The Elk & Buffalo Tableau


This wagon was built for the Carl Hagenbeck Trained Wild Animal Show in about 1905.  This was Hagenbeck's first venture as a circus owner in America.  Hagenbeck was a German showman well known in Europe for his extensive travelling menageries.  However, this show title was to be very short-lived.


After an unprofitable inaugural season, and with Carl Hagenbeck himself away in Germany, the Hagenbeck Trained Wild Animal show was shrewdly bought out in 1906 by circus owner Benjamin Wallace and his partners from Peru, Indiana.  All of the relatively new equipment, the animals, and the Hagenbeck name were obtained for the nominal sum of $45,000.  The newly coined Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was soon to become one of the most formidable railroad shows of the 20th century. 


On Hagenbeck-Wallace, the wagon's body was painted white and Hagenbeck's portrait was replaced by that of a Native American.  It was used to carry equipment and paraded for many years, until the end of the Hagenbeck-Wallace street parade in 1925.  At that time, many of the show's circus wagons were lined up outdoors at the winter quarters in Peru and left to rot.


Then in 1929, John Ringling bought the Hagenbeck-Wallace winter quarters.  It was used as storage until 1939, when an inventory was done at the quarters.  A few exceptional wagons which were in good condition were sent to Ringling's new winter home in Florida for restoration.  The Elk & Buffalo tableau, however, was among those in poor condition and slated for elimination.


In November of 1941, an excess of 120 dilapidated circus wagons were burned at the Peru quarters, including what was left of the Elk & Buffalo tableau.  In most cases, circus fans were forbidden to save any carvings or pieces from the wagons.


In a rare exception, one side of the Elk & Buffalo tableau was saved, which now resides at the Miami County Museum in downtown Peru.

The End
The Elk & Buffalo Tableau