Benjamin E. Wallace opened his Wallace and Co.'s Great World Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo and Alliance of Novelties in
Indiana on April 26, 1884. The show began with great
fanfare, featuring a parade of exotic animals, top-notch performers and brass
Benjamin E. Wallace (October 4, 1847 - April 7, 1921)
A native of
Benjamin was the son of Ephraim and Rebecca Wallace. Wallace migrated to Johnstown, Pennsylvania Peru,
Indiana and established a livery
business there. He became interested in the circus business so he and a business
partner, James Anderson, began assembling a collection of circus equipment. The
largest complement of equipment came from a circus called the W. C. Coup
Circus. This circus had become financially unstable and went bankrupt. Wallace
traveled to Detroit and purchased
much of the equipment, which included rail cars full of tents, poles, costuming
and other equipment. From other circuses, he obtained many of the animals he
would need for the act. He set up headquarters outside of Peru
and billed his first show for April
26, 1884 in Peru.
January 25, 1884,
a fire from an overheated stove swept through the circus. The fire killed many
of the animals. Monkeys, tigers, deer and other animals perished in the fire.
Wallace persisted with the opening of the show. Until the damaged living
quarters for the animals could be repaired, he kept many of the surviving
animals in an abandoned chair factory on Second Street
The Wallace and Co.'s Great World Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo and Alliance of Novelties in
opened on schedule, accompanied by the Peru
brass band and over 5,000 spectators. Spectators packed the two performances,
with many turned away. The show was a success. The season open, the circus went
on tour, visiting many small towns in southern Indiana
and Ohio. The tour also included
towns in Kentucky and Virginia.
Since there was no entertainment of any sort in most of these towns, people
packed the shows. Wallace did not disappoint them as his retinue included some
of the best performers and animals that were well trained and treated. The next
year he shortened the name to The Great Wallace Show. He had winter quarters
for the circus in Peru.
The circus continued for many years with increasing success. In 1907, Wallace purchased the Carl Hagenbeck Circus. He combined the two acts into the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, which continued operations until the Flood of 1913 damaged the circus and killed many of the animals. He sold the circus to a corporation that continued the circus as the American Circus Corporation before operations finally ceased in 1938.