An extensive Dictionary of Circus Terms by page.

Ace A paper dollar bill or silver dollar.
Ace in the Hole A man hired by a show owner or a manager as an understudy or replacement for a boss. The boss to be replaced seldom knew that the big boss had an "Ace in the Hole" for his job.
Ace Note A dollar bill.
Acie-Deucie A bisexual, one who goes more than one way.
Adjuster- One who adjusts claims and liabilities.
Advance The entire segment of the show that moved ahead to advertise, make arrangements etc. including agents, bill posters, bill cars, and including their activities.
Advance Agent Men who attended to all details of a show's route ahead of the show.
Advance Car One of the one or more advertising cars moving ahead of the circus. These cars transported an advance crew of twenty or more men.
Advertising Car Cars No 1, 2 and 3 work respectively three, two and one week ahead of the show. The "bill cars" carry bill-posters, a glue factory and a bill-posting brigade of men.
After Show A special novelty presentation offered following the main performance, for which an additional ticket must be purchased. A concert after Wild West exhibition.
Agent A hired operator for a concession.
Ahead To be on the "Advance, Ahead" of the circus itself. "He was sent up ahead."
Alderman Junior executive, management man, or an office stooge.
Alfalfa Paper money.
All Out & Over Expression indicating the show is done and everyone is to get out of the tent so it can be torn down.
All Right, Brother Pass word meaning "with the show."
All the Tea in China Very much cash money.
Angel A person who provides financial backing to create or sustain a circus. Financier. Usually someone not normally associated with circuses.
Animal Chute Runway from arena to cages.
Animal men Menagerie attendants.
Animal Trainers Those who train or tame animals.
Annex The side show, kid show.
Annie Oakley Complimentary ticket. Derived from the practice of punching tickets making them look like victims of Annie Oakley's sharpshooting.
Announcer The person who introduces the acts and numbers to the audience during a circus performance. (see Equestrian Director)
Antipodist See Risley Act.
Ape A new employee, used among lower grade workmen instead of First of May.
Apple Knocker A rustic farmer.
Aqinner - One opposed to amusements.
Arena The collapsible steel cage erected in a ring in which trained wild animals are exhibited.
Arrow The Route For the 24 hour man to mark telephone poles, trees, fences etc., to guide a wagon or truck caravan through city streets to the show grounds. See also "Rail the Route."
At Liberty Expression by performer or staffer that he is unemployed and available.
At Show (Carnival) An athletic show on a carnival midway. These shows generated more heat with the towners than any other carnival show with possible exception of the 49 camps of the late 1910 to 1919 period.
Auguste A slapstick clown who plays in white face.
Go to Top B
B.O. Box Office.
Babies Pumas.
Back Door Performance entrance to the big top. Large aperture in the main ten opening onto the backyard; used by most acts for entry & exit.
Back End Inside the big top at opposite end of tent from the front door or the connection between the menagerie and the big top.
Back Side The row of seats on the side of the tent to which performers turn their backs. Same as short side. The opposite of Front side.
Back Track Hippodrome track on the band stand or back door side of the big top.
Back Yard The area around the performers' entrance to big top and dressing rooms where the acts assemble. Generally closed to the public. Portion of lot behind main tent where artist congregate, and do their chores and hold social confabs. Also, Back lot.
Bag Man A ticket seller or short change artist (grafter) who worked on the ground face to face with patrons. He made change (always short) from a satchel like bag strapped to his waist, or hanging from a shoulder strap.
Baggage Any equipage, freight or things carried.
Baggage Horses Extra large work horses used for pulling the heavy wagons.
Baggage Stock Draft horses, work horses, not used in performances.
Baggage Wagon Any wagon that carries any equipment. Wagons designed strictly for cargo assignments as contrasted to decorative wagons designed for show or parade use, or utility wagons.
Bale Ring (Sometime Bail) Large iron ring around tent center pole to which canvas sections are laced and by which the canvas is raised to the top of the center poles by block and tackle.
Bale Ring Top (Sometimes Bail) The style of tent that is raised by means of a bale ring and involves erecting poles before raising canvas. See also Push pole top.
Balloon Paper covered hoop through which a bareback rider, usually a girl, jumps.
Bally The combined actions of the barker and free acts outside a side show designed to induce patrons to buy side show tickets. Abbreviation of Ballyhoo. Stage in front of show.
Bally Broads Women and girls who sing and danced in the circus spectacles. Use of the term probably came from the employment of real ballet girls and dancers in the great circus spectacles of 1880 to 1910.
Ballyhoo To attract attention. A little free show to draw attention. Word came from the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The fakirs, gun spinners and dancing girls from the middle east spoke no English, only Arabic. The interpreter used the expression "Dehalla Hoon" to call performers outside tot he show front. The western ears of the caller translated it as ballyhoo.
Ballyhooers Girls who ballyhoo in front of side show to draw attention.
Banner Day The day that produced the best business of the season. Sometimes used to relate to any day that produced exceptionally good business.
Banner Hustlers Men who sell advertising space on banners erected around main entrance or on show grounds.
Banner line The string of several side show canvas banners illustrating the events and curiosities to be seen inside the side show.
Banner Man One who tacks up banners on buildings.
Banner Puller A man who removed the tacked banners from brick walls on show date. This man usually traveled on the show train with the show.
Banner Squarer The agent who contracted the building owner for the right to tack banners on their building.
Banner Tacker Men who tacked the circus advertising banners on brick walls.
Banner Tacking Bill Posting.
Banners (1) Very large advertising posters printed on cloth that are tacked, (not pasted) in prominent downtown building locations. Designed to be easily removed as they're used on choice locations where owners will not permit use of paste. Also for above ground-level use where altitude does not lend itself to encumbrance of paste and brush.(2) Painted canvas panels depicting the attractions inside the side show.(3) Advertising signs sold by the circus each day to local businesses to be hung inside the big top or on elephants in parade.
Bar Walker Public House tout.
Barker A Dog. This term was never used on out door shows to denote a talker, spieler, grinder or lecturer. No old time trouper ever used this term to mean the following: the man who talks to the public with his own unique "line" or "spiel" to persuade patrons to buy ticket to the side show. His language is usually fluent, flowery and enticing.
Go to Top  
Beef A complaint, to bellow over a real or an imaginary wrong. The advance department created many beefs for the management because of their habit of posting paper in and on buildings without obtaining the owner's permission.
Beetle A female.
Behind Back with the show. To be associated with the circus itself as contrasted to those who are "ahead" with the advance brigades.
Behind the Parade Out of Style.
Bender Acrobatic movement, a contortionist
Bennie Overcoat.
Bible The show's magazine or program. The Billboard, an amusement business paper.
Bible backs The extra wide seat-planks on which reserved seat folding chairs are in placed. Being very wide (32 to 34 wide) to allow space for the chairs and foot space, they are made to hinge lengthwise, that they may be folded to facilitate handling and loading. Thus their resemblance to Bible backs.
Big Bertha Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey combined circus. Ringling and Barnum combined in 1919, creating the largest circus ever conceived at the same time as trouper-veterans returned France. They likened the new big circus to the giant German gun that shelled Paris from several miles distance.
Big Cage The steel arena in which wild animals acts are displayed. (Collapsible)
Big Feature Star act.
Big One Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey combined circus.
Big Rubber Huge rubber balloons, animals, airships sold on midways or in parks. (see worker)
Big Show Main performance or largest show.
Big Top The main tent, used for the big performance.
Big top gang Work only on big top.
Big Tub Brass drum.
Big Turkey Ostrich.
Big Worm Boa Constrictor.
Bill The act of putting up billing, banners, lithographs, heralds, couriers, etc. The entire advance advertising operation is to ABill" a town. An outgrowth of this is to say a town is "Billed" meaning contracted, posted, announced & licensed and therefore committed. As a noun, a piece of advertising paper.
Bill Car Railroad car that travels ahead of the show carrying crews of agents, bill posters, lithographers, programmers, etc.
Bill poster Sometimes relates to all men who put up advertising posters. Sometimes is meant to mean only those men who use paste and brush to plaster giant paper posters upon barns, fences, sheds etc. as set apart from banner men and lithographers.
Bill Show Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.
Biller The man who posts bills by brush & paste. (See lithographers & Bannerman)
Billing Crew Advance men charged with putting up circus paper.
Bills Those posters that are pasted onto fences, sheds, barns, etc. (See Banners & Lithographs)
Billyboy Billboard magazine, the weekly trade journal of show business from 1894 to 1950.
Bimbo A carnival term for an unattached female around the show grounds.
Bird dog Local helper who does the leg work for an advance agent.
Blacksmith Looks after shoeing of horses.
Bladders Toy circus balloons.
Blanket Game A gambling game, for show folks only, played on a blanket outside the show cars, or under a wagon on the show grounds.
Blew the show Left show suddenly, bolted.
Block A watch.
Block Boys Boys who pick up the blocks after seats have been torn down.
Blocks Six by six inch square blocks, one inch thick which are always put on the ground for footing legs of seat jacks to keep them sold and from slipping.
Bloomer No business. Negligible turnout of people. Worse than poor. Poor stand, town failed to respond. Does not make expenses.
Bloomer Stand Poor business.
Blow To leave the show without notice, or for a show to skip or cancel a town or performance.
Blow a Date Failure to show a booked date in town.
Blow down Windstorm blows down the tents.
Blow off The last performance of the day. Generally refers to the last side show performance, but sometimes liberalized to mean the last act of the big show. Also special performance behind a curtain show that caters mostly to morons.
Blow the Arrows Miss the arrows on poles and fences that mark the route to the show grounds.
Blow the Gaff Accidental disclosure of the means used to control a crooked game.
Blow the Route Giving up and not showing a number of dates on a booked route. Floods, strikes, droughts, epidemics, could cause a show to pass up town and areas on the route and to "wild cat" into other towns and areas.
Blow the Stand Canceling a town. To leave the show.
Blow the Whistle To disclose evidence that will cause someone to be discharged or arrested.
Blow Ups Extra large enlargements of photographs.
Blower Employee in charge of gasoline torches or lights. Also: Side show front talker were so designated in the 1860s and 1870s. Also, Carnival Blower a game where the patron selects a light celluloid ball from many such balls suspended in a strong stream of air.
Blue Norther A Texas cold spell where the temperature has been known to drop over forty degrees in less than two hours. The single strand barbed wire fence between North Texas and the North Pole blows down that day.
Blues The general admission seats (not reserved) comprised of planks, usually painted blue, always erected around the ends of the big top. Cheaper seats.
Go to Top  
Boardman One who sells medals, pins, etc., from a frame covered with cloth.
Body Horses The teams of two in a six or eight horse team that work between the two lead horses and the two wheel horses.
Body Pole A light hickory pole connecting six and eight horse teams to the pole of the wagon into one unit. A pole is used between each pair of body horses. Eight horse rigging requires two body poles. Six horse rigging requires one.
Boil up In the early days a Sunday a ritual. Most of the working men and the unmarried bosses boiled all their clothing and took sponge baths any day the show didn't work. Persons infected with body lice had to boil up to get rid of them. Most hobos were clean because they boiled up in the hobo jungles along the railroad tracks. It was quite a scene on the circus grounds with a Sunday off, dozens of small camp fires along side make shift bath houses.
Boiler Room The phone room for a telephone sale promotion.
Boiler Wagon A wagon containing a steam boiler used to provide hot water for the multitude of needs of same around the cook house.
Boob A yap, simp, or a home guard.
Boom Town Where business is good.
Booster Confederate of gamblers, a "Copper" and "sure thing" man. Also, a thief who specialized in stealing new store merchandise. He would take orders for any item, including suits of clothing, with size and color specified, and would make delivery within a week.
Boss Bannerman Superintends hanging banners in store windows.
Boss Bill Poster In charge of posting crew.
Boss Candyman Keeps butchers busy selling candy, pop, etc.
Boss Canvas man Directs erecting and taking down of tents.
Boss Elephant man Man who is in charge of all the elephants on show, usually the trainer.
Boss Hostler Perhaps the most picturesque figure on the grounds was this man who had charge of all the baggage (work) horses on the show. Working closely with the superintendent and the other bosses, he and his horses with their drivers-spotted' all the heavy wagons on to their locations on the show grounds. In early railroad show days, there same horses had to move all wagons to and from the railroad crossing, or runs'. In still earlier days on the "Mud Shows," the boss hostler, his teamsters and stock had to pull the entire show on ofttimes muddy roads between towns. The boss hostler was active and on duty until last piece of equipment was on or off the lot. Many days he was in the saddle sixteen or more hours of the day. This man was really the "king of the circus lot."
Boss Lithographer In charge of providing all signs and posters.
Boss of Props Man in charge of the props used on the show.
Boss of ring Stock Person in charge of performing horses, ponies, etc.
Boss of the Cook Tent In Charge of Cooks.
Boss Plankman Superintendent of putting up seats.
Boss Windjammer Band Leader.
Box Car Letters Any lettering that is unusually large for its situation.
Boxings Metal sleeves in the hubs of wooden wagon wheels. They act as bearings on the axles.
BR Bankroll, or a roll of money.
Brass The brass castings that acted as bearings on the axles (journals) of railroad cars. Also, Brass coinage issued by most of the carnivals until the thirties. Unless business was very good, all employees received at least part of their pay in "brass money." It could be exchanged for all services on the show, food, barber, mail, etc.
Brass Band Boston baked beans.
Break Point in a flying trapeze act when the flyer drops his legs and begins his tricks.
Break the Ice First sale of the day for a candy butcher or ticket seller.
Breaking in Act Training performers or animals.
Brigade A special group of men sent to do a particular advance advertising job independent from the "Bill car." Usually an opposition brigade assigned to a town where two shows are so close together that their advertising clashes.
Brigade Boss One who has charge of crew of bill posters.
Broad A ticket; also called fakes, comps, etc. Newest definition; Female, the large loose and cool female that either join or tail show.
Broad Mob A group of three or more working a crooked three card Monte game.
Broad tossers A three card Monte game operator in the side show. Always crooked.
Buck One dollar.
Buffalo Bill See "Doing a Buffalo Bill."
Buffer Dog.
Bug A flashlight carried by a night watchman.
Bug Boardman Concession and candy men who specialty was selling chameleons. the little lizards were displayed on felt covering boards.
Bugles 1st bugle sounds for dress; second bugle is the order to mount and be in position. the director's whistle entry of the grand "spec."
Bugman Vendor who sold Chameleons.
Bugs Chameleons sold on the grounds by pitchmen.
Bull Elephant regardless of sex.
Bull Hook Hand instrument with dull (not sharpened) hook for controlling elephants.
Bull Horn Tuba.
Bull Line Elephants on a picket line.
Bull Man Elephant attendant.
Bull Ring A heavy iron ring attached to corners and sides of circus wagons to facilitate attachment of hook-rope teams and pull up and pull away train teams.
Bullet proof hicks Men that can dodge the bullets from the town people that have been robbed.
Bum Steer To send on a wild goose chase, or to give wrong information.
Bunce Profit.
Bundle A bundle of novelties.
Bundle man A concession man who sells novelties on the street or on the circus seats.
Burn For one show to leave a bad impression in a community making it difficult for other shows that may follow. Can also relate to a circus creating such a bad reputation for itself, that it is obliged to change its title to avoid recognition
Burn Up To exploit, grift a route territory, a circus title to the extent of making it unprofitable for other shows. Kill a town or a territory with a poor performance and crooked business practices.
Burr The operating expenses of a show (daily, weekly or yearly). See "Nut."
Burr Nut The big nut that holds the wagon wheel on the axle.
Busk To sell or peddle, with or without a performance, on streets or vacant lots. Old time strolling players who gave shows on the town square and passed the hat for a collection were called "Buskers."
Bust Out Entry into the tent or arena of many clowns at once, usually during pre-show or come-in.
Buster An accident.
Butcher The leather lunged merchant of refreshments, such as cold drink, pop-corn, cracker jack, candy floss, etc.
Butchers Vendors, those who peddle refreshments or novelties through the circus crowd or upon the seats.
Go to Top C
Cage Boy Attendant to wild animals in cage wagons regardless of age.
Cake Cutters A short change artist.
Call A summons to report for duty. Notice inserted in trade papers with instructions to all show personnel regarding opening date and when to report to work.
Calliope Musical instrument powered by steam or compressed air. The word will be found in most dictionaries but circus pronunciation of the word is unique. Calliope is commonly pronounced Cal-eye-o-pee like canopy. Most circus people however, pronounce it cal-ee-ope like cantaloup. Sometimes referred to as a steam piano.
Camel back A trunk with a curved top. Hated and prohibited on circuses because they did not stack well in the trunk wagon. Also became a bad-luck omen.
Camel Punk A boy who tends to camels.
Canary Informer.
Candy Boss In charge of concessions.
Candy Butcher A salesman who sells confections, drinks, and indigestible in the grandstands.
Candy Pitch Special announcement and promotion to see "prize candy" boxes to audience.
Candy Stands The concession department of a circus.
Canned Heat Expert A person who squeezed out alcohol from canned heat (Sterno) and drank it.
Canopy Top Canvas shelter over spectator's seats only, leaving the performance area open to the elements. The type of arena in which most wild west shows exhibited.
Canvas Opera The Circus.
Canvasmen Working men assigned to erect poles, tents and seats.
Capacity The largest big top seats 16,000 people.
Cappers Assistants who mingle with crowds and fake winning prizes. One hired to win.
Car Knocker A railroad employee who repairs freight cars.
Car Manager The Boss of the advertising car.
Carney wedding A living arrangement of a couple without benefit of a legal wedding.
Carpet Clown Clown working in the stands or outside the rings who fills in between acts; originally an auguste who supplied the carpet for equestrians in the ring.
Carry Lumber Carry seat board, bible backs, seat jacks and seat stringers.
Carry the Banner To sleep in a park or to stay up all night because of not having a bed. "Carrying the Banner," is a person who has not yet had a regular berth assigned and sleeps under a wagon on a flat car.
Carry the Bug Work as a night watchman with a flashlight.
Carry the flag (banner) No place to belong, without lodging, penniless, misfit. Harks back to the early days when all circuses had events of leaping and tumbling. The company of leapers and tumblers marched into the hippodrome behind flag bearers, who "carried the flag" because they couldn't do tumbling or leaping, the flag thus becoming a symbol of "not belonging."
Carrying Cherry-pie Those who carry in the jacks, stringers and seat planks.
Cars Sleeping cars of a circus train.
Cat Act Any performance of trained felines.
Cat House Menagerie tent.
Cat Rack Queen A female agent on a ball throwing concession.
Catch a Handful of Box Cars Leave the show and ride a freight train out of town.
Catch Trap The trapeze on which the catcher swings.
Catcher (1) The member of a aerial flying return act who hung from trapeze by his knees and "caught" the flyer with his hands.(2) The member of the train crew who operated a chock-block on the end of a rod by which he could check the unintended movement of a rolling circus wagon by placing the chock-block under the rear wheels.
Cats Lions, tigers, leopards, panthers.
Cattle Guards Sets of low seats placed in front of the blues for an overflow crowd.
Center Pole The main poles, longest poles used under a circus tent.
Center Strip Mark indicating to workingmen where to balance quarter poles across their shoulder.
Chain Team A six or eight horse team with an extra body pole between the wheel horse secured to an extra lead bar pulled by these wheelers. A long heavy chain was attached to this lead bar and dragged along behind the team. These teams were used to assist in pulling the heavy wagons across sandy and muddy lots. Properly used sixty four head of horse could be hitched to one wagon.
Chain to rails To prevent the show from moving. A legal action.
Chained to the rails Receivership, bankruptcy, attached. To be stopped from moving by any legal procedure.
Chalk (Chock) A large (about 10 X 10 X 14) piece of oak or hickory cut on a slant with two large (3/4) sharpened steel spikes protruding from the bottom. Positioned under the four wheels of a wagon, the spikes sank deep into the wooden lining of the deck of the car when the weight of the wagon rolled against slated top of chalk.
Chalker One who puts wedge under wheels of wagons on flat cars.
Chambermaids' Frolic Female aerial ballet, usually aerial swinging ladder ballet.
Chandelier man Boss light man.
Chandeliers Gasoline, kerosene or illuminating gas lamps which were pulled up in clusters around the center poles of the tents being lighted.
Characters Titles for all people not connected with the show.
Charirari Boisterous exhibition of acrobatic clowning involving chaotic tumbling.
Charlie Waste paper can in the bill car. A billposter's term for the practice of not turning in unused paper from a hod. Instead the unused paper was dumped some place where the boss would never find it. Also, a black face, derby-hatted clown who works through pathos.
Cheaters Attachments to stringers (planks) which add another row or two of seats and make the stringers seem longer then they are.
Checker Follows advertising cars to check bill posting and reports to the General agent.
Checking in Turning in day's receipts.
Cheeter A pair of eye glasses.
Cherries Toy balloons.
Cherry pie For performers, bosses, females, etc. to pitch in to help set up the show. Often involves setting up folding chairs, thus the "cherry" pie. Extra work done for extra pay.
Chief An executive title.
Chinese To do heavy labor around the show grounds, most times without extra pay.
Chink Money
Chive A dagger or knife.
Chocker (Chalker) Man who handles or emplaces chock blocks on the flat cars. See catcher, end deck men.
Chockers Men who handle wagon wheel blocks on the flat cars.
Chocks (chock block) Wedge-shaped wood blocks with spikes used to jam under wagon wheels to secure the wagons to the wooden decks of circus railroad flat cars. Also a block of wood attached to a rod used to temporarily check the movement of a wagon. See catcher.
Choosing day Some circuses designated a day early in the season for unmarried bosses and staff members to chose their berth mate of the opposite sex for the season. No exchanges were tolerated after that day.
Chump Mark, Sap, Rum Luken.
Chump Educator The Billboard. A weekly publication devoted to Amusement business.
Chump Heister A Ferris wheel.
Chutes See "runs." Inclined runways on which wagons are moved on and off the flat cars.
Circus Simple A person with an obsession about circuses. A person who has left a good home to run away with a circus. A person who stays with a circus year after year without financial benefit to himself.
Circus Train From 40 to 110 cars rolling in 4 to 6 sections.
City Route see country route.
Clean Ticket Boxes Carnival ticket boxes are cleaned of excess cash at intervals.
Clem A fight between towners and show people involving a goodly number of both, riot. Virtually non-existent today, but a common occurrence 100 years ago, with a result that circuses were well prepared and rarely bested. (see "Hey Rube, Sunday School")
Click To succeed, to accomplish. Or, a jail.
Climb the Seats Candy butchers and ticket sellers all climbed the seats selling concession stock and after-show tickets.
Clip Short change a patron. Also used for hit with fits, he clipped the gee in the jaw.
Clipper The New York Clipper, the show business trade journal of the 19th century.
Cloat Can be used for short changing, but more often used for stealing of small items, or just plain old pilfering. You can also cloat that gee along side his head with your fist, or with a club.
Cloud Swing A high slack rope which an aerialist performs.
Clown Alley The section of the dressing tent for clowns.
Clown White Grease mixed with zinc oxide while hot. Clowns use as alcohol burner. A slap with powder-puff removes greasy appearance.
Go to Top  
C-Note A hundred dollar bill.
Coaches All passenger cars of the circus, also sleepers.
Coal oil Kerosene.
Coast Guard A trouper who lives in California and does most of his trouping with shows along the West coast.
Coco Man's head.
Cold deck One who cheats at anything.
Combination Horses Horses that are broken by an experienced trainer with expert riders on their backs, to run for jockey acts, principal acts, hurdle acts, etc.
Come in An act inside the big top to entertain the audience while the crowd is "coming in" before the performance officially starts. Or, the interval between the gate opening and the grand entry.
Come on A phrase understood amongst show people to mean to come right on and join the show without further communication. We know you, what you can do, what you expect, and we know we'll get along, so just come on and join up. Or, suckers and books.
Come Out The exodus from the big top after the performance.
Commissary Wagon offering merchandise to employees.
Committeeman Head of an organization or auspices who can get a show anything it needs, but seldom does any getting.
Comps Complimentary tickets, passes.
Concert A special novelty presentation offered following the main performance for which an additional ticket must be purchased. (see after show)
Connection The canvas side-walled passage way for customers to pass between the Menagerie tent and the big top.
Contracting Agent An advance agent who's primary assignment is to affect such contractual arrangements as are necessary for each exhibition. (lot, licenses, food, feed, parade license, water, etc.)
Convict Zebra.
Cooch "Dancing girl" show used as an extra pay attraction in side shows. Most all the "grift shows" carried these attractions which Aseparated the men for the boys." Neither the men, or the boys, saw much though as many of the hottest dancers were female impersonators.
Cooch Dancer Female dancers performing boudoir calisthenics.
Cook House Either the kitchen tent alone, or sometimes used to relate to the entire dining department operation including kitchen tent, dining tent, boiler wagon, all personnel and equipment involved, for circus employees only. Most troupers referred to the dining tent as the cook house.
Cookie Cutter Policeman's star.
Cop A police officer. Also, a small gift or prize in a box of cracker jacks or prize candy. "He copped a prize."
Cop a Plea Plead guilty in court to get a reduced sentence.
Cop and Duck When they get the dupe's money and he doubts the fairness of the game, they call some of the healers to argue it out and furing the conversation they get out.
Cop the Brief Meal ticket sometimes given to a man who is not with the show, or has been discharged, so he can steal a meal on the show.
Copper One hired to win, or a a tight hold on anything
Corn Flakes Hay.
Corn Game A bingo game on a carnival.
Corporation Shows Circuses belonging to, and operating by the American Circus Corporation, of Peru, Indiana.
Count The short change artist "counted change" from a transaction into the hand of a victim, thereby, "giving him the count."
Country Route In each city, some of the billposters on the bill car are assigned to country routes. Using trucks or rented livery teams, each such crew of billposters covers a prescribed series of rural communities. Several such crews would "bill" the countryside for 30 to 50 miles radius around the city of exhibition. "City route" covered similar assignments within the city itself. AExcursion route" involved billposters who rode the rails to Abill" those towns along a railroad on which excursions were to be run on show day. In Western sparsely populated areas, excursion routes sometimes extended over 100 miles out.
Country Router A brigade that bills all the roads leading into the show town for fifty miles around.
Country Store A carnival concession consisting of one huge horizontal wheel loaded down with all kinds and types of prize merchandise.
Courier A multi-paged throw-away, hand-out or mail-away, resembling a magazine or newspaper for advance advertising. Although distribution of Couriers was often handled by an advance man known as a "programmer" the courier should not be confused with the circus program magazine which is sold to customers at show time.
Cowboy simple Someone who wants to be a cowboy, and dresses the part.
Crack the Nut Make the daily expenses of the show.
Crane Bar The yoked bar that supports the trapeze.
Crazy Act Any clown routine.
Crier (1870 to 1880) The side show talker, later with advent of free street parades, the talker walked the parade route ahead of the march warning the towners to "hold your horses the elephants are coming." A crier would follow the parade telling people to come to the show and at what time.
Croak To die or to kill.
Croaker A mauler or the doctor.
Cross Cage A short cage wagon that could be loaded cross ways on the flat cars.
Crossing The railroad crossing where the show trains were unloaded and loaded.
Cross-over-plate Steel plates which are placed like small bridges between each railroad flat car, so that the circus wagons can be rolled along a string of "flats" to the "runs," enabling several flat cars to be unloaded together in tandem.
Crum A body louse
Crumb Circus bee.
Crumb Castle Cook house.
Crummy Infected with body lice. Also, term used for a caboose of a railroad freight train.
Cush Money, or a soft pad or carpet to alight on.
Custard A frozen ice cream like confection.
Cut A group of circus railroad cars carrying related cargo so that whenever the train is broken up, switched or altered, each "cut" of cars remains together. It is also is used to describe each group of flat cars that remain together for common use of the "run car" from which they are unloaded or loaded in tandem. A "section" is an entire train, all that is pulled by one locomotive unit, but such a section can include several "cuts" such as stock cut, coach cut, cage cut, gas cut. etc.
Cut from the traces The cutting away of a dead baggage horse from their team mates on a muddy or sandy lot.
Cut me in Have electricity connected.
Cut up Jackies (Jackpots) A discussion of past events, often distorted in the telling.
Go to Top d
D... A stand of billing. A location known to be available for circus bill posting and used season after season by many circuses. A bill posting location easily spotted by a billing crew by the old deteriorated "paper" remaining from some show that has come and gone.
Damper Front door money tiller or cash register.
Date A show's engagement in a town. "We played a date in Oshkosh."
Date Book A book listing a show's route for a season. Much other data about the show and its personnel are also included in these small books.
Daubs Place to post paper, cards, etc., such as barns, sheds, fences.
Day & Date Two circuses appearing in the same town on the very same day.
Dead man A wooden block, secured by several stakes, to which rigging for aerial and high-wire acts is anchored. So called because it lies flat on the ground, is dead weight and hard to budge.
Deadwood Torn off portion of a ticket taken by the ticket taker, or used passes collected by ticket taker, and the unsold dated tickets were all called deadwood. It was burned or otherwise destroyed after being checked by the ticket auditor.
Dens Wild animal cage wagons.
Dentist Friend Anything sweet to eat.
Deuce Two.
Dick A private detective or police carried on the show.
Diddy Gypsy.
Dike Brass or copper sold as scrap (Klondike). When this term was used the metal has usually been stolen, or promoted.
Dimer A ten cent piece.
Dinars Money. Or spelled Denari
Dinge Negro.
Dip A pickpocket
Disease An unpainted broken down equipment show limping from town to town with poor financial returns.
Dizzy car The privilege car, the lunch car on the train.
Do Chinese Do hard work on a show grounds with little or no pay.
Dodger A hand bill. A small piece of advertising matter.
Dog and Pony show Name applied to a small circus.
Dog Boy Attendants for show owned dogs.
Dog joint Stand where sausages are sold.
Dog man In charge of dogs.
Dog Wagon Wagon for housing and transporting a show's performing dogs.
Doing a Buffalo Bill Fake farewell. Fake curtain calls. In 1910, 1911, and 1912 Buffalo Bill's Wild West widely proclaimed "Cody's Arenic Career Completed - He Now Bids You good-Bye," drawing great crowds to bid the old prairie scout a fond farewell. That Cody truly intended each of those seasons to be his last appears to be the case but circumstances dictated otherwise, and he remained in the saddle. By 1913 the "farewell" pitch was conspicuously worn out, and was dropped, although, fate was to in fact decree 1913 to be the last season of Buffalo Bill's Wild West.
Donniker Circus restroom or a toilet, wherever it is.
Doors A call, meaning open the doors to the public. Signifies that all is in readiness, for the show, and that the public may be admitted. Upon hearing the word, all help having to do with seats or tickets go immediately to their respective posts ready for work.
Double A double, a twenty dollar bill.
Double length railroad cars In earlier days, standard railroad box cars were generally around 40 feet long. Circus flat cars and stock cars were generally about 60 feet long prior to the 1920's, 70 and 72 feet thereafter, thus the press agent's term "double length" railroad cars.
Double Saw $20.00, or double sawbuck..
Double stake Security measures against high wind or sandy lot.
Dousing the glimmer Putting out the lights.
Down Yonder South of the Mason/Dixon line.
Downtown Sale Circus ticket sale in downtown stores.
Downtown Wagon A wagon housing an exhibit moved on the circus train but spotted on a downtown street as a paid exhibition on circus day. At times, one of the show's ticket wagons would be located downtown for the downtown sale location.
Draft Stock Heavy draft or work horses.
Drag shoe A device attached to each wagon by which one of the rear wheels could be temporarily converted to a sled-like skid for safer descent of steep hills.
Dragging the Midway Show parading around the midway to draw attention.
Drawbar Double and Singletrees.
Dressage Descriptive degree of horsemanship in which the horse performs at a level near that of a high school horse, but the rider is the more advanced of equestrians, his cues being virtually unperceived to the viewer. The art of showing trained horses, also fine saddle riding.
Dressing top The tent assigned for performers to change clothes, also called pad-room, or dressing room.
Drum Beater The press agent.
Ducat A ticket. Also spelled "Ducket."
Ducat Grabber Ticket taker or door tender.
Ducat snatcher Ticket taker.
Duke Him In Steering a victim.
Duke Nightly To pay off each night after the show is over.
Duke-um To try an force a parent or guardian of a child to buy candy.
Dukie A handout, put up by the cookhouse. Also spelled "Dukey."
Dukie Book A book of detachable tickets, to be exchanged for eats.
Dukies Box lunch. Issued to employees on a long "jump" to avoid the necessity of stopping the train and unloading the cook house to feed them. Such a train run is called a one or two-dukie run as the case may be.
Dumps Check theaters or concert halls.
Go to Top E
Educator The Billboard weekly.
Elephant Top Dressing tent for bull men.
Elope To marry and leave the show without notice.
End-deck-men The men on the train crew who performed the final task of emplacing each wagon in position on the flatcars and securing them for the night's run, and who released them in the morning for unloading.
Equestrian Director The supervisor of performing personnel or stage manager of the circus. Is the absolute ruler during the performance. See ringmaster.
Excursion Car An advance railroad car with the larger circuses. Men on this car made all arrangements for special railroad excursion trains from various point to "today's town" bring patrons to the circus. Dozens of these trains were run to otherwise unprofitable towns.
Excursion Route See country route.
Extras Putting double stakes in ground.
Go to Top F
Fag A homosexual
Fag show One in which homosexuals do impersonations (transsexuals).
Fair count Getting a fair share of the proceeds from any venture where someone else handles some or all of the cask take.
Fair Weather Trouper He hates the rain.
Fake Game Games of chance where you never win, unless they want you to, for a bait for you or someone else.
Fakirs A term applied to all sorts of shady type operators on fair and circus grounds during the period 1890 to 1910. At this late date, some fair mangers were taking ads int he trade journals for "Fakirs in all lines" with the added lure of, "our people are waiting to be took."
Fall Guy One to blame for anything wrong, or responsible for thing that happens. One who falls for tricks, kidding. Usually made the goat.
Fan A circus enthusiast.
Fat Show Usually a carnival show with one fat person.
Feed and Water Stop A stop of five hours in a railroad yard at a division point. On railroad moves of over 24 hours, ICC regulations mandated that all stock must be taken from the cars and feed and watered for not less than five hours.
Feed Stop Where a train stops on a long run or long jump to feed the stock.
Fifth Wheel Two large flat circular metal rings attached to the front under body of the wagon and the front gear respectfully. Weight of the front end of the wagon rides on these touching circles. With these 5th wheel gears, front end of the wagon can be headed for a ninety degree turn before back end moves ahead.
Fin $5.00.
Finale Spectacle parade at the end of the circus performance.
Finger To stool pigeon on some one. To point out some person to the law for a reward.
Finish The last trick, the show is over. Also riders called it "style."
Fink A worthless or treacherous person. Or, a broken toy or busted balloon.
Fireball "A fireball outfit.' A show with a poor performance which allowed so many dishonest practices on its grounds that the towns played by it were literally "burned up" for any show that tired to follow it. Because of the risk of being torn down or burned up by mobs of angry towners, this type operation seldom used first class equipment.
First count The opportunity to receive and handle money first, before it reaches the office or bookkeeper.
First-of-May A new employee (new comer). Any first-season employee to the ranks of troupers. To the circus what freshmen, rookies and brides are in their fields.
Fix See square.
Fixer The circus attorney. Legal adjuster. Sometimes not an attorney, but a man assigned the duty to smooth things over with local officials who might create problems for the circus if there was not an understanding reached ahead of time. Also called "Patch." Not to be confused with "mouthpiece" who was any local attorney, not the circus fixer.
Fixing Paying money for privileges.
Flag's up Soup's on. Relating to the practice of raising a flag over the cook house during the time that meals are being served. Also called flag.
Flares Gasoline torches which mark the route taken by the circus wagons to and from train to lot.
Flash That element of circus showmanship that transforms the commonplace into an exciting and unusual public attraction. The use of lots of paint, gold leaf, wood carvings, exotic animals, unique sounds and music, colorful posters, etc. A good looking stand or show.
Flash the Joint Put merchandise on display.
Flat Joint Dishonest concession.
Flat Races Standard horse race on hippodrome.
Flat Store (most always carnival) A gaming concession that really has no winning numbers, or combination of numbers. The gentlemanly agents sell conversation to the marks. Circus grifters, for the most part, did not go for this type operation, as they could skin the suckers much faster with the broad tossing and the shell games.
Flatfoots A term describing a group of men who operated the first circus syndicate in America. The organization of animal and menagerie showmen formed in Somers, N.Y. in 1835. The one hundred twenty eight shareholders, not all were showmen, tried to control the exhibition of wild animals, and later circuses in New York State and New England. As a warning to competitors, they advertised, "We put our foot down flat, we will play (list of town)." competitors were often scared out of the territory. Ones not heeding the warning were usually torn down, wrecked or burned. May also refer to police, but that usage is not unique to the circus.
Flats Railroad flat cars.
Flattie One of the Public.
Flea Bag A disreputable, ragged and dirty show. Not necessarily a crooked operation, as the best Sunday School outfits had bad runs of business or weather and had to let the appearance of the show run down.
Fleas Persons who loaf around show but do not buy tickets.
Fleshings Tights.
Floater Slices of one lemon or orange that floated on the top of the gallons of imitation fruit juice displayed in large glass bowls or tanks. Most cases these were fakes also.
Floats Wagons especially designed for parade or spec use.
Flop A cheap bed or room. Also, going to bed, either in a regular bed or on some makeshift arrangement.
Flop house A low class hotel or rooming house.
Floss Cotton Candy.
Fluk-em A powder for coloring soft drinks.
Flunkie Waiter in the cookhouse. A cook house employee. Also spelled Flunkey.
Fly Boy A Policeman.
Flyer An aerial performer who passes through the air in a flying return act. See catcher.
Flying Frame Frame from which traps and other rigging are hung.
Flying Return The specific type of aerial trapeze act in which flyers pass from one trapeze bar to the hands of a catcher hanging from another trapeze bar.
Flying Squadron On larger circuses that move on more than one "section" of train, the first train to leave town and reach the next town is the "flying squadron." Hauling the cook house, the baggage horse tops, the blacksmith shops, the menagerie and the layout crew. This section usually out of town long before ten p.m. It arrives in two three to five hours ahead of the second section. Lot was laid out, stakes were driven, menagerie was set up and breakfast was ready to be served to the hungry working men who came in on the second section.
Fold The closing of a show before the end of its regular season.
Following the torches Lighted torches along the way showing all drivers the direction they must take from the lot to the runs.
Fork Jump A leap from the ground to horseback, alighting astraddle.
Forty Miler (Carnival term) A trouper who plays date with his concession, show or ride always near his home base.
Forty Nine Camp (Carnival term) One that was popular in the middle and late 1915 to 1919 period. For example, the "Little Egypt" shows that were copied from the Chicago World Fair of 1893. They were, for the most part, framed as mining camp dance halls and bar rooms where the towners drank Anear beer" and danced with the girls. These shows generated more heat then the fames or at show.
Frame To plan or organize. To frame a new show.
Framed a show Planned a new stunt, or build a new show.
Framing a show Planning and laying out the starting of a show.
Freak A human oddity on exhibition.
Free act An act presented on the midway free of charge, to hold the crowd on the midway.
Free Lance Working alone.
Friend of show One look'n for a favor. i.e., members of hobby and fan clubs of circuses.
Frogs Contortionists
Front A neat appearance, nice lay-out of show, or an individual's personnel appearance.
Front Door The main entrance, used by customers.
Front End The front door, the midway, the concessions, the ticket wagons and the side shows.
Front Gate Main entrance.
Front side The side of the big top towards which the acts face. The solid side of reserved seats that is not broken or interrupted by the performers' entrance and band stand. See back side, short side or long side.
Front Track Hippodrome track on opposite side of the big top from band stand and back door. It runs directly in front of the front grandstands.
Frying Pan Trumpet in band.
Funambulist Wire-walker or rope-walker.
Funny as a Crutch Not funny.
Funny ropes Extra ropes around a big top to keep it up in a heavy windstorm. Each boss canvas man had his own system of arranging and using these extra ropes.
Fuzz Police.
Go to Top G
Gadget An article worn by Gal Show Strip Girls. Some authorities say it is the G-String.
Gaff Plans or methods of work
Gaff Joint A controlled game. The control was know as the gaff.
Gaffer Any boss. The big boss, circus manager.
Gags The tricks or acts devised and presented by the clown.
Gandy Dancers Railroad track workers.
Garbage Stand Novelty booth.
Gas Trucks and tractors used by the railroad transported circuses in the twenties and thirties were called the "gas" by the working men and bosses. This was a term of contempt at first.
Gash A girl of ill repute, or one who was willing.
Gawks Lot loafers, lot lice, town folks standing around both at the circus train unloading and on the circus lot.
Gazoonie A man who works cheap, or for nothing. Also, a young immature person or working man.
Gee An exclamation of joy or pleasure.
Geek Snake eating wild man, mostly featured on carnivals using live chickens in place of snakes. Also called Gloomer.
General Agent Responsible for planning the route of the circus and making the initial vital arrangements including city license and railroad contract. The boss of the entire advance department. A very important man in the staff of the circus. On larger circuses, the General Agent delegates some duties to assistants (railroad arrangements to traffic manager, and city and lot contracts to Contracting Agent) but in any event he supervises the advance and plans the route. In charge of all advertising
General Manager Person in charge of all working personnel.
Generally Useful A term inserted in most circus employment contracts by which management can call upon the employee to carry out chores not normally identified with his primary assignment. A necessity to the under-canvas, one-day-stand circus, where adverse conditions obliges everyone to work to maintain the schedule, regardless of position, age or sex. Refers to a woman who rides in the Spec, lends background to acts, rides the high school ponies. She is not a skilled performer.
Gentling The process of subduing wild animals and teching them to perform tricks.
Georgia Buggy Stake pullers.
Get off the Burr Pay a debt. Make the expenses for the day, week or season.
Get Took To be beaten in a business deal. To lose money on a crooked game, or on a confidence deal or game. Getting Up in a Tunnel Aroused for work before dawn (from bunks in coaches)
Get with it To work harder, faster and more swiftly.
Get-away Day Day circus leaves town.
Ghost Walks. Pay day, means employees are getting paid.
Gig show Minstrel show.
Gillies Those outside of the circus, also called towners or rubes.
Gilliping Hitch To denote the hitching of the free end of a chain team's chain around the pole of a stuck wagon. Often another chain team was hitched to the pole on the opposite side of the team hitched to the wagon itself.
Gills Farmers, country people.
Gilly To shuttle. To move show equipment by man power alone a longer distance than usual. Or, to move such equipment on wagons and railroad cars not specially built to handle it.
Gilly Show A small circus that does not carry its equipment in wagons on flat cars, but packs all their equipment in a box car and shuttles it to the show grounds by a gilly wagon.
Gilly Wagon A shuttle or relay wagon. Used to make trips to and from the lot and train. A town wagon hired or leased to haul stuff.
Gimick A trick used to win. The mechanical device used to control crooked games.
Gimmix Any Tool.
Gimp legged A cripple.
Gimpy A cripple.
Gitney Five cents, a nickel. Also called a jit.
Give Em Brown's Cow Cut the show program short.
Glass House (Carnival) The crystal maze or a maze of mirrors and plate glass passages.
Gloamer A geek who ate live chickens, rats or snakes.
Gob Stick Clarinet.
Goes to the Barn Show closes.
Going Away Called out by driver taking his freight off lot.
Going South for the boss Turning all the money you are robbing the people out of over to your boss for whom you are working.
Gold Brick A pass.
Gone Sunday School Circus that has abolished all grift.
Gone to Charlie To throw in the waste paper can that is carried on the bill car.
Gonk Paste carried on the bill car. To serve up the "gonk," to fill up the paste bucket.
Gooberts The one and only "peanut." (Goobers)
Good Head A good man. A smart individual. A reliable person.
Good Juice Day Sweltering weather.
Googs Eye glasses.
Goose Neck A heavy iron hook bolted to the end of wagon poles and body poles on which the rigging for the team ahead is hooked.
Goosey An individual who is sensitive to being touched particularly on his posterior. Also applies to a wagon's front gear as the wagon is being guided over the decks of the flat cars by the wagon poler. If the front gear and the pole swiveled too easily, it was called goosey.
Gorge Food.
Got the ex "exclusive" If a man has the ex on popcorn, no one else can have a popcorn stand on the lot.
Got the red lantern Discharged.
Governor Owner of the show.
Grab a handful of box cars Ride a freight train out of two. Go on the bum.
Grab Joint Centrally located eating stand that sells lemonade, hot dogs, etc.
Grafters Gentlemen gamblers. Short changers, often called "Slickers." See Fakir.
Grand Thousand dollars.
Grand Spec Opening pageant under big top.
Grandstand The reserved seat section in the main tent.
Grapevine Tidings Spread the news.
Grass Town A small place, a little larger than a tank: The later phase applies to a very small indention on the map.
Grave Diggers Hyenas.
Grease Joint Food stand, hamburgers, Frankfurters, coffee, etc.
Grease the mitt Pay for extra privilege.
Grift Unlawful and dishonest concessions, joints, crooked games, short change artist, cloths line robbers, merchandise boosters, pickpockets and all other type of skullduggery.
Grifter A polite word for a graffer. A grafter, crook, who went along with a circus in the old days to swindle the country people out of their money by gambling games and other devices. Dishonest, slick or fast operations. Pickpockets, short changers and gambling. See Lucky Boys, Sunday School Boys.
Grind Shows Similar to side shows.
Grind Store or show One that works continuously.
Grotesque Whiteface clown with exaggerated facial features and strange style of acting.
Grouch Bag Money belt, pocket or bag for carrying on the person savings or enough to get back home, or insurance against stranding, accident, or for any reason where extra money prevents worrying about contingencies.
G-Top A gambling tent on a lot for show folks only.
Gum Shoes Mud Blocks.
Gunnels Heavy beam running side of flats 8 inches high to keep wagons from running off side of car.
Gunsel A young person, a boy.
Gut a.(Hobo term) bologna that has been "promoted" (bummed) from a local butcher.b. (Lithographer) The busy main street of a town, with its banks, jewelry shops, and department stores.
Guyed out (1) For the tent ropes to be set at proper tension for security and good appearance of the tent.(2) Drunk.
Guying Out Gang Tighten guy ropes.
Guys Heavy ropes or cables that guy-off the center pole. Also, nickname for working men.
Gymnasts Aerial performer.
Gypsy camp The Circus.
Go to Top H
H.O. Hold Out, often referred to as Harry Oliver.
H_d A day's supply of lithographs that each billposter or lithographer carries with him when he leaves the bill car each morning.
Half a C Fifty dollars.
Half a Slug Half a dollar.
Half a Yard Fifty dollars.
Half and Half Side show attractions who claimed to be hermaphrodites, (having both male and female reproductive organs) also called homosexuals. It is claimed some of them were.
Halves Children's tickets. See wholes, hards, and softs.
Hamburger Outfit An old time circus man's name for a carnival. "They live on a hamburger a day over on that thing."
Hammer gang Men who drive stakes.
Hand Applause.
Hang paper The billposters all hung paper. Also used to denote someone who does a verbal build up for a friend, person or an attraction. "He hung paper for me when I was new in the game."
Hanky Pank A carnival gaming concession that does have a winning number and gives out prizes to the winners.
Hard Ticket The hard paste board general admission tickets used by circuses until the U.S. Government decreed that all such tickets must have serial numbers. These tickets were sold and resold until they were too limber to "deal out" on a fast sale. With the hard tickets, the ticket seller held children's tickets in one hand and adult tickets in the other. He dealt them out of the ticket window like playing cards and made change with his finger tips. Card board tickets were powdered with talcum, and a good man could deal out five to six thousand tickets from the red wagon ticket window in a one hour come in. And make change too, usually to his own advantage.
Hardass Working the teams of the big circus horses a few hours each day for several weeks before the opening of a new season. Without this hardassing, horses would have dropped dead by the dozens first muddy lot encountered. Some did anyway. On stands of more than three days, the teams were hardassed on the streets around the show grounds every morning.
Hards General admission tickets. Traditionally printed on thick hard cardboard to be durable for repeated use. See softs, wholes and halves.
Haul The move between the circus trains and the show lot. See "run."
Hay Burner Any animal, wild or domestic, that eats hay or grass.
Hay Wire Used as a term to denote decrepit, poor and worn out equipment.
Heading for a sell out Advance ticket sales indicate a sold out performance.
Heads up Watch out, or be careful.
Healers Men that do the dirty work for the gamblers that run the thieving games.
Heat Complaints, arguments, objections or battles between the show, or its people and the towns people. Most heat was caused by illegal activities of a show, but not always by the show involved. A burn em upoutfit in ahead of a real Sunday Schoolers' could and did leave a lot of heat for the latter..
Heavy Section The section of the show's train which transported the big top, the seating and the heavy properties. This section made up an entire separate train on the larger circuses.
Heel Walkout without paying the bill.
Heel a room One man registers in as a single and others would join him for the night.
Hep Road smart, or knows the score.
Herald A single-page (printed on both sides) throw-away or hand-bill for advertising. The standard herald was printed in quarter-sheet size, being 1/4 the size of a standard 1 sheet lithograph. See sheet, courier, program.
Hey Rube! The battle cry of the circus. The call-to-arms in the event of a "clem."
High grass A term relating to small towns, back-woods country, "sticks." Also more specifically refers to the geographical area in the United States between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains "high grass" country. (See low grass)
High School Horse A performing horse, usually ridden-in-saddle, that to the standard of horses, is trained to a "high school" level. A posing, gaited or dancing horse. (See manege, dressage and liberty)
High Seat The act of jamming customers together to make more room on the blue, general admission seats. Any practice that is designed to overcome the human trait of not wanting to sit too close together.
High Striker A long upright timber with a bell mounted on top. Weight mounted on front of timber may be propelled upward by a player striking a hinged lever with a wooden maul.
High!! Stop. A command to stop instantly.
Highball A train on the main line whose road engine has attained its maximum speed.
Hip-Kick Back trouser pocket.
Hippodrome track The space inside the big top between the two rows of quarter poles that comprises a large oval track for acts such as races, pageants and elephant long mount which cannot be performed in the relatively small area of a circus ring.
Hit Billing stand. The location on which cloth advertising banners were tacked.
Hit the Road Show is opening. Start out on the road for a new season.
Hitch A team of horses. Two, four, six, eight or anything up to a forty horse hitch.
Hod An assortment of lithographs, date sheets and other circus paper made up into a bundle. Each lithographer and biller carried a hod which contained the amount of paper it was estimated that his route would require.
Hog Hippopotamus.
Hog Show The John Robinson circus.
Hold back That portion of an employee's pay that is held back and not paid to him unless he completes the season. A common, accepted circus practice as it performs mutually desirable rolls. To management, it helps to hold employees through trying times and reduces turn-over of employees. To employees, it is a saving plan that protects him from his own weaknesses and enables him to face winter unemployment with a modest bankroll.
Holding If a man had a little folding money in his poke, he was said to be holding. An unemployed trouper visiting on a show was always asked by his employed friend, "are you holding?" If reply was negative the employed hands shared their holdings with their broke friend. Next time it might be them.
Home guard Local natives. (See lot lice, towners)
Home run The trip from the closing stand of the season to winter quarters.
Home-sweet-Home In circus parlance the term means more than just the place on one's home. It relates to the act of actually going home. It is a term used to wistfully anticipate the end of the season and a release from the arduous routine of being on the road. In the spring, when the wanderlust of the showman holds supreme, the term is rarely heard. By September, as the trails and tribulations of the season has taken its toll, the term begins to crop up in the trouper's jack-pots.
Honey Buckets Large heavy weight buckets hung under each toilet on the show train. Man in charge of honey buckets dug a hole near the train and emptied buckets into it. Buckets had to be removed and stowed in a possum belly under a car on the runs between towns.
Hook man One who hooks rope to wagons on flat cars.
Hook Rope Boy A boy regardless of age, who handled the long heavy metal hook attached to a heavy rope which was attached to the lead bar (double tree) of a two horse train team. This individual secured the hook into one of the front bull rings of a wagon to be moved over the flat cars. The team then pulled the wagon to the desired location. When unloading, trips always ended on the run car. They started on that car when loading out.
Hook Rope Team The two horse team used to move wagon on the train flat cars. This team walked back and forth alongside the flat cars until the cut of flats was loaded or unloaded. There was on of these "pull over teams" for each wagon poler. There were usually two or three polers and teams involved in loading out a cut of flat cars.
Hook-rope (1) A rope with iron hook attached by which a team can be quickly attached to a bull-ring on a circus wagon.(2) The act of attaching a team to a wagon without using the conventional singletrees. The means of attaching auxiliary teams to reinforce the regular team as may be needed for steep hills or mud, or for quick, short pulls as in the instance of loading or unloading circus railroad flat cars.(3) Slang for being snared, drafted, impressed or pressured.
Hooligans (pronounced "hulliguns")(1) Originally the wild west contingent of a circus.(2) More recently, foreign performers.(3) Any clannish element of people on the show who hold to themselves and whose strange habits, practices or language alienates them from the regulars.
Hoosier A native of Indiana. To the old time circus men any real country person was a Hoosier, regardless of their birth place.
Hoosier up on Being taken advantage of in some way.
Hop Scotching Jumping from one place, or show, to another to make a season's work.
Horse Opera (1) Wild West exhibition. Work show was not used for wild west attractions and organizations.(2) A mildly derogatory classification of a circus, mediocre.
Horsehide Meat.
Hot A stolen article. Something to be stayed away from.
Hot Air Wagon Steam Calliope.
Hot foot to the talls Running away to the woods or elsewhere.
Hot iron man Blacksmith.
Hotel Early circus cook houses were called "Hotels" by the men who ran them for the show as a "privilege."
Hotter Than a Pistol Some person or joint that is being watched by the authorities who are ready to stop all activities at any time.
House The crowd inside a tent for a performance.
Howdah A car or chair which is carried on the back of an elephant. The circus pronunciation is "howdy."
Hustler A whore. Also used by concession people to refer to candy butchers who worked in ball parks and buildings.
Hype To raise the price. The act of cheating or short changing someone in a business transaction. The act of charging more for an item or a service then the established price.
Go to Top I
In Center Playing middle ring.
In Doniker Bad location, lot, or wrong side of town.
In the air Tent up.
In the Barn In winter quarters.
Indiana Circle Public shyness. Reluctance of towners to appear to their follow townspeople to be attracted to the circus side show curiosities. It is identifiable by a vacant area in front of the side show bally stand, with the front row of the watching crowd forming a half moon at some distance away. It is the phenomenon of a crowd being present and attentive, but distant. Until the "Indiana circle" is broken up, none are inclined to make themselves conspicuous by being the first to step forward to buy a ticket. To break up the Indiana Circle and start people moving to the ticket boxes is the real test of the barker's profession.
Ink Sticks Fountain Pens.
Inside Lecturers One who runs the inside of a kid show.
Inside tickets The assignment of selling reserved seat tickets inside the big top. Getting a second crack at those who did not buy reserved tickets at the white wagon outside.
Iron Jaw Any act involving hanging by one's teeth.
Itchy Feet An off the road trouper's urge to get back with it on the road.
Go to Top J
Jackies Same as jackpots.
Jackpots Tall tales of big dough the easy way. Yarns, easy talk, reminisce. To "cut up jackies" is to tell such stories.
Jacks (1) The A-frame supports under the stringers in the make-up of the collapsible circus seats.(2) The saw-horse supports under the circus train runs.
Jacobs ladder A cheap flop house that has no elevator.
Jake An addict of Jamaica Ginger during prohibition days. They drank it for its alcoholic kick and often became violent when on the "Jag."
Jam The act of turning everyone into a carnival show for a single reduced price for a short period of time after a bally.
Jam Man A pitchman using questionable selling tactics.
Jam Store A direct sales concession, usually worked as an action, where the buyer's confidence is built up by free gifts of much "slum" (cheap) merchandise.
Jamming Forcing sales by and of trickery.
Jane The most uncomplimentary noun for a woman, short of obscenity.
Jenny Merry-go-round. A rare item on a circus, but occasionally existed. A walking jenny is a pony rode.
Jerk A no good individual.
Jig A Negro with the circus.
Jig Show Colored show.
Jinx Camel back trunk.
Jit, Jitney Five cents, a nickel.
Jockey Male sweetheart.
Jockey act Horseback acrobatics, usually by several persons on a single mount.
Jockey Riding Style of bareback riding in ring involving gymnastics from basically sitting positions or ground-to-horse, or horse-to-horse, does not relate to horse races.
Joe Blow Means same as Flags Up.
Joey Clown. Or, clown who works as a athlete, usually on horseback.
John Orderly Hurry it up, get going.
John Robinson "A John Robinson" is an abbreviated performance, usually to get crowd out before a storm. Cut Short. John Robinson lay-out To line up the big top, menagerie and side show tents lengthwise, single file, so as to make the biggest possible impression to the viewer.
John Show John Robinson's circus.
Johnny Scaparey Anyone who leaves the show without notice.
Joined Out Joining a circus.
Joint A concessionaire's booth or stand.
Jonah's Bad Luck Wallowing in Bad weather. Or, Wagons sticking in mud.
Josser Anyone outside circus business
Joys Clowns
Juice Cold drinks. Pop, lemonade.
Juice Joint Soft drink stand.
Juice wagon Electric light wagon.
Jump Distance to next city or location.
Jumped the Show Left the show suddenly.
Jungle A hobo camp alongside the railroad yards as near the rail yards as possible.
Jungle Buggy House trailer.
Go to Top K
Kale Money, also know as cush, mezumma.
Kattlers Cats
Keister (a)Traveling bag, grip or suitcase.(b) A safe or small vault in a small town bank or post office.(c) A jail or prison.(d) A person posterior.
Keystone A Prosecutor.
Kick A complaint from a customer, usually handled by the fixer
Kicking Sawdust Tenting.
Kid pusher The man charged with the responsibility of recruiting local youths to help set up the circus, and to assign them their duties.
Kid show Side show. The congress of freaks displayed in separate tent.
Kid worker A man in each department who hired young boys to work for passes. Each department was allowed a certain number of passes. The boys did every conceivable task around the show except water the elephants.
King Pole The first center pole of a tent to be raised.
Kinkers All and any performers. Originally acrobats, used by working men and bosses often in derogatory manner.
Kip A bed, sleeping place.
Kissee Mouth, Lips, Face.
Klondike Brass and Copper. Particularly railroad "brass" (bearings from railroad car journal boxes). When the term "dike" was used the metal usually had been "promoted" or stolen. Junk dealers in many towns owned their own "melt down" facilities.
Knee Figures Dummies used by Ventriloquists in kid shows.
Knight of the Tupes A pitchman.
Kutch, Houchie Kouchie show A show where the "couch dance" was performed. Was used as a "blow off" attraction in side shows where Grifters were operating.
Go to Top L
Lag Leak.
Laid The performance of normal sexual intercourse.
Lam Depart swiftly, run. A stampede of elephants. At hearing this cry all scramble for cover for protection.
Lamming to the tall with the long Getting away with the paper money to the woods where you would have free range to fight it out with your pursuers, if you had to.
Larry Bad date or shipment of bad merchandise. A broken or worthless novelty or toy sold to the public. Also "Larry Cadota or Larrie."
Laundry Queens Girl dancers.
Lay Gold All gold leaf came in small books of thinly beaten square sheets. After size had been applied onto the figure or letter to be leafed, the fold was laid carefully over the sized areas. A skillful man wasted very little leaf. Excess gold was brushed off the work into a container. A fine bristle brush was used.
Lay Note A confidence racket worked by confidence or note laying mobs in towns across the country. One man does the note laying and can work a town alone, but for best takes two or more work together. Words gets around town in about an hour that cashiers are being ripped off and the boys better be gone.
Lay of the Land Carnival featured girl show dancer.
Lay out man One who assigns locations for concession space.
Lay-Out The emplacement of tents and equipment on the show grounds in an orderly, purposeful arrangement. The act of planning and carrying out such an arrangement. The "lay-out" changes daily in accordance with the shape and dimensions of the show ground. To lay-out-the-lot is the very first step to set up the circus.
Lay-out pins Long steel rods emplaced in the ground by the lay-out man to designate locations of center poles, stake lines, etc.
Lead Bar The double tree used in the rigging of a long line circus team.
Lead Bar detective A man who picked up and repaired all broken lead bars and body poles each day. He dragged the worn out and broken rigging to the blacksmith shop, repaired it, and then delivered it back.
Lead Horse The lead horses were the two leading any long line team. Teams were made up of pairs of horses working side by side. A four up used two such teams, a six up used three pairs, etc.
Lead joint Shooting gallery.
Lead Stock The menagerie animals that do not require confinement in cages. The animals that can be led and walked through the streets such as camels, zebras, Ilamas, etc., but does not include elephants nor horses.
Leaders Front set of horses of team opposite of wheelers.
Leaper Any performer whose act includes leaping.
Leaps A traditional type of circus act in which acrobats run down a ramp and leap from a spring-board over groups of elephants, camels and horses. Not to be confused with a teeter board act.
Lecturer Talker, Barker, an inside lecturer is one who announces and explains the acts and attractions inside the side show.
Left Hand Side Most Americans move to the right. Right hand ticket boxes handle more tickets, right hand gates handle more traffic, etc. The shoe shaped lay out of a carnival midway takes advantage of this habit. If possible, a show that caters to children and early patrons is spotted on the right hand side. By the same token an attraction appealing to the late coming sporting element are put on the back end or on the left hand side. Attractions with plenty of noise, like the motor drome, are laid out for the left side. The noise will pull people over there. (Note: if you are at a crowded movie, go to the left side, you should find seats there.)
Legal Adjuster Man who attended to all the legal matters with a show. He constantly watched for anything on the grounds that could create a problem, and maybe hold the show on the lot that night. He attempted to get all disputes settled on the grounds without recourse to law officers and judges. His first duty in town was trips to the city hall and the county court house to lay out reserved seat passes to all he thought should have them, and to some who didn't. On grift shows, this fixer or patch laid out cold cash as well as the passes.
Legging it Stepping out of the show quickly.
Letty Lodgings.
Liberties Horses generally performing in groups.
Liberty (1) Liberty horse, a horse that performs without rider, reins or harness and being directed solely by visible or verbal commands.(2) At libertyfree, uncommitted
Light on a Show Join a show and be accepted for a job.
Light Section Section of the show train on which the cage wagons, lighter properties and ring stock were load and moved.
Lily White Liverwurst.
Limber Jim A contortionist.
Limping into Town A disorganized and nearly bankrupt show moving into town.
Line Up Joint A town girl who came on a show's ground and took on all comers for a dollar a throw. The dog wagon was a frequent location for this illicit activity. Often there would be fifteen to twenty, all colors, in the line waiting outside the enclosure, each clutching his dollar bill. (Management broke them up when word of one reached the office because of the heat that could be generated.} Reportedly, the John Robinson Show in Duluth, Minnesota around 1921 had four Negroes hanged from light poles around the show grounds. The town girl yelled rape when caught.
Lithograph (1) Any and all circus advertising posters. To the printer, the term relates to a specific printing process involving stone engravings, the means by which most circus poster were printed in earlier times. However, the term stuck in circus usage, and came to mean any circus poster irrespective of the means by which it was printed.(2) Is also used to relate to the 1 and 2 sheet posters specifically posted in windows. (See banners, bills, sheets)
Lithographer The man who posts lithographs in windows. (see banner man, biller)
Little People Midgets or dwarfs.
Little tub Snare drum.
Live one A customer who has money.
Live Paper All posted paper was live paper until exhibition date.
Local Yokel A towner who is successful in his line. A real specialist who thinks he can work successfully with a circus without first learning the business. Famous last lines "Show business is just like any other business."
Location 1. (billposting) Places used to post lithographs, bills or banners.2. (ticket selling) The seats given or sold to a circus patrons is his location.3. (Carnival) The spot on the show grounds assigned to a showman, ride man or concession owner for erecting their show, ride or concession.
Long end The dining tent of larger circuses was partitioned into two sections, the long end for working people (there were more of them) and the short end for executives, performers and bosses.
Long jump Anything over 50 miles.
Long Line Skinner A teamster who handles the big six and eight horse teams. The driver of an eight horse team had to hold and manipulate over two hundred feet of heavy leather lines between the fingers of his two hands.
Long mount A spectacular elephant display in which the entire herd of elephants lines up on the hippodrome track and then rise to their hind feet, forefeet on the backs of the elephant in front. The walking-long-mount is the same with the added innovation that the entire heard walks while in the long-mount position.
Long side The front side of the reserved seats. The side of reserved seats in the big top that was solid, not broken by the performers' entrance and band stand. (see short side, front side, back side)
Long string A team of horses of four or more pairs in tandem.
Long string driver Drives team of eight or more horses.
Lost time deducted in a bunch Shows that were lost through bad weather and accidents kept accounts of it and at the end of the season they deducted it in a lump. That usually takes all the salary that is coming to the people, including the two weeks back salary, called the hold back.
Lot Show grounds. The place of exhibition in each town.
Lot lice Towners who watch the activities on the circus grounds. To management, a big crowd watching the show set up in the morning is good news, as it indicates a good crowd at the ticket wagons. To the circus workers, however, a big crowd watching them work is simply "lot lice" that gets in their way. Town natives that arrive early and stay late without spending.
Lot man One who lays out show location.
Lot Superintendent. The boss in charge of the over-all operation of setting up and tearing down the circus each day.
Low grass A term relating to larger towns and cities, "where the grass is mowed." More specifically refers to that portion of the United States that lies East of the Mississippi River.
Lower the Boom Hit someone with your fist. Or, to be fired and run off the show for some offense or infraction of the rules. "Boss finally caught up with him and lowered the boom."
Lucky Boys Grifters, swindlers. Those connected with gaming privileges. (see grift, Sunday school)
Lumber Seats, stringers, jacks, etc. particularly in their dismantled state.
Lumber train On larger circuses, that moved on several different sections or trains, the section which carried the many seat wagons was the lumber train. (see canvas train and flying squadron)
Lump A small tightly packed lunch carried in the pocket.
Lunge Rope The rope held by a person outside the ring which is threaded through a pulley above the ring and attached to the safety device of the performer who is working in or above the ring. See mechanic.
Lush A drunkard. Also, intoxicating liquor.
Lush Head A habitual drunkard.
Lushed up Intoxicated.
Go to Top M
Magic Carpet The big carpet in the lobby of the old Sherman Hotel in Chicago. All outdoor showmen, both home guard and out of towners, tried to get to that lobby at least once each day they were in town. There they met on the carpet, visited and cut up jackpots. Probably more big time circus and carnival deals were started and worked out in the Sherman Lobby than nay other place in the country. Possible exception would be the Majestic Hotel Lobby in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Mail agent The employee who delivers mail on the circus, circus mailman.
Main drag Main street.
Main Stem Town's principal street.
Make To participate. To "make" parade or to "make" spec is to be a participant in those events.
Make Parade To parade.
Make the Nut Take in the daily expense of the show.
Make up the Train Final switching in the railroad yards to get the sections or cuts of a train hooked together so the road engine can be hooked on for taking train out of town.
Making an opening Talk given by a barker to interest persons sufficiently to pay money to see the feature advertised.
Making, the Tobacco for a cigarette.
Manege (1) The type of act in which people ride horses. May include high school horses, dressage horses or menage horses. To "ride Manege" is a general term meaning to participate in such horse acts, the term having a broad meaning in circus parlance.(2) Manege horse a more specific application of the word relating to a performing horse that some rate with a high school horse, and others rate as trained to a level one step above a high school horse but not as advanced as a dressage horse. (See high school horse, dressage, liberty horse)
March The street parade.
Marching Bull At night first bull carries white lantern. Last bull carries red lantern.
Mark A victim, the term used by carnival people.
Marquee A canopied entrance, normally where tickets are collected.
Mechanic Any safety device designed to protect a novice from injury while undertaking to learn a difficult acrobatic, bareback or aerial feat.
Menage The performance of high school type riding in a circus arena by one or more persons and their horses. Thirty or more riders in one display was not uncommon on the larger shows in 1920. Also spelled Manege.
Menage Horse A beautiful performing horse.
Menage rider The rider of a menage horse.
Mender Legal adjuster.
Middle piece Any section of canvas of a tent that hangs between two center poles. (see "round top" for fuller description.). Vest
Middles Rectangular pieces of canvas in roof between ends.
Midway Main circus front gate thoroughfare area. Space between side show leading to main entrance.
Midway Bonus A big promise, usually a chance on last year's sweepstakes.
Midway Snitch Carnival press agent who reports the news. Most of them write up good news when they are bad.
Mighty Haag A gentle, friendly barb or tease. To say that a trouper is "mighty haag" is to grant them the ranking of a veteran or old pro, but still implying that their ways are small time or "high grass." The term relates to the Mighty Haag shows operated by Ernest Haag in mostly Southern territory for many years. The Mighty Haag shows, being small and colloquial, was laughable, yet, at one and the same time it also commanded a paternal respect among all showmen by virtue of its undeniable long tenure of successful operation.
Milkway Frozen custard machine stand.
Missed the Rail The early overland mud shows traveling by wagon over dirt roads had their route marked by the first man over the road, usually the assistant manage or the superintendent. He marked the road at junction points by using a rail from a fence or a tree branch to partially block the road not to be followed. Rails were often moved by local mischief makers or by opposition showmen. There were instances of entire shows traveling all night and coming into an unbilled town because they had "missed the rail."
Missing a Tip Missing a trick.
Mitt Hand.
Mitt joint Palmistry booth, fortune telling stall. Also, Mitt Camp.
Mitt Reader Fortune teller of either sex. Mostly old females too old for other work duties.
Monday Guys Men who would steal wash off lines while women were out watching parade.
Mope To "Walk away" from a show. Many good workers "moped" away without any valid reason leaving their pay "in the wagon."
Morgue A dead town.
Motorized Traveling by motor.
Mount Vernon Flat car A type of railroad circus flat car built by the Mount Vernon Car Co. of Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Mount Vernon flat cars are recognizable by the drop-frame appearance of their construction, and are 70 or 72 feet in length. (see Warren flat car)
Mouthpiece A local attorney. Not a circus attorney. Usually, an attorney who is representing an adversary of the circus in a hostile roll.
Mouthpiece A local attorney. Not a circus attorney. Usually, an attorney who is representing an adversary of the circus in a hostile role.
Move The jump between towns on a show's route.
Muck Clown white.
Mud block A large rounded block of wood emplaced under center poles of large tenets to prevent the erected pole from sinking into soft ground.
Mud Opera The circus, a wild west exhibition.
Mud show Originally referred to the circuses that moved overland by horse and wagon, alluding to their unending battle with mud. Later, was expanded to include circuses that moved overland by motor vehicles.
Mug The face.
Mug Joint A photography joint. A picture taker.
Mule (Carnival) Term for rubber tired tractors used to move and spot empty wagons on the show grounds and to load and unload the show train.
Mule Skinner Tractor driver.
Mulligan Picnic, feast, banquet, party where there is plenty of good food. An event for guests.
Mush An umbrella.
Musth or Must Periodic condition of male elephants in which their behavior is dangerously unpredicatable, and a sticky sustance exudes from glands located between the eyes and mouth.
Mutt Dog.
Go to Top N
Natives Local people.
Nautchery Whore house. The local house of "joy and ill repute." Sometimes called Nautch Joint.
Navajo Condemned horse used as cat food.
Necktie Known as a banner.
Nigger Rich One who spends money foolishly.
Night Rider Bill posters on "opposition crews" who went out at night and tore down or covered up the advertising paper of another show.
Nobs Nom de Plume, assumed name.
Novelties Whips, whistling birds, canes, pennants, and other souvenirs sold on the parade route, on the lot, or on the seats.
Number one car First advertising car or "bill car" to get into town ahead of the show.
Nut The amount of money that must be taken in to meet the day's expenses. Legend attributes the term to the practice of creditors, in early overland wagon show days, to remove a nut from a wheel of a key wagon as collateral to assure payment before the circus could move.
Nut bill Circus lithographs that featured the complimentary portraits of the proprietors.
Nuts The shell game with its three walnut half shells and a little pea.
Go to Top O
Oblong The menagerie tent.
Office Show business headquarters, sometimes called the complaint room.
Office show Owned by the midway owner.
Old Folks Monkeys.
Old Man The owner.
Old Rag Big Top Canvas.
Old Star Backs Reserve seats.
Oliver or Ollie An officer.
Omney Man.
On the Bum Broke and riding freight trains.
On the Burr Owe the show money. bosses and key staff members were allowed to get in debt to the show up to certain limits. Also, On the Nut.
On the Earie Being alert to all conversation around you, whether they are any of your business or not.
On the Reserves One working on reserve seats, usher or ticket man.
On the Run Going to next town.
On the Run On the move of the show between towns. Can also refer to an individual who is hiding out from the law, his wife or others.
On the Show Folks with the show.
On the Straw People seated on the ground along the hippodrome track during a performance, whether on straw or on the bare ground. No one was ever turned away by a circus until every available seating space, on the seats and on the ground were utilized. Opened with the show Starting in at the opening.
One Day Stand Most circus dates were of day's duration.
One Nighter A circus. Term also applied to one night stand dramatic shows working under canvas.
One Sheet The basic measurement of circus advertising paper. (see sheet)
Opener See talker. The man who talks the crowd into buying tickets. Layman often call him barker or spieler, two nouns never heard in the circus.
Opening The spiel or speech given by the talker in front of the show. On circus side shows, the first opening given with many people on the bally platform, was the first opening. Generally made by kid show manager.
Opera A circus. Not necessarily derogatory, but when not derisive, any compliment meant is none-the-less veiled in negative terms. (see horse opera)
Opposition Professional rivalry between two circuses that are routed into the same community so close together that their advance brigades become engaged in an advertising war.
Opposition Brigade An advance brigade of men especially assigned to the duty to meet the challenge of competitors. Bill posters who blot out each other's advertising in towns where rival shows cross routes.
Opposition Paper Advertising posters, usually derogatory in nature put up by a competing circus. Also called "Rat Sheets."
Out of the program Not able to act.
Outlaw Unreliable working men, and sometimes bosses, were often outlawed by one or more show owners. Some show owners preferred crews of these outlaws as most of this breed were highly competent (when sober), and they really had no other place to go.
Over the Run On the run between towns. This term used for specific happenings occurring on a run.
Go to Top P
P.A. Press Agent.
Pad Room The space between two dressing room tents where the horses and ponies are equipped for their entry. Where performers wait to go on.
Paper Refers generally to posters. Also called a complimentary ticket.
Paper the House A crowd in a "house" with an abnormal number of free passes among them.
Paper the Town Give out too many free passes in town.
Pass A free ticket to a show.
Patch Legal adjuster or fixer with a show.
Patter Talk.
Pearl Diver Dish washer.
Peep show Penny arcade.
Peeties Loaded dice made to throw sure numbers.
Perch Act A balancing act involving the use of apparatus upon which one performs, while being balanced by another.
Performers Those who perform on inside of big top.
Physic man Medicine Pitchman.
Picket Line A row of deep-driven stakes to which the elephants are chained.
Pickled Punk A carnival term for human fetuses.
Pie Car The lunch or privilege car. Pastime car, where circus employees amuse themselves before and after a show. Refreshments can be purchased in this car at moderate prices.
Pig Iron The riding devices (carnival).
Piggie Bank A fat girls stocking.
Pin Heads Simple minded humans with small heads and shape of coconuts.
Pins Steel pins with different colored flags used to locate the white tops, viz., red flags for big top, white flags for center poles, blue flags for menagerie top, red and blue flags for marquee, yellow flags for side shows.
PIP An exceptionally good thing.
Pirate To appropriate another performer's routing, costumes or props.
Pit A small (8X8 or 10X10) canvas enclosure in which side show acts were performed.
Pit Show Side show where exhibits lie in pits.
Pitch Selling merchandise by lecturing and demonstrating.
Pitchman Livewire flitter agent.
Pitch-til-you-win Table where meals are served home style.
Plange To throw the body completely over one arm, aided by a swivel. The plange turn was Lillian Leitzel's great feat of endurance.
Plaster Mortgage on the show.
Plates I ron to let wagons go from car to car over bumpers.
Play a Bloomer, Play a Blank Do no business at all on a date.
Play the street (carnival) Set the show up on the side walks and streets for an engagement.
Playing the sticks Making small towns.
Pling To ask for donation for help, to mooch.
Poke A purse or pocketbook.
Pole A wagon tongue, unhooked when wagons are on the train or at rest on lot. Tent poles are generally referred to by size, "quarter pole," etc.
Poler or Pollar One who takes wagon up and down the runs. Man who steers wagons on flatcars.
Pony Punk A man or boy who led ponies from train to lot, groomed them and took care of them.
Pooch A dog.
Porterage A hold up on the part of management compelling the people to pay for what they agree to furnish.
Possum belly Large space built under car or wagon to keep things in.
Pot Lids Cymbals.
Potato Masher Bass-drum stick.
Pratt Out To push knocker out of any TIP or play by shoving him with one's buttocks.
Press Agent The Circus newspaper man.
Pretzel French horn.
Privilege car A club car on the circus train with food, drink and recreation facilities. Usually leased out by the circus. Dining car.
Privilege Man Individual who arranges permits and privileges. Person connected with the selling of refreshments.
Privileges Those concessions usually leased out by the circus management.
Production number Lavishly decked act with many floats, props, and performers.
Programmer Person who distributes heralds, bills, etc.
Programming Billing.
Promote To get something that is badly needed by a show that is difficult to obtain, usually obtained illegally.
Property animals Animals, such as dogs, that assist in act.
Property Men Experienced workmen who handle the apparatus used by performers.
Props Mechanical contrivances used in an act, see-saw, trapezes.
Pudding Wagon Frozen custard truck.
Pull the Peaks To lower and make fast the top of the tent during a storm. The tent is lowered as far down as the quarter poles will allow.
Pull up team The team that pulls the wagon up the runs and onto the flat cars.
Pull-away team Drags wagons from runs to hauling teams.
Pulling the Peaks After the canvas for a "bale ring" tent is all laced together, the bale ring and the canvas lashed to them are pulled half way up the center pole by the use of the "main falls" attached to the top of each center pole. At this height, all canvas should be clear of the ground. Pulling the sagging canvas into this position is called, pulling peaks.
Pull-Over Team The teams that pull the wagons over the long string of flat cars to there final positions on the train.
Punk An young animal or boy connected with the show. Also, bread.
Punk rides Rides for children.
Punk rouster Worker on show who chases under-age kids from the front of gaming concession while the playing is going on.
Punk-pusher Worker on show who supervises kid labor.
Pup Opera Dog corral.
Pup tents Overshoes.
Pusher An assistant to a circus boss.
Put on the Bee To ask for a touch or loan.
Put the Hype on Raise the price of some item or service without regard to a fair price. i.e., raising the prices for rooms by resort hotels for duration of show.
Put the slug on Hit someone with your fist.
Go to Top Q
Quack A pretender.
Quad Quadruple backward somersault by a flyer to the hands of the catcher.
Quad Rat One lower than another.
Quad Roon Person of 1/4 Negro blood.
Quagga A Zebra.
Quarter Pole Poles which hold up the tent at outer perimeter.
Quarters V-shaped canvas. Four quarters at each end of the big top roof form the curve.
Queer Counterfeit money.
Quick Show See John Robinson. A performacne act to barest essentials to get the crowd out before a storm.
Go to Top R
Rag A tent, or the big top.
Rag Bag Poorly operated carnival or circus. A disreputable appearing show with worn out equipment.
Rag rollers Canvasmen.
Rake off To get some of the proceeds of the robberies for assistance in getting it.
Rat Sheets Derogatory advertising, posters, or leaflets used by rivals.
Rattler A train.
Razorback One who helps load and unload the circus train. Never worked any job except train crew. "Raise'er back ,Let'er go." The command for lifting cross-cage wagons into place.
Read the lot Looking for tent pegs or stakes.
Reader License to operate. Nickname for a license.
Real Estate Concession space.
Red Hots Peanuts.
Red Lighted To do away with. To be forcibly ejected from train. This is an old word and originated from the quaint old habit of "red lighting" an undesirable person by taking him out on the platform of the cars after dark, when the train was under way, and throwing him under the wheels. Or, to throw someone off the circus lot.
Red One A winner, named from red number or winners on grind-store chart. Or, good business.
Red Wagon The main office of the circus. It is also the box office for general admission tickets.
Red Wagon Music Circus music, marches, fast gallops.
Reds The more expensive seats. Reserved seats in perferred locations.
Rehash The practice of ticket sellers and ushers reselling ticket stubs for seats that have already been sold. Usher or gate man keeps the stubs instead of giving them to a seat holder. Stubs are passed to a ticket seller in the "three way split." Usher has to "hide" the illegal ticket holder in the section.
Rehashing tickets Resell, an act of becoming a partner in a show without an investment.
Reride (carnival) Keeping a patron on a riding device for a repeat ride, collecting for the ride and pocketing the proceeds.
Reserved Seats to which an extra fee is attached.
Rib To taunt, tease.
Ride the Rods Ride a freight train regardless of where the rider perched. Term came from the habit of hobos riding on the iron truss rods under the old wooden freight cars.
Riders Equestrian performers.
Riding Quarter Poles During a storm, circus people all worked to keep the lower ends of the quarter poles to the ground. The lashings to the stakes often loosened and the poles with its jump ropes holding it tight to the top would swing free in the wind. Big gusts of wind could often swing the butt ends of a pole with its human cargo twenty feet off the ground. This was never a pleasant ride.
Riggers Property men especially trained to set up performers apparatus.
Rigging The apparatus, rope tackle, used by high acts especially that used by "flying acts."
Ring Barn The barn at winter quarters with standard riding ring for practice.
Ring Curbs Wooden curbing in sections, forming the ring.
Ring Master The man in charge of a one ring circus performance.
Ring Stock Show horses.
Ringer A substitute person or animal passed off on the unwary as the person or animal they expect to see.
Risley act Any performance in which one person flat on his back balances and juggles with his feet; usually he juggles another human being.
Rod A pistol.
Roll down A carnival game that features numbered balls or cubes that roll down into holes or slots. Some have the numbers on the holes or slots. All sorts of games can be worked out with roll downs, some honest some not.
Roman Riding A rider standing on the backs of two horses.
Rosin back Horse for bare-back riding. Powdered rosin is used to make the footing more secure.
Rough lock shoe A heavy metal "slide shoe" carried under each wagon for use while going down steep hills. At top of hill, one rear wheel was run up on the shoe and was chained into place. That wheel of the wagon then slid down the hill instead of rolling free. This kept the wagon from gaining too much speed and running over the horses.
Roughneck A workingman, common labor. Canvas rustler or person doing heavy work.
Roughneck's delight The girl who kips with only the working men.
Round To turn without attracting attention.
Round Top Basic ends of a circus tent. Without it's middle pieces, a circus tent would be a round top.
Round Tops Umbrellas.
Roust To chase or run away.
Roustabouts The general utility men. Circus working men on the lot. Some uninformed writers just love to use "razor back" for these hands. Razor backs were always train crewmen not Canvasmen, which really is the proper term to use for big top men. Men in each department had designations from the job they performed. Bog boys, pony punks, property men, skinners, bull men, cage hands, front door men, lead bar detective, honey bucket men, coffee boy, pastry cook. etc.
Route (noun) List of towns and events played each week month or year.(verb) Laying out and booking the play daters of a show or an attraction. "He routed the show into the money."
Route Cards Cards issued in advance listing a show's play dates for a period of time. A season's route card is then issued near the end of the season.
Rubber Mules Bulls.
Rubber Vags People who live in house trailers.
Rubbins Rubbing alcohol used by the hands to get a cheap "jag" or drunk during prohibition days.
Rube Hey Rube or a battle with the towners.
Run Train trip from town to town.
Runs Where loading trains. The two channel irons the wagons run up on to get on the flat cars.
Runts A dwarf.
Go to Top S
Safety door Trainers entrance to steel arena secured by straps.
Salt Peter A term given to save money, meaning salt-it down like fish.
Sandbagging Brigade A name given to the fake gamblers, because they take the innocent party's money so quickly.
Saw Buck $10.00.
Sawbuck To cross the side-poles of the tent for additional strength in case of a storm.
Schill One of the boys who gets the crowd started by buying himself; but he gets his money back, of course.
Scout for a location Looking for a town to fill in the route after a "spot" already booked has to be passed up for some reason.
Scram Beat it, get away.
Scuff Having a difficult time securing enough food for regular meals because of lack of funds.
Seatmen Those who put up reserved seats.
Section Parts of the train, usually two or three parts. First section normally carried; the cook house, menagerie, stake driving machine, baggage horse tenets, blacksmith shop and layout department. Second section carried; heavy load of canvas poles, seating and heavy properties. Third section carried light properties, chairs.
Sell Out Every available seat in the show has been sold. This doesn't mean that every space on the ground has been sold. When that is done, the show has a "turn away."
Shake A raid by officers after a fix has been paid, double crossed by officer.
Shakedown Blackmail. Lawyers, the Law, and certain citizens traded on the fact that a circus often paid a few hundred dollars to settle false claims rather than risk being tied up and losing next day's business.
Shamus Police Officer.
Shandy The chandelier light man who attended to the gas lights in the old time circus days.
Shandy man Electrican.
Shanty Chandelier man, lights. Nickname for chief electrician.
Sheet Basic piece of advertising paper, 28 X 42.
Sheet Writer A pitchman who writes up subscriptions to periodicals. He works in a low key with no pressure giving prizes and premiums to his "victims," who end up with long term subscriptions to a paper they usually have no need of. Sheet writer's prices vary with the fatness of his patron's poke.
Shekels Money in any form.
Shelf An upper berth in sleeping car or truck.
Shelve To take a show off the road and cease to use the title.
Sheriff's sale Sale of back side reserved seats to the occupants of the "back end blues" at a reduced price just before show time.
Shill One who pretends to play a game, or to buy a ticket to an attraction, in order to entice others to join or follow him. Without a good "shill," an entire "tip" may stay perfectly still after an "opening." All with the cash in their hands, and not one of them will "break" for the ticket boxes, unless some brave soul leads the way. "Shills" fill the need for brave souls.
Shiv rack Knife rack, where the customers attempt to throw a ring over a knife.
Shoe a Hill Using the "Rough Lock Shoe" on steep hills.
Shoe String Show A show of no prestige or backing.
Shooting Quarter Poles Inserting quarter pole pins into the proper holes in the canvas top, tying off the "jump" ropes and pushing up the intermediate (quarter) poles after the "peaks have been pulled."
Short Cake To out count a person in money. Short changing.
Short End Section of cook house reserved for performers and executives.
Short jump 50 miles or less.
Short side Side of the cookhouse seating the performers and staff.
Shower sticks Umbrellas.
Showing Referring to the amount of advertising paper up and displayed in a town to be played by the show.
Showman The actor who entertains the audience.
Shut out of a Town The show cannot get a permit to play a town under any circumstances, even with "pay offs" promised.
Shylock Office Secretary.
Side walling Act of trying to sneak in under tent.
Sidewall The sides of the tent. The loose canvas flaps from the perimeter of the tent top to the ground.
Silver Mounted Toppings Pastry with frosting on it.
Silver Wagon The owner's or general manager's administrative wagon, so called because it was always silver gilt.
Skin Oddity Freaks with skins like alligators.
Skin'em alive tour To rob everyone, no one excepted.
Skinner Teamster or driver of a team of horses.
Skirmishers Groups of fighting men sent up on the advance to protect the bill posters in an "opposition war."
Skull Cap Worn by clown and made of white stocking top.
Slanging Performing.
Sleeper Money overlooked.
Sleepers, three and four high Packing 6 or 8 people where only fur ought to be, like in the ordainary sleeper.
Slide show panel wagon Wagon whose sides unfold to become the pictorial banner line in front of the side show.
Slough To close a show or concession. Show closed by the Law. Also used by bill posters to denote the side streets of a town well away from the "gut" or main street. In a "slough" the bill poster can "sell out a hod" quickly and not have to "Charlie" a single sheet. Side street merchants seemed to like the colorful circus paper in their shop windows.
Slug Hit someone with your fists.
Slum A small piece of very low value merchandise.
Slum Spindle Fixed prize wheel.
Smash Successful act.
Snack Stand Lemonade stand.
Snake Eye (1860 to 1880) A loose and broken railroad rail that bent upward and penetrated the floor of a car as the train rolled along. A wreck ensued.
Snaker Man who secures "hook rope" to wagons.
Snipe Boards Billboards owned by a company and are serviced by a local bill posting company.
Snipe Plant A local bill posting company that has all the boards in town tied up. some of them had contracts for most all the "walls" in town as well.
Snow Joint Shaved ice and flavor, snow cone.
Snub Rope The rope used in the snubbing operation. This one hundred , or more, foot length of one inch white manila rope has a long metal hook, similar to a "hook rope" hook, spliced onto one end of it.
Snubber Man who stands on bridge extending from car truss rods and eases snubbing rope around two blocks after "helper" has hooked rope into wagon. This lets wagon ease down the runs and protects the poler.
Snubbing Posts Twin steel columns affixed to the side of the "run flat" or the loading flat car. A man "figure eights" a heavy "snub rope" around these posts. End of this rope is attached to a hook which is hooked onto one of the back "bull rings" of the next wagon to be unloaded down the "runs" or "chutes." The "snubber" lets out slack in the rope until the wagon is eased down safely to the ground level of the "crossing."
Go to Top  
Society Circus The term for indoor circuses, and one ring shows in general, from about 1900 until the middle thirties.
Soft Lot A wet or muddy lot.
Soft Ticket A circus reserved seat ticket, when paste board tickets were used for general admission.
Sold On Convinced that an idea, or show, is a good one. That everything is on the "up and up" and can be supported.
Soup Dealer Carnival knife rack operator.
Spangles A performer connected with a circus.
Spanish Web Cloth-covered hanging rope on which aerialists perform in aerial acts.
Spec An abbreviation for spectacle, the name applied to the pageant which opens the main performance.
Spec Girls Girls who ride in grand spectacle at opening.
Special Agent See twenty-four hour man.
Spieler Sideshow orator, talker, ticket seller. Ballyhoo man. See opener.
Spot Placing circus wagons on lot.
Spots The music.
Spotted Girls Giraffes.
Spring To release, or to go in one's kick for more money.
Sprung To be released by the show's mender.
Squadron The first section of a large multi-train show. Out of town early (usually before 10 pm), the squadron carried the cook house, the baggage horse, tents, stake driving machine, the menagerie, the blacksmith shop and the layout crew. (before the stake driving machine were perfected, eight man sledge hammer crews were carried).
Squarer "Fixer" who gets permission for posting bills and other favors.
Squash A kiss.
Squeezings Canned Heat, "Canned heat experts," whose who were addicted to the drink, squeezed Sterno through sponges and collected the liquid. These addicts were a wild bunch with wide staring eyes. Not quite as wild as the "Jake Heads" who drank Jamaica Ginger. When a "Jake Head" ran wild, he seldom could be stopped with bare fists. It took a solid blow right between the eyes to stop one.
Stake and Chain red eye Bad whiskey.
Stake and Chain Wagon The wagon which contains the tools and equipment used in measuring the lot and setting up the tents. The boss Canvas man's pride and joy.
Stake Driving Ceremony The practice of show people gathering on the town square that has given very unsatisfactory business to the show, and driving a tent stake deep into the ground, so that it cannot be easily pulled up.
Stake Line The rows of stakes around a tent.
Stalling Missing a trick.
Stand Any town where the show plays, a "spot" or a "date."
Stand Lamps Burn in menagerie when show remains over night.
Stand of Paper Usually refers to "daubs," but can also be sued to refer to lithograph and banner "hits."
Star Backs Reserved seats, also called Reds.
Staubes Stakes.
Steam Wagon Calliope.
Steer To direct.
Stick Hand A wagon poler on a show train.
Sticks Outside supports.
Still Date When show is not billed.
Still Spot A town where the show plays without auspices.
Stobs Stakers.
Stop the Show Performance stopped because of the wild applause of the audience at the end of an act.
Stoves Gambling and concession stalls.
Straw house A sellout house. Straw is spread on the ground for general admission seats.
Strawberry Short Cake Money gained dishonestl y.
Strawing Seating on over-flow audience on straw scattered in front of the seats.
Street Worker Kerb-hawker.
String A long line of horses, animals, "joints," objects or things.
String Joint A gaming concession featuring a bundle of string hanging down from an overhead pulley. Each one is attached to one of the pieces of merchandise displayed. Patron pulls a string and gets the item he pulls up.
String of Joints Line up of concession stands on a carnival midway. A man who owns several concession stands owns a "string of joints."
String Show Refers to the "string" of banners in front of a long open fronted carnival show.
Stringers Part of seating equipment, long boards. The stair-step risers that support the row of seat planks.
Sucker An unsophisticated person.
Sunbursts Highly decorated wagon wheels.
Sunday in a town Spend Sunday in a town with no show being given. This was the rule for most towns prior to the 1930's.
Sunday School Show A clean show. No crooked games, no dirty "gal shows." no other illicit activity tolerated by the show owner.
Super Extra person in act.
Supernumeraries Extra men, women and boys that help to make a crowd or large assembly in scences of massive production.
Swag Prizes on booths.
Sweep Ropes Those sewed into canvas tops in elliptical shape to help preserve their contour and make them stronger.
Sweetened air Cotton Candy.
Swell Pipes A good voice.
Swindle Sheet Expense account.
Go to Top T
Tack Spitters Bill posters who spit tacks on magnetic hammer.
Tacking Ballons During the era of circus parades, it was usual for people other than circus concessionaires to "work the parada route" selling balloons. If they were local people, working for the one day only, they were never bothered. But, there were "trailers" who sometimes followed the show for weeks cashing in on the show's appearances at no cost to themselves. If these "Trailers" stayed to long on the route, they got tacked. Candy butchers would ride high up on the parade wagons with pockets full of carpet tacks. From high vantage points, a hand full of tacks thrown exactly right could make a bundle of ballons melt away like snow in July.
Tag Banner or streamer on front of top.
Tail Up Command to an elephant to follow in line.
Take The cash taken in from a performance, a concession, a series of performances or a string of concessions.
Take a Powder To leave without giving notice, to slip away.
Take First Count Handlers of cash often "took the first count" before turning in the remainder to the proper recipient.
Take the Gaff Take the hard knocks in life.
Take to the Cleaners Be wiped out financially in some deal, go bankrupt.
Talker The man who makes the "outside openings" and "talks" in front of an attraction. If he talks inside the attraction, he is a "lecturer." (never called a barker)
Tanbark Bark containing Tannin, used to tan hides and afterwards to cover circus ring floor.
Tank A very small indentation on a map. Really small town.
Tap Price of admission.
Tap city or tapped out Broke. Without any cash, bankrupt.
Tear down To pack up.
Teeterboard Seesaw used to propel performers into the air to the back of an animal.
Ten and cakes $10 a week and board.
Ten in One A carnival midway show with ten attractions inside. It is usually an "illusion" show or some other "string show." Can be either a "pit" or a "platform" show.
Territory Each big show had territory it considered its own. They fought to protect that territory from any encroachment from other shows.
The X A carnival or fair ground exclusive. A concession owner buys the "X" on some item or concession for the entire midway.
Thistle Chins Towers.
Three sheet Usually three flat sheets of advertising paper printed on one piece of material. Term also used to name someone who is advertising himself more lavishly than he deserves.
Timber A "stick" or a "Shill" on a carnival game. "You can't see the players for the timber."
Tin Can Police Special Officers.
Tip A crowd. The crowd gathered in front of an attraction by the "ballyhoo."
Title Name of the show.
To frame a joint To build a stand.
To Heel Leave without paying debt.
To nighter A single page advertising giveaway piece that heralded an attraction appearing that night. Top line in huge letters was the word, TONIGHT.
To promote To get something for nothing.
To swing with To take without owner's permission or consent.
To three sheet To praise a person.
Toe Pin Kid The little boy who carries the small stakes around inside the tent, to be driven at the foot of the stringers that rest on the jacks under the seats.
Tokus The back side of a person, the posterior.
Took the fence To blow with the receipts of a show or concession.
Tooth dinkier A dentist.
Top A tent. Big top (main tent); Menagerie top; Kid top (sideshow tent); cook top (dining tent).
Top Mounter In a human pyramid or totem pole, the person on top.
Top the midway Get the most money.
Torch Torches mark the route from train to lot. Always turn in toward the torch and follow road to next torch.
Torch boy Boy who takes care of lights for loading at night.
Toss the Boards Working a three card monte game.
Tossing a Bone Giving a buck to a down and outer.
Touches made Large and small winning made by the grafters.
Tourist One joining the circus for the first time, a see-all.
Tournament The grand entry or "spec" opening the show.
Towner People who come to see parade or show.
Traffic Manager Agent who makes railroad contracts.
Trailer A person who followed a show, sometimes riding the show trains, who was not on the payroll of that show.
Train call Time given for show train to pull out.
Trainmaster Man who directs loading of train.
Tramp One of three major American clown types, a character clown with custom and features of a hobo. Also abbreviation for trampoline as in "Tramp act."
Transactions On some shows, individual sales by ticket sellers were called transactions.
Trap Any trapeze.
Trapper Groom for horses.
Trick A show, a complete show either wild west or circus. Any feat performed by a circus artist or animal, there being no suggestion that trickery, as commonly understood, is involved.
Trinka Upholstered cradle in which a performer lies when juggling with the feet.
Triple, The Triple somersault by a "flyer" in a "flying act" while "flying" from the "fly bar" to the hands of a the catcher.
Troupers Circus people. A person who has spent at least one full season on some type traveling amusement organization.
Trunk up Command to an elephant, to raise the trunk in salute.
Trunks Supply Wagons.
Tubs (circus) The round tub like structures used in elephant acts for the "bulls" to do tricks on are called "bull tubs." (carnival) Seating arrangements on many of the riding devices are called tubs.
Tuck An organization.
Turkey Losing or bad show. A circus performer's tent.
Turn A ways A sold-out performance.
Turn away A complete sell out of all available seating space.
Turn the Mit or Turn the Duke A type of "petty larceny" short changing.
Turn the Tip The patrons in front of a bally platform who have been convinced that "talker" is truthful and his attraction must be seen are "turned" when they crowd up to the ticket boxes and purchase tickets.
Turning the Duke To short change a person.
Two bits 25 cents, a western monetary phrase.
Go to Top U, V, W
Under the Stars To show outside without a tent. Seats and properties set up without a tent over them.
Understander Person on the bottom of a human pyramid or totem pole.
Up Out door showmen are prone to over use the word "up." They add the word to other words without changing the meaning of the word added to. An eight horse team was an "Eight-Up."
Up Ahead or Up Front On the show advance, or doing agent work ahead of the show.
Up it Pay off what you owe. If this demand was given, an implied or else was understood.
Varmint boxes Cages
Varmints Animals
Voltige A rider or riders vaulting on to and off a horse.
Wagon, The The "Red Wagon," the office wagon or main ticket wagon.
Waiters' flunkies Dining tent
Wait-paper Opposition posters used by a rival show begging the public "not to be fooled" and wait for the "real" show.
Walk off the show Just quit and go. Usually without a stop at the wagon to tell them about it or to collect any cash that might be due.
Walk-around A procession of clowns between acts. Gags animated, in which one or more clowns walk around the track, burlesquing the foibles of the day.
Walk-a-way One who forget's their change.
Wallaby Kangaroo.
Wallace Trick A "strong" act in which animals fake an attack upon their trainer, driving him to the safety door. Also called the "untamable."
Wardrobe All costumes, even those of elephants and other animals.
Washout A failure or railroad tracks washed out by floods ahead of show.
Wedged Stranded, no funds.
Weed To hand another person money.
When the band plays Opening of season.
Whistle Tooter Equestrian director or ringmaster.
White Wagon The box office wagon which handles the reserved seat tickets.
Whiteface Clown makeup with a white base.
Windjammer A member of the band, musician, a band boy.
Wing-Ding Broad Gill or woman who faints in the front of a geek to draw attention into the tent.
Winter Quarters Where the show puts up for the winter.
Wipes Handkerchiefs.
Wire Walker Telegraph delivery boy.
Wised up Exposed.
With it Expression of loyalty. Said of a real trouper, "he's with it and for it, rain or shine."
With the long Paper money, greenbacks.
Work a Bag Make change from a bag.
Work on the Suckers "Clean" the patrons in any way possible, honest or dishonest.
Work Strong "Take your best holt." Do anything to get the money.
Work the Nuts A shell game worker.
Working Come-in Acts put on to amuse public before show really starts.
Go to Top X, Y, V
Yanced Around What happened to most circus goers around 1910, and what happened to all of them around 1890. "They were herded, yelled at, regimented, seated on uncomfortable seats and cheated." Everything named happened to a sucker, even on the so called Sunday School Shows.
Yard $100.
Yard Bull A railroad detective assigned to the rail road yards.
Zekes Hyenas.
4-Paw Adam Forepaugh, a leading circus proprietor of the 19th century.
10-in-One Ten attractions under one tent.


Go to Top

© Richard Georgian 2011, all rights reserved