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Banks, William [Richard] (fl. 1591–1637), showman, the exhibitor of a famous performing horse called Morocco or Marocco, is hard to identify precisely. This is perhaps because of the kind of cultural phenomenon the horse and his trainer represent. It is the horse's activities that are described in detail in the literature of ...

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Cadman [Kidman], Robert (1711/12–1740), ropeslider, was born between 3 February 1711 and 2 February 1712, perhaps at or near Shrewsbury, Shropshire. A Robertus Cadman, son of Thomas Cadman, was baptized at Cannock, Staffordshire, on 9 September 1711. Nothing is known of his life until the 1730s, when ...

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Coan, John (1727/8–1764), sideshow performer, was born at Tivetshall, Norfolk. Although he has been known as the Norfolk Dwarf, both accounts of his development and pictorial representations of him reveal that he was not a dwarf but a midget. Coan appeared to grow normally in his early years but by the time he was exhibited at the ...

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Samuel Franklin Cody (1861–1913) by unknown photographer, 1912 [at the controls of his aeroplane Cathedral] Getty Images

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Cody [formerly Cowdery], Samuel Franklin (1861–1913), showman and aeronautical designer, was born on 6 March 1861 in Davenport, Iowa, USA, the fourth of five children of Samuel Franklin Cowdery (1833–1902), a former Union soldier and jobbing carpenter, and his wife, Phoebe Jane (1834–1900)...

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Patrick Collins (1859–1943) by unknown photographer with the permission of the National Fairground Archive, the University of Sheffield

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Collins, Patrick (1859–1943), showman and politician, was born on 12 May 1859 at 58 Broughton, Chester, the son of John Collins, agricultural labourer (later, general dealer), and his wife, Annoia McDermott. One of five children, he attended St Wedburgh's School in Chester, but left at the age of ten and travelled ...

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(Arthur) William Haggar (1851–1925) by unknown photographer by permission of Rhondda Cynon Taf Libraries

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Haggar, (Arthur) William (1851–1925), travelling showman and film-maker, was born in Stratford Road, Dedham, Essex, on 10 March 1851, the son of an unknown father and Mary Elizabeth Hagger (b. 1830). He had a hard childhood, despised for his illegitimacy, and brought up by various distant and uncaring relatives. He gained skills in carpentry through his employment in a sawmill, then when aged twenty he joined a touring theatrical troupe, encouraged by ...

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Hall, Jacob (fl. 1662–1681), rope dancer and acrobat, became fashionable in London during the 1660s for his daring displays of agility on a tightrope. He performed at Bartholomew fair in Smithfield and other similar meeting places in the city where people from all walks of life would come to see varied and often spectacular entertainments. According to one source, on 22 February 1662 ...

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Hartley, William (1857–1924), showman and medicine vendor, was born on 8 August 1857 at Marsh Southowram, near Halifax, Yorkshire, the son of Alfred Hartley, described as a flag facer, and his wife, Sarah Ann (née Peel) (1832/3–1910). Of his early life nothing is known. ...

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Holland, William (1837–1895), showman and music-hall and theatre entrepreneur, was born on 26 December 1837 at 58 Newington Causeway, London, the son of alderman William Holland, linen draper and wholesale upholsterer, and his wife, Mary, née Bayly. Though apprenticed to the family business, he was enamoured of amateur theatricals and left the trade while still young to promote minstrel shows, in which he played the interlocutor....

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Norman, Tom [real name Thomas Noakes] (1860–1930), showman and freak show proprietor, was born on 7 May 1860 at the Manor House, Dallington, Sussex, the eldest of the seventeen children of Thomas Noakes (1835–1903), master butcher and farmer, and his wife, Eliza Haiselden (1840–1911)...

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Pidcock, Gilbert (d. 1810), menagerist and showman, may have been born at Buxton, Derbyshire, though no more is known of his early life. By 1779 he was travelling between towns in the English midlands, where he exhibited an exotic bird, 'the grand cassowar'. His next venture, several years later, was a travelling menagerie. In 1786 he was at ...

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Richardson, John (1766–1836), showman, was born in the workhouse at Great Marlow, the town in which he eventually chose to be buried. After working at various menial jobs there and in London, in 1782 he joined an itinerant theatrical troupe led by Mrs Penley...

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Sanger, George [known as Lord George Sanger] (1825?–1911), circus proprietor and showman, was born at Newbury, Berkshire, on 23 December probably in 1825, the sixth of ten children of James Sanger (d. 1850), a naval pensioner who served on board the ...

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Smith, Edward Tyrrel (1804–1877), impresario and showman, was born on 26 August 1804, the son of Admiral Edward Tyrrel Smith (d. 1824). Intended to follow his father's profession, he was appointed a midshipman in Lord Cochrane's ship, but at the last minute was fetched back from ...

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Taylor, George (c. 1710–1758), pugilist and showman, made his first appearances as a combatant in his teens in the early days of the sport when boxing was only just separating itself from swordplay and cudgelling. He fought at the amphitheatre, half great fairground booth and half theatre, which had been opened by ...

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George Taylor (c. 1710–1758) by Andrew Miller © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Violante [Larini], Signora (1682–1741), rope-dancer and theatre company manager, was for some sixteen years from 1720 onwards a celebrity on the stages of London, Bristol, Dublin, Cork, and Edinburgh. Much is unknown or uncertain about this popular entertainer. Contemporary advertisements and reviews describe her as Italian, as does ...