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Great House Antiques
Great House Antiques, Appraiser/ Researcher/ Entrepreneur
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 2245
Experience:  30+ years in all aspects of the Antiques and Decorative Arts Industry
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I Have a Cambpell Bros. circus photograph with circus wagons

Customer Question

I Have a Cambpell Bros. circus photograph with circus wagons that are being pulled by horses stopped for the photo. There are also elephants,lots of circus people and very ornate wagons in the photo. It has on the lower right hand corner that the photo was taken by Joseph H. Young in Oberlin Kansas. It has three horizontal rows from top to bottom of photos. It claims to be the largest picture of all time. It is 3 foot horizontilly by one foot vertical. My great grandmother was a cambpell and some of her brothers etc. were in the circus and photo. I believe it was taken between 1880 and 1895. Could you possibly give me an estimate of value or tell me more about it. I really like this picture/poster.
Thank you,
Steve Allhiser
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Antiques
Expert:  Great House Antiques replied 3 years ago.

Hello, and thank you for your question.

 

What you have is known as a "yard-long" photo which became popular at about the turn of the twentieth century, esp. in the years after WWl. Yours, then would be an early version, and was indeed at the time "the largest [type] of all time." The circus was very well known and equally popular in its time. I have included some info. relating thereto below. Also, if you go to www.circushistoricalsociety.org, and click "search our website," and then enter "campbell bros" (not BROTHERS) you will see a list of entries - click no. 5. This will provide a view of what transpired after the dissolution of the former circus and how it continued to evolve. (Incidentally, I don't recall if it's mentioned in the material you will read, but there was a famous train wreck involving the circus caravan in Babcock, WI, in 1910, in which a one person and many animals were killed, while many others escaped into the countryside.)

 

As for the value of your piece, in terms of family history it would appear absolutely priceless. In today's market, though, if it is in very good condition (if not it can most likely be restored) it would have an estimated retail value of $800-$1,200. If it happens to be in its original frame, I would add $200-$300. At a well publicized auction of fine circus material, it could very well go for more; such is the nature of auctions.

 

Please read on...

 

 

 

Once upon a time the town of Drummond, just southwest of Enid in Garfield County, was a circus town. The winter quarters of the second Campbell Brothers Circus was located at Elisha Campbell's farm three miles west of Drummond.

In good years a circus made good money. By 1892, the original Campbell Brothers Circus that got its start at Galesburg, Ill., was made up of 30 wagons and more than 100 workers and performers. Some 24 years later it had grown to 40 railroad cars and was acknowledged as the second largest circus in America.

The original circus was owned by brothers Virg, Al, Charlie and Ed Campbell. Other members of the family - the boys' grandfather, Daniel Elisha Campbell, and sons Fred, Albert and Ed stuck with farming, and staked claims in the Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893 in the Drummond, Ringwood and Orienta areas.

A series of rain outs in 1911 put the circus in dire straits, and a year later the banks foreclosed on outstanding loans.

Meanwhile, back here in Oklahoma, the grandfather - Elisha Campbell and his sons Bill, Fred, Bert and Ed - bought up the bankrupt stock in the circus and established its headquarters on Elisha's farm. The new ownership kept the show on the road for seven more years. The town of Drummond became a haven for circus performers. Some of the circus people went home for the winter, but many others stayed in the Drummond area, and found work in and around Drummond.

There was the Alligator Man, who originally had come from Fairview. Tim Tarver from Terrell, Ark., was billed as the tallest man alive at 8 feet 7 inches. There was a group of pinheads. They were pygmies who practiced Iturian head binding, who actually were from Memphis, Tenn. Maurice, the ossified man, was from Abbotsville, Pa., and an albino negro family was from Steuben, Ohio.

Some of the other circus attractions that spent time at Drummond were Mary and Margaret Gibbs, Siamese twins joined at the hip. There was Al Beck, the tattooed man, and a contortionist called the Spider Boy, along with a fat lady and a troupe of midgets.

Probably the best known circus performers in and around Drummond were Count Nicu DeBarscy, who traveled with his mother, Madam DeBarcsay, the bearded lady, and his stepfather, the Indian Medicine Man.

There also was Johnny Eck, the living half boy, and a bicycle act consisting of two people, one with no hands and another with no legs. Then there was Adolphine the hermaphrodite, the Hawaiian hula dancers and the three girls in the girly show.

The main circus show had the traditional horse acts, a troupe of trapeze aerialists, wild animals and of course, clowns.

The circus owners were not above a little fraud here and there. The Wild Man from Borneo strictly was an American. And, there was a camel act made up of pseudo Indians, who also were acrobats.

The last show as the Campbell Brothers circus was at Perry in 1919. An evening storm blew down tents, injuring many of the performers and and spectators. Wild animals ran loose in the streets of Perry that night. By the time all the claims were paid the circus was once again in dire financial straits.

During the 1920s, the circus combined with other circuses and wild West shows, but rain outs continued to plague them.

In 1936 XXXXX XXXXX, who was a registered nurse, and who had doctored both performers and animals in the circus, set up a show at the Chicago Century of Progress. It was called "The Unborn," and featured a collection of pickled human fetuses in various stages of development. In keeping with his medical background, Fred lectured at length to his audiences about the development of babies before birth. He packed in the crowds. He spent the later years of his life operating a variety store at Eagle City.

Most of the circus acts left Drummond after the show closed, but Ni cu DeBarscay, with his big cigar, and his mother made Drummond their home for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

I hope this has been of help to you and has answered your question. (Please remember, if so, to click ACCEPT, as this is the means by which compensation is able to be extended for my service here.)

 

Thank you, again.

 

All the best,

 

Chase

 

 

Great House Antiques, Appraiser/ Researcher/ Entrepreneur
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 2245
Experience: 30+ years in all aspects of the Antiques and Decorative Arts Industry
Great House Antiques and 4 other Antiques Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Where would I go to sell such an item. My home is in forclosure and I'm trying to save it. I live in the Kansas City metro ,but would be willing to take offers from circus enthusiasts anywhere.

Thank you,

Steve Allhiser

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
A place I could get to buy such an item.
Expert:  Great House Antiques replied 3 years ago.

Hello, again, and thank you for your accept.

 

By a stroke of good luck, it just so happens that Kansas City's premier auction house will have a specialty sale in the very near future of circus related material. Please call them at: 816-283-3633. Alternatively, ebay is a great avenue for selling as would be craigslist.org. There are also two prominent museums you can contact: Ringling Museum (ask for Museum Collections Dept), 941-359-5700; and Circus World Museum, 608-356-8341.

 

I am certainly hoping this will help further and assist you well in your situation.

 

Wishing you the best,

 

Chase

 

 

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