Circus History in Portage County
Many Circus performers and shows have called Portage County home over the years. The Barnsdale Family was showing films as early as 1903. Go here for a paper on Barnsdale's contribution to early motion picture projection.
The Engford family may have the longest tradition of circus performing in Wisconsin. Several were still active in 2000. Members of this family have contributed the bulk of the Society's collection of circus items including a house known in Plover as "the circus house" now at our Heritage Park.
Overview: This section contains both family and career biographies. While the pages are linked, it would be most productive to read them in the sequence listed below. The Engford family, beginning with Robert & Amanda, began performing approximately 1904. Ruthie Engford Clark was still performing in 2000. Contained within these pages are photographs as well as links to photo galleries and videos. Item #10 below, "Videos & Photo Galleries", provides access to all the photo galleries, except "Posters", and videos in one convenient location. A few videos and photo galleries are accessible only through this page.
- Engford Introduction
- Genealogy - a brief family genealogy with a few obituaries.
- Robert Engford and
family. The first of 3 generations of circus performers.
Engford Family Show.
1928 Show Schedule and sample performance line up.
Truck -- 1921 Model "T" Ford Calliope Truck.
- Florence Engford. The last Engford to live in the "circus house".
- Harry Engford and family. The second of 3 generation of circus performers.
Ruthie Engford -- third generation of Plover Circus family.
David Engford -- the non-performing member of Engford Family.
- Frank Clark (Francarro)
- Ruthie and Frank Clark -- "Francarro & Estreleta, America’s premier aerialists".
The Brigadier - "Last of the Great Welsh Cannonballs"
- Costumes -- the costumes worn by the Engford Family Members and Frank Clark.
- The Engfords were Artists and Musicians also!
- Posters -- The Engford Family created many posters and promotional photos over 100 years of entertaining.
- Engford Videos of the Engford acts.
- Extraordinary Circus Artists & Friends -- Frank & Ruthie provide photos, videos and commentary for exceptional acts they have worked with over the years.
Don C. Hall
Another resident, Don Carlos Hall, became a famous showman around the turn of the century. He traveled in a private railroad car with his company. Hall and his wife are buried in Union Cemetery, Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The headstone bears a cameo-sized photograph of the couple - the only one like it in the county, according to local historian Malcolm Rosholt.
Wisconsin Circus History
- Wisconsin Circus Days published by the Wisconsin Historical Society with many photos.
- Robert Parkinson on Portage County Circus's.
- Old Time Circus Parades - by Casmir Sikorski
- Circuses And Carnivals Brought Summer Excitement To Town - by Dorothy Roshack Zmuda
- Circus Articles from Milwaukee Journal, 1959.
Links to Circus Related sites
- Tegge Circus Archives
- International Circus Hall of Fame
- Not a link to Circus sites, but an obituary for a lover of Circus Music, Eldon 'Buster' Bailey.
- Circus World Museum -- The circus museum located in Baraboo Wisconsin.
- Circus Fans Association of America
- Circus News.
- Yesterday's Towns -- a blog about the circus.
- Buckles' Web - blog about the circus.
- The Circus Blog - another blog about the circus
- Windjammers Unlimited -- dedicated to the preservation of circus music.
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