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Wheeler the Clown  Wheeler Presents A                     Chronology of Clowndom

         This Page Takes You from 1940 - 1949


New Material Added On 08/08/2004

1940

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul FratelliniPaul Fratellini died. (born 1877 in Sicily)

JoJoEva Moore Kelly Lewis"JoJo" Lewis married Eva Moore Kelly, ex-wife of his best friend, Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Sr.  It was the second marriage for both of them. (JoJo's pictures courtesy of  Joey Kelly)

1941

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. joined Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Baily Circus. He had turned down offers to join this circus Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr.on two other occasions. After proving that the audience would love it, he became one of the only clowns allowed to remain in a single character and costume throughout the show and to wander through the audience and to interrupt other circus acts with his comic routines (with certain agreed upon exceptions according to Emmett in his autobiography Clown). In fact, several performers requested Emmett's "interruptions" because they felt it enhanced their acts.

Clown and famous circus performer Mihaly "Michu" Mezaros was born in Hungary.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Bozo" Bell memorized eye Bob Bellcharts so that, although almost blind in one eye, he could pass the physical examination and become a Marine. He succeeded, but shortly thereafter received a medical discharge. He was then accepted into the Navy, where he served for about five years.  (Picture courtesy of WGN-TV)

1942

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Joe Jackson Sr. Joseph Francis "Joe Jackson" Jiranek Sr. died after giving a crowd pleasing performance at New York's Roxy Theatre. (born in 1873 in Vienna, Austria) He had taken several curtain calls, before collapsing and dying in the wings of the theatre.

1943

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Leon "Buttons" McBryde was born.

1944

Young Emmett Kelly Sr. Clown and Circus Halls of fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. remarried. His new wife was eighteen year old Mildred Richey, an understudy in one of the other circus acts. Mildred left him in less than a year.

The Big Top caught fire during a matinee performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, Connecticut. 167 persons Weary WIllie Sr.(mostly women and children) died and over 487 were injured; many of the deaths and injuries were caused by being trampled by the panicked crowd. At the time, a carelessly tossed cigarette was blamed for the blaze; but scientific evidence supports the theory of arson. A picture taken of Weary Willie (Emmett  Kelly Sr.) carrying a water bucket appeared in newspapers throughout the world, and led to locals calling the tragic Hartford Fire the Day the Clowns Cried. (click here to read a more detailed account including information provided in part by the daughter of one of the nurses of the injured and dying)

For the rest of the season, the circus performed in open places without a big top.

1945

Largely due to the Hartford Fire tragedy, the United States Armed Forces agreed to make available to civilians (i.e. circuses) an excellent canvas fire-proofing compound that had previously been available only to the military.

1946

Alan Livingston and BozoAlan W. Livingston (right in picture), who would one day receive the Clown Hall of Fame Lifetime of Laughter Achievement Award, created the Bozo the Clown character, for children's recordings and small books, the first being a record entitled Bozo and the Circus. The name came from the tradition of circuses calling clowns Bozos. Bozo needed a voice so Livingston hired a former circus clown, Pinto Colvig (left in picture), to portray Bozo on the recordings and at promotional appearances. Colvig was the also original voice of many of Walt Disney's creations (i.e. Goofy, Pluto, Grumpy, and Sleepy) and other animated characters for other productions as well (i.e. Bluto, the villian in Popeye cartoons). (Picture courtesy of WGN-TV)

The International Circus Clowns Club, the oldest established organizationCoco Poliakov for clowns in the world, was founded in England, largely through the efforts of  Stan Bult (a Victorian gentleman with a great love of clowns), Edward Graves (Editor of the Motley Column in The World's Fair publication) and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Nikolai "Coco the Clown" Poliakov (right). Most of the original  members came from the Olympia Christmas Circus of Bertram Mills.

Clowns in Great Britain began a yearly worship service at St. James Church, burial place of Joseph Grimaldi. The clowns attending the worship service now do so in full make-up and costume.

Bob BellBob "Bozo" Bell was discharged from the Navy and joined a small theater group. He left the group a short time later to accept a position with radio station WMRP, in his home town of Flint Michigan, beginning a career in broadcasting that spanned four states and that would eventually lead to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.  (Picture courtesy of WGN-TV) 

1947

Clarabelle Hornblower the Clown began delighting the younger Bob Keeshan as Clarabelletelevision audience on The Howdy Dowdy Show. Clarabelle was originally portrayed by Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob Keeshan who would spend 29 years portraying the television character he is best know as; Captain Kangaroo. (picture courtesy of the Captain Kangaroo website)

Marcel Marceau created his mime whiteface Marcel "Bip" Marceau character Bip

DimitriClown Hall of Fame inductee Dimitri began his clown career, as the auguste half of a whiteface/auguste act. His real claim to fame would come later,  when he developed his mime clown solo act (as shown on right)

1948

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Peggy Williams, first female graduate of Ringling Brothers Clown College was born.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs, both German Lou Jacobsborn and Jewish, entertained a group of 37 children who were survivors of the holocaust's Nazi death camps. Lou accomplished the seemingly impossible by bringing smiles and laughter to this special audience, proving again the power of laughter as a healing medicine. (Lou's picture is part of Wheeler the Clown's private collection)             

Vitaly Vitalivich "Lazarenko the younger" died. (born: 1914) Like his father, Lazarenko the elder, he was a popular Soviet R'izhii / auguste clown.

1949

Pinto Colvig was the first Bozo the Clown Creator Alan Livingston and Capitol began setting up royalties with with television stations and manufacturers who wanted to use the Bozo character. KTTV (CBS) in Los Angeles broadcasted the first live 30-minute Bozo television show, Bozo's Circus, starring the original Bozo, Vance "Pinto" Colvig Sr.  (above left)Bozo the Clown has remained a television favorite in many areas right into the 21st Century, with several persons donning Bozo's makeup and costume over the years. (Picture courtesy of WGN-TV)

Syd Saylor as BozoCapitol Records also made thirteen 30 minute Bozo's Circus shows, starring Syd Saylor as Bozo, and Bozo creator Alan Livingston as the ringmaster. Acrobats from Jimmy Woods‘ All-American Circus acted as Bozo's stunt doubles.  (Picture courtesy of WGN-TV)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Oleg Popov graduated from the Soviet Oleg PopovCircus School, and began a long and prosperous career in the circus. He began that career as a trapeze and slack wire artist and as a juggler, but his affinity for comedy soon landed him a job as the assistant to famous Soviet clown Karandash, paving the way for his own successful career as a clown.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs created his most Lou Jacobs and his mini Carfamous clown prop, a miniature car from which he would emerge in center ring, to the delight of the audience, young and old. The car was a mere 2x3 feet, and Lou was 6 feet 1 inch tall; a real testimonial to Lou's incredible contortionist talents.  (click on picture to enlarge)

In Sarasota, Florida, Cecil B. DeMille began production of the film The Greatest Show on Earth, starring (among others) James "Jimmy" James Stewart as Buttons the ClownStewart as Buttons the Clown, and featuring actsLou Jacobs and performers from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs is said to have given Stewart lessons in circus clowning. Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus would eventually receive $1,000,000 in royalties; greatly needed to recover financially from settlements over the Hartford Fire tragedy.

Emmett Kelly Jr. joined the United States Navy, to fight for his country in World War II. Emmett Kelly Sr. also tried to enlist, but was turned down because he was considered to be too old.


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   This Website was updated on: 08/08/2004