March 21, 2004

Freaks, Geeks, and Hoochie Shows on the Road
Some histories of Traveling Carnivals, the American circus and the culture of Vaudevillian showmanship.

Memoires of a roadie show: We are now halfway to the town. Every barn we have passed is covered with flaming posters, and dates telling the people when the big show will visit them. Market men are making quick time to reach the town in advance of their competitors, and the result is a perfect cloud of dust kicked up by their big-feet "mules." Young women gaily dressed, and old women hanging on to the stakes of a lumber-wagon, "stare their eyes out" at our mirror-sided bill-wagon, and wonder what the plumes in our horses' head-gear mean. They don't get by us quite so easily as they imagined they would; for Bill has chirruped to "Jim," who starts the whole team in motion, and away we go, leaving the "haybinders" to swallow some of that dust they had circulated for our benefit.

  • that's a good historical collection on the carnie, moonbird. although the scale of the operations have changed, the allure has never died. during the summer, when all the towns around here have their fairs and bring in the carnival, inevitably a few young people disappear in it's wake. i once knew someone who was the official 'beefeater' for many years with a large set-up and always enjoyed her stories of life on the road. a hard life but gratifying for those who have the wanderlust.
  • good post, moonbird! One of my favorite X-Files episodes included stars from the Jim Rose Circus. I'm convinced they're going for purely shock value, but I've never forgotten the Engima's tattoos (click on the pictures to enlarge).