Manuscript/Mixed Material Image 10 of [Circus Days and Ways]

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seven boys and their father, Gus Ringling. Gus Ringling was a harness-maker, and teamster, before he went into the circus business. Gus wasn't ever able to hire a better teamster on his show than he was himself. Old Gus could handle a twelve horse team so slick that the string of horses would form a perfect circle, and the lead team could eat oats from the back of the wagon Gus was sittin' in.

Circus people in the old days was considered social outcasts. “Decent” people wouldn't have nothin' to do with troupers. This attitude on the part of “outsiders” towards show-folks, brought the show-folks closer together - made 'em clannish. Circus people was just like one big family, and was always a good lot, and always willing to help each other over the bumps. People don't look at it the way they used to, any more, but circus people is still clannish just the same.

Modern methods and high specialization has made it a lot easier for the circus man. Transportation is improved, and accommodations is a lot better than they was. You don't have to be tough inside and out, to troupe with a circus nowadays. In the old days any handler of circus stock knowed how to mix up a batch of kerosene or paregoric liniment to dope an ailing animal. Nowadays the big show troupes a staff of veterinarians, and each valuable animal is watched as close and its diet figgered out as carefully as for the Dionne quints.

I got a lot of respect for Clyde Beattie and other of today's animal trainers, but I don't think there is any comparison between the temper and ferocity of jungle-born cats that the old-time trainer faced twice a day, and the animals born in captivity that the present-day trainers work with. You don't hardly ever hear of a trainer gettin' killed in an exhibition cage today; but in the old days I have seen trainers torn to ribbons in the twinkling of an eye.

The circus reached its greatest size in 1908. After that year they never got any bigger. In 1908 Ringling Brothers introduced the first “spec”, or

About this Item

[Circus Days and Ways]
Contributor Names
Sherbert, Andrew C. (Interviewer)
Alstine, W.E. "Doc" Van (Interviewee)
Created / Published
Subject Headings
-  Stagehands
-  Circus
-  Narratives
-  United States -- Oregon -- Portland
Call Number/Physical Location
series: Folklore Project, Life Histories, 1936-39
MSS55715: BOX A729
Source Collection
U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers' Project
Manuscript Division
Online Format
online text

Rights & Access

The Library of Congress is not aware of any copyright in the documents in this collection. As far as is known, the documents were written by U.S. Government employees. Generally speaking, works created by U.S. Government employees are not eligible for copyright protection in the United States, although they may be under copyright in some foreign countries. The persons interviewed or whose words were transcribed were generally not employees of the U.S. Government. Privacy and publicity rights may apply.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, WPA Federal Writers' Project Collection.

The introduction was written by Ann Banks © 1980 and produced by Joanne B. Freeman. The sound recordings were produced by Joan Murphy Stack and engineered by Rob Attinello. The actors who read the manuscripts were Clement Cottingham, Billie Durand, George A. Jackson, Jr., Margaret Root, Edward S. Stout, and Edna Jeweline White.

Privacy and Publication

Issues pertaining to privacy and publicity may arise when a researcher contemplates the use of letters, diary entries, or reportage found in library collections. Because two or more people are often involved (e.g., photographer and subject) and because of the ease with which they can be reused, photographs and motion pictures represent the types of documents in which issues of privacy and publicity emerge with some frequency.

Privacy and publicity rights are, of course, distinct from copyright. For example, an advertiser may have the photographer's permission (as copyright owner) to use a portrait. But in order to avoid invading privacy, the advertiser may also need the sitter's permission to use the photograph. In fact, publishers sometimes ask photographers to submit a copy of a "release form" in order to establish that the subject of a photograph gave his or her consent.

Although the risks for use in a periodical's "editorial" pages may be less than for use in advertising or for other commercial purposes, they can still be high if the person depicted is held up to ridicule or presented in a libelous manner.

While it is true that famous or public figures who seek recognition have thereby surrendered some privacy, they may have the right to control the commercial use of their image (likeness, voice, signature, etc.). This principle recognizes that a celebrity's image can be an asset in trade.

For more on these and related topics, consult the following books:

Chernoff, George and Hershel Sarbin. Photography and the Law, NY: AMPHOTO, 1971. Library of Congress call number: KF2042.P45C44 1971.

Schultz, John and Barbara Schultz. Picture Research: A Practical Guide, NY: Van Nostrand, 1991. Library of Congress call number: TR147.S38 1991.

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Sherbert, Andrew C, and W.E. "Doc" Van Alstine. Circus Days and Ways. Oregon. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Sherbert, A. C. & Alstine, W. E. ". V. Circus Days and Ways. Oregon. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Sherbert, Andrew C, and W.E. "Doc" Van Alstine. Circus Days and Ways. Oregon. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

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