Grandson Finds Photo Album from Asia with Circus Freaks

By Buyers | Buying Photos

We bought this photo album from the grandson of a “picker”. Grandparents can be great for finding things they want to sell. She did not recall much about purchasing the album. A quick search identified it as circus album of an American circus company that was based in Asia. The album was full of circus photos and sites and scenes from all the venues they visited in Asia.

A truly rare group of photos belonging to one of the performers of the Churchill and Taits Show which was based out of Manilla, or possibly to the Taits, themselves. From the mid-1920s.  Almost all the photos are identified as to the location in a meticulous hand, and some have short descriptions. 

Several photos are of a sympathetic, young man with long hair covering his entire face. Very similar to the earlier performer known as “Jo Jo, The Dog Boy.” There is an intimate quality to them. In two of the photos he is with a female companion or, possibly, his mother.  Also, there are two photos of Bertie, front and back, covered with tattoos. Also, “The Great Van Norman,  in his leap for life.”  A photo that will stop your breathing. The Van Norman  photo has the words “A Churchill and Tait Attraction.” Then there are two photos of “Jake Cox, Firediver and Smokediver.”  As well, “The Mysterious Blondell” with all his magic gear or appliances.  Also, the motorcycle rider, Gunboat Jack, in the “Silo-Drome” – The Wall of Death they call it on the internet.  The show promoters, as legible on a sign, offered anyone $100.00 if they could duplicate the feats of their riders.  There are more Carnival specific photos than I can post – about 18. Not to forget a few primitively painted sideshow tents. There are a good number of images of Tait folks touring or posing with the Taits, I believe.

The album has 178 photos or thereabout.  The balance of the album is pristine photos of the sights of South Asia, naturally, because of being based out of Manilla, there are images of temples, including the Snake Temple, spectacular historic buildings, boats, waterways and a number of photos focused on public gardens of a grand scale.

Some of the locations are: Beneres, India; Calcutta; Kuala, Lumpur; Taiping, Perak F.M.S.; Kowloon, Hong Kong; Soerabaja, Java; Bangkok, Thailand; Sumatra, W.C.; Penang, Malaysia.  All or most of these were the sites where the Churchill-Tait Attractions had shows.

Dimensions: The Album is 8.5” wide and 6.5” high and 2” thick.  The photos vary, from 4” X 6”  to   5.25 X 3 ⅜   to  2 1/8” X 3.25”.

Date: Mid 1920s.

Origin: Manilla

Condition: The photos are as mint as they come, the album was missing the front cover, the back cover has separated from the album. 

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