ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin





      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

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04 14       P. T. BARNUM, tie to Watertown

The death of the great showman, Phineas T. Barnum, occurred at his home at Bridgeport, Connecticut, on the 7th.  He leaves an estate worth $5,000,000, which is divided among relatives and charitable institutions.  Five hundred thousand dollars is left to the cause of education in connection with the Universalist church.


Mr. Barnum was a cousin of our resident Mrs. Harriet Montgomery.  He was here on several occasions with his show.          WR



1889 City Directory



The first and only big show that visits Watertown this season is T. K. Burk's consolidated shows.  Gorgeous spectacular production of Cinderella, or the crystal slipper, mammoth museum, royal Roman hippodrome, and school of perfectly educated Arabian-Mexican horses in their wonderfully military drills, court scenes, etc.  This immense aggregation will pitch their tents here for one day only, Saturday, July 4.  Two performances will be given.  Doors open at 1 and 7 p.m.  Grand entree one hour later.  Grand and gorgeous free street parade at 12 o'clock, noon.  Ladies and children are especially recommended to attend the matinee performance, thereby avoiding the vast crowds at night.  Everything new and brilliant. Seats for 5000.  Popular prices of admissions.     WG



The amusement-loving portion of our community know a good thing when they see it and cannot be satisfied with promise and frustration.  Consequently, when Wallace & Go's Great World's Menagerie and Three Ring International Circus spreads its broad canvas in our town on Tuesday, August 11th, there will be a tremendous rush to visit it and to witness the many really excellent acts of specialties which it will present, and which have received immense commendations wherever the show has exhibited.


08 07       WALLACE & GO'S

At an early hour yesterday morning people came flocking in from all parts of the country, so as to be on hand to witness the street parade.  At the hour the procession started the sidewalks were crowded with an eager throng.  The parade was certainly all it advertised to be. The horses were exceptionally fine and there were many cages of rare animals.  Among them, the trained stallions attracted much attention, and which are worth many thousands of dollars.  The canvasses, both afternoon and evening, were crowded to their fullest capacity and the entertainments were received on each occasion with vociferous and continuous outbursts of well deserved applause. The circus performances are thoroughly good and there is not in any number of the extensive programme an uninteresting feature nor an incompetent performer.  In the menagerie are many cages of birds, more unusual of beasts and birds that are usually shown on road entertainments.






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





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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.



08 01       A GRAND CARNIVAL <> Imperial band of Watertown

A close-up of a concert ticket

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The Imperial band of Watertown have made arrangements with the Great Capital City Amusement Co. to hold a week's carnival, beginning Monday, August 5th, including Saturday night, August 10th.


The band has not been given a benefit for some time and as Watertown is not going to have a circus this season the boys have secured the above company under their auspices.



The company consists of 8 big moral shows, a Giant Ferris Wheel, a 20th Century Carry-Us-All, 3 sensational free attractions and a circus band.  The Imperial band will turn out every evening and render concerts on the show grounds.


This will be one of the biggest efforts ever attempted by the band and should have the support of every citizen.


The first performance will open Monday evening at 7:30 and every afternoon and evening during the engagement.


Among the special features in the free attractions will be the De'Claravilles, one of the world's greatest aerial acts.  Free admission to the carnival grounds.  Illuminations will be one of the features.






1915       CIRCUS PARADE

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




           Circus Grounds location later became that of Lincoln park

A group of men on horses

Description automatically generated with low confidence        A group of horses pulling a carriage

Description automatically generated with low confidence        A horse pulling a carriage

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1920 tour included Watertown     /     Walter L. Main Circus Season 1920

Biography of Walter L. Main




A person standing next to an elephant

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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



08 29       oooooooooooooooooooooooo


08 29 1970

Clyde Beatty, Cole Brothers Circus comes to Watertown


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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.




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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