Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ringling Bros. Bell Wagon

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that special guests for the WCO's 4th of July concert included the Ringling Brothers Silver Bells Wagon. We had arrived late enough on the Square (about 3:30pm) that we weren't able to find room on the lawn directly in front of the orchestra, but early enough to find a decent spot in the next section over, near the corner of Pinckney and East Washington -- which ended up being right in front of this historic circus wagon. Though we could see it from where we sat, we nonetheless wandered over for a closer view and to take a few pictures.

Here's what the Circus World Museum website says about the Bell Wagon:

In addition to being a moving visual spectacle, circus parades were significant audio events. Music components were inserted in the parade to attract and entertain the viewers. Several bandwagons carried small groups of bandsmen playing stirring marches. Several circuses arranged to have large pipe organs in their parades, while a select few included wagons fitted with a chime of bells.

The Ringling Bros. Bell Wagon is the best example of the style ever fabricated. The nine large bells were cast by Campbell Bros.’ Centennial Bell Foundry of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Artisans with the Milwaukee Ornamental Carving Company created the heroic carvings that decorated the vehicle, which is largely a chassis to transport the heavy bells. The Moellers of Baraboo, Wisconsin, cousins to the Ringlings, assembled the parts in their shop. It was the first large parade wagon constructed entirely new for the Ringling brothers, underscoring their commitment to providing quality music to their parade observers. It was featured in Ringling Bros. World’s Greatest Shows marches from 1892 through about 1908.

Retired from service for over two decades, the bell wagon was reactivated for use on the 1934 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and again in 1941, 1942 and 1952-1956 on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows. The wagon remains an asset of the show and is on loan to Circus World Museum through the courtesy of Kenneth Feld and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The bell wagon measures 18’-5” long and weighs 10,380 pounds.

No comments: