Duluth, MN Circus Tent Collapse, Jun 1908


Women and Children Faint and Become Hysterical - Police and Canvasmen oCme [sic] to the Rescue - One Woman and a Boy Are Injured and Are Taken to Their Homes - Tent is Re-Erected and Two Performances Are Given.

A heavy gust of wind which struck the rain soaked canvas caused the main show tent of the Hagenback - Wallace circus to collapse, about 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon, injuring a number of people. About a thousand spectators were in the tent when it went down, but most of them escaped under the seats, thence out into the open.

The first warning the people inside had of their danger, was when the tent began to sway. It seemed to jump into the air and then settle down again. Then one section of it came down but not before the people had time to run to cover. The crowds in the other parts of the tent were making their way out as fast as possible, some assisting the women and children, many of whom fainted or became hysterical. By the time the entire structure was down, most of the people had crawled out underneath.

Immediately the police and circus employes rushed to the rescue. Terrified women who had become separated from their children rushed around in the greatest fear for their safety.

There were only two serious accidents however, one to an unknown boy and the other to Mrs. Charles Johnson of the West End. Mrs. Johnson was with her husband and baby, when she was struck by a falling pole and pinned to the ground. She was soon extricated and taken home. Suit was started against the circus for $1,000, and the papers were served last night. The boy was not hurt so badly and the circus people settled with him for $40.

As soon as it was found that everybody was out, a large corps of "canvasmen" and other employes was put to work re-erecting the tent. When the side wall was up, the afternoon performance was put on. The big top was up in time for the evening performance.

The show as to have started at 2 o'clock, and the grand entry was just about to begin, when the tent collapsed. It is considered miraculous by the circus people that so few people were injured. Had the tent been crowded, a stampede would likely have resulted, and this would undoubtedly have proven fatal to many. The falling poles were another source of danger which all, with the exception of Mrs. Johnson avoided.

Two women lost their merry widows in the blow down. They were found and returned to the front door of the circus where they had not been claimed at a late hour last night. Another lady lost her coat and her pocketbook. One of the blockmen, which is a position a degree above that of canvasman, found the pocketbook, and returned it which marks and epoch in the history of circuses.

The circus people themselves lost many articles. It was given out last night that the patrons of the big show must have carried the articles off in their hurry, which is polite of the management. One of the highest officials lost a valuable umbrella which was hanging near the front door and in several instances articles of small value disappeared in the excitement.

The performance itself was admirable when the difficulties under which the artists worked are taken into consideration. The Hagenback trained wild beasts which created such a sensation at the Chicago and St. Louis world's fairs were exhibited in a steel arena which took the place of the center ring during the early stages of the performance. A tiger rode an elephant and jumped through hoops of fire. A lion rode a horse. A leopard rode a horse. Polar bears sat at a table, ate and drank and one weighing six hundred pounds wrestled with its 170 pound trainer. The only performing zebras in the world were put through their antics by John Fuller, who is a native of Brainerd, and many of his relatives and friends from different Minnesota towns were in the audience.

The Borsini troupe of acrobats did feats on globes which would be remarkable if performed on an immovable stage. The De Koches did a head balancing act which was remarkable. The climax came when a dog stood on a man's head while a boy stood head to head on the dog's head. The Van Diemans on "The Devil's Wheel" clung by their teeth to a revolving apparatus in mid-air. There are four members of this troupe but only three worked yesterday as it was feared the weight of four would be too great for the center poles. The Delno troupe of acrobats performed new feats. The display of fine horses was the best ever seen here while the clowns were a real feature.

The Duluth News - Tribune, Duluth, MN 23 Jun 1908



A personal injury case has been started against the Hagenbeck & Wallace circus, which was here last Monday, by Eva Laughren, who demands $1,999 for injuries sustained when the tent was blown down in the afternoon.

She alleges that when the tent fell down she was struck by the posts, and her back and shoulders bruised, and the muscles torn and lacerated.

She is represented by E. A. McManus.

The Duluth News - Tribune, Duluth, MN 27 Jun 1908