Philly Based Showman Adam Forepaugh - Original Greatest Show on Earth

Discussion in 'History' started by Phillyxpat, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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  2. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    Adam Forepaugh - NYT Obit 28 Jan 1890


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  3. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    Adam Forepaugh - Obit - NY The Press 24 Jan 1890


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  4. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    Circuses Philly - Inquirer 24 April 1954


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  5. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    Atlantic House Philadelphia - Circus Clearing House in Winter


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    (images, Philadelphia Record August 1906, of where winter quarter performers practiced and gave local performances twice a week as part of O'Brien performers in Frankford.)


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    (The ways of the circus; being the memories and adventures of...Conklin, George, 1845-1921)

    (I cannot find anything on the net regarding an Atlantic House as a hotel or as a business name as in above autobiographical account.)



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    Ring Barn - SE Darrah and Foulkrod Streets


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    City of Philadelphia Ward 23 - 1887



    One other note, the demise of O'Brien in 1889, Forepaugh in 1890 and Barnum in 1891 was an end to an era started and refined by these old timers before the big consolidation of these earlier smaller parts becoming the greater traditional concept of American Circus under Ringling Brothers.



     
    #5 Phillyxpat, Oct 29, 2018
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  6. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    Frankford - Winter Quarters and Home of Circus and Circus Folk - Seven Stars Hotel - 1870s 1880s



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    O'Brien's Circus usually wintered in Frankford in the northern side of that town after the Civil War. The main circus people there being mainly with John "Pogey" O'Brien's annual shows. Pogey nickname a corruption of Porgy, a fish that as a young man John O'Brien sold in the streets.


    Seven Stars Hotel the center of the Circus Crowd. O'Brien once having owned it. The brick buildings north of in 1917 photo for storage of hay and stable for Circus animals, elephants etc. A line of row houses on Griscom street where circus people lived in a cluster in olden days.


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    1895 map



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    Even P.T.Barnum's favorite freak show fat lady Hannah Battersby lived in Frankford. She was buried in a maple coffin 7 feet long by 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep and carried on a specially reinforced wagon on her way to her final rest in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

    John O'Brien is also in Cedar Hill I believe, his career on the wane from his various very rich partnerships and franchise use of name over the years with the Forepaugh and Barnum circuses and offshoots, succumbing finally in his fifties to a lifelong case of asthma.


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    NY Sign of the Times 28 Feb 1885


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    Inquirer 8 Jan 1924


     
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    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    O'Brien's Four Great Shows - Circus - The Daily Saratogian 24 May 1872

    John "Pogey" O'Brien's Frankford based circus...on the road to Saratoga NY...



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  8. Phillyxpat

    Phillyxpat Harrowgateer

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    John Pogey O'Brien, Circus Pioneer, Not So Destitute At The End?


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    John "Pogey" O'Brien, a pioneer in the art and culture of travelling Circus in America has a cliche like legacy as seen through the eyes of others.

    The big circus guy in his day was Adam Forepaugh, whose biography states that he assumed a partnership with John O'Brien, O'Brien owning him like $9k for horseflesh which was Forepaugh's original business after learning to be a butcher in his youth among other things.

    The partnership between O'Brien and Forepaugh would seem to me for their original two year relationship to be a learning curve as they both figured out the in, outs, profits and losses of running a travelling animal show as entertainment through rural America.

    The other character of the big three in travelling animal and exotic human entertainment was P.T. Barnum.

    In the end Barnum, being New York based, for most of the publicity and his name lives on to represent early circus and animal, athletic and freak exhibition to the hinterlands of early America.

    These early circuses were more like a confederation of entertainers, acrobats, animals trainers, freak presenters and pick pockets, three card monty scammers and ticket sellers, scalping prices and short changing the rural rubes from town to town.

    Reading a few biographies and autobiographies, one hears of the circus organizers or owners like O'Brien, Forepaugh and Barnum getting a cut of all the con money made on the circus grounds for profit and or operating expenses. In many ways the circus was a travelling cash cow to a lot of hangers on, "carnies", run aways, outcasts, gypsies etc.

    That in a way when the Circus Owner could buy off the local sheriff to look the other ways to consumer complaints about scammers and cons, the owners "fixed a town" for those, the devils that you know, pick pockets, the three card montys, and snake oil salesmen within the confines of the temporary circus community and family of that travelling season.

    Having your own policing the circus grounds to keep a lid on the cons and not wise up the rubes too much was much better than having the local police parading through the grounds, ruining business and arresting regulars on the team so to speak.

    In later years as John O'Brien's health declined from asthma, his annual circus got smaller and smaller and no doubt the con part of the profits were more noticeable. Thus when he died, he had not run a circus for a few years and many in their biographies reinforced the idea of O'Brien being a gyp artist.

    Cannot find an obit in the local papers for O'Brien. Can you? I believe he no doubt owed a lot of people a lot money when he died. I somehow doubt a con artist is really totally poor when they die all the time. Lots of places to hide assets with relatives.

    O'Brien at one time owned the Seven Stars Hotel in Frankford. I see in the eighties it is owned and or managed by Oliver Campbell and his wife Ellen (nee O'Brien). That I would guess from Ellen's obit by her age that she may have been "Pogie's" sister and Oliver his brother in law.


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    Inquirer 2 Nov 1922


    His wife's home at I believe 1642 Harrison St. in Frankford must have been a modest row house. His wife lived until 1911. No local obits on her either. Only one small piece in Variety.

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    Variety - 16 Sept 1911


    That O'Brien was extinct in the circus business by the time of his death in 1889. That the bigger players Forepaugh in 1890 and Barnum's demise in 1891 brought an end to an early era of Circus.


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    NY Spirit of the Times 28 Feb 1885


    That Forepaugh and Barnum eventually being absorbed into the new modernly managed Circus of Ringling Brothers became the modern idea of circus entertainment with a minimum of con in the organization.

    That I have to believe that O'Brien's tombstone in Cedar Hill Cemetery does not speak of a man who died destitute unless all the old circus people who wintered in Frankford and no doubt retired there as well passed the hat at the Seven Stars for a gravestone as monument to both the man and his pioneer industry.


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