Mighty Haag Circus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ernest Haag poster, June 27, 1911

Mighty Haag Circus was started by Ernest Haag (17 June 1866 - 1 Feb. 1935) in Shreveport, Louisiana.[1][2] His circus toured continuously for over 40 years, from 1891 to 1935. Ernest Haag Circus toured using a boat, carts, trains, horse pulled wagons and trucks. At the time it was one of the largest traveling Circus in the United States. Many of Haag performers went on to have very successful careers after working in Haag Circus. Harry James (1916–1983) grew up in the Mighty Haag Circus as his father, Everett Robert James, was the bandleader in Mighty Haag Circus. Harry James' mother, Myrtle Maybelle (Stewart), was an acrobat and horseback rider in the Circus. Maybelle and Everett liked Ernest Haag so much they gave their son his middle name, Harry Haag James. Harry James was born in Albany, Georgia while the Haag Circus was performing there. The James family departed the Circus in 1931 when Harry was 15. Laurence Brasfield of Uncle Cyp and Aunt Sap Brasfield start in the Haag Circus at age 14. Cornet player Don Essig played in Haag Circus. Starting as Haag performers Rube Walters and Heinie Emgard became a vaudeville act. Fisher's Performing Elephants continued tours after the Haag Circus ended. Ruby Haag Brown performed for 50 years in the Haag Circus, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Circus Hall of Fame and Shrine Circus.[3][4][5]


The story goes that Ernest Haag ran away from home (Plymouth, Indiana) at age 12 to join a Circus. From Indiana he traveled to Philadelphia and New York shining shoes and selling newspapers. Then got a job as musician and an orchestra leader. Ernest played alto in the short lived Robinson Two-Car Show. He started a juice business. From Philadelphia he traveled south and turned his juice business into a minstrel show, that failed. He did a side show at the local fair grounds after purchasing a small tent from an old side-show man, Squire Bowman.[6] At the age of 24, Ernest Haag started his circus show by purchasing a Flat-bottomed boat on the Red River near Shreveport, Louisiana in 1890. He hired local performers to put his show together and called it "The Big Show". In 1895 he renamed the show the Mighty Haag Shows.[7] Ed Conklin a local juggler was one of first performers. The show moved down the Catawba River to Bayou Teche. From there down the Atchafalaya river near Morgan City, Louisiana. In Morgan City Haag moved his show to carts and later and wagons as he toured by land. Haag added more carts and wagon to the show as he toured Louisiana and then Kansas.[8] [9][10]

Mighty Haag Circus in 1912
Mighty Haag Circus Elephants: Tip, Alice and Babe in 1913. Tip and Alice worked in the Circus for more than 30 years. In the show Alice would pickup Ruby Haag in her mouth
June 1909 a Mighty Haag Circus newspaper ad in Johnson-City, near Spartanburg, South Carolina

Mighty Haag Circus[edit]

The Mighty Haag Shows toured Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. For 10 years The Mighty Haag Shows toured through the Southern United States. In 1909 the Circus had out grown the horse and mule pulled wagons. Haag moved his Circus to 14 railroad cars calling show Mighty Haag Railroad Shows.[11] Carved wagons, cages for animals, Pawnee Bill calliope wagon and chariots where place in rail cars.[12] The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows toured from 1910 to 1912 in Eastern Canada including: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, including Charlottetown. The Mighty Haag Circus toured many US states as far west as Montana. Mighty Haag Railroad Circus show had highly trained animal with elephants, bears, ponies, camels, lions, tiger and blue-faced monkeys, along with hyena, ocelot and badger. Tuckapo ponies act was put on by Capt. J. C. Farley. In 1915 Circus entrance fee was 35 cents. At its peak in 1918, the show had 100 workers, 3-Ring Circus in a 180 by 80 tent and 45 vehicles of all types. Circus was also known for the one-legged clown, Roy Fortune, a highwire walker and aerialist; also the sword swallower Marguerite Davis.[13][14][15] In 1915 Ernest Haag sold all his railroad cars to Great Wortham Shows carnival and move back to wagons, renaming the show to the Mighty Haag Circus. The wagons toured locally in Louisiana and Texas. In the early 1930 with good roads and trucks now available, Haag moved his Circus and tents to trucks. The elephants were used to help with stuck trucks. Mighty Haag Circus rested and wintered first in Lecompte, Louisiana and then later back in Shreveport. With the success of the Circus Haag had a home made in Shreveport. In 1920 the Circus moved it wintered headquarter to Marianna, Florida.[16][17][18] Ruby Haag Brown, daughter of the late Charles William Fisher and Ruth Eleanor Gregory was a performer in the show, she is known for Alice the elephant picking her up by her mouth and carrying her around by her legs. Ruby also did aerial acts in the show. She was married to Harry Eugene Haag Senior for 29 years.[19][20]

For the summer of 1936 Harry Haag, Ruby Haag and Fisher family, with horses and trained dogs opened the Bud Hawkins Circus.

In 1935 with the death of Ernest Haag on 1 Feb. 1935 the operation of the Circus was given to family members. The name was changed to the Haag Brothers Circus in January 1937. The brothers were in fact cousins, Roy Haag and Henry Haag. Henry was Ernest son and Roy was Ernest's nephew. The Circus' last show was in 1939 in Climax, Georgia.[21] Roy Haag (23 Nov. 1891-6 Jan. 1947) was Ernest nephew and worked in the Circus. After Circus closed, Harry Haag, Silverlake and Fisher fmailies took ALICE the Elephant and few other acts and ran an independent act-show from for one year, called United Amusement Company.[22][23][24][25]


Ernest Haag was married to Alice N. Hubbard Haag (1879- 1951). They had a son Harry Eugene on tour in Oklahoma and later a daughter Helen. Ernest purshaed real estate in Louisiana, Florida and Oklahoma. Ernest also was the director of the Commercial National Bank of Shreveport.[29][30][31][32][33] Ernest Haag father was Joseph N. Haag (July 8, 1840 - 1904), born in Bavaria (Bayern), Germany and lived in Plymouth, Indiana. Ernest Haag and Joseph Haag are buried in Plymouth, Indiana.[34] Ernest Haag mother was Elizabeth Schoner Haag (April 1840 – 1906), she was born in Germany.[35][36]

Notable performers, acts and employees[edit]

  • Ernest Haag - circus founder and owner
  • Alice Haag - Ernest Haag Wife, sales - manager
  • Harry Haag Sr. - manager, inherited part of circus (wife Ruby & Ernest's Son)
  • Helen Haag (Durrett) - elephant act, first woman picked up by elephant trunk, (Ernest's daughter)
  • Ruby Fisher Haag - acrobat and aerialists, elephant trainer - joins 1928 (married Harry Haag Sr)
  • Roy Haag - Sales, manager and later co-owner after Ernest, with Harry
  • Henry Eugene Haag - sales, manager - manage Haag Brothers
  • Harry Haag Jr. - horse trainer
  • Naomi Haag (Carpenter) - elephant, phony and dog acts [Harry E. & Ruby's daughter]
  • Charles Ernest "Doc" Haag - elephant trainer [Harry E. & Ruby's son]
  • Ed Conklin - juggler and first performer hired
  • Everett James - band leader
  • Myrtle Maybelle (Stewart) James - acrobat and horseback rider
  • Fisher Sisters:
    • Josephine "Jo" Helen Fisher Silverlake - acrobats and aerialists, trick riding - joins 1928 (married Brownie Silverlake)
    • Sarah Mann Fisher "Tootsie" - acrobats and aerialists - joins 1928
    • Ruth Eleanor Fisher - acrobats and aerialists - joins 1928
  • Arthur Gregory Fisher - acrobats and aerialists - joins 1928
  • Doc Charles Fisher - veterinarian and elephant and dog trainer - joins 1928
  • Silverlake Trio: (Silverlakes aerialists - Flying Silverlake) [Timberlake]
    • Archie Silverlake - aerialists joins 1928
    • Brownie (Melvin) Silverlake - aerialists joins 1928
    • Billy Silverlake - aerialists joins 1928
    • Marcus Silverlake - bareback rider
    • Franklin Silverlake - trapeze
    • Myrna Silverlake - swinging ladder
    • Melvin "Col Mel" Silverlake - rope spinning, whip, gun twirling(Archie's son)
    • Jimmy Silverlake - elephant trainer
    • Joe Silverlake - juggler
  • Lulu Del-Fuego (Mrs. Frank Foignet) - side show, tattooed lady
  • Ezra Joseph 'Corine' Smith (Hazel) - elephant trainer
  • Albert Armor - riding master
  • Amores - Impalement arts
  • Fennell - tightrope
  • The four Alvedo Bros. - aerial bars
  • Billy Burton, Roy Barrett, Col. Billy Barlow - clown
  • The six De Ivey Troupe, Hodge's Troupe & Matsomoto Troupe, - acrobats
  • Fred De Ivey - side show
  • Ray Forbes and Roy Fortune; Millie Blondine Irwin & Mlle. Blanc, Bert Deare - wire and rings
  • DeMarlo - balancing act
  • Irene James and Mickey O'Brien - wire & trapeze
  • Harry Rhodes - band leader
  • The Linsleys - pantomimists and comedy acrobats
  • Ned Bottinere - magician
  • Mrs. Bottinere - Indian princes [Go-Won-Mo-Hawk]
  • Blacky performing lions
  • Kitty May Irwin & W.H. Whitlark, Ann Woods - contortionist
  • Wm. J. Irwin and Frank Smith - double head balancing trapeze
  • Trip Triplett - comedian
  • Spider" Mardello - equestrian director
  • Doc Grant - jester
  • Chas. Duncan - elephant trainer
  • Larkin's Troupe - jugglers and wire artists
  • The Parentos - novelty acrobats and contortionists
  • Mr. and Mrs. Willie C. Clark - foot jugglers and trapeze
  • Capt. Pete Loftus - lion act
  • Frenchie Miller - horses and phony show
  • Earl Moss, Prof Harry Rhoods and Don Essig - bandleader
  • George and Georgie - trampoline act
  • Ab Johnson, C. W. Denney, Al Armer, Roy Forum, C. W. Denney, Frenchie Miller - clown
  • Miss Drew - clown and juggling act
  • Three Moralis Girls - iron jaw
  • Geo and Geo and Mrs. Fern, Tan and Carrie Arakis - revolving ladder
  • James O'Neill and Renee Jenelle - acrobats
  • LeRoy's performing elephants
  • Mrs. Della Larkins, 'Curly" Womick - calliope player.
  • Fisher's Performing Elephants (Alice and Judy)
    • ALICE the Elephant (in show from 1914 to 1942)
    • Tip the Elephant
    • Judy the Elephant (near the end of the shows)
  • Babe, Tony and Trilby the Elephant (early shows)
  • Dewey, Duke and Major the riding dogs
  • Despot, the small horse 19 inches high and 26 pounds

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Circuses and Sideshows, Ernest Haag, Mighty Haag Shows, with photos
  2. ^ Ernest Haag at Find a Grave
  3. ^ circuswagons.org Mighty Haag Circus
  4. ^ Virginia Chronicle, MIGHTY HAAG SHOW THREE-RING WILD ANIMAL CIRCUS COMiNG TO MONTERREY, July 2 1936, McDowell, 26 June 1936
  5. ^ Josephine Journal, Mighty Haag Circus, Sells Brothers Circus
  6. ^ Shreveport’s Highland neighborhood, Restore Highland, 2745 Fairfield Avenue - Pine Wold, Ernest Haag home
  7. ^ Mighty Haag Shows add, Lafayette
  8. ^ Hobby Bandwagon, Vol. 2, No. 9, Haag Circus Oct. 1947
  9. ^ Central Yesterday, The Note that Roared, By Mike Greife
  10. ^ circushistory.org History
  11. ^ Add for Mighty Haag Railroad Shows, Babylon, NY, July 27, 1911
  12. ^ Billboard, page 21, Roster Mighty Haag Railroad Shows, May 26, 1906
  13. ^ Circus Historical Society, Excerpts From Billboard - 1915-1917, 1919
  14. ^ swordswallow.com, Hall of Fame, Marguerite Davis
  15. ^ BC Yester Year's, The Mighty Haag Railroad Shows Once Made Stops in Johnson City, 04-01-2013
  16. ^ Circuses and Sideshows, Mighty Haag Shows, with many photos
  17. ^ circushistory.org, Mighty Haag Shows, 1952
  18. ^ King Bros. Circus, By Homer C. Walton. Bandwagon, Vol. 7, No. 6 (Nov-Dec), 1963, pp. 23-25., Haag elephants loan, sold
  19. ^ obituary Ruby Haag Brown
  20. ^ legacy.com, Ruby Haag Brown
  21. ^ Darren Ruby, Haag Bros Circus
  22. ^ Fisher Family Circus History
  23. ^ Roy Haag at Find a Grave
  24. ^ Henry D. Haag, Roy Haag's father and Ernest Haag's Brother at Find a Grave
  25. ^ HISTORICAL TRIVIA 1936-1940 Fulton County, Indiana, From The Rochester News Sentinel, Page 65
  26. ^ The Great Circus Street Parade in Pictures, page 105, By Charles Philip Fox, Francis Beverly Kelle
  27. ^ Haag Bros. Circus 1937-39 #2
  28. ^ Charles Ernest "Doc" Haag at Find a Grave
  29. ^ Alice N. Hubbard Haag at Find a Grave
  30. ^ Indiana University, Scenes at Haag circus, Nashville, 1931
  31. ^ Indiana University, Scenes at Haag circus,
  32. ^ ancestry.com, genealogy, HISTORY OF MILLTOWN, KENTUCKY, Frances Tutt Glasgow
  33. ^ circushistory.org, Routes of Haag Show
  34. ^ Joseph N. Haag at Find a Grave
  35. ^ Elizabeth Schoner Haag at Find a Grave
  36. ^ Ruby Fisher Brow (Haag) at Find a Grave