Frank Bostock in America
by Al Stencell
As long as there have been circuses in North America there have been exhibitions of curiosities, freaks, panoramas, exotic animals and other attractions to visiting fairs and summer resorts. Organized travelling circus companies grew quickly after tents were adopted as show arenas in the early 1820's. Showmen with curiosities, freaks, novel amusements, games of chance, and other attractions continued to show up at race meets, fairs and town celebrations. The organized carnival company which comprised of games, shows, and riding devices which we now call a midway or carnival did not take place until after the 1893 Chicago's World's Fair.
After the Chicago fair, several showmen including Frank Gaskill organized touring carnival units comprising of various shows and concessions but no rides. Their idea of having a 'travelling midway' was inspired by the 'midway pleasance' amusement zone at the Chicago fair, where shows were based on the cultures and amusements of exotic countries and island paradises. Arabic attractions with their hoochie coochie dancing girls were the fair's biggest publicity getters.
The same year, the arrival in America of menagerie show owner Frank C. Bostock and a year later of the Ferari Brothers quickly influenced how these new carnival ventures would operate successfully here. Their prior knowledge and expertise gained on the British fairgrounds was quickly put in place on America's midways. Victor Levitt's March 21st 1903 Billboard article on Street Fairs stated: "Before Bostock's Wild Animal Shows most side shows, other than those connected to circuses, were of the graft type and never visited the same town twice. Street fairs have changed that aspect of the show business and made worthwhile shows a paying venture."
Frank Charles Bostock, the third son of James Bostock and his wife Emma nee Wombwell was born on the 8th of October 1866 at Darlington, England. Frank was educated at Kelveden College. At age twelve he stepped in to replace an injured trainer on his family's show. His father died in 1878 and from then on he travelled full time with his mother's menagerie until 1883. He left for a year to work on his brother's menagerie. The next year he returned to his mother's show, staying with it until 1886. With his new wife, the daughter of circus man Frank Bailey, he launched Bostock, Wombwell, and Bailey Circus in 1887. Six years later he sold out to his brother Edward and went to America.
Before setting out for America, Bostock advertised in the1893 June 10th issue of America's theatrical weekly - the New York Clipper. The ad listed himself as business manager for the Sir Chas. Wombwell "European" Enterprises. Those enterprises were Wombwell's Hippodrome Circus, Museum, and Menagerie plus Wombwell's Royal Menageries No.1 and No. 2. Acts available for booking included Wombwell's boxing kangaroo, wrestling lion, equestrian tiger, the only elephant riding lion, and the untameable lion "Sultan". Bookings could be arranged by contacting Bostock in care of the Clipper or to the Agricultural Hall, London England.
Bostock arrived in America near the end of the summer in 1893. His first exhibition stand took place near 5th.and Flat Bush Avenues in Brooklyn. A showman who had seen Bostock's show shortly after Bostock's arrival described it this way: "The Bostock family lived in one wagon and the other two wagons housed four monkeys, five parrots, three lions, a sheep, and a boxing kangaroo. Bostock had a hand carved wooden front but no tent. The exhibition area was closed off with side wall." Later on, Edward H. Bostock wrote in a 1939 issue of the World's Fair: "My best front was a little thirty-eight one built in 1883 by Mr. Watson of Belper. This was the show front that I would have success with time after time and it was the first English front to reach America where it was lucky for my late brother Frank C. Bostock for some years."
In October Bostock moved his animals to stables in East 18th. Street. New York newspapers were soon reporting the escape of Bostock's lion. Wallace had broken out of his cage and killed a horse inside the stables. News stories told how trainer De Kenzo fought a day long battle to get Wallace back into his cage. The incident however had been staged by Bostock's friend Tody Hamilton. Hamilton was a long time Barnum associate and at the time one of the best press agents in the business. Newspaper accounts of the incident claimed that Wallace weighed over 900 pounds and had previously killed three men in England. The name of these men and the places where they died were given along with the gory details. Down both sides of one newspaper account ran these words: READ WHAT THE NEW YORK PRESS SAID ABOUT THIS TERRIBLE BEAST! This orchestrated publicity stunt quickly launched Frank Bostock's American show business career as a Wild Animal Trainer and SHOWMAN Extraordinaire.
Frank Bostock had a fine reputation as a trainer and presenter of wild animals. He also proved to be an astute businessman. Wallace's escape and capture stories were quickly followed up by Bostock ads in December issues of the New York Clipper offering Wallace to dime museums and theatres. Wallace was promoted as the: "Banner Attraction of America." Bostock ads concluded with the words: "Good Wine Needs No Bush."
The spring of 1894 saw Bostock's Animal Show located at Palmer's Bathing Pavilion at Coney Island. During the winter Bostock continued to put Wallace, a boxing kangaroo, and RHAM -A-SAMA the World's Wild Wonder and the Veritable Connecting Link over the theater and dime museum circuits. In 1895 a tramp steamer unloaded a mess of show stuff at Coney Island which included a small but gaudy wild animal show called Noah's Ark. Animals with this show were a boxing kangaroo, the elephant Jolly, Wallace the Untameable lion (no doubt another one), a tattooed yak, some performing lions and a small variety of other caged animals. This material belonged to showmen Francis Ferari, his brother Joseph Ferari and George Hall who had been encouraged to come over to America by Bostock. All were animal presenters. The Ferari brothers went on to operate midway shows in partnership with Bostock and on their own while Hall put out Adgie, a Spanish dancer in a lions cage. The latter was a major feature on American midways for many years.
Joseph Ferari's Wild Animal Show.
Following the careers of Frank Bostock and that of the Ferari brothers in America is a complicated one as their business dealings were often entwined for certain periods or on certain projects. At other times all three showmen had individual enterprises. All three showmen ran shows with other partners and investors in a wide range of amusement enterprises that included wild animal shows at summer amusement resorts as well as touring units booked with various carnival companies. At times, they all had out their own carnival companies. During the winter, all of them operated zoos in various cities. All of them secured additional winter incomes by booking their animal and human acts onto the winter dime museum and vaudeville circuits.
Show folks acquainted with Frank Bostock related how he was generous to a fault as well as being honest, diplomatic, far seeing, and kind to the most savage of animals. One of Bostock's main strengths continued to be his ability to find good business partners. In 1901 he had out the Bostock-Ferari Midway Co. Francis Ferari was his general manager and partner and Victor D. Leavitt was company manager. Leavitt was born in England in 1866 and entered the amusement field in 1885. He was first partnered with F. C. Bostock and Adolph Seeman in Milwaulkee Zoo. Later all three were partners in Frank C. Bostock Carnival Co. in which Bostock owned two thirds and Leavitt and Seeman owned one third.
Competition didn't seem to bother Bostock as he put numerous other American showmen into the wild animal show game. George Collins writing an article in the 1918 Billboard titled the 'Wild Animal Show' said he bought his wild animal show from Bostock. He claimed that Bostock told him: "Don't fool away your money on deer, armadillos, bears, or alligators. While they are good the public want to see good, big animals with a mouth and teeth and those which will bellow with trainers that are not afraid to make their charges talk. If the public wanted to see a goat or sheep show they would not have spent their money with a wild animal aggregation." George Collins maintained the operation of a successful midway wild animal presentation depended on keeping it working no matter if the tent had ten people in it or a thousand.
Bostock was quoted as having said: "Kindness is the whip used to lead dumb animals to obey." His kindness was also extended to his employees. He had a loyal following of trainers and workers including trainers Jack Bonavita and Madame Pianka who both remained with Bostock for most of the years he had shows in America.
British showman Percy J. Mundy got a generous boost up the American show business ladder from Bostock. Mundy was exhibiting a number of freaks in the Bowery when Bostcok first met him. Mundy agreed to take a wild animal show to Mexico for Bostock where it did poorly but Mundy was bitten by the "wild animal exhibition bug". He bought one of Bostock's units and in 1901 he had this show on the Canton Carnival Co. owned by pioneer midway owner Frank Gaskill. Gaskill and Mundy soon became partners in running the carnival. The Gaskill-Mundy Midway Company remained one of the premier carnival organizations until they split up in 1904. Mundy objected to Gaskill's portrait being on their posters. Only Mundy's name appeared in the poster art. Gaskill died in Pittsburg, Kansas in spring of 1904. The show carried on for another three seasons after his death before closing for good.
In letters to fellow circus man Chang Reynolds in 1964, Bob Thorton related his experiences around wild animal shows including those of Mundy. Thorton recalled that Mundy had been clawed so many times that he only had one eye. "Mundy had an animal show in Luna Park, Coney Island and a French woman worked the leopards and jaguars dressed in a long train dress and using a long lunge whip," wrote Thorton. "The back of the arena was wood and when we opened there an artist from Europe came out and painted the wood sections at the back of the performance cage like a Roman amphitheatre where they tied the Christians to the stakes and turned the lions on them. Well, he painted the lions so real that when we turned the lions in there they looked like a couple of dogs. He had to paint the lions out. He left the Christians. At the time Bostock has his show out on Surf Ave. and the Ferari Bros. also had a show there. They were all trying to outdo each other."
P. J. Mundy was 79 when he died on 11th December 1943. He was born in Exeter, England on 24th February 1865 and came to the U.S. in 1885. For many years lived in Rochester. N.Y. After splitting with Gaskill he continued to operate his own successful midway company until 1909 when he retired. He sold the show for $20,000 to the up and coming Robinson Amusement. Co. He retired to a fine home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Numerous Billboard stories noted Frank Bostock's charitable side. He was reported to have instructed his managers: "To be sure to look out for the little orphans." If a local catastrophe occurred in a town where he was showing he quickly organized a benefit show and donated all the money to the cause. This was genuine charity unlike today when fund raisers take the cost of the event out and then donate what's left!
Being generous did not make him a push over. He did have a temper. Eddie Woeckener a leading band leader on shows including Al G. Barnes, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and Robinson circuses recalled in a 1953 letter to Billboard editor Tom Parkinson of being in the Bostock's band with his brother while working at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo. His brother Tony started to romantically get involved with Chiquita the South American born midget lady who was one of Bostock's star attractions there. Woeckener wrote: "I bought the engagement ring on the sly. Tony climbed over the roof of the Ostrich Farm to give it to her. They eloped and started working store shows booked by former Bostock press agent Doc Waddell. The next day's papers were full of kidnap stories. When Bostock found out she had taken off with my brother he was furious and sent his men to my father's house in Erie, Pa. They hid behind the trees out front of it trying to catch them."
The show fronts on American midways were certainly copied from those brought over by Bostock and the Ferari Brothers as nothing like them existed there until after their arrival. Along with the show fronts came experienced builders and painters. For many years, Capt. Fred Lewis served as one of Frank Bostock's main animal procurers. He was also an early designer and builder of show fronts. Owners of the large railroad carnivals from the 1920's to the Second World War era turned to Lewis' shop in Richmond, Va. for new and unique show fronts. Frank Bergen who owned World of Mirth Shows which became one of America's largest rail carnivals got his start around the Bostock shows building and repairing show fronts.
Ferari's show in 1916.
Animals were not only a business proposition with Bostock. He maintained that it was his love, passion, and hobby. He was an early cross breeder of wild animals and many hybrids of lions and tigers were born in his zoos. He believed: "Cross bred dogs have the best tempers in the world and easier to train." He trained and presented lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas, snakes and elephants. As an employer he lived by his saying of: "I never ask any of my men to do anything that I have not done, or would not do myself."
A testament to Bostock's showmanship came from fellow showmen who remarked on the change of air when you walked in off the street or midway to one of his shows. Bostock had a knack for staging them. There were certain elements to his presentations that made the spectator feel he was in another world. Bostock himself believed the public went to his shows because they knew what to expect when they saw his name on the front of it. Bostock was proud to deliver what he promised and was just the popular showman America needed after so many years of showmen mentality fostered by Barnum's boast of never giving a sucker an even break! "
Frank Bostock and the Ferari Bros. were sometime partners and at other times running their own shows. Both were often partnered with others in the operation of zoos and wild animal shows. The Ferari brothers also operated units for Bostock. Touring wild animal shows produced by all three showmen were almost interchangeable. All used elaborate carved two or three wagon fronts that featured large band organs in the entranceways. Inside the show tent could be found a number of cages and a larger cage for the performing animals. Each wild animal show had a base core of four or five trainers who presented the animals. Like the Bostock family, the Ferari families had a long association with the menagerie and fairground business in England. Francis Ferari (1862 - 1914) and Joseph Ferari (1868 -1953) were the sons of British showman James Ferari. Francis was born in Hull, Yorkshire on 15th September 1862. His first amusement enterprise was a novelty show and then an exhibit of giants, midgets and other freaks. After Ceteways rebellion in South Africa he secured and toured a tribe of Zulus in Britain. These Zulus were said to be members of the Impi which annihilated a British Regiment at the massacre of Isandlana. Ferari became famous over night. In 1892 he married Emma Warwick from another fairground family and purchased a famous travelling menagerie title, Biddle's French Menagerie. They re-named it Noah's Ark. After touring fairs in England and Scotland he partnered with Frank C. Bostock and came to America in the spring of 1894.
Francis introduced "Big Frank" the hoochie coochie bear to American audiences. In 1896 the Ferari Bros. and Bostock launched the first real touring American carnival they called "Ye Olde English Faire". Francis also secured contracts for his animal show to play the Canadian Nation Exhibition in Toronto - the largest fair in N. America. Ferari's wild animal show remained a midway feature there for the next ten seasons. The Ferari name became well known in Canada.
The April 1st 1899 Billboard carried an ad for a Bostock and Ferari show combination which claimed to be the only trained animal show in America that was strictly European. "Larger, better and more interesting than ever with elaborate front, monster orchestrations and everything needed for money making. Now at the ZOO, Kansas City, Mo.", stated their adverisement. Their August 1st 1899 Billboard ad for the Bostock-Ferari Midway warned fair managers and street fairs to check references and not get stuck. Book with the best. Further Billboard announcements described their midway which featured numerous shows including: Streets of Cairo, German Village, Chitquita -the Queen of the event, a $50,000 Venetian Gondola ride, Luxurious Gay Paree, Superb Moulin Rouge, Darkness and Dawn or Heaven and Hell, Mystifying Crystal Maze, The Aerial Flyers, Electra -the Marvellous, The Gypsy village, Opium Dens, and Balloon ascensions. As well, the show carried elephants, camels, dromedaries and quaint burros that gave rides to the public. All their midway attractions were advertised as having "Gorgeous exteriors and entrances". Those wishing to book their services could contact them thorough the National Print House at Chicago, IL.
In the fall of 1900 Frank Bostock announced his success in breeding an animal that was a cross between a Bengal tiger and African lioness. His show was wintering in Baltimore in a building specially constructed for an indoor zoo. Francis Ferari was managing a Bostock zoo unit in Milwaukee for the winter. Fires were a constant threat to wintering circus and carnival companies. Winter quarters were often in the last town showed that season. Equipment was stored and repaired in rented fairground buildings or vacant commercial structures.
A January 1900 zoo fire in Baltimore destroyed most of Bostock's working acts including Capt. Bonivita's 17 lions and 6 jaguars belonging to Madame Morellis' act. Also lost were 74 lions, 7 jaguars, 11 pumas, 8 polar bears, 7 black bears, 1 grizzly bear, 60 monkeys, snakes and small birds plus Bostock's favourite lion "Prince", one baby elephant, one Bengal tiger, water buffalo, dromedary, and two baby lions. Doc, an elephant and three camels were saved. In February of 1901 the insurance paid the cost of replacing the animals but nothing could replace the time spent in training them.
In 1902 Francis Ferari obtained the sole ownership of the Bostock -Ferari Carnival Co. He partnered with his brother Joseph to run the Ferari Brothers Shows United until 1905. In 1906 Francis wintered in Toledo and opened his own show there at a street fair put on by the Eagles. The summer was spent at the new resort of Brighton Beach, New York. When the summer beach season ended he spent three months playing southern fairs before wintering in Jacksonville, Florida.
In fall of 1909 after finishing the summer season at the King Edward's Park in Montreal, Francis sold his animal show and returned to England. He planned to retire in England but after a year he returned to the U.S. where he framed a new carnival in time to play fall fair dates in Pa. and N.Y. For the 1912 and 1913 seasons he was partnered with Leon Washburn. The 1914 season he was on his own again. He opened in Elizabeth, N. J. in May and closed in Patterson, N. J. in October. He became ill after the show closed and died in early December 1914 at Patterson, N. J.
Joseph G. Ferari was born in Leeds, England in 1895. He retired in 1920 to his winter quarter's town of Mariners Harbour, Staten Island, N.Y. where he made and repaired carousels. He was well liked by show folks and respected for his knowledge of the business. Joseph died in Port Richmond, Staten Island in May 1953 aged 85. Like Francis he also toured menageries and midway companies in America, sometimes in partnership with his brother, sometimes on his own or with other showmen. In 1911 he put his show into Dreamland Park, Coney Island and in early June it caught fire. Because the show was staying all summer most of the animals were taken out of their travelling wagon cages and left in exhibition cages built on the floor. He and his manager Victor Leavitt plus three or four trainers only had a half hour to try and save the various animals by putting them into five shifting dens and transferring them outside. Only a few animals were saved.
Both Ferari brothers used the titles of Captain and Colonel before their names as was the popular custom for showmen of that era. Their first season in America was in 1895 where they spent the summer at Coney Island before going on to the Cotton Exposition at Atlanta. The April 11th, 1896 New York Clipper issue reported the opening that spring of the tented Noah's Ark Trained Animal Show managed by Francis Ferari in Atlanta, Ga. The show had wintered there at the fairgrounds. New features were a lion riding on a horse and jumping over banners and through hoops. Mlle. Adgie Castello doing Spanish dancing in the den of lions and tigers and Herr Conor in a den with lions, wolves, bears and boarhounds. Other acts performed were a wrestling lion and boxing kangaroo. There were four or five trainers and presenters on the show, including Broncho Boccaccio who is famous for the Wallace act with Bostock. Wild animal show owner George Collkins in 1918 pointed out that Francis Ferari maintained the best looking front, good band organs, and excellent trainers and talkers.
In the summer of 1900 Bostock's Animal Show was at Ontario Beach at Rochester, N.Y. where it no doubt made an impression on the Buffalo officials planning the midway for their 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Also opening in the spring in Brooklyn was Frank C. Bostock's Mighty Midway Carnival and "Ye Old English Pleasure Faire". This was a large carnival midway company using wagons and being loaded onto system flat cars supplied by the railway. Bostock was listed as sole owner but Francis Ferari was named an "associate". Victor D. Leavitt was handling the general agent's work in routing the show. This was reported as the first American carnival with wagon fronts to travel wagon / railroad flat car style. The show operated behind a 10 cent gate with several free acts but few concessions.
Polar bear at Pan American Exhibition.
The same season, Joseph G. Ferari operated the Ferari Anglo-American Trained Animal Show. He opened south of there at Corning, N.Y. The show was set up behind a $10,000 illuminated front and contained eight cages of wild animals including eighteen lions. The show travelled on its own rail cars. The performance was directed by T.J. Hurd as lecturer and announcer. Capt. Grant presented a talking horse followed by Joe Karmo's presentation of the "Lion Hunt", "Chase" and Capture" with two lions named Brutus and Spitfire. Next Madame Loise presented five pyramid lions and then Mlle. Almetta the reptile queen and baby Boots the snake enchantress did their act. Col. Woods put more lions through their paces and Peter De Geith closed the show with his performing bear Big Frank.
The Francis Ferari Trained Wild Animal Show was further south in Pennsylvania playing amusement parks. It was moving on six - 60 foot railway cars. The company numbered forty-seven people of which five were trainers. The show had twenty-five animals including the "Original Wallace" the fighting lion. The show later added some midway features and was playing fair dates. The Ferari Brothers were well respected showmen. Like Bostock, their numerous business ventures were hard to keep track of.
The 1910 Billboard ad placed from Colonel Francis Ferari's Zoo in Harrisburg, Pa. advertised for lady animal trainers for a mixed group of two lions, two Jaguars and two Hybrids. Also trainers for a group of five leopards, group of four pumas, two lions, two hybrids and a group of seven lions. Col. Francis stated in the ad: "All animals guaranteed safe as I do not put trainers in with man eaters like some so called showmen. I was born in the business and I know what I am doing. Yearly engagements."
Besides their wild animal shows these British showmen imported numerous amusements found on the British fairground including shooting galleries or high strikers. Bostock brought over a carousel and a Gondola ride that he operated for several seasons while the Ferari Brothers imported a large swing boat ride.
On numerous occasions the zoos and animal shows put out by Frank Bostock and the Ferari Brothers came up against stiff competition in America from the German zoo operator Carl Hagnebeck. His fame in America was secured by bringing a large wild animal presentation to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. In subsequent seasons, Hagenbeck often placed shows in Coney Island amusement zones in direct competition to both Bostock and Ferari zoo units. At Luna Park one year he concocted numerous publicity stunts including the escape of a young lion named Prince who terrified a night crowd and generated good newspaper coverage. Another story had trainer Mme. Schelle losing $350.00 out of the bosom of her dress while rehearsing her lions. One of the lions quickly pounced on the wad of bills and ate them!
Despite considerable New York City press, Hagenbeck's Coney Island shows were averaging 8000 daily customers which was only half of Bosotck's daily visitors. Hagenbeck's manager Lee Williams announced they would close on 2nd of October and move to Philadephia and then Washington. Hagenbeck had also secured the rights to exhibit at the upcoming St. Louis Exposition. Besides shows in Coney Island, Hagenbeck's animals and zoo were presented in NYC at Madison Square Garden and in October 1894 and over the next few seasons there were brief winter zoo operations in Baltimore and Philadelphia.
In 1895, Carl Hagenbeck visited America for a short time during the spring. Before sailing back to England from Baltimore he declared: "Any exhibition now under my name in America are fakes!" Both Bostock and the Ferari Brothers seemed to delight in occasionally naming one of their zoo units: "Hagenback Trained Animal Shows." Other showmen also took advantage of the Hagenbeck title. Lee Williams who represented Hagenbeck's American interests placed ads in the trade papers stating: "The name HAGENBECK is the sole property in the western hemisphere of the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Company. This is to notify all persons that we will deal to the full extent of the law with all parties using the name in this manner. Take Warning: Layton Carnival Co., Mundy and Gaskill."
The Carl Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show Co. played the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 and reported profits of $70,000. The 1904 end of year Billboard announced that the show had contracted with the Bothe Wagon Co. in Cincinnati, O. for the building of forty-eight wagons for the launch of a new railroad circus in the spring of 1905. When the circus opened on 24th April in St. Louis the Billboard reported the big top seated 7,500 with the show being presented in two rings and a steel cage. This cage was slate bottomed and rubber lined. The performance consisted of fifteen of the most exciting and humorous acts ever performed by wild beasts. This was the beginning of the big wild animal circus era in America where showmen like Al. G. Barnes would present performances where most of the acts involved performing animals.
The weekly mass amusement trade paper Billboard reported that Bostock's 1901 show being put together in the NYC suburb of Brightwood would be transported on 100 wagons. Capt. Ricardo and his wife were in charge of the winter quarters. Work was in progress for constructing a $50,000 arena show for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. Hard work paid off as one of the performing sensations at the fair in Buffalo was Bostock's Captain Jack Bonivita act of twenty-seven male lions. Billed as the "Silent Man Among The Beasts" the lions went through their routines without a word from their trainer. The finale in Bonivita's act was called the "The Old Arm Chair" where Bonavita literally sat in a chair surrounded by all 27 lions. At the end of the fair Bostock sent the Bonivita act to perform in London and Paris for the winter season.
The 'old armchair' attraction.
In 1902 Bostock's show was featured at Sea Beach Palace and Dreamland in Coney Island. In 1903, Isla Tudor the child of Bostock's manager Harry E. Tudor was christened in Capt. Bonavita's lion cage at Sea Breeze Palace before a crowd of 7000. Isla was born in Coney Island and Bonavita came up with her name which he said was short for Island. Bonavita lost his left arm in 1904 when he was badly mauled working Bostock's lions and soon left the business. He was brought back to Bostock's employ in 1909 to train a lion no one could handle. Bonavita stayed on and worked the untameable lion all summer. For a short period of time he was married to a well off New York lady who owned an orange grove in Florida.
In the spring of 1903 Bostock secured a lease on Sea Breeze Palace at Coney Island and refitted it for his wild animal shows with an amphitheatre seating 3000. By August it was doing 15,000 visitors daily. Bostock announced that his famed chimp Consul was going to Europe that fall and put a banner across the chimp's cage that said $100,000 for CONSUL's EQUAL! At this time Bostock had five animal shows out. One at Sea Breeze Palace, the second at Young's Pier, Atlantic City, the third at Manhattan Beach Gardens, Cleveland, Ohio and two other units playing street fairs.
Business was terrific for Bostock that season but several things happened to dampen his spirits. The midget lady Chitquita managed by Achill Phillion announced she was retiring after the West Virginia State Fair that fall. Bostock placed ads in the Billboard and Clipper seeking a replacement. Bostock's better money making ventures continued to be the winter zoos and booking his attractions on the winter vaudeville circuits. He had great successes with Chiquita, the Wild man and the untameable lion Wallace but his greatest money maker was a chimpanzee named Consul.
Consul dressed up.
Consul's billing called him the Man Chimp for his uncanny display of human characteristics. He wore clothes and walked erect like a human being. He drank wine, smoked cigarettes, rode a bike and had better manners than many humans. Consul was first presented in Europe in 1903 as the pampered pet of a rich Chicago "pork" merchant. He arrived after travelling in first class boat accommodations and occupied a suite of rooms at the Paris Hotel Continental where his neighbours were other heads of States and rich adventurers. The press had a field day and Consul became Bostock's most sensational act. After the summer season at Coney Island Bostock sent Consul back on a round of European dates. In Berlin he got sick. After three days of illness with bronchitis he died. The London Billboard writer said: "He last saw Consul in December when he was dressed as a chauffeur and driving a car through Fleet Street London, England en-route to one of the newspaper offices to do some publicity work for the London Hippodrome where he was appearing. I thought they were taking chances with such a valuable animal having him out in the cold weather."
He was valued at 25,000 British pounds and Bostock had him insured for 20,000 pounds. Consul's body was embalmed and placed in a coffin and he lay in state at the Bostock's Paris Hippodrome for a week. Claude Bostock later said that Consul has several fixations: "He hated candy butchers, carpenters, and doctors!"
During the winter of 1903, Bostock sent a wild animal show unit to Cuba made up of Madame Pianka and her troupe of lions, Captain La Page's group of animals, Capt Weldon and the fighting lion Wallace Junior, Capt. Raddell's mixed act, Madame La Tuski and her den of snakes and a 12 piece band. Another Bostock unit titled the Bostock Wild Animal Show wintered in Philadelphia at the Palace exchange building. The zoo and performances started at 10 a.m. each day. Herr Roberto presented a mixed act, La Belle Selica, a French Algerian lady presented five lions and also danced in the cage, Brandee Hindoo's snakes, Peter W. Barlow's performing elephants, Bobby Leo and his trained dog, Bobby Mac with his dog and monkey circus and the introduction of Consul II.
The latter information is interesting in that the original Consul was in Europe and would shortly die while performing there. As with the mention of Wallace Junior the fighting lion it is obvious that most of these wild animal shows kept training replacement acts all the time. When Bostock had several units out he could have a "Wallace" or a "Consul' on each. The Ferari Brothers seemed to be doing the same thing with Big Frank their boxing kangaroo and Fatima the dancing bear. One Billboard account said that Fatima was learning other dances. No doubt preparing for the next hot dance craze after the houchee couchee!
That same winter in St. Louis the Ferari Bros. were quartering their show in a building they had divided in half. On one side was the building and repairing of the carnival equipment and the other half used for their zoo and wild animal show. The latter was open each day from 11a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The acts presented in a forty foot steel cage were Capt. D'Costa's seven pyramid lions, Princess Le Lawarre's nine performing lions featuring the waltzing lion Black Prince, Salambo the tight rope walking lion and Denver the high leaping lion. Also in the show were Ferari regulars Big Frank the boxing kangaroo and Fatima the houchee couchee dancing bear.
Bostock's 1909 show at Coney Island featured Consul II. Jack Bonavita had returned from retirement, albeit with only one arm following his 1904 mauling by one of Bosotck's animal groups. He worked a group of lions and the untameable lion Roosevelt. Old standby Mme. Morelli was still putting the leopards, pumas, wild cats, and jaguars through their paces. Tom Allen presented the main lion act while a presenter billed as "Falkendorph" offered an exciting display with lions and a man eating tiger. Jack Martino worked the bear act.
In 1911 Bostock bought the Hippodrome in Blvd. Clichy in Paris. Trainer Capt. Bonavita lost a hand while presenting lions there. During a fund raising dinner being held for Jack Bonavita in the lion's den the trainer was again attacked with Bostock coming to his rescue. Later, it was suggested that the Injuries resulting from his rescue of Bonavita lead to Bostock's death.
Bostock died of a stroke in London, England on October 8th. 1912. He was only 46 years old. He had returned to England but was still attending to the business of running his vast animal -zoo shows in America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. At the time of his death he owned over 1000 animals. He was involved in various ventures that included being a pioneer in the skating business boom. He also owned interests in movie theatres, ball rooms, and amusement parks. One of his traits described by fellow showmen and employees was his bravery to the point of absolute fearlessness. Throughout his career he had been mauled and bitten many times mostly in rescuing trainers that worked for him. One of his worst maulings occurred when he saved the life of Gertrude Planka (Mrs. Mark Weiler) in Kansas City and spent four months in hospital afterwards. Billed as Madame Planka, Gertrude came from East Prussia and learned animal training on German Circus's. She had been employed by Bostock since 1893 and worked one of the lions groups in the wild animal shows and on the vaudeville circuits for him.
Frank Bostock and the Ferari Brothers left lasting impressions on animal trainers and presenters everywhere in the zoo and amusement world. They made many contributions to the advancement of the American carnival industry. Frank C. Bostock was credited with coming up with the circular steel portable cage for exhibiting large groups of performing wild animals. The first performances of wild beasts took place inside their cage wagon. Next, performances were held in outside square cages and finally into Bostock's oval arena where they are still presented this way today.
In American circus history, Frank Bostock's name remains permanently linked to his fighting lion Wallace. The fighting lion act performed by Bostock's "Wallace" seen in his animal zoos and booked onto theatre stages in the winter was often presented by Broncho Boccacio. Bronco was born on Cape Cod. His mother was Spanish and his father a Cuban planter. Boccacio became a sailor, then animal hunter in S. Africa and finally an animal trainer and performer. He worked in the Menagerie Alexiano in Marseilles, France before being engaged by Sir Charles Wombwell in England to work the famous lion Wallace. Boccacio along with Wallace came to America with Bostock. The act was soon copied by numerous owners and side show managers on American circuses. The fighting lion act featured in many circus side shows became known among show people as the "Wallace act".
By the second decade of the 20th century the American careers of Frank Bostock and the Ferari Brothers were over as wild animal showmen but their time here had inspired a whole era of wild animal presentations and a new bunch of home grown animal trainers that would headline American circuses for the next four decades. The February 23rd 1924 Billboard ran a story titled: American Animal Trainers and Exhibitors. The article stated: "It wasn't too many years ago that the prominent animal trainers in America were Europeans. Now in 1924 we see quite a few American trainers and exhibitors. John T. Benson, animal dealer and Hagenbeck's representative in the U.S. was given a lot of credit for his tireless efforts in seeing that the American animal industry was given solid footings. For the first time representatives of European shows have come to the U.S. seeking new animal acts. Animal acts are not only popular in circuses and carnivals but now in burlesque. Walter Beckwith, one of America's foremost lion trainers has two working in the burlesque field. Vaudeville has also used more animal acts this season. Johnny J. Jones and the Rubin and Cherry large rail carnivals have added large wild animal shows. Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus were reaping the publicity from Mabel Stark's tiger act. Most of the major circuses were presenting three to four wild animal acts in their programs. All animal handlers were saying that they were keeping their charges healthy by keeping the cages and the animals clean and giving them plenty of water".
In the late 1890's when the travelling American carnival was just getting its road legs the wild animal show was the big show among it various attractions. It was not only the main attraction but helped get the show booked into the town. Only several large cities had permanent zoos giving the midway animal show educational merits. Committees could easily look the other way over the games of chance and lesser refined shows with the carnival outfit knowing that they were bringing an educational animal exhibit into town. In 1908 J. L. Edward's Animal Show showing in Philadelphia claimed to consist of over 300 species and the only show carrying a chimpanzee. Edward's advertised in the Billboard for a winter locations and stated: "WE CARRY A SCIENTIFIC LECTURER WHICH MAKES THE EXHIBIT VERY INSTRUCTIVE FOR THE BETTER CLASSES".
The arrival of portable merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels were a big addition to early carnival companies but fixed or rigged games of chance got many shows kicked out of towns. The rise in the street fair business in the first decade of the 1900's saved the carnival companies. Local organizations and particularly the ELKS Clubs adopted the street fair as their main member recruitment tool and money making endeavour of the year. The club would provide the downtown streets and local licenses, pay all the advertising costs and sometimes provide even the lumber to build the show and game booths. In return they got a percentage of the gross money taken in by the carnival attractions.
A carnival company that featured a first class wild animal show as part of its show line-up had a leg up in winning an Elks Club date. As an advertising feature the wild animal show could not be equalled. Animal posters appealed to both young and old. Posters with art work that portrayed lurid scenes of explorers battling ferocious lions or charging elephants made these shows irresistible to the thrill seeking public.
Bostock and other wild animal showmen often staged a wedding in the lion cage to get free publicity. The carnival press agent would find a young couple that were to be married and offer them a sum of money to do so in the steel arena with the lions, the trainer, and a minister. Often the hardest part was finding a minister but not always. On 6th December 1902 the Billboard reported The European Mighty Midway Co. having arranged and advertised such a wedding. On the big day 16,000 people were on the streets of the fair and half of them were trying to get around the big steel den to see the wedding. The minster and the lion trainer were there but at the last minute the bride fainted at her home and the groom phoned to call it off.
Fearing a riot the carnival manager hurried around the lot until he found two willing employees to stand in. They quickly changed into good clothes and went over to the area where the wedding was taking place. The lions were already on their pedestal and the trainer in the cage when the couple and minster entered. The show girl changed her mind when she saw that the minister was for real.
She whispered that she was engaged and if she married the other show worker she would be in a real mess. The minister reflected for a few seconds and leaned over and whispered to them: "There is a way out of this. When I ask you if you will take this woman to be your wife say no quietly and the bride will also do the same thing"! To all appearances they were married and saved a riot at the street fair. Another stunt press agents pulled was getting someone to volunteer to be shaved in the lion's den or to have a local barber shave the trainer in with the lions. If these attention grabbers failed to incite the show going public there was always the rumour of an escaped beast!
After Bostock's untimely death at age forty-six in the fall of 1912 Emma Bostock sent long time friend and Bostock's business manager Harry E. Tudor back to America. He quickly sold the performing animals to the Centaur Films of Bayonne, N. J. This company moved to California with the animals and established the Selig Zoo. Jack Bonavita was killed there in 1917 while presenting a polar bear act.
Bostock' sons Claude and Gordon remained in the U.S.A. Claude had worked in the family's concerns but by 1907 was a New York booking agent. He continued to work and lived there until 1934. He retired in 1939 because of poor health. Gordon joined Claude in the agency in 1911 and later was an independent movie producer. He went back to England before the Second World War with hopes of starting a circus. The last of the Bostock menagerie animals were sold in January of 1932 when E. H. Bostock was 79 years old. They worked the Glasgow Christmas season and then were turned over to the London Zoo.
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