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Wheeler the Clown

      Wheeler Presents A                     Chronology of Clowndom

This Page Takes You from 1800 - Present Day

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New Material Added On 08/13/2004

1806

Joseph Grimaldi first performed his now famous character, Clown, in a popular pantomime of the time called Harlequin and Mother Goose.

1823

Civil War Era clown and Clown Hall of Fame inductee "Daniel "Yankee Dan Rice" McLaren Jr.  was born. (Given name: Daniel McLaren Jr.).

1838

Joseph Grimaldi's autobiography Clown's Memoirs was voluntarily edited by the great British author, Charles Dickens.

1840

Yankee Dan Rice first joined a circus debut, as an volunteer apprentice.

1872

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Umberto"Antonet" Guillaume was born in Brescia, Italy.

1873

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Joseph Francis "Joe Jackson" Jiranek, Sr. was born in Vienna, Austria.

1877

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul Fratellini was born in Sicily.

1879

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Francois Fratellini was born in Paris, France.

1880

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Karl Adrian "Grock" Wettach was born in Switzerland.

1886

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Albert Fratellini was born in Moscow, Russia.

1887

Yankee Dan Rice retired from circus life and the lecture circuit.

1890

Vitaly Effimovich Lazarenko the elder, a popular R'izhii clown, was born in the Soviet Union. (*note: R'izhii was a red-haired clown type popular in Soviet Union before World War II and was probably the inspiration for the modern auguste)

1891

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford, was born in Barnsley England. The story is told that the future famous comic equestrian was given his nickname by an aunt, who said that the baby looked like a fat poodle.

1892

Vance Debar "Pinto" Colvig Sr., the original Bozo the Clown was born in Jacksonville, Oregon.

1896

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Otto Griebling was born in Colenz, Germany.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Rivels was born in Spain.

1898

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett  Leo "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. was born in Sedan, Kansas, USA.

Six year old Clown Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Rival joined the family street performance act.

After the death of his father, Vitaly Lazarenko the elder joined his first circus, where he learned to be a tumbler / leaper.

1900

Civil War Era clown and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Daniel "Yankee Dan Rice" McLaren Jr. died (born:1823). Yankee Dan wore no makeup but had a variety of costumes. His image in one of these costumes is thought by many to be the Ogden Nash's inspiration for his cartoon character now USA symbol, Uncle Sam. Yankee Dan was so famous that he made more a week than the United States President, whom he considered a personal friend; in fact, he was known as the unofficial jester to President Lincoln. He was also a personal friend of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee; a fact which caused angry riots at some of his shows in Northern states during the civil war years.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and British circus great Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov was born in Russia.

1901

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul Jung was born in Dayton, Ohio USA.

1902

Six year old Clown Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Rivels began performing a head balancing act with his sister who was one year younger.

1903

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig was born in Wesermude, Bremerhaven, Germany.

The popular clown duo Brick and Brock split up due to Brock's military service, and Brick took on a new partner, Karl Adrian Wettach. Karl so liked the name of his predecessor that he took the stage name of Grock. Grock thus began an illustrious career that led to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.

1904

Emmett Kelly Sr. received the first spanking he could remember, for climbing a telephone pole and sitting on the crossbeam until his terrified mother and neighbors got him to climb halfway back down so that he could be rescued. According to Emmett Sr., the pole was much higher than the tent in which he later performed his first aerial act.

1905

Marceline Orbes left England to spend the next decade as a highly successful Auguste clown in New York (at the Hippodrome).

1906

Vitaly Lazarenko the Elder decided to become a clown. Prior to that he had spent eight years employed in Soviet Union circuses as a tumbler and leaper; talents that blended perfectly with his new vocation.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Frankie Saluto was born. He was one of the little people. (a circus name for dwarf or midget performers) 

1907

James Bailey died, and at the end of the season, the Ringling Brothers purchased their biggest competitor, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, from his widow. At this point, they continued to run The Ringling Brothers Circus and The Barnum & Bailey Circus as separate entities.

Michael "Karandash" Rumyantsev, Russia's most popular clown in the 1960s and 1970s, was born. (Karandash is Russian for pencil).

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Alphonse "Al Ross" Helwig was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Russian comic Vladimir Durov was banned from Germany after he insulted Kaiser Wilhelm intentionally during one of his performances. He had dressed his trained pig in a helmet identical to the Kaiser's and taught it to drag a sword around the performance ring, thus insinuating that the Kaiser was a warmonging pig.  He had previously been banned from certain cities in Russia (i.e. Odessa) for similar reasons.

1908

Clown Hall of Fame inductee  Bobbie Kaye was born.  

At the age of eight, Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov ran away from home to work for an organ grinder, beginning a career in entertainment that eventually led to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee  Bert Williams developed his tramp clown character and solo act following the death of his vaudeville partner, leading to an even more successful career.  

1909

Clown Hall of Fame inductees the Fratellini Brothers began their trio clown act in France, inspired by their brother, Louis, (also a clown) who had died that year. Although Paul, the eldest, was a traditional auguste of that time period, Albert, the youngest, created a clown face that became the model for the present day Auguste clown.  Francois was a traditional whiteface.

1910

Seven year old Jacob "Lou Jacob" Ludwig made his acting debut as an alligator's hindquarters in a German vaudeville variety act, beginning a career in show business that would eventually lead to his induction into both the Circus Hall of Fame and the Clown Hall of Fame.

Fifteen year old Frank "Felix" Adler quit school and his job to pursue a career in show business, a career which led him to eventually become known as the King of Clowns and to his induction into both the Circus Hall of Fame and the Clown Hall of Fame.

Clown Hall of Fame inductees  George Footit and Raphael "Chocolat" Padilla split up as a team; each of them going solo as clowns. Neither  came close after that to the success they had achieved as the comedy clown duo of Footit and Chocolat.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bert Williams joined the Ziegfield Follies with his tramp clown act.  (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

At the age of  eleven, Clown Hall of Fame inductee Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov had already finished his circus apprenticeship and was a performing circus clown in Russia.

1911

Fifteen year old Otto Griebling entered the United States and joined the circus, as an apprentice to a horse riding act, thus beginning a circus career that led to his induction into both the Clown and Circus Halls of Fame.

1912

Fourteen year old JoJo Lewis, started performing as a clown at with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. He was a rodeo clown with a beat up derby.

1913

Clown Hall of Fame inductee "Prince Paul" Alpert was born. He was one of the little people. (a circus name for dwarf or midget performers) 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Richard "Red" Skelton, was born. The son of a retired circus clown who died before he was born, Red decided early on to become a comedian and clown. Red created many characters, one of the best of which was tramp clown Freddie the Freeloader.

Hollywood clown / actor David Daniel "Danny Kaye" Kaminsky was born.

Mario Mareno "Cantinflas" Reyes was born in Mexico. Cantinflas made his name as a circus and bullfighting clown (not the same as a  rodeo clown, although both put themselves in front of bulls)  then turned to acting in movies. He is best known to American audiences as Passpartout in the classic 1956 movie Around World in 80 days.

JoJo Lewis joined Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show with a comic trained mule act. A favorite routine of the audience involved JoJo ordering the mule to sit and stay then walking away. The mule, of course would get up and follow him, quickly sitting again as soon as JoJo turned to see if he was being followed.

1914

While working for Mac Sennett's Keystone Cops, and while on his way to wardrobe, Charlie Chaplin dreamed up the character that would shape his career from that day on: the Little Tramp. The costume came to him almost instantaneously, but the character of the Little Tramp was built, refined and polished over time.

Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig saw his first clown act and joined a small German circus as a clown.

Vitaly Lazarenko the elder was filmed performing an incredible somersaulting leap over the backs of three elephants. This film was later shown around the world, making him the first soviet clown seen in the free world.

Vitaly Vitalivich Lazarenko the younger was born. He would later become a clown like his father, famous for entertaining Soviet troops during World War II.

1915

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Anthony Mark "Mark Anthony" Galkowski was born in Connecticut.

Clown Frank "Slivers" Oakley died of gas asphyxiation. (Born 1871 in Sweden). His death was ruled a suicide brought on at least partly by depression because the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was now only offering to pay him $50 a week to do walkarounds in place of the $750 - $1000 a week he had been paid in the past for his popular solo routine where he pantomimed several participants in a baseball game.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford set the record for vaulting (jumping on and off a running horse); 26 consecutive jumps. That feat is recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records and still stands today.

Also that year Poodles and his family were brought to the United States by the Ringling Brothers to perform with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

1916

Anatoly Durov, Soviet clown and half of the Durov Bothers  act, died. (born 1864).

1917

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Raphael "Chocolat" Padilla, the auguste half of the team Footit and Chocolat, died (born in slavery in Cuba - birthdate unknown). Chocolat used no makeup and wore fancy clothes, in the style of the traditional auguste of that time period. Still, he brought a unique style to the his character, causing some to say that  there was a big difference between the auguste clown and the "chocolat" auguste clown.

Paul Jung joined the Barnum and Bailey Circus, as a trapeze artist.

1918

Cartoonist Max Fleischer created the cartoon series Out of the Inkwell, featuring Koko the Clown.

Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig appeared as a comic contortionist with partner and straight man, Michael Morris.

1919

The Ringling Brothers merged their original cirucus with the Barnum & Bailey Circus (which  they had bought out in 1907). The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been able to remain the undisputed Greatest Show On Earth ever since.

The circus was nationalized in the Soviet Union and was placed in the control of the central committee. Shortly thereafter, permanent circus buildings were being erected throughout the USSR.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. began purchasing props for his planned chalk talk stage act, including designing an easel out then hiring a plumber to build an it out of brass. Also that year, he entered an amateur theatre contest and won  first prize ($3). He used the prize money to purchase a used trapeze bar and crane from the new owner of the Western Show Property Exchange, Doc Grubbs. Also that year, Emmett Sr. went to work for his first show, Zieger's United Shows, painting the merry-go-round. Later he  was put in charge of a sideshow act called Spidora.

Emmett Sr. left Zieger's United Shows that same year after discovering a louse on his neck one day.

1920

A talented cartoonist, Emmett Kelly Sr. went to work for Adagram. Film Company, 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

Clown 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

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

Clown JoJo Lewis began performing in regular circuses as the first cop clown (and one of the first character clowns).

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

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 Circus 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).

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.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. attempted to introduce his Weary Willie character 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.

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.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig 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 depression 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 circus 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 and it was only a short time before he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Silent 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)

1930

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and Soviet circus great Oleg Popov was born.

Circus Hall of Fame inductee Otto Griebling, an accomplished horseback rider in the Sells Floto Circus, suffered a serious fall and, while recovering, decided that it was time for career change . A natural comedian, he became a silent tramp clown, starting a successful career that would lead to Otto also being inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame.

Alphonse Helwig  joined the Ross Acrobatic troupe and first took the stage name of Al Ross, beginning a career that would lead to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov moved from the USSR to England and joined the Bertram Mills Circus. Soon he was Great Britain's most popular clown.

Bevely "Rebo the Clown" Bergeron was born.

Walt Disney created the cartoon character Pluto, and chose as the voice behind the character a retired circus clown named Vance "Pinto" Colvig Sr. (who later became the first Bozo the Clown). Pinto soon lent his voice to another Disney cartoon creation, the original Goofy.  

1932

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Joe Vani became part of the Kenneth Waite acrobatic trio, along with Kenneth Waite and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Chester Sherman. When Waite retired a short time later, the remaining two formed the clown duo known as the Sherman Brothers.  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Anni Fratellini, (granddaughter of Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul Fratellini) was born in France. 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Arthur "Vercoe" Pedlar was born in England. 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Roy "Cooky Cook" Brown was born in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.   

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Felix Adler became the first clown to appear on a television program.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Otto Griebling became a silent tramp clown in the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. toured nightclubs, using both his talents as a clown and an artist to give chalk talks as Weary Willie.

1933

The tramp clown character Weary Willie first performed under the big top, at the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.  Before that, Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. was a whiteface clown .

By proving how popular his character was and how Weary Willie enhanced other acts, Emmett was given permission for Weary Willie to stay in costume and character throughout the circus performance, even to mix with serious acts (i.e. hanging wash on the slack wire and being chased out of the ring, etc.) . He continued to do this at every circus for which Weary Willie performed from then on.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee "Prince Paul" Alpert first performed as a clown in the Paul Jung Troupe. He was one of the little people (a term used for dwarf and midget circus performers) 

1934

Vladimir Durov, Soviet clown, and half of the Durov Bothers act, died. (born 1863). He was more comic animal trainer than clown, but often performed with his brother Anatoly, who was a noted auguste clown.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul Jung left Vaudevile to return to circus life, employed by Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a clown. (Before that, he had been a trapeze artist)

1935

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Gene "Cousin Otto" Lee  began his career at the Cole Bros. Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and Swiss clown mime, Dimitri, was born.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Umberto "Antonet" Guillaume, the last of the authoritarian Whiteface clowns, died. (born 1872 in Italy) He had teamed with several notable augustes over the years, including Clown Hall of Fame inductee Grock. (In fact, Grock credited Antonet for getting his career as an auguste started correctly.)

Clown and Circus Halls of fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. and wife Eva were divorced, in large part over Emmett's preference of clowning over their aerialist act. They each took custody of one of their two sons; Emmett Jr. becoming the responsibility of his father. (due to the nomadic life of a circus performer, Emmett Jr. lived most of his school years with Emmett Sr.'s parents) Eva later would marry another clown, JoJo Lewis. Emmett Sr. would also remarry, but unsuccessfully.

Due to a clown shortage and at his father's urging, fifteen year old Gene "Cousin Otto" Lee first performed as a clownat the Cole Bros. Circus, leading to a successful career and induction into the Clown Hall of Fame. (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

1937

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Sr. appeared at the New York Hippodrome. Audiences loved the silent tramp clown.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Mark "Tony " Antony began his career as a whiteface clown. A short time later, he switched to the tramp character for which he became famous.

Walt Disney created the first feature length animated cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Two of the dwarfs, Grumpy and Sleepy, were voiced by a retired circus clown named Pinto Colvig Sr., who later became the first Bozo the Clown .

1938

Dorothy "JoJo" Barnett joined the clown act of her husband Chester "Bobo" Barnett. A whiteface, she was billed as the only performing girl clown. (which was probably true at that time) She certainly had to battle with the prejudices of an all male clown alley in order to get her chance, as well as male jealousy when she succeeded.

1939

Popular Soviet R'izhii clown Vitaly Efimovich Lazarenko the Elder died. (born in 1890)

Vance "Pinto / Bozo" Colvig Srwas the voice of Gabby the  Lilliputian in what became a very popular animated feature Gulliver's Travels.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jim Howle was born in South Carolina.

1940

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

"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.

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 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 charts 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.  

1942

Clown Hall of Fame inductee 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

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 (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 W. Livingston, 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, 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 organization 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. 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 "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.  

1947

Clarabelle Hornblower the Clown began delighting the younger television 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.

Marcel Marceau created his mime whiteface character Bip

Clown 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

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 born 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.    

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

1949

 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.   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. (

Capitol 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.  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Oleg Popov graduated from the Soviet Circus 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 famous 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.  

In Sarasota, Florida, Cecil B. DeMille began production of the film The Greatest Show on Earth, starring (among others) James "Jimmy" Stewart as Buttons the Clown, and featuring acts 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.

1950

 KTTV (CBS) in Los Angeles ended its broadcast of Bozo's Circus, starring Pinto Colvig Sr. Capital Records, which had also created several Bozo shows for television, shut down its television division.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower the Clown"  Keeshan was fired from The Howdy Dowdy Show, as the result of a personality conflict with the show's star, Buffalo Bob. He was rehired a few months later because children didn't like the actor who took over the Clarabelle role.

That same year Bob married Anne Jeanne Laurie.  

1951

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Steve  "TJ Tatters" Smith was born.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Otto Griebling joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Francois Fratellini died. (Born in Paris in 1879)

Emmett, Sr. co-starred as the villian in the movie The Fat Man, playing Ed Deets, a murderer hiding behind a clown face. He refused to stain the image of his Weary Willie character with such a role, so the producers allowed him to play the part as a whiteface clown .

1952

Cecil B. Demille's circus epic, The Greatest Show on Earth, Cecil B. Demille's circus epic was released to theatres and won the coveted Academy Award for best picture that year. The epic co-starred Jimmy Stewart as Buttons the Clown, and featured real Clown and Circus Hall of Fame inductees Emmett Kelly, Otto Griebling,  and Lou Jacobs, and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jackie LeClaire, along with cameo appearances by Clown Hall of Fame inductees Paul Jung and Frankie Saluto, and many other performers of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Lou Jacobs was given the choice assignment of teaching Stewart the art of clowning. Jackie LeClaire, an accomplished aerialist as well as clown, stunt doubled for Cornell Wilde on the trapeze. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was paid $1,000,000 in royalties for their role in the box office hit. (The movie grossed over $40,000,000)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower"  Keeshan was fired from The Howdy Dowdy Show, as the result of a wage dispute. Several members of the technical crew were also terminated. Two other actors, Bobby Nicholson and Lew Anderson, took over the role of Clarabelle for the rest of the Howdy Doody Show's run, but neither were as successful in the role.

Roy Brown began his Chicago career in children's television as a graphic artist. A couple of years later, he moved into puppeteering, starting the path that would lead to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.  

1953

Tramp clown Freddie the Freeloader, definitely one of Clown Hall of Fame inductee Red Skelton's most endearing characters, made his first appearance on the Red Skelton Television Show.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Oleg Popov joined  the Moscow Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Arthur "Vercoe" Pedlar began his career by joining the Spider Austin troupe in France.  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Michael "Coco" Poliakov came to perform in the United States for a short time with the Mills Bros. Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Barry "Grandma" Lubin was born.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower" Keeshan created his second Clown character, "Corny" (left) to narrate a cartoon program Time for Fun / The Johhny Jellybean Show. At this time Bob exerted pressure on the program's executives to remove from the air cartoons he felt were too violent or perpetuated racial stereotyping.

1954

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Adrian "Grock" Wettach gave his last performance (in Germany) and retired to a villa on the French Riviera.

At the age of 63, Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford gave up his equestrian antics, but continued his whip act and general clowning.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Glen "Frosty" Little began his career in entertainment at an amusement park in Denver, Colorado.

Hal Roach, Jr. produced a 30-minute "Bozo the Clown" television pilot for Capitol Record. This time, Gil Lamb starred as Bozo.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower the Clown"  Keeshan hosted a children's television show Tinker's Workshop; this time as Tinker, an Alpine Toy maker.  

1955

Marcel Marceau first performed in the United States as Bip, his silent whiteface character.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Oleg Popov became the first Soviet clown to be seen in a live performance by western audiences when the Moscow Circus toured Europe. 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle" Keeshan left Tinker's Workshop to star as Captain Kangaroo, his most famous television role, and one that he played for 29 years.

"Bozo and His Friends" (the next Bozo the Clown television show) premiered on WHBQ-TV (Memphis). This time Jim Chapin was the man behind the Bozo makeup. The television show was cancelled the following year when the legal rights to the Bozo the Clown character changed hands.

1956

This was the last year that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus performed under the canvas big top. From that time on, indoor arenas housed the circus. This change was largely due to the efforts of Irvin Feld in persuading John Ringling North that the days of canvas big tops were over. Many circus diehards never forgave North for getting rid of the traditional canvas big top.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Kelly Sr. left the circus to work as the mascot of baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers, still as his Weary Willie character. His departure was at least in part due to support of a union strike of the circus's non- performing personnel.

Clown  and Circus Halls of Fame inductees Felix Adler and Otto Griebling also left the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that year in support of the union strike.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford also left circus life and became a prospector clown at Frontier Town, an amusement park in New York.

Larry Harmon formed a partnership that purchased the rights (except for records) to the Bozo the Clown character, and turned it into a nationwide franchise He often took over the role of Bozo the Clown which he had been occasionally hired in the past to play at promotionals, and credits himself as training over 200 Bozo the Clowns.  

The comedy team of Bob Bell and Wally Phillips were hired by WGN-TV (Chicago). The comedy team starred in a number of variety shows (i.e. The Wally Phillips Show, and Midnight Ticker) before Bob was cast as Bozo the Clown , a role that would lead to several Emmy awards and his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.

Danny Kaye showed off his great clowning talents as the star of the movie  The Court Jester. He played Hubert Hawkins, a revolutionary who was undercover in a usurper king's court, posing as Jacimo, king of jesters. In my personal opinion, this is without a doubt his best comedic film.

1957

Clown David Larrible was born in Italy.

Clown & Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. went to work for the Shrine Circus.

1958

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Oleg Popov was designated a People's Artist of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Popov was the youngest performer to date to receive this high honor. (age 28 at the time).

The Circus Hall of Fame was created.

Several Bozo cartoons were made then distributed to television stations all over the country (along with the rights to hire a live "Bozo" host to introduce them). The voice of cartoon Bozo was Larry Harmon.  (picture courtesy of WGN-TV)

Rebo the Clown was created to co-star with Mark Wilson and Nani Darnelle in the television series, Magic Circus and the Magic Land of Allakazam.  Bevely Bergeron (right) was the man behind the makeup.

Danny Kaye again showed off his great clowning talents as the star of the movie  Merry Andrew. This time he played a professor searching for an old statue who ends up working in a circus.

1959

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Karl Adrien "Grock" Wattach died in the French Riviera. (born 1880 in Switzerland)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Dimitri began his clown career as an auguste. His later fame would come from his whiteface/mime character .

The Bozo the Clown Show began to air all over the United States, beginning with KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, as individual television stations purchased franchises. Each station had its own actor portraying Bozo the Clown, such as Pinto Colvig, Jr. (son of the original Bozo) at KTLA  in L.A. and Bill Britten who was Bozo for WPIX in New York. Although each local Bozo looked slightly different, each wore the traditional pointed tufts yak hair wig.  Over the years, the name of the show has changed slightly (i.e. Bozo's Circus, Bozo and his Friends,etc.).

In what was most likely his first "disguised" television role, Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob Bell portrayed an elderly theater custodian, Andy Starr, the host of WGN-TV’s Three Stooges Weekday Afternoon Showcase.

Television clown Bev "Rebo" Bergeron is credited for creating the first one balloon animal (a dog with a bubble tail). He then began selling balloons at personal appearances for fifty cents a bag.

The annual clowns worship service and tribute to Joseph Grimaldi in Great Britain was transferred to Trinity Church (Now also called Clowns Church) in Dalston. St. James Church, the original location, was demolished except for the graveyard, which was transformed into a memorial garden.

1960

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and circus great Frank Bartlet "Felix" Adler died. (born 1895). Felix often performed with baby piglets like the one shown here that he trained himself (over three hundred during his career, because after about two weeks they would be too large to use in his acts). After Felix's marriage, his piglets were always named Amelia (his wife's name).

Emmett Kelly Jr. first performed as a clown, in the Circus  City Festival in Peru, Indiana. (Prior to this he was an automotive mechanic and railroad switch tender.) Like his father, he performed as Weary Willie. Some sources say it was with Dad's blessing, but according to most reports, Emmett Sr. did not approve; he felt too close of a bond with the character he had created.

Bob Bell took over the role of Bozo the Clown for WGN-TV in Chicago. (WGN-TV aired the longest running Bozo show in history). He performed the role until 1984, becoming one of the most famous and beloved portrayers of the character to date, leading to Bob's selection as a Clown Hall of Fame inductee.  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Don "Homer" Burda began a theatrical career that would lead to a successful career in clowning.

The Clowns' Gallery was founded in Great Britain by Stan Bult, one of the founders of the International Circus Clown Club (now Clowns International). The gallery's first permanent exhibition was Bult's private collection of Clown memorabilia.

1961

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Albert Fratellini died. (born in Moscow, Russia in 1886). Although not a typical auguste in his day, his "grotesque" face became the model for all present day auguste clowns.

Clown JoJo Lewis died. (birthdate unknown, but probably around 1898)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jim "Happy" Williams first performed, at the Mayfair Mall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

1962

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Otto Griebling  was the stunt double for the great comic Jimmy Durante, in the circus movie, Dumbo.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Dimitri was honored at the international mime festival in Berlin, Germany, for his solo mime act.

1963

Ronald McDonald the hamburger-happy clown, soon to be America's most recognized clown, made his first television appearance. He had been created the year before by two McDonald's franchisees, John Gibson and Oscar Goldstein (Gee-Gee Distributing Corporation), to target children when the "Bozo the Clown Show" (which they had sponsored) went off the air. Famed television personality Willard Scott, who had once portrayed Bozo on that particular show, was the first man behind the makeup; but there have been many since. If I'm not mistaken, every state has their own Ronald MacDonald... Currently my personal friend the very talented Doug Ryder, delights audiences in Utah as Ronald McDonald.

Bozo's Circus (WGN-TV Chicago) received its first Emmy award.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his efforts to educate children about road safety; a priority of his after after a serious accident he suffered in 1960.

Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Jr. was a featured performer in the Hagen-Wallace Circus.

1964

Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Jr. was hired to perform in the Eastman Kodak pavillion at the New York's World Fair, which ran for two years. Eastman Kodak was so pleased with Weary Willie Jr.  that they hired him as a good will ambassador, touring at hospitals all over the country over the next four years. During this time, he became the most famous and photographed clown in the United States (perhaps the world).

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Mark "Tony " Antony began clowning for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower" Keeshan hosted the television series, Mr. Mayor. He portrayed two characters in the show, Mr. Mayor and the Town Clown.

1965

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Paul Jung died in New York, from fatal injuries sustained during a robbery/beating while he was taking an evening walk. (born 1901 in Dayton, Ohio)

Larry Harmon bought out his partners and became the sole owner of the rights to the Bozo the Clown character (except for the record rights, which were still held by Capital Records). Harmon syndicated 130 of a Boston "Bozo's Circus" television show (re-titled "Bozo's Big Top") for stations that wanted Bozo, but didn't want to produce their own shows. It is said that Harmon preferred Frank Avruch's portrayal of Bozo (right) and wanted to have him play the role exclusively, but the various stations that already had their own people behind Bozo's makeup objected. 

Bozo's Circus (WGN-TV, Chicago) received another Emmy award.

1966

The US Postal Service unveiled a postage stamp bearing the clown face of Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs. Perhaps because it is a clown face, the Postal Service went against its own policy of only honoring deceased persons on a stamp. 

1967

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford, died. (born 1891). Comic equestrian Poodles was famous for stunts such as somersaulting off of the back of a moving horse.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Vance Debar "Pinto" Colvig Sr., the original Bozo the Clown, died.  (born 1892)  

Smokey the Clown convinced the authorities at the Trinity Church  (also known now as Clowns Church) to allow attendees to the annual clowns worship service and tribute to Joseph Grimaldi to come in full costume and makeup. They have done so ever since, then entertain at an adjacent school after the service.

Clowns of America was founded.

Irvin Feld, in partnership with his brother Israel and Judge Roy Hofheinz, purchased the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, from an aging and tired John Ringling North. The final papers were signed at the ancient Roman Coliseum. The Felds decided not to alter the name of the circus, which had become so well known by American audiences,

1968

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus founded the first clown college in the United States. Among the graduates that year were Clown Hall of Fame inductees Jim Howle , Glen "Frosty" Little , and Keith Crary, all of whom were offered and accepted contracts with the circus.

For the first time, an American Circus appeared in the Soviet Union (touring Moscow, Kiev, and Leningrad). Among the performers was Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jackie LeClaire (Pictures courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame).

Irvin Feld, in order to cover more location and dates with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, created an entirely new circus that he called the Blue Unit. The existing circus was called the Red Unit. Each year the two units trade schedules and locations.

Roy Brown first appeared as "Cooky Cook" on WGN-TV's Bozo's Circus television show. He experimented with about 60 different clown characters before settling on Cooky's costume and makeup. The role of Cooky led to Roy's selection as a Clown Hall of Fame inductee. Prior to this role, he had served other functions at WGN and on Bozo's Circus, such as a puppeteer and a writer.  

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob "Bozo" Bell had surgery for a brain aneurysm. While recuperating, he participated in Bozo's Circus via telephone.

Ray Rayner was selected to portray Ronald McDonald for approximately one year in television ads that were aired nationwide. Before this, Rayner was best known as WGN-TV Chicago's Bozo the Clown sidekick, Oliver O. Oliver.

 Equestrian clown Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford,was inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame.

1969

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Leon "Buttons" McBryde graduated from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey clown college and was offered and accepted a contract to clown with the circus's Blue Unit.  

Clown Charles Bell was inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Annie Fratellini married Pierre Etaix,  a big circus fan.

1970

Peggy Williams became the first woman accepted into the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College. She graduated, was given a contract and spent the next ten years as an excellent performing clown, which earned her induction into the Clown Hall of Fame.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Leon "Buttons" McBryde was named the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Goodwill Ambassador.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Glen "Frosty" Little was named Boss Clown for the Red Unit of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Don "Homer" Burda first performed as a clown, at the request of a children's theatre troupe.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob Bell received an Emmy award for his portrayal of Bozo the Clown. This was also the year of a major change in Bob's "Bozo" costume. It was changed from red to blue.  

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Otto Griebling's larynx was surgically removed. This did not affect his clown act, which was always silent.

NBC aired a documentary entitled Circus Town. The featured performer was "Joey" Kelly, son of Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Jr. and grandson of Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. NBC continued to air the documentary for several years.

1971

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Frankie Saluto retired from the circus.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Kaye joined the teaching staff of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Steve "T. J. Tatters" Smith graduated from the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Clown College, and was given a contract to perform and act as a goodwill ambassador with the blue unit.

Public Law 91-443 was signed into law by U.S. President Richard Nixon, creating the first official National Clown Week.  Bill "Boom-Boom" Bailey (right) had been appointed chairman of National Clown Week the previous year, and he served almost continuously in the position until his death in 1990.

The Larry Harmon Pictures Corporation purchased Capital Records' copyright to the Bozo the Clown records. Harmon now owned the exclusive rights to every facet of Bozo the Clown.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Anni Fratellini co-starred in a Frederico Fellini mockumentary entitled The Clowns.

1972

Felix Adler was inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame. Also inducted that year was circus manager and former clown, Pat Valdo (Valdo's picture not found yet).

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Otto Griebling died. (born 1896 in Colenz, Germany). His larynx had been removed two years before, but this did not affect his clown act, which was always silent.

Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States after years of self exile to be presented with an honorary Academy Award.

Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Jr. fulfilled a dream by creating the Emmett Kelly Jr. Circus. It became the only circus to ever perform at the White House. (Which it has done twice.)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Don Burda first performed as his tramp clown character, Homer.

1973

Clown and former equestrian Otto Griebling was inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame.

Already a seasoned circus clown and performer in Hungary, Mihaly Mezaros joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, billed as Michu, the smallest clown on earth, and the smallest man on earth. At a mere 2 feet 9 inches tall, Michu is shorter than Barnum's famous General Tom Thumb was at the time of his death. (However, the General was shorter than Michu at the time he was working for P.T. Barnum; he just hadn't finished growing.) 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Dimitri appeared in the United States, performing with the Big Apple Circus. He also won the coveted Grock Prize that year.

1974

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Anni Fratellini, along with her husband Pierre Etaix, founded the Annie Fratellini Circus School; offering both artistic and technical training.  It was the first such school in France. 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and British circus great Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov died. (Born 1900 in Russia)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Jim Howle retired from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus to pursue his interest in painting. Since then he has created portrait paintings which are on display in the Clown Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Leningrad Gallery.

1975

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Kaye was put in charge of all makeup classes at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.  (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

Charlie Chaplin was knighted by Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. He asked to be addressed as Sir Charles, not Sir Charlie, possibly to separate his real life from his screen character.

The Pickle Family Circus was formed in San Francisco. One of the founders, Larry Pisoni, gained fame as Lorenzo Pickle the Clown.

Clowns of America established the CHARLIE Award to honor the alley that did the most to promote National Clowns Week the previous year. CHARLIE stands for Clowns Have A Real Love In Everyone.

The first alley to win the CHARLIE AWARD was The Grand and Glorious Galaxy of Clowns, Alley #55.

Richard "Snowflake" Snowberg first performed as a clown, starting to a long career that led to his induction into the Clown Hall of Fame . Prior to this, he was a straight magician.

1976

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Chester Sherman, of the clown duo known as the Sherman Brothers, died. ( birthdate unknown). Chester's partner, Clown Hall of Fame inductee Joe Vani, retired when Chester died.  

1977

Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie / the Little Tramp" Chaplin died. (born 1889 in London, England)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Mark "Tony " Antony began clowning for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1978

The International Circus Clowns Club officially changed its name to Clowns International. The name change was in recognition of the many different spheres clowns inhabit now. (circus, private parties, theatre, etc.)

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. retired from circus life.

WGN-TV began to broadcast via satellite, and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob Bell's Bozo the Clown became a familiar face to children and adults throughout the United States.

1979

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Emmett Leo "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr. died in Sarasota, Florida. (born 1898 in Sedan, Kansas, USA) Emmett died in classic "Weary Willie" style, suffering a heart attack while taking out the trash.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Rivels performed at the Grona Lunds Tivoli in Stockholm, Sweden, marking his 80th year in show business.

1980

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Peggy Williams retired from full-time clowning to take a position with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus education program.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Glen "Frosty" Little was named Boss Clown of both the Red and the Blue Units and Director of all Owners of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  

The first Wrangler Jeans ProRodeo Bullfight Tour was held to formalize rodeo clown bullfighting and arena stunts and to create the first Freestyle bullfighting competition.

Bob "Bozo" Bell, was given the Governors' Award, the  highest honor of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Board of Directors.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacob's clowning partner of 14 years, a performing chihuahua  named Knucklehead died. Whether donning a mini elephant trunk or fake rabbit ears, Knucklehead had been a vital part of Lou's act and life, and was mourned and sorely missed.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Leon "Buttons" McBryde created the Ronald McDonald School Safety Show and the Big Red Shoe Review, for McDonald's Corporation.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee "Prince Paul" Alpert retired from circus life, and moved to Massachusetts to be near family.

Shrine Clown and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Rival died (born 1896).

Wheeler the Clown made his first public appearance, as a whiteface clown, in Utah's Days of '47 children's parade. (hey, that's an important event in clowning history to me!)

1981

Shrine Clown and Clown Hall of Fame inductee  Al Ross died (born 1907   given name: Alphonse Helwig).  (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

1982

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Frankie Saluto died. (born 1906) 

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Gene "Cousin Otto" Lee, retired from circus life, and became the new editor of  Clowning Around, the official publication of the World Clown Association.

1983

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Kaye died. (born 1908)  

Toddlers Friends, a weekly Chicago television show, gained a new regular cast member, Clown Hall of Fame inductee Leon "Buttons" McBryde.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Glen "Frosty" Little was named Master Clown. by Ringling management. (He was only the fourth person to hold that last title.)

1984

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Bob Bell retired from WGN-TV, Chicago, where he had worked for  28 years, portraying Bozo the Clown  for 24 of them. At this time, The Bozo Show was number one in its local time slot. After a three month talent search, Joey D'Auria was chosen to take over the role of Bozo.

Bozo the Clown first ran for President of the United States. (hope he runs and wins next time; clowns have morals, and know how to lose gracefully!) (photo courtesy of WGN-TV)

Irwin Feld died. His son, Kenneth Feld, took over the ownership and management of  the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

1985

Increasing health problems caused Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs to retire from the rigors of the performing clown. At this time, he continued to teach at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. 

1987

Hollywood clown legend David Daniel "Danny Kaye" Kaminsky died. (born 1913)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee "Prince Paul" Alpert  died (born 1913 in Bangor, Maine)

1988

The Clown Hall of Fame was created in Delavan, Wisconsin. Four major Clown associations, affiliated themselves with the the Clown Hall of Fame, (Clowns of America International, World Clown Association, International Shrine Clown Association and U-W LaCrosse Clown Camp) and were given the initial responsibility of choosing inductees into the Clown Hall of Fame.

The Bozo Show (WGN-TV, Chicago) received another Emmy award.

1989

The first Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Mark "Tony" Anthony, Red "Freddie the Freeloader" Skelton, Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig, Frank "Felix" Adler, Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Sr., and Otto Griebling. Only Skelton, Anthony, and Jacobs were still living at the time. Sadly commenting on his deceased friends and fellow inductees, Lou Jacobs said, "It looks like I'm the Last Of The Mohicans."

                                            .        

1989

Lou Jacobs was also inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame that year.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Don "Homer" Burda performed at the International Clown Summit in Scotland.

1990

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Leon "Buttons" McBryde, Joseph "Joey" Grimaldi, and Bob "Clarabelle Hornblower" Keeshan.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Anthony Mark "Mark (Tony) Anthony" Galkowski died. (Born in 1915). In his honor, the Mark Anthony Memorial fund was set up at the University of Wisconsin - Lacrosse clown camp (which pays the tuition of one student per year).

1991

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Bobby Kay, Frankie Saluto, Michael "Coco" Poliakov, Glen "Frosty" Little, and Daniel "Yankee Dan Rice" McLaren.  

                                                                

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Lou Jacobs' continually declining health forced him to retire from teaching at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Lou just couldn't stay away though. He continued to visit the college as often as he could.

Clown Hall of Fame inductees Bob "Bozo" Bell and Roy "Cooky Cook" Brown were both hospitalized with heart problems. 

David Larrible joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He became the first clown in that circus's history to perform a solo act in the center ring. (Other clowns had performed rare and notable featured solo gags,  i.e. Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductees Lou Jacobs and Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly Sr., but not as featured center ring performers.)       

Vance "Pinto" Colvig Jr., who was the son of the original Bozo the Clown and who portrayed Bozo himself for a number of years, died. (born 1919)  

Clowns of America International changed the name of National Clown Week to International Clown Week. The name change has not totally caught on with all clowns and clown alleys in the United States.

1992

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Karl Adrian "Grock" Wettach, Paul Jung, Paul "Prince Paul" Alpert, Arthur "Vercoe" Pedlar, and Gene "Cousin Otto" Lee.                  

 Several cast members of The Bozo Show received emmy awards, including clown Joey "Bozo" D'Auria and Clown Hall of Fame inductee Roy "Cooky the Cook" Brown. Adrian Zmed (better known as William Shatner's partner in the television show TJ Hooker or as Johnny, leader of the T-Birds, in the movie Grease 2) also received an emmy for his portrayal of a clown on the show.

Clown and Circus Halls of Fame inductee Jacob "Lou Jacobs" Ludwig died. (born 1903 in Germany)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Steve "T. J. Tatters" Smith was appointed a director of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.  (Picture courtesy of the International Clown Hall of Fame)

1993

Mexican Clown/actor Mario Mareno "Cantinflas" Reyes  died. (birthdate unknown)

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Albert Fratellini, Alphonse "Al Ross" Helwig , Oleg Popov, Roy "Cooky Cook" Brown, and Steve "T.J. Tatters" Smith.         

The Pickle Family Circus, featuring Clown Lorenzo Pickle, ceased operation.

1994

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were George "Bumpsy Anthony" Hulme, Joseph Francis "Joe Jackson" Jiranek Sr., Nikolai "Coco" Poliakov, Anni Fratellini (the first female inductee), and Jim Howle.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee and former aerialist Emmett "Weary Willie" Kelly, Sr. was posthumously inducted into the Circus Hall of Fame.

 Six Emmy awards were awarded to the cast and production crew of The Bozo Show. Also that year, to raise money for local children's charities, WGN-TV offered 5,000 limited edition Bozo long - distance calling cards for sale to the public.

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Roy "Cooky Cook" Brown retired from television. He had missed much of the previous season of The Bozo Show due to heart problems. At this time Roy donated some memorabilia, including a Cooky Cook costume to the Clown Hall of Fame.

1995

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Edwin "Poodles" Hanneford, The Sherman Brothers (Chester Sherman & Joe Vani), Dimitri, Don "Homer" Burda, and Jim "Happy" Williams.  

1996

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Bill "BOOM-BOOM" Baily, Bob "BOZO" Bell, Bert Austin Williams, and Jackie LeClaire. Due to the fact that Bob Bell was no longer portraying Bozo on television, Larry Harmon would not allow him to attend the induction ceremony in costume and makeup.  

                                                              

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Roy "Cooky the Cook" Brown made a surprise final appearance as a guest on the 35th Anniversary episode of WGN-TV's The Bozo Super Sunday Show.

The Clown Hall of Fame was moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1997

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were George Foottit and Raphael "Chocolat" Padilla .

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Richard "Red / Freddie the Freeloader" Skelton died. (born 1913)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Robert (Bob) Lewis "Bozo" Bell died of heart failure. (born 1922)

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Annie Fratellini died of cancer. (born 1932 in France)

The last class of the century graduated from the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Clown College, which closed its doors that year.  (I have been told from someone who is in a position to know, that it will reopen in a year or two.)

1998

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Peggy Williams, Ernie "Blinko" Burch, and Robert Armin.  

Rodeo Clown great Quail Dobbs retired.

                           

Alan Livingston, creator of Bozo the Clown, received the Clown Hall of Fame Lifetime of Laughter Achievement Award.

 Joey D'Auria received another Emmy award for his television portrayal of Bozo the Clown

To honor their deceased favorite son and one of the most famous of the Bozos (and a Clown Hall of Fame inductee), the City of Chicago and State of Illinois proclaimed April 18, 1998 "Bob Bell Day." The Chicago City Council renamed one of the city's streets Bob Bell Way.

1999

 Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Charlie Rivels, Bob "Hambone" Hamilton, Richard "Snowflake Jr." Snowberg, Bill Irwin, Umberto "Antonet" Guillaume, and Keith Crary. 

       

WZZM-TV, Grand Rapids, aired it's final episode of "Bozo's Bigtop," making WGN-TV, Chicago, the only station in the world to still be airing a live "Bozo the Clown" Show.

           

2000

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Francesco Caroli, Nola Rae, Francois Fratellini, Paul Fratellini, Duane Thorpe, and George L. Fox.  

2001

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Roy Thomas "Cooky Cook" Brown died. (born 1932 in Phoenix, Arizona USA)  

The Bozo Show aired its last episode, a celebration of the last 40 years on WGN-TV. It starred Emmy award winner Joey D'Auria, (right) who has been the man behind Bozo's makeup at WGN-TV, Chicago, for the past 17 years.

2002

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were Barry "Grandma" Lubin, Avner Eisenberg, and Harold "Happy" Kellems.  

2003

Clown Hall of Fame inductees were W.D. Robbins, Earl Chaney, and Giovanni Zoppe

2004

Clown Hall of Fame inductee Robert (Bob) James "Clarabelle Hornblower" Keeshan died. (Born 1927 in New York, USA) Although Bob played a variety of children's show characters over the years he was best known as Captain Kangaroo, a role he created after losing his job as Clarabelle on the Howdy Doody Show.

     

Pinto "Bozo the Clown" Colvig Sr. was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame


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