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Circus catches fire in Brazil

Circus catches fire in Brazil

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On December 17, 1961, a fire at a circus in Brazil kills more than 300 people and severely burns hundreds more. The cause of the fire was never conclusively determined but it may have been the result of sparks from a train passing nearby.

Christmas week was just beginning, the children had just begun their summer vacations, and spirits were high for the 2,500 in attendance at the Gran Circo Norte Americano, the Brazilian version of America’s Ringling Brothers. The large blue-and-white tent was set up across the bay from Rio de Janeiro and was filled to capacity. All seemed to be proceeding as planned when disaster struck suddenly.

Antonietta Estavanovich, a trapeze artist, was the first to see the flames. From her high perch, she could see the roof of the tent beginning to burn. As the crowd became aware of the fire, pandemonium ensued and people were trampled as they tried to exit. In one reported instance, a Boy Scout attending the circus pulled out a knife, cut a hole in the tent and managed to get his family out safely. Hundreds of others, though, were not so lucky–323 people, many of them children, died in the fire. At least 500 more people were seriously injured, from burns, smoke inhalation and trampling.

Emmett Kelly met his first wife, Eva, when working at the John Robinson Circus. [2]

Kelly appeared in the 1952 Oscar winner for Best Picture The Greatest Show on Earth. In 1956, he starred in a dramatic role, a TV adaptation of the story of Wilhelm Voigt, the "Captain From Kopenick," who masqueraded as a Prussian officer in 1906. It was broadcast as part of the Telephone Time anthology series. [3]

Kelly was a Mystery Guest on the March 11, 1956, broadcast of What's My Line? and answered the panelists' questions with grunts rather than speaking yes or no. When the round was over, panelist Arlene Francis mentioned that Kelly was not allowed to speak while in makeup. [4]

Kelly portrayed the character "Bigamy Bob" in the film Wind Across the Everglades (1958).

In 1967, he starred in the musical The Clown and the Kids, which was shot and produced in Bulgaria. [5]

On July 6, 1944, Kelly was preparing to perform in a matinee show of the Ringling Brothers Circus for an audience of 6,000 in Hartford, Connecticut. [6] Twenty minutes into the show, the circus tent, which had been waterproofed with paraffin wax and gasoline, caught fire. [7] Kelly was among those who acted quickly to help extinguish the fire, and then he helped panicked audience members—mostly women and children, due to World War II—to swiftly exit the tent. [8] Officially, 168 people died in the fire, and 682 people were injured. [6] The cause of the fire was never determined. [6]

Kelly's actions that day were immortalized by audience member Ralph Emerson, who took a photograph of Kelly rushing toward the burning tent in his full clown make-up and costume, carrying a single bucket of water. [8] The photograph was published in Life on July 17, 1944. [9] According to eyewitnesses, Kelly was seen to be crying. [10]

The fire affected Kelly deeply and for the remainder of his life according to his grandson, Joey Kelly, he "rarely spoke of the fire to anyone other than family." [8]

Emmett Kelly died of a heart attack on March 28, 1979, at his home in Sarasota, Florida. He is buried in the Rest Haven Memorial Park, in Lafayette, Indiana. [11]

Kelly's son, Emmett Kelly Jr., did a similar "Weary Willie" character the two were estranged for many years as a result. [12] Kelly Jr. died in 2006. [13]

Kelly's boyhood town of Houston, Missouri, named Emmett Kelly Park in his honor and hosted an annual Emmett Kelly Clown Festival, which attracted clowns from across the region, including Kelly's grandson, Joey Kelly, who returned every year to perform as a special guest. According to Joey Kelly's website, the festival ended its 21-year run in May 2008. [14] [15]

Kelly's "Weary Willie" inspired New York sports cartoonist Willard Mullin to sketch a version of him to represent the Brooklyn Dodgers as "Dem Bums" during the 1930s. The caricature, which was drawn to speak an exaggerated Brooklynese, caught on with Dodger fans and Mullin was subsequently hired to illustrate the covers of team yearbooks with variations of the "Brooklyn Bum". [ citation needed ]

Kelly was an inaugural inductee to the International Clown Hall of Fame in 1989. He was inducted into the International Circus Hall of Fame in 1994. In 1998, Kelly was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians, and a bronze bust depicting him is on permanent display in the rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol.

According to the documentary Halloween Unmasked, the choice for the mask of the film's fictional serial killer Michael Myers was down to two: a modified Captain Kirk mask and an Emmett Kelly mask. While the Emmett Kelly mask was unsettling and eerie, it did not quite evoke the creepy feeling they were seeking. The Kirk mask did, resulting in the crew selecting it for the film. [ citation needed ]

Circus train fire of 1884 one of Weld County’s worst disasters

A torch probably started the fire, investigators found out later, when one of the circus workers laid it down in the train car to play cards. The railroad car was already in flames when the engineer saw it about 12:30 a.m., while the Orton’s Anglo-American Circus train was moving from a show in Fort Collins to Greeley, where they were scheduled to perform the next day. A torch probably started the fire, investigators found out later, when one of the circus workers laid it down in the train car to play cards. The railroad car was already in flames when the engineer saw it about 12:30 a.m., while the Orton’s Anglo-American Circus train was moving from a show in Fort Collins to Greeley, where they were scheduled to perform the next day.

It was Aug. 29, 1884. The circus train fire was one of the worst disasters in Weld County history and probably one of the first. Ten men died in the burning railroad car, despite efforts to get them out and to extinguish the fast-burning fire. In addition, the circus owners and managers were chastised by local officials and the newspapers because of their cover-up of the facts and their callous disregard for the victims.

The fire was first seen by the engineer, as the train moved south on the Burlington Northern tracks, nine miles northeast of Greeley, close to where the Kodak of Colorado plant is located today. The train was traveling about 25 mph when the engineer saw the flames, he testified later, and slammed on the braking system of the train. He and other men rushed back to the car and found the doorways were blocked with flames and the men trapped inside.

The railroad car slept 60 , in three tiers of berths on each side of the car. With no electricity in the car, they used torches, matches or lanterns to find their way. With both escape doors blocked by flames, only one small window was clear for attempted escapes. The men outside began carrying water and pouring bucketfuls on the flames. It did little to stop the rapidly spreading blaze. The heat was so intense, it buckled the steel under the car. Meanwhile,hearing the screams of the men inside the car, the engineer uncoupled the engine and sped to Greeley to find a doctor. He returned with Dr. Jesse Hawes, one of Greeley’s most respected doctors and the president of the State Medical Association.

For many of the men, it was too late.

The story in the Greeley Tribune was headlined “Ten Men Roasted Alive” and went into horrid details of the burn injuries and graphic descriptions of the scene. While the coroner’s inquest determined the fire was probably started by one of the men carrying a torch through the car, officials couldn’t find a reason the fire spread so quickly. After the inquest, others stepped forward to explain that the “inhumane circus managers” had stacked barrels of highly flammable naptha in the car, blocking both doorways. That’s why the men were trapped inside.

The paper was also critical of the circus manager who continued on to Denver with the train, leaving the 10 dead men to be buried at the expense of the county. The circus also allegedly tried to take the injured men on the train with them, “to save the costs of hospital care,” but Dr. Hawes refused to release them.

The dead were all circus workers, many of them drifters picked up along the way, and no one knew them very well. The names included Alex McLeod, John Kelly, and men known only by their first names of Andy, Frank, George, Smithee and Frenchee. Three men were never identified. The day after the fire, the dead were buried in a large 7-foot by 10-foot coffin in what was then the pauper’s section of Linn Grove Cemetery. A small cement marker, provided by the county, identified the grave for more than 100 years. The markings on the stone had almost disappeared, leaving the circus worker’s grave unidentified, when two years ago, Greeley Monument Works donated a new stone. The Orton Circus, apparently undaunted by the disaster, changed their schedule and turned the train south to Denver, where they performed the next day.

Circus catches fire in Brazil - HISTORY

It was supposed to be a glorious and fun-filled summer day at the circus in Hartford, Connecticut. It was July 6th, 1944 and this was the final day that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s “Greatest Show On Earth” was in town. Over 7,000 spectators – most of whom were women and children due to it being a matinee, weekday performance – crowded underneath the big top to watch elephants, lions, a brass band, polar bears, daredevils and plenty of clowns prance and perform. It was about twenty-five minutes into the show when disaster struck, forever transforming the future of the circus. Here’s the story of one of the worst tragedies in American history, the so-called “Hartford Circus Fire.”

According to Stewart O’Nan’s book The Circus Fire , circuses have always had a history of horrific fires. In 1799, during Rickett’s Equestrian Circus, the Philadelphia amphitheater burned down – though no one was killed. P.T. Barnum’s shows endured countless fires, a few even with fatalities. The Ringling Brothers also endured fires during the 20th century, but none took lives. But perhaps the biggest warning sign was what happened two years prior to Hartford in Cleveland, Ohio in 1942. A fire burned down the menagerie tent (the one that held the animals) prior to a show, killing 100 animals including giraffes, lions, tigers, chimps, zebras and elephants. However, after each one of these fires, very few changes were enacted – likely because no spectators perished. As O’Nan points out, the fact that no paying customers died was mostly due to luck as opposed to any safety measures.

What separated Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey from other circuses was their squeaky-clean image. While competitors often had a reputation for attracting a certain crowd, Ringling Bros made sure theirs was for the family – there was to be no alcohol, no cussing and a show aimed at the kids. For this, Ringling Bros was always the most well-attended and biggest revenue generating circus of its era. They were also fantastic advertisers, constantly claiming that their circus was the best and biggest – including it’s “big top” tent, which they claim was the “biggest in the world.”

On July 5th, the circus sped into Hartford after a week of performing in other close-by cities like Providence, Manchester and Bridgeport. They were supposed to perform a matinee show that day but had to cancel due to being late into Hartford. The disappointment was front page news and likely led to larger attendance the next day at the July 6th show.

After rolling all of the wagons and animal cages off the train, they began preparing and constructing the “big top.” Part of this preparation included waterproofing it with a mixture of paraffin and white gasoline, something that had been done for years by both Ringling Bros and other circuses. However, this mixture gave the big top a sort of waxy texture and made it extremely flammable.

At the same time, the city of Hartford sent police to the circus grounds not to inspect for safety but to search for runaways. There seem to be no records of Hartford Police nor Hartford Fire inspecting the circus for fire risk despite similar laws being in place for hotels, factories and other gathering spots. In addition, no such official stayed through the show and no one from the police or fire department was present when the fire started.

It was already ninety degrees and very humid when patrons started showing up hours before the 1 PM opening time. Due to the unexpected crush of people early, the circus skipped several normal routine measures like watering the grounds and removing obstructions from exits.

As the 2:15 PM showtime approached, more and more people – mostly women, children and the elderly due to the afternoon matinee performance and the majority of able-bodied men still in World War II service – slide under the top. Due to the heat and crowds, it was sweltering, even without a fire.

A few minutes after the 2:15 pm scheduled start time, the brass band struck up the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the circus began its show. So-called “runaway cages” were located at all the entrances in case an animal had an inclination to try to escape. These blocked a large portion of the exits.

The opening act actually involved no animals at all, but showgirls dressed in bright yellow military outfits “taming” others in lion costumes. Then, the real animals came out – lions, polar bears and Great Danes. As that performance was finishing up, the Great Wallendas – a family of daredevil and aerialists – started taking their positions thirty feet above the ground. They were the first ones to notice the spreading fire at about 2:40 PM. Around that same time, bandleader Merle Evans instructed his band to immediately begin playing The Stars and Stripes Forever, with the song more or less functioning as an alarm bell for everyone working at the circus.

Directly after, ushers grabbed buckets of water that had been placed underneath the bleachers specifically for this situation. Some even tried to cut the fabric where the fire was to separate it from the rest of the tent. However, at this point the flames were out of control.

With the exits largely blocked and flames quickly engulfing the tent, the evacuation devolved into chaos. The abundance of children also caused delays and some even fell down, trampled to death by the masses trying to escape. Beyond this, melted wax began raining down from the tent roof above, burning those below and adding to the panic.

Within only a few moments, nearly the entire tent was engulfed and, with a big boom, the big top collapsed, trapping the masses still inside. Some later compared the tent to a giant, melting candle that reached the end of its wick.

Fire survivor Maureen Krekian, then 11, noted of her experience at the fire,

I remember somebody yelling and seeing a big ball of fire near the top of the tent. And this ball of fire just got bigger and bigger and bigger. By that time, everybody was panicking. The exit was blocked with the cages that the animals were brought in and out with. And there was a man taking kids and flinging them up and over that cage to get them out. I was sitting up in the bleachers and jumped down — I was three-quarters of the way up. You jump down and it was all straw underneath. There was a young man, a kid, and he had a pocketknife. And he slit the tent, took my arm and pulled me out.

The fire perhaps only lasted about 10 minutes. When it was over, more than 160 people had died – many of whom were children the most famous of all was “Little Miss 1565,” a little girl who, despite her body being in very good condition when found, was never claimed by anyone nor ever identified, despite her face being plastered on newspapers and magazines nationwide after the fire.

The aforementioned author, Stewart O’Nan, in 2001 claimed he’d solved the mystery and that the little girl was Eleanor Emily Cook. However, Eleanor’s mother, Mildred, stated this was not the case after being shown a picture of Little Miss 1565. (Eleanor Cook did die in the fire, with O’Nan claiming that her mother had simply picked the wrong body among the many charred remains when identifying her little girl after the fire.)

In all, nearly 700 people either died or were seriously injured in the fire, making it one of the deadliest fires in the nation’s history and the worst circus disaster.

Despite the tragedy, images and stories of heroism emerged. Like, how parents swooped up children who weren’t theirs and took them to safety. Or how one of the minstrel performers rushed onto the stage to grab Frieda Pushnik the “Armless and Legless Wonder” who had no means to escape the tent on her own. The Great Wallendas saved hundreds by cutting holes in the tent and shoving cages aside. There’s a famous photo of “Weary Willy,” a clown played by Emmett Kelly, in dripping makeup and charred clothes rushing with a bucket of water. In fact, the fire was referenced in several newspapers as “The Day the Clowns Cried.”

To this day, no one knows for sure how the fire started. At first, it was blamed on a careless displaced cigarette. However, Ringling Bros pushed the theory that the fire was started on purpose. The investigation eventually led to Ohioan Robert Segee, who had confessed to several similar crimes throughout the area and was in Hartford that day. While first reportedly confessing to the crimes, he soon recanted and doctors later determined he was not mentally fit to testify accurately.

In the early 1990s, fire forensic experts reopened the case and attempted to determine what actually happened. They concluded that the hypothesis of the “discarded cigarette” was unlikely, writing that “A carelessly discard cigarette thrown into the dry grass would not alone have started this fire, but other accidental ignition sources could not be eliminated…” They also determined that there was no evidence of arson. The most logical conclusion the 1990s investigation yielded, nearly 50 years after the fire, was that a discarded match lit dry hay and, at first, started a small, contained fire that ultimately ignited the tent.

Whatever the cause, the Hartford Circus Fire had an enormous impact on circuses going forward. Beyond the near $5 million the Ringling Bros had to shell out to the families of victims, the regulations enacted in response on temporary and moveable structures – like tents used for circuses – were among the toughest in the nation. The tents now had to be treated to be fireproof, as opposed to waterproof. No longer would smoking be allowed inside cloth, temporary structures. Well-trained fire personnel had to be attendance at all times. Exits could no longer be blocked.

Hit with expenses from the new, very strict standards, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey performed for the last time underneath their formerly iconic outdoor tent in 1956. From that point on, the circus continued in permanent buildings and arenas.

For more than seven decades after the Hartford Circus Fire, the show went on. But earlier this year, after 146 years in operation, it ended . At some point, everyone must take a final curtain bow.

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Circus tent catches fire, kills 168 and wounds 700

The exact cause of the fire is unknown. One theory suspects a carelessly discarded cigarette, while another involves Robert Segee who admitted in 1950 to setting the blaze when he was 17. He later recanted this admission, however.

When the circus bandleader spotted the fire, he instructed the band to play “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” a song used as a warning signal to other performers. The ringmaster attempted to order the audience to quickly evacuate without panicking. The fire had already cut the power, however, and his instructions were unable to be heard.

Due to the tent’s paraffin wax coating, designed for waterproofing, the fire quickly spread. The audience scrambled to escape, the chaos only making things worse. Survivor Maureen Krekian, who was 11 at the time of the disaster, stated in a 2007 interview: “The exit was blocked with the cages that the animals were brought in and out with. … There was a young man, a kid, and he had a pocketknife. And he slit the tent, took my arm and pulled me out.”

Roughly 168 died from the flames, smoke inhalation, being trampled on by others fleeing, or when the big top collapsed. In the most congested areas, near exits blocked by chutes used to bring in animals for the show, bodies were found stacked atop one another. Some victims died from suffocation, the weight of the others killing them. However, a few managed to survive after being buried by other victims, shielded from the flames by those above them.

One of the victims, a young blonde girl, was never identified despite minimal damage caused by the fire. She was given the name Little Miss 1565, named for her morgue identification number. Two police sergeants dedicated the rest of their lives to finding Little Miss’ identity with no success. One of the sergeants, Thomas Barber, also visited Little Miss’ grave annually until his own death. Afterward, a local florist resumed the tradition.

A memorial to the victims is available at

The bodies of some of the child victims of the fire are laid to rest.

A makeshift morgue houses the bodies of the victims of the fire

Hartford Circus Fire

The Hartford Circus Fire took place during a Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey Circus performance in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1944. The tent was coated with a mix of paraffin and gasoline (some sources say kerosene), which was a common waterproofing method of the time, and when a side wall of the tent caught on fire this combination caused the flames to spread rapidly. More than 100 of the 168 people killed were younger than 15.

The fast spread of the fire caused the tent to collapse, trapping circus spectators beneath the burning debris. Of the inadequate number of exits, many were blocked, and this, along with the overcrowding of the tent, made escape difficult.

Defunded and in Disrepair

This is not the first time in recent years that the world lost a natural history museum. In April 2016, India's National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi was also destroyed in a fire. Nor is this the first time that fire has claimed an invaluable part of Brazil's heritage.

In 2010, blazes ripped through the Instituto Butantan, a major biomedical research laboratory in São Paulo, destroying one of the world's largest collections of venomous animal specimens. The fire vaporized more than half a million preserved snakes, spiders, and scorpions collected over a hundred years.

“This is far from being a problem unique to Brazil,” says the paleontologist Rodrigues. “Collections worldwide are at risk, and unless we take good care of them, these kinds of things will happen again and again and again.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Brazilian president Michael Temer lamented the Museu Nacional's loss as “incalculable to Brazil” and “a sad day for all Brazilians.” But the Brazilian government is facing mounting criticism over complaints that the tragedy was preventable.

Since 2014, the Museu Nacional hasn't received its full annual $128,000 maintenance budget this year, it received a paltry $13,000. In 2015, the Museu Nacional was forced to close its doors temporarily because it could no longer pay its cleaning and security staff. The museum's curators had to crowdfund repairs to termite damage in one of the most popular exhibit halls, which contained the skeleton of a humpback whale and bones from the dinosaur Maxakalisaurus.

In May 2018—on the eve of its 200th anniversary—ten of the museum's 30 exhibits were closed to the public because of disrepair. At the time, the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that the museum had peeling walls and exposed electrical wiring. When the fire broke out on Sunday, the two fire hydrants near the musem were reportedly empty, forcing firefighters to use water trucks and pond water from Quinta da Boa Vista, the urban park containing the Museu Nacional.

“In my point of view, Brazil had responsibility to keep these artifacts safe, [and] Brazil failed on that,” says Franklin Maia Silva.


Hans Stosch's vision, which came to full fruition in the late 1920's during the Republic of Weimar, shaped his circus as a paradigm of modernity and exoticism, which went far beyond the traditional approach of the major traveling circus families of the period. Stosch had a matchless ability to mix together industry, stagecraft, propaganda, literature, foreign politics, a specific style of circus management and circus aesthetics—as well as innovative techniques that stand today as milestones in the history of modern circus. His achievements influenced rivals such as Carl Krone, colleagues and admirers such as Jérôme Medrano and John Ringling North, and even, four generations later, Bernhard Paul.

From Hans Stosch To Giovanni Sarrasani

Hans was destined to succeed his father at the helm of the family glass business it was not really his calling, and he proved to be a reluctant and rebellious student. Nonetheless, he was sent to study chemistry in Berlin, where he began to frequent assiduously the famous Circus Renz. There and then, Hans Stosch discovered that he was much more attracted to the circus than to chemistry or glassware. At Circus Renz, he had met the clowns Didic and Eugen Veldeman, and he decided to follow them as an apprentice.

In 1888, we find Hans Stosch in the traveling circus managed by Helene Kolzer, the widow of Oscar Kolzer, a Bavarian equestrian and circus owner. There he performed as a clown Generic term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team. -trainer—in white face in the manner popular at the time—working with small animals. In 1892, he adopted the exotic stage name of "Giovanni Sarrasani", for which he had found his inspiration in a novel by Honoré de Balzac, Sarrasine (1830): Its hero, Ernest-Jean Sarrasine, the son of a rich lawyer, leaves his bourgeois life to follow an artistic career against his father’s will. It is more than likely that Albrecht Friedrich Stosch didn’t approve of Hans’s choice to become a performer—let alone a clown Generic term for all clowns and augustes. '''Specific:''' In Europe, the elegant, whiteface character who plays the role of the straight man to the Auguste in a clown team. !

In the following years, trade papers often showed ads for "Clown Sarrasani’s Happy Family": We learn that his act included monkeys, dogs, a goat, and a pig. Sarrasani appears to have had steady employment, and worked in leading circuses and variety theaters, from Saint Petersburg’s Circus Ciniselli to Madrid’s Circo Parish. In 1893 Hans Stosch married twenty-year-old Anna Albertina Augusta Maria Ballhorn (1873-1933), the daughter of a policeman. Together they would have two children, Hedwig (1896-1957) and Hans, Jr. (1897-1941), of whom later. Then, Hans Stosch had an epiphany that would change the course of his career.

Zirkus Sarrasani

Then in 1897, the giant Barnum & Bailey Circus left the United States and began an extensive European tour that lasted until 1902. The immense assemblage of canvas tents, the swiftness of their setup and tear-down, the technical efficiency of the circus’s operations, the special trains on which it moved, the enormous big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) where hundreds of artists and animals performed on three rings simultaneously, the huge traveling menagerie filled with an extensive collection of exotic animals, all that made indeed a strong impression on the European public. It also impressed Hans Stosch.

Stosch decided to invest his savings (and his wife’s capital of 90,000 Marks) in a traveling circus under canvas. He found a partner in his old friend and fellow performer Robert Milde-Milton, and in 1901, they settled in Radebeul (a town in the suburbs of Dresden, in Saxony) to build their show. Hans Stosch was familiar with the area: His parents had lived in Dresden until the birth of Hans’s elder sister, Walpurgis, in 1868. In December, Stosch gave a foretaste of his show at the Apollo Theater in Brandenburg an der Havel, in the neighboring province of Brandenburg. The program consisted principally of acrobatic acts.

Zirkus Sarrasani hit the road in 1902, and made its debut in Meissen (of Meissen Porcelain fame), a few miles northwest of Dresden. The new circus was initially a modest affair, whose second-hand equipment had been bought from a couple of small French circuses and from the Dutch Circus Carré. The two-pole canvas tent was masked by an imposing façade, ornate with painted woodcarvings in the new and fashionable Jugenstil, the German Art Nouveau—a harbinger of things to come. Initially the only animals were horses, but a first elephant bought from Hagenbeck was soon added, and seven more would follow in 1906, purchased from the Leipzig Zoo. From the bankruptcy of Berlin’s Circus Renz (in 1897) came a full stock of spectacular costumes and uniforms.

A Visionary Director

Hans Stosch-Sarrasani (as he was now known) was the only one of this new breed of circus directors who had not been involved in the menagerie business (although he was indeed an animal trainer) yet he had been like them impressed by Barnum & Bailey’s combination of traveling circus and menagerie. He was also the first of them to grow, and his middle-class background and upbringing—wholly different from the traveling-entertainer milieu and education of most of his competition—informed his particular choices and aesthetics.

At the outset, Sarrasani gave special attention to the modernization of the traveling circus itself, following in that the technical and industrial progresses of his times: Already in 1903 he used a mobile power plant, announcing in his advertising: "The first circus ever with electric light". Another of his historical firsts was the use of steam-engine tractors to pull the circus’s rolling stock from the railway station to the circus lot. With his friend Max Friedländer (1880–1953), the son of the legendary Hamburg-based publisher and lithographer, Adolph Friedländer (1851-1904), Sarrasani developed beautifully designed American-style posters, establishing a new standard in the European advertising business these posters were replicated in postcards and stickers that flooded the cities visited by the circus.

Proudly emphasizing his European identity, Sarrasani avoided the three-ring American format eventually adopted by some of his competitors. Yet, following the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’s fifth European tour in 1906, Sarrasani’s show offered a "Wild West" spectacle that was widely publicized, Hans Stosch himself appearing in a cowboy outfit at press events. This theme, which would eventually become a Sarrasani fixture, had a German cultural relevance too: Wild West stories had been popularized in Germany by the prolific and extremely successful Saxon novelist Karl May (1842-1912), a Radebeul resident and friend of Sarrasani.

In 1907, Sarrasani was expanding his territory, conquering Prague, Brussels, Basel, and spending the Holiday Season in the old Circus Busch building at Vienna’s Prater. He also pioneered in Germany winter shows given in vast exhibition halls, as in Frankfurt in 1912, where he could accommodate 13,000 spectators per show. Zirkus Sarrasani was flourishing indeed and had become a force to reckon with. By 1910, Hans Stosch-Sarrasani felt financially strong enough to achieve his ambition: To have his own, state-of-the-art circus building. He first set his views on Berlin, where Circus Busch (Circus Renz’s successor) already reigned supreme, but met with too strong a resistance from the city—undoubtedly fueled by Paul Busch.

The easiest way was to build his circus in Dresden. The old Cirkus Schumann constructed toward the end of the nineteenth century in Löbtau, a suburb of Dresden, had been demolished in 1903 for safety reasons when Löbtau was incorporated into the city. Thus the road was free, and not only the City Fathers welcomed Sarrasani’s project, they were also willing to support it.

Sarrasani’s Zirkusbau: Circus-Theater der 5000

Already based in Radebeul, Sarrasani was well known in Dresden, where he was becoming a household name. The circus had often played Saxony’s capital in the past: The first time was in 1903, on Münchner Platz then Sarrasani played on the Vogelwiese fairgrounds, and later on a piece of vacant land at Königin Carola Platz. It is this empty lot at Königin Carola Platz that the municipality of Dresden offered Hans Stosch-Sarrasani in 1910 to build on it a permanent circus.

The Dresden-educated and Munich-based architect Max Littmann (1862-1931), of the Heilmann & Littmann firm, who was at the time Germany’s most prominent theater architect, was hired to design the new circus. Heilmann & Littmann were put in charge of the construction (French) A temporary circus building, originally made of wood and canvas, and later, of steel elements supporting a canvas top and wooden wall. Also known as a "semi-construction." , along with more than twenty specialized firms the work, which began immediately after the land purchase, came to completion on September 19, 1912. Advertised as "Europe’s most beautiful, largest, and most modern circus building", it was indeed a spectacular structure.

Towering at 36 meters (approximately 120 feet) above the ground, its huge cupola, 46.5 meters in diameter (approx. 151.5 feet), was free-standing, so that no supporting column impaired the audience’s vision—which was a significant architectural feat. The circus was equipped with a traditional circus ring, 13.5 meters in diameter, which could sink to reveal a water basin, on the model of Paris’s Nouveau Cirque. There was also a fully equipped stage behind the ring, approximately 10 x 10 meters with a height under grid of 17.5 meters and fronted by an orchestra pit. The height of the circus auditorium under cupola was 28.95 meters (approximately 90 feet).

The building prided itself on its advanced fire-safety features and numerous technical refinements—among which a steel cage for cat acts that could be pulled up under the cupola (a system that would be adopted after WWII by Paris’s Cirque Medrano). In addition to the dressing rooms, offices, and various rental spaces, the building housed a restaurant for the performers, an "American Bar" and another restaurant in the basement for the public, as well as three buffets-bars used at intermission. Behind the circus itself, a vast connected annex housed the menagerie and stables (which could accommodate 130 horses).

Dresden’s Circus Sarrasani was inaugurated on December 22, 1912 with a sumptuous show given in presence of the German Royal Family. A special souvenir program was printed for the occasion on white silk framed in green—the colors of Saxony’s flag, which would soon become Sarrasani’s colors. (For the time being, Circus Sarrasani’s vehicles were painted in red, an unusual circus color at the time in Europe, which became known in the circus world as Sarrasani red.)

In the Spring of 1913, the program was crowned by the presence of a group of authentic American Indians from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, headed by the old chief Two-Two (Edward Two-Two, 1851-1914). It just followed the first European "import" of American Indians by Hagenbeck in 1910. For the appearances of Two-Two’s tribe in the show, short Western movies were shot, and were projected on a screen on the stage between the acts. Sarrasani’s inspired press agents also created a national sensation by having the Indians making a pilgrimage to the grave of Karl May, the novelist who had popularized the American West stories in Germany and who had just passed away the previous year.

The Maharajah

In 1914 the touring unit, heading to Holland before trying his fortune in England, was stopped in its tracks by the storm of WWI. Performers from "enemy countries" were forced to leave, if not simply deported. Sarrasani, whose programs always contained vast contingents of Japanese, Russians and other "exotic" groups, tried to reach neutral Belgium, but found itself stranded in Essen, where its huge company had been reduced to 40 performers. Arranging a quick return to Dresden, Stosch saved his company's image with a typically opportunistic circus move.

Nordisk Film employed the circus's elephants, zebras, and camels in a few shots for Robert Dinsen’s oriental melodrama The Maharajah’s Favorite Wife (Maharadjahens Yndlingshustru, 1917). The Maharajah’s outfit worn by its leading actor, Gunnar Tolnaer, apparently left such strong an impression on Hans Stosch-Sarrasani’s imagination that he would switch after the War his trademark cowboy outfit for the elaborate costume of a Marharajah—certainly more attuned to his newly reached status of "Zirkus-König" (Circus King).

Thereafter, and until his death, Hans-Stosch Sarrasani would be known in the circus world as The Maharajah. It is in a Maharajah costume, replete with elaborate turban and jewelry, that Hans Stosch-Sarrasani would henceforth present his huge elephant act, and appear on advertising photographs and posters. (In 1921, Sarrasani's vast menagerie was used again for an exotic German film classic, Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb, 1922), featuring Conrad Veidt as a Maharajah.

Back in Dresden in late 1915, while the circus survived with its patriotic pantomimes, war shortages almost destroyed its menagerie: elephants and exotic animals were used by the army for transport, and most of the wild animals in the circus’s vast zoological collection died or had to be killed. And then, after the war was lost in 1918, Germany was hit by a galloping inflation by the early 1920s, it made it impossible for the giant circus to sustain a tour with its big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) and all the necessary equipment. Sarrasani, with a large contingent of performers who had escaped the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, barely survived by performing either outdoors, on theatre stages, or in large halls (like in Frankfurt in 1921, where Alfred Schneider and his famous group of 70 lions topped the bill).

Sarrasani in South America (1924-1925)

Shipping a full German circus to the New World, and sponsoring its tour, was to Stinnes a good strategic move in several ways: It was good advertising indeed for his shipping company, and a good opportunity for German propaganda in South America his press empire could easily transform the tour into a major national event. Not fortuitously, Sarrasani converted his circus vehicles for road transportation (the circus originally moved by rail), a change that would promote the innovative German automobile industry at home and abroad. Not to be forgotten in this scheme was Stinnes’s ownership of large tracks of land in South America, and his control of Argentina’s largest oil concession: South America was undeniably important to his, and Germany’s, business interests.

On November 4, 1923 in Hamburg, three of Stinnes’s steamships, Danzig, Ludendorff, and Tirpitz, loaded with "120 vehicles, 200 animals and 300 persons" (according to press releases), set sail for Brazil. After one month at sea, Circus Sarrasani landed in Rio de Janeiro, where the circus, set up in the very center of city, began what was to be a triumphal journey. It continued through São Paulo and a few major Brazilian cities, then to Montevideo (Uruguay), and eventually visited Argentina, where it opened in Buenos Aires in April of 1924.

The circus Hans Stosch had taken to South America was not as important as the pre-war Circus Sarrasani, and its show was neither as big nor elaborate, but it was very respectable by any European standards, with many group acts and large "exotic" troupes filling the ring. It was crowned by Hans Stosch-Sarrasani’s big elephant act, which was undoubtedly the largest ever seen in South America. The Reinsch Troupe of jockeys, the clowns Babusio, the Lorch Family’s famous risley act, the Rikoku Japanese family (a Sarrasani fixture for many years), and The Artonis on the flying trapeze Aerial act in which an acrobat is propelled from a trapeze to a catcher, or to another trapeze. (See also: Short-distance Flying Trapeze) topped the bill, as well as Tilly Bebé’s famous lion act that appeared at the beginning of the tour only, before returning to Germany due to personal disagreements with the circus’s management.

There were a few "exotic" tableaus, as was then the fashion in German circuses and especially at Circus Sarrasani an oriental display featured Sarrasani’s corps de ballet, the Ben Saïd troupe of Moroccan tumblers, and a group of camels, zebras and other exotic animals. During intermission, a swaypole A high, flexible vertical pole (originally made of a single piece of wood, and today of fiberglass) atop of which an acrobat performs various balancing tricks. act performed outdoors (a good publicity for the passersby), and beside the menagerie, one could visit a sideshow of "female oddities" such as a bearded lady, a fat woman and a "hermaphrodite", which was advertised "For Adults Only"…

It was at any rate a much more lavish and spectacular show than anything that was usually seen in South America at the time, and it met everywhere with tremendous success. In Argentina, local performers acting popular comedies and dramas in the ring were added to the circus fare. Sarrasani’s tour had political undertones: State and local officials greeted the circus and attended the show in their official capacity, and the German's president, Friedrich Eberd, had heralded Circus Sarrasani as a "German Cultural Ambassador".

From Buenos Aires, the circus caravan visited Rosario, Santa Fé, and Cordoba, before finally returning home in 1925. Sarrasani’s remarkable Press Department Director, the well-known journalist and writer A.H. Kober, had followed the South American tour, feeding continuously the German press with stories and pictures of the circus’s exotic adventures—and he would continue to exploit the subject in the circus’s own magazine for years afterwards. At home, Hans Stosch-Sarrasani was not only far from forgotten, he had become a living legend!

The Rise and Fall of The New Sarrasani (1926-1934)

Circus Sarrasani reached its pinnacle, and made its most significant contribution to circus history, in the second half of 1920s. Upon his return to Germany, Stosch reinvested the fortune ha had made in South America into a total revamping of his circus—with a sharpness of vision unique in circus history, which encompassed artistic, technical, and organizational aspects.

The circus was partially motorized (the horses and large animals still traveled by train), and was advertised as an “Automobile-Zirkus”—whereas all German major circuses traveled exclusively by rail. About 200 transport and habitation wagons, pulled by Mercedes-Benz trucks, were elegantly painted in white and green (the Saxon flag colors), with the two colors parted diagonally—a very unusual color scheme and design that would become intimately associated with all things "Sarrasani". The name SARRASANI was displayed on the flanks of every vehicle in embossed brass letters.

Reflecting the new "oriental" character of its legendary owner, the giant big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) was fronted by an extravagant oriental façade (soon copied by Sarrasani’s major competitors): Designed by the architect Alfred Pape, it extended over 60 meters (198 feet), and was 15 meters high (49½ feet) its width could be reduced if needed by suppressing various panels or turrets. By night the monumental façade, looking like the fabled palace of the Maharajah of Mysore on a celebration day, was illuminated by thousands of light bulbs. Like the green and white color scheme of its rolling stock, this façade became an iconic feature of Circus Sarrasani.

This aesthetic revamping affected the show too. Still avoiding the three-ring, post-Barnum format adopted by his major competitors, Sarrasani had nonetheless a huge cast of performers, including many troupes, not to mention his own group of elephants that had reached 22 heads. According to a 1927 press release, the ring had been enlarged to a diameter of 17 meters, although such a ring never existed: It was in fact the total diameter of the circle that comprised the ring and the empty space surrounding it, which was used for parades and large displays of performers, either two- or four-legged.

In 1927, Sarrasani inaugurated in Chemnitz a huge winter-circus construction (French) A temporary circus building, originally made of wood and canvas, and later, of steel elements supporting a canvas top and wooden wall. Also known as a "semi-construction." , named Winterbau Irigoyen in tribute to Hipólito Irigoyen (1852-1933), the Argentinean president who had remained neutral during WW1. It was another marvel of engineering: 8 steel poles, 25-meter high, supported a 20-ton octagonal wooden cupola to which the wooden frame was attached, extending to a first circle of 25 connected wooden-poles and then to the wooden side poles at the perimeter the ensemble formed a huge structure with a diameter of 78 meters (277 feet)—certainly the largest circus construction (French) A temporary circus building, originally made of wood and canvas, and later, of steel elements supporting a canvas top and wooden wall. Also known as a "semi-construction." ever built. The cupola, the frame, and the sidewalls were covered with canvas. The frame was built in such a way that it had neither nails, nor screws: It was holding together with mortises, grooves, and tenons. The construction (French) A temporary circus building, originally made of wood and canvas, and later, of steel elements supporting a canvas top and wooden wall. Also known as a "semi-construction." , which took two weeks to erect, replaced the tent for the winter dates, and was heated with hot air blown under the seating system. It could accommodate 10,000 spectators, and elaborate interior decorations transformed the house into yet another lavish oriental palace.

Unfortunately, Circus Sarrasani’s Golden Years didn’t last long. Sarrasani had faced a serious problem when he returned to Germany: During his absence, he had lost his grasp on the home market. His principal rival, the giant Circus Krone, had become in the interval Europe’s largest circus, and was now a household name in the country and a power to reckon with. The two giant circuses were fighting fiercely for territory. It was costly, and Carl Krone and Hans Stosch-Sarrasani eventually met and agreed to coordinate their tours. But things didn't go so easily with more hungry and aggressive rivals such as Strassburger, Barum-Kreiser, and Gleich.

Eventually, the economic crisis of 1929 brought Circus Sarrasani to the verge of collapse. Stosch pleaded his cause with the Saxon government, asking for subventions or tax relief on account of his circus being a "national heritage". This didn’t work, so he tried to find success out of Germany: In 1930 a French tour attempt was cut short in Strasbourg, where the circus faced anti-German propaganda a foray in Switzerland was interrupted by a mortal street accident involving some of the circus’s vehicles. Sarrasani didn’t fare better in Holland and Belgium: In Liège, anti-German protesters became violent and shows had to be cancelled. Finally in January 1932 in Antwerp, the circus was partially destroyed by a suspicious fire.

Circus Sarrasani was now a shadow of the powerhouse it had been just a few years earlier. Finally, Stosch decided to return to South America. His trip to Rotterdam, where the circus was scheduled to embark in the spring, was transformed into yet another dispiriting visit to Holland: In Amsterdam Sarrasani, a Jüdenzirkus in Germany, was labeled a "Nazi circus"! All the same, the circus reached Rotterdam and Sarrasani set sail again for Brazil on April 13, 1934 (a Friday)—helping in the process many Jewish performers and workers and their families to leave an increasingly inhospitable Europe.

Sarrasani arrived at Rio de Janeiro on April 29. A couple of weeks later, on May 14, 1934, the giant circus opened at the Esplanada do Castelo, in the center of Rio. Circus Sarrasani was back on friendly territory, and success returned at last. During its stay in São Paulo, "Junior", as Hans Stosch, Jr. was known, told his father that he intended to marry a twenty-year old Swiss dancer from the company, sixteen years his junior, Gertrude Helene Kunz (1913-2009), nicknamed Trude although this decision would have a decisive impact on Circus Sarrasani’s fate in years to come, the Maharajah was not particularly pleased. Hans Stosch-Sarrasani, now sixty-one, suffered from a bad heart condition he was exhausted and his health began to deteriorate. In late August, while the circus was still in São Paulo, he had to be hospitalized. Then, in the night of September 20, 1934, the legendary circus Maharajah departed for the nirvana.

Junior's Reformation Years (1934-1941)

In late 1934, Junior flied back to Germany to meet the new Reich’s powerful Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. The Reich was already supporting the circus it sponsored Hagenbeck’s international tours, which were good for German propaganda, and Circus Busch, considered a Berlin institution. Junior didn't want to miss the opportunity to include Circus Sarrasani into the fold. Gifted with a cunning diplomatic talent, he proposed a restructuration of his circus in two points: (1) Sarrasani should be protected and used as a symbol of national pride (2) the artistic concept of the circus and its logistics would be readjusted to solve its financial troubles.

A financial help was approved on the condition that a "renewal" (i.e. a racial purification) of the circus’s employees was considered too. Junior agreed. He returned to Brazil with a 150,000-Mark government subsidy and began to deeply alter his father's dream. Circus Sarrasani had entered the realm of legends for its rich artistry, its sheer magnitude, and the perfection it brought to every detail Junior downsized the circus to a lighter structure, able to play smaller towns where it could stay for shorter periods, and the show was simplified, evolving into a more traditional and less adorned succession of acts.

The change didn’t hurt Sarrasani, which continued its successful Brazilian tour, and then moved in 1935 to Uruguay. There, a succession of railroad accidents and storms damaged the circus, but the German government proved supporting, always ready and willing to help Sarrasani out of its troubles. The circus continued to Argentina where, on April 13, 1935 in Buenos Aires, Hans Stosch-Sarrasani, Jr. finally married Trude Kunz. Things were looking good for Junior.

He returned to Germany at the end of 1935 with part of the original circus equipment, leaving in Argentina a fully operational South-American unit under the management of his collaborator, Josef Bamdas. Junior reopened in Dresden in December 1935 with a classic circus program. In the following years, especially during WWII, performers would be principally German or Italian (as in the other German circuses and variety theaters during that period), and the workers were Czech or Polish. In 1936, the government offered Sarrasani to play Berlin during the Olympics: Berlin’s own Circus Busch had been closed and was set to be demolished to leave room for the future development of Albert Speers’ utopian Reich capital.

Then, the Argentinean unit returned to Europe, and Junior found himself at the helm of three circus units: the circus in Dresden for the winter season, the touring unit (with a lighter version for small towns), and another unit for foreign tours sponsored by the Reich, which performed either under the big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) , in circus buildings, or in theaters. Thus Sarrasani visited Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium (including Brussels's Cirque Royal during the winter of 1937-38), and Wien and Austria in 1938.

With the advent of WWII, the building in Dresden began to stage several circus pantomimes on propagandist themes, such as a celebration of the Spanish Civil War, or the famous Nena Sahib (1941), which celebrated India’s autonomist fight against England, co-produced with Paula Busch. If those were relatively profitable years, things were not always easy for Junior, and it intensified with the War: He not only still had to deal with the debts left by his father, but also with intense government oversight and its permanent suspicion, its many demands, and the incertitude that surrounded the organization of his circus tours, as well as an increasing shortage of performers.

In 1941, after the cancellation of a planned tour in Hungary due to the Hungarian attack on the Soviet Union in Ukraine, the circus was allowed to play Berlin again for a long engagement. Junior organized that engagement in the greatest possible style, reminiscent to some extent of Sarrasani’s past grandeur. But on July 9, 1941, a few days before the opening, he died suddenly of a cardiac arrest in his room at Berlin's Hotel Excelsior. He was only forty-four, but he was in poor health due in good part to a serious problem with alcoholism. His body was cremated and his ashes buried next to his father's at the Urnenhain Tolkewitz Municipal Cementary in Dresden-Tolkewitz.

Trude’s Reign: “Europe's Youngest Circus Director” (1941-1946)

At twenty-eight, Trude was now the youngest circus director in Europe, a fact that was duly advertised. She successfully completed the Berlin engagement, and then took the circus on its previously planned Hungarian tour. A performer at heart, and probably following the example of her illustrious father-in-law, Trude quickly built a circus promotion based on her personality, her portrait appearing on posters, program covers and magazines, and she established her presence in the ring with a liberty "Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. horse act prepared by Sarrasani’s famous Master Equestrian, Carl Petoletti. She also proved a compassionate director, caring for her employees whose conditions were rather tough during the disastrous final years of the War.

As touring with the circus in war-torn Germany became increasingly difficult, Trude gave a new impulse to the Dresden building, transforming it into a circus- varieté (German, from the French: ''variété'') A German variety show whose acts are mostly circus acts, performed in a cabaret atmosphere. Very popular in Germany before WWII, Varieté shows have experienced a renaissance since the 1980s. , Sarrasani-Haus. In that she built upon the vogue of German " varieté (German, from the French: ''variété'') A German variety show whose acts are mostly circus acts, performed in a cabaret atmosphere. Very popular in Germany before WWII, Varieté shows have experienced a renaissance since the 1980s. " shows, which mixed bona-fide circus acts (including large animal acts) with traditional vaudeville fare, exemplified notably by Berlin’s famous Wintergarten and Plaza theaters. Sarrasani’s programs were renewed every two weeks, with some of the best acts of the period on the German circuit: Charlie Rivel, Maria Valente and many other stars of the variety circuit appeared at Circus Sarrasani.

Trude also produced revues such as Gloria Express and Alles fürs Herz (All for the Heart). For the winter season, the building reverted to classic circus fare. In 1944 she was still able to produce an ambitious circus musical based on her own life: Durch die Welt im Zirkuszelt (Around the world under a big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) ), for which she invested liberally in talent, music, choreography, costume design, and scenic innovations. Meanwhile, Trude had acquired a close collaborator and a new partner in her life, the Hungarian aerialist Any acrobat working above the ring on an aerial equipment such as trapeze, Roman Rings, Spanish web, etc. Gabor Nemedi, whom she had met when he worked at Circus Sarrasani with his flying casting act, The 3 Turuls.

At the threshold of 1945, Germany had all but lost the war the country was in a desperate situation, encircled by the advancing Allies’ troupes, and trying to survive under incessant bombings. Trude took most of the circus equipment away from Dresden, to the village of Prossen on the Elbe River, and booked her horses, elephants and trained hippo with Circus Knie, in neutral Switzerland. Amazingly, the all-powerful Nazi administration was still functioning and working zealously they sued Trude for "protecting strangers" and other "crimes against the Reich", while the Gestapo arrested Nemedi. Then, on the evening February 13, 1945, Dresden was practically destroyed in one of the most terrifying and senseless aerial raids in war history. The magnificent Sarrasani-bau, the world's largest circus building, was hit during a performance and collapsed in flames. Many lives, human and animal, were lost in the catastrophe.

Trude and Nemedi (who had escaped the Gestapo in the ensuing panic), quickly headed for Czechoslovakia, where they found refuge in Circus Kludsky's winter quarters then to escape the imminent Soviet invasion, they fled to southern Germany. At the end, Trude lost everything: the equipment stored in Prossen disappeared, including the legendary circus façade. Some of the equipment left in Dresden that had survived the destruction was used for a temporary unit of Leipzig's Circus Aeros the old big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) went to Berlin to Paula Busch.

The Soviet occupants considered the animals Trude had placed in Switzerland as "patrimony of the German State". Four of the elephants and the hippo were given to the Knie family as indemnity for their upkeep expenses. (Under Rolf Knie, Sarrasani’s elephants set in motion one of the most important chapters in the history of elephant training.) Other elephants were bought by Darix Togni in Italy. Trude, now labeled as a "Nazi collaborationist", had a hard time to find work.

She was finally able to put together a high school A display of equestrian dressage by a rider mounting a horse and leading it into classic moves and steps. (From the French: Haute école) act, while Nemedi built a new aerial act, and by1946, they began to find work in German circuses: Schulte, Hollzmuller, Franz Althoff, Apollo-Schikler. In 1947 they went on tour with their own, newly-created small circus, Circus Europa. But life was uneasy for them in post-war Germany. The couple began to test their South American contacts with the hope to go back to Argentina. In January 1948, after a winter engagement at Paris's Cirque d'Hiver, Trude and Gabor finally fled to Buenos Aires.

South American Rebirth (1948-1972)

Juan Perón had been elected President of Argentina a couple of years earlier, following a period of military dictatorship. Even though he promoted a policy of social justice and economic independence, Perón, who had in the past professed his admiration for the achievements of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, established a quasi-dictatorship. That, added to the close ties Argentina had long established with Germany, made it easier for Germans tainted by a Nazi or pro-Nazi past to find refuge in a country that already had a large community of German origins.

Two former Argentinean Sarrasani employees, Ismael Pace and José Lectoure, were managing at the time the Circo Shangri Lá in Buenos Aires's Parque de la Ciudad, a popular amusement park. They offered an engagement to Trude and Gabor. The reunion led them to reorganize their enterprise, which took the name of Circo Shangri Lá-Sarrasani. Juan Perón and his wife, Evita, attended the new concern’s grand opening on April 28 1948. Trude's talent for politics and diplomacy was not lost, and she developed a good relationship with the Peróns. In 1950, Evita bestowed on Trude’s circus the title of "Circo Nacional Argentino".

In the spring of 1958, she erected in Rio de Janeiro one of the weirdest circus structures ever: a circular aluminum dome, a sort of flattened bell dubbed El Palacio de Aluminio. Needless to say, even in the austral winter, the "palace" was a hothouse! It was then erected in São Paulo, where Trude eventually rented it out for other uses. Trude’s father passed away in Buenos Aires at that time. On her way to the airport, she learnt that a fire had destroyed the structure and, apparently, its tenants didn’t carry an insurance. It was one blow too many, and Trude finally decided to retire in her Argentinean property of San Clemente del Tuyú, near Buenos Aires.

Then, in 1968, she got involved in another, even crazier project: An Argentinean engineer suggested to erect a circus in Buenos Aires made entirely in plastic and polyester. Trude brought artists and animals from Europe but, close to the opening day, a measurement mistake made it impossible to put up the pieces of the structure together. The plastic circus never concretized—although Trude kept its façade, which she eventually used later. Billed as Revista Sarrasani, the new show finally opened in a theater, and then went on tour in Argentina under the big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) of the Segura circus family, fronted with her plastic façade.

Finally, in 1972 Trude, now fifty-nine years old, decided to go back into retirement and parted with the Seguras—who went to Brazil where they toured under the title Circo Real-Madrid. The original Circus Sarrasani created by the visionary Hans Stosch and maintained alive against all odds by Hans Stosch-Sarrasani, Jr. and (mostly) by Trude Stosch-Sarrasani had ceased to exist.


Trude had not returned to Europe since 1948, although she never lost her European contacts. In the late 1950s, she become implicated in a three-year legal battle with an old employee, Fritz Mey, who had opened his own Circus Sarrasani in Germany in 1956. (See below, “Fritz Mey’s Circus Sarrasani”.) In 1975, she accepted an offer from a horse training center to come to Germany they wished to put Trude back in the circus ring with one of their horse acts. Nothing actually came of it, and it was finally Fritz Mey who hired Trude for his new Circus Sarrasani, to present a liberty "Liberty act", "Horses at liberty": Unmounted horses presented from the center of the ring by an equestrian directing his charges with his voice, body movements, and signals from a ''chambrière'' (French), or long whip. act prepared in Italy for her by Enis Togni.

Gabor Nemedi, Trude's long-time companion, passed away on March 31, 1981 in Buenos Aires. In the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), the authorities in Dresden began to recognize Circus Sarrasani as a local heritage, and organized various ceremonies and exhibitions. In 1991 they inaugurated a Sarrasanistrasse (Sarrasani Street) where the circus building had once stood, replete with a commemorative plaque and an elaborate "Sarrasani Fountain" the following year, Trude Stosch-Sarrasani was invited as a guest of honor to a Sarrasani Day celebration, and she returned to Dresden for the first time in nearly half a century. The Stosch-Sarrasani family grave was named a national monument. In 1996, another Sarrasanistrasse was inaugurated in Radebeul, where Hans Stosch had lived and started his circus, and the town had Hans Stosch-Sarrasani's home repainted as a memorial to its legendary owner.

Trude died on July 6, 2009 at age ninety-six in her home at San Clemente del Tuyú, a seaside resort near Buenos Aires. She was saluted by the Argentinean and Brazilian press as the Grande Dame of the Circus: She had indeed become a household name in South America—and to some extent, she had superseded there her illustrious father-in-law, Hans Stosch-Sarrasani, the Maharajah himself, as the person most readily associated with the name of Sarrasani and all what it meant.

In 1998, Trude had ceded the South American rights to the Sarrasani title to a close friend, Jorge Bernstein, a Buenos Aires businessman—an architect and entrepreneur who had developed several shopping centers, as well as revived the Tattersall de Palermo, an plush entertainment hall in the old hippodrome of Buenos Aires. Through press conferences and newspaper articles, Bernstein relentlessly stressed the importance of Sarrasani’s heritage, and announced several important projects over the years, which never materialized: A permanent circus building, a new big top The circus tent. America: The main tent of a traveling circus, where the show is performed, as opposed to the other tops. (French, Russian: Chapiteau) , a theme park, an equestrian show, a TV series, a circus festival…

Finally, he produced a Sarrasani Varieté-Gourmet at the Tattersal de Palermo in 2013—a dinner-show in which he presented Graf Story, the show conceived by the Russian comedy-magician, Evgeniy Voronin, with a remarkable ensemble of award-winning European and American circus acts. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Dresden, the name is kept alive with another dinner-show, André Sarrasani’s Sarrasani Trocadero. Yet at the time of this writing (2014), a true Circus Sarrasani has not been revived either in Germany or in Argentina since the demise of Fritz Mey’s “neo-Sarrasani."

The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy

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Stewart O'Nan thought of himself as a novelist. Living in Hartford, Conn., he took an interest in the Hartford circus fire of 1944, which took 167 lives. Why had nobody ever written a book about it? He began gathering information about it, intending to try to tempt some other writer into tackling such a book. Then, with some reluctance, he wrote it himself.

The result was “The Circus Fire” (2000), a work of history that reads like an edge-of-your-seat novel. O'Nan takes the reader minute-by-minute, and then day-by-day, through the fire and its aftermath, an aftermath that continued even into the 1990s.

Circus fires were not a rarity in those days, but it took the Hartford disaster to persuade anyone to take them seriously. In 1944 the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus was much more concerned about rain than fire. And so to waterproof tents the canvas was coated with a highly flammable compound made of paraffin and white gasoline. Even the circus seating was covered with layer upon layer of flammable paint.

The cause of the Hartford fire was never determined, although a known arsonist in Ohio was long considered the prime suspect. However the fire started, it spread quickly, giving the matinee audience, composed mostly of women and children, little time to exit.

Smoke, not flames, accounts for most fire fatalities, but not this time. The smoke quickly escaped through the top of the tent, but the burning canvas and wooden fixtures quickly set people on fire. Many burned to death, while others were trampled in the stampede to get out.

O'Nan gives us all the details about those who died and those who survived and about the confusion created when families tried to identify badly burned bodies. We read about the severe burns suffered and about how the fire affected survivors for decades afterward. We learn, too, about legal efforts to assign blame for the fire.

Circuses changed their practices after the Hartford fire, and communities took more seriously the passage of fire safety laws and their enforcement. Yet by the end of the 1940s, tent circuses were mostly a thing of the past. The Greatest Show on Earth moved into arenas and stadiums.

Stewart O'Nan returned to writing novels after this book, and he has written some excellent ones. But we can be thankful that he took a break to write this excellent work of nonfiction. ( )

Circus Fire: The True Story of an American Tragedy by Stewart O’Nan

On July 6, 1944 in Hartford, Connecticut a fire would rage out of control at the circus taking place, killing over a hundred children and adults and injuring many, many more.

The first thing that interested me about this book was the intro. Stewart O’Nan is not an historian. He is novelist. He admits fairly quickly that he had no urge to write this book due to lack of writing such subjects but took it on. This is mostly interesting because in the past, reading history books from those inexperienced in how to write them, have ended badly for me. Luckily, that was not the case for this book. My main complaint was reading it on the Kindle. The amount of typos and lack of punctuation took away from the story. I had whole paragraphs that just didn’t have periods, where it was obvious they were supposed to be. And that was just the beginning.

I started this book in January and while good, it took a lot out of me at times. Reading about so much tragedy and death was exhausting and after my loss, reading this book became that much more difficult but with a mere 40 pages left, I figured it was time to finish the book. It’s an interesting part of history that has been forgotten over time (and as the remaining survivors dwindles) that still holds many mysteries (such as how was it started). This book definitely isn’t for everyone. It deals with tragedy and not everyone is into the history genre but it is fascinating and probably more so if you read a copy that doesn’t have so many spelling and punctuation errors -).
( )

10 Most Horrific Circus Accidents In History

Generations of children have enjoyed circuses the death-defying acrobatics, wild animals, tight-rope-walkers and clowns team up to entertain, intrigue and dazzle the young crowd.

However, the life of a circus performer is not all successful stunts and cheering children as these ten circus accidents demonstrate, life in the ring has seen its fair share of death and destruction as well.

We begin our list with a well-known tragedy&mdashthe execution of an elephant. On September 12, 1916, Mary trampled her handler Red Eldridge to death. There are various accounts of what led to the attack&mdashfrom Eldridge prodding Mary with a stick and infuriating her, to speculation that she was simply bored.

While Eldridge&rsquos death was tragic and gruesome, Mary&rsquos fate might be even more so. The people of Kingsport, Tennessee demanded retribution for Eldridge&rsquos death, so it was decided that Mary would hang for her crime. On September 13, a crowd of 2,500 people (mostly children) gathered to watch Mary&rsquos execution. Mary was hung from the neck by an industrial crane. However, the chain around her neck snapped and she slammed to the ground, breaking her hip. A heavier-gauge chain was used to hang Mary for a second time, and she swung for half an hour before being dumped in a hastily-dug grave.

Dessi Espana was a Bulgarian-American who came from a family of performers. She had performed for years and even held a Guinness World Record. Unfortunately, a technical failure ended her career in 2004. Espana was performing an aerial act with chiffon scarves when a mechanism holding the cloth in place failed, and she fell thirty feet, head-first. Espana later died from her injuries.

Massarti (Thomas MacCarte) was a bold, but rash, one-armed lion tamer. On January 3, 1872, he was performing in Bolton, England with Manders&rsquo Menagerie. For unknown reasons, a lion named Tyrant attacked him&mdashand the three other lions in the act quickly joined in. Massarti was nearly scalped when a lion bit his head, and was torn apart in front of several hundred witnesses.

The trapeze is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous circus acts around, and requires a good deal of strength and flexibility. All the training in the world, however, cannot prevent a mechanical failure. In 1872, Fred Lazelle and Billy Millson, two famous trapeze artists, crashed to the ground when their trapeze mechanism failed. George North, a gymnast, was unfortunately beneath the trapeze when it fell. All three men were injured Millson likely broke his ribs, and North suffered internal injuries.

Another tragedy to befall circus workers comes from a dark chapter in American history. On June 14, 1920, the James Robinson Circus arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. Nineteen-year-old Irene Tusken and eighteen-year-old James Sullivan watched African-American circus workers load the circus wagons. Later that night, Tusken claimed that six of those circus employees had held her at gunpoint and raped her. The police quickly arrested six men in connection with the rape.

Shortly afterwards, a mob of between five thousand and ten thousand people formed, broke into the jail, and after a mock trial, declared Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie guilty of the rape. The mob beat the men, and dragged them to a light pole on the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East, where they were lynched.

The Flying Wallendas were an old circus family that consisted of Karl, his wife Helen Kreis, his brother Herman, and numerous other family members. Karl Wallenda pioneered an act called the Seven-Person Chair Pyramid, in which seven people balanced on tightropes (and a chair) thirty-two feet in the air without the use of safety nets.

The Wallendas were undoubtedly excellent acrobats and daredevils but in 1962, their act went horribly wrong. The lead man faltered, and three people crashed to the ground. Karl Wallenda&rsquos son-in-law, Richard Faughnan, and Wallenda&rsquos nephew, Dieter Schepp, were both killed. Wallenda&rsquos adopted son, Mario, was paralyzed from the waist down.

Although there were no human fatalities, the Cleveland Circus Fire of 1942 was a horrific event that caused the deaths of over one hundred circus animals. A fire of unknown origin started near the menagerie tent of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Spectators and circus workers easily escaped the flames, but the fire spread so quickly, it became impossible to save all of the animals.

Nine cages&mdashfilled with lions, tigers, and zebras&mdashburst into flames. Some animals were able to escape the blaze, but twenty-six others were so badly burned they were put down by policemen with machine guns.

In 1903, two separate Wallace Brothers Circus trains crashed into each other. The first train had slowed to a halt on the railway tracks&mdashand although the conductor of the second train saw the warning light, the brakes failed and the two trains collided. In all, thirty circus workers were killed and another twenty-seven injured. Several animals also died in the crash, including an Arabian horse, three camels, one great dane, and an elephant named Maud.

On June 22, 1918, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was traveling via railroad to Hammond, Indiana. The train had stopped for the night, and many of the circus performers were asleep in the wooden train cars. At 4:00 AM, a Michigan Central Railroad troop train slammed into the circus train at thirty-five miles per hour. The driver of the troop train, Alonzo Sargent, had fallen asleep at the wheel and so did not see the warnings posted about the stopped circus train.

As a result, eighty-six people died and another 127 were injured.

This tragic event is arguably the most well-known on our list, due to the scale of the fire and the extensive loss of life. On July 6, 1944, a small fire began in the southwest sidewall of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey big top circus tent. Because the tent was water-proofed with paraffin wax and gasoline, the fire spread rapidly.

Understandably, the crowd of seven thousand spectators panicked and rushed towards the exits. But two of these exits were blocked by chutes used to bring in circus animals&mdashand in the ensuing stampede, circus goers were trampled, crushed, and asphyxiated under the weight of fallen people. As the flames spread, other spectators simply burned to death, or else died as a result of smoke inhalation. In a panic, some people tried leaping from the bleachers to avoid the fire but this attempt to escape actually killed more people than it saved.

In the end, an estimated 169 people died and more than seven hundred were injured.

How Did the Amazon Rainforest Fires Start?

Wildfires are currently burning across large tracts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, amid international outcry over inaction on the part of President Jair Bolsonaro's administration.

Brazil has experienced a record number of wildfires this year, more than half of which occurred in the Amazon region. That's according to data collected by the country's National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The figures show an 83 percent increase in comparison to the same period in 2018, representing the highest number of blazes since the agency began collecting such data in 2013, Reuters reported.

In fact, INPE says it has identified more than 72,000 fires in Brazil between January and August this year, comfortably more than the roughly 40,000 recorded in the entirety of 2018. Many of the recent fires in the Amazon region have been centered on the Brazilian states of Rondônia, Pará, Amazonas and Mato Grosso, which saw a 39 percent increase over 2018 as of August 2.

So what exactly is causing these fires?

According to NASA, the Amazon rainforest has been relatively fire-resistant throughout its history due to its moist and humid conditions. But an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts&mdasha phenomenon that's linked to anthropogenic climate change&mdashin combination with human activities in the forest has led to a spike in the number of fires.

While natural wildfires do sometimes occur in the Amazon during the dry season&mdashwhich runs roughly between August and November&mdashthese tend to be relatively low in frequency and intensity, with flames that only reach a few inches in height, Mongabay reported.

However, experts are warning the recent spike in wildfires is likely the result of human activities.

"This is without any question one of only two times that there have been fires like this [in the Amazon,]" ecologist Thomas Lovejoy told National Geographic. "There's no question that it's a consequence of the recent uptick in deforestation."

Recently released INPE data has shown that Amazon deforestation rates have risen to the point where around three soccer fields of tree cover are being lost every minute, The Guardian reported. In fact, the figures show that in July this year, deforestation had increased by nearly 300 percent in comparison to the same month in 2018.

Unlike previous years in which Amazon wildfires have been linked to unusually low rainfall&mdashexperts say that conditions this year have been relatively moist.

"There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average," Alberto Setzer from INPE told Reuters. "The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident."

Fire is commonly used in the Amazon as a technique to clear land for cattle ranches, soy plantations or other uses, although the practice is not always legal.

Watch the video: Nightclub Fire Kills 231 in Santa Maria, Brazil (August 2022).