Jan 182017
 

Due to low attendance, rising costs, and suspected pressure from animal rights activists, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced the circus would close in May 2017 after 146 years.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is a United States traveling circus company billed as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The circus, known as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows, was started in 1919 when the Barnum & Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth, a circus created by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey, was merged with the Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows. The Ringling brothers had purchased Barnum & Bailey Ltd. following Bailey’s death in 1906, but ran the circuses separately until they were merged in 1919.

A brief summary about the early days of circus reveals:

In 1884, five of the seven Ringling brothers had started a small circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This was about the same time that Barnum & Bailey were at the peak of their popularity. Similar to dozens of small circuses that toured the Midwest and the Northeast at the time, the brothers moved their circus from town to town in small animal-drawn caravans. Their circus rapidly grew and they were soon able to move their circus by train, which allowed them to have the largest traveling amusement enterprise of that time. Bailey’s European tour gave the Ringling brothers an opportunity to move their show from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard. Faced with the new competition, Bailey took his show west of the Rocky Mountains for the first time in 1905. He died the next year, and the circus was sold to the Ringling Brothers. [Wikipedia]

A fascinating aspect of the circus is the transportation methods used, beginning in the late 19th century. Trains, and train wagons transported people, equipment, animals, and performers state-to-state and overseas by country. A seemingly economical and fast way to travel, the mode of travel wasn’t without its peril.

The Railroad Tradition at Ringling Bros.

1830s Railroads and circuses begin to appear in the Eastern United States

1840s Circuses begin using boxcars and stock cars for limited distances

1870s April 18, 1872 Ð the P.T. Barnum Circus loaded onto flat cars “piggyback” -style on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Rented sleepers serve as solid circus train, the first unit train concept

1890s The best circuses move by rail: Barnum & Bailey has 56 cars, Ringling Bros. has 56 cars

1920s Ringling Bros. totals almost 100 cars traveling by rail

1950s Ringling Bros. shifts to combined rail/truck transportation

1960s Ringling Bros. discontinues using tents and returns to 100% rail transportation

1969 Ringling Bros. forms second rail unit

The first circus to travel by rail was the Den Stone Circus in 1854. Through out the history of the American circus, train wrecks have taken many lives. The last fatal circus train wreck occurred in 1994 near Lakeland, Florida. [www.circusesandsideshows.com]

Regardless of the irony about train wrecks and the circus, the history of rail and commerce is documented in photographs quite effectively and idyllically. It speaks to the nature of the business and revealed a lifestyle of hard labor and endless travel.  Depending on what you believe, we have replaced the circus with our own media circus, and nevertheless the early traveling sideshow and the romanticism of the train has a place in Americana, now almost only captured in images.

[All images in gallery are from Collection of Circus Travel photography albums. c. 1890-1960. A fabulous pair of albums containing upwards of 550 black and white original photographs and clippings of circus vehicles, parades, acts and equipment dating from the late 19th century through the Depression and war years up to the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. 2 volumes, quarto,
approx 34 leaves per volumes, 310 images in volume I, 234 images in vol II with some loose and displaced images throughout. The albums are 1940’s rexine bound ring binders with heavy sugar paper leaves, all images in very good condition or better, the majority captioned with typed tape slips either on the image or adjacent to it on the album page. Very Good+. Spiral Bound. (#9077)]

 

Oct 262016
 

As promised, here is a selection of materials we are bringing to Boston, much of which is recent acquisitions and new items.  Content is arranged by sections: Primary Source [Archive] Collections; Artist’s Books & Fine Press; Science, Technology, and Historical Medicine; Ephemera; and Esoterica. The catalogs, including the previously released OCCULT short list can be found here: Boston preview list(s)

If you would like to contact about any of the items in advance of the fair, please do so: ian@luxmentis.com, kim@luxmentis.com

Otherwise, we will see you on Friday, October 28th, 5:00-9:00pm!  We have passes for the Friday night preview night, if you would like to attend, please get in touch.

Jul 262016
 

Throughout July, we celebrate and advocate for LGBTQ Pride and action, as many cities around the world geared up for parades, events, and solid signs of support. It’s a time for solidarity, remembrance, love, and critical forms of radical expression.

We are remembering one individual in the queer community, Samuel Morris Steward, who literally decorated the world with vibrancy of character, but also teased and taunted sexual standards; already challenged in the gay community. Sam Steward was a stud; an artistic charmer, a handsome wordsmith, a beguiling back room Casanova. His sex appeal was so provocative he kept a catalog called the “Stud File” with basically card catalog classification and rubrics for his multiple lovers.  Mostly due to his training as a librarian.

Born in 1909 in Woodsfield, Ohio, Samuel M. Steward had gone to Ohio State University, then became a professor at Loyola, and later DePaul University in Chicago. In 1936, he published a well-received novel Angels on the Bough, about his family’s life back home during the Great Depression. Armed with letters of introduction by well-connected friends, Steward went to Paris and met Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, with whom he became lifelong friends. He visited with them often at Bilignin, their country house, and wrote a memoir of that friendship and published a collection of their letters, Dear Sammy (1977).

Despite his connections, Steward failed to live up to his early potential. It was not until he penned his explicit Phil Andros stories (basically as a lark) that he achieved any real recognition. Later in life, he published a pair of amusing mystery novels, incorporating Stein and Toklas as sleuths, including the witty Murder is Murder is Murder (1985). These are feather-light entertainments, poorly plotted and implausible, but they provide a rare and invaluable hands-on insight into the private lives of these two titanic figures. (Huffington Press, “Lover Man: The Samuel Steward Story”)

He also published poetry, loving and emotional, in “Love Poems: Homage to Housman,” he emulates the classicist style of A.E. Housman and an unremitting love between two individuals.

Unsurprisingly, Steward had a relationship with overwhelmingly recognizable artist and illustrator Tom of Finland.  Tom illustrated many of Steward’s book covers under his (Steward) pen name Phil Andros.  The narratives were not unlike Finland’s drawings, hunky manifestations of lusty deviations, situational to Steward’s own kinky lifestyle.  In addition to his own inclination to BDSM communities, he also quite fittingly was a successful tattoo artist in San Francisco in the 1960s.   However, despite a generous community of lovers and artistic aptitude, Steward died in the 1980s, most likely due to addiction issues and pulmonary disease. His life is a message, however controversial for some, that your body and mind is your interpretation and your own. The forms and identity you take is yours alone.

Signed letterpress poetry and selection of original photographs

Signed letterpress poetry and selection of original photographs