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August 28, 2022

30 Amazing Portrait Photos of Circus Performers in the Early 1910s

A number of circuses toured Ireland in the years before 1914 providing entertainment and excitement for the crowds they attracted. Cooper’s photographs of some circuses which arrived in Strabane are particularly useful for the behind-the-scenes views they record. The three main shows photographed by Cooper (or Burroughs) were Duffy’s Circus, Buff Bill’s American Circus and Hanneford’s Canadian Circus.

Circus performers in the early 1910s

The photographs of Duffy’s Circus were, almost certainly, all taken during the visit to Strabane in 1911. Duffy’s Circus was begun in the late 19th century by John, who died in 1909; by the time Duffy's Circus arrived in Strabane in 1911, it was run by John’s widow, Annie. One of John Duffy's sons, James, married Lena Kayes, daughter of William Kayes who ran the famous Buff Bill’s American Circus in Ireland before and after the First World War, Kayes himself being ‘Buff Bill’.

Ned Hanneford’s Canadian Circus toured Ireland up to 1916. It was renowned for its menagerie, including lions and ‘bears that talk’. It also featured a splendid street parade headed by an ornate, gilded bandwagon drawn by 8 sleek horses. Cooper's photos of Hanneford's Circus must have been taken before 1914, a period which seems to have been the heyday of circus visits to Strabane.

Here is a selection of amazing photos from the Cooper Photographic Collection that shows portraits of circus performers before 1914.

A crowd of people round a clown and a donkey, circa 1910

A circus performer in front of a wagon, circa 1910

Buff Bill's Circus, a child with a baboon on a donkey, circa 1910

Buff Bill's Circus, a group of circus performers, circa 1910

Buff Bill's Circus, group of circus performers standing on each other's shoulders, circa 1910

Buff Bill's Circus, The Dixie Girls, circa 1910

Buff Bill's Circus, two children and a man sitting on the steps of a caravan, circa 1910

Clown on a horse, with a lady watching, circa 1910

Four circus performers in front of a wagon, circa 1910

Hanneford's Canadian Circus, a clown, circa 1910

Hanneford's Canadian Circus, circus performers in a horse and cart, circa 1910

Hanneford's Canadian Circus, four girl circus performers, circa 1910

Hanneford's Canadian Circus, the tent master, circa 1910

Hanneford's Canadian Circus, two children called Lola and May, circa 1910

Lady on a horse, with a clown watching, circa 1910

Man on a horse outside a circus, circa 1910

Scott's Circus, a clown, circa 1910

The Grand Circus, clown beside a wagon, circa 1910

The Grand Circus, picture of all the entertainers, circa 1910

Two circus performers in front of a wagon, circa 1910

Two clowns in front of a wagon, circa 1910

Two clowns in front of a wagon, circa 1910

Duffy's Circus, 'Funny George', the Clown, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, a group of circus entertainers, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, four girls outside a tent, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, four male entertainers, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, man standing in front of a wagon labelled, 'Duffy's Circus', circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, the Wilson and Duffy combined circus. Picture of all the members, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, three men and two dogs, circa 1911

Duffy's Circus, two women and three children, circa 1911

(Photo © Cooper Photographic Collection)




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