E. Masters and the Creepy Clowns of the John Robinson Circus


A typical circus alley band would often feature a ballerina (third from left, note the knotted legs), a John Phillip Sousa impersonator (center), and a Charlie Chaplin impersonator (just right of center).


Part 5 can be read here if you missed it...

One of the highlights of every summer in the pre-television days was the circus coming to down. The big top, a midway teeming with circus barkers extolling their freak shows or trained wild animals; the circus was the place to be whenever it was in your town.

Taking an entire circus from town to town was no small feat. The big top, tent poles, elephants, tigers, and bears...  The circus would go from town to town via railroad where upon reaching their destination scores of wagons would ferry the tents and beasts to where the circus was being staged. Other wagons would find Main street and offer a free parade to the townsfolk while hyping that day or night's show. To support such an endeavor required an enormous support staff. The feeding alone of all the circus workers required a tent of its own and as the circus owners tried to maximize their profits, rather than issue paychecks or actual currency they would provide a commissary ticket that could be redeemed for meals and services.

In his coat pocket the Ragged Stranger had a commissary ticket in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus that would have been similar to this $2.00 ticket from Ringling Brothers.

In his coat pocket the Ragged Stranger had a commissary ticket in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus that would have been similar to this $2.00 ticket from Ringling Brothers.

The commissary ticket from the John Robinson Circus was the next lead to be followed up by the police. E. Masters from the John Robinson Circus turned out to be Earl Masters who was found alive and well and whom subsequently told police that he had loaned his coat to fellow circus worker John Maloney and the commissary ticket must have been in one of the pockets. Masters told police that Maloney had left the circus the week before while in Minnesota. E. Masters was not the Ragged Stranger.

The ‘E. Masters’ on the card also led to conjecture that the corpse was Edward Masters a criminal from out of state known by police due to his reputation and record. Upon further investigation this too would prove untrue as known gunman Edward Masters was found to be to still be among the living. Edward Masters was not the Ragged Stranger.

Since the Commissary card was now believed to have last been in the possession of John Maloney, the police went about tracking him down as he was now their only lead.

In advance of next week's post, which will also involve the John Robinson Circus albeit a much more gruesome and depressing tale, the rest of this post will focus on some photos of the John Robinson Circus in the early 20th century. For those of you that don't mind clowns, enjoy!


Part 7 coming Wednesday June 6 -John Maloney- Manslaughter and the Duluth Lynchings

This blog aims to fill in the gaps where there is unknown, correct fallacies where they have branched away from the truth, and most importantly, to entertain and enlighten. It has been sourced from research for my upcoming book Kisses for Julia, Bullets for Ruth: The Mystery of Carl Wanderer & the Ragged Stranger.














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