ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin




06 20          RAYMOND & Co’s. MAMMOTH MENAGERIE

   First [or one of the first] circus comes to early Watertown.



SANDS’ CIRCUS coming to Watertown




04 20       GEORGE W. DeHAVEN & Co

CIRCUS! CIRCUS!   George W. DeHaven & Co.’s great circus is coming and will exhibit here on Tuesday, April 25th, 1865, and it is expected that farmers and everyone, men, women and children, from far and near, will be here to see the great and wonderful feats of this circus and it does contain one of the best troupe of star performers in America, unequalled by any company travelling in the states.  This company will perform some of the most wonderful and thrilling feats ever performed in this country, and in order to believe it you must come and see them done yourselves; so we expect to see Watertown fuller of people to see this great show than it was ever before to see any show.  Monsieur Signor Bliss, the wonder of the world, will walk a ceiling, feet up and head down.  This great and wonderful and most thrilling scene must be seen to be believed and is well worth the fifty cents admission alone, for it is the most astonishing feat ever known in this country.   WD


1866      FRANK J. HOWES Champion Circus / Bill stand posted on Cole Hall, Second and Main

  The circus has made greater use of illustrated posters for advertising purposes than any other type of amusement or business enterprise, and this fact has prompted the frequent use of the descriptive phrase "billed like a circus" in referring to the extensive use of poster advertising.  During the golden days of the circus from 1880 to about 1910 a number of printing firms thrived in filling the insatiable needs of the big outdoor amusement enterprises.  In 1866 the Frank J. Howes Champion Circus posted this bill stand for the Watertown, Wisconsin stand.

07 12       Castello's (Dan) Great Show 1866


1870      W. W. COLE’S Great Show Coming

06 11       W. W. Cole’s Great New York and New Orleans Menagerie, Circus and Congress of Living Wonders.  The Largest and Best.  Seats for 10,000 people.  A World of Wonders.  Famous Faces.  Beauty and Skill.  Novelties without End.  A place abound with pleasure.


The above institution comes on June 18th preceded by most favorable mention from the press of other places. It is credited with magnificence, novelty, elegance, enormous size, animals without number, apt artists and wonderful performances.  Its bills enumerate animals of all descriptions; its parade is spoken of as a pageant of royal grandeur.


The greatest novelty presented, however, will be the tallest man and woman in the world, whom statistics show to be veritable giants --- man and wife Capt. and Mrs. M. V. Bates; each 7 feet 11 1/2 inches high; he 32, she 29 years of age; combined weight one half ton.  Now for the first time on exhibition in this country . . .   WR


1882      W. W. Cole

08 05         






05 04          ROGLITZ CIRCUS

A. Roglitz, of Milford, who has recently given up farming, has started on a tour of the country as proprietor of a circus.  He has been to a good deal of expense in getting an outfit, hiring men, etc., and we wish him success.  He gave his first show last Saturday night here.  About four hundred people attended.   WR





click to enlarge



06 28          Watertown is faring well this season in the way of amusements.  Already we have had the Gollmar and Habenbeck circuses.  But that is not all.  There is more to come.


Geo. W. Madden, general agent for the National Amusement Company, is in the city paving the way for the appearance of his company which will be on a street carnival here the first week in August under the auspices of the Eagles.


The National Amusement Company is one of the strongest on the road and will arrive here eighteen cars strong.  The company is receiving flattering press notices from all sections of the country and Watertown is assured something first class.   WDT


1910      Campbell Brothers Shows



It is understood that the Gollmar Brothers Greatest of American Shows this year have undergone a general renovation in each and every one of the many departments, and from the monster exhibition tents to the cook tent, everything is new, clean and up-to-date, the only thing that has been retained being the trade mark and name "Gollmar Brothers" which means everything first-class.  Long trains of cars transport these immense shows on tour this season, and the biggest combination of circus and menagerie attractions are presented, to say nothing of the numerous auxiliary novelties offered in conjunction with this immense circus.


The Gollmar Brothers Circus will be seen in this city, Friday, August 5.   WG


Big Lotus with Gollmar’s Circus, Largest in Captivity


One of the most annoying things to the animal keeper with a big menagerie is the surprising ignorance and indifference of many people toward the rare and costly beasts and birds of the forest.  There are not half a dozen real zoological gardens in this entire country, and hence about the only opportunity a majority of the people of this country have to study natural history from real life is upon the occasional visit of some of the big circuses.


Although wild beasts are vanishing before the advance of civilization, and the increase of the earth's population, and though it is certain that all wild beasts will become extinct in time, yet a larger portion of the public fails to inspect the menageries that are brought to their doors.


The Gollmar Brothers paid $6,500 for a giant hippopotamus.  It is a magnificent specimen of the river horse of the River Nile, and a most interesting source of study for the student of nature.  Very few people can tell whether a hippopotamus is web footed or whether it has teeth.  The average person does not know that it is an animal allied to the elephant; that it has a thick and heavy body, short legs, terminated by four toes; a short tail, skin without hair, except at the extremity of its tail, and that it feeds on herbage exclusively.


"Big Lotus," the "hip" with the Gollmar Shows, knows his value, and he also knows that the public is not as well acquainted with him as it pretends to be.  When he first joined the circus he seemed annoyed because the cheap, sickly, treacherous little monkey received more attention than he did; but he is over that now.  Although he is not paid the homage and attention that is his due, this giant beast does not show his disappointment, but lies contentedly in the mammoth tank of water in the bottom of his cage, and in parade he will occasionally make goo-goo eyes at the crowds or open his great mouth . . .


Wisconsin became a major player in the circus world.  Not only did the world-famous Ringling Brothers get their start in Baraboo in 1875, they helped their cousins, the Gollmar Brothers, create their own circus there in 1891.






1915, August 19, Main Street, Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth







07 16          NEW CIRCUS LOT

Watertown has a new circus lot.  It will be used on Saturday, July 21, when the Al G. Kelly, Miller Bros.  Circus exhibits here for two performances — 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.  The new lot is located on highway 26, two blocks beyond the Milwaukee Road viaduct.  It lies west of highway 26 and south of Bernard Street. 


For many years Watertown’s circus lot was located in the old fifth ward near the site of the present Ira L. Henry Co. factory.  That became unavailable many years ago and later circuses that came here used the old intercounty fair grounds which now is no longer available.



Ervin Coughlin, Milwaukee Circus Day parade


1983      In love with the Circus,” Gerald Schubert    Title of 02 15 1983 article in Wisconsin State Journal




Every letter mailed Tuesday morning at the Watertown branch of the U.S. Post Office will receive a special cancellation on the Great Circus Train, according to Watertown Postmaster Art Hamann.  He will deliver the mail to the train at 11:25 a.m. when it is scheduled to arrive in Watertown.  The train will deliver the mail for processing in Milwaukee later that day.  A limited number of the special 200th Anniversary of the Circus caches will go on sale Tuesday at the Watertown Post Office.  Six other Wisconsin cities, Lodi, Madison, Columbus, Pewaukee, Wauwatosa and Milwaukee, along the route will also offer special cancellations, each showing their city name.



Circus buff Gerald Schubert loves to watch a circus set up the big tent, but he also likes to watch it go down.  Scouting the grounds long after the circus has gone gives him the opportunity to add to his tent stake collection.  If he is lucky enough to find one, he will add it to his collection in his “circus room” which is covered with circus posters.  He has loved circuses all his life, ever since the first calliope called, and he has collected over 60 posters from all over the world.  The posters cover the walls of what he calls his “circus room” in his basement.  The tent stakes are stacked in a corner.  Models of circus train wagons which he made are neatly displayed on shelves along one wall.  His collection of circus-related books, all 52 of them, are housed in a bookcase on the main level of the house which he shares with his wife, Jane.




08 15               







FACEBOOK PORTFOLIO / Circus 1915 Barnum & Bailey  / (YET TO BE REPLICATED)




Cross References:

Seibel Brothers Dog & Pony Show

Parade returning to Fairgrounds [1], uncertain year

Parade returning to Fairgrounds [2], uncertain year


     Little Jim, Pinto and Alice





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History of Watertown, Wisconsin