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Wheeler the Clown  Wheeler Presents A                     Chronology of Clowndom

        This Page Takes You from 1920 - 1929


New Material Added On 07/27/2004

1920

Young Emmett Kelly Sr.A talented cartoonist, Emmett Kelly Sr. went to work for Adagram. Film Cartoon Weary WillieCompany, and first sketched a sad tramp clown who would become the Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee's beloved Weary Willie character. According to at least one source he orignally created the character for a bread commercial.

In his own autobiography, Emmett Sr. says that at the time he saw himself either as a trapeze artist or a cartoonist, and had no idea that he would someday be a full-time circus clown(Note: the Adagram. Film Company also employed Walt Disney at the time.)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Gene "Cousin Otto" Lee was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1921

George FootitClown Hall of Fame inductee George Footit, the whiteface half of the team Footit and Chocolat, died (born 1864). His former partner, Raphael "Chocolat" Padilla had died four years earlier.

Footit and Chocolat were famous for the original slapstick style of Whiteface/Auguste clown acts, where the whiteface was an authoritarian clown who delighted the circus audience by mercilessly bullying and slapping the hapless and bumbling auguste.

1922

Bert Austin Williams

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams died. (born 1874)  (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

JoJoClown JoJo Lewis began performing in regular circuses as the first cop clown (and one of the first character clowns). (picture courtesy of  Joey Kelly)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Robert Lewis (Bob) "Bozo" Bell was born in Michigan, USA.

Young Emmett Kelly Sr. Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. joined his first circus (Howe's London Circus), doing various artistic odd jobs, like painting kewpie dolls and circus wagons.

1923

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Michael "Coco" Poliakov was born in Russia, the son of another Clown Hall of Fame inductee, Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov.

Famous Mime, Marcel "Bip" Marceau, was born in Strasburg, France. (Given name: Marcel Mangel). A French Jew, he changed his name during World War II to avoid detection by the Nazi Gestapo. His father, not so fortunate, died in Auschwitz.

Circus Hall of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs entered the United States, performing as a contortionist and tumbler at fairs and in Vaudeville.

Clown and Emmett Sr. and Eva KellyCircus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. married aerialist Eva Moore, and teamed with the Moore sisters in their act (in addition to working part-time as a clown).

Bobby Kay

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Kaye was hired as a whiteface clown at the Downy Bros. Circus. (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

1924

Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Jr. was born on the closing day of the John Robinson Circus, in which his parents, Emmett Kelly Sr. and Eva Moore Kelly, were performers.

Emmett Kelly Sr. in whitefaceWeary Willie Sr.Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. attempted to introduce his Weary Willie character (left) to the circus public that year. The boss clown turned him down, saying that Weary Willie was "too dirty" for the show, so Emmett Sr. had to continue to perform in whiteface. (right)

Circus Hall of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs performed with the Morris and Morris Circus, as a tumbler.

Paul Jung left the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to return to vaudeville.

1925

Circus Hall of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs joined Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus, as a tumbler and contortionist.

Charles Ringling died, marking the virtual death of the solo clown act in the American circus. Charles and John Ringling had argued for at least five years about the importance of the solo clown act (and the solo act had been seriously curtailed already), and with his death, John completely abolished the long solo clown act from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. (with rare notable exceptions like the best routines of  Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductees Lou Jacobs and Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Sr.)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Glen "Frosty" Little was born.

1926

The National School for Circus and Variety Art was founded in the Soviet Union. Popularly called the Moscow Circus School, it was actually two schools; a high school and a four year college.

Lou JacobsClown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs was hired to be a clown for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus  by John Ringling, who recognized Lou's natural comic abilities. (In previous seasons, he had been hired as a tumbler and contortionist).

1927

Marceline Orbes died (born 1873). The official cause of death was a self inflicted gunshot wound; thought in part at least to be the result of Marceline Orbesdepression from  being broke and out of work (people had lost interest in the solo act they had flocked to see a few years before), and because of his failed marriage. Few mourners showed up to his funeral (his ex-wife and some reporters among them), but a large wreath of flowers was sent by an admirer; Charlie Chaplin.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jackie LeClaire was born. His parents were performers with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, and Jackie became a clown at a very young age (and an accomplished aerialist).

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Robert James (Bob) "Clarabelle" Keeshan was born in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York , USA.

1928  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Frankie Saluto became a performing Frankie Salutocircus Clown. Frankie was a dwarf, and his first routine was portraying a miniature Charlie Chaplin with great skill and accuracy. Eventually, he became a whiteface clown (right), and it was only a short time before he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Lon Chaney Sr. stars in Laugh Clown LaughLon Chaney Sr. As Flik the ClownSilent film star Lon Chaney, Sr., billed as the man of a thousand faces,starred in the Academy Award nominated movie Laugh, Clown, Laugh, as Tito Beppi, aka Flik the Clown. (click here for a very good synopsis of the film, then use your browser's back button to return to this page)


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   This Website was updated on: 07/20/2004