Circus Research Archives

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Baraboo Circus Jeep Train Postcard on eBay

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images • TAGS: , .

UPDATE: There’s another Baraboo Postcard on eBay.

(08/04/2014) This CJ-5 used to ferry visitors around Baraboo. I visited Barboo about two decades ago, but never saw it. It must have already been gone.

This jeep and tram toured through Baraboo, pointing out various circus sites, including final resting spots in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

This jeep and tram toured through Baraboo, pointing out various circus sites, including final resting spots in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

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1951 Article w/ Jeep Helping Circus

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images, Old News Articles • TAGS: .

This May 10, 1951, article  in the Abilene Reporter-News shows a newly acquired MB/GPW hoisting a circus tent for the Gainesville Community Circus. The jeep was modified to drive stakes, pull stakes, and hoist canvas. Though the circus had been active since the 1930s, this May event was the first time the circus had travelled outside the Gainesville, Texas, area, according to the article at the bottom of the post. Three years later, in 1954, the circus was destroyed by fire.


Six months earlier, this November 11, 1950, article appeared in Billboard Magazine:


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1951 Photo of a Horse Jumpin’ a Jeep

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images • TAGS: .

This photo comes from the New Canaan News Online and shows how the New Canaan troops used to jump a jeep with their horse. Click here to read the article about the New Canaan Mounted Troops.


Shirley Self Brotherhood jumps a jeep at a New Canaan Mounted Troop circus in 1951.

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1949 Photo of Joe Jackson in his Jeep Wagon on eBay

• CATEGORIES: Features, Old Images, Willys Wagons • TAGS: .

The photo of Joe Jackson, Jr., below was published in several different newspapers based on this google search.  He must have had a very loving wife to live in a jeep while touring Europe!

According to the article, “Joe is wearing a 64-year-old clown costume that belonged to his late father as he tries out the jeep station wagon he will use for touring Europe. Joe, who carries on a comedy act originated by his father, will use the station wagon for a dressing room and living quarters with his wife.”

View all the information on eBay

1949-10-20-joe-jackson-clown-wagon1 1949-10-20-joe-jackson-clown-wagon2

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1951 Ringling Barnum Circus Jeeps 3, 4 & 5

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles, Old Images • TAGS: .

The Milner Library at Illinois State University has a collection of Circus Memorabilia, including a nice digital archive. I’ve selected a couple of images that show jeeps Numbers 3, 4, and 5 from the Ringling Barnum Circus.

As you can see below, No 3 is working hard holding up Carmen Barrigon, while No. 4 lazily watches.


Meanwhile, No. 5 is doing all the heavily lifting. The photographer, Sverre O. Braathen, calls this a Ford Jeep, but it looks like a CJ-3A the way the bumper is bolted onto the frame, though it also has a CJ-2A windshield. The rear PTO is raising the platforms for seating. My circus book has a good shot of the PTO setup from the rear, but I haven’t had a chance to scan that.


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More on Circus Jeeps

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles • TAGS: .

Yesterday I received a book I purchased earlier this month called “Circus and Carnival Trucks 1923-2000″.  Though mostly about trucks, the book includes several pictures of jeeps.  One of the pictures shows a jeep modified into a performance  prop called the “Little Red School House”.  Essentially, it’s a mobile school house that can be brought into a performance and then quickly driven away.

Trying to find other examples of this, I discovered a great thread from the CJ-2A Page about a jeep ownerwho managed to track down the history of a early CJ-2A his father bought from the Ringling Brothers Circus.  After some help from the forum and some research, he discovered several photos of his jeep all dressed up as “Lilliput”.

The Illinois State University has some pictures of Lilliput.  Here are a couple.  You can view more pics and the entire thread related to the re-discovery of Lilliput at the CJ-2A Page.



2) (you can just see the pto bar sticking out from the rear of the jeep).


Here’s another example of a performance jeep.  This is the “Little Red School House”. The picture is from the side.  The second looks more like a jeep.



4) This picture is on page 50 of the book I mentioned at the beginning of this post.


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Kam the Motoring Elephant

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .



Kam the elephant starred for the Bertram Mills Circus during the 1950s and into the 1960s.  Initially, Kam drove a modified MB/GPW.  It looks like it had an updated motor.  Unfortunately, the only images I have found of Kam on the jeep are from the above poster and from page 240 of “The Jeep” book (a black and white photo which I don’t show). In the photo, as in the poster, there is a hump in the hood, which I assume is the result of the engine swap.  The jeep has the usual WWII attributes: tool indents, rear floating hubs and other details. Unlike the poster, the photo shows the fenders were left stock and flat, rather than rounded as shown in the poster.

Eventually, according to the site Silodrome, the circus bought a 1959 Series 1 Land Rover and modified it with a “central steering wheel and a huge, padded seat over the rear axle”.  The picture below is also from Silodrome. Here is a very short video of him driving it.  Kam’s customized Land Rover has been found and is being rebuilt.


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Clowning Around in Hawaii

• CATEGORIES: Features, MB, Old Images, Old News Articles • TAGS: .

This photo was at a Pacific History site, though it isn’t clear to me whose site this actually is.  The picture was part of a Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper and likely was taken in 1946. According to the caption, “Seems someone wrote in and complained that the newspaper photographer’s Jeep looked “like it belonged in a circus,” so when the circus actually came to town, the photographer obliged. Note the chrome wheels, bumper and grill on this surplus GPW, and the fabric-wrapped steering wheel. I’d be willing to bet the body isn’t olive-drab any more. Suggestions? I’m guessing bright blue.”

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More Clowning Around

• CATEGORIES: Artists/Drawings, Features, Old Images • TAGS: .

On January 7, 1953, Ringling Circus clown Paul Jerome posed for photographer Joseph Janny Steinmetz.  The reason for shooting a clown in a jeep on the beach is unknown; however, Steinmetz lived in Sarasota, FL, so maybe the location was convenient.  Both photos are from the State Archives of Florida.

Note the jeep has both bowholders and possibly a spare tire carrier on the driver’s side.

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Ringling Barnum Circus Uses PTO to Build Grandstands

• CATEGORIES: Features, Fire/Police/Industry Vehicles, Old Images, Unusual • TAGS: .

I spotted this 1950 picture on the Buckles Blog, a blog that presents circus history from all over the world.  I with this picture was bigger.  According the blog post, “Here we see a Jeep with a power take-off in the process of raising the sides of each seat wagon. The outer corners were supported with long braces and then the front end of each vehicle would be lowered to form a grand stand.”