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July 9, 2022

30 Wonderful Kodachrome Slides of American Circus Performers in the 1940s and 1950s

The Braathens, Sverre and Faye, were active and avid circus fans and collectors. Sverre’s passion for circus began in the early 1900s when he was a boy waiting for and later watching the Gollmar Brothers Circus unload, parade, and perform on the Great Plains in the small town of Mayville, North Dakota. 

Sverre mixed his love of music with his love for circuses and began collecting circus music material. Through the years, his collection grew to include route books, business materials, periodicals, massive amounts of correspondence between all levels of circus personnel – from band members to performers, riggers to roustabouts. Every season found the Braathens following circuses throughout the upper Midwest and it was while following circuses that his photographic talents emerged.

These images were captured in the saturated colors of Kodachrome slides and date from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. They provide insight to what happens just outside the canvas flaps of the circus tent. Take a look:

A clown band in Mamas in the Park, a production number

Pinito Del Oro, Spanish aerialist

Cyclists on high wire

Performers on spectacle float

Performers in wardrobe

Nina Karpowa, German aerialist

A clown in aerial ballet webb sitter wardrobe

Carmen Slayton in blue aerial ballet wardrobe

Karl and Helen Wallenda, husband and wife, in their private dressing wagon with flowers from fans

The elephants in the spec on hippodrome track

William Hanlon, clown in spec wardrobe

Performers on high wire

Mildred Keathley, aerialist and Mary Jane Miller, production girl

Albert White, a clown in The Good Old Times spec wardrobe

Sandy Marlowe, production girl and cub lion

Yellow cage with clown band

La Norma (Fox), aerialist

Albert White, clown in spectacle wardrobe

Circus personnel with a baby gorilla

Maude Moore, performer on horse

Louis Nagy, a good clown in pink Circus Serenade wardrobe

Pinito Del Oro, Spanish aerialist

Frank Cromwell, clown head against the sky

Alzanas high wire act with green capes

Blutch Landolph, clown

Clyde Beatty Circus

Performers in wardrobe

Lou Jacobs, German clown and Pat Cartier, aerialist

Performers on high wire

Clown on stilts


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