got her start in the sideshow industry in 1969 at the age of 24 as an albino lecturer with the Slim Kelly and Whitey Sutton shows on the James E. Strates Shows. "I wanted something else to do," Reed reflected.

After working with the sword swallower Louise Chevanne in the late 60s, Sandy began to learn the art of sword swallowing from fellow performer sword swallower Ricky Richiardi in Gibsonton Florida in the fall of 1969. Ricky made Sandra's sword shield, gave her some of his swords, and taught her how to put together a good act with a repertoire of feats. "The lady sword swallower, Lady Louise, had broken her ankle and couldn't perform," Reed recalls. Reed was asked to fill in and soon was performing as a featured act. She had never heard of photographer Diane Arbus when the photographer and a male companion approached her before a carnival show in Hagerstown, MD in 1970. "When I first saw them, I thought they were hippies," says Reed, recalling that Arbus was dressed entirely in denim. "She told me she was putting together a book, traveling around and seeking out people to photograph people doing things that people do." Arbus convinced Reed to pose for her and spent about 45 minutes photographing the sword swallower as she did her act in full costume in front of a billowing canvas tent. Although Arbus photographed several other performers the same day (including Reed's sisters, Doreene and Rita), her portrait of Lady Sandra entitled "Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md. 1970," became the most well-known. Reed has fond memories of her brief encounter with Arbus and staunchly defends the photographer's methods and goals. "You wouldn't mind going out of your way to do things for her," says Reed. "She just had a way about her, very relaxed. She said, in essence, 'This is who you are, this is what you do, and this is what I want'."

Sandra married 820 lb fat man Harold "Big Jim" Spohn (1936-1980) while with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show, worked with Ward Hall and Chris Christ's World of Wonders Show and Ringling Brothers in 1973, then back with Kelly/Sutton on Strates in 1974-75, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers, Circus Vargas in 1977, and Ringling Brothers Circus World, and at one time, Sandy and Harold were featured on the Dick Cavette Show. From 1975-1977 Sandra Reed was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for swallowing 5 swords at a time. In 1978-79, Lady Sandra worked with Francis Doran on the John Bradshaw show. Hired originally as an albino lecturer, Sandra performed as a sword swallower only a few times when Frank Doran was ill. In 1979 Lady Sandra worked with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. In her act, Sandy would swallow a French bayonet that had a point on the tip, and then swallow a WWII bayonet. She would then swallow 3 at a time, and eventually she would swallow 5 Japanese ceremonial dress swords, with the weight of the handles combined with the weight of the blades at about five pounds. Sandra also did a 7 sword sandwich with a little patter. The center sword was a Knights of Columbus sized sword, the outer swords were progressively shorter and made of thinner, more flexible steel. If the carnival crowds would start losing interest midway through her sword-swallowing act, Lady Sandra knew how to get their attention. With her head thrown back and a solid steel bayonet down her throat, she would suddenly and dramatically drop to one knee. "If the audience was asleep, it would wake them up," Sandra said with a smile.

Sandy Reed retired in 1980 after Harold's death on April 1, 1980, and lives modestly in south Tampa, Florida. According to a September 28, 1981 Circus Report: "Sandra Dee Reed (Lady Sandra) wife of the deceased Circus Fat Man Harold Spohn, herself a Guinness Book or Records sword swallower, has enrolled in the Hillsborough Community College and plans to become a legal secretary." Although she no longer owns any swords, Reed proudly displays a small collection of photographs from her days with the carnival. Among her most treasured possessions is a poster found on a marquee in Rome by her agent, sideshow operator Ward Hall. The poster features multiple images of Reed simultaneously swallowing two swords, lifted from the famous 1970 portrait, "Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md. 1970," by photographer Diane Arbus. Seeking photos and more information.

Lady Sandra Reed Timeline
1945: Born in Adirondacks in New York
1940s: Grew up in Hermon, NY
1969: Got her start in sideshow as albino lecturer with Slim Kelly and Whitey Sutton shows on James E. Strates Shows
1969: Fall: Learned sword swallowing from Ricky Richiardi in Gibsonton FL
1970: Photographed by Diane Arbus in "Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md. 1970,"
1973: Worked with Ward Hall and Chris Christ's World of Wonders Show, Ringling Brothers
1974-75: Kelly/Sutton on Strates
1976: Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers
1975-77: Featured in Guinness Book of World Records for swallowing 5 swords at once
1977: Circus Vargas
1978-79: Works with Francis Doran on John Bradshaw show
1979: Works with Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus
1980: April 1, 1980: Husband Harold "Big Jim" Spohn dies
1980: Retires after husband Harold "Big Jim" Spohn's death

1981: Enrolls in Hillsborough Community College in Tampa to become a legal secretary

Sandy Reed swallowing a sword
Sandy Reed (1970)
Sandy Reed with sister (1970)
Sandy Reed with sister (1970)
Sandra Reed with Harold Spohn on sideshow
Sandy Reed with John Bradshaw on Sutton (1974)
Sandy Reed with John Bradshaw on Sutton (1974)
Sandy Reed, Harold Spohn, John Bradshaw
Sandy Reed with CBCB (1979)
Sandy Reed interview
Jackie Lynn
Jack Loonie
Jack Looney
Jackie Lynn Looney
Performed 1950-1986
Died Feb 6, 2006
Ringling Bros Circus
King Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros
Lewis Bros Circus
World of Wonders
Toby Tyler Circus
Jenkins, KY
(USA)
Jackie Lynn Looney was born and raised in a small town in eastern Kentucky, joined a circus in his early teens in the 1940s, and as he would say, "never looked back". Early in his career, Jack went to work with Ringling Brothers Circus while they were still under canvas in 1944, and worked his way into clown alley working as a clown. During his years with Ringling Brothers, he learned sword swallowing on the Ringling Brothers Sideshow around 1950 (from Lady Patricia Zerm?).

According to an April 1955 Billboard article, "Jackie Lynn guested on "Coffee Time" over WSAZ-TV, Huntington, W Va. recently. Lynn did his sword swallowing and mental act. He and Howard Smith have signed on tour with an eastern organization this season..."

In 1967 and 1968, Jackie Lynn worked as sword swallower with Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus Sideshow. Jack also worked with managers Jim and Sandy Windland, Kay Pittinger, and with the "World's Tallest Sword Swallower" and fire-eater Paul Adams (on the right in photo) with the King Brother's Circus in the 1970s. In 1978 and 1979 Jack did two tours with Rick Dennis on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus as their sideshow sword swallower. He had dyed his hair a bright orange and would beat on a big bass drum on the bally to attract attention. During his sword swallowing show, Jack would pick a young pre-teen person from the audience and bring them on stage, and then he would swallow one sword all the way down and let the child slowly pull it out of him, while kneeling down on his knees at the child's level. Jackie also worked with John Bradshaw in the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1981, when he claimed he had been swallowing swords for 31 years. Jack taught sword swallowing to Ricky Hargrove when they both worked with Lewis Brothers Circus in 1981-83. Jack had a big scrapbook loaded with newspaper clippings and photographs, which he was very proud of. If he liked you, he would pull it out and share stories from it, including his experience with the great Ringling Brothers circus fire in Hartford, CT on July 6, 1944, and the time he swallowed a neon tube on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jack did not own a home of his own, so he tried to tour as much as possible. When he did have down time, he would go to Kentucky. In 1985 he was with Chris Christ and Ward Hall's World of Wonders on Circus USA. His last season on the road was with Ward Hall and Chris Christ's World of Wonders Show with the Toby Tyler Circus in 1986. According to Ward Hall, Jackie "was also a good front talker, and great to have on the show. He knew how to put it up and take it down!" In the late '80s, Jack took out an advertisement in "Amusement Business" magazine, saying that he was confined to a state nursing home in Jenkins, Kentucky, and he was asking for donations. Rumor had it he had had a stroke and was unable to care for himself. Jack Looney dressed up as a clown and entertained children in hospitals around KY-VA until about 2000 when he was unable to get around any longer. Jack Looney lived in the retirement home in Jenkins, KY where he passed away Feb. 6, 2006 in Pikeville Hospitial. His sister Ardath L Looney-Ratliff and her children and grandchildren were his closest family and he loved them as if they were his own, as he had no children of his own. Jackie Lynn Looney was cremated and his ashes are buried at the Ratliff Family Graveyard at the old home place in Burdine, KY. Seeking photos and more information.

Jackie Lynn Looney Timeline:
19??: Born in eastern KY
1940s: Ran away with circus as a teen
1944: Ringling Brother Barnum & Bailey Circus
1950: Learned sword swallowing
1955: WSAZ-TV interview in Huntington, WV
1967: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus Sideshow
1968: Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus Sideshow
1970s: King Brother's Circus
1970s: swallowed a neon tube on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson
1978: Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus with Rick Dennis
1979: Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus with Rick Dennis
1981: with John Bradshaw on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1981: taught sword swallowing to Ricky Hargrove when they both worked with Lewis Brothers Circus
1982: taught sword swallowing to Ricky Hargrove when they both worked with Lewis Brothers Circus
1983: taught sword swallowing to Ricky Hargrove when they both worked with Lewis Brothers Circus
1985: Ward Hall's World of Wonders on Circus USA
1986: Ward Hall's World of Wonders on Toby Tyler Show
1988-89: Retirement home in Jenkins, Kentucky
2000: Clowned in KY--VA until 2000 when he was unable to get around
2006: Died Feb. 6, 2006 in Pikeville Hospitial in Jenkns, KY
2006: Buried at Ratliff Family Graveyard at old home place in Burdine, KY

Jackie Lynn on Cole Bros (1967)
Jackie Lynn on Cole Bros (1968)
Jackie Lynn on Cole Bros (1970s)
Walter Hall
Wally Hall
Paul Adams
"Sir Walter Hall"
"Tall Paul Adams"
"Tall Tex"
"World's Tallest Sword Swallower"
Learned 1974
Performed 1974-90
Died c. 1990
Carr Show
King Brothers Circus
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus
Ringling Brothers
Circus World

(USA)
Walter Hall was originally from Wilmington, Delaware. He worked on the Carr Show for Dean Potter as his "Cowboy Giant", then later for the Lamottas in their cookhouse. After sword swallower Toni Del Rio left the Carr Show, Walter learned sword swallowing in 1974 from Jadi Easton, who was Dean Potter's "Half and Half". Since Walter stood about 7 feet tall, when he worked as the "Cowboy Giant", Dean called him "Tall Tex", but he also performed under the stage names "Sir Walter" and "Tall Paul Adams", the "World's Tallest Circus Sword Swallower", although his real surname was Williams. He also worked as the "World's Tallest Sword Swallower" and fire-eater (fire-eater on the right in photo) when he worked with managers Jim and Sandy Windland, Kay Pittinger, and sword swallower Jackie Lynn on the King Brother's Circus in the 1970s. (Henry Thompson was sword swallower with King Brothers Circus the season before in Nov '73). Walter performed an act called "The Spider Web" where, after swallowing a multiple sword sandwich, when he pulled out and spread his swords, the saliva created the effect of a spider web. According to the March 9, 1981 Circus Report, "Walter Hall (Wally) former Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus side show performer is now busy swallowing swords at Circus World, and is happy over the new wardrobe they have made for him. Wally is 6 ft. 11 in. tall so you cannot miss him on your visit to Circus World." Walter Hall died in California around 1990. Seeking photos and more information.
Sir Walter Hall
Dean Potter Born 1934
Performed 70s-80s
Died May 30, 2005
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Dean Potter was a sideshow owner and sword swallower from Gibsonton, FL. Ward Hall first met Potter when he worked as a sword swallower and half-and-half for Woolsey in the 1950s before he framed his own show. In the early 1970's, Potter read an article about a snake that had killed its owner, and came up with the concept for the "Bloody Mama Snake Show" based on snakes that had injured or killed their owners. Red Stuart met Potter in 1976, and Toni Del Rio persuaded Red to sell a set of his swords to Potter, including a serpentine, a rapier, and other swords, which Potter had chromed. In 2004, Potter lost all of his big snakes, so Ward Hall gave him 2 big snakes, including a large albino python named Al that had previously belonged to Red Stuart. Potter had been on the road with his show for many years, developed diabetes, became unhealthy, and passed away in his sleep in Gibsonton, FL on May 30, 2005 at the age of 71. Seeking photos and more information.
Red Trower
John Trower
John Red Trower
Born Oct 31, 1939
Performed 1972-98
sword swallowing injury
C.M. Christ Show
Ward Hall World of Wonders
Dailey Bros Circus
Houston, TX
(USA)
Born in Cheboygan, Michigan on October 31, 1939, the fifth of six children, John "Red" Trower ran away to join the circus in 1953 at the age of 14, again at 15, and 16, until he finally left for good at the age of 17. In the cIrcus, Johnny first began working with elephants and as an electrician, and later worked his way into the carnival and sideshow business as a sword swallower and knife thrower with his assistant Alexandria. On February 6, 1965, Trower was married to his first wife Eloise Cantu in San Antonio, TX; They divorced in 1969. Trower performed with the C.M. Christ and Ward Hall World of Wonders Show for many years starting in 1972. At one point while Chris Christ was swallowing a sword, his dentures came loose and dropped down his throat, lodging the sword in place. Noticing that Christ was struggling to remove the sword, Trower jumped into action and managed to remove the sword and dentures from Christ's throat. During his career, Trower swallowed swords, scissors, multiple swords up to 7 or 8 swords, as well as the neon tube, and a government bayonet that was shot down his throat with a pistol. According to a 1976 Circus Report, Red Trower performed as sword swallower with the Dailey Bros Circus in Texas in 1976, and with Ward Hall's World of Wonders in 1979. In the late 1990s (circa 1998?), Trower sustained an accident when a neon tube broke inside him and he was rushed to the hospital. Details from a medical paper in the Texas Heart Institute Journal described, "An esophagogram established the diagnosis, and surgical repair was attempted. However, 19 days later, a persistent leak and deterioration of the patient's condition necessitated a transhiatal esophagectomy with a left cervical esophagogastrostomy. The patient recovered and resumed his daily activities at the circus, with the exception of sword swallowing."

It wasn't until several years later when Trower was x-rayed for damages after falling out of a tree, that the x-rays revealed that he still had 4 inch pieces of glass and pieces of the electrical connectors for the neon tube left in his stomach. Red Trower is now retired and living in Houston, TX with his wife Alexandria, and his blades are now owned by Todd Robbins. Seeking photos and more information.

Red Trower (1970s)
Red Trower at Sideshow Gathering (2002)
(L-R: Rodderick Russell, Red Trower, Ward Hall, Dan Meyer, Toni-Lee Sangastiano)
John Bradshaw
Born March 20, 1947
Sideshows 1970-92
Died Dec 21, 2008
Ward Hall World of Wonders Sideshow
Whitey Sutton on Strates Shows

Coney Island
Sideshows by the Seashore
John Bradshaw Shows
Richmond, VA
(USA)
John Bradshaw was born in Burkeville, VA on March 20, 1947. He had been working as a recruiter and organizer with Chavez in the formation of the farm worker's union in California until 1970, when he joined Ward Hall and Chris Christ's World of Wonder show in Gibsonton FL in the spring of 1970. This was Bradshaw's first experience with a sideshow. He was a very intelligent man who quickly learned all aspects of the sideshow. During his early years he performed as a sword swallower and taught several others how to swallow swords. Ward Hall called him, "a fine performer, a very good manager, a caring husband and father." In 1973 Bradshaw worked on Dick Johnson's unit of the Hall/Christ sideshows where Sandra Reed was sword swallower. In 1974 and 1975, he was with Whitey Sutton on Strates with Sandy Reed. In 1976, Bradshaw started his own 10-in-1 without a sword swallower, but hired "Sir Frances Durran" (Francis Doran) in 1977. Doran worked 2 seasons in 1977 and 1978, until his health began to fail. In 1979 Diane Falk started as Bradshaw's "Bally Girl", learned sword swallowing from Doran, and began filling in as Bradshaw's sword swallower later in 1979 under the stage name "Lady Diane". In Ohio, fat man Big John Conners and his wife Sandy Reed Conners joined Bradshaw's show. Reed was originally hired as an albino lecturer, not a sword swallower, and she only performed sword swallowing a few times when Frank Doran was ill. At the Midsouth Fair in Memphis in 1979, Bradshaw added knife thrower Eddie Miller, who had a flashy knife act using butcher knives, and who also filled in as sword swallower on a few occasions. The 1979 Bradshaw Sideshow line-up included 110 feet of banners, most by Snap Wyatt, John Bradshaw as Inside Talker, "Sir Frances Duran" as Sword Swallower, "Lady Diane" as Bally Girl and part time sword swallower, Eddie Miller as knife thrower, Otis Jordan, Albert Short, Big John Conner as Fat Man, and Sandy Reed Conner as Albino Lecturer and later sword swallower. Bradshaw also worked with sword swallower Jackie Lynn on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1981. Over Labor Day weekend 1985, Bradshaw was booked as "The One Man Sideshow" at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island, hired Louisa Jatoba as his snake charmer, and was a huge success. Bradshaw was then booked at Coney Island again for the 1986 season and created "Bradshaw's Circus of World Curiosities", a traditional 10-in-1 sideshow. Diane Falk worked as Bradshaw's sword swallower again in 1989 and 1990 at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island. Tisha Vudie worked as Bradshaw's Sword Swallower and Human Pin Cushion at Coney Island in 1991 and in the 1992 Bradshaw Sideshow road show. Bradshaw left Coney Island in 1991 after his young daughter was shot in the leg by a stray bullet near their home in Far Rockaway, and he took the sideshow banners with him. In 1996, Bradshaw taught sword swallowing to Natasha Veruschka, and later sold his swords to her. Bradshaw continued to run a small show on the road for a few years, but retired from sword swallowing. Bradshaw spent his last days in the intensive care unit at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond VA where he died of kidney failure on December 21, 2008 at the age of 61. He is survived by his wife Elisa, a 22 year old daughter Keshia Bradshaw, and an 8 year old adopted daughter Shin Bradshaw. Seeking photos and more information.
John Bradshaw with Sandy Reed on Sutton (1974)
John Bradshaw at Coney Island '80s
John Bradshaw with Sandy Reed
John Bradshaw at Coney Island with Melvin Burkhart
Skippy the Clown Performed ? Chuck Brown Shows
New York, NY
(USA)
Skippy The Clown was originally from New York, worked as a clown with Chuck Brown, and occasionally worked as a sword swallower. On a few occasions, he swallowed a car axle that was suspended from an A-frame tripod. Seeking photos and more information.
Henry Thompson
Tommy Thompson
Clarence Henry Thompson
Born May 12, 1923
Performed 1942-1978?
Died June 12, 2008
Joe Hilton Side Show
Wallace Bros Circus
Dale Bros Circus
King Brothers Circus
Hagen Bros Circus
Al G Kelly Miller Bros
Sells & Gray Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
Hoxie Bros Circus
Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey

Circus World Sideshow
Vicksburg, MS
(USA)
Clarence Henry Thompson was born May 12, 1923. Henry "Tommy" Thompson was a veteran sideshow operator and talker for the sideshow who "swallowed swords, ate fire, threw knives, did Punch and Judy, and beat the bass drum for the cooch". According to the May 16, 1942 Billboard Magazine, Tommy Thompson worked as sword swallower and impalement act with Wallace Bros Side Show with his impalement assistant Marie Pettus. Henry Thompson served in the US Army in North Africa as a tank driver before being transferred to the European campaign. He was in the Stars and Stripes in World War II, where he performed with Burt Lancaster, who was also an acrobat in the circus before serving in the U.S. Army in North Africa and Italy from 1943 to 1945. According to the June 19, 1943 Billboard Magazine, "SWORD SWALLOWER and knife thrower with Wallace Bros.' Circus in pre-war days, Pvt. Clarence H. (Tommy) Thompson is now throwing steel at the Axis somewhere overseas. His APO number is 8961, care of Postmaster, New York." Sometime between 1943 and 1944, Thompson married his wife Saundra (sometimes spelled Sondra or Sandra Lee) who hailed from Springfield, IL. Together they began performing a knife throwing impalement act as The Thompsons around 1944 with Henry throwing knives at Saundra. They refered to their "Wheel of Death" knife act as "The Girl on the Flying Saucer." According to the March 8, 1947 Billboard Magazine, "Line-up on the Joe Hilton Side Show includes: Henry Thompson, sword swallowing and impalement act." According to the June 7, 1947 Billboard Magazine, Henry Thompson worked as sword swallower and impalement act with a sideshow in Easton, PA on May 31, 1947. According to the October 4, 1947 Billboard Magazine, "Mr. and Mrs. Tommy Thompson joined for a restful vacation but are now working harder than anyone on the Stevens Bros show. Mrs. Thompson is the former Juanita Hobson." According to the March 19, 1949 Billboard Magazine, Tommy Thompson worked as impalement and sword swallower with Dale Bros Circus. According to the 1950 Billboard Magazine, Volume 62: "The Kelly-Miller Side Show line-up now includes Sandra Lee, impalement act; Tommy Thompson, sword swallower." According to the June 28, 1952 Billboard Magazine, while performing with Wallace Bros. Circus, "Sondra and Henry Thompson lost their sword box at Sante Fe, NM." Thompson later said that in several of the truck circuses of the 1950s, he also worked the cooch, but could only work the cooch on the last show of the night. As the crowd came out of the marquee, they were greeted by Thompson and his spiel: "Wait a minute, wait a minute, look in the doorway, look in the doorway, see who you can see from TV land." He would gesture towards a dummy made up to look like Howdy Doody. "Wait just a minute. This is where you're going to see the mogul show, the after guy show, the old-time coochie-coochie show where we are going to shake it, break it, tear it down to the ground, but we're not going to drop it because it is so hot, boys and girls, we don't want to leave blisters on your hands. This is where you will hear the canon roar, see the flame, and smell the smoke. You're at the right place at the right time. Let all the short boys come down front where they can see the whole darn show." Once inside, there was a very brief sideshow performance and the pitch for the cooch blowoff, where Thompson collected the money for the after-show in a cigar box. After the girls did a short dance, he would come onstage and announce, "The girls are getting ready behind the curtain for the special dance of the night, but before they come out, and while you are waiting, we have some games for the men amongst you." Thompson and the cigar box disappeared behind the curtain and out of the tent. The dancers had already left. The grift got what they could, then the side wall was dropped, and the tent came down. According to the August 7, 1954 Billboard Magazine, "In the King Bros.' Side Show, Henry and Sandra Lee Thompson are doing their impalement act and knife throwing as well as working Punch and doing sword swallowing. The Thompsons, after 10 years in show business, plan to retire from the road next year. They plan to open a "Grocetaria" in his home town of Vicksburg, Miss. Mrs. Thompson hails from Springfield, Ill." However, a few years later, The Thompsons were performing in Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro took over, and they barely made it out safely. Thompson worked as the kidshow manager with Hagen Bros. Circus in 1961, where he was also known for painting the scrollwork on the circus wagons. Thompson worked as the sideshow manager and circus painter with Al G Kelly Miller Bros Circus in 1962 an