Posted By thecircusblog on August 17, 2012
Let me start off by saying how much I enjoy your blog. You certainly have some interesting photo’s to share. Thank you.
As for the Cole Bros. #88 canvas wagon you showed the other day I’ve included a couple of photo’s of when it was on the 1937 and 1938 seasons of the Al G. Barnes/Sells-Floto show. There were 2 almost identical wagons built for that show to haul the big top canvas. They were steel framed (3″ channel iron uprights), 4″ angle iron front corners, 6″ channel iron frame turned inward and sided with 3″ tongue & groove wood. In other words they were of typical Red Forbes construction. Originally they had wood spoked wheels. Each had a pipe apparatus (jib and winch) on the side to lift the canvas bales in and out of the wagon. This was run on elephant power. The difference in the wagons was where the apparatus was mounted. One wagon had it on the driver side while the other wagon had it on the passenger side.
After the February 20, 1940 Rochester, IN winter quarters fire the Ringling show offered any needed equipment from the surplus in Peru, IN. Adkins & Terrell picked up these 2 canvas wagons along with a couple of Corporation cages and some other odds and ends. The first season to appear on Cole Bros. was 1940. The 2 previous seasons (1939-1940) they sat unused at the Peru, IN winter quarters, after the 1938 closing of Al G. Barnes & Sells-Floto Circus.
The wagons were painted for the Cole show. Cole Bros. used some very distinctive titling styles in the 1940′s. The block lettering and round shield on the wagon in your photo is the 1942 lettering style. Few changes took place while on the Cole show other than the removal of the canvas apparatus and installation of the Liberty (hard rubber tire) wheels. These wagons were used on the Cole show thru the final 1950 season and have been sitting at the Paul Kelly Farm in Peru, IN ever since. All of the wooden parts have long since rotted away along with most of the wheels (from sinking into the mud).
These wagons stand apart from the typical wagons used by Cole Bros. in that the uprights are made of channel iron. Most of the Cole wagons used in the early years were from the (Fred Buchanan) Robbins Bros. and the Miller 101 Wild West (ex-Walter L. Main show) and used wooden uprights and frames. You’ll also note the hand forged piece of metal holding the ring for the chain holding the rear door is the same in both the Cole and Barnes photo’s.
The photo you have on the blog was taken by Koford and was sold thru Al Conover for a number of years. Hope this has been of some help.
Stephen T. Flint.
The next five photos were sent to me along with some of the history of cargo wagon #88.
Thank you Stephen for this important information. I am only a small part of the circus world. It is people like you and others that help me make “The Circus Blog” successful in it’s historic and factual value………. IVAN
There is a great comment from Harry Kingston.