1913 Labor Day Circus, part 1 – “Society Circus”,

Except for closed stores, quiet business streets and an extra flow of automobile traffic along Lancaster avenue, next Monday will seem much like any other Monday in Wayne. But Labor Days have not always been like that in our town. There was Monday, September 1, 1913, when some 10,000 people gathered together on Radnor School field to witness a “Society Circus”, the like of which was never seen before, nor ever has been since–not in Wayne, at any rate!

Faded copies of the good old Public Ledger and of the Philadelphia Press printed the following morning tell the story by pictures and the printed columns. There are the three Wood brothers, Penman, Robert and Thomas, members of the Second City Troop and sons of Major John P. Wood, pictured as they did bareback stunts on two beautiful horses. “The champion fancy and bareback riders of the world”, and bareback riders of the world”, to quote the “Ledger”, certainly gave a daring exhibition!

And then there’s a picture of Theodore J. Grayson in a polka dot clown suit and B. L. VanSchaidk, chairman of the circus committee, in an elegant riding costume, including a tall silk hat and a coat with tails. Wallace C. Dickson is pictured as a snake charmer and just to prove his claims to that title, he has a large snake coiled around his waist. Standing with him is A. J. D. Peterson, the bearded lady, and very ladylike, indeed, in a high waisted silk dress and kid gloves reaching above the elbow.

Francis Leonard, queen of the gypsy caravan, is pictured with three fortune telling companions, Mona Whitlock, Margaret Riley and Mrs. B. L. VanSchaick.

Triplets from Rosemont are lying side by side in another picture, with a combined weight of 23 pounds at the tender age of 11 weeks. They are Redmond George Smith, Eleanor Ida Smith and Margaret Powell Smith, children of Mr. and Mrs. Redmond Smith. Still another picture shows Carl Rex Clark, “a wee fellow driving his pet goat ‘Billie’ and cuddling his dog ‘Gipsy!’ Carl Rex won first prize, too, for novel decoration of his wagon, “All hay and corn and squash”.

Boy Scouts, commanded by County Scout Executive, S. S. Aplin are pictured atop their 16-ft. tower where they gave “a remarkable exhibition of what to do if the tower is on fire and there are a lot of people holding a blanket for you to jump into. They jumped and carried each other about on stretchers”.

The reader goes through columns of printed matter to discover just why such a pretentious affair was staged on Labor Day, 1913. Apparently there was no attempt to make money for any purpose, charitable or otherwise. It was sufficient that expenses were cleared and that everyone had “the time of their lives” on the big holiday. And the fun started early and lasted “until long after the stars were telling folk that it was long past dinner time”. Those who served on the committee of arrangements were M. F. D. Scanlon, president; Matthew Randall, secretary and Frederick H. Treat, treasurer. And then there were not a few of the prominent citizens of Wayne and St. Davids who helped to make the day such a memorable one.

Three bands led the parade that swung around the Radnor High School grounds that day, making itself heard above the merry-go-round, the animals, the clowns and the crowds, The circus was given twice, for big as the tent was, it did not begin to hold the crowd that wanted to see what was going on. B. L. VanSchiack was the “typical ringmaster in yellow tights who coiled his big whip.”

The Cassons, Joseph Jr., 11 years old and William, aged 6, led the bill. These boys, it seemed, who had “made all Philadelphia marvel at their riding in the Devon Shows, turned tricks from their mounts that made their jockey father envious.”

Next on the program was a regular tumbling and gymnastic feature put on by T. Huber Stilwell and the “Gym” team of Radnor High School. Then came the clowns and the clown police. There was Lawrence Allen, programmed as “Splinters; his salary would make a plumber green with envy”; John M. Rogan, T. G. Roberts and Dr. J. A. Standen, billed as “Rogan and Yellum; their act isn’t a scream–it’s a yell”. Cops included Daniel M. Sheaffer, Frederick H. Treat, Jr., William Keator, Frederick Radcliffe, D. K. Dickson and T. G. Roberts. Other clowns included Dr. Norman Sinclair and Theodore Grayson, “night-stick gentlemen who gave all the old and a few new antics”.

(To be Continued)

The copies of the “Public Ledger” and the “Philadelphia Press” have been lent to the writer by T. Griffiths Roberts who has saved them all these 37 years.