The Circus Comes to Town!

The circus was a favorite summer pastime for residents of Champaign County in the early 20th-century. The Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show visited Champaign County on two occasions in 1905 and 1906.  Residents came from all over to see shows and parades featuring exotic animals such as bears and elephants. 

Carl Hagenbeck was a German animal trainer and dealer. He was a pioneer of rewards-based animal training, rather than fear-based methods which were commonly used at the time. His popular travelling animal show visited communities across the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, and was very popular with local residents.

In 1907, Benjamin Wallace, of the Great Wallace Show, bought the Hagenbeck Trained Animal Show, and formed the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. At its height, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was the second largest circus in the United States, after the Ringling Brothers.

The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus returned to Champaign County in 1924. Local residents enjoyed a parade, and several exhibitions featuring over two hundred performers, one hundred and fifty wild animals, and fifty clowns.

For more pictures of the Hagenbeck-Wallace circus, visit our Flickr album

-Breaden Belcher, Archives Assistant