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Back Door Scene at the American Circus
In the American circus, the area directly behind the circus tent or arena where performers prepared for and staged their entrances through the “back door” came to be known as the “backyard.” This glass-plate negative from 1928 reveals a typical backyard scene of an American circus just prior to performance of the spectacular production number. The spectacle, or “spec,” was a procession that took place around the hippodrome track inside the big top, or circus tent, featuring as many of the performers and animals as the circus director was able ...
Free Street Parade of the Sells-Floto Circus
This colorful lithograph advertises the upcoming street parade of the Sells-Floto Circus, promoting ticket sales to the local residents for the twice-a-day shows. The artwork captures the grandeur of the American circus parade in the 1920s. The parade is led by a rider wearing an 18th-century costume and carrying a circus banner. Behind the rider is a group of mounted horsemen, elephants in costumes worn in big production number during the show (“spec costuming”), a band, and a number of circus wagons. Several of the elephants and wagons promote the ...
Pay Off of Spec—the Good Old Times
In the American circus, the spectacle, or “spec,” developed as a procession that took place around the hippodrome track inside the big top, or circus tent, featuring as many of the performers and animals as the circus director was able to costume. Traced back to the earliest circuses in America, the spec was originally a lavish performance of literary or historical tales intended to entertain and edify the audience. The costumes created for specs were often exotic, representing cultures from all corners of the globe. The costumes also could be ...
Elephant and Mule Battery ("Dignity & Impudence")
This photograph of an elephant and mule battery is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The mule team on the left side of the photograph would have hauled supplies or towed the small field gun, while the elephants towed the larger gun. The men in the photograph are a mix of British soldiers and Indian sepoys. The group kneeling around the smaller, muzzle-loaded field gun is preparing to fire after the soldier at front left has used the ramrod ...
Elephant Battery on the March
This photograph is from an album of rare historical photographs depicting people and places associated with the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Elephants were commonly used as shock cavalry in the front lines of military campaigns throughout South and Southeast Asia until the end of the 19th century, when the introduction of advanced artillery and Gatling guns made them vulnerable to enemy fire. The British Indian Army, like their Mughal imperial predecessors, used war elephants to transport large quantities of cargo, but the main advantage of the elephant in late-19th-century military tactics ...
Give the World the Once over in the United States Navy
This colorful recruiting poster issued by the Press Navy Recruiting Bureau in New York in 1919 shows sailors as tourists in India, riding an elephant and taking snapshots. The text urges young men to join the U.S. Navy as a way to see the world. Between 1914 and the end of World War I, the U.S. Navy added nearly 80 vessels, mostly destroyers and submarines, and needed manpower to operate these ships. This poster is by James Henry Daugherty (1889–1974), a painter and illustrator who produced posters ...
Nepal - "First Halting Place on the River Raptee”
This watercolor is from a collection of 18 paintings of Indian subjects by William Tayler (1808–92) dating from around 1842–45. Tayler was a civil servant of the East India Company who lived in India from 1829 until 1867. He became commissioner of Patna in 1855 and in 1857 was involved in the suppression of the Sepoy Rebellion. His measures against the local people were regarded as excessively harsh by his superiors, and he was suspended and given an appointment of lower rank. An enthusiastic amateur artist, Tayler sketched ...