From Janesville, Wisconsin to Paw Paw, Michigan: 1875. Envelope or Cover. The letter is datelined “Janesville Wis Oct 30 1875”and written on the circus’s illustrated letterhead featuring a portrait of Burr Robbin’s. The advertising envelope features a large illustration of the circus on tour under three big top tents with wagons and crowds in the foreground. A banner above reads, “Burr Robbins’ Great Menagerie Roman Hippodrome and Egyptian Caravan” and text in the lower left corner reading “Acknowledged to be the Finest Show in America. It is franked with a three-cent Washington stamp (Scott #2070 canceled by a circular Janesville, Wisconsin postmark.
In this letter to a lawyer at his hometown in Paw Paw, Michigan, Robbins discusses his desires regarding rental payments and a barn, Dung House, manure heap, and sheep pen. It was written just two weeks after his circus returned to its winter quarters at Janesville, Wisconsin after financially successful, but difficult touring year.
For the 1875 season, Robbins’s parade was a half-mile in length. It was led by a ten-horse band wagon decorated with gilt lions and serpents as well colorful landscapes painted on the sides that at the time was the most magnificent wagon in any American circus. Next came an amazing tableaux car with lavish gilt engravings, mirrors and paintings with a huge living lion displayed on top; it was drawn by elephants, camels, and horses. Each of the following 25 wagons displayed richly colored paintings of biblical scenes mounted on both sides.
Unfortunately, during its 24 weeks on the road, the show was beset by 65 days of rain, two snow storms, and two tornados. Much of the tentage was destroyed and 40 horses, a zebra, leopard, sacred ox, two bears, reindeer, elk, seven steenbok, two wolves, five monkeys, an ape, seven cocktoos and parrots, one silver pheasant, an antelope, three boa constrictors and two crocodiles were killed in the storms. The loss totaled over $12,000.
So, upon arrival at Janesville, Robbins not only quickly went to improving old shops and buildings while building new ones, he also set teams to work repairing road equipment and replenishing his menagerie.
Rogers continued to operate his show until 1888 when he retired after 18 years in the business as one of the most successful circus impresarios of his era. Very good. Item #009589