Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The delights & the drunks of circus day in Chariton

James A. Bailey (aka James A. McGinnis) brought his circus --- The Great International Menagerie --- to Chariton on Thursday, Aug. 20, 1874. For those interested in footnotes, this was the same Bailey who would partner with Phineas T. Barnum in 1880 to form the Barnum & Bailey Circus. But that pivotal event in entertainment history still was six years in the future.

Anyhow, the Bailey troupe was met with enthusiasm by Lucas Countyans, as reported by Chariton Leader editor Dan Baker in his edition of Aug 22 (Dan, however, was not especially impressed).


The big International Show was here on Thursday, and again our town was a scene of stirring activity that it seldom witnesses. Men, women, boys, girls, and suffering, screaming, tortured infants were here ready to greet the company with their accustomed zeal and promptness. The day was extremely hot and the streets, fearfully dusty. The largest audience was gathered under the canvas we ever before saw in Chariton.

The circus was below our expectations, and the menagerie about as good as the ordinary ones that travel over the country. The company undoubtedly made money, as well as the restaurant and refreshment stands that were so numerous during the day. The usual order and quiet of the town were observed, and but few deadbeats made their appearance. The people all went away happy, and it is to be hoped that the circus did.


Dan had a way with words, and that extended to his account in the same edition of the justice meted out to the drunks of the week by Mayor Emmett B. Woodward, who functioned at the time as magistrate. Several of the defendants apparently were among the "few deadbeats" who had made their appearance on circus day. Here's that report, under the heading "Police Items."

On the 18th Mike Barry, for getting drunk, was escorted by the city marshal before the mayor and urged to deposit his loose change in the city treasury for fear of losing it, which he did to the extent of $3 and costs.

On the 20th, it being show day, Thomas O'Day got on his muscle and fiercely swore he would whip someone. The marshal asked him to get a permit from His Honor, the Mayor, first; the mayor, however, not only refused to grant the said permit, but opened the doors of the city treasury for a deposit from Thomas. Thomas gave security that he would ante promptly in 30 days, and was released.

Aus Wayland, who imagined show day was the 4th of July, indulged in one of his chronic drunks, and was introduced to the mayor again, who soundly lectured him on the error of his ways, fined him $6 and costs, and sent him home. Aus is getting to be a tough case, and anyone who sells or gives him anything to drink ought to be punished to the full extent of the law.

Willis Cackler, who also thought show day was as good a day to celebrate as any other day, took too much benzine on a weak stomach, consequently Willis got tight. Mayor Woodward charged him $3 and costs for the rights his forefathers had fought for, and after giving him some fatherly advice, discharged him.

West Ferguson thought that the people of Chariton needed a variety in the shape of amusing entertainments on show day, so he got drunk, but he unfortunately found it was an old thing in Chariton, long before he gave his first exhibition. Consequently West was fined $3 and costs by the disgusted mayor for his impudent presumption in attempting to teach the Charitonians new tricks. West shelled out and departed, singing, "This is the way I long have sought."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Oh if only reporters still wrote this way!