Al G. Barnes Circus

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Al G. Barnes Circus
Truly Big Show.JPG
Circus name Al G. Barnes Circus
Country United States
Founder(s) Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse
Year founded 1895
Fate Purchased by the American Circus Corporation in 1929. Stopped touring after 1938.

Al G. Barnes Circus was an American circus run by Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse.


Stonehouse started the show in 1895 with a pony, a phonograph, a stereopticon.[1] In 1929, his circus, which had grown to 5-ring size, was purchased by the American Circus Corporation, which already owned the Sells-Floto Circus, John Robinson Shows, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, and Sparks Circus. That same year John Nicholas Ringling, owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, bought out the American Circus Corporation. [2][3]

The five purchased circuses continued to tour, but were closed one by one during the lean years of the Great Depression. The Al G. Barnes Circus added Sells-Floto to its name in 1937. The following year, it absorbed acts from the early-closing RBBB circus and finished the season as the Al G. Barnes and Sells-Floto Circus Presenting Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Features. However, rather than returning to its own winter quarters in Baldwin Park, California, the circus traveled to the Ringling winter quarters near Sarasota, Florida, never to emerge again.[4][5]

One of their more famous animals was Black Diamond, an Indian elephant whose unpredictable temper resulted in the deaths of several people and was shot between 50-100 times in 1929, before his own death.[6]

On May 15, 1922, a large circus elephant known as Tusko escaped from the Al G. Barnes Circus, which was making one of its stops in Sedro-Woolley, Washington at that time. The elephant stomped his way through the little logging town and right into local history, demolishing fences, knocking over laundry lines and trees, telephone poles, and a Model T along the way.[7]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Died". Time (magazine). August 3, 1931. Retrieved 2008-07-22. "Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse (Al G. Barnes), 68, circusman, founder and longtime owner of Barnes's Circus; after a lingering illness; in Indio, California. He started his show in 1895 with a pony, a phonograph, a stereopticon. A colorful participant at every performance, he would lead the opening parade seated on the head of a mammoth elephant. Two years ago he sold his interests to Circusman John Ringling for $1,000,000." 
  2. ^ "Bailey and the Ringlings". Feld Entertainment. Retrieved 2013-11-29. "In 1929, reacting to the fact that his competitor, the American Circus Corporation, had signed a contract to perform in New York's Madison Square Garden, Ringling purchased American Circus for $1.7-million. In one fell swoop, Ringling had absorbed five major shows: Sells-Floto, Al G. Barnes, Sparks, Hagenbeck-Wallace, and John Robinson." 
  3. ^ "Man Who Started as a Clown Now Controls the Entire Big Top Industry.". The New York Times. September 10, 1929. Retrieved 2009-02-12. "John Ringling, head of the Ringling Brothers-Barnum Bailey Combined Circus, has purchased the five circuses, with Winter quarters, of the American Circus Corporation, it was learned yesterday." 
  4. ^ Duble, Charles E. (July 1957). "Passing of Circuses from the American Scene". Bandwagon 1 (2): 4. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Bradbury, Joseph T. (Jul–Aug 1963). Bandwagon 7 (4): 3–6 |url= missing title (help). Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Black Diamond". Time magazine. October 28, 1929. Retrieved 2009-02-12. "Curley Pickett has been a farm hand for the last two years in Corsicana, Tex. Before that he was an elephant trainer for the Al. G. Barnes circus where his special charge was Black Diamond, a land elephant. Last week Farm Hand Pickett, learning that the old circus was coming to town, invited his employer, Mrs. Eva Donohue, to see Black Diamond. ... Black Diamond spied them, gave Pickett a malevolent look, wrapped him in his trunk and tossed him over a box car. The nine-ton beast then smashed Mrs. Donohue to the ground, trampled the life out of her. When Pickett had been sent to the hospital, keepers held a council, wired to Circus Owner John Ringling for advice. Mr. Ringling condemned Black Diamond to death. ..." 
  7. ^ "Death Takes Tusko, Big Elephant That Lived Stormy Life". Chicago Tribune. June 11, 1933. Retrieved 2010-10-16. "Tusko one of the largest and most publicized elephants In captivity survived hundreds of death threats and other perils brought on by his temper ament only ..."