Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hoosier Dusty Files - April 26, 1884 - The Great Wallace Show Begins - Peru

A Year of Indiana History - 2016
A Year of Indiana History - 2016

April 26, 1884 - The Great Wallace Show Begins - Peru
Benjamin E. Wallace opened his Wallace and Co.'s Great World Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo and Alliance of Novelties in Peru, Indiana on April 26, 1884. The show began with great fanfare, featuring a parade of exotic animals, top-notch performers and brass band.
Benjamin E. Wallace (October 4, 1847 - April 7, 1921)
A native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Benjamin was the son of Ephraim and Rebecca Wallace. Wallace migrated to 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.
Fire Strikes
On 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 in Peru.
Opening Night
The Wallace and Co.'s Great World Menagerie, Grand International Mardi Gras, Highway Holiday Hidalgo and Alliance of Novelties in Peru 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.
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
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.

Indiana possesses a rich history that is fun to read and learn. This Hoosier Dusty Files is in an easy to read “this day in history format” and includes articles from the author's A Year in Indiana History series. Visitors may read the articles as they appear or purchase the book:
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
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