There are Historical circus characters Who are very charismatic and globally recognized, such as contortionists, escapists, clowns or jugglers .
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century the circus reached its greatest splendor among all those who wanted to be surprised by their shows. Here you can find the history of 25 circus artists who left a mark with their presentations.
Top 25 Circus Characters
1- Isaac Van Amburgh, the great lion tamer
From his humble beginnings as an assistant at the Zoological Institute of New York, the extravagant Isaac Van Amburgh became the most famous lion tamer of the nineteenth century.
His act was famous for its extreme audacity, entered the cage of lions dressed as a Roman gladiator and got the lions and leopards mounted on his back.
In the closing of his acts, the great tamer drenched his arm or head in blood and thrust his head into the open jaws of a lion.
Most of Van Amburgh's tricks were achieved through animal brutality, but gained him wide acceptance in the United States and Europe. His most famous admirer was British Queen Victoria, who attended her shows in London up to seven times in 1839.
2- Dan Rice, the king of American clowns
In the mid-nineteenth century, Dan Rice was a world-famous artist who had people like Mark Twain and President Zachary Taylor as acquaintances and admirers.
The New York native first came into the limelight in the 1840s with an act of clowns that blended the physical comedy and riding trick with great musical occurrences and numbers.
This charismatic clown managed to earn.000 per week as a star and owner of his own traveling circus. Rice had the ability to mix humor and political satire with traditional circus acrobatics.
He was one of the most open critics of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. His popularity gradually declined over the years until he finally retired in the 1890s. He has been acclaimed as one of the fathers of the modern circus.
3- Annie Oakley, the incomparable lady holster
Phoebe Anne Moses developed her rifle skills during her childhood in Ohio. After marrying Frank Butler in the 1870s, he took the name of Annie Oakley and toured the world in circuses as a professional sniper.
Her arsenal of tricks included blowing out a candle with a bullet, flying whites while riding a bicycle and even shooting and pulling out a cigarette from her husband's mouth.
Crowds were fascinated by the superhuman aim of Oakley, who spent nearly three decades traveling the world with his show about the West and other demonstrations.
Before retiring in 1913, he performed for Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II or Thomas Edison, who once filmed one of his firing exhibits with a newly invented kinescope.
4- Jules Leotard, the adventurous young of the flying trapeze
French acrobat Jules Leotard is remembered as the first man in history to attempt an act on the flying trapeze. The son of a gym owner, he first practiced the high-flying trick on his family's pool before unveiling it in 1859 at the Cirque Napoleon in Paris.
He later brought his performance to London, where he captivated the audience by jumping between five different trapezes with only a pile of old mattresses that protected him from an eventual fall.
Leotard's lethal actions made him a kind of sensation during the 1860s, but his career was tragically truncated shortly after by a disease that led to his death at the age of 28.
By then, the intrepid trapeze artist had already been immortalized in the popular song"The daring young man of the flying trapeze."
5- Zazel, the human projectile
In 1877, the world's first human bullet took flight when teenage acrobat Rosa Richter (better known by her stage name"Zazel") was filmed at the Royal Aquarium in London.
The"cannon"that sent it airborne was invented by William Leonard Hunt and consisted of spiral springs attached to a platform. When the springs expelled Zazel from the cannon, a circus worker threw a charge of gunpowder to recreate the appearance and sound of a cannon.
The fame of Zazel, the woman who defied death, spread quickly, and it was not long before crowds of up to 15,000 people gathered to see the human bullet.
His fate finally changes in 1891, when he had an accident during a performance in New Mexico that left fractures that forced him to retire from the circus forever.
6- Charles Blondin, the great Blondin
Charles Blondin made his first appearance in the circus when he was still very young. He was a skilled acrobat and athlete but he was really famous for his exploits on the tightrope.
In June 1859, Blondin, 35, made history by crossing Niagara Falls and walking the chasm, pausing to enjoy a few glasses of wine. This act repeated many times, the most famous being the act he crossed with a stove and stopped halfway to prepare an omelette, while maintaining balance on a rope 2 inches wide suspended about 160 feet above the water.
"The Great Blondin"would later make a fortune showing his heroism on the tightrope traveling across the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. He became so famous around the world that various impostors and imitators used his name to get publicity with his own stunts on the tightrope.
7- May Wirth, the world's most intrepid rider
Few riders became as famous as the Australian May Wirth. She was born in a circus family in 1894 and began working as a dancer and child contortionist before jumping to the horse at age 10.
He later joined the Barnum and Bailey circus in the United States, where he dazzled the audience with an act that combined acrobatics with incredible horseback riding. May Wirth could do a horseback on her knees - the first woman to do it - and perfected a trick in which she jumped from one moving horse to another.
Wirth also showed his physical strength jumping from the ground to the back of a galloping stallion, sometimes blindfolded and with heavy baskets on his feet. The good looks of Wirth and the cheeky tricks earned him thousands of admirers.
When she finally retired in 1937, she had spent 25 years as one of the leading female circus performers.
8- Lillian Leitzel, the queen of aerial gymnasts
During the golden age of the circus in the early twentieth century, no star shone more than the German Lillian Leitzel. She captivated audiences with an act that consisted of acrobatic tricks while hanging from Roman rings suspended 50 feet above the ground, always without a safety net down.
She was voted"the most beautiful and attractive woman in the world"by the American soldiers during World War I, and became the first star to receive a private car during the tours of the circus.
Leitzel continued his act until the age of 30, but his career ended tragically in 1931, when he dropped one of the metal hoops at a performance in Copenhagen and caused it to crash down on the floor. She died of her wounds two days later.
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9- Maria Spelterini, the great artist on the tightrope
Sometimes referred to as Maria Spelterina, she became the first woman on the tight rope to walk through Niagara Falls on July 8, 1876, when she was only 23.
This trick was only the first in a series intended to celebrate the centennial of the United States. Four days later, performing his feat on the tightrope, he returned, returning to make the crossing, but this time with baskets of peaches tied at his feet.
A week later he came back and did it with a paper bag over his head as a blindfold. Three days later, Spelterini crossed Niagara with shackles on his wrists and ankles.
10- Arthur James, the giant of Middlebush
He was commonly known as Colonel Routh Goshen, but P.T Barnum gave him his Middlebush giant name. Arthur James was ranked as the tallest man in the world.
With 2 meters 41 centimeters and a weight of 281 kilos, the giant was part of the circus tradition in the mid and late 1800s. As a colonel he served in different military campaigns.
He died at his home on Amwell Road in Middlebush, New Jersey at age 62. He was originally buried without a gravestone for fear that his body would be dug up and put on display.
11- Katie Sandwina, the woman of steel
Katharina Brumbach was born into an Austrian circus family and performed acts of strength throughout her childhood. With more than 2 meters in height from its adolescence, Katie soon was fighting with men who bet their rings and looked for a victory before her. Katie won every fight she faced.
Katie's biggest challenge was posed by an incredibly strong man named Eugene Sandow. In New York, Katie challenged men to lift more weight than she did. Sandow accepted the challenge but lost as Katie lifted 136 pounds over her head with one hand.
12- Maud Wagner, the tattooed woman
Maud Stevens, was a contortionist girl from Kansas who traveled through the United States with the circus. At the Louisiana Shopping Exhibition in 1907 he met Gus Wagner, a charismatic tattoo artist known for being"the most artistically tattooed man in America."
Maud was intrigued by her job, and offered to exchange an appointment with her future husband for a lesson on how to get a tattoo. That's how he got his many tattoos.
The Wagners went on tour as artists and"tattooed attractions", and later trained their daughter Lovetta in the art of tattooing. Today, Maud is credited as the first female tattoo artist in the United States.
13- Mario Zacchini, the human bullet
Mario was an Italian born circus artist who was the last of his family to perform in circuses and carnivals as a human cannonball, being fired from a cannon to a net on the other side of the circus tent, trick that carried out thousands Of times in his career of several decades.
Zacchini, who usually launched at a speed of 90 miles per hour (1500 km per hour), took the flight thousands of times, usually three times a day.
Mario Zacchini said that flying was not the difficult part, the difficult part was the landing on the net. Mario Zacchini died at age 87 in Tampa, United States.
14- Mabel Stark, lion tamer
Mabel was small in stature, barely half a meter away, but was acclaimed among the crowd for being the most courageous lion tamer in history. In the early 1920s, his act was the most popular of the six animal acts of Ringling's world.
In 1928, she slipped and two tigers attacked her, scratching her shoulders, arms and chest, and tearing the muscles of her back, thighs and hip.
Her wounds required 378 stitches, but within a few weeks, Mabel was back in the steel cages, wrapped in bandages and walking with a cane.
In 1950, Mabel was so brutally attacked by one of her tigers that she took 175 stitches to save her right arm.
He died of a self-administered overdose after performing his last show, at a theme park called"Jungle Land."
15- Gargantua the gorilla
The gorilla known as Gargantua the Great saved the Ringling brothers from bankruptcy when he joined the show in 1938.
The circus claimed that the gorilla had been captured in Africa, and said that it hated humans. In his early years, Gargantua was known as"Buddy", but they changed his name to Gargantua, a giant in French literature, as it sounded much more frightening than"Buddy".
16- Harry Houdini, the best escapist in the world
The real name of Harry Houdini was Ehrich Weiss. One of the best magicians and escapists of the world began his artistic life with the circus of the Wales brothers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1895.
For 26 weeks, Harry Houdini and his wife, Beatrice, sang, danced and performed a trick called"Metamorphosis". Houdini invented a spice of a large water tank where Houdini got himself handcuffed and his interior sealed, then untied from the handcuffs and out of the tank in a few minutes.
It has been believed for a long time that he died from blows from a viewer (a student) to check his strength in the abdomen, but the truth is that he died from acute peritonitis as a result of the rupture of his appendix.
17- The Wallendas
In 1922, Karl Wallenda formed a quartet called"The Great Wallends". They toured Europe, performing reckless acts like forming a pyramid of four men and riding a bicycle through a tightrope above the crowd.
John Ringling was so impressed with a performance he saw in Cuba that he hired them to perform at the Ringling Bross circus. They debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1928, and performed without a net.
The act was very striking to people, but it was not always fall-proof. At a performance in Akron, Ohio, the group fell from heights to the ground, but were fortunately unharmed. A reporter witnessed the accident and said:"The Wallendas fell so gracefully that they seemed to be flying."
Approximately forty years later, on March 22, 1978 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Karl Wallenda fell from the heights to the floor, dying at the age of 73.
18- Zip, cone head
William Henry Johnson was a rarity. His body developed normally, but his head remained small and tapered at the tip. The Van Emburgh Circus in Somerville, NJ, paid Johnson's parents to show off their son and had him called"the wild black boy"trapped in Africa and displayed on a cage.
Johnson's popularity came to the notice of P.T Barnum, who gave him a new look and changed the name to"Zip Cone Head".
It is said that during his 67 years in the world of the show, more than 100 million people visited Zip in the circus. His last words were,"Well, we've been fooled for a long time, right?"
19- General Tom Thumb
In 1842, Barnum hired a four-year-old dwarf, Charles Stratton, who soon became the world-famous General Tom Thumb.
Only 25 inches tall, Stratton began touring the United States with Barnum's circus, impersonating Cupid and Napoleon Bonaparte. He also sang, danced and participated in different shows.
In 1844, Barnum took him on a European tour, where he appeared twice before Queen Victoria and became an international celebrity.
But it was his wedding with Lavinia Warren (who was almost the same as him), which attracted the most public attention. Barnum charged for a ticket and 2,000 people (including congressional representatives, millionaires and generals) attended his wedding. During their honeymoon, the small couple had dinner with President Lincoln at the White House.
twenty- Emmet Kelly, the most versatile clown
From 1942 to 1956 he appeared as a classic clown called"Weary Willie,"depicting the version of a tramp during the time of the depression in the United States.
It made a big impact on the American audience and is said to have been the greatest clown of all time. Emmett was a multi-talented performer both inside and outside the circus.
He also starred in a baseball team and actor in Hollywood movies, starred in several television shows, appeared in several television commercials and acted in at least two Broadway productions.
twenty-one- Jumbo, the elephant
P.T Barnum introduced Jumbo"the elephant"to New York City on Easter Sunday, 1882, just in time for the annual Grand Earth Show at Madison Square Garden.
In the first six weeks, Jumbo helped raise.000. It was considered as the biggest circus attraction in American history. Jumbo traveled like royalty in a private car called"The Jumbo Palace,"a crimson and gilded carriage with huge double doors.
Unfortunately, Jumbo died on September 15, 1885, in St. Thomas, Ontario, while being carried to his palace.
22- Antoinette Conzello, trapeze artist
At age 16, Antoinette Comeau, born in Quebec, lived in a convent when her biological sister Gertrude urged her to accompany her at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.
He married the trapeze artist Arthur Concello, who trained her and formed the duet"Concellos los voladores". His act was one of Ringling's most popular attractions.
She is also credited with being the first woman to achieve a triple somersault in the air. Cecil B. DeMille hired her to train Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde and Dorothy Lamour to play a circus-centered drama called"The Best Show on Earth."
She and her husband appeared in the film. After decades, Antoinette retired of ringling Ring in 1983.
2. 3- Barbara Woodcock, lion tamer
Barbara's career in the circus began in the 1930s, when she was just a girl. She trained as a leopard trainer before meeting her future husband, William"Buckles"Woodcock, who came from a long line of elephant trainers.
Together, they created an act of their own, combining their skills. Their act was a success, gaining them a place with the Circo Big Apple from 1982 to 2000, and they even appeared in the show of Ed Sullivan Show In 1965. Her children were part of the acts of the Woodcock couple.
24- Gladys Roy, acrobat in airplanes
The three Gladys Roy brothers were Northwest Airlines pilots, and this reckless Minnesota woman made her mark on aviation but walking on the wings of the planes.
Roy walked and danced Charleston on the wings of the planes at 16,000 feet. She is also remembered for playing tennis with Ivan Unger in the wing of a biplane. Well, pretending to play (no real ball involved).
In the heyday of his popularity, Roy won between and for performance (more or less in today's dollars). He died in a plane crash at age 25.
25- Annie Jones, the bearded woman
Although it was her long beard that drew crowds, it was her musical talents that made Annie the most famous bearded woman of her time.
Born with a little beard, Jones was still in diapers when he gained the attention of P.T. Barnum who paid his parents a large sum ($ 150 in 1860) for the right to put little Annie on their program as"The Bearded Girl."
He died in 1922, at the age of 47.