Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson

  • Mood:


Sons will converse with their fathers about life and work, and sometimes that makes its way into a family reunion booklet or genealogical research for the county historical society. If your name is Robert H. Gollmar, and your father is Fred C. Gollmar, you can claim My Father Owned a Circus, and supplement your income selling a few books, and the impresario of the 1:48 actual size Karlson Brothers Circus will ultimately write Book Review No. 30 about it.

The Gollmar brothers, cousins to the more famous Ringling Brothers, founded a wagon show in 1891, converted to a railroad show in 1903, sold the business in 1916, and subsequently leased the name to the American Circus Corporation, operator of the Hagenbeck-Wallace railroad show.

The book combines recollections of storms, train wrecks, accidents, corrupt public officials, and rumbles with hostile townies, referred to in circus lore as "Hey Rubes". There are some rosters of personnel, travel schedules, and playbills. It may not be the best book to recommend to somebody newly interested in the traditional railroad circus, as it's insider conversation, and Gollmar pere's recollections are supplemented with those of other circus personnel, who sometimes repeat stories told elsewhere. Tom Mix, Buck Jones, and Mamie Ward make appearances.

Somebody looking for additional background on what the railroad circus did and how it did it might also profitably read Joe McKennon's Logistics of the American Circus, which explains each department of the circus and the pecking order within the company. Keep in mind that the public zoological garden is a relatively new institution, and for many years the circus provided education in the form of exotic animals, with a menagerie tent set up between the main entrance and the side show, and lions or tigers along didn't necessarily mean a big cat act. But without the thundering herd of pachyderms, it's not a circus.

The Amazon listing for My Father Owned a Circus offers a few copies at collector prices. I'd best treat my copy, which came from a library de-accessioning sale a few years ago, as an asset.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: business, entertainment, history, rare books

  • Book #15: Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

    Labyrinth by Kate Mosse My rating: 3 of 5 stars I read this book years ago, and decided that lockdown was a perfect time to read it again. I…

  • Book #14: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell My rating: 4 of 5 stars This book opens with the heroine, Margaret Hale, being uprooted from her idyllic…

  • Book 31 - 2019

    Book 31: The Land Before Avocado: Journeys in a lost Australia by Richard Glover - 269 pages Description from There's…

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded