Hardcover. Oblong folio measuring 15" x 11.5". String-tied brown leather boards with gilt titles. Contains 309 sepia-toned or black and white silver gelatin photographs measuring 3" x 3" without captions. Very good album with loose pages and chips with near fine photographs.
Extensive, meticulously arranged and organized collection of backstage and behind-the-scenes images from the iconic traveling circus of the twentieth century, with candid shots of Emmett Kelley and other star performers. A collection of original circus photograph, ordered and grouped in vignettes, in rough order from arrival through set-up: stake-drivers raise the central tent poles; a mostly-unclothed acrobat does a casual one-armed handstand by a circus truck; clowns and others stand in line for “Laundry While You Wait;” women dressed as Scottish highland guards, Roman gladiators, and Musketeers adjust their enormous plumed headdresses and smile gamely for the anonymous photographer. Horses and elephants amble stoically from place to place, sat upon or dressed in their own enormous hats as the Circus commands them. Later photos show human and animal performers in full maximalist show regalia, lined up in formation, seemingly moments before entering the Big Top.
All photographs date from before 1956 (when the circus gave up transporting its own infrastructure cross-country in favor of permanent venues); the automobiles and women’s ‘civilian’ clothes pictured suggest the mid-1940s, perhaps overlapping with the later years of World War II, when the Circus received a special dispensation from President Roosevelt to travel by train despite wartime restrictions.
An uncommonly detailed and unified album of more than 300 images offering an almost private peak into an iconic and beloved American institution.