1909: The Year the Hippodrome Came to Eau Claire

Chad Lewis

From the Eau Claire Leader on July 18, 1909 ...

Eau Claire, Friday, July 23

Gollmar Bros.
Greatest of American Shows

New and superb, brimful and overflowing with the most sensational, ingenious and high class arenic and hippodrome features acts ever exhibited.

A colossal combination of circus, museum, hippodrome and $1,000,000 menagerie.

200 artists, 200 blooded horses, 30 clowns, 100 feature acts, $20,000 blood sweating behemoth, monster herd of performing elephants. Scores of surprising sights and scenes in salutation. Grand gold glittering and glorious free street parade 10am. 2 performances daily, 1 and 7pm.

With the recent demise of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, (after 147 years) I thought it would be fun to travel back the grand heyday of American circuses. This advertised circus followed the time-tested marketing plan of parading the entire cast of circus performers, animals, and elaborately decorated circus cars down the main street in order to give prospective patrons a taste of the weirdness to be enjoyed at the actual circus.

During this time period, a circus visiting town was wildly popular, thousands of people from all the surrounding small towns would flock to Eau Claire to catch a glimpse of sensational spectacle. For many, the circus would be the only chance they would ever have to see exotic animals in the flesh.  

Often times an advance team would visit the area a couple weeks before the circus and plaster these amazing flyers all over town---ensuring that by the time the actual circus arrived, children and their families were falling over each over to spend their hard-earned money at the circus.

I am saddened that the days of seeing a circus car overflowing with a gigantic hippopotamus splashing about along main street are long gone – luckily, we still have the treasure of Circus World in Baraboo, and no matter where you come out on the whole circus debate, I think we can all agree that seeing 30 over-friendly clowns parading around Eau Claire would be … something.

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